Indian Grand Prix: Weekend Preview

While wrapping up the championship title was always going to be unlikely in Japan, the world anticipates the re-crowning of a champion come Sunday, as Sebastian Vettel needs only P5 or better to clinch his fourth consecutive title. A formality? – Quite possibly, if the form guide is anything to go by. Not only has Vettel claimed victory at five consecutive races, he is yet to be beaten in New Delhi, having also led every single lap ever to be completed around the circuit. Seems his competitors will have a difficult task to stop Sebastian’s run of impeccable form.

Circuit Characteristics…

The Buddh International Circuit is the recent home of Indian motorsport. Built just in time for the inaugural Indian Grand Prix in October 2011, the 5.14 km track is a favourite of the drivers.
It is the classic example of a Tilke track, with three distinctive sectors. The radical designs prompt teams to experiment with setups – a lower downforce package will be of benefit in the first sector, yet prove costly in two and three. Red Bull tend to perform well on these style layouts, as their car makes up for a straight line deficit in the final two sectors. Consequently, Sebastian Vettel has been unstoppable in both qualifying and races in India and this is unlikely to change this season.
The circuit was once described to have similarities to Spa-Francourchamps and this is unsurprising. Significant elevation changes and fast flowing corners entice the drivers to attack and extract the maximum from their machinery. The most notable sections are turns 10-11 and 12, which bears some resemblance to the infamous Turn 8 at the Istanbul Park Circuit – the triple apex, banked corners demand the maximum from the drivers as they are challenged by high G-forces of up to 5G, while the tyres suffer extremely high loads. This loading may well cause surface graining throughout the weekend which may challenge teams to identify stint length, especially on the green track during Friday.

2012 Recap…

Without being a classic, the 2012 Indian Grand Prix drew up several talking points and was fuelled with tension throughout. Sebastian Vettel claimed his second consecutive win in India, yet it was far from comfortable. The German mounted a substantial lead throughout the race and needed it when with just six laps remaining, Sebastian’s front floor stay failed. This component failure meant that the skid block collapsed and was dragged along the track until the chequered flag. Concerns after the race were regarding the damage to the skid block. If the surface had worn down substantially, Vettel could face exclusion for his car being underweight. Fortunately for Red Bull, the result stood.
However, it was not an easy afternoon on the other side of the garage, as Mark Webber lost P2 to Fernando Alonso late on due to a KERS issue. This problem was compounded by the necessity to switch the brake bias further forward as a result of the issue, which resulted in severe front locking. Consequently, his tyres suffered significant drop off at the end of the race, meaning he was no match for Alonso.
Elsewhere, Jenson Button recorded McLaren’s landmark 150th fastest lap, yet could only manage P5 behind his teammate Hamilton. The McLaren’s fought with the Ferrari’s for the majority of the race however, they could not maintain enough speed throughout the stint in order to keep pace with Fernando.

The Future Of The Indian GP

Concerns regarding the future of the Indian Grand Prix have been present for a while now, however, recent reports of tax irregularities regarding the circuit owners has stirred yet more rumours regarding the hosts. Speculation regarding this weekends race has also been reported today. The argument has stemmed from the race organisers Jaypee Sports International, (JPSI) having not paid their entertainment taxes for the 2012 Indian Grand Prix in full. The Supreme Court is yet to hear the case and rumours suggested that this weekends event could be cancelled as a result.
However, this speculation was today denied by Vicky Chandhok, who stated; “The race will go on. There’s absolutely no doubt about that. This has happened many times before. You’ve had people trying to stop cricket matches…our justice system is pretty strong that no sporting event should be stopped. It’s a civil matter, let it be heard in court as long as it takes and that’s it. No worries.”

Weekend Predictions

Predictions don’t come much easier than this…Sebastian Vettel will win the title this weekend. Fortune tellers are not required when it comes to this statement – with only needing P5 or better, it is hard to bet against Vettel taking his fourth title. Depending on what Fernando Alonso manages to achieve, Vettel could win the title without finishing the race on Sunday. Alonso needs to finish P2 or better to keep his decidedly slim championship hopes alive.
So, a Sebastian Pole, win and title is likely, but what will happen behind him. Mercedes, Ferrari and Lotus are currently tangled in a titanic duel for P2 in the constructors. With Lotus and Grosjean in particular on the crest of a wave, they could be strong this weekend, especially if track temperature reach their optimum. Alonso may need a typically exceptional performance to challenge the podium this weekend considering Ferrari’s current pace deficit. Behind a certain German, things could get very interesting…          

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