03/11/2012

Indian Grand Prix, Buddh International Circuit- Drive to the limit


The second Indian Grand Prix and my second LIVE race from the stands. Yes, this time again I went for the race but this time it was a whole new experience for me which I’ll share in Part 2 of the review. The race however wasn’t the best of the season but we heard the sentiments that driver’s loved it as they could push to the limit without tyre wear fear. Vettel took the honours once again with gritty Alonso at P2 & Webber at P3.


Here is the detailed review of the weekend:



Practice Sessions, FP1:


Although I didn’t see this session as I was travelling and at the Monster India office, I did keep a check on results. The weather expectedly was dry with teams focusing on working on tyre performance. As everyone expected , it was quite dusty though much better than last year. The track surface being smooth allowed the drivers to push and go a bit aggressive. Vettel ended at P1 with Button at P2 & Alonso at P3. SFI had a bit off time as Paul finished P12 & Hulk driving for the first time finished P14. Karthikeyan was looking good as he ended at P22, lots of eyes on him.



FP2:


The track evolved quite a lot since the morning session, the support races also helped a bit. This session we saw quite a lot of off the track moments. It being slightly technical & demanding track, one small mistake will cost drivers dearly. Vettel took charge again ending P1 with Webber making it RBR’s 1-2 & Alonso ending P3.  SFI looked in a better shape since morning as Hulk ended P8 & Di Resta P11 though they still had some work to do overnight. Karthikeyan ended P23, was troubled a bit with brake problems.



FP3:


This was my first session from the grandstand and I must it was a lot different from last year’s stand. Although grandstand gives you only straight line view but the pit garage view and what is happening there is something different. The track was quite better by now with lot of rubber as team prepared for qualifying set up. Vettel once again stepped on his mark to finish P1, Button P2 & Webber P3. Hulk ended P8 continuing a good work but Di Resta looked bad with speed ending only P14. Karthikeyan beat his teammate to end P23.


It was clear that RBR were the only team to beat with McLaren giving some charge. Ferrari were all they could do to catch up RBR. SFI looked a bit ordinary but then they were still there with the mid-field teams and scoring points was the main objective. Karthikeyan in his home race would have loved to beat his team mate and perhaps the Marussia’s.



Qualifying, Q1:


This session I was watching from the Marussia garage and could see a lot of things as to what goes behind. I will share about few things in the Part 2. Coming to the action, expectedly the new three teams and along with them Vergne bowed out. Both the SFI duo made the cut as Maldonado ended P1, Vettel P2 & Rosberg P3. Karthikeyan ended at P23 beating one of the Marussia but he couldn’t beat his team mate.



Q2:


I’ll be honest, I wasn’t seeing the action live as I had to rush out of the garage to cover Timo & Pic in the media pin/pen. Again, I kept a check on the times and results. Vettel ended P1 once again, Button at P2 & Webber at P3. It was an unfortunate end to SFI’s qualifying as both the drivers missed out. Both said, they did what they could and lost out somewhat with pace. Hulk was to start P12 & Di Resta at P16. Seriously, Di Resta’s car was looking in a bad shape.



Q3:


Again I didn’t see the session but it seems it was good session as times at the front were pretty close. Vettel took pole position for the second time in a row at BIC with Webber only came pretty close to challenging him at P2. Hamilton rounded off at P3, his time looked pretty good as well. Once again Mercedes chose not to run as Alonso only managed to be at P5.


The qualifying was straight forward as RBR were the main to beat, drivers came close but it was not enough and tomorrow’s race was crucial for Vettel & Alonso, at that time it was all looking good for Vettel. SFI had a disappointing day but it was looking that way since start, the teams around have similar pace and so it was going to be a tough fight any case. Karthikeyan was going up & down since FP1 but pace wise looked good for the race.



Raceday:


After a good day for me, I was back at the circuit for the final day and watching live from the main grandstand and also catch all those off track moments happening in the pits, parades and grid presentation. The weather was fine, there was some sort of mist in the air which is normal for us but maybe not for the people from outside India. Any ways, one thing I would clarify here is as I watched from the stands and so I may miss some action that happened elsewhere on the track, will try to cover as much as I can.


At the start, Vettel took a good with Webber covering him but behind them the two McLaren’s & Alonso were in a fight among themselves. I saw that on circuit TV and it looked superb from the 3 of them, Alonso coming out ahead cleanly. Behind them no big movement apart from Hulk who got ahead to be at P9, I suppose but Di Resta didn’t gain much as he was at P14. Schumacher & Vergne pitted at the end of lap 1. Karthikeyan had a good start overtaking few cars but lost out by the end of the lap.


At mid point, it was fairly laid out battle ahead as Vettel was miles ahead for Alonso to ctach. But Webber’s KERS failure helped Alonso to overtake him in a brilliant move to get into P2. Elsewhere Massa was being chased by Kimi for P6, while as Webber lost ground Hamilton picked up to try and overtake him. There was good mid field battles on as well between Williams, Sauber & Mercedes. Petrov was winning from Heikki, the Marussia’s & the sole remaining HRT of Karthikeyan.


Both SFI made a steady start but it was Hulkenberg who was charging ahead in the field with Di Resta matching the pace of his rivals but not getting the extra pace to move ahead. Hulkeberg overtook Rosberg & Perez and was running at P8 for majority of the race; He was defending well from Grosjean again. While Di Resta lost out as his car didn’t have much pace, he was running at P12 behind Rosberg & Senna battle. Karthikeyan gained a place with Pedro’s DNF but his car was also suffering a bit from the brake problem, the team has been having it for a while now but he was still there running and catching up with Marussia’s.


In the end Vettel was too far off from Alonso for him to catch and he took his second victory at BIC. Alonso drove a gritty race to end P2 while Webber salvaged P3 after KERS problems. Hulkenberg ended P8, defending well from Grosjean while Di Resta had to content with P12. Karthikeyan ended P21, wasn’t what he had wanted after P17 last year but considering the pace he did a good job. It was also nice to see that drivers were driving to the limit as the Pirelli’s didn’t degrade quickly and this was a welcome change for drivers & teams.


The battle is wide open now as Vettel takes some lead, Alonso still has a chance. The coming 3 races is going to be super and no one can miss it. Also, interesting battle in CC for mid field teams as Force India scores again, making 6 races in a row. They are now 7 points away from having 100 points in a season, a new record for them. 23 points away from Sauber which means they need to outscore Sauber well in the coming races which is not impossible but tough. Whatever it is, we are in for an exciting finish. We are already in the weekend for Abu Dhabi GP. I would like to apologise for delayed report as I was busy with something. I’ll be blogging about my whole experience in another blog which will be up in few days time.

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