Leading into the Indian Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel leads the Formula One Drivers World Championship six points ahead of Fernando Alonso. Red Bull Racing leads the Formula One Constructors Championship ahead of Ferrari who have jumped McLaren into second place in the standings.
Also, Felipe Massa confirms a one year contract extension with Ferrari, casting aside talks about his future with the team that have been present in the last few Grand Prix. As well, the talks surrounding the future of Nico Hulkenberg staying with Force India or leaving to jump ship with Sauber are still continuing and still causing the fans and the F1 community to guess what is happening.
Anyways, let’s get on with the analysis. So much to discuss and dissect.
Practices 1, 2 and 3
The main headline from these sessions is that Sebastian Vettel takes the hat trick of leading the three practice sessions this weekend. However, it does seem at this point of the weekend that Button seems to be the only one close enough to answer to Vettel throughout these sessions.
At the end of the third practice session, Button is only 0.192 behind the pace of Vettel’s Red Bull who set a time of 1.25.842 (Button’s time for reference is 1.26.034). For me as a McLaren fan, that provides me with hope and thinking that Red Bull can be beaten, but it will be a challenge that I’m sure McLaren, Jenson and F1 fans would relish at. Mark Webber posts a solid third in the times with a 1.26.108, Lewis Hamilton fourth with a 1.26.151, Kimi Raikkonen fifth with a 1.26.209, Bruno Senna impressing everyone in the paddock with a 1.26.214 with was sixth fastest and with only Alonso able to post the seventh fastest time with a 1.26.521.
As you can see, there’s not much in it with the top 6 times in Practice 3 especially with the McLarens and Red Bulls. With Alonso being Vettel’s nearest challenger for the Driver’s Championship, it would seem that Alonso simply doesn’t have the pace to challenge the Red Bull or the McLaren and need to qualify as high as possible in order to try and outscore or get the highest possible position he can towards Vettel in the race. These battles are going to continue into a qualifying that may determine the state of the race and the championship on Sunday afternoon.
After Vettel leading all the practice sessions this weekend and seeing the relatively small gap between the Vettel and Button, Webber and Hamilton and Alonso seeming not to have the pace to challenge his championship rivals and the McLarens, the qualifying for the Indian Grand Prix looks exciting.
In Q1, Pastor Maldonado is at the top of the table with the fastest time of 1.26.048, with Sebastian Vettel with the second fastest time of 1.26.387, Nico Rosberg with the third fastest time of 1.26.458 and Lewis Hamilton with the fourth fastest time of 1.26.516. Fernando Alonso could only manage eighth fastest (1.26.829), Jenson Button fifth fastest (1.26.564) and Mark Webber seventh fastest (1.26.744).
Heikki Kovalainen who drives for the Caterham F1 team spins his car towards the end of Q1 and breaches the car into the gravel that brings out the yellow flag slowing the cars down. ‘The usual suspects’ (Meaning in the F1 world the slowest cars that are on the back of the grid) of HRT, Marussia, Caterham and (sometimes) the Toro Rossio’s are eliminated from Q2.
In Q2, normal service is resumed as Sebastian Vettel is at the top of the table with the fastest time of 1.25.435, with Jenson Button with the second fastest time of 1.25.467, Mark Webber with the fastest time of 1.25.610 and Lewis Hamilton with the fourth fastest time of 1.25.816. Fernando Alonso could only manage fifth fastest with a 1.25.834. Romain Grosjean for the second time this season has failed to make the top 10 to get into Q3 alongside Hulkenberg, Senna, Schumacher, Riccardo, Di Resta and Kobayashi.
In Q3, Sebastian Vettel takes pole for the Indian Grand Prix with a time of 1.25.283, which puts him in the best possible position for the race. In second place is his team-mate Mark Webber with a time of 1.25.327, third place is Lewis Hamilton with a 1.25.544, Jenson Button is in fourth with a 1.25.659 and Fernando Alonso manages only fifth with a 1.25.773.
At the end of qualifying, Red Bull have dominated the session with a front row lock out, followed by a McLaren and Ferrari lock out on the second and third rows of the grid. The biggest surprise of qualifying would be the eighth place that Perez achieved with a car that he has struggled with throughout every session of the weekend so far. But the talking point that will head into the race will be can Vettel win the race and extend his championship lead, can Webber spoil Vettel’s plan, can Jenson, Fernando or Lewis challenge Vettel and pass him at the first corner and mark their own challenge on the championship (even though most F1 fans and pundits now believe it is a straight two horse race with Alonso and Vettel for the championship, though they are not mathematically discounted as of yet!)… the race looks to be an challenge of all proportions…
You cannot argue that Vettel looks to be in winning form (as much as it pains me to write this sentence!). Vettel winning in Singapore, Japan and Korea from pole position, hereby inheriting the lead of the Driver’s championship from Alonso. As an avid McLaren fan, there is still a chance that both of the drivers could win mathematically, but I believe the chance as now gone (due to problems encountered to both Jenson and Lewis with their cars) and both drivers are aiming to score as many points as possible to try and get Vodafone McLaren Mercedes back into second place in the Constructor’s championship.
Alonso, Webber and Raikkonen need to either try and outscore Vettel or if they can’t get as many points as they possibly can to get to try and keep themselves in the championship hunt….
Five red lights showing and it’s GO! Vettel and Webber get an equal start off the grid, Button gets a better start than Hamilton and goes to the inside to protect his advantage. As they head towards the back straight of the circuit, Alonso is gaining on the two McLarens and all three are abreast together fighting for the same corner and braking entry which allows Alonso past and Jenson struggling to keep Lewis at bay.
While Alonso is trying to get past the McLaren’s, an incident has occurred with Michael Schumacher and Jean-Eric Verne with has resulted with Schumacher getting a rear-right puncture and Verne clipped his front wing, with both of them needing to come into the pitlane.
Lap 8, Alonso is matching the leader Vettel’s race pace. Vettel is leading with a gap of 2.69 seconds to Webber. At this stage of the Grand Prix, Jenson seems to be struggling or may have some problem with the car, which leads to Lewis getting past Jenson and leaving Massa and Raikkonen trying to find a way past Jenson. A lap later, and a strong battle for fourth is emerging. Hamilton, Button, Massa and Raikkonen battling for this position and it seems that McLaren are struggling for pace in this early stage of the Grand Prix.
Lap 11, Vettel has a 3.024 lead from teammate Webber. There is a battle for 10th place with Rosberg, Maldonado, Grosjean and Senna. Meanwhile, Massa is putting pressure on Button to get past him. At this stage of the Grand Prix, pit stops strategy seems to be that if drivers come in at lap 17 (which seems to be Mark Webber at this stage), they will be on a two stop strategy, if drivers come in from lap 20 onwards, a one stop looks likely.
Lap 15, Vettel has a 3.696 lead from teammate Webber. The battle between Hulkenberg and Perez has seen Hulkenberg take 8th place, while Perez seems to be losing the front grip in his tyres, leading him to pit. Lewis at this point is 15 seconds behind the race leader and lost time while lapping Michael Schumacher’s Mercedes. One lap later, Senna passes his teammate Maldonado in a good move that didn’t affect any of the drivers and seems to have impressed everyone in the F1 paddock and community.
Lap 20, Lewis seems to be in a better position than previous laps and seems to have picked his pace up. Perez has an almost exact replica of Michael Schumacher’s right-rear puncture failure. It seems that Perez’s rear sidewall is stressed and looking thin after colliding with Daniel Riccardo’s Toro Rosso’s front wing. As a result of this, Perez switches to a one stop strategy with a 6.9 pit stop which results in his retirement in lap 22.
Lap 25, Grosjean has passed Rosberg for 9th place (lap 23 this took place!). Webber seems to be struggling for pace and may need some tyres. Lewis seems to be catching Alonso quite quickly. But the one stop strategy window is open. Button pits on lap 26 with a pitstop time of 3.6 seconds, with brings him out in 9th place. Lap 28 sees Raikkonen, Rosberg, Maldonado make their pit stops. The next lap sees Massa pit and come out in 7th place and into a fight with Raikkonen behind him and wins successfully. And Alonso pitting the lap after Massa and comes back out into 4th place, with Vettel leading Webber by a 12.225 gap.
Lap 31, Maldonado, Kobayashi and Senna are battling for position which leads to Maldonado suffering a puncture and Vettel taking a 2.3 second loss on his lead. Our question from this incident is who is to blame for the incident, Maldonado or Kobyashi? Kobayashi had space from Maldonado which is needed to not break the rules that the FIA have, but Maldonado moved too quickly. Both drivers have been involved in accidents, some more than others but the FIA may need to investigate this further.
Lap 36, Hamilton and Petrov have made their pitstops (on lap 33). Lewis during his pitstop has had to change his steering wheel due to problems and also radio problems that were present at the start of the race. The previous lap Massa has been informed by his team that his fuel situation is critical. Button and Grosjean are battling with each other, resulting in Jenson’s race being further damaged behind Grosjean (who has not yet pitted at this stage but pits on lap 37).
Lap 41, no action has been taken by the FIA between Kobyashi and Maldonado. Senna seems to have had his strategy spot on and is making progress on Nico Rosberg. Lap 42 sees Massa and Raikkonen engaged in battle with each other, even though Massa is supposed to be fuel saving.
Lap 45 sees Pedro De La Rosa retire from the race with front brake failure on his HRT which sees DRS disabled and the yellow flags coming out. Also, Webber seems to be experiencing problems with the KERS system on his Red Bull which will affect his position to affect or defend his position in the DRS zones of the circuit. Three laps later, the yellow flags from De La Rosa’s retirement have gone and we are back racing! Schumacher has been informed that he will be investigated after the race by the FIA following an incident with ignoring blue flags on the circuit. On track, Alonso and Webber are battling for second place. Due to Webber not having any KERS to defend himself on the back straight, Alonso passes Webber and takes second place and heads off in the distance to catch Vettel.
Lap 53, Vettel is leading by 10.2 seconds, Hamilton is flying, is 2.1 seconds behind him and is catching Webber quickly. Webber’s KERS has not come back and is struggling to keep the pressure and gap to Hamilton behind him. The next lap, Vettel may have damaged the sideblocks of his Red Bull by running too quickly over the kerbs, seeing sparks flying on screen, has he damaged his Red Bull? Hamilton has a 1.5 second gap to Webber. Lap 57 sees Michael Schumacher retire his Mercedes for the eighth time this season.
Lap 58, Vettel is leading by 10.516 seconds from Alonso, Hamilton has decreased the gap to Webber by 1.2 seconds and may look like catching him before the end of the race. The following lap, Hamilton is exactly one second behind Webber until he locks up his tyres and his chance of passing Webber has disappeared after all his hard work. Lap 60 arrives and Sebastian Vettel wins the Indian Grand Prix for the second year running with a gap of 9 seconds from Alonso and 13 seconds behind his team mate Mark Webber.
Here’s is the top 10 from the Indian Grand Prix:- Vettel, Alonso, Webber, Hamilton, Button (who took fastest lap of the Grand Prix at the last moment from Vettel-priceless!), Massa, Raikkonen, Hulkenberg, Grosjean and Senna.
And here is the Driver’s championship from the Indian Grand Prix:- Vettel-240, Alonso-227, Raikkonen-173, Webber-167, Hamilton-165 and Button- 141.
And the Constructor’s championship:- Red Bull Racing- 407, Ferrari-316, McLaren-Mercedes-306, Lotus-Renault-263.
Well, it seems no matter what anyone does, no one can beat Vettel and Red Bull! Vettel (unfortunately) seems to be in top form and the car seems to be making advances every race. And if they are to be stopped, a miracle needs to happen as I do now believe unless Alonso (who I also don’t really like as a driver) gets a massive boost from the Ferrari car and team with technical developments, the championship is as soon as Vettel’s.
As a McLaren fan, I really did hope from what I have seen from in the practices and qualifying that they may be able to take the fight to Red Bull. But sadly they couldn’t. It seems that the tyres may have not helped McLaren take the fight to Red Bull today, but I am happy with the result that Jenson and Lewis achieved today and they should be proud of themselves. If McLaren want to get second place in the constructor’s championship back, they will need to bring developments and quick to the next Grand Prix to fight the Ferrari. There is no denying that McLaren are quick, but they need to show their hand and quickly.
We should not discount Raikkonen and his performance today. Raikkonen since returning from a two year absence in the sport has consistently drove the Lotus home into the points and finds himself still not mathematically out of the championship yet. The same with Webber. Webber may have had a problem with his KERS today and may have encountered problems throughout the season but when the opportunity arises to score points, Webber will take the opportunity.
The Indian Grand Prix has seen punctures, overtaking, incidents but it has seen Vettel eclipse Jim Clark’s record of number of laps lead consecutively in a Grand Prix. The only record left for him to achieve is Senna’s from 1989. Will he do it? Unfortunately, yes. Will it be this season? Who knows? In the most unpredictable season of F1 for years, has it become predictable now with Vettel now dominating the sport? Maybe?
All we can hope for is that the last three races of the season are exciting, maybe throw a spanner into the works and keep the driver’s championship going into the season finale in Brazil where two, three or four drivers all have a chance or slight chance to become this year’s world champion… we shall see.