Saturday, October 27, 2012

Airtel Indian GP: Race Preview

Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull)/Getty Images
This time last year, Sebastian Vettel had already secured the Championship two grands prix earlier and then led the Indian GP from pole to finish, securing a Grand Chelem. From the viewers' perspective as well as some writers', last year's race was a bit of a snoozer with most of the excitement and talk not about the winner, but a collision between Felipe Massa and Lewis Hamilton with Massa receiving a penalty. But ask any driver and they will all tell you how exciting it was. That said, it is a new year, the Championship is not set and the points are tight.

Personally, I think seeing any new circuit is exciting. Buddh International Circuit has turns and straights that are like no other in Formula One and includes elevation changes that range from four to ten degrees.  Mathematically there are six possible drivers that have a shot at the championship, although realistically it has come down to two: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) and Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) and it is the beginning of the end game for the Championship.

While Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen and McLaren's Lewis Hamilton (third and fourth, respectively) have not given up the fight, their hopes for the championship are dim.  When asked about his chances this year, Raikkonen (as only Raikkonen can) dryly replied, ''Yeah, of course. We've had a chance. It's the difference like in 2007. We had a car that you knew that could win all the races and right now we are not the fastest car so we need more help to really win it, but we will keep trying and hopefully we can achieve it. We will try until there's no chance but it's a bit different situation. But if we can improve the car in the next three races, you never know, so...''

Hope springs eternal, but even he will admit his chances are slim. In a season that has seen so many ups and downs, bad starts and almost every driver having a bad ride at some point, luck and experience has played large this season. If there is anyone in this field that can come from behind to win, I would put my money on Raikkonen. What stops me is that I do not believe he has the car to do it. This just isn't his year. I feel it is not Hamilton's year either. It has come down to a match race between Vettel and Alonso and with the former winning the last three races handily and passing Alonso by 6 points, I do not see him stopping. But if anyone can take a lesser car and run it first to the finish, it would be Alonso. With 100 points still up for grabs it could still go to either man.

For its inaugural season, Buddh International Circuit proved to be dirty off line and not much better online. It was dusty. They have added astroturf and planted close to 100,000 new trees. Combine those changes with a surface that's matured for a year and the grip should improve immensely.

Because of dust and turns that put the tires under full lateral load, Pirelli has chosen the yellow-soft and silver-hard compound tires. These are the same choices they made last year, only this year's compounds are slightly softer. Still, it is an interesting choice of tires as they have skipped the mediums completely. For dust, the soft tires would be preferable. However, high speed turns can chew through softs in no time, hence the hard compound. It could mean up to a full second in timing depending on tire choice. As I say almost every race, tire choice and tire management on track is extremely important and at this circuit even more so than usual.

There will be two DRS zones this year just as last year. The first detection zone will be at the exit of Turn 15. The second will be just prior to Turn 3. 

It is expected to be sunny and in the high 80s throughout the weekend. To check for any changes in the conditions you can access local weather here.

Please join us after the Indian Grand Prix for a full report.

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