F1 set for Vettel coronation – and last Indian race?

2013 Indian Grand Prix preview

Start, Buddh International CircuitIt’s only the third running of the Indian Grand Prix yet already fears abound F1 will not be returning to the Buddh International Circuit in the near future.

Formula One was warmly received at the circuit in 2011 and there remains an obvious appeal to having an event in the world’s largest democracy and a major growing economy.

But the race is not on the 2014 F1 calendar and although the organisers intend it to return the following year there are doubts over whether that will happen. In the run-up to this weekend’s race the regional government has raised the possibility of withdrawing a key tax exemption from the race.

Some drivers are already facing up to the possibility that this will be their last appearance at the track. “It seems next weekend may be my first and last opportunity to drive the Buddh International Circuit,” said Jules Bianchi, “but I am very much looking forward to doing so because it is really a very special track”.

Buddh International 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 Medium and Soft

*Fastest lap set during a Grand Prix

Buddh International Circuit track data

The circuit’s up-tempo middle sector, which includes the sweeping turns ten and eleven, is the clear highlight of a track which is otherwise very much in the mould of modern circuits.

The first two races Indian Grands Prix were tame affairs (garnering unimpressive average ratings of 5.3 out of ten from F1 Fanatic readers) but Pirelli has admitted the tyre choice for the first two races were “conservative”.

A more challenging selection of medium and soft tyres has been nominated for this weekend’s race. That plus the lengthening of one of the DRS zones should alter the dynamic of the racing at the track.

Whether that will be sufficient to keep Sebastian Vettel from a sixth consecutive race victory remains to be seen.

Indian Grand Prix team-by-team preview

Red Bull

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Buddh International Circuit, 2012Vettel doesn’t need to win to assure himself of the drivers’ championship, nor to clinch the constructors’ title for Red Bull.

The chances are that both titles will be decided this weekend are high: Vettel and Red Bull will clinch the crowns if they leave India with the same points lead they have on arrival – indeed, they could afford to give a few points away to their rivals.

Their chances are bolstered by Vettel’s near-perfect track record in the previous two races here. Not only did he win both races, he led every lap of each of them and started each from pole position. Only in 2012 did he miss out on fastest lap.

Nonetheless it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Red Bull adopt a conservative approach this weekend, as they did when Vettel was on the cusp of his second world championship at Suzuka two years ago.

Ferrari

Ferrari are clinging on to second place in the constructors’ championship despite pressure from Mercedes (quick in qualifying) an Lotus (quick in the races).

But Fernando Alonso’s track record in India is very good, with podium finishes in both races, and they have more than a fighting chance of staying ahead.

McLaren

As McLaren draw closer to the end of a season in which they have still not scored a podium finish, team principal Martin Whitmarsh has credited drivers Jenson Button and Sergio Perez for their patience.

“I must also single-out praise for both drivers,” he said, ” it?s been a difficult season, but they have each remained calm, measured and dedicated ?ǣ they have been a motivational force for the entire organisation, and I am very proud of the way they?ve responded.”

Lotus

Romain Grosjean, Lotus, Suzuka, 2013Lotus must be relieved at the ever-improving form of Romain Grosjean since Kimi Raikkonen’s move to Ferrari was announced. Having been denied a likely podium finish by an engine failure in Singapore he was in the top three in the last two races and led convincingly for almost half the race in Japan.

“Our car is really performing well at the moment so I think we could be strong again,” he said of this weekend’s race.

“It?s fair to say we struggled there a little last year with finding grip and getting the right set up for the cars, so hopefully we can perform better this time. The tyre allocation was quite hard for the track in 2012, but this year it?s softer which should help us and make for better racing.”

Mercedes

The third team in the three-way battle for second in the championship have lost points through niggling problems in recent races – such as Lewis Hamilton’s contact damage in Japan and Nico Rosberg’s nose box collapsing in Korea.

Executive director Toto Wolff said: “The last three races have shown us that we have a real fight on our hands to secure second place in the constructors’ championship – but also that we have the performance to achieve our goal if we consistently deliver the full potential of the car.”

Sauber

Unusually for one of F1′s flyaway races Esteban Gutierrez has prior experience of this track having driven it during practice last year.

Sauber are rapidly closing on sixth-placed Force India in the constructors’ championship and with Gutierrez finally contributing to their points tally they may yet be able to set their sights even higher.

Force India

Paul di Resta, Force India, Suzuka, 2013Naturally the Indian Grand Prix is a major weekend for F1′s only Indian-owned team.

“This is always a massive event for us and comes at the end of a very busy week because we will be spending a few days in Delhi ahead of the race to meet the local media and fans,” said Paul di Resta, who hailed the circuit as “one of the best from the new generation of tracks”.

Williams

Like McLaren, another team that are marking time as a disappointing season draws to a close. Last time out a contretemps between their drivers over a lowly 16th place on the final lap served only to deepen their misery.

Toro Rosso

The team have been dogged by brake problems in recent events, which stymied both drivers’ races in Korea and caused a fire on Jean-Eric Vergne’s car during qualifying in Japan.

They made headlines in the week building up to the race by announcing Daniil Kvyat as their new driver for 2014.

Caterham

Giedo van der Garde was uninjured in his crash at the start of the Japanese Grand Prix but he described the 20G impact as “by quite a long way one of the biggest accidents I?ve had in my career”.

“It just shows how far F1 safety has come that I was out of the car and back in the team?s hospitality unit within about 20 minutes,” he added, ” and when I looked at the shots after the race I realised that it was, honestly, quite a lot of a bigger shunt than it had felt like in the car”.

Marussia

Bianchi suffered appalling luck during the last race weekend, completing just 32 laps in three days. “I’m working on the basis that Japan was my ‘jinx race’ and with that behind me I am very optimistic about the step we have taken with the car performance and the developments we have yet to bring,” he said.

2013 driver form

Driver G avg R avg R best R worst Classified Form guide
Sebastian Vettel 2.27 1.79 1 4 14/15 Form guide
Mark Webber 6.13 5.00 2 15 13/15 Form guide
Fernando Alonso 5.80 3.50 1 8 14/15 Form guide
Felipe Massa 7.80 7.00 3 15 13/15 Form guide
Jenson Button 9.87 8.87 5 17 15/15 Form guide
Sergio Perez 11.07 11.07 6 20 15/15 Form guide
Kimi Raikkonen 7.60 4.50 1 11 14/15 Form guide
Romain Grosjean 8.13 7.58 3 19 12/15 Form guide
Nico Rosberg 4.13 6.38 1 19 13/15 Form guide
Lewis Hamilton 3.27 4.79 1 12 14/15 Form guide
Nico Hulkenberg 10.47 9.54 4 15 13/14 Form guide
Esteban Gutierrez 16.07 13.23 7 20 13/15 Form guide
Paul di Resta 13.33 10.18 4 20 11/15 Form guide
Adrian Sutil 12.00 11.42 5 20 12/15 Form guide
Pastor Maldonado 16.00 13.50 10 17 12/15 Form guide
Valtteri Bottas 15.40 13.86 11 17 14/15 Form guide
Jean-Eric Vergne 13.67 11.60 6 18 10/15 Form guide
Daniel Ricciardo 10.87 12.33 7 19 12/15 Form guide
Charles Pic 19.80 16.38 14 19 13/15 Form guide
Giedo van der Garde 19.40 16.83 14 21 12/15 Form guide
Jules Bianchi 19.53 16.67 13 19 12/15 Form guide
Max Chilton 20.40 17.80 14 20 15/15 Form guide

Are you going to the Indian Grand Prix?

Adrian Sutil, Force India, Buddh International CircuitIf you’re heading to India for this weekend’s race, we want to hear from you.

We’ve got a dedicated group and forum for people going to the race.

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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:

2013 Indian Grand Prix

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Images ?? Red Bull/Getty, Lotus/LAT, Force India

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22 comments on F1 set for Vettel coronation – and last Indian race?

  1. Hotbottoms (@hotbottoms) said on 23rd October 2013, 13:08

    If Vettel wins this weekend and this is the last race held on Buddh International Circuit, Vettel will be the only driver who has won a race on this circuit.

    Question: Are there other tracks that have had only one winner? Obviously there are, if there is a track that has had only one championship race, but is there any?

  2. Colm Lynn (@99-colm) said on 23rd October 2013, 13:16

    Morocco Moss in 1958, I am sure there are 1 0r s others as well. The circuit is a bit of a disappointment to be honest, especially when compared with the COTA. The lack of overtaking on the ridiculously long straight proves that the length of the straight is only a small factor in deciding if overtaking is possible. It has been the same in Korea and Abu Dhabi, a slow hairpin leading onto the straight means that if a car has good traction it will outrun the following car, you need a gradual turn like at Interlagos

  3. I think the race average drivers form tells the near outcome of this race.

  4. Pengopen said on 23rd October 2013, 13:23

    Regarding India, another factor is the currency is 30% cheaper than when the deal was done, in Rupees. So Bernie bites that bullet.

  5. Lucas Wilson (@full-throttle-f1) said on 23rd October 2013, 13:45

    I like the track, sad to see it go, I guess the Vettel domination has tainted peoples view of this circuit.

  6. Rigi (@rigi) said on 23rd October 2013, 13:57

    i just noticed, there’s only two drivers that have a higher race average than grid average position. naturally i’m talking about mercedes drivers. just shows how much race pace they were lacking at the start of the year.

  7. India is taking 2014 off so they can have a race in early 2015

  8. Mike Dee (@mike-dee) said on 23rd October 2013, 14:23

    Slight correction: “Only in 2011 2012 did he miss out on fastest lap.” @keithcollantine

  9. Merv (@) said on 23rd October 2013, 16:06

    Wow! Until I saw that form guide I didn’t realise that 4th place was Vettels’ worst finishing place, 15 races into a season that’s just crazy.

  10. iAltair (@ialtair) said on 23rd October 2013, 16:27

    @keithcollantine “Only in 2012 did he miss out on fastest lap.”

    Jenson Button denied Vettel of his 2012 Grand Chelem.

  11. I love the circuit, but so does Sebastian Vettel – and that’s soured a lot of people’s opinions of the race because he’s so dominant here. A shame, considering it has much more elevation changes and variety than your average “Tilkedrome” – especially Yeongam, Bahrain, Shanghai, Sepang, Hockenheim post-2002, and Yas Marina.

    Being in North America, 5 AM start times don’t exactly help things.

  12. I’d be sad to not see the circuit back on the calendar at all. It is one of the better circuits that Tilke has had a hand in. The elevation changes there are really cool, it’s got some great corners. And I’m not sure if anyone else does this, but sometimes I judge a racetrack by how much fun it is to race in a videogame. Turns 5 through to 15 are quite satisfying to get right, in the virtual world at least.

    I hope they get things sorted for 2015. If anything, it’s a great shame (and a shocking waste of money to a certain degree), to plan for almost 10 years to build a racetrack, only for difficulties with administration to put the whole thing in jeopardy. I appreciate things aren’t always black and white in the world, it seems like the race is well attended, and it’d be nice for a circuit find a groove and be able to build up a history like Silverstone or Monza has. The fact that Vettel and Red Bull may be crowned World Champions again at this circuit, won’t be much consolation if F1 never races there again.

    Just my two cents.

  13. ThrillerWA09 (@thrillerwa09) said on 23rd October 2013, 21:38

    As McLaren draw closer to the end of a season in which they have still not scored a podium finish, team principal Martin Whitmarsh has credited drivers Jenson Button and Sergio Perez for their patience.

    I still don’t understand how they allowed the MP4-28 to keep racing… they knew of the fundamental flaws, they should have taken the MP4-27 out of storage and created a “B-spec” car. Especially after the tyre fiasco. Going back to the 2012 tyre construction should have been a nail in the coffin to bring back a modified ’12 spec car. I’ve been gutted all season :( :( :(

  14. Scottie (@scottie) said on 24th October 2013, 1:32

    Vijay says this circuit is “one of the best from the new generation of tracks”… What’s the best?

    I’d imagine it’d be COTA? The spectacular T1, the sweepers immediately after and the tricky second-to-last corner. The massive tower for the spectators is a nice touch also.

    Anyone else think so?

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