It proved to be an exciting affair for teams and the F1 universe last year. Everyone had given a big thumbs up for the event although few issues were faced by the teams and the fans during the event. Vettel extended his dominant performance at the sub-continent as he took a comfortable victory last season and with nearly 95,000 fans witnessing the race from the stands, it proved to be a memorable experience for many. With ticket sales not upto the mark for this weekend, the organizers are nevertheless hoping for an improved show.
“Last year I think we were all impressed with what they did with the circuit - the layout was really good, an interesting mix of elevation changes and different types of corners, not what we’ve seen at a lot of the newer circuits so one I think we all enjoyed.” - Heikki Kovalainen
“I think that the layout of the Buddh circuit is one of the best in Formula One” - Jaime Alguersuari
“The circuit, too, is something of a revelation. Most modern tracks have a very similar feel; you find that the same driving style and rhythm suits them all. But the Buddh International Circuit is different: it has more in common with a great track like Spa than it does with any number of the more modern places we visit.” - Lewis Hamilton
“With an average speed of 235km/h, the course is the second quickest of the year after Monza.” - Sebastian Vettel
Majority of the Formula 1 fans will agree that the modern tracks have more or less been boring because they have the same characteristics. Plenty of people have criticized the modern tracks and have been pushing for the return of the classic tracks. Buddh International circuit is no exception, but it has been widely accepted by the fans and the teams as it contains some unpredictability which increases the excitement factor. Although the layout is largely inspired from other classic tracks, it distances itself from other modern tracks with some elevation changes and other unusual factors.
“There are a couple of unusual factors: firstly, the approaches to Turns Three and Four are incredibly wide - almost like a motorway - in order to stimulate different lines into the corner and encourage overtaking. Secondly, the combination of Turns 10 and 11 is also pretty special - it’s a huge, bowl-shaped double-apex right-hander, a bit like Spoon at Suzuka. It’s unusual for a new circuit to have such fast corners, and it’s really enjoyable when you get the car hooked up through there - the lateral g feels great.” - Jenson Button
“A lot of the corners are quite unusual: for example we have a chicane right at the end of the lap that we take in fifth gear, which doesn’t happen very often” - Jaime Alguersuari
“The Buddh circuit has been specifically designed to encourage overtaking, which is also one of the objectives behind the design philosophy of our tyres” - Paul Hembery
Not much running is done at this circuit and it adds to the woes of the Formula 1 Teams, The grip levels only increase as the weekend progresses. But the organizers are better prepared for this year with the circuit being cleaned up for the past month. Although the circuit is wide, the dust off the racing line creates a huge hurdle for the drivers to overtake despite the presence of DRS zones. Two DRS zones are in place for this weekend and with the second zone being extended by few notches, not many drivers are expecting it to be a concern.
“At the start of the weekend dirt on the racing line and pollution within the atmosphere can have a detrimental effect on air filter performance, so this will need careful monitoring during P1 and P2” - Remi Taffin, Head of Renault F1 Trackside operations
Two teams are creating a buzz among the locals for this weekend and It’s a bit unusual for them to be in such a spotlight, but both these teams seem to be enjoying the special attention they seem to be generating. We are talking about Force India and HRT. Although the buzz on the latter is due to the presence of the native driver, Force India are in tremendous spotlight. As from our other article [LINK: Force India, Havoc within] The owners of Force India are surrounded by serious controversies. Although the big one seems to be of their team principal, Vijay Mallya. Force India are maintaining that the off-track controversies won’t be hurting its performance. Their drivers have arrived at the Country a lot early than their rivals as they have a heavy schedule on their cards with so many Media and PR commitments. Force India meanwhile have a huge uphill task on track with their nearest rival Sauber seem to be in a comfortable and solid position. The points deficient seem to be a bit too much for this Anglo Indian team who are desperate to grab their sixth place in the constructors championship. With just 4 races to go, their chances appear to be very bleak but they are still trying to do all they can to achieve their goal.
“It’s a busy week for everyone involved with the team and there’s a lot going on in terms of media work and extra events, but it won’t distract from our focus to come away with the best result we can.” - Paul di Resta
“For me the second Formula One Grand Prix of India certainly will be a very special race. Going to my home country, not for private but for business reasons, and for the team to race in front of my fellow countrymen is exciting” - Monisha Kaltenborn, Sauber Team Principal
Sauber meanwhile are trying to hunt down their points difference with Mercedes. If they manage to squeeze in few podiums in the coming races, it would cause a huge upset to the German giant manufacturer. Mercedes have clarified that their focus have shifted to next season but are not ready to leave out the current season as they are looking to defend their current position to Sauber team. Both the teams are also in some kind of spotlight for this weekend. Sauber’s Team Principal is of Indian Origin and she has her own PR activities for the weekend as well. Mercedes have meanwhile signed Airtel as their sponsors for this weekend. Airtel, the telecom giant has recently been elevated as the fourth largest mobile operator in the world and this sort of deal will only increase their global audience.
“This year, our team is very pleased to be partnering with Airtel, title sponsors of the race, and we look forward to sharing our Indian Grand Prix experience with them” - Ross Brawn
Perhaps one of the few drivers to experience more of the circuit is the home hero Narain Karthikeyan. Having been touted as the ‘Fastest Indian’, The native hero has been on a number of PR activities. Although, the ideal goal for him would be to do better than his teammate, HRT would be having an improved car for the weekend. For Narain, He would be getting a new floor and both the drivers will be getting new parts which would mean few more tenths from the car as they are looking to reduce their gap to their nearest rivals and this type of circuit also suits this Spanish team than their rivals which would be a pleasing sign for them.
“We have a small update, which is a rarity here for our team. Hopefully it’ll work and we’ll have a few more tenths. I know we need seconds but it is what it is and I’m not complaining, I’m happy to be driving here and will give it my best.” - Narain Karthikeyan
Lewis Hamilton will also be looking for a much better performance this weekend, He has been to India on quite a few occasions and for sure, he has a fan following here. McLaren will be desperate for a two car finish as they prepare their fight for the second position in the constructors championship. The second half of the season hasn’t been fair to this team with either of their drivers facing an issue with a car or an issue beyond their control. Frequent retirements have been a huge worry for this team and they will be doing all they can to play a part in the championship fight as winning the last few races will upset both their championship contenders.
“...but I feel I’ve been driving better than ever recently - even if the results haven’t quite shown it - so I’m headed to India determined for another good result. I think we’ll have a car that’s a match for the circuit and I can’t wait to get out there and start practicing on Friday.” - Lewis Hamilton
The midfield battle in the constructors championship is also tightly contested and one of the teams that is looking for a improved show is Williams, They have gone on record and stated that they would like to finish off the season on a high note. The performance of this team seems to have completely faded off post their win earlier in the season. Both the drivers are under immense pressure and although their performance this season has been much better as compared to last few seasons. The Williams management will be looking forward to the winning ways and this weekend should be an ideal start for them as their nearest rival Force India might struggle off with high temperatures while Sauber have admitted that this track doesn’t really favour them.
“Coming to the final few races, making the most of our cars potential is going to be important, so hopefully we can score points here and put ourselves in a strong position for the final three races.” - Pastor Maldonado
“Technically the track in Greater Noida should not be a problem for the C31, but it isn’t our favourite either. We have to stay focussed and maximise our potential there.” - Monisha Kaltenborn
At the front however, it’s going to be a heavy fight for the drivers championship. Ferrari are coming into this weekend with plenty of wind tunnel tests outside their facility. They have admitted that their performance on track aren’t impressive because of the faulty wind tunnel which seem to suggest different values. Wind Tunnels are used to simulate the conditions that the cars go through on track and with the teams spending their precious money on the system, Even a small difference in values will hamper its performance on track. Ferrari have also done a Aero test and are doing all they could to help Alonso in his championship fight. Vettel who has gained on Alonso in the last few races is wary of Alonso’s threat in the final four races and is taking nothing for granted. Despite the fact that Vettel won this race last here, Red Bull’s performance in the these type of circuits is relatively known. It should be a tight contest between these two teams as both the teams will be under severe scrutiny. Meanwhile, time is really running out for Kimi Raikkonen and Lotus. With no wins under their belt and with a large point deficient to the title contenders, Some are still speculating of Kimi’s chances at the drivers championship. This weekend will mark the second outing for their coanda exhaust system and from the performance gain of their rivals who have used this type of system, Lotus should be aware that they could still find some performance gain from its recent development as that particular system seems to needs ample track time for the engineers to finetune that system and gain few more tenths from the car.
“The data we saw in the wind tunnel did not match 100 percent the data we were getting from the track. We had some unpleasant surprises from some of the updates we brought to the last couple of races, so immediately, we wanted to fix that and understand where it had gone wrong. Therefore we have had an aero test prior to heading off to India, where we ran control tests on these updates to really understand what the problem was. We got some very interesting answers which we believe will allow us to recover from those problems and so, our aim in this forthcoming Indian GP, will be to make up the ground we have lost.” - Nicolas Tombazis, Chief Designer, Ferrari
“For some reason, after the summer break, some of the teams have been much more consistent. I think we still have a good car. We improved it in the last race again but we are not at the level that we maybe were compared to others at the beginning of the season” - Kimi Raikkonen
This circuit also demands more from the tyres as the extreme long corners will have some extra load on them. Pirelli have been less conservative this season as they have elected for a Soft and Hard compounds. Dry weather has been predicted for this weekend and it would be highly unlikely for us to witness the cinturato wets. With a hard conditions for the tyres, teams experiencing high wear will have to come up with a proper strategy for the race, The Mercedes customers all through the season faced issue with the tyre wear and this weekend again will be tough for them, Lotus and Sauber have a small advantage on this aspect but nevertheless the race should be an exciting and a classic one.
“There are so many special sections to the track, especially Turn 3, which is a very extreme corner. You have to completely turn into the steering wheel, followed by a very long straight” - Timo Glock
“The circuit layout is one of the toughest that our tyres will face throughout the second half of the season and it’s also the last time that we will see the hard and soft combination this year, which was previously used in Barcelona, Britain and Japan - which gives you some idea about the demands of this circuit” - Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director