Indian Grand Prix: Pre Race Thoughts

Namasté, from this weekend’s Indian Grand Prix*. For something completely different Vettel once again topped the time sheets in qualifying. The Buddh International Circuit is quite a colourful stop on the calendar. The 5.125km circuit is made up of steep climbs, creeping back into downhill corners. The pinnacle of this circuit however is undoubtably Turn 10 into Turn 11. The long right hander is taken at speed, and puts drivers under immense g-force for up to eight seconds. The first DRS zone has been extended this year by 80 metres to aid in overtaking.

Vettel has at dominated the Buddh International Circuit since it’s inception, qualifying on pole, leading every lap, and finishing first for the past two years. On the way to extending this record to another year, Vettel set the pace on the time sheets with 1:24.119 on the soft tyres. Red Bull chose to split their driver’s strategies, sending Webber out in Q3 on the medium tyres. The result was P4 for Webber, behind his team mate and the two Mercedes.

Mercedes went into the final session of qualifying to challenge Vettel for pole. Rosberg qualified just behind the Red Bull to complete the front row. The Mercedes driver qualified on the soft tyres, and to great effect. Rosberg got everything he could out of the F1 W04, setting a flying lap to line him up next to Vettel on the grid. Hamilton matched his team mate’s strategy, and almost matched his pace in Q3 qualifying only .070 seconds behind Rosberg.

Going out on softs, Massa put in a lap time more than half a second quicker than his team mate to qualify in P5. It seems the Brazilian is making a habit of out qualifying his team mate. Alonso suffered from gearbox issues through practice, and reportedly couldn’t hear the beep telling him to change gears in qualifying. The Spaniard made it to Q3, though he only managed to set a time fast enough for P8 on the grid on medium compound tyres.

Kimi’s strategy opted for the faster options tyres for Q3. Admittedly his flying lap on the soft tyres was very clean, but didn’t quite give him the pace he needed out of the E21, qualifying in in P6. On the other hand, Grosjean’s qualifying strategy was all wrong on the medium tyres. The Frenchmen had difficult session and appeared to be struggling to control his car, the Frenchman qualified in P17. Following Grosjean’s recent pace, it’s very disappointing to see him so far back on the grid.

Hulkenberg had an impressive qualifying, and again made it all the way to Q3. The Sauber driver’s lap time sandwiched him between Raikkonen and Alonso on the time sheets in P7. Gutierrez had a disappointing session after failing to make it out of Q2.  Unlike his team mate, Gutierrez had quite a bumpy ride in qualifying and couldn’t seem to get control of his C32, qualifying in P16.

Both Perez and Button went out in Q3 with the medium compound tyres. McLaren, knowing that their pace isn’t enough to match Red Bull or Mercedes, appear to be going for a tyre strategy that may see either driver make up places in the pit stops. Perez qualified P9 ahead of Button in P10. Toro Rosso. Ricciardo put in an impressive lap in Q2, which for a moment saw him eighth fastest. Unfortunately Ricciardo’s lap time was bumped down in the final minutes of the session, coming to rest in P11. Still managing to qualify ahead of his team mate, Vergne will start from P14.

Force India had a disappointing qualifying at what could be considered their home track. Di Resta’s pace wasn’t enough to get him through to Q3. Unlucky for the Scot, di Resta’s was bumped out from the top ten at the very end of the session to start P12. Sutil looked good on track today, despite qualifying behind his team mate in P13. The Force India while lacking slightly on the throttle had good control. Williams had high expectations for qualifying today. While Bottas proved capable on the circuit today, his best time was only good enough for P15. Maldonado didn’t make it out of Q1 today, being knocked out in the final minutes of the session.

The usual suspects of Bianchi, Van der Garde, Pic and Chilton round out the back rows of the grid. Although Bianchi’s qualifying was rather impressive. The Marussia driver’s qualifying time was only a few tenth’s of a second behind Maldonado’s. The rookie driver showing more promise than his team mate for sure.F

The Buddh International Circuit is a fantastic race to watch. Driver’s use all of the track and then some, constantly running outside of the racing line to get the speed. For the first time at the Indian Grand Prix, Red Bull haven’t locked out the front row for Sunday’s race. I doubt this matters to Vettel though, who only needs to finish in P5 tomorrow to secure the Driver’s Championship. Webber’s strategy starting on the medium compound tyre will mean that he can make up places when those on the soft tyres pit, it would be good to see Webber battling for P2. I have a feeling Ricciardo might opt for a similar strategy to Webber tomorrow and start on the medium tyres. Tomorrow seems like a battle between Mercedes and Red Bull for the podium, and what should be an exciting race.

– Alex

* Actually namasté from my couch

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