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India 2012 - Ferrari cling on as Red Bull dominate the Buddh circuit // Sebastian Vettel dominates all the sessions, as Red Bull close in on titles

Published by Christine

Vettel celebrates in India
Credit: Mason/Getty

I don’t think anyone was expecting great things from the Indian Grand Prix, but it certainly delivered more than the 2011 edition of the race did.

Whilst there was sometimes a lack of on track action, the race was peppered with moments that added to the ongoing championship story.

Red Bull

Everyone was expecting Red Bull to do well in India - the track suits their car and they are currently in one of their super-dominant periods. I’m not sure we were anticipating quite how supreme Vettel would be, leading all practice sessions, securing pole positions and taking the race win. When he crossed the line on Sunday afternoon, he also had the fastest lap of the race, but there were a couple of drivers behind who were determined not to let that happen.

Meanwhile, Mark Webber was also in India! There’s talk of him walking out of a press conference because it focused too much on Vettel and Fernando Alonso, and there was a rather awkward pre-race interview with the Australian which confirmed the team orders situation still unsettles him. Vettel was so quick off the line that it was never going to be an issue, but Webber was left to his own devices. He managed to keep hold of his second place grid slot right through to the end of the race, despite having a KERS issue that took quite a lot of his concentration throughout the GP.

Vettel’s victory was his fourth in a row, and there’s nothing to say that Abu Dhabi won’t deliver the fourth. The championship is still up for grabs, but as of now, Vettel is in the prime position to take his third title.

10/10

Ferrari

Ferrari have one task now, and that is to get Fernando Alonso back on the top step of the podium. At a Red Bull friendly track like India, the chances of that happening were very slim, but they did the best they could - the Spaniard ended the race in second place, picking up 18 very useful points.

It was an inspired Alonso that got a great start off the line, challenging the McLarens for position after just a couple of corners. It was exactly what was needed to remedy his fifth place grid slot, and ninety minutes later, the job was done. Ferrari can fight in the race, they’ve got a feisty couple of drivers who want to reach the maximum possible, but they’re going to need a significant upgrade, or a very friendly track, to get them winning again.

Meanwhile, Felipe Massa started the race sixth, and finished in that exact same position. The lack of movement belies a difficult race, as Massa was instructed to save fuel before they’d even reached the halfway distance. Stefano Domenicali described it afterwards as being “defensive on the second [half], partly due to some limitations that occurred in the management of the fuel.” I’d say that as soon as you’re limited on something like fuel, it’s almost impossible to do anything but try and bring the car home in one piece. Still, it would be unlike Ferrari to miss an opportunity to dig at Felipe!

8/10

McLaren

McLaren still have drivers that are technically in with a shot at the title, but they’ve all but given up on it by this point. With Hamilton departing sooner rather than later, relations have been visibly strained at times. Thankfully, after the Indian race, Lewis seemed very happy with what had been a challenging afternoon’s work. The Brit qualified third, just ahead of teammate Jenson Button, and almost immediately the race started they were both fighting with a storming Alonso.

Hamilton pins the fact he fell into the Ferrari’s clutches on an undiagnosed poor start, but from there, he got to do battle with Alonso, Button and Mark Webber, and even had a fabulous steering wheel change mid-pitstop to keep us all entertained. As he puts it: “I can’t remember the last time I’ve pushed so far, so hard, for so long, right on the limit.”

Button’s strategy dropped him back to fifth place, but he was complaining of struggling on the option compound to a greater degree than those around him, so pace was something that was missing. He did pick up the fastest lap on the final lap, mostly just to spite Vettel, so that is something to take home with him.

7/10

Lotus

Kimi Räikkönen was disappointed following qualifying in Saturday, particularly as he had been happy with the pace of the Lotus during the previous practice sessions. The Finn admitted that they’d tweaked the car ahead of qualifying but it was obviously in the wrong direction and any sense of straight-line speed he had went out the window.

Kimi qualified seventh to Romain Grosjean’s 11th, with the Frenchman also wishing he could have done more in qualifying. The race turned things around somewhat, as Romain’s car came good, showing the pace that Kimi was lacking. From seventh, Räikkönen raced his heart out and remained seventh, as Grosjean moved up into the points to finish ninth.

Post-race quotes suggest that Kimi believed he could have got that car onto the podium if they hadn’t gone the wrong way with setup. He obviously believes in the car a lot, as he has signed with Lotus for a second year, with eyes firmly set on the title in 2013.

7/10

Williams

Most of the drivers opted for a one-stop strategy, but Pastor Maldonado ended up visiting the pitlane twice. Unfortunately one of those times was for an unschedule tyre change, after he picked up a puncture colliding with Kamui Kobayashi. For once, it was not Pastor’s fault, and it was particularly disappointing as the team were looking on for some good points.

Pastor qualified ninth but dropped to 16th, leaving the points haul to Bruno Senna. From 13th on the grid, Senna moved up to tenth, bringing home an important but solitary point. He also managed to set the second fastest lap of the race, after what appeared to be a concerted attempt by all the drivers to deprive Vettel of the accolade.

Although they only walk away from India with that one point, Williams are feeling optimistic about the remaining three races and the opportunities they bring. They’ve even suggested they are “back on track” although you’d be hard pushed to see another victory coming their way this season.

6/10

Mercedes

It was an exceptionally quiet weekend for Mercedes, particularly on Nico Rosberg’s side of the garage. He got through to the third session of qualifying, but didn’t set a time in those final ten minutes, so he started the race tenth. During the ninety minutes of racing he dropped a position, so that he just missed out on some points. I thought I’d check out Rosberg’s post-race video diary to see what happened to him, because I don’t remember him at all during the weekend. He opted to ditch the race analysis concept for a fan Q&A instead. I guess he doesn’t remember what happened either.

Meanwhile, Schumacher almost got into trouble again, being investigated post-race for ignoring blue flags. He was in a blue flag position due to contact with Jean-Éric Vergne at the start of the race, and then he later retired just a few laps from the end. He was cleared of any wrongdoing with the blue flags and now looks ahead to Abu Dhabi, which he claims as a highlight of his year.

4/10

Force India

Nico Hülkenberg took the challenge of the Indian circuit between his teeth and made the best of what appeared to be a difficult weekend for Force India. Teammate Paul di Resta was on the radio almost the moment first practice began, complaining of the setup of the car, the state of the track, and the visibility due to the smog. I’m not sure he cheered up at all during the weekend, as he qualified 16th and finished the race 12th.

The Hulk, though, he was having a better time of it. He didn’t quite manage to get through to the final session of qualifying, and lined up on the grid behind Romain Grosjean. He managed to get past the Lotus and was then under pressure from Romain until the end of the race. He crossed the line in eighth place, picking up some useful points, and declared himself happy with the result.

Hülkenberg has today been confirmed as a new driver for Sauber next season, leaving Paul di Resta with very little in the way of options. Paul has already been quite open about his desire to move onwards and upwards, but admitted he will settle for helping Force India to grow in the future. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of love from the drivers towards the team, and that won’t help them finish things up nicely over the next three races.

5/10

Sauber

Sergio Pérez retired from the Indian Grand Prix on the twentieth lap, after a puncture following contact with Daniel Ricciardo. There was potential for something more from the Sauber driver, as we know the team can be light on their tyres when they want, and this was a prime one-stop strategy race weekend. He qualified eighth on Saturday, but was the first to drop out of the race come Sunday afternoon.

Kamui Kobayashi struggled for pace on Saturday, lining up on the grid in 17th place. He had a collision with Maldonado, which he pins on Pastor moving back on to his racing line. Most would suggest Kamui was at fault, but it was passed off as a racing incident anyway. The real trouble came from traffic, or as Koby puts it: “I always had someone in front of me...” which tends to be the case unless you are winning!

4/10

Toro Rosso

It was no surprise to see that Jean-Éric Vergne qualified 18th, dropping out in the first session on Saturday. The Toro Rosso drivers have both been retained for another year in 2013, and I think we all know what JEV has to work on. Daniel Ricciardo did not fare much better, though, with the pace unable to get him any higher than 15th on the grid.

Any potential for Vergne moving forward from 18th was compromised on the first lap when he came together with Schumacher. He had to pit for a new front wing, and that put him at the back of the field with far too much work to do to make an impact. He finished the race 15th, which isn’t all bad considering the pace of the car beneath him.

Ricciardo declared it “not exactly an exciting race” as he moved forward two places to finish 13th. He described being able to stay with the cars around him but not having the pace to push past them.

4/10

Caterham

The notable things for Caterham this week were Vitaly Petrov outqualifying teammate Heikki Kovalainen again. Heikki did find himself suffering with traffic and a bit of a spin on Saturday, though, so that would explain it more than any extra pace found on one side of the garage.

On Sunday, the pair had relatively solid races, except that Kovalainen suffered a loss of KERS that didn’t help him out any. They finished 17th for Petrov and 18th for Kovalainen, ahead of all four of their nearest competitors.

4/10

Marussia

Charles Pic struggled in qualifying on Saturday for the Marussia team, qualifying 24th and last. There was no real reason for it, either, just a lack of grip on the soft tyre that was a surprise when compared to the hard compounds. The race worked out much better for Charles, however, as he made it past his teammate to finish 19th.

Glock lost positions at the start simply by dint of being in the wrong place on track. He also bemoaned getting stuck behind Petrov because “by that time the other guys were all gone.” Harsh but fair!

3/10

HRT

It was 22nd and 23rd for the HRT drivers in qualifying, Pedro de la Rosa just ahead of his teammate. Karthikeyan admitted he made a mistake but was still happy because he finished ahead of a Marussia.

In the race, De la Rosa suffered brake failure that spun him off track and backwards into the barrier. Thankfully it wasn’t a high speed incident, and he climbed from the car okay, but his race was over after just 42 laps. Karthikeyan explains that he got caught up in a minor collision at the start of the race that damaged the front wing and therefore affected the balance of the car. He finished 21st, which was last of the remaining runners.

2/10

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