The website Atlas F1 was a popular and comprehensive website dedicated to Formula One, which eventually merged into a partnership with Autosport in 2004. The site was well known for its excellent articles and insight into Formula One and maintained a loyal fanbase, who still enjoy browsing the ‘nostalgic posts’ maintained on the internet from the site’s former glory days.
In 1957, controversial Russian-American novelist Ayn Rand published her longest and best-known novel Atlas Shrugged, set in the indeterminable future and revolving around a society strangled by excessive government regulations. The best inventors and brightest minds in the world keep mysteriously disappearing, refusing to have their ideas watered down to mediocrity by the all-powerful bureaucrats and declaring the State holds no right to tax away their wealth in the name of ‘fairness’. Throughout the novel, people attempt to answer the question ‘Who is John Galt?’, a phrase which becomes the equivalent of saying ‘I don’t know the answer’.
In GP Atlas: Shrugging… there is growing discontent amongst the Formula One teams and fans as innovation upon innovation is banned by the FIA to slow the cars down and ‘prevent dominance’. This leads to a grid of cars which all look very similar, with little change in performance from one circuit to the next. Measures designed to help the poorest teams by cutting costs, such as engines and gearboxes which last for almost a quarter of a season, coincide with the longest ever run in Grand Prix history of the poorest teams not scoring a single point.
The series explores the efforts of a breakaway series with the goal of returning Grand Prix racing to the ‘Golden era’ of noisy cars with fat tyres, wacky designs and exciting tracks, at a price affordable to the fans. What can the new series learn from the mistakes made during the CART Vs Indy war? Will such a liberal rule-book ever work for real? And who is John Galt?
Disclaimer: Whilst real names have been used in this series to help tell the story, the opinions expressed within the series may not be those belonging to the persons mentioned, and ultimately represent the author’s view of current affairs in motorsport.
It's recommended that the readers go through the first two part of this article:
Part 1: The Dawn of GP Atlas
Part 2: [GP Atlas]: Round 1, Betway Grand Prix [Egypt]
Also worth reading, The Saga of Indian Grand Prix: Fortunately Dropped?
Thursday 10th March
The sunrise was one of the most beautiful sites in all of India. No matter where you stepped in the country, be it in front of the ancient holy temples, the developing and bustling modern cities, or the Buddh international circuit, the slow rise of natural light above the skyline was a wonder to behold. India was a rapidly developing nation, one of the key emerging world economies known as the ‘BRIC Nations’ with an expanding middle class and a growing role in international trade. Economic growth was strong, employment was rising and taking the standard of living with it. Yet the government remained rooted in its old ways and inflation was continuing to prove problematic.
Perhaps it was no wonder that Formula One had never returned to Buddh after crowning Sebastian Vettel world champion in 2013. The authorities had seemed determined to ruin the event from day one, despite all it did for the local area and for India as a whole. India’s convoluted tax system was complex enough before reigniting the non-debate on if Formula One was even a ‘sport’, and the circuit had been hit with further and further levys driving up the price of tickets.
‘The growth in attendance was very nice, but you know, here in India, our main problem is with the grassroots of motorsports – that’s where you develop the fans and the stars of the future,’ Bala Yogesh, journalist for Rach F1, explained to John Galt early on the Thursday morning before the WPMC’s Indian Grand Prix. If motorsport was going to become popular in India, it had to understand that it was never going to overtake cricket as the national passion. And certainly not in a hurry. What it had to do was offer people the chance to become interested in an additional sport, rather than a different one. Some had questioned if India even warranted a position on the Formula One calendar in the first place, given its lack of tradition associated with Grand Prix racing, but most on the inside were in agreement that, as such an important emerging economy, the sport needed a presence in a market holding over a billion people. Some even considered it as important to the sponsors as the USA.
But with the extortionate fees charged by FOM and a crowded calendar without enough room to host all the tracks vying for places in the world championship, it came as a surprise to few that India’s proposed return to Formula One in 2015 at the start of the season never came to materialise and, although the Buddh facility enjoyed some use despite the absence of Formula One, it was still an underutilized circuit that looked likely to fall by the eventual wayside in a similar fashion to Istanbul speedpark and the Valencia street circuit.
It had only been through Galt that a return to the major international calendar had been made possible. The whole ethos behind his series had been to undercut FOM and offer better deals to circuits, teams, sponsors and fans alike. With the hosting fees greatly reduced for the Buddh circuit, tickets had become far more affordable, and the crowded support race package offered fans more for their money. Originally Galt had not expected to be involved in setting up feeder series and junior formulae as well, but the demand from the circuits to put on events outside of the main WPMC Grand Prix weekends, it had led Galt to lend a helping hand in establishing some lower categories as well, although their rule books remained in development.
The sun moved through Thursday’s sky and towards noon. The paddock was busy with the teams and support vehicles setting up and unloading. Coloni were missing from the paddock having withdrawn their entry following the embarrassment of failing to qualify with all three cars at the previous round in Egypt. The team were opting to miss a few races and develop the car further before returning to the field. In their place, Williams were fielding a fourth car for Narain Karthikeyan, whilst Force India also had extra entries for James Calado and Karun Chandhok. Conquest Racing had also brought an additional entry for Matthew Brabham and Nick Wirth returned to the paddock with the Simtek name, as the team debuted their new car – a two-driver outfit with Felix da Costa and Robert Frijins behind the wheel. Although the car was innovative – typical of Wirth’s designs – and looked to be light and efficient, the team were expected to struggle on Avon tyres, with the manufacturer seeming to be out of its depth at this level of racing and so far offering only a single compound to its customers.
Although momentum had been lost in establishing motorsport as a common passion in India, there had been some pleasing press attention of the circuit’s return to the calendar after two seasons away, and as the teams prepared throughout Thursday afternoon, and there were plenty of photographers and journalists reporting on the proceedings. The profile of the race was no doubt raised when The Hindu offered a spotters-guide for the weekend to all of its readers; assembled day by day in the lead up to the race with different pictures and profiles included in each issue.
The paper even ran an editorial asking ‘Who Is John Galt?’ in the business section, with a follow up report on his Thursday interview with Sport 4. There had been no official plan to feature interviews with Galt in the build up to all the race weekends, but early on in the championship, he was one of the best voices to have on hand and discuss the action both on and off the track. As the sun began to set and the evening drew in, Galt and Vicky Chandhok met with Sport 4’s Simon Taylor in the press centre. Following on from the 2013 Formula One Grand Prix at the circuit, there were some concerns about the smog levels during the weekend, and even some jokes that India would do well to host a race indoors in the style of the previous Egyptian Grand Prix.
‘On a serious note, though – I thought the Egyptian Grand Prix was excellent and that it presented a terrific spectacle, but for me we should only have one indoor Grand Prix in a season. It’s a nice novelty and made for a brilliant backdrop, and the racing was good, but one is enough. In the same way, I’m looking forward to our next round in Hong Kong at night time, but I don’t think I would want additional night races on the calendar.
Chandhok meanwhile was optimistic about the future of the circuit.
‘We’re very fortunate that Mr Galt was able to offer us a better deal; it made far better sense for us commercially and, hopefully if we can grow the circuit, the government will begin to look more favourably upon us too. At the minute, our goal is to get the most out of the circuit by using it whenever the local climate allows us too. So, for me, I hope to see this track as a major testing venue in February, with a racing like this event in early March. June and early July are also a good window, and then so are October and early November. We’ve got some good series coming here too in addition to the WPMC; World 2 and World 3 at regional level are both on our schedule with races in Carrera Cup Asia and the Pan-Asian Touring Car series, and then beyond those event, Formula Junior India is one of our biggest assets as well, which I hope will really begin to draw in bigger crowds and spread motorsport throughout India further and further.’
Galt also leant his support to the expanding support packages, not least because the busier schedules achieved his goal of giving better value for money to fans.
‘I have to confess, I was perhaps a little naïve to think I could just set up this big championship and that would be it, one of the key needs of this new series is to have a training ground for new drivers and teams to learn and progress, and so that we can offer more and more events to our promoters, too – especially after they’ve done us the service of coming on board so early on and before the series was really proven.
Friday 11th March
Friday morning dawned with a thankfully smog-free circuit and a busy pitlane, since all the teams had a lot of setup work, they wanted to do during the practice sessions. For the teams at the front, it was with the goal of maximising their chances of finishing Sunday’s race in the points, and for the smaller teams it was with the goal of maximising their chance of simply getting to start Sunday’s race at all. After a unanimous vote was taken amongst the drivers and team representatives, it was decided that the ten cars with automatic qualification would run in a single session, leaving the twenty-nine cars fighting for the thirteen guaranteed places in qualifying, to battle it out in equal track conditions.
Although the circuit wasn’t known as a particular car-breaker, many of the teams were still experiencing reliability issues, so early into the development of their cars, and for drivers fighting to make the grid, their main concern was ensuring their car stayed in one piece long enough to set a competitive laptime. As the WPMC teams carried out extra checks on their cars in the busy garages, 8AM saw the World 2 cars venture out on track for the first time for their practice session, followed by the excitable Formula Junior India cars ahead of their intense six-race weekend.
The first practice session for the automatically-qualified cars did not produce many surprises and Nico Rosberg led the way from Kimi Raikkonen, ahead of Force India’s two regular drivers. The circuit’s quicker nature compared to the last round in Egypt saw Stefan GP begin to fall off the pace, as they continued to use a marginally updated version of Toyota’s aborted 2010 car, whilst the works team put in some good times and seemed again to be one of the lightest cars in terms of fuel consumption on the field. The track began to improve in the first practice session for the other cars, and the crowd were treated to most of the big names running at the same time following difficult opening weekends in Egypt. The track had improved since the previous session as Hamilton went on to set the fastest time of the morning, followed by Maldonado, Bottas and Calado, who all beat Rosberg’s time. Whilst the track offered more grip, there were still several spinners, including Karthikeyan who was able to restart, Webber who also got going again, while Evans and Brabham both failed to get back on track. It was clear that behind the main mid-field there was going to be a very close fight for the final places in the qualifying session and Minardi, Newman Haas, Hesketh and Racing Engineering all looked to be having a close fight at broadly similar speeds. Simtek had a good opening practice, beating a few cars and finding good reliability in their own machines.
As the WPMC drivers took a short break for lunch and the Pan-Asian Touring Car Cup cars headed out for their practice session, the maintenance trucks in the paddock were particularly busy as teams came in search of additional parts. Avon were doing their best to avoid a publicity nightmare over the state of their tyres, and were promising additional compounds within the next few races. Whilst Goodyear had won the first race in Egypt through supplying Williams, the general consensus in the paddock was that Bridgestone offered the best rubber – at least for now. Renault Sport were out in force, and sold three spare engines to smaller teams over the lunchbreak, whilst signing up some new outfits hoping to debut later in the year.
The second session for automatic qualifiers brought no more surprises than the first, with Rosberg again quickest and Stefan GP, keen to make the most of making the field automatically, and well aware it was unlikely to be a privilege they’d enjoy for long, at the back. Perez did well in the Lola to split the works Toyotas and many saw him as a plausible candidate for making the final stage in qualifying and causing an upset.
In the second session for cars still trying to make the field, Hamilton kept Mercedes on top from the dicing Williams and Force India drivers in a closely-fought field. Many of the top teams felt comfortable enough about making qualifying to not put in special fast runs, and merely conducted a normal practice session working on their setup for the race. Marussia felt less comfortable and fueled themselves light towards the end of the session on soft tyres. Anthony Davidson made it straight into qualifying with an impressive sixth place in the second Lola, and Kovalainen and Buemi gave Prodrive Aston Martin a double qualification in tenth and eleventh. Local driver Karun Chandhok snuck through in twelfth, whilst Mark Webber claimed the final qualification in a strong run for Minardi as he just pipped Bourais and Conway. If practice was anything to go by, the pre-race on Sunday morning would be almost as exciting as the main event, with the top three places looking to be wide open to the competition and, if the retirement rate in Egypt was anything to go by, plenty of scope for slower cars to sneak across the line. Although the works Dallara team were still struggling, Racing Engineering and Epsilon Euskadi were very evenly matched and looked to be developing a strong rivalry, whilst Robert Wickens again placed strongly on the timesheets in sixteenth. Simtek were continuing to find pace in their new car, although didn’t yet look to be a threat for making the main race field.
The evening support races went on after dark. Formula Junior India thrilled the crowd with four different drivers battling for the lead over the entire nine lap race that finished under dusk. The Pan-Asian Touring Car Cup saw just over a third of the field retire, unlike the Carrera Cup Asia which saw every car running at the flag, even if everyone off the podium was at least a lap down.
Saturday 12th March
Although there was an hour long practice session on Saturday morning for the teams to use, many drivers elected to merely shakedown their cars after fitting special parts just for qualifying. Although the track itself was relatively quiet, with few cars ever lapping at the same time, the pitlane was a flurry of activity as setups were finalised and conditions were analysed. Mercedes topped the timesheets again with Hamilton keeping Rosberg honest, but the short gap back to the chasing field made most consider the fight for pole to be open.
As the qualified cars enjoyed the luxury of being able to pick and choose how much running they did, the cars set for the B session got ready for their own qualifying; a twenty minute shootout to be held just before qualifying for the main race. Drayson Racing were hoping Wickens would now be able to put up a real fight to make the grid, after they elected to remove KERS from their car. The team had attempted to pair Williams KERS unit to a Chevrolet engine with disastrous results in Egypt, and were now running Chevrolet power without KERS until they could find a system that was more compatible. As the Drayson mechanics busily went over the car for the final time, Karun Chandhok spoke to the media about how pleased he was to be in the qualifying session at all and stated that he was finding time with every lap in the car. The Indian driver finished up the practice session thirteenth on the time sheets, dicing with compatriot Karthikeyan in the Williams. Meanwhile Chandhok’s Force India team-mate James Calado stopped on his first time lap with a massive fire that destroyed the rear of the car and would relegate him to twenty-third on the grid after not setting a time at all in qualifying.
Qualifying for the B race saw sixteen cars battle out for their grid slots on Sunday morning, with Mike Conway securing pole position and putting Hesketh in excellent shape to repeat their B-race win from last time out. Still hoping to make the main event field for the first time, Racing Engineering had plenty to smile about when Nick Heidfeld set the second best time ahead of Bourdais and an impressive Robert Wickens. Dallara kept all three cars out on track for short stints before conducting race-style pit-stops and sending them back out again. Justin Wilson was their best performance in sixth spot, ahead of ‘star of the show’ Robert Wickens in an excellent seventh for Simtek. Conquest Racing found themselves struggling at the lowest end of the field, beating only Ma Qing-Hua.
When the main qualifying session began with Q1, Calado was stuck in the garage without a car to use, although the absence of his Force India at least opened up the opportunity for one more underdog to sneak in to the second knockout. Whilst most would do two runs during the opening knockout, some of the more confident runners attempting to get through with just a single run – and were lucky not to get caught out by traffic or the track improving. Whilst Hamilton set the pace, Egyptian Grand Prix winner Raikkonen was grounded to a halt with an unknown failure and wound up twenty-second. Meanwhile Heikki Kovalienen was unable to replicate his impressive Friday form when his Prodrive Aston Martin had a dramatic suspension failure on his first flying lap, sending him into Toyota’s Vitaly Petrov who was warming up his tyres off-line. Both cars were out of the session on the spot, but could be repaired in time for the race.
Session two saw Maldonado break the Mercedes stranglehold, as he set fastest time, whilst most of the applause went to the works Lola squad as both Davidson and Perez made the final eight. Karthikeyan paid for the error of putting his final lap in too early, the local Williams driver setting the time mere seconds after the chequered flag fell, and finished up thirteenth whilst Chandhok snuck in to the final session in seventh place to the delight of the local fans.
Although the final session saw the field remain closely packed together, Hamilton made the same mistake, as so many before in putting his fast lap in too early and being shuffled back to sixth on the grid ahead of only the Lolas. Force India were doing well at their home race and looked to have a provisional front row lock-out after besting Hamilton’s time, but then Maldonado slotted in between them and Rosberg just pipped Sutil for another pole. Rosberg was optimistic of turning this pole into a win, unlike in Egypt, given how the advantage of Williams KERS in the opening stages was seen to be as less of an advantage around this track.
Unsurprisingly it was Sutil and Chandhok who drew the greatest applause from the crowd before the fans settled in to watch the afternoon’s support races.
Sunday 13th March
The Sunday morning warm-up session saw most drivers doing only one or two laps, save for those with rebuilt cars starting further down the field. The talk in the paddock surrounding KERS seemed to draw the conclusion that the Williams flywheel system had been flattered in Egypt by the tight circuit, and whilst it was still undoubtedly quicker off the line, most expected battery KERS to be quicker over the course of a whole lap of the Buddh circuit. Although a lack of Parc Ferme made things more secretive than in Formula One, rumours were already circling of many B-race teams having special highly-tuned engines for the short sprint, with plans to fit a regular engine very quickly should they make it into the main event.
Still quickest off the line, Williams KERS propelled Heidfeld in to the lead of the B race with polesitter Conway slotting into second for Hesketh. Davide Valsecchi also leapt off the line in his Epsilon Euskadi, only to run into the back of Sebastien Bourdais going through turn one and putting both cars out on the spot. A furious Bourdais went over to remonstrate with Valsecchi as the safety car was thrown, only for Ma Qing-Hua to miss the yellow flags and plough right into Brabham’s Conquest and add to the debris.
Shortly after the green flag came out again Jose Maria Lopez pulled off in his Dallara with an engine problem, although the restart had seen his team-mate Justin Wilson move into third by passing Robert Wickens, only for the Canadian to sneak through later in the lap and move back into third. Despite losing ground at the restart, Conway was quicker than Heidfeld over the course of the lap and eventually retook the lead to give Hesketh their second consecutive B-race victory and put both cars into the main event. Heidfeld would come home in second, whilst Wickens drove an absolutely faultless race to claim third from the chasing Wilson.
Despite starting well Frijns eventually fell back to be the last car running at the flag, whilst team-mate Da Costa retired after a crash with Sam Bird on lap six. Jolyon Palmer had been in fifth place until the penultimate lap and looked as if he may be about to challenge Wilson and Wickens after Palmer set an impressive fastest lap, but then his engine blew and he was forced to retire.
Whilst Hesketh, Racing Engineering and Drayson all celebrated their drivers earning a position on the WPMC Indian Grand Prix starting grid, Dallara were left once again licking their wounds in their battle against Lola, and it wasn’t long before suggestions started being made that they could follow Coloni back to Italy for some redevelopment work away from the paddock and miss a few rounds.
The build up to the main race itself featured as much discussion of the teams as the drivers. Dr Vijay Mallya told the press he expected a strategic race as that was ‘the best way to differentiate ourselves from Mercedes, who have such a similar package, and Williams who are probably our most direct rivals’. Ross Brawn meanwhile confirmed Mercedes had no plans as yet to run additional cars, as they saw a two-driver team as being the most efficient, although they may add more entries later in the season if it would help their championship challenges. Furthest down the field Heidfeld told the German media that he was quite happy to have finished second in the pre-race, as he felt the inside line on the grid for the main race would be an advantage.
When the main race itself got underway, Sutil moved straight over towards the inside trying to outdrag Rosberg, but the Mercedes driver held the inside line and forced Sutil to abort his move. The pair had blocked in Maldonado, undoing a lot of the advantage Williams held off the line. Chandhok also looked at the outside of turn one before also backing out, although this stopped Bottas too from making the most of his potential quick get away, and at the end of lap one the first six on the grid were still the same order they’d started. A looser midfield allowed Karthikeyan, Webber, Raikkonen and Heidfeld to all get away strongly and make up several places. Kobayashi also started strongly and pushed the Lolas down to ninth and tenth, whilst the Marussia’s got away badly and slipped down several places.
Despite his quicker car, Petrov found himself struggling a little in the traffic during the early stages, although it later became clear he was running a two stop strategy with an especially long first stint. Chandhok briefly gave the home fans something to cheer about on lap five when he overtook Maldonado on the inside of turn three, but he then ran wide on the exit and the Williams retook third place. Faster then Maldonado was Rosberg and Sutil who were slowly pulling away in front of him, and by lap seven Hamilton had come picked his way up into third place and set after them.
As the field began to spread out a little more, as the drivers settled in to their rhythm, Mark Webber became the first retirement of the race on lap nine when he came into the pits with an engine that was about to expire – a disappointing end to a weekend of the team setting a good pace. Sportscar racing commitments meant Webber would miss the next round in Hong Kong, with no word yet announced on his replacement, although the team did tell the press they would run two cars in Suzuka with Webber back behind the wheel next to the teams other driver. On the same lap Susie Wolff also came in to the pits as a precaution with the team fearing a slow puncture, dropping her to the back of the field.
On lap twelve Bottas overtook Chandhok and a mistake from Karthikeyan dropped him behind Kobayashi and Perez, but Sutil gave the crowd something to cheer for as the team gave him orders to pass Rosberg quickly – before Hamilton could properly close in. To everyone’s surprise, he made the move going into turn one and was able to build just enough of a gap over the remainder of the lap to keep Rosberg too far behind to fight back. As Hamilton closed up behind Rosberg and the viewers on television waited excitedly to see if they would battle each other, the camera cut away to Max Chilton passing his Marussia in the pits with an electrical problem. Marussia’s day went from bad to worse only moments later when they spotted an alarming brake problem on Razia’s car and told him to park up right away, only for Bianchi to then also go out after he was caught between Petrov and Calado and suffered front wing damage, which then detached itself and went under his car, sending him into the barriers and giving the team a nasty triple-retirement.
With the safety car deployed, only a few drivers were three stopping and able to take advantage of the chance to come into the pits, although Petrov’s long first stint was interrupted by him coming in to change a damaged tyre. Calado also came in to replace his damaged front wing, and Raikkonen took on enough fuel to switch to a two stopper as he fell down to fourteenth.
When the race resumed only a couple of laps later, Sutil made a good restart and managed to hold on to the lead, whilst Hamilton’s lighter car moved him past Rosberg into second, only for the polesitting German to then lose out to Maldonado and Bottas on the green flag lap and slip down to fifth. Karthikeyan was able to regain some lost ground with his good restart, followed through part of the way by Davison. Calado’s times were slow after the restart, and he retired a couple of laps later with what appeared to be a car more damaged than expected, after his contact with Petrov and Bianchi. Petrov himself was doing well in his now much heavier car and slowly making up places when those in front of him made errors. Kobayashi was also doing well in the other Toyota and mixing himself with the Williams, Force India and Lola cars as Chandhok and Karthikeyan dropped back slightly from the leaders and Rosberg repassed Bottas for fourth.
With Maldonado putting up more of a fight in third place and holding Rosberg up, Hamilton slowly crept up on Sutil, with the audience expecting an excellent fight following the pair falling out several years previously over Sutil’s court-case. Surprisingly though it turned out to be something of a non-event, with Sutil stopping on lap twenty four, putting in a faster inlap, a shorter stop, and then a faster outlap than Hamilton who came in on lap twenty-five, and the German extending his lead over the Brit and resuming the race lead, after everyone else had also been through the pits. The stops also brought Petrov back up the order after his unscheduled first stop and after opting for the harder Bridgestone compound he had found managing his tyres rather easy. By the halfway mark, Rosberg was back into third place after jumping Maldonado in the pits, a trick Chandhok also managed to pull on Bottas. By far the biggest gainer in the first round of stops though was Paul di Resta, as he moved up from tenth to sixth.
Susie Wolff would not repeat her points finish from Egypt as she returned to the pits on lap thirty one with a gearbox problem and had to retire the car, but team-mate Conway would go on something of a charge after selecting Goodyear’s softer compound to continue the Hesketh team’s impressive showing in the opening races. The middle third of the race added many cars to the sidelines, as Raikkonen and Kobayashi came together but managed to not cause a safety car, whilst Kovalainen became the second driver to retire with a gearbox failure. Heidfeld’s first start for Racing Engineering would not lead to the team’s first finish when he went out with an oil pressure problem just before he was due to make his second stop.
Back out front Sutil kept just enough of a gap to Hamilton to stop the Mercedes from challenging, and when the Briton was unable to get past the backmarkers after his final stop as quickly as he would have liked he actually found himself behind Rosberg and Maldonado as the race neared its conclusion. Sebastien Buemi was the next to retire after his car sprung an oil leak and caught fire just after he pitted for the final time, and he was soon joined on the sidelines by Perez when his radiator throttle broke. Both Stefan GP cars fell off the pace in the closing lap but they hung on to see the flag, although finishing would not bring them points as it had done in Egypt.
With Rosberg a couple of seconds adrift in the final laps Sutil was able to take a popular and emphatic victory for Force India at their home race, and Mercedes engines locked out the podium with Rosberg in second and Hamilton third after he overtook Maldonado in the closing stages. Force India had the measure of Williams on race day and although di Resta got him on the final lap Chandhok was still able to celebrate an excellent sixth placed finish on home soil. Karthikeyan chased home Bottas for seventh and eighth whilst Davidson took his first points finish in ninth. Petrov again took the bonus point for least fuel used on the lead lap and Conway was a lap down but gave Hesketh another points finish. The final point in twelfth went to Wickens to the joy of the Drayson Racing team.
Unsurprisingly Sutil was overjoyed at his maiden top flite win, a feeling heightened by the crowd roaring for their home team. Sitting second in the drivers championship, Sutil remained calm about his prospects for the title and emphasised that it was still early days in the season. Despite having the points lead Rosberg was despondent after finishing second, and lamented his failure to convert pole position for the second race in a row. Despite a tougher race and only finishing third, Hamilton was far happier than his Mercedes teammate as he finally opened his account for the new season.
‘We’re improving all the time,’ he said in the post race interviews, ‘I really feel like every time I get in the car I’m getting more out of it. There’s such a long way to go in the championship still as Adrian said but I really feel like I’m already in contention, and that’s really important. Hong Kong’s up next and I can’t wait to race at night again, it’s going to be so cool’.
After the celebrations and interviews, most fans stayed at the track to enjoy the latter support races, and Vicky Chandhok found himself enjoying a new sense of optimism about the future of the circuit, whilst Galt was delighted that his new series had produced two thrilling races out of two, and already had a brilliant fight set up in the world championship. Behind the big three teams an interesting battle was also being set up for fourth in the constructors standings, as Marussia were disappointingly out of the picture and Toyota found themselves in competition with the works Lola team.
‘I expect the next race, as a tight street circuit, will probably have a similar form to that we saw in Egypt,’ Galt told the Sport 4 as a parting shot at the end of their post-race analysis, ‘but some who struggled in Egypt may have learned from their mistakes and improve next time out I wouldn’t like to say’. As the circus closed up for the end of the weekend, ready to move on to Hong Kong, the Formula Junior India drivers looked on in awe, wagering amongst themselves who would be the first Indian driver to podium at their home race – something they could enjoy since, with the hosting fees so much lower, the future of the race was now secure.
As Galt and Chandhok shook hands before departing, a woman with a briefcase and a dark outfit interrupted them.
‘Excuse me, gentlemen – what might title sponsorship of this race cost, for example over the next three seasons?’
The men turned to the woman and smiled.
‘I’m not quite sure,’ Chandhok replied, ‘Who’s he?’
-by Josh Wood