Formula One Circus Heads To India
If Japan’s Suzuka, scene of Sebastian Vettel’s strategically astute ninth win of the season last time out, is regarded as one of the greatest of Formula One’s classic circuits, this weekend sees the championship move to a track that has been widely praised as one the finest recent additions to the calendar — India’s Buddh Int’l Circuit.
The location for round 16 of the F-1 world championship features good changes of elevation, two long, fast straights and a technically challenging middle sector that features the tricky multiple apex turn 10. The circuit has quickly proved popular with the sport’s drivers, who appreciate it having the second highest average speed of the year after Monza, but also the skill required to hook up a good lap around its 5.125-kilometer length.
Getting that perfect lap requires a car that treads a very fine line in balancing the speed needed to get the best from the long straights and good aerodynamic grip and balance for the middle sector.
Vettel’s victory in Japan, his fifth win in a row this year, has given him a 90-point advantage over Fernando Alonso in the drivers’ championship and with the Ferrari driver all but conceding defeat in the wake of the race at Suzuka, this weekend could see Vettel crowned champion.
The Red Bull driver needs fifth place or better here to become just the fourth driver in F-1 history to win four titles and only the third to win four in a row — alongside Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher.
Meanwhile, in the constructors’ championship, Red Bull Racing has 445 points, compared with 297 for nearest rival Ferrari, so the Milton Keynes-based team can this weekend also conceivably wrap up the manufacturers’ title.
• This will be just the third running of the Indian Grand Prix. The race joined the F-1 calendar in 2011.
• Sebastian Vettel has not only taken pole position and victory in the two Indian GPs staged so far, he has also led every lap of each race. Last year he also finished in P1 in every practice session. Red Bull Racing have locked-out the front row at both grand prix, with Mark Webber second on the grid in 2011 and 2012.
• At this season’s most recent race, in Japan, Vettel recorded his fifth victory in a row this season. The last time a driver recorded five or more successive wins was in 2004, when Michael Schumacher won the opening five races of the season. The Ferrari driver then went on to win seven in a row between the European and Hungarian GPs that year, so Vettel will need to win here and in Abu Dhabi to match that feat.
• Depending on your view, the outright record for consecutive wins belongs to Alberto Ascari, who recorded nine in a row between the Belgian Grand Prix of 1952, the third of eight races that season, and the same event the following year, when it was fourth on a calendar of nine races. On the way to that tally, however, he did not compete in the 1953 Indianapolis 500, which formed part of that year’s F1 World Championship. To match Ascari’s tally, Vettel will need to win all the remaining rounds this season.
• Vettel’s 2011 pole position gave Red Bull a record 16th in a single season. It was the 28th of Vettel’s career. Since then he has been on pole a further 14 times.
• Apart from Vettel, the only other driver to feature on both Indian GP podiums is Fernando Alonso. The Ferrari driver was third in the inaugural race and second last year.
• Jaime Alguersuari scored the last points of his F-1 career to date in the first grand prix here. Over a 46-race career, beginning at the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix, the Spanish driver racked up 31 points in total driving for Toro Rosso. The final four points of that tally came with eighth place at the Buddh Int’l Circuit in 2011.
• This will be the first Indian GP without an Indian driver involved. Narain Karthikeyan raced in 2011 and 2012 for HRT, while Karun Chandhok participated in free practice for Team Lotus (now Caterham) in 2011.
• To cope with the demands of the Buddh International Circuit, F-1 tire supplier Pirelli is this weekend bringing its Soft and Medium tire compounds. This is a change from the previous two years, when the company brought its Soft and Hard configurations. Soft and Medium tires have been used this season in China, Germany and Hungary.
• Despite being built on relatively flat land, the track has had plenty of undulations built in, with more than four million tons of earth moved during the construction of the circuit. The track rises 14 meters between turns one and three.