Fourth win beckons for Vettel but start is crucial

2012 Indian Grand Prix pre-race analysis

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Buddh International Circuit, 2012The second Indian Grand Prix will begin the way the last one did – with two Red Bulls on the front row, led by Sebastian Vettel.

The world champion led every lap on his way to a straightforward victory last year. A repeat of that performance will net his fourth win in a row and bring him even closer to a third world championship.

The start

Red Bull have routed the opposition so far this weekend. The last major obstacle which stands in their way of converting a one-two start into a one-two finish could be the run through the first sector at the start of tomorrow’s race.

Like its predecessors the RB8 produces excellent downforce but is quite high on drag. The result is a car which is bottom of the speed trap this weekend, save for Kimi Raikkonen’s Lotus (see below).

The RB8s are most vulnerable in the first sector of the lap – Lewis Hamilton was three-tenths of a second quicker than Vettel though their in qualifying.

Last year Red Bull’s front row lock-out was breached on the 1km straight leading to turn four. And the damage might have been greater had Fernando Alonso, who started third on the grid, not run wide at the first corner.

Red Bull’s rivals know their best chance of defeating them is to get in front of them at the start and prevent them from controlling the race. Judicious use of KERS in the opening corners will be all-important. McLaren are best-placed to capitalise on any mistake by the RB8 drivers in the opening corners, and will no doubt be formulating a plan of attack.

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Buddh International Circuit, 2012But they won’t be the only ones on the prowl at the start – Alonso has to get away well to at least minimise the damage Vettel can do to his championship hopes here: “We must try and make up places on the first lap and try to put pressure on our main rivals, ensuring they don?t have an easy race,” he said.

“There are 60 laps to work with and we will need to tackle each one as if it?s qualifying, by attacking.”

Meanwhile Hamilton believes that he will be able to risk more at the start than his rivals: “At the start tomorrow, I feel I have a lot less to lose than Sebastian in front of me, so I?ll certainly be pushing a bit. “Seb has more to worry about than I do, and, if I can get up with the two Red Bulls, I?d love to take a win”.

“We have the race pace to be able to stay with the Red Bulls, so as I say a win is definitely possible,” he added.

Strategy

The vast majority of drivers used two-stop strategies in last year’s race. But Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery believes single stops will be the preferred option this year: “The tyre wear is looking good on both compounds, with plenty of consistency from both the hard and the soft rubber. So from what we can see so far, we think most of the teams will go for a one-stop strategy.”

Throughout last season – the first with Pirelli’s designed-to-degrade tyres – not a single race was won with a one-stop strategy. But it’s already happened three times this year (in Monaco, Belgium and Singapore) and looks likely to happen here as well.

Friday practice showed drivers were easily able to complete 20 laps without running into tyre trouble.

However the timing of the pit stop will remain important from a strategic point of view. Overtaking proved difficult here last year, though the extending of the DRS zone may make it easier this time.

Qualifying times in full

Driver Car Q1 Q2 (vs Q1) Q3 (vs Q2)
1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1’26.387 1’25.435 (-0.952) 1’25.283 (-0.152)
2 Mark Webber Red Bull 1’26.744 1’25.610 (-1.134) 1’25.327 (-0.283)
3 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1’26.516 1’25.816 (-0.700) 1’25.544 (-0.272)
4 Jenson Button McLaren 1’26.564 1’25.467 (-1.097) 1’25.659 (+0.192)
5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1’26.829 1’25.834 (-0.995) 1’25.773 (-0.061)
6 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1’26.939 1’26.111 (-0.828) 1’25.857 (-0.254)
7 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1’26.740 1’26.101 (-0.639) 1’26.236 (+0.135)
8 Sergio Perez Sauber 1’27.179 1’26.076 (-1.103) 1’26.360 (+0.284)
9 Pastor Maldonado Williams 1’26.048 1’25.983 (-0.065) 1’26.713 (+0.730)
10 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’26.458 1’25.976 (-0.482)
11 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1’26.897 1’26.136 (-0.761)
12 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1’27.185 1’26.241 (-0.944)
13 Bruno Senna Williams 1’26.851 1’26.331 (-0.520)
14 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1’27.482 1’26.574 (-0.908)
15 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1’27.006 1’26.777 (-0.229)
16 Paul di Resta Force India 1’27.462 1’26.989 (-0.473)
17 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1’27.517 1’27.219 (-0.298)
18 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1’27.525
19 Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1’28.756
20 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1’29.500
21 Timo Glock Marussia 1’29.613
22 Pedro de la Rosa HRT 1’30.592
23 Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1’30.593
24 Charles Pic Marussia 1’30.662

Qualifying showed up another downside to the ‘top ten tyre rule’, which forces drivers in Q3 to start the race on the tyres they set their fastest time on.

Nico Rosberg found he was able to extract much better pace from the soft tyre after running it for a couple of laps. This served him will in Q2, but doing the same in Q3 was out of the question as the team did not wish to start the race on tyres that had done several laps

“After Q2, it was clear that seventh place was the maximum we could achieve with Nico, and his pace had been strongest on used tyres,” explained Ross Brawn.

“However, we preferred not to go into the race on a set of used soft tyres which had already completed up to ten laps, as this would limit our strategic options. With a view to tomorrow, we therefore decided not to run in Q3 which will give us the choice of a fresh set of either tyre for our opening stint.”

Jenson Button was in a similar situation, which is why he was not able to set a quicker lap time in Q3 than in Q2.

Sector times

Driver Sector 1 Sector 2 Sector 3
Sebastian Vettel 41.708 (6) 22.454 (2) 21.115 (1)
Mark Webber 41.819 (8) 22.356 (1) 21.152 (2)
Lewis Hamilton 41.430 (1) 22.655 (6) 21.271 (4)
Jenson Button 41.599 (3) 22.551 (3) 21.278 (6)
Fernando Alonso 41.693 (5) 22.662 (7) 21.271 (4)
Felipe Massa 41.568 (2) 22.863 (14) 21.373 (7)
Kimi Raikkonen 41.983 (12) 22.758 (11) 21.268 (3)
Sergio Perez 41.887 (11) 22.751 (10) 21.427 (9)
Pastor Maldonado 41.875 (10) 22.589 (4) 21.417 (8)
Nico Rosberg 41.775 (7) 22.677 (8) 21.456 (11)
Romain Grosjean 41.659 (4) 22.748 (9) 21.488 (12)
Nico Hulkenberg 41.851 (9) 22.812 (12) 21.578 (14)
Bruno Senna 42.121 (14) 22.651 (5) 21.438 (10)
Michael Schumacher 42.145 (15) 22.841 (13) 21.502 (13)
Daniel Ricciardo 42.025 (13) 23.034 (15) 21.617 (15)
Paul di Resta 42.171 (16) 23.130 (17) 21.642 (16)
Kamui Kobayashi 42.306 (17) 23.107 (16) 21.690 (17)
Jean-Eric Vergne 42.370 (18) 23.197 (18) 21.851 (18)
Vitaly Petrov 42.659 (20) 23.876 (19) 22.221 (20)
Heikki Kovalainen 42.627 (19) 24.108 (21) 22.229 (21)
Timo Glock 43.198 (21) 23.967 (20) 22.078 (19)
Pedro de la Rosa 43.210 (22) 24.575 (24) 22.732 (23)
Narain Karthikeyan 43.235 (23) 24.486 (23) 22.764 (24)
Charles Pic 43.599 (24) 24.228 (22) 22.533 (22)

Ferrari believe a row two start was possible as technical director Pat Fry explained: “We were hoping to at least get our cars onto the second row, but we did not hit our target, even if we did get close. The result reflects our current potential, but in order to be where we wanted and where we were capable of being meant we needed to be perfect today and we weren?t.”

Bruno Senna also thought he should have qualified better: “I made a mistake on my lap which is disappointing because I would have been in the top 10 if that hadn?t happened. We showed good pace in this morning?s practice and in Q1 as well as a clear improvement over the last couple of races so things are going in the right direction.”

Speed trap

Pos Driver Car Speed (kph/mph) Gap
1 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 323.2 (200.8)
2 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 322.8 (200.6) -0.4
3 Sergio Perez Sauber 321.3 (199.6) -1.9
4 Felipe Massa Ferrari 319.9 (198.8) -3.3
5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 319.8 (198.7) -3.4
6 Pastor Maldonado Williams 319.0 (198.2) -4.2
7 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 318.6 (198.0) -4.6
8 Bruno Senna Williams 318.5 (197.9) -4.7
9 Jenson Button McLaren 318.3 (197.8) -4.9
10 Paul di Resta Force India 318.3 (197.8) -4.9
11 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 318.3 (197.8) -4.9
12 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 318.1 (197.7) -5.1
13 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 317.4 (197.2) -5.8
14 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 317.0 (197.0) -6.2
15 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 316.1 (196.4) -7.1
16 Vitaly Petrov Caterham 315.6 (196.1) -7.6
17 Romain Grosjean Lotus 315.1 (195.8) -8.1
18 Narain Karthikeyan HRT 313.9 (195.0) -9.3
19 Pedro de la Rosa HRT 313.8 (195.0) -9.4
20 Charles Pic Marussia 313.1 (194.6) -10.1
21 Timo Glock Marussia 312.8 (194.4) -10.4
22 Mark Webber Red Bull 311.8 (193.7) -11.4
23 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 311.7 (193.7) -11.5
24 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 310.4 (192.9) -12.8

Over to you

Are you expecting a Red Bull one-two again tomorrow? Will McLaren or Ferrari be able to disrupt their rivals’ race?

Share your views on the Indian Grand Prix in the comments.

2012 Indian Grand Prix

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Image ?? Red Bull/Getty images, Ferrari spa/Ercole Colombo

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36 comments on Fourth win beckons for Vettel but start is crucial

  1. DaveF1 (@davef1) said on 27th October 2012, 16:43

    Temped to have lie in and catch the race later but knowing my luck Pic will end up winning if I do that.

    Jokes aside, unless his alternator shenanigans return I can’t see Vettel not winning this race. I hope Alonso can limit the damage but I think it’s safe to say that championship is over, shame as well considering how the season started.

    • I think if Vettel keeps his first place after turn one and Red Bull are still one-two after lap 3, then the 22 people most likely to stop Vettel from winning will be those who are servicing his car during the pit stops rather than the drivers of eleven team’s rival cars.

      Even though Hamilton is my favourite driver, it is so annoying to watch Fernando Alonso being so limited by his machinery. I believe the Spaniard could genuinely challenge Vettel if Ferrari could build a car which was within touching distance of the Red Bull.

      A few races ago, the question was “Vettel vs. Alonso: who will win?”. For me, now, the question is “United States vs. Brazil: when will Vettel complete the trifecta?”

      Five years ago, I would have never guessed that someone else would make it to 3 before Alonso or Hamilton, but this only proves that one should not underestimate the power of Adrian Newey.

  2. I think Webber may lose out at the start to Hamilton, but Vettel will likely pull out a multiple second lead and maintain the gap whist conserving his tyres. A Red Bull 1-2/3 I think, with Alonso off the podium.

  3. Todfod (@todfod) said on 27th October 2012, 16:53

    The speed traps provide a glimmer of hope to Ferrari and Mclarens.. but the problem is going to be keeping up within a second of Seb for the 1st three laps

    • Tifoso1989 (@tifoso1989) said on 27th October 2012, 20:06

      I think you’re right speed trap is a key factor here , i say that it will all depend on Lewis Hamilton this time we all know Mark is not very good at the start & i can’t see Seb losing 1st place before turn 1 so if Lewis can manage to get Mark before the first straight line he will be a threat to Vettel considering his top speed
      but he have to make his move in the end of the second straight otherwise Vettel will disappear after 10 or 15 laps
      If Lewis doesn’t have a good start the race is over Mark will cover Seb & he will slow the competition in order that Vettel can build a secure gap
      I can’t see Fernando Losing places at the start Massa will cover him if he want to challenge Vettel he will have to pass Mark & Jenson as soon as possible & hope Lewis can do him a favor
      I also pray that no accident occurs at the start so we can enjoy the race in the his first part(unlike Korea)

    • Paul A (@paul-a) said on 27th October 2012, 22:04

      The sped trap figures given above show that Alonso should make up about five car-lengths on the straight, Hamilton just a bit less. Might prove to be a tad interesting…

  4. vickyy (@vickyy) said on 27th October 2012, 16:56

    I am just feeling for us spectator tomorrow, two back to back processional races lead by Red Bull 1-2, this may scare away people from next year. I don’t wish bad luck to any team or driver, but something spectacular is the need of the hour.

  5. Osvaldas31 (@osvaldas31) said on 27th October 2012, 17:13

    Rule that drivers must start on the tyre, which they qualified on isn’t very bad. If they were allowed to start on whatever tyre they wanted, races would be even more boring, because teams would choose safer more conservative approach. To make qualifying more interesting needs just a small tweak – make a mandatory flying lap in Q3. Simple as that.

    • mnmracer (@mnmracer) said on 27th October 2012, 21:46

      Because having a forced flying lap is more interesting than having one more competitive car for the 50-70 laps in the race?

    • F1 Fun Attic said on 28th October 2012, 5:08

      Change rules to allow 3 cars for top teams..then we’ll see better talent and closer racing…and continue with the ‘team order legal’ rule, at least there will be a genuine fight for the 2nd and 3d positions as well.

  6. Eggry (@eggry) said on 27th October 2012, 17:27

    The race will be set at turn 4 really.

  7. sumedh said on 27th October 2012, 17:34

    Throughout last season – the first with Pirelli’s designed-to-degrade tyres – not a single race was won with a one-stop strategy

    What about Monaco?

  8. Mustalainen (@mustalainen) said on 27th October 2012, 18:11

    I fear Kimi will drop down a couple of places on the long straight. Perez over 10kph quicker at the speed trap so that doesn’t bode well for Kimi. Then he will struggle to get back through the field when he gets up to speed…

  9. raymondu999 (@raymondu999) said on 27th October 2012, 19:11

    @keithcollantine I’m quite sure that it was Belgium, Monaco and Monza where one-stoppers won, not Belgium, Monza and Singapore ;)

  10. andrewf1 (@andrewf1) said on 27th October 2012, 21:39

    I find myself wishing Hamilton and Alonso ‘partner-up’ in a way and hunt down Vettel. Also, i really really hope we’ll have a Hamilton, Alonso, Vettel podium tomorrow for the first time ever, not necessarily in that order, but i do wish Vettel doesnt extend his championship lead – we’ve had such a diverse, promising season and to see it turn right at the end into something very predictable is just a shame really.

  11. electrolite (@electrolite) said on 27th October 2012, 22:40

    Not that I’m condoning a crash/incident or anything, but I hope Hamilton takes the ‘risk’ that he was going on about earlier and has a good go up the inside on the first lap if he gets a decent start. He has little to lose now in terms of the championship.

  12. Young One said on 27th October 2012, 22:41

    Shame McLaren punctured this year’s F1 Championship when LH car was retired, otherwise we could have been in for a firecracker of a season. Now it is all RB I am afraid and a predictable result.

  13. Tyler (@tdog) said on 28th October 2012, 1:00

    A number of people have commented here, and on other F1 sites, that they expect a boring race dominated by Vettel. Some have even said they are not going to bother watching.

    I for one hope for an exciting race at the front, and that Seb does not run away with the race. But even if Vettel does dominate, that doesn’t mean the race has to be boring.

    In all forms of motorsport, there will be periods when a particular team or competitor is dominant. The current Red Bull run is hardly unique. To me, motorsport is about much more than just who finishes first. That is especially so in F1 where the competitiveness of the machinery is never equal.

    There is plenty to look forward to in today’s race, first place aside. Can Alonso get past the McLarens early in the race? Who out of McLaren and Ferrari will edge ahead for second in the constructor’s title? Can Lotus improve their competitiveness and start challenging for podiums again now that they have adopted the Coanda style exhaust? Will the leading teams try to one stop, and could the two stoppers surge late in the race? Can Schumacher achieve a strong result in one of his grands prix? Will those trying to secure 2013 drives like Koboyashi impress, or will we see more mistakes from drivers under pressure? Will we see Hamilton and Perez battling at some stage, and if so will we see another Suzuka style lunge from the Mexican? Can Toro Rosso continue their recent good run? How will the Force Indias go at home and can di Resta recover from a poor grid slot?

    None of this is to say that a battle for first place today wouldn’t be wonderful. It would be great if every race was a nail biter and the title went down to the wire every year, but unless F1 becomes a control formula, there will frequently be periods when the race for first is not so close. And if you can’t enjoy F1 despite that, maybe it is not the sport for you.

    • Hairs (@hairs) said on 28th October 2012, 4:33

      I think that’s a rather narrow view, which sounds like a contradiction. The problem is what you’re describing boils down to “You’ll get what you’re given and like it” which unfortunately doesn’t work for any sport, particularly one already struggling for survival in every category, where circuits full of spectators cannot afford to host the only successful series available. People will, quite rightly, respond “You’re right. What else is on?”. That’s what they did in droves 10 years ago. F1 became a newsworthy sport because people were interested in the stories that unravelled, and that’s why the F1 world championship counts for anything at all. People’s interest is what counts, not the challenge of the technicalities of the rules and playing strategies. The world’s best tiddlywinks players could host a global championship, travelling all over the place, with expert commentators explaining the strategies and mind games involved, but it doesn’t mean anyone should or would care enough to watch, does it? Football is just a bunch of grown men playing a children’s ball game for a living. Instead of having the decency to be embarrassed, people’s interest allows them to become rich and arrogant, which is farcical when you stop and think about it. Every 4 years we hear about heroic Olympians who have devoted all their days in gruelling training to becoming the best in the world… at jumping over a stick, or running a short distance, or dancing around with a ribbon. Seriously, say that out loud to yourself. Children as young as 4 spend 10 years being dragged through the mill, to be crowned “best in the world on a given single day at dancing around a bouncy square mat waving a ribbon”. If you don’t see that only people’s acceptance of this as interesting makes it legitimate, then I hope the uttering of it at least makes you laugh.

      In the past, when one team was technologically dominant (eg “proper” Lotus), there was still the possibility of driver error in the form of manual gearing, or lack of fitness, or of regular mechanical breakdown.

      For a team like red bull today, or ferrari of 2000, that doesn’t apply. Drivers are ultra fit and hop out of the cars after 2 hours brutal punishment in conditions like Malaysia barely breaking a sweat. Mechanical failures are cause for comment and are ruthlessly eliminated. Engines work within their limits and hardly ever fail. If a team has money to develop all year, and can establish a technical lead, then they can run away unchallenged. This is what red bull are doing, in part because they’ve cleverly “broken” the rra and thus out-spent their rivals.

      We had a great first half of the year because there was the possibility of equal opportunity and competition. Now we don’t have that, and I feel there’s nothing wrong with fans turning away. I missed quali yesterday and I have no regrets at all. I’ll probably miss the rest of the season, because at this stage it amounts to “can red bull continue to outspend everyone and will newey fail to think of something clever”? That’s boring. I’ll watch tiddlywinks instead. If that makes me less of a fan than someone who trudges through it with a “I’ll just make the best of it” mindset, then I can live with that. At least I won’t have given up 6 hours of a precious weekend trying to generate entertainment out of thin air.

      • Pandaslap (@pandaslap) said on 28th October 2012, 8:13

        @hairs
        I agree with the sentiment but I’m not sure it applies here. All sports require a willing suspension of disbelief. Even the “purest” of sports, like the olympics or the world series of tiddlywinks, are broadcast only because they are entertainment and Formula One is no different. If Red Bull’s dominance is boring to you, then don’t partake. I can easily understand.

        @tdog gets it right. This race, like all of the others Red Bull has dominated, is much more than who finishes first. If you cannot – or do not – appreciate watching Vettel and Red Bull dominate, then enjoy the other 23 drivers. Parity amongst the drivers and the teams is exciting but F1 is not designed for parity. If you are willing to suspend your disbelief and appreciate F1 for what it is, you’ll get what you’re given and actually like it.

        • Hairs (@hairs) said on 28th October 2012, 9:08

          @pandaslap and @tdog but my point is, if the racing is boring, people can keep up with the excitement of f1 by reading the results the next day. They don’t need to buy tickets, or watch the race itself. During 2002 and 2004, people could keep up with the drama of f1 by reading a single headline at the end of the year.

          I’ve been watching this sport for more than 20 years, so I’m not unfamiliar with the concept of making the most of a boring race. But realistically, anyone could have watched the last few races on fast forward and missed nothing. Nothing at all. Think back to McLarens dominance in 88 or 89. At least there was an inter team rivalry. Williams in 92 had a car that was technologically a different beast to the rest of the field. What’s interesting about Red Bull in the past couple of years? It’s obvious Vettel is faster than Webber. Their car is dominant, but only because of twonky aerodynamic details that are often difficult to spot even by experts who are looking for them. They’re an admirably professional team, but at this point that can be summed up by an end of year headline
          “Webber still not as good as Vettel, team still not incompetent, Accounts department still working with larger hidden cashflow than everyone else.”

          I’m not saying it’s not possible to find points of interest during a dominant season, I’m saying it’s not always worth the effort/reward ratio. And at the moment, it isn’t.

          • Pandaslap (@pandaslap) said on 30th October 2012, 0:11

            @hairs
            Well said. The acknowledgement of the McLaren, Williams, and Ferrari years of domination nicely enhances your point. Also, the Indian GP was nothing to write home about…

  14. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 28th October 2012, 8:27

    It looks like Red Bull’s to lose but that’s the case for any team who qualify on pole position. There’s plenty of pleasure to be taken from the McLaren and Ferrari battle. That said, I enjoy watching people win races, regardless of how they do it.

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