Can Ferrari hit back at Red Bull in India?

2012 Indian Grand Prix preview

India circuit information

Lap length 5.125km (3.185 miles)
Distance 60 laps (307.5km/191.1 miles)
Lap record* 1’27.249 (Sebastian Vettel, 2011)
Fastest lap 1’24.178 (Sebastian Vettel, 2011)
Tyres Hard and Soft

*Fastest lap set during a Grand Prix

India track data in full

F1 was warmly embraced by India on its first visit last year. The drivers raved about the track, which was deemed a cut above the usual modern circuits.

Unfortunately it produced a less than scintillating race. The championship was already over by this stage, and Sebastian Vettel simply turned up and crushed his rivals.

Heading into the year’s race the championship is much closer, though recent events have swung it in Vettel’s favour. The big question this weekend is whether Ferrari and Fernando Alonso can offer any resistance to Vettel’s march towards a third world championship.

Pirelli erred on the side of caution ahead of last year’s race, bringing the hard and soft tyres. It turned out the harder compound was capable of completing at least one race distance.

Nonetheless Pirelli will bring the same allocation this year, though both compounds are softer than they were last year.

“The surface isn’t abrasive at all,” said home driver Narain Karthikeyan. “Wear shouldn?t be an issue.”

Indian Grand Prix team-by-team preview

Red Bull

Start, Buddh International CircuitRed Bull have moved ahead in the development race at a crucial point in the season. Sebastian Vettel heads into the Indian Grand Prix on the back of three consecutive wins.

He dominated the first ever race at Buddh International Circuit last year, scoring his first ever perfect result by winning from pole position, setting fastest lap and leading all the way.

But for all the team’s recent success his championship lead is a slender six points, and he needs to keep making the most of the advantage he has to shore up his lead over Alonso.

McLaren

Persistent reliability problems have dogged McLaren in recent races. What they need above all else is a clean weekend.

If they can do that, the combination of the MP4-27 and its two world champion drivers (enjoy that while it lasts) should allow them to reclaim the second place in the constructors’ championship they lost to Ferrari in Korea.

Ferrari

Alonso finally surrendered his hard-won advantage in the drivers’ championship to Vettel in Korea. Ferrari are puling out all the stops in their effort to take it back and tried out a raft of new components in a straight-line aerodynamic test last week.

But as ever with Ferrari, the crucial question will be whether these updates work as planned. Recall the strange sight of Massa’s front wing shuddering at speed during practice in India last year as the team struggled to get to grips with its latest upgrade.

Mercedes

After the last two races Rosberg has a simple objective for this one: survive the first lap without being hit.

The team haven’t scored in the last two races, coincidentally, the two since Hamilton announced he will be driving for them next year. But Buddh’s long straights should give the W03 the chance to play its strong card: the straight-line speed boost from its Double DRS.

Lotus

For the second weekend in a row the Lotus drivers are at a track which neither of them have driven on before.

The Coanda exhaust introduced in Korea produced a gain in performance, though it came at the expense of straight-line speed, indicating the team still have some progress to make with this upgrade.

Force India

Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, Korea International Circuit, 2012Team principal Vijay Mallya may struggle to turn the local media spotlight onto the home team as his financial and legal problems worsen.

But Force India have come on strong in the second half of the season. Nico Hulkenberg grabbed attention with an excellent run to sixth in Korea.

The prospects of a home podium for the team are slim – the best they’ve managed thus far a pair of fourth places aided by retirements in Belgium and Singapore.

Sauber

The second half of the lap at Buddh with its high-speed corners should suit the C31 fairly well. The long straights at the beginning of the lap less so.

The team are in with a slim chance of taking fifth in the constructors’ championship off Mercedes, but haven’t capitalised sufficiently on their rival’s recent misfortunes.

Toro Rosso

After a quiet start to the season the Toro Rosso drivers have been increasingly regular visitors to the points since the summer break, particularly Ricciardo.

Vergne did not run in the practice session here last year, so he’ll be starting from scratch with this track.

Williams

Williams believe they have found a solution to the balance problem that affected their car in recent races and led to a no-score in Korea.

Caterham

Giedo van der Garde will have another chance to drive for the team during free practice.

Kovalainen admitted the team are now focussed not on their rivals ahead but those behind them: “The guys behind us are putting up a good fight and, while we have clear air between us on track, we need to make sure we keep that gap, and, where possible, take advantage of anything that happens ahead.”

HRT

Narain Karthikeyan, HRT, Suzuka, 2012Karthikeyan will be the only home driver in the race, so he can count on getting a full complement of practice sessions for a change.

Marussia

Glock is another driver who’s enthusiastic about racing in India: “It’s a fantastic track,” he said. “As soon as we did our first practice runs at the Buddh International Circuit last year, I enjoyed it straight away.

“There are so many special sections to the track, especially turn three, which is a very extreme corner. You have to completely turn into the steering wheel, followed by a very long straight.”

2012 driver form

Q avg R avg R best R worst Classified Form guide
Sebastian Vettel 4.44 4.8 1 22 15/16 Form guide
Mark Webber 6.69 6.5 1 20 16/16 Form guide
Jenson Button 6.63 7.79 1 18 14/16 Form guide
Lewis Hamilton 4.94 5.77 1 19 13/16 Form guide
Fernando Alonso 6.06 3.57 1 9 14/16 Form guide
Felipe Massa 10.44 8.8 2 16 15/16 Form guide
Michael Schumacher 9.25 8.22 3 13 9/16 Form guide
Nico Rosberg 9.06 7.86 1 15 14/16 Form guide
Kimi Raikkonen 7.88 5.31 2 14 16/16 Form guide
Romain Grosjean 6.73 7.5 2 19 10/15 Form guide
Paul di Resta 11.13 9.53 4 14 15/16 Form guide
Nico Hulkenberg 12.19 10.33 4 21 15/16 Form guide
Kamui Kobayashi 10.63 9.5 3 18 12/16 Form guide
Sergio Perez 12.38 8.17 2 14 12/16 Form guide
Daniel Ricciardo 14.38 12.07 9 17 15/16 Form guide
Jean-Eric Vergne 16.69 12.38 8 16 13/16 Form guide
Pastor Maldonado 11.25 11.92 1 19 12/16 Form guide
Bruno Senna 14.81 12.67 6 22 15/16 Form guide
Heikki Kovalainen 18.13 16.67 13 23 15/16 Form guide
Vitaly Petrov 18.81 16.54 13 19 13/16 Form guide
Pedro de la Rosa 21.67 19.33 17 22 12/15 Form guide
Narain Karthikeyan 23.13 20.11 15 23 9/15 Form guide
Timo Glock 20.4 17.14 12 22 14/15 Form guide
Charles Pic 21.44 18 15 20 12/16 Form guide
Jerome D’Ambrosio 15 13 13 13 1/1 Form guide

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Over to you

Who do you think will be the team to beat in the Indian Grand Prix? Have your say below.

And don’t forget to enter your predictions for this weekend’s race. You can edit your predictions until the start of qualifying:

2012 Indian Grand Prix

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Image ?? Red Bull/Getty images, Sahara Force India F1 Team, HRT

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42 comments on Can Ferrari hit back at Red Bull in India?

  1. OmarR-Pepper (@omarr-pepper) said on 25th October 2012, 14:29

    Alonso finally surrendered his hard-won advantage in the drivers’ championship to Vettel in Korea.

    Hard-won… mmm, not really. He has made the best of the opportunities he has had, but as somebody commented after Japan’s race, it’s just that the retirement among the leaders are now leveled, except for Kimi.
    (I mean: Fernando, Sebastian and Lewis have all had 2 retirements due to external reasons beyond their control)

  2. John H (@john-h) said on 25th October 2012, 14:58

    I can sense a non-finish for Vettel or at least a grid spot way down the order. I can feel it for some reason… perhaps nothing more than wishful thinking though. It would be nice to see Alonso win his third title because the way he has driven he deserves it.

  3. Robbie (@robbie) said on 25th October 2012, 15:57

    Yeah I think the short and easy answer is yes Ferrari can hit back at Red Bull in India, but the odds are against them, given that SV has just won 3 races in a row, and coming off their domination last year making the thought of them not winning again this year a bit hard to imagine at this stage.

    While we saw a record number of various winners at the start of the season, it has come down to certain teams getting a handle on that unpredictability better than others. So while it is definitely possible that FA could find himself particularly hooked up in India, and hard to beat, it just seems the odds are more that that kind of ‘tire lottery’ is less the factor in this late stage of the season, and it is about who has learned about the tires and evolved their car better throughout the season. And that seems to be Red Bull if you go by the last 3 races. Even if FA finds himself particularly competitive this race, I think so will SV be.

    Of course I like most hope that it comes down to the last race of the season, but at this point I think the only way that might happen is if SV dnf’s in India and FA wins. Anything else, and FA won’t have enough car or time to beat SV this year. Of course, SV’s lead is ‘only’ a handful of points, but that might as well be a mountain of points if FA can’t finish ahead of him in the remaining races. And as I see, it seems like that may only happen with misfortune on SV’s part. And of course, there are a million variables that can occur, so we won’t really know until we know, or the math decides definitively.

  4. the_sigman (@sigman1998) said on 25th October 2012, 16:11

    Sergio Perez will miss FP1 & FP2 due to illness.

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