India hosts its second Grand Prix this weekend as Formula One goes there for the 17th round of the 2012 season.
With just four races remaining, and only six points separating championship leader Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso, there is everything to play for and the outcome of this weekend’s Grand Prix could be crucial in determining the eventual victor in this title battle.
At the moment, the odds have to favour Vettel. The German driver has won the last three races and has scored 48 more points than rival Alonso since the summer break. His Red Bull team have the fastest car at this vital stage of the season and barring any misfortune it would take a brave man to bet against the world champion taking his third straight crown.
Alonso is not one to give up though. Dogged and determined, the Spaniard has fought against the odds all season to be where he is, and although he has now surrendered what was at one time a healthy points advantage, he and his Ferrari team will fight to the very end in their quest to beat Vettel to the title. Having taken what is at best the third strongest car on the grid to the top of the drivers’ standings for so long, it would be a huge surprise if Alonso fell away now.
A big factor which could swing the title in either direction is the form of the contenders’ teammates. Mark Webber took a crucial second place for Red Bull in Korea, taking points from Alonso, whilst Felipe Massa is currently enjoying his best run of form for some time, backing up his first podium finish for two years in Japan with a fine fourth place in the last race. If either of them can rise to the challenge and take points off those fighting for the championship, they could play a big part in the run-in.
McLaren will be wanting to bounce back this weekend. They endured a disappointing Sunday in Korea, with Lewis Hamilton battling car problems for most of the race on his way to 10th, whilst Jenson Button’s afternoon lasted just four corners before he was taken out by the Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi. As a result they lost second in the constructors’ table to Ferrari and they are sure to come back fighting this weekend.
Further down the grid, Sauber need to bounce back from a pointless weekend in Korea as they aim to re-ignite their pursuit of Mercedes in the battle for fifth in the constructors’ championship. The gap stands at 20 points, and if the Swiss outfit can find the form that has brought them two podiums in the last four races, they are definitely in with a chance of catching the Silver Arrows before the end of the season.
Force India and Toro Rosso enjoyed good races last time out. Nico Hulkenberg’s drive to 6th in Yeongam was exceptional, whilst the Red Bull junior outfit matched their best result of the season with Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo coming in 8th and 9th. Williams had a poor weekend two weeks ago, and will want to bounce back in India with a points finish.
The Buddh International Circuit, opened for business last year ahead of the inaugural Indian Grand Prix, is a 3.192 mile track and is made up of 16 corners.
Designed by F1’s resident track designer Hermann Tilke, the characteristics of the circuit is not too dissimilar to that of Korea, with the first half of the lap made up of slow corners and straights, with the second part comprising a series of fast and medium speed turns before the track winds back to the start-finish straight. Unlike Korea though, the layout of the Indian circuit is slightly faster and noticeably more flowing than the corners in Yeongam.
The long back straight between turns 3 and 4 will provide the best opportunity for overtaking. Standing at just over a kilometre in length, it provides the perfect chance for someone to get a good run on the car in front and outbrake them into the hairpin.
Just like last year, there will be two separate DRS zones this weekend. The first is located on the pit straight, with the second running along the back straight. The length of the second zone has been increased by 80 metres in an attempt to boost overtaking.
Last Year’s Race
Sebastian Vettel took a dominant lights-to-flag victory as he took his eleventh win of the season. In doing so he achieved the first Grand Chelem of his career, taking pole position, setting the fastest lap and leading the entire race on his way to the chequered flag.
Jenson Button finished in second place, 8 seconds down on Vettel, whilst Fernando Alonso got the better of Mark Webber to complete the podium. The two Mercedes’ of Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg came in fifth and sixth, ahead of Lewis Hamilton, the McLaren driver recovering from a collision with Felipe Massa to finish seventh. Massa received a drive-through penalty for causing the incident, and the Brazilian later retired from the race after breaking his front suspension on a kerb.
The points positions were rounded out by Jaime Alguersuari, Adrian Sutil and Sergio Perez.