Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Korea, 2011

New track, different winner? F1 arrives in India

2011 Indian Grand Prix previewPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Korea, 2011
Hamilton took pole bu Vettel won again in Korea

Will a brand new venue breathe life into a season that has been dominated by one driver and one team?

McLaren have chipped away at Red Bull’s advantage in recent races.

It’s too late for them to change the outcome of the championship but they could stop their rivals ending the season on a high.

Buddh International Circuit

It’s become rare for an F1 season to pass without a new event appearing on the calendar, and this year is no exception.

India’s Buddh International Circuit follows in the footsteps of Korea, Abu Dhabi, Singapore and Valencia. It will soon be joined by Austin in Texas, Sochi in Russia and, as we learned yesterday, New Jersey.

India and Formula 1 already look like a good match. There has always been a sizeable contingent of Indian readers on F1 Fanatic, and that has visibly grown in the weeks building up to the race.

The track is wholly typical of the current generation of F1 circuits designed by Hermann Tilke. So much so that some sequences look like they’e been lifted straight from the plans for other Tilke creations such as Istanbul Park.

Though not as flat as some new circuits, much of the gradient is confined to the straights – the corners themselves generally lacking in camber. However the blind-apex of turn three will be tricky.

India circuit information

Buddh International Circuit

Lap length 5.137km (3.192 miles)
Lap time (est) 1’25.0 (208kph)
Distance 60 laps (308.2km/191.5 miles)
Tyres Soft and Hard

India track data in full

The freshly-laid surface is very smooth, but will have little grip, particularly early in the weekend.

There are some promising quick turns towards the end of the lap, and the construction around turns ten and eleven looks particularly impressive. This corner will also put maximum strain on the tyres.

Race strategy will be strongly influenced by Pirelli’s decision to bring their most conservative tyre – the hard compound – to safeguard against any unforeseen problems. The soft has proved impressively durable at most venues this year and consequently Pirelli have brought it to every race.

But the long, fast turns ten and eleven will deal out significant punishment to the front-left tyre. With grip levels likely to escalate throughout the weekend, the race may throw up some surprises.

Pride at stake in final races

With both championships won the teams are increasingly using the final races to prepare for next year. This has been particularly clear at Mercedes and Ferrari, who have tested aerodynamic solutions for their 2012 cars at recent races.

But there are still races to be won and pride at stake. And McLaren’s recent upswing in form raises the prospect of them challenging Red Bull and hopefully giving us a close battle for victory.

After narrowly missing out on pole position in Japan, McLaren finally brought Red Bull’s domination to an end in Korea, courtesy of Lewis Hamilton. Can he again frustrate Red bull’s attempt to set a record 16th pole position in a single season?

Red Bull have made noises about helping Mark Webber take second in the drivers’ championship. Hopefully this won’t mean anything as crude as having Sebastian Vettel pull over and let him pass – F1’s new audience deserves to see a proper race without a manipulated finish.

Ferrari will be relying on high temperatures to help them cope with the harder rubber, as tyre warm-up has been a significant weakness of theirs this year.

Nico Rosberg was unable to keep the Ferraris behind in Korea but restored some of his lost points lead over Michael Schumacher. The contest between the two continues to fascinate – Rosberg almost always ahead in qualifying, but Schumacher making inroads into his advantage in the races.

Behind them the midfield scrap between Renault, Sauber, Force India and Toro Rosso is finely poised.

On pure performance Renault should be comfortably ahead but are having a disastrous second half of the season. They have scored just seven points in the last seven races.

Force India were poised to do significant damage to Renault’s points advantage in Korea – before they were overtaken by the Toro Rossos. The STR6s are much improved following their latest blown diffuser update, and Jaime Alguersuari in particular was very strong in Korea.

India fosters F1 connections

Unlike some of the more recent new locations, some groundwork for F1’s arrival in India has been laid within the sport. The country has direct connections through two drivers and a team.

Force India is based in Silverstone but run by Vijay Mallya. The team is in the best form of its four-year history, on course for sixth – and possibly better – in the constructors’ championship.

There will be a home driver on the grid for the first race in India as well, with Narain Karthikeyan returning to the cockpit for HRT for the first time since he was dropped for Daniel Ricciardo following the European Grand Prix.

Lotus have not succumbed to pressure to put their Indian reserve driver Karun Chandhok in the car for race day, though he will run during first practice.

Chandhok has had some misfortune in his occasional Friday practice outings in the T128, many of which have seen heavy rain and little running. That seems unlikely to be a problem at his home race.

Hot, dry conditions are expected and Pirelli will give teams extra sets of tyres to help them get more mileage at this brand new facility.

2011 driver form

Q avg R avg R best R worst Classified Form guide
Sebastian Vettel 1.31 1.56 1 4 16/16 Form guide
Mark Webber 4 3.4 2 5 15/16 Form guide
Lewis Hamilton 3.56 3.71 1 8 14/16 Form guide
Jenson Button 4.69 3.14 1 6 14/16 Form guide
Fernando Alonso 4.63 3.53 1 7 15/16 Form guide
Felipe Massa 5.69 6.57 5 11 14/16 Form guide
Michael Schumacher 10.44 8.09 4 17 11/16 Form guide
Nico Rosberg 7.69 7.93 5 12 14/16 Form guide
Nick Heidfeld 13.36 8.5 3 12 8/11 Form guide
Vitaly Petrov 9.75 10.54 3 17 13/16 Form guide
Rubens Barrichello 14.44 13.15 9 17 13/16 Form guide
Pastor Maldonado 13.94 14.67 10 18 12/16 Form guide
Adrian Sutil 12.19 10.36 6 15 14/16 Form guide
Paul di Resta 11.81 11.27 6 18 15/16 Form guide
Kamui Kobayashi 13.31 10.69 5 16 13/16 Form guide
Sergio Perez 13.57 11.8 7 17 10/14 Form guide
Sebastien Buemi 15.06 11.15 8 15 13/16 Form guide
Jaime Alguersuari 14.63 11.92 7 21 13/16 Form guide
Heikki Kovalainen 18.19 15.91 13 19 11/16 Form guide
Jarno Trulli 19.33 16.45 13 20 11/15 Form guide
Narain Karthikeyan 23 20.5 17 24 6/7 Form guide
Vitantonio Liuzzi 22.47 19.73 13 23 11/15 Form guide
Timo Glock 20.63 17.75 15 21 12/16 Form guide
Jerome D’Ambrosio 22.06 18.21 14 22 14/16 Form guide
Pedro de la Rosa 17 12 12 12 1/1 Form guide
Daniel Ricciardo 22.88 19.33 18 22 6/8 Form guide
Karun Chandhok 20 20 20 20 1/1 Form guide
Bruno Senna 11.2 13.2 9 16 5/5 Form guide

2011 Indian Grand Prix

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Image ?? Korean GP/Sutton