Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Post Race Analysis: 2012 Airtel Indian Grand Prix

The second year of the Indian Grand Prix saw many changes to the Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida. With better facilities near the grand stands , better media rooms and more importantly no stray dogs running around while the cars got on to the track. 

I chose my seats at the Classic West Stand having sat the Classic East 2 for the inaugural Indian Grand Prix. The West Stand overlooked the penultimate corner of the circuit (turn 15) and gave breath-taking views of drivers finding the limits and trying different lines on Friday practice ; the thoroughbred nature of a Formula One car at turns 10 ,11 and at the fast chicane of 13 and 14 during qualifying and many overtaking maneuvers at the end of the DRS zone at turn 4 during the race.

Fans from all around the world came to enjoy this unique circuit.
 A Renault supporter from 05,06?

Sebastian Vettel fans all the way from Dresden!

During my loitering around and exploring the various merchandising areas of the circuit between sessions , I did manage to covertly sneak into the Main Grandstand area for FP2 only to be thoroughly disappointed and bored with the lack of action those seats offer. Personal preference probably, but I've always said that Formula One cars are a thing of beauty and elegance in the corners, not so much on the straights.

Around the circuit the usual chaos did loom. Starting with numerous guards and officials whistling maniacally as you entered the circuit, supposedly with the intent of "guiding" you , giving you a feeling of being caged in a zoo. Tight security checks are justified in India , but some instances were just outright ostentatious. I was initially denied entry to the stand as I carried a flag due it having a plastic stick which was a "security concern", despite buying it from one of the merchandising shops at the circuit itself. It took some frantic convincing and arguing for the track officials to see through their lunacy , an unsettling experience to say the least.
Furthermore ,you were only allowed to exit and re-enter your stand once which was absolutely ridiculous on Friday and Saturday considering that were ample time between sessions and that the main F1 village which had most of fan events going on, could only be accessed by exiting your zone in the first place.
At the main grandstand, I encountered a person in his late 70's trying desperately hard to convince a security personal to allow him to carry water to his seat. He begged and tried to reason with the guard that he would have to traverse three flights of stairs every time he was thirsty and all this ,despite paying 30,000 Rupees for the "comfort" a watching a race at the prime location. Overly persnickety,utterly bothersome and an absolute disregard for comfort, if they do indeed plan to keep the attendance figures up in the coming years they severely need to brush things up in terms of crowd satisfaction and general hospitality.To end up disgruntling a die hard fan like myself, someone who pledges to the passion of the sport and overlooks these teething issues it'll be hard for them to keep the casual first comer hooked.

Despite being at the back of the grid, HRT did win many hearts.
But to give credit where it is due, the track itself was fantastic.No longer was it a sand dune off the racing line, the surrounding areas had plush green grass and the marshals and volunteers were did an fantastic job. Ultimately, considering that the Indian Grand Prix is probably the only race on the calendar not backed by the host nation's government and an entirely private venture , 
the Jaypee Group has to be appreciated in taking this huge risk and getting the sport for us fans to enjoy in India. Whatever people say, this WILL contribute to the rise of motor sport in the country. With a population of over a billion people, the odds surely favor finding a Formula One super star here in this country.
The Red Bull's were on another level in all sessions as Force India looked to impress at their home circuit

Fans from all over turned up in good numbers on Sunday

Race Analysis:

Kimi probably telling Heikki how large his vodka shot was last night

Coming into the race , Fernando Alonso had relinquished his championship lead to Sebastian Vettel for the first time since his win at Valencia. It does seem a long time ago and just goes to show how quickly things can change in Formula One. In that context this season is not over yet, despite the current Red Bull blitz.

As the lights went off on Sunday , for a change Mark Webber got a better start than him team-mate,but Seb neatly chopped across enough for Mark to get on the defensive and brake earlier into Turn 1. Hamilton got his self confessed usual bad start which his team-mate Button took full advantage, but the 2008 champion wasn't going to give up that easy and dived down the inside into turn 3 ensuring a 1 km drag race down the back straight. 
But cunningly observing the duel between the two British McLaren drivers was a cerebral Spaniard , who gained a massive tow and overtook them both into turn 4. Another 3 car battle ensured between the former World Champions , showing utmost respect and class in fighting wheel to wheel. Setting a perfect example for the rest of the field. Button eventually won and got past Alonso but the relentless Asturian got the third place from him within a couple of laps. 

At the head of the field, Sebastian drove his perfect race , not bothered by the usual plume of back markers he had to overtake including the luckless Michael Schumacher who suffered a puncture going into Turn 1. The crowd saddened by this legend of Formula One being overtaken. Vettel looked immaculate,never losing focus into any braking zone , never locking a wheel or going off line. Perfection. He was miles ahead of his team-mate who being caught by the charging Alonso who was driving in stark contrast to his championship rival.
Lewis Hamilton hounding Mark Webber for third place.

Fernando was on the edge, that Ferrari looked as if it would fly off the circuit any moment. He was kicking dust on the inside kerb of turn 13 chicane. At turn 15 , he was throwing the car in and balancing it on the yaw , making corrections mid corner every single lap. His downshifts accurate ever single time , you could easily make out he had grabbed the car by the scruff of the throat and was giving it everything he had.

The fans went mad ! Ferdi enticed even the F1 virgins in the crowd who had readily given their allegiance towards the great Schumacher or the champion/past race winner Vettel . They all gasped as they noticed the over steer moments. This was what people had paid for , the "added" experience of watching a race live. This is what many miss whilst watching a race on TV. You could actually feel the aggression,the intensity of the Ferrari driver and stand back and truly agree with him that he indeed produced 60 qualifying laps.

The fans enthralled by the relentless Alonso
There was a nice touch at the end ,at the presentation ceremony when Martin Brundle questioned Sebastian on his new record which equaled Senna's. As he answered, the crowd impatiently chanted "Alonso,Alonso,Alonso". The Main Grand-stand reverberating with his name even before Vettel could finish his point, distracting and annoying the German a bit. 

And when Brundle turned to the driver of the day, the Buddh International Circuit erupted. Brundle had to stand back as the crowd went frantic cheering and thanking him for his never-say-die attitude. The TV cameras for a brief moment catching Christian Horner's expression as he looked with bemusement at the response. That for me sealed the deal that Formula One in India is here to stay.... 


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