Yes, you can say that the 2012 Indian Grand Prix was a tad boring, writes our man at the Buddh International Circuit...
Yes, you can say that the 2012 Indian Grand Prix was a tad boring. Despite the extension of the second DRS zone, the Hermann Tilke hex was at work again. Overtaking wasn't as easy as it was thought to be and the single biggest factor therein, the tyres didn't really degrade much.
In a free-wheeling chat after qualifying on Saturday, Paul Hembery (Pirelli's motorsport director) said that the Buddh International Circuit could do with a more abrasive surface. And after the race on Sunday one can almost see why. This season we have seen some mad-dash racing as concerns the tyres. One-stoppers have been made to work out positions of advantage but towards the end of the season, teams have really learnt how to make the tyres work. The races are no longer of attrition and the Indian GP is a fine example.
The option compound here, the one with yellow bands (also known as softs), are the most commonly used tyres throughout the season. It is quite understandable if all teams have worked out their favourable working conditions, no matter the kind of track. Hence we did not see any difference in race pace for the front running teams. That was significant, for the ones who started further back, could not take advantage of the prevalent minimalistic degradation. Romain Grosjean started on primes and changed to options, and could not finish higher than ninth. It makes you wonder if using super-softs (the ones with red bands) for this race could have changed things.
The first third of the race didn't need any real help from the tyres though. Fernando Alonso made sure that Red Bull didn;t walk away with the prize, and boy, did he drive magnificently! Before long, both McLarens had been taken care of, and he was chasing down Mark Webber. Ferrari's seventh gear on the back-straight worked like a charm, and not just for Alonso. It was the sole reason why Felipe Massa kept Kimi Raikkonen behind all through the race. Lotus were good on race pace after their set-up mistakes in qualifying. But Kimi just didn't have enough straight-line speed to make it count when chasing Massa.
Later then, Alonso found out about Webber's KERS problems and then we only saw the man-possessed that only he can be. It is quite clear that he is the best among the very good drivers in this class of F1. Yes, we have Sebastian Vettel who might become a three-time world champion before the Spaniard and we do have Lewis Hamilton, who is a pure racer in every sense of the word. But Alonso, with his undying perseverance is quite simply something else.
It serves well to remember that Ferrari were quite pathetic at the start of the season. Yet he has been competitive all through-out, and is in contention even now, when Red Bull have stolen a march on qualifying pace. It means that Vettel has a clear shot at getting pole for the next three races too and as everyone knows, he is quite good at winning from that position. There were loud cheers in the media centre when Alonso overtook the two McLarens and then again when he went past Webber. It is obvious then that Formula One, as a whole, loves this contest.
Elsewhere, Grosjean drove a good race, starting outside the top ten and using his prime tyres quite well in the first stint. Bruno Senna too enjoyed a good result for Williams and it was a shame that Pastor Maldonado couldn't get into the points, because of all three competing midfield teams, Williams seemed to be on the pace here. Sauber had a complete disaster, Sergio Perez even more so. And over the weekend, one couldn't help but get the feeling that he would rather be at McLaren already.
For the 'home' team, Force India, it was another tough race after the inaugural one last year. Nico Hulkenberg did better than Adrian Sutil, finishing eighth as compared to the latter's ninth in 2011. Paul di Resta is all at sea here, however. In fact, in the build-up to the race, with Force India doing so many events with local media, he seemed to be sulking a bit. Maybe that is because he hasn't gotten a better drive, and in theory his team-mate has. But off late, Nico to Sauber rumours seemed to have cooled a bit, so we don't really know what's happening there.
Force India are confident that they will have the same drivers for next season (not a matter of choice for Paul atleast). They are also confident, therefore, that Narain Karthikeyan won't be driving for them. He has been making quite some noise about getting a better drive next season onwards, but it won't happen at Vijay Mallya's team for sure. The Indian GP is a chance for him to grab some eyeballs, because let us be honest, he is a sort of hero here for having come this far. But that doesn't hide from the truth. He is probably not good enough for this level, and this consistent talk of moving from HRT points to two things. Either, HRT are not racing next season (which is again a paddock rumour) or Narain is out of F1 after 2012.
Meanwhile, Michael Schumacher had a very sad last race in India. Before the race he spoke about finishing in points, and even the Indian fans would have liked to see that. Getting a tyre puncture on the first lap, then being flagged blue all through the race, and getting a meeting with the FIA post-race (no reprimands) is not the last racing memory we wanted of the legend.
One would want to close out this 2012 Indian GP blog with another memorable Kimi Raikkonen quote. But he didn't really give any after the race, probably miffed with that Ferrari's rear-wing all over his face for sixty laps. On Saturday though, after qualifying, he did say this: 'Development race is about money and some other teams probably have a lot more to spend than us. We are a smaller team compared to them and I cannot do anything to change it. It is what it is.'