The next five weekends will see the 2012 Formula 1 season draw to a close, with no less than four Grands Prix for fans around the world to look forward to.
This weekend sees the Indian Grand Prix take centre stage, at a venue where Sebastian Vettel utterly thrashed all comers last year. The German has rocketed back into the 2012 championship fight with a hat-trick of wins in the last three Grands Prix, and he’ll be looking to claim a fourth win in a row to extend his narrow championship lead over Fernando Alonso and Kimi Räikkönen.
Vettel’s rivals need for the youngster to fail this weekend, or the championship race could quickly be taken out of their grasp. So without further ado, let’s take a look at the RichardsF1.com Indian Grand Prix Preview…
|Date:||26-28 October 2012|
|Venue:||Buddh International Circuit, Greater Noida, India|
|Race Lap Record:||1:27.249, Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing Renault RB7) – 2011|
|Event Schedule:||Free Practice Session 1||Fri 10:00-11:30|
|Free Practice Session 2||Fri 14:00-15:30|
|Free Practice Session 3||Sat 11:00-12:00|
|Race (53 laps, 307.471km)||Sun 15:00-17:00|
|Past Winners:||Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing Renault RB7)||2011|
Through the emergence of drivers such as Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandhok – as well as the presence of the Force India team – Formula 1 has built a considerable and ever-growing fan base in India.
And with a potential market of over one billion local fans, it was a logical next step to stage a Grand Prix in the subcontinent.
After years of preparation and planning, it all came together at the Hermann Tilke designed 5.1-kilometre circuit located about an hour’s drive out of the country’s capital, Delhi.
On paper, it’s typical Tilke fare: long straights funnelling into tight corners to promote overtaking. On paper, the layout didn’t look particularly heart-stopping, but Tilke took some inspiration from his successful Turkish design to add elevation changes to the mix.
The drivers raved about it and with even more preparation having gone into the venue ahead of this year’s event – as we exclusively profiled earlier this week on our website – this year’s event will only be better.
Let’s take a look at our Buddh International Circuit Guide:
The History Bit
This year will mark the second time that the Buddh International Circuit will play host to the Formula 1 circus.
Fans will recall that last year’s inaugural event was not without some teething problems.
Following the farcical lead-up to the 2010 Korean Grand Prix – held in a partially-finished complex – the FIA was keen to avoid a repeat, and Indian officials gave every assurance that it was all on track.
However, inspection deadlines drew nearer and were missed, and as the clock ticked by, many feared that we could see a repeat of Korea, or even a replica of the disorganised build-up that had marred the recent Commonwealth Games and Cricket World Cup Finals tournaments that had recently been held in (frankly) substandard facilities.
But the organisers performed a miracle to get the track, at least, finished. On October 18 – just two weeks before the inaugural race – the FIA’s technical delegate Charlie Whiting gave the facility the green light to stage its maiden Grand Prix.
Not everything had been completed. Some grandstands would not be finished in time, and most of the cosmetic features around the circuit – such as the laying of turf and planting of trees – would have to wait.
Much of the electrical set-up was still being put together when the teams arrived, and the final coats of paint were being applied – to track and buildings – just a day before the first practice session would get underway. The track hadn’t had a proper clean, and the surrounding area – compounded by the lack of vegetation around the facility – was extremely dusty.
The first few days saw some power outages and plumbing failures. Circuit commentators complained that their commentary booths afforded them a poor (or non-existent) view of proceedings.
The drivers were unanimous in their praise of the five-kilometre circuit, and senior figures among all the teams were thrilled that Formula 1 was seriously getting a foothold in India, a country which had seen two of its own drivers – Karun Chandhok and Narain Karthikeyan – make the F1 stage.
The fans were lapping it up too. On race day, a capacity crowd of 110,000 people poured through the gates to watch Sebastian Vettel take a commanding grand chelem– pole position, leading every lap to win and setting the fastest race lap – in his quest to defend his championship title.
Further down the order, the race saw Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa conspire to have yet another collision, with this time Massa copping the blame for the contact and being forced to tour the pit lane before he crashed out of the race.
New Delhi Talking Points
So what do the RichardsF1.com readers and contributors think will happen this weekend?
The Form Guide
When F1 hit India for the first time last year, the 2011 Drivers’ Championship title had already been wrapped up and all eyes were on the battle for the runners-up spot.
This year, at least, the championship battle is wide open, with no less than half a dozen members of the grid still mathematically in contention to claim the 2012 crown.
However, as our other contributors point out further on this preview, Vettel is enjoying a great deal of momentum on the back of having won the last three Grands Prix in a substantially-improved Red Bull RB8. Have the ghosts of 2011 returned to vanquish the opposition once again?
On current form, the Red Bull RB8 is the car to beat, leaving Ferrari, McLaren and Lotus with all the work to do to catch the blue cars, or rely on a pit stop drama, mechanical gremlin, an errant backmarker, wild weather or a Safety Car intervention to thwart Vettel’s charge.
Lying six points behind Vettel in the championship race, Fernando Alonso can already rely on rear-gunner support from team-mate Felipe Massa. Massa has shown vastly improved form in recent rounds, and he’s now a genuine contender to be able to pick points off the Spaniard’s closest rivals. Whether or not he’s able to compete at the same pace as Vettel remains to be seen…
Mark Webber won’t have completely abandoned his own championship aspirations, and his second-placed finish – his first visit to the podium since his win at the British Grand Prix in July. That result saw him sit in second place in the Drivers’ Championship standings – 13 points behind Alonso and 16 points ahead of Vettel – but today he’s 63 points adrift of his resurgent team-mate after a shocking run in the mid-season.
In truth, Webber will have to finish on the podium to keep his championship hopes alive for another weekend, but – like Jenson Button, who sits a further 21 points behind Webber in sixth overall – his hopes are looking slimmer with each passing event.
For those sitting beyond the leading Vettel-Alonso battle, their recent difficulties have largely stemmed from poorer qualifying performances that have placed them at risk of getting tangled up in someone else’s accident.
Neither accident was the Spaniard’s fault, but he’d surely still be in the championship lead had he have qualified further up the grid…
Vettel’s resurgence has come off the back of some recent outstanding qualifying form. Come Saturday afternoon, he’s emerged as the man to beat and the form guide suggests we could see more of the same once again.
Don’t forget to enter your F1 Predictions!
The seventeenth round round of the 2012 RichardsF1.com F1 Predictions Competition is now open, and you can enter your predictions for the race right here to be in the running for some great prizes throughout the season and at the end of the year!
The cut-off to submit your predictions is no later than five minutes before qualifying starts, so make sure you’re in it to win it!
You can view the latest Predictions Competition ranking right here.
There were more changes in the points table following the Korean Grand Prix round, and the overall winner’s title still remains open to many people to claim. Again, we’ll be awarding a prize to this weekend’s highest points-scorer (before ‘double up). Will it be you?
To enter your predictions, click here.
As always, RichardsF1.com will be bringing you the best of the on- and off-track action this weekend, so make sure we’re your first port of call for your Indian Grand Prix fix!