29/07/2012

Sunday Analysis

So, 11th & 12th for the Sahara Force India drivers. As we expected, no points, however there are many positives to draw on.

First of all, our rivals didn't score too many points this weekend:

Constructors championship (5th-8th)
5) Mercedes (106 pts) (+1)
6) Sauber (80) (+0)
7) Williams (53) (+6)
8) Force India (46) (+0)
Note: numbers in green represent the points scored this weekend.

It's of major benefit to the team that the other midfield rivals didn't score too well this weekend. From the next race onwards is when Sahara Force India will be strong and results today meant that the gap to 5th place isn't too big; 60 points. There are nine races to go so that means we need an average of 6.66 points more than Mercedes each weekend. It's do-able for sure!

(A beautiful shot of the Force India boys running in 11th & 12th, click to enlarge)

It was expected that we'd be slow this weekend, due to the high track temperates - but actually, that wasn't the case! The race pace was actually pretty good - on par with all our close rivals (excluding Bruno Senna who was out-performing his car this weekend). Surprisingly, points were possible this weekend. The data shows that if Nico Hulkenberg had pitted on the same lap as Nico Rosberg (instead of one lap before), he would have kept the Mercedes driver behind and snatched 10th place! The team were not to know this at the time though - we only know with the benefit of hindsight, so it's not their fault. Actually, if Nico Hulkenberg didn't make a mistake in qualifying, and qualified 6th (that's what he was on target for with an optimal laptime). He would have finished the race in 8th with his pace.

Sure, it's disappointing that we had a chance for points, and didn't manage to take that chance. But what is very encouraging going forward is that the upgrades put on the car for this race (including some from Britain & Germany that couldn't be tested previously, due to wet Fridays) seem to have considerably helped the high tyre wear issue. In fact today we had a better tyre wear rate than the Sauber's which is highly unusual!

I haven't discussed Paul di Resta much, he did a decent job today, lapping at a similar pace to Nico and finishing just 5.6 seconds behind the German driver. He did have one scary moment when Pastor Maldonado broke a little too late and under-steered into the side of the VJM05. Paul was nudged off the track and lost the position to the Venezuelan driver. Thankfully Pastor was (correctly) given a drive-through penalty.

(The damaged caused to Paul's car by Pastor - look at the R in Sahara, click to enlarge)

So in summary; decent pace (despite what Nico says below), a lack of points for our rivals & solid improvement to the tyre wear issue - a good weekend all in all!

This is what the guys had to say:

Nico Hulkenberg (Sahara Force India driver):
"A very difficult race, to be honest. I struggled a lot with the balance this afternoon and we just didn't have good enough pace. The rear tyre degradation was also high and it wasn't easy towards the end of the race. So with all things considered I think P11 was the maximum that was possible because we didn't make any mistakes and the two-stop strategy was definitely the right decision. We were not far away from the points, but we still need to go away and analyse what happened so that we can improve in time for the next race".

NOTE: These comments are made before the engineers briefing, Nico was factually wrong when he said: "and we just didn't have good enough pace". The data shows the pace was as good as rivals. Maybe he thought this as he started P10 and finished P11.

Paul di Resta (Sahara Force India driver):
"I don't think P12 is a fair reflection of the speed we had in the car today. My race was compromised by a poor start and I lost a few positions going into turn one. I had the same issue in Germany last week so we need to understand how we can improve that going forward because it's hurting our track position. The first few laps were quite tough but the car came alive after lap four and brought me back into contention. Unfortunately it was impossible to maximise the speed of the car because there was no chance to overtake and once the pit stops were complete it was just a case of bringing the car home".

Vijay Mallya (Sahara Force India driver):
"We've shown flashes of speed this weekend, but ultimately we haven't been consistent enough to achieve our goal of finishing in the points. We didn’t qualify well enough and that hurt us this afternoon because there was little chance to progress on a track where overtaking is so difficult. There was no room to improvise with the strategy and our two-stop approach was definitely the right call considering the cars that we were racing against. We will take the positives from the last few days and try to understand where we can find more performance so that we can come back stronger after the summer break".

So that's SFI covered, let's move onto Narain Karthikeyan.

The Indian had a start to his race, keeping pace with de la Rosa and having enough speed to stay ahead of Timo Glock who spun early on. After the first stops, Timo got past Narain thanks to being on the quicker, soft tyres. From then on Narain was able to keep pace with de la Rosa until near the end of the race when the Indian's suspension began to fail.  Four laps before the end it did fail completely, and we saw Narain in the barriers.

(Narain Karthikeyan leading Timo Glock during the first stint, click to enlarge)

Narain will be disappointed to not finish the race, but he should be encouraged by the pace he was able to show.

Narain Karthikeyan (HRT driver):
"I had a good start to the race, maintaining Pedro's pace and running ahead of Glock after his spin. But after the first pitstop he was running very strong on softs, I was on mediums, and he overtook me. It was also very complicated to manage the blue flags, especially because there were so many of them. With five laps to go, the car was steering to the right, it was getting worse, and coming out of turn 3 the steering broke, so we have to figure out what happened exactly. It was a tough race, but we must continue working to improve when we return from the summer break".

Hungarian GP - Race Results

Results: Hulkenberg 11th, di Resta 12th, Karthikeyan DNF.

No points for any of our drivers today - but actually there are a lot of positives, we'll go through them in our analysis later today/tomorrow morning (IST)!

11th & 12th is a good effort by the Sahara Force India drivers, both drivers can be proud - they achieved the potential of the car today.

As for Narain Karthikeyan, he hit the barriers towards the end of the race. It will be interesting to see if it was cause or effect, the World feed didn't have a replay of what happened during the race itself. We'll find out when Narain talks to the media.

More later!

Saturday Analysis

A decent qualifying session for Sahara Force India, but it could have been better.

Grid positions: Hulkenberg 10th, di Resta 12th.

It was a decent lap to get Nico Hulkenberg into Q3; however the German driver made a mistake on his only hot lap during the final part of qualifying which put him P10. He admitted he was pushing too hard, and has learnt a valuable lesson:

Nico Hulkenberg (Sahara Force India driver):
"I'm happy to be in the top ten but not satisfied with my quick lap in Q3. I tried too hard and made a mistake, got some dirt on my tyres and couldn’t recover the lap. It's a bit frustrating because my laptime from Q2 would have been good enough for sixth on the grid. So I'm a bit disappointed, but at the same time I'm focusing on the positives because we looked competitive during the session. Now we need to do the same in the race and pick up points".

(A lovely shot of Nico Hulkenberg in qualifying, click to enlarge)

As for Paul di Resta, he didn't managed to do a clean lap during Q2, he will start P12.

Paul di Resta (Sahara Force India driver):
"I think there was more potential in the car today, but I couldn't get the laptime when it counted during Q2. The main issue was trying to find track position and I had to push very hard on my out lap to make some space, which probably took too much out of the tyres. It's a shame because we were very quick in Q1 and the car has been working well here. We can still have a good race, but it won’t be easy with the high temperatures and the fact that it’s never easy to overtake here".

Additionally, Vijay Mallya (Sahara Force India team principle) had this to say:
"We showed good pace today, but we didn't quite maximise our performance when it mattered. Nico did a superb lap to make Q3, but a small error on his final quick lap cost him several positions on the grid. Paul has a similar situation in Q2 when the tyre performance dropped off at the end of the lap and he missed out on making the top ten. The good news is that we've shown that we have a quick car here in Budapest and hopefully we can demonstrate that again tomorrow when it really counts".

Race pace is a concern for the team, so expect Paul di Resta to take a gamble on strategy in the first stint by starting on the harder tyres (just a guess!). The aim, of course, will be to outscore our rivals; this is how they performed today:

Mercedes: 13th & 17th
Sauber: 14th & 15th
Williams: 8th & 9th

After Williams, Sahara Force India did best today from the midfield teams. Due to the high temperatures at Hungary it's very likely that the car will not suit the circuit; keeping other drivers behind may be difficult. What does play into the team's hands though is that the Hungary track is very narrow and very difficult to pass on. This makes defending a position slightly easier.

A sprinkling of rain would be great for the team. Currently the forecast says a 55% chance of rain, and that's slowly increasing.

Meanwhile Narain Karthikeyan had an okay session, P24 for him.

Narain Karthikeyan (HRT driver):
"In the morning I managed to make the most of the entire session and run consistently. Given the high temperatures today, the car was overheating a bit, so we had to make some slight cut-outs on the bodywork and that made us lose some points of downforce. That cost us a couple of tenths. But we've made a big effort and I've got the satisfaction of having given everything I've got. There's a lot of work to do ahead of tomorrow and it will be a tough race, but we're prepared for the challenge".

The aim for Narain will be to simply finish the race, and beat his teammate (the Marussia drivers seem a little too far ahead this weekend).

We wish all our drivers the best of luck in the race, of course will have full analysis afterwards.

28/07/2012

Hungarian GP - Qualifying Results

Results: Hulkenberg 10th (1:22.847), di Resta 12th (1:21.813), Karthikeyan 24th (1:26.178).

A decent session for the Sahara Force India boys.

Hulkenberg did a solid job to get the car into Q3, Paul di Resta just missed out by 0.116s. During Q3, Nico Hulkenberg had a poor middle sector on his only flying lap - that means he starts in P10 tomorrow, directly in front of Paul.

As for Narain Karthikeyan, he qualifies 24th, just over a quarter of a second behind de la Rosa. He's been complaining of steering problems this weekend, so that's a good effort.

More analysis later :-)

Hungarian GP - Practice Three Results

Results: di Resta 9th (1:22.191), Hulkenberg 14th (1:22.530), Karthikeyan 24th (1:26.898).

Another interesting session for the Sahara Force India boys. In terms of qualifying pace, they're looking good for Q3 with at least one car. Hulkenberg was 14th only because he failed to hook up a quick lap due to traffic. His best sector times (from different laps) would actually be quicker than di Resta's best.

In terms of race pace however, it's not looking brilliant in all honesty - as expected really (due to high track temperatures). We we're quicker than the three new teams and the Toro Rosso's but all the other teams seemed in better shape. I think we need to hope for rain in the race! Currently a 50% chance.

As for Narain Karthikeyan, he did well this session, just 0.1s behind de la Rosa - that's a decent effort :-)

Friday Analysis

FP1 Results: di Resta 14th (1:24.559), Bianchi 18th (1:25.715).
FP2 Results: di Resta 7th (1:22.794), Hulkenberg 13th (1:23.713), Karthikeyan 24th (1:27.822).

It was a very unusual day for the Sahara Force India drivers.

During FP1, the car didn't seem overly competitive in any sector and Paul di Resta was sounding quite distressed on the radio when complaining about the rear of the car being "unpredictable" under acceleration.

The good news from the morning session though was that our reserve driver, Jules Bianchi, got some long overdue dry weather running. This is what he had to say:

Jules Bianchi (Sahara Force India reserve driver):
"Lots of laps for me today, which was useful and I'm getting more used to the car now. I started off by doing a lot of short runs so the team could evaluate some test items, then I did a couple of longer runs towards the end. It was difficult to find the limit and I was not totally comfortable with the car today, so I think there is some more laptime still to come. It's always valuable to get time in the car on a race weekend and hopefully the team will learn a lot from the data".

Post-FP1, ex-F1 driver, Johnny Herbert said (as part of Sky Sports F1's coverage) that he believes Sahara Force India were in good shape this weekend. I found that a rather odd comment considering the positions we'd finished in FP1 - maybe he has some inside information?

Anyhow, FP2. The car looked much improved and both drivers did well before the rain hit. Meanwhile Narain Karthikeyan made steady improvement during the session, and could have done even better but he was also halted by the rain.

This is what they said:

Paul di Resta (Sahara Force India driver):
"I think the most important thing today is that we managed to get some good information on some test items – which is something that has not been easy at previous races with the mixed weather. Even though it rained again this afternoon, we completed a lot of work before it arrived and have some useful set-up data going into the weekend. I managed to run on both the medium and soft compounds today, but we missed out on getting the long run data because of the rain".

Nico Hulkenberg (Sahara Force India driver):
"Quite a positive day overall, but like everybody we missed out on getting the long run data. Apart from that, I felt comfortable in the session and we got through most of the set-up programme. I went out towards the end on intermediates to get a feel for the wet conditions, but the track was drying very quickly so there was not too much to learn".

Narain Karthikeyan (HRT driver):
"The Hungaroring is virtually a new track for me because it's been seven years since I raced here, so I would have liked to have done more miles in the dry, but the rain caught us all by surprise. The track is pretty bumpy and quite technical so it's quite tough to get used to, but I think we've done a good job. We’re not far off our main rivals and I think that tomorrow we can take them on".

and Jakob Andreasen (Sahara Force India chief engineer):
"We made the most of the dry morning session to run through a busy aero programme with Jules and gathered some useful data. He did a good job once again although we struggled to find the sweet spot with the car in the morning session. Nico was back alongside Paul for the afternoon and we focused on fine-tuning the cars as well as understanding the tyres. It was a shame to lose the final half of the session to rain, but we made some progress with the car and have a good idea of the direction we need to take tomorrow".

So the on-track action was over for the day, but there was something very interesting to come! Andrew Green (Sahara Force India's technical director) took part in today's press conference, and he had some very intriguing words. Unfortunately there is no video uploaded as of yet, but a full transcript can be found here.

The key thing to come from him was the following:

"It's a tricky time. We brought our last big development to Silverstone. We didn't really get a chance to evaluate it in the wet conditions. Beyond that it's about optimising what we have and getting to know what we have and getting it to run at its peak. Development now really is turning to next year. For a team of our size we can't afford to develop a car much beyond this point in the season. It's really a case of trying to optimise what we have".

Additionally, Andrew went on to state that the development focus has already shifted to 2013.

These comments really are highly intriguing. On face value, Andrew Green is saying that the team is now focusing on 2013. However i think this might be mind games for other teams, let me explain. The key here is this sentence: "For a team of our size we can't afford to develop a car much beyond this point in the season". That's not true at all - we've seen in previous seasons that the team are good at developing in the second half of a season, and it could be argued that we usually develop more than anybody else. Additionally, we made good development towards the end of the season pre-Sahara investment. With that money, there is even more possible scope for development later in the season.

On the other hand, it's always been a policy of the team to sacrifice the first four flyaway races of the season (in terms of upgrades) to focus on the baseline pace of the car. Then start bringing upgrades during the European races onwards. The only way i think Andrew's comments can be taken as true is if the team want to follow the philosophy of other teams and be 100% ready for race one next season.

Personally i think this is just mind-games for our rivals ... "yeah, we've stopped development, you can too!". I'll let you make up your own mind; either way i fully support the decisions of management.

Anyhow, onto some lighter stuff.

Here is a feature Sky Sports F1 are doing over the course of the year:


(Sky Sports F1 pit stop standings, click to enlarge) 

Basically the quickest pitstop for each team is ranked each race. 12pts for topping the table, 11pts for 2nd, 10pts for 3rd etc. etc. It's nice to see Force India ahead of their close rivals!

Sky Sports F1 are also doing a buzz game this season. For those you don't know a buzz game is where you have a small hoop, around a wire, and the aim is to thread the hoop around the wire without making contact. If contact is made the game buzzes and you get a 10 second time penalty. Each weekend they randomly decide who's turn it is - and this time it was the turn of Force India.

(Jules playing the F1 buzz game with Nico & Paul watching on, click to enlarge)

Impressively, all three Force India drivers are in the top ten:

(F1 buzz game standings, click to enlarge)

Right this has been a rather long article - i will leave you in peace now! Thanks for reading.

27/07/2012

Hungarian GP - Practice Two Results

Results: di Resta 7th (1:22.794), Hulkenberg 13th (1:23.713), Karthikeyan 24th (1:27.822).

A much more competitive session for the Sahara Force India drivers, perhaps this morning they were just on high fuel and that's why they looked off the pace.

We saw rain towards the end of the session which mixed things up a little - both our drivers did runs in the wet just in case it rains more this weekend. Saturday is expected to be dry & on Sunday there is a 50% chance of thunderstorms.

Meanwhile Narain Karthikeyan was very far off the pace at the start of the session, after missing FP1. However he made steady improvement until the rain came to close within 0.7s of Charles Pic in 23rd place.

More analysis later :-)

Hungarian GP - Practice One Results

Results: di Resta 14th (1:24.559), Bianchi 18th (1:25.715).

A rather unusual session for the Sahara Force India drivers, we're not used to seeing them so far down the order.

Worryingly Paul di Resta came on the radio at one point and said:

"it's just difficult to drive really, particularly the last three corners". The Scotsman also complained of the car being inconsistent before he gets the power down. Inconsistency is always bad in a racing car .. having said that di Resta did an almost identical time to the two Red Bull drivers who finished 13th & 15th - so maybe we'll be okay - of course we don't know the fuel loads either.

It was nice to see Jules Bianchi get some dry running; Hulkenberg will be back in the car for FP2. Down at HRT, Karthikeyan will also be back for FP2.

26/07/2012

What's happening this weekend?

Ahhh, don't you just love back-to-back F1 weekends? Enjoy it anyway as after this weekend we have to wait a whole month until the next race!

Unusually, it's the ONLY series in action this weekend from our point of view, makes my job far easier! It's round 11 of the 2012 FIA Formula One World Championship; the Hungarian GP.

If you read my review of the last race you'll saw that i said:

"The Hungaroring circuit has generally experiences even hotter temperatures than we saw at Hockenheim which means even worse tyre degradation [for Sahara Force India]. However it's that close this season in terms of baseline pace that if the team manages to get the setup bang on, then a good result is possible. It is more likely that we'll struggle though".

Since then though, i've realised there may just be a saving grace. When i wrote that article, predictions were that the Hungarian GP would be dry & hot over all three days, but now, it has all changed! Friday has a 30% (and increasing) chance of precipitation. Saturday 10% chance and Sunday 80% chance.

Ideally Sahara Force India need a dry Friday with a wet Saturday & Sunday. Why a dry Friday? Well that's when all teams test their upgrades, and the last two race weekend Fridays have been wet - no/limited testing means very little development has been made to the cars (all cars, not just the VJM05) in the last two races. When all the developments get put onto the cars, it could really change the pecking order; perhaps the team have fixed their high tyre wear issues.

This is how things currently stand in the constructors:

Constructors championship (5th-8th)
5) Mercedes (105 pts)
6) Sauber (78)
7) Williams (47)
8) Force India (46)

As i've already stated in previous articles, i see no reason why the team can't outscore Mercedes by 59 points in the period post-Hungarian GP to the end of the season. It may be hard to score this weekend though, rain will probably be our best bet.

Meanwhile at the back, Narain Karthikeyan will have the usual aim, attempting to beat his teammate & the Marussia drivers. I do feel sorry for the Indian driver always being at the back - but i guess we should probably just be thankful we have a driver from our country in the pinnacle of motorsport.

Post-Hungarian GP is the F1 summer break, we'll have a few special articles during this time, including a feature on Narain Karthikeyan :-)

25/07/2012

German GP, Hockenheim: Strategy paid off this time

To be honest, the race wasn’t too exciting in terms of what we have seen this season but it was exciting enough from racing point of view as we got to see some great wheel to wheel racing, some awesome moves from the drivers. Alonso got the strategy correct this time around and got his 3rd win with Button at P2 & Kimi at P3 after a penalty to Vettel.


Whole weekend review is down here:

Practice Session, FP1:


Familiar scenes were to be seen from what we saw last weekend. It was just that early on the session was dry but then rain changed the whole scenario. The teams did managed to get some good running but it wasn’t enough, I suppose. They were testing the new hard tyres given by Pirelli. Button ended P1 with Hamilton at P2 and Alonso P3. Hulkenberg in his home GP finished at P6 and Bianchi sitting for Di Resta ended at P16. Both had a good run specially Hulkenberg who knows this track very well. Clos sat in for Karthikeyan as the Indian was back in FP2.


FP2:


A stop-start session as it was wet at the start with dry in between and things were looking good when it started raining and the track was wet again. Teams did run some considerable laps but I don’t think they had enough data’s collected in the day. Maldonado ended at P1, Rosberg at P2 & Vettel at P3. Hulkenberg continued with a good run but no one could be sure how good it was in such conditions. He set the fastest S2 time in the session. Di Resta was back and he ended at P18, so was Karthikeyan who ended at P24. The drivers at the end of day were left with little to talk about with such conditions and they hoped for some dry run.



FP3:


Finally, it was dry for the drivers to gather as much information they can. This was the first session where the teams could use the soft tyres for the first time but there was little time for them to get any real information about it’s performance. Alonso pipped Hamilton to P1 as rain came hard towards the end of the session. Perez ended at P3. Hulkenberg was down at P12 with Di Resta right behind him at P13. Karthikeyan ended at P23. All did almost the same amount of laps they did in FP1 & FP2.

Nothing conclusive from the rain hit practice sessions as the real fight for pole remained open and with rain predicted for the qualifying session it was all the more lottery. Ferrari, Red Bull & McLaren’s still were the front runners. I felt that SFI duo could make it to Q3 but surely it would be tough for them but the rainy conditions would certainly help. And for Karthikeyan, I hoped that he beat Rosa & Marussia at least.



Qualifying, Q1:


The teams did manage to get some laps in the soft and medium tyres in the session but not for long as rain came back towards the end the of the session or you can just seconds after the session. Raikkonen ended at P1 with Perez at P2 and Rosberg at P3. Both SFI’s made it safely into Q2 after they used their soft tyres. It was a real drama in the end when Schumacher just scrapped through to make into the second session as he demoted Vergne to P17. The rest were the usual suspects of Caterham, Marussia & HRT. Karthikeyan ended at P24 having qualified well within the 107% time.



Q2:


The rain which started towards the end of Q1 didn’t stop much in Q2 although it was predicted to end but it continued and got even harder. As Ferrari engineer pointed the first few timed laps will be enough for Q3 and that happened in the end. Schumacher ended at P1, Vettel at P2 & Alonso at P3. Both SFI having done a better timed lap made it to Q3 in the end as no one could improve after the rain got heavier towards the end of the session. The rain did helped a bit there but SFI’s pace was looking good in the conditions.



Q3:


The rain continued pouring during the third session as well. All the drivers came out to set whatever possible time they can. At least rain gave fans some cheers as every driver were running in Q3. In the end Alonso’s strategy of having a new tyres for last two runs proved crucial as he clinched pole with Vettel at P2 and Webber P3 but pushed down due to penalty. Hulkenberg qualified in the team’s best position yet in the season, P5 he was but was to start at P4 and he also set the fastest S2 time in whole qualifying session. Di Resta lost some time as he didn’t get a clean lap to end at P9.


Ferrari have made quite an amends and are now the team to beat while Red Bull are staying strong as usual. Biggest disappointment was McLaren. An Alonso win was on cards but Vettel was the biggest hurdle for Alonso. With dry race predicted, it would have been difficult for Hulk & Paul to score big points. They had a best chance but with some fear. I was predicting a double point finish.



Raceday:


And it was dry, yes the prediction of a dry race proved to be correct surprisingly. It was a free  choice of tyres and strategy became important as no team had much of knowledge on how the tyres would behave. Most of them started on soft but few chose for hard, I thought to start off with hard would have been better as it was quite hot. Coming to the start of the race, Alonso had a good start as he kept Vettel, Schumacher, Hulkenberg at bay. Button had a good start as Hamilton felt the heat and punctured his tyres due to Massa’s tangle with Ricciardo as he lost his front wing. The debris at T1 was enough to have a SC for 2-3 laps, I thought. Hulkenberg started off well as he hung on to P4 position, Di Resta went up but drop down to where he started. Karthikeyan too had a good start as he was fighting with Marussia and his teammate.


The heat was on at front with Alonso fighting hard with Vettel and then Button after he got the better of Vettel during pit stops. It was a great battle between the three, but that Ferrari was looking pretty good and the team got the strategy correct this time. The thing that clicked me was Hamilton un-lapping himself from the leaders, the one who lost a lot of time was Vettel. Whether Hamilton did it for Button or himself, only he knows. Behind these guys, the Sauber duo of Kobayashi & Perez along with Kimi were having a great race having made loads of places after a low qualifying positions. Their car being good in hot conditions and better on tyres were helping them a lot. Schumacher lost places while Rosberg made up through the field.


The Force India duo had a good start but unfortunately tyre wear was becoming a headache for them and thus they started losing places. The strategy this time wasn’t wrong as Hulkenberg went for 3 stops while Di Resta was on 2. Both the drivers were having some big battles, Hulkenberg was overtook by Schumacher & Kimi in one corner after he made his pit stop while he had many battles with Kobayashi & Perez as did his team mate but the Sauber being on new tyres and a better pace managed to get ahead. Di Resta was also involved in a great wheel to wheel racing with Kimi. Karthikeyan was having his own battle down in the list as he was catching up to his team mate and Marussia.


Button was looking to overtake Alonso but towards the end he started to lose pace when Vettel caught up to him. The road was clear for Alonso and he got it in the end, winning the 3rd GP this year. The world title seems like in his grasp already. Vettel managed to overtake Button but as his move was not right, he was penalised post race as he lost 3 places to finish P5. Button got the P2 position and Kimi ended at P3. Force India’s Hulkenberg ended at P9 as he salvaged 2 points for the team to close in to Williams in CC. Di Resta finished just outside the points as he lost to Rosberg in the end with worn tyres. Hulk was catching Webber but there wasn’t enough laps for him to challenge for P8. Karthikeyan ended P23, pretty close to overtake Glock. A positive race from the Indian as the team hailed the weekend as success.


We don’t have to wait much guys, the Hungarian GP is just few days away. Don’t you just love back to back weekends? The last race before teams head off for summer break. The title picture is getting clear, Alonso looking good to win DC while RBR the CC. Force India are just one point behind Williams, but need a podium or two to get ahead of Sauber which is possible. Karthikeyan is having a good season, positively an un-interrupted run till now. Enjoy another weekend of racing before the drought comes up. Adios!!


22/07/2012

Sunday (Sahara Force India) Analysis

The results are still provisional (at the time of writing anyway) however there should be no changes to the Sahara Force India positions:

Nico Hulkenberg 9th & Paul di Resta 11th.

Two points is not what we wanted from this race - it is very disappointing.

The first thing i want to talk about is the drivers. I've been reading alot of comments from fans online, and many have been criticising the drivers. It is very easy to do this after a bad result but it is also very wrong. Both drivers were FAULTLESS today. NO driver on the grid will have done a better job, be it Adrian Sutil or Fernando Alonso. Quite simply both drivers achieved the maximum performance that the car had.

So what went wrong? Well this is where it gets a little complicated.

Before i go into specifics, i want to explain what the difference between pace and speed are.

Speed (also known as race pace) is how fast the car goes. Over a race distance the speed is the time taken to complete the total number of laps.

Pace (also known as outright pace or baseline pace) is how fast the car actually is. What is important to note here is that this should exclude external factors such as temperature and tyre wear. Essentially this is the baseline performance of the car.

The pace of the VJM05 is very good, infact the data indicates at the moment that we're on par with Sauber and ahead of Mercedes! So why did they outscore us today? That's because of speed - today our speed was slow in the race. The reason for this is that our car is hard on its tyres, causing quick degradation. Meanwhile, Sauber have superb tyre wear rates. As for Mercedes, they have okay tyre wear rates in comparison with the rest of the field, but in comparison with Force India - they are better.

As for strategy, the team have come into some flack this season, there have been a few mistakes however today it was almost spot on.

At the beginning of the race, when the race pace (see above) started to drop off for everyone, due to the tyre wear - the Sahara Force India's decided to pit early to get the undercut (where you put on new tyres, do some fast laps on new rubber & overtake your rivals, when they pit, as a result of the time gained) on other drivers. It did work at the time, so it was a good idea in theory! However the early stop meant that the second stop also had to be early. This meant that the third stint (the stint after the second stop) was too long for the rapidly-degrading Pirelli tyres to handle. As the performance was falling away, the team had two decisions: stay out on the slower tyres or pit again for new tyres. Paul stayed out, Nico pitted.

Analysis shows that a two-stopper was the best option this weekend. A one-stopper would have been way too slow and a three stopper (which Nico was forced onto) was slower than a two stopper by seven seconds. Sure he finished ahead of Paul, but he was ahead of Paul before he pitted. The time taken for the pit stop (including time taken to travel down the pit lane) was seven seconds longer than the time he gained on the new tyres.

So, the strategy was right, two-stops was the ideal - and that was the plan (although Nico was forced onto a three-stopper as mentioned above).

It's sad from our point of view that our rivals (well, Sauber) did so well. Here are the updated constructors standings:

Constructors championship (5th-8th)
5) Mercedes (105 pts) (+7)
6) Sauber (78) (+20)
7) Williams (47) (+0)
8) Force India (46) (+2)
Note: numbers in green represent the points scored this weekend.

In the next race i would expect a similar level of performance as we experienced here, unfortunately. The Hungaroring circuit has generally experiences even hotter temperatures than we saw at Hockenheim which means even worse tyre degradation. However it's that close this season in terms of baseline pace that if the team manages to get the setup bang on, then a good result is possible. It is more likely that we'll struggle though.

Despite this, i am still hopeful of achieving the target of 5th place in the constructors championship. I've been saying since the start of the season that post-summer break (Belgian GP onwards) we'll be very strong. It's strange but all the circuits from then onwards suit our car better. Additionally, the summer break always mixes things up - and it's only just after the halfway point in the season. If Mercedes score say 120 points (105 current + a random guess of 15 at Hungary) in one half of the season, why can't we do the same in the next half of the season? Keep the faith - we are Force India!

German GP - Race Results

Results: Hulkenberg 9th (2 points), di Resta 11th, Karthikeyan 23rd.

A disappointing day for the Sahara Force India drivers considering where they qualified.

The story of the race was once again tyres. The team decided to pit their cars early for their first stops - trying to get the undercut on other teams; it was a good idea in theory, and it did work to a certain extent however this in turn meant that both drivers had to make their next stops earlier than everyone else too. It was just too early! The tyres couldn't last and so Nico was forced onto a three stopper & Paul stayed out, struggling on a two stopper. It ruined any chance of big points unfortunately.

The result is made worse by the fact that the Sauber drivers managed to grab 5th & 6th. In actual fact they were too quick today, there was simply nothing more we could have done to try keep them behind. Good effort from our guys though, the drivers did their best and didn't make any mistakes.

As for Narain Karthikeyan, he was doing quite well in the early stages, having a good battle with his teammate de la Rosa, and running as high as 20th at one point. However just after halfway through the race his pace suddenly dropped off - seems like he had some technical problem. He ended in 23rd place, just 0.3s behind Timo Glock, who also struggled.

More analysis later.

Saturday Analysis

So, Nico will start a VERY impressive 4th, and Paul will start a fantastic 9th.

It was a highly impressive day for the Sahara Force India boys, but actually we probably shouldn't be surprised. Remember the Brazilian GP in 2008? Nico Hulkenberg, for Williams, surprised everyone with a pole position in mixed conditions. He's turning out to be a driver like Adrian Sutil, flourishing in changeable conditions.

The chance of precipitation in tomorrows races is 15%, then again, it seems we can't trust the raceday forecasts recently. In all honesty, i am not sure if we want the race to be dry or wet really.

We've seen that the wet conditions can be good for the car, as demonstrated today. However both cars are setup for the dry conditions - it really depends on what other teams have done in terms of setup. One thing that will play into our hands, irrespective of weather, is that the car is the fastest of any through the middle sector - this will be particularly helpful when it comes to attacking or defending positions!

Many people have been tipping Nico for a podium tomorrow, and clearly it's possible from his position, however there is also the chance that he could lose places - we need to be prepared for that as big names like Button, Hamilton & Webber are all behind Nico on the grid. The ultimate aim for tomorrow will be to outscore the teams we're fighting in the constructors championship for 5th place, this is how they qualified:

Mercedes (3rd & 21st)
Sauber (12th & 17th)
Williams (5th & 14th)

Overall, Sahara Force India is in the better position - so we should be out-scoring them this weekend :-) This is the first race in a long time that the team have exceeded expectation; if the team have a good, clean race tomorrow, with a decent strategy then big points could come our way :-)

At the other end of the grid, there is not much to say really. Narain Karthikeyan will start at the back, and hopefully he'll be able to have a good battle with his teammate de la Rosa, and the Marussia's. Narain actually improved considerably between FP3 and qualifying - let's hope he can continue that upward trend! Unfortunately, he is limited by his machinery though.

We wish the very best of luck to our three hopefuls this weekend, i am very excited - just can't wait! :-)

21/07/2012

German GP - Qualifying Results

Results: Hulkenberg 5th (1:43.501, will start 4th), di Resta 9th (1:44.889), Karthikeyan 24th (1:20.230).

A FANTASTIC qualifying session for the Sahara Force India boys - not only both in Q3, but both with very good positions too!

Nico Hulkenberg 5th, great job - he'll start 4th due to Webber's 5-place grid penalty! Paul di Resta didn't quite manage to hook up a lap as good as Nico, but nevertheless 9th is a great position to start from :-)

Narain Karthikeyan sorted his problems from FP3, but still couldn't manage to beat his teammate who was 0.3s ahead. Narain will start in 24th position.

More analysis later :-)

German GP - Practice Three Results

Results: Hulkenberg 12th (1:17.033), di Resta 13th (1:17.148), Karthikeyan 23rd (1:20.741).

What we learned from that session is that it's still mighty close! 1.1s between 1st and 13th - one mistake will ruin qualifying.

It's worth noting that these positions for the Sahara Force India boys are not representative, they both didn't manage quick laps due to the heavy rain at the end of the session. Infact, the rain was so heavy that it's probably not going to fully dry out by qualifying, even if the rain does stop (which is unlikely).

Q3 for both cars will be the aim for the team, but they will settle for just one driver in the top ten. On a side note, Nico Hulkenberg had a DRS problem during that session, but it should be fixed by qualifying :-)

Meanwhile Narain Karthikeyan was 23rd, but struggling in comparison to his teammate, de la Rosa. The Indian was 1s behind the Spaniard who classified 20th. Maybe Narain has some car issue as that is a very big gap to someone in the same car ... let's hope the pace is back for qualifying!

20/07/2012

German GP - Practice Two Results

Results: Hulkenberg 6th (1:28.495), di Resta 18th (1:30.437), Karthikeyan 22nd (1:32.349).

There's not really an awful lot we can read into that session due to the varying levels of water on the track - for the second consecutive race all teams will be going into Saturday with little or no data.

Nico Hulkenberg had a stylish 720-degree spin at one point but there was no damage to the car and he continued without any real problem.

Something interesting i have picked up on though is that both Sahara Force India drivers seem mighty quick in the middle sector. Unfortunately Paul di Resta didn't get a representative time when track conditions were at their best - but Nico Hulkenberg did manage to do a representative time, the fastest of anyone in sector two, a 40.260. The next fastest driver through sector two was Grosjean with a 40.600. That means Hulkenberg was 0.340s faster than anybody else!! Bodes well for this weekend :-)

Meanwhile Narain Karthikeyan finished ahead of Schumacher & teammate de la Rosa - but in these conditions it really doesn't count for much.

Apart from this there is no more analysis that can be done really due to the weather, so i probably won't write an analysis article today unless i spot something crucial in the data. As for the review quotes, we'll post them on facebook for you when they are released :-) There is a 98% chance of precipitation during on-track action tomorrow - could mix things up nicely!

German GP - Practice One Results

Results: Hulkenberg 6th (1:17.599), Bianchi 16th (1:18.972).

It was a session that kept being interrupted by light showers, but a decent amount of dry running was also done too.

It was a promising session for Nico Hulkenberg, 6th place, 1.004s down on session leader Jenson Button.

Reserve driver Jules Bianchi was 1.3s further back, good enough for 16th position - a decent effort by him, no mistakes - he'll be glad of the running. Paul di Resta will be back in the car for FP2.

Meanwhile at HRT, Dani Clos took Narain Karthikeyan's car for the session. Karthikeyan will also be back for FP2.

19/07/2012

What's happening this weekend?

Hmmm - i am getting bored of this title again and again, if anyone has a better suggestion please let me know haha :-)

Anyway, this weekend we've got F1 & F2 in action. I'll keep the F2 preview brief as Parthiva Sureshwaren did not take part at the last round, and to be honest, no-one seems to know why. I suspect it was an issue with his sponsors, Lycamobile, which suggests he won't take part this weekend either. However, i hope my prediction is wrong! If Parthiva does take part then his aim will be to score points, which are very overdue for him - he hasn't scored a point in 27 F2 races.

Meanwhile in F1, following Paul di Resta's home race last time out, it's now time for Nico Hulkenberg's home race, the German GP at Hockenheim.

The last time Force India raced at Hockenheim was in 2010* - and it wasn't a good race! Infact it was the worst race of the season with Liuzzi 16th & Sutil 17th. Let's hope for better this time. It's hard to tell exactly what the ultimate pace of the car could deliver this weekend, as the pecking order is changing on a race-by-race basis. However, a double points finish will be the aim. At least if the result is bad this weekend, Nico has an alternative career to fall back on:

(Nico Hulkenberg helping out in the ticket office at Hockenheim, click to enlarge)

Here are the standings and the preview quotes.

Constructors championship (5th-8th)
5) Mercedes (98 pts)
6) Sauber (60)
7) Williams (47)
8) Force India (44) 

Paul di Resta (Sahara Force India driver):
"I know the track well from my days in the DTM and I am looking forward to getting out there in a Formula One car. It's a fun circuit with some challenging corners and it's good for overtaking, especially the slow hairpin at turn six. My favourite part of the lap is the stadium, where you can really feel the energy of the crowd. The double right hander onto the start/finish line is another special corner and it's difficult to get it right. If you have lots of experience on this track you can gain a little bit of time through this corner".

Nico Hulkenberg (Sahara Force India driver):
"It's always a bit more special (to race at home) and it’s nice that I only live one hour away so I don't have to catch a flight! The fans always support the race and help produce a good atmosphere, especially in the stadium section at the end of the lap. It's fair to say that Michael and Sebastian are the main attractions, but the fans always show their support for all the German drivers. (Hockenheim) is where I had my very first car race in 2005 when I raced Formula BMW - and I won both races that weekend. Since then I've raced there a lot in Formula Three and I also raced there in Formula One with Williams in 2010. It's a track I know very well and I enjoy the layout, although it’s a relatively short lap. I think the most challenging corner to get right is turn one. It's a quick right-hander that we take at well above 200 km/h and there is a tricky curb on the exit. Another important part of the lap is getting the hairpin right. If you get your braking wrong it's easy to run wide and it's the main opportunity for overtaking".

Vijay Mallya (Sahara Force India team principle):
"We will come back in Germany with a greater sense of determination. It's satisfying to see that we are consistent top ten performers. We need that little bit of extra luck to get on the podium. Having said that, our immediate competitors didn't have too much luck either - Perez and Maldonado were both going well, but they didn't score. Sauber didn't get any more points to increase their lead over us. We are still only three points adrift of Williams and 16 behind Sauber, so we have reasons to be optimistic going forward. Hockenheim is also Nico's home race. We have no time to take things easy. We have to take every race very seriously, with the same intensity and do everything we possibly can to earn more points".

It is worth noting that in FP1 reserve driver Jules Bianchi will take the wheel of the VJM05 from Paul di Resta. Paul will be back in the car for FP2.

At the back of the grid, Indian hero Narain Karthikeyan will have his usual aim of beating his teammate and the Marussia's. Hopefully he will be in the right place to benefit from any unreliability to other cars too.

This is what he had to say:

Narain Karthikeyan (HRT driver):
"The new Hockenheim circuit is quite different to the old one, which for my liking was more exciting. Before it was quick but now it is slower and a high-downforce track, it is also quite short, not too complicated and very stop-and-go. In the last few races we have proved that our car is quick in qualifying but we haven't yet shown it over a race distance. We've been working on that and in Germany we are aiming to give our main rivals a fight throughout the entire race".

As always we wish all our drivers the very best of luck this weekend! :-)

*Note: The 2011 German GP was at the Nürburgring, not Hockenheim.

17/07/2012

Behind the scenes at SFI

With the British GP done & dusted for another year we wave goodbye to Sahara Force India's second home race in 2012. It's the teams second home race (obviously after India) because the teams factory is literally less than five minutes away from the circuit. Because of this, both British F1 broadcasters, BBC & Sky Sports, did features on the team - you can watch them both here:

BBC F1

Sky Sports F1



Meanwhile, the rain was coming down so heavily during the British GP practice sessions that Paul di Resta actually shrunk!

16/07/2012

Weekend Analysis

After Parthiva Sureshwaren's absence from F2 this weekend (still not sure why, asked a few people - including some other Indian drivers - but no-one seems to know the reason), the only guy we had in action was Sahara Force India's reserve driver Jules Bianchi. This is how he got on:

Race one result: Bianchi 2nd (18 points).
Race two result: Bianchi 7th (6 points).

Race one
Jules started 3rd on the grid for race one, despite being held up by traffic in qualifying. In the race, the Frenchman was having a great battle with Sam Bird for 3rd place. Jules defended very well and held the position. Meanwhile upfront there was a battle for the lead and Marco Sørensen spun off under pressure. Jules just managed to avoid Sørensen's car to take a well deserved 2nd place.

(Jules Bianchi (left) on the podium for his 2nd place in race one, click to enlarge)

Race two
A great qualifying saw Jules take pole position for race two! After the session he said:

"It was another hotly-disputed session and until the very last lap I didn't know exactly where I stood. I put in two quick laps in succession. My car was working really well; now I'll have to concentrate on the race".

The opening laps of the race were crazy with several collisions and incidents. Unfortunately Jules had a coming together with Marco Sørensen and that cost him some time. In an attempt to make up for lost ground Jules took an alternative strategy to the rest of the field and wound up in 7th place.

It's the first time this season that Jules has scored points in both races of the same round - although 7th place will not be what he was hoping for from race two. Having said that, the other major title contenders did not score in that race, so actually it would be okay.

Standings are now:

Drivers' Championship (1st -5th):
1) Robin Frijns (111 pts)
2) Sam Bird (101)
3) Jules Bianchi (85)
4) Marco Sørensen (79)
5) Nick Yelloly (76)

Our driver has jumped from 5th place to 3rd place this weekend - and he's looking forward, not back - all in all a good weekend in Russia. Next races are at Silverstone (UK) on the 25th & 26th August.

13/07/2012

What's happening this weekend?

There are supposed to be two of our drivers in action this weekend, Parthiva Sureshwaren & Jules Bianchi. Let's start with the less complicated situation, Jules Bianchi.

This weekend Formula Renault 3.5 takes place at the Moscow Raceway in Russia.  There are two races, as per the norm with this series; on Saturday & Sunday respectively.

After Jules' success last time out at the Nürburgring (where the Frenchman scored his first win), he will be hoping for more big points this weekend to keep up his championship charge. The problem that Jules has is that in all two-race weekends so far this season, he has yet to score points in both races - usually due to rotten luck. If he's going to be a genuine title threat he needs to find some consistency.

This is how things currently stand in the championship:

Drivers' Championship (1st -7th):
1) Sam Bird (86 pts)
2) Robin Frijns (86)
3) Nick Yelloly (76)
4) Marco Sørensen (71)
5) Jules Bianchi (61)
6) Kevin Magnussen (57)
7) Nico Müller (50)

They use the same scoring system as F1 which means 50pts are up for grabs this weekend (25pts x 2races).

As for Parthiva Sureshwaren, he was due to be in action this weekend ... but he isn't. F2 is certainly in action at Brands Hatch, but Parthiva did not take part in practice one. I'm not sure why that is, but i'll try find the reason and get back to you on that.

That reminds me, i am still waiting for Formula Pilota China to publish the standings after the last race where Parth Ghorpade and Raj Bharath did so well. When i get them, you guys will be the first to know!

11/07/2012

British GP, Silverstone: Wet, wet & the deciding day “DRY”


The weather pretty much decided most of the weekend in the Grand Prix. It was raining cats and dogs literally there with little running on Friday and teams left with almost no data. Having all the wet tyres data and little dry running data the team faced hard time on Sunday the deciding day which remained dry throughout. Webber overtook Alonso in the dying stages to win the GP while Vettel ended at P3. The home hero’s had to face disappointments.


 The weekend review is right below:



Practice Sessions, FP1:


The session was less talked about than the traffic mess happening around Silverstone. Seriously, it was raining so much that no team wanted to do any run. With the predictions in mind, they had to save some tyres too. The maximum laps done was 19 by Kobayashi (including the out laps, installation lap). Grosjean put Lotus at P1 with Ricciardo rarely putting his Toro Rosso at P2 and Hamilton at P3. Jules Bianchi sat for Hulkenberg but could do only an installation lap in the whole session. Likewise Di Resta did not much running and didn’t set any time. Dani Clos sat in for Karthikeyan in the HRT. Nothing much to talk about the Indian connection here.


FP2:


Only one thing continued from one session to another i.e rain. Once again the team chosed to do limited running, main reason was damp track and limited wet & intermediate tyres. The maximum laps again was from Kobayashi, this time only 16 as he ended at P2. Hamilton brought some delight for the home crowd, ending at P1 and Schumacher at P3. Hulkenberg returned in FP2 and got some laps to end at P9 while Di Resta finally set a time to end at P11. Karthikeyan ended at P20 by virtue of 4 drivers not running. Everyone at the end of the day were just hoping for some dry running and were disappointed with rain.


FP3:


Deep down everyone would be smiling with them finally getting some dry running. And we saw every team doing lap after lap, we won’t see them doing so many laps in FP3 normally but with less runs on Friday, they had to collect all the data in some 1 hours of quality dry run. Alonso lead the way with surprisingly Button at P2 & Grosjean at P3. Force India’s Hulkenberg ended at P10 while Di Resta at P12. Karthikeyan put up some good times as he ended at P23 beating his teammate.


The practice sessions simply didn’t give out anything to make us believe that such and such driver will be on pole. With rain predicted in qualifying, it was more drama. Usual suspects were Lotus, McLaren & Red Bull and this time Ferrari as well. Force India were looking good for a Q3 place while I thought Karthikeyan would give a fight to his teammate and perhaps one of the Marussia.


Qualifying, Q1:



A rare sight welcomed us at the start of the session as most of the drivers stood in line to get out and post a time before heavy rains starts or the track become more damp. They had only two tyre choices wet & intermediate. Times kept tumbling down as the session progressed with Vettel ending at P1, Hulkenberg at P2 & Maldonado at P3. Due to Glock’s spin at start/finish line towards the end of the session, Button couldn’t make it to Q2. Along with him the usual suspects from Caterham, HRT & Marussia didn’t make the cut. Karthikeyan finished at P23 as Pic couldn’t qualify under the 107% time but was allowed to race. Both SFI made it easy into Q2.


Q2:


The session began with rain in the air, teams opted for wet weather tyres. Once again the drivers opted to run more just to be in the safe zone as times yet again kept tumbling. But due to severe rain the session halted with 6:19 minutes to go. After a lengthy delay due to rain, the session finally re-started and everyone came out. Hamilton ended at P1, Hulkenberg at P2 making into Q3 and Massa at P3. Di Resta ended at P11 as Alonso improved on his last lap to end at P10.


Q3:


Pole was anybody’s game as times kept improving during the session. Apart from Grosjean who spun in Q2, everyone was out. The tussle was mainly between Webber & Alonso. In the end Alonso won the battle as he got his maiden pole position of the season with Webber at P2, Schumacher ended at P3. Hulkenberg couldn’t improve his time as he ended at P9 but was to start at P14 due to gearbox change penalty.


Well, the qualifying turned to be a messy one as rain played spoiled most of the sessions. Most of the drivers were spinning sideways and an accident was just about to happen but remarkably there were no big incidents. With such conditions it was down to the drivers getting a perfect lap and Alonso got it in the end. Hulkenberg could have got a top 5 finish but he said he coulsn’t get a perfect lap in Q3. As for Di Resta, I was surprised to hear that he was on a dry setup but still was getting some good times, he was unlucky in the end to miss out Q3. But points was possible in the race as Di Resta was to start at P10 & Hulkenberg at P14.


Raceday:


It was all different weather on Sunday, yes it was all dry and sunny. Rain was predicted in the later stages but it didn’t in the end making it as a dry race. There was a certain buzz in the paddock as several actors, cricketers, musician were spotted. All eyes were on the start as Alonso & Webber were in the front row with Schumacher & Vettel behind. Major hot battle would have been between Hamilton & Maldonado with Grosjean behind. The start had a different story as Alonso got a clear line and got ahead of Webber with the line-up mostly remaining the same behind. Unfortunately Di Resta’s race ended in two laps as he got clipped at the back by Grosjean, he managed to get back to the pits but the floor was damaged and he had to suffer a DNF. Hulkenberg made a good start as he was at P11. Karthikeyan was battling with Pic behind.


The battle between Alonso & Webber was on as others behind them were far off fighting as Schumacher, Massa, Vettel & Kimi battled among themselves. Hamilton & Button were having a torrid time, the Britons were having a disastrous race. Meanwhile, there was another victim to Maldonado’s antics as Perez suffered a DNF after they collided. Grosjean after going back of the grid had to make up lot of places which he was doing well. The race was more becoming a tactical race as with all the limited data’s, the team had to make decisions on instinct with tyre choices.


After Di Resta suffered a DNF at the start, it was all down to Hulkenberg to get some valuable points for the team. Actually, Di Resta was on a dry set-up and could have got a great result as it turned to be a dry race. This was his first DNF in 24 races which shows how reliable the car has been. Hulkenberg was having a difficult time out there but he was hanging on well in P9 for most of the race and was lapping in the people around him. Towards the end he was under pressure from Senna, Button & Kobayashi. Karthikeyan on the other hand was fighting with Pic but that Marussia was better on the day and got ahead of him.


The race got lively towards the end as Alonso’s strategy of having hard, hard & soft didn’t work and Webber just quickly in a matter of 4-5 laps got ahead of Alonso to take the lead and thereby win the race, Alonso ended at P2 in the end. Vettel completed the top 3 after overtaking Massa. Kimi ended at P4 and Grosjean at P5, helping Lotus take the P3 in CC. Hulkenberg tried very hard and was running well to finish at P9 but with two laps to go, he over-braked and lost out to Senna, Button & Kobayashi as he ended at P12. His tyre choice of hard, hard, soft also didn’t work. Karthikeyan ended at P21 with 2 laps down to the winner, the team is improving GP by GP.


With a win, Webber secured a deal to drive for RBR in 2013 season. It was great in the end as Webber took some 1-2 seconds of each laps to catch Alonso. It was disaster for McLaren and Mercedes. SFI also didn’t have a great outing but should be happy as their rivals Williams & Sauber didn’t score much as well. I thought Di Resta would have done a great job on the dry set-up. Though the team were disappointed, not to score any points in one of their home GP. The field is still open but there is some gap coming up between the 5th, 6th, 7th teams. It’s still becoming a historic season with the kind of racing and strategies we are seeing. Next up is German GP after 2 weeks, home GP for Hulkenberg. It should be a cracking race yet again, till then ciao. Drive & live safely!!


08/07/2012

Weekend Analysis

Formula One
Results: Hulkenberg 12th, Karthikeyan 21st, di Resta DNF.

So no points for Sahara Force India today but there is actually alot to be pleased about.

Let's start with Nico Hulkenberg; a great start by him saw him jump from 14th on the grid upto 10th - although a better start for Sergio Perez saw Hulkenberg drop to 11th place. In the chaos of the pit stops there were a few overtakes going on, unseen by the World feed. Nico got past Bruno Senna, but Kamui Kobayashi passed Nico. Anyhow, Nico made a late first pit stop from what was 5th place. He came out in 10th. The second stint was relatively quiet for Nico and he made his second stop, coming out in 11th place (which would become 9th when others made their second stops).

From then on in it was a case of preserving that position as the German driver was on the softer, slower tyres. Nico drove brilliantly to fend off Bruno Senna for 15 laps but ultimately, Bruno sneaked through on the penultimate lap as Nico ran wide under pressure and that dropped him down to 12th place.

I have to say that i was very impressed with Nico's defensive driving - sometimes you can just tell when someone is very strong at something and the way Nico was exiting each corner was perfect until the error. It wasn't a mistake in the traditional sense, it was just Nico trying to push the limits of his car too much - if anything he was too determined not to lose the position - but he'll learn from today.

Our Scottish driver, at his home GP, had a dismal race - contact with Grosjean on lap one (a racing incident) caused irreparable damage, forcing Paul di Resta to retire.

As bad races go - this was a good bad race - if that makes sense. Hulkenberg did a solid job today and the strategy was pretty good too, don't forget Nico did make progress from where he started (14th to 12th). The only real way the strategy could have been better is if rain had fell before Nico's second stop - i think that's what the team were looking for. Rain at that time would have meant Nico would not have had to do a stint on the slower, softer tyre. In this situation, 9th would have been the likely result, possibly even 8th. Nevertheless a good effort!

Additionally; our rivals didn't score many points which is good for us!

Constructors championship (5th-8th)
5) Mercedes (98 pts) (+6)
6) Sauber (60) (+0)
7) Williams (47) (+2)
8) Force India (44) (+0)
Note: numbers in green represent in points scored this weekend.

As for Narain Karthikeyan, the race was far more simple for him. He was having a great battle with Charles Pic but experienced very high tyre degradation towards the end of each stint which meant he finished last of the classified runners - nevertheless at least he finished the race.

Post-race quotes from the three drivers mentioned above and Vijay Mallya, can be found on the F1 website here.

Formula Renault 2.0 Northern European Cup
Race one result: Engineer 9th (12 points).
Race two result: Engineer 8th (13 points).
Race three result: Engineer 7th (14 points).

Going into this weekend, Shahaan Engineer was 17th in the championship (out of the massive grid of 39 drivers) on 26 points.

However a great time out this weekend in Oschersleben, including a season best 7th place, means the championship now looks like this:

Drivers' championship (8th-13th)
8) Sandy Stuvik (74 pts)
9) Steijn Schothorst (70)
10) Shahaan Engineer (67)
11) Nyck de Vries (56)
12) Leopold Ringbom (53)
13) Alex Riberas (52)

Clearly a VERY productive weekend for Shahaan - well done to him! :-)

Formula Pilota China
Race one result: Ghorpade 3rd, Bharath 5th.
Race two result: Bharath 5th, Ghorpade 9th.
Race three result: Ghorpade 5th, Bharath 8th.

Good results for the Indian boys, including a podium for Parth Ghorpade!

Currently waiting for the official website to update the standings - we'll let you know when they are updated!!

British GP - Race Results

Results: Hulkenberg 12th, Karthikeyan 21st, di Resta DNF.

An ultimately disappointing day for the Indian contingent, but there are some positives to draw on!

Nico Hulkenberg was running in 9th place on the penultimate lap, but he was on the softer tyre which turned out to be the worse race tyre. Senna and Button behind him were both on the harder, better tyre. While defending his position from Senna, Nico ran wide and all of a sudden dropped down to 12th place unfortunately - putting him out of the points. Disappointment for the German driver, however he did drive brilliantly to hold off Senna for 15laps, was actually a great defensive drive. Additionally don't forget Nico started 14th and finished 12th - the strategy did actually work, just not quite good enough for points!

As for di Resta, on the opening lap he had a puncture and hit the barriers. After coming into pit and changing tyres it was clear that there was already irreparable damage to the car - so it had to be retired. It's a bit hard to tell exactly what caused the puncture; we'll see when we analyse the data.

On the plus side for Sahara Force India, Mercedes only scored six points, Williams two points and Sauber zero points - so very little has changed in terms of the championship.

Meanwhile Narain Karthikeyan simply didn't have the pace to match his teammate today, 12.5seconds down on de la Rosa, finishing 21st ahead of the retirements.

More analysis later!

British GP - Qualifying Analysis

The official grid has been confirmed for todays race; di Resta will start 10th, Hulkenberg 14th and Karthikeyan 22nd.

Given the conditions during that qualifying session, 9th and 11th was a great effort by the Sahara Force India guys (pre-Hulkenberg penalty). Infact, Paul di Resta was very unlucky to miss out on a place in Q3, getting pipped in the dying seconds of second qualifying by just 0.078 seconds! As for Narain Karthikeyan, he was just 0.3s down on teammate de la Rosa.

Aims for the race today will be a double points finish for the two Sahara Force India's. Very possible but alot depends on the track conditions; if one driver has the car working well then they are going to fly through the field. I just saw the GP3 race and Will Buller started at the back of the grid (25th place) but had everything working well in the mixed-conditions, and he came through to take one of the best ever GP3 wins. At one point he was a huge eight seconds per lap quicker than anyone else! This shows just what can be done when setup is spot on with the right tyre compound & temperatures.

Another factor today will be strategy, or rather a lack of it. Teams only get three sets of wet tyres for the entire weekend and we've seen so much rain so far through practice & qualifying that the majority of drivers do not have any brand new tyres available (although i'm not sure about Paul & Nico's tyre life). These drivers will have to do the whole race on used sets of wet tyres if the rain is falling which, in what is probably a first for Formula One, means there will be no real strategy. Teams with no new sets of wet tyre will simply have to go out and try run as far as they can on the tyres, then pit for a second set of used tyres if needed.

Even Narain Karthikeyan could benefit from the uncertain weather conditions - sure, his car may not be quick enough for points without a high attrition rate - but the Indian could certainly have a great battle with his teammate, the Marussia's and maybe even the Caterham's.

It's going to be a great race for sure! Current weather forecast says 75% chance of precipitation. Let's hope for the best for our boys :-)

Note: If you didn't catch the post qualifying quotes, you can read them here.

07/07/2012

British GP - Qualifying Results

Results: Hulkenberg 9th (1:54.382)(will start 14th), di Resta 11th (1:57.009)(will start 10th), Karthikeyan 23rd (1:53.040)(will start 22nd).

Well that was a long qualifying session; two and a half hours - longer than most races!

Nico Hulkenberg managed to grab a place inside Q3, but ironically he will start outside the top then and Paul di Resta, who didn't make Q3, will start inside the top ten! This is due to a 5-place grid penalty for Nico Hulkenberg due to a change of gearbox.

Infact Paul was unlucky not to make Q3, just knocked out of the top ten by Alonso & Maldonado at the end of Q2. Both Alonso & Maldonado are under investigation for those laps - as yellow flags were out in the final sector, however neither driver set a personal best - so they'll probably be okay.

As for Narain Karthikeyan, he qualified in 23rd, but will start 22nd due to a penalty for Jean-Eric Vergne.

More analysis later!

British GP - Practice Three Results

Results: Hulkenberg 10th (1:33.150), di Resta 12th (1:33.367), Karthikeyan 23rd (1:37.269).

An interesting session on what is turning out to be a bit of a crazy weekend so far. Given the disrupted running yesterday, all teams will have had more variation on fuel loads, tyre type & setups than usual in FP3, once again making it hard for us to draw any conclusions into actual pace.

Additionally, this was a dry session but qualifying has a 95% chance of being wet and the race has a 75% chance of being wet - so the data collected here isn't all that relevant in honesty. But at least the teams now have some dry weather data - just incase we do see some dry running at some point during the remainder of the weekend.

Nevertheless a decent showing from the Indian contingent; both Sahara Force India's inside the top twelve and Narain Karthikeyan beating his teammate for P23.

Expect a mad and mixed up qualifying! Let's hope it's mixed up in our favour :-)

06/07/2012

Friday Analysis

This is going to be a rather short article, quite simply because there is very little to actually analyse!

Most drivers (including the Sahara Force India drivers & Narain Karthikeyan) didn't push at all today. The reason for this is to save the wet tyres; of which they only get three sets for the entire weekend, and to avoid putting it in the barriers. Sure, these are the best drivers in the World, and usually in they wet they still push as much as possible however today the conditions were particularly atrocious and it was so easy to make a mistake (as we saw with Senna & Alonso).

Anyway, here is what everybody had to say:

Nico Hulkenberg (Sahara Force India driver)
"A very limited programme today to avoid running on such a wet track with a high risk of aquaplaning. The only time we felt we could learn anything was in the final half hour of the afternoon session so we remained in the garage for most of the day. The forecast for the rest of the weekend looks very mixed so I think we have a challenging weekend ahead of us".

Paul di Resta (Sahara Force India driver)
"Very difficult conditions today, but sometimes you get weather like this. So we had to be patient and choose our moments because the track conditions were so poor with lots of rivers running across the circuit. We didn't really change the car all day, so we will start with the same set-up tomorrow morning. I certainly feel for the fans who missed out on seeing much action today, but it was great to see so many people come along on a Friday".

Jules Bianchi (Sahara Force India driver)
"It's a shame about the weather today. I only did the install lap and that was it. The conditions were so wet that there was no value in doing more laps and there was very little we could learn".

Jakob Andreasen (Sahara Force India chief engineer)
"A frustrating day for all the teams due to the wet weather, which kept us in the garage for most of the day. It's a shame for the fans, who turned out in huge numbers, but with the high risk of aquaplaning it was sensible not to take any risks until we felt the conditions allowed us to do meaningful running. We ran on the wet tyres with Jules, Paul and Nico, and did one run on the intermediates with Paul. There were some aero developments on the car today, but it was very difficult to learn much in such tricky conditions".

Narain Karthikeyan (HRT driver)
"Today we faced typical English weather; it was a complete wash out and, as a result, we didn't complete any meaningful running. The new part of the track, which is made up of turns 1 to 5, is new to me because I didn't race here last year so we need to make sure that we get some running in before qualifying. Hopefully tomorrow we'll have the chance to do these miles to head into qualifying better prepared, where I'll be aiming to back up my good performance in Valencia".

As we have no data to go on we'll have to stick with the standard aims for tomorrow :- Q3 for Sahara Force India & for Narain Karthikeyan beating the Marussia's and de la Rosa will be the target. But as set-ups will be so mixed up due to the changeable conditions, it really will be a day for some unexpected results! Remember Nico Hulkenberg for Williams in 2010 at Brazil? He got a very surprising pole position; will we see the same from him tomorrow? Let's wait and see :-)

British GP - Practice Two Results

Results: Hulkenberg 9th (1:58.943), di Resta 11th (1:59.429), Karthikeyan 20th (2:04.774).

An interesting FP2 session for all teams really. The issue is that the teams need to save wet tyres (of which they only get three sets the whole weekend) for qualifying and the race. However on the other hand they need to do running to test the upgrades brought to this race in terms of reliability; in these conditions they won't be able to test performance really.

Although it doesn't mean much due to the weather; the Sahara Force India drivers finished the session 9th & 11th completing a total of 21 laps.

Meanwhile Narain Karthikeyan finished the session in 20th position after 8 laps.

More analysis later!

British GP - Practice One Results

Results: di Resta 23rd (No time set), Bianchi 24th (No time set).

Both Sahara Force India drivers did installation laps early on; the plan was to gather data on the exhaust system as you can see with the sensor array on the back of the car here:

(The thing that looks a bit like a wine rack is a sensor array)

On that installation lap, Paul di Resta's telemetry showed some "unusual anomalies" in the cars feedback and so much of the session was sat out as a precaution while mechanics checked everything over.

The steering column on Paul's car was changed and a few more laps were completed for him towards the end of the session - although no laptime was set.

I'm surprised how many other teams did timed laps, don't forget teams only get three sets of wet tyres for the whole weekend, and their are four more session to go - it's quite possible that all other sessions could be equally wet, if not worse. This means that Sahara Force India's limited running could be a blessing in disguise; they've saved tyre wear for later sessions.

Bianchi & Clos took part in this session in place of Hulkenberg & Karthikeyan respectively - but normal service will be resumed in FP2.

05/07/2012

What's happening this weekend?

Formula One
Formula One is back in action this weekend at Silverstone for the British Grand Prix.

Historically, Indians have always gone well at British circuits; Narain Karthikeyan is incredibly fast around Brands Hatch and he'll be hoping it's the same story at Silverstone. Both his team, HRT, and their closest rivals, Marussia, have upgrades this weekend so we should be in for a good battle between the two teams. Heavy rain is expected right through the weekend and that could play into Narain's hands as he looks to finish 14th or better (to be his best finish of the season).

Here is what "the fastest Indian in the World" had to say:

Narain Karthikeyan (HRT driver):
"I've got very good memories of Silverstone as I've raced a lot there in the past in junior categories, it's one of my favourite tracks on the calendar and a place I expect to do well. Copse and the Becketts complex are special corners and are up there with the most exciting ones in the championship but I don't know the new part of the circuit as I didn't race at Silverstone last year so it will take me a few laps to adapt. After a positive weekend in Valencia, with a good performance in qualifying, I’m hoping to continue from there and build on it in Great Britain".

As for Sahara Force India their aim will be to have both cars in the points, but given the pace of the car in the last two races - a podium is a real possibility. Once again i will be placing bets on that in the hope of winning big money; although the points for the team will mean more! :-)

Constructors championship (5th-8th)
5) Mercedes (92 pts)
6) Sauber (60)
7) Williams (45)
8) Force India (44)

Quotes from the drivers & Mr. big boss are below:

Paul di Resta (Sahara Force India driver):
"I think we arrive at Silverstone feeling positive. The performance level we showed in Valencia was a boost for the team and if we can build on that ahead of Silverstone I'm optimistic we can continue to put on a strong show. The guys back at the factory are working hard to give us some developments in time for the weekend so hopefully we can find a bit more performance. It's the track that makes you really appreciate what a Formula One car is capable of, especially the aerodynamic grip through the quick corners and the change of direction. Everybody talks about Maggotts and Becketts, but there really is nothing else like them anywhere in the world. I also enjoy the new section and every year we go back there it gets better and better. The new layout has definitely created some more overtaking opportunities, especially with the introduction of DRS, so it's been the right move".

Nico Hulkenberg (Sahara Force India driver):
"I have good memories from Silverstone, both in GP2 and Formula One. It is one of those classic races that bring a smile to your face when you think of some of the corners. I actually describe it as an 'old-school' circuit because it's narrow and you have to be really committed and brave through the quick parts of the lap. It's super-fast and great fun when you hook up the perfect lap".

Dr Vijay Mallya (Sahara Force India team principle):
"We always try to put our best foot forward at Silverstone. It's where our factory is based and it's our second home race of the season. It's also one of the most atmospheric events on the calendar thanks to the passion of the British fans who always show tremendous support. For our team, it's definitely a highlight of the season. We arrive back at Silverstone off the back of our strongest performance of the year. In fact, the 16 points scored in Valencia are the most we have ever scored in one weekend. Those points have proved to be very valuable, bringing us within a point of Williams and just 16 adrift of Sauber. So we are catching up with our nearest competitors quite quickly. Now we need to keep up the momentum. As for the drivers, they both performed brilliantly in Valencia. Paul was the only driver to pull off a one-stop strategy, which was a tremendous effort, while Nico's fifth place was his best finish in Formula One. I believe this will be a great boost for Nico and it's just the result he deserves after some unlucky races this year. We will have some developments for the car this weekend and we will certainly give our all to try and come away with another strong result. I think our performance in Valencia showed just how much we have learned from the tough lessons of Canada in terms of understanding the tyres and being aggressive with the strategy. The aim this weekend is to deliver a repeat performance, pick up points and keep pushing hard to move up the championship table".

Don't forget this is the teams' second home race so a decent result will be fantastic for the guys who work hard at the factory in Silverstone and often get overlooked when the drivers are being praised!

Formula Renault 2.0 Northern European Cup
This is a series we've never covered before however there is an Indian really slugging away trying to pick up points.

Shahaan Engineer is currently 17th in the championship (out of the massive grid of 39 drivers) on 26 points. The championship is that close that one win could take Shahaan upto 5th place overall!

This weekend are races six, seven & eight at Oschersleben in Germany.

Results so far this season for Shahaan are as follows:

8th, 8th, RET, 31st, DNS.

The advantage gained with two great results at the start of the season has eroded away with the results in the next three races and so Shahaan will want to get back to top ten finishes this weekend.

Note: in this series the top twenty drivers score points.

Formula Pilota China
Once again, another new series for Auto India Sports coverage.

Indian driver Raj Bharath is part of the series for Indian team Meco Motorsport. Elsewhere on the grid, Auto India Sport's old friend, Parth Ghorpade takes part with Filipino team Eurasia Motorsport.

After three races so far this season, the drivers results have been:

Ghorpade: 2nd, DNF, 5th
Bharath: 8th, DNF, 4th

Note: all races so far were at the Shanghai International Circuit, China, with a grid of 14 cars.

Ghorpade currently sits 4th in the championship on 19 pts wheres Bharath is 7th overall on 9 pts.

Clearly results have been promising so far with 50% top five finishes for the Indian drivers, let's hope a double podium happens this weekend! :-)