2013 Indian Grand Prix preview
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
|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
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
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 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.
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 – they have been a motivational force for the entire organisation, and I am very proud of the way they’ve responded.”
Lotus 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.”
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.”
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.
“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”.
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.
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.
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”.
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|
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2013 Indian Grand Prix
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Images © Red Bull/Getty, Lotus/LAT, Force India