India: Race Report

We almost had it all

To quote the talented songstress Adele, “We almost had it all.” We really nearly did have the perfect weekend of Formula One at the brand spanking new Buddh International Circuit. With the track finally finished and the gates opened for the paying public for the first time, there was a buzz surrounding the event we haven’t had for a long time. Early reports from drivers centred around the great experience they had in the simulator, and Friday confirmed what they had promised, this was one of the best Hermann Tilke tracks we have been offered in a while. So why the sombre song reference?

The lead up to Sunday was more than we could have hoped for, but Sunday itself presented us with nothing more than a bog standard 2011 race in which Sebastian Vettel led from start to finish and a Brit and a Brazilian cross paths. Perhaps the judgement is a little harsh, the first half of the race was interesting enough but as the racing line emerged from the dust the action faded away. But this was an issue that was instigated by a purposely conservative tyre selection by Pirelli, and unwrapped the last sets of the hard compound (after promising us they had been retired!). By doing this we were given a brief reminder of what we had with the Bridgestones last season, this rubber just ran and ran and took pit strategy out of the picture in the latter portions. Not necessarily a bad thing as we want to see the passing done on track, but with the off line being so dirty few were willing to take a chance and risk losing it. Unless you went by the names Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa (see below for more on that).

The race aside, the most poignant aspect was the minute silence given in memory of Dan Wheldon and Marco Simoncelli who were both killed in action the weeks previous. Without a doubt it was the darkest day in motorsport for some time, with safety being the best it has ever been it is easy for spectators to become complacent and assume (rightly, or wrongly) that their driver will survive their accident. Mark Webber’s freak flip in Valencia being the most recent example from 2010. Unfortunately for Wheldon, the large field of cars on the short track and the nature of the barriers proved too much to overcome, and unadulterated emotion poured from the drivers as they embarked on a heartbreaking series of laps to honour the British driver. For Simoncelli the loss of his helmet was a contributing factor after he lost control of his bike a little over ten minutes into his race, ending up in the path of Colin Edwards and Valentino Rossi. It has come to light since that the Italian GP circuit Misano will be renamed to honour Simoncelli. Many drivers had reflected on the loss in various media before the race, but come race day most displayed their thoughts on their helmets, cars and race suits.

For Formula One the best result was that each driver crossed the line safely, and despite a few opening lap shenanigans they all did. For a first try at hosting a Grand Prix India were pitch perfect from start to finish, timing the race with Diwali (Festival of Lights) allowed a festival atmosphere permeate the weekend. And all drivers got into the India spirit with several members of the paddock bemused by the opportunity to get up close with an elephant. Some preferred to get lost with a local driver and take the scenic route to the hotel, and there was almost a complete avoidance of the dreaded ‘Delhi belly’ with only team staff being affected rather than drivers. Fireworks, Bollywood stars, cricket legends, elephants and Eddie Jordan in local dress.

Thank you India, same time next year (just give the track a scrub and tell Pirelli to get creative with the tyres!)

Penalties: Massa – causing a collision with Hamilton (drive through penalty).

Retirements: Kobayashi (0) – accident damage, Glock (2) – accident damage, Maldonado (12) – gearbox, Buemi (24) – technical, Massa (24) – suspension.

Results:

Position Driver Team Time
1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:30:35.002
2 Jenson Button McLaren 1:30:43.435
3 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:30:59.303
Fastest Lap Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:27.249

Read: Full results for India

Best Driver:

Some say he ruined the season by winning all the time, and due to this he often gets overlooked when it comes to ‘driver of the day’. The Buddh International Circuit was the chance for the grid to race on a level playing field, so who was victorious on Sunday was the one who could tame the unknown. Vettel continued to get faster and faster throughout the day, and even when he tyres were finished during the final laps he still pushed enough to take his first grand slam. Pole position, led every lap and set the fastest time. Boy, Button you were close.

Best Team:

Well, well Toro Rosso where did that come from? Serious questions were raised earlier in the year about their presence on the grid being necessary apart from acting as a feeder team to the current champion constructors. The updates they’ve brought to races throughout the year have obviously played their part, but the pressure to secure a seat for next year was perhaps the impetus their drivers needed.

Rookie Mistake:

The stewards are in line to receive this for their decision to penalise Felipe Massa in what was racing incident. The incident was a matter of one driver committing to a corner and the other trying to make a pass stick. Lewis Hamilton got the better exit out of turn 4 which put him down the inside of Massa at turn 5. Hamilton was intent on getting past and making the most of his good line, but Massa (like most other drivers, Alguersuari didn’t put up much of a fight against Hamilton later) wasn’t going to give up easily.

Rookie of the Race:

The quiet Mexican is up here once more after giving his team a reason to cheer after Kobayashi’s race came to an early finish.

Eddie Jordan moment of inappropriateness:

Banzaiiii!!!!!:

The watershed moment in the race, and one that sparked the reaction from Mr Rowan Atkinson below and signalled the end of the action on track.

The 1000 word picture:

Say what?:

“Seventeen years never had a position given to me” – Mark Webber speaking to Martin Brundle regards suggestions Sebastian Vettel would be happy to help him get second place. That may be true, but he’s given plenty away.

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