Indian GP - A fourth a sixth and a crash
Noida, 29 October - The first ever qualifying session at the Buddh circuit outside New Delhi delivered plenty of excitement, even if Sebastian Vettel was once again out of reach for all the other 23 drivers as the Red Bull man scorched to his thirteenth pole of the season. Having run competitively in all three free practice sessions, Fernando Alonso was pleased to have made it onto the second row, by setting the fourth fastest time. Second fastest was Lewis Hamilton for McLaren, followed by Mark Webber in the Red Bull, while in between the two Ferraris, as Felipe Massa set the sixth time, was fifth placed Jenson Button in the second McLaren. However, the order for the front three rows of the grid tomorrow will not follow the qualifying time sheet. Lewis Hamilton incurred a penalty for a yellow flag infringement on Friday and drops three place to fifth, thus sharing row 3 with Felipe. The front row now becomes an all-Red Bull affair, as Webber moves to second place. Fernando slides across Row 2 to be third with Button next to him.
Fernando therefore looks well placed to aim to end the first Indian Grand Prix looking across the track from the podium. His team-mate will have a more difficult time, even if Row 3 is a good starting point. After he had set his time in Q3, Felipe was pushing hard to move up the order, when he rode the kerb at Turn 8. This was not a benign small step but a larger type of kerb and the impact destroyed the front right suspension of the 150º Italia. From this point on, the Brazilian was just a passenger as there was no way he could steer the Ferrari. It ended up spearing the barriers at the side of the track. Fortunately, the driver was able to get out unaided and escaped any injury. The team mechanics now have plenty of work to do to repair the damage, while tomorrow, the Brazilian will have one less set of Soft tyres, as they were damaged in the incident. The team strategists will now look at the best way of managing his race, because, having brought the Hard tyre as the “Option” here, to be on the safe side on an unknown track, Pirelli reckons the difference in time between the Hard and the faster Soft, is of the order of 2 seconds per lap, which is a very big difference.
Tomorrow’s 60 laps will be a step into the unknown, not just because it is the first ever Indian Grand Prix, but also because the green track surface will continue to evolve throughout the race, while the dirt off the racing line means that overtaking will need to be tackled with real convinction. It promises to be an interesting and a significant afternoon in the history of Grand Prix racing.