“As the five red lights go out, in front of you, sitting in pole on the dirty side of the track, you’re a picture of concentration. You drop the clutch, hope to God for minimum wheelspin and get the power down for the short sprint ahead, sweeping left to cover the racing line before braking hard to catch the apex of the 90 degree 2nd gear right hander at turn 1. Get the power down as you hit the apex and veer right to hit the kerb before climbing uphill through the left handed sweeping turn 2, which spits you out right into the braking zone for the slowest point on the track – the 80 kph 2nd gear left hander at turn 3. You’re already through the DRS detection zone, but that’s a worry for a few laps down the line. Your immediate concern is to use all of the road as it widens out and opens up onto the main straight, over 1 km long, wide stretch which also houses the DRS zone. The straight takes you through a big elevation change as the road drops away downhill before climbing up again. Use up a bit of your KERS to get that extra kick out of the hairpin as you launch yourself up through the gears, extending your lead through sector 1.
You’re going to hit top speed on the straight, and your gearing ratios will determine how fast you go, even as fast as 320kph. Use up too much KERS and you might just be sitting on the rev limiter for a touch longer than you’d like. At the end of the straight, there’s a slightly uphill braking area for the 2nd gear right handed hairpin at turn 4. Nail the braking point, else you’ll be struggling for grip on downward sloping the run out onto the shorter straight leading into the infield. You could use a bit more of your KERS here if required, but it’s best saved for the home stretch. Up through the gears to 5th, and the road suddenly drops away into a very technical and breathless sequence. Flick left, hit the apex at 215 kph, slide out, feather the throttle through the fast 160kph, 4th gear left-right chicane, rushing up a gear, immediately flipping right-left through the second chicane taken in 5th gear, 200 kph, the ‘Massa curve’, as it was light-heartedly dubbed after the Ferrari driver’s many off-track adventures there last year. Catch your breath as you climb up accelerating to 5th gear into the last sector. You’re going to need it as the realization hits: that you were just building speed and the toughest test awaits you yet.
Lo and behold, for here lies one of the most challenging corners on the calendar. The double apex right clockwise loop at the bottom of the circuit is one of the toughest corners to master. You’re braking and turning at the same time to hit the first apex in 4th gear, easing onto the power as the car tries to slide outwards to hit the kerb along the outer circumference, and then pulling the car back with all your might to hit the second apex at the inside of the loop’s exit, and left again, accelerating all the time through the latter bit, reaching 220kph in 6th gear by the time you’re out. The car needs to be set up just perfectly to maximize aero and mechanical grip to get a good time out of this little sequence. Barely have you straightened the car out, than you find yourself dropping to 4th gear for a fast right-left chicane, once again climbing uphill. Attack the kerbs to get a a good exit here, and power up to 5th gear with a dash of KERS before braking late into the 3rd gear right hander. Use the exit kerbs as you accelerate downhill, fighting to stay ahead as you brake for the 90kph 2nd gear left hander that brings you back on to the start-finish straight. Be careful while getting back on the power, it’s easy to spin out here, and very tough to recover from it. Get back on power, and use up the last bit of KERS to go blasting past the grand stand, in the lead and onto the next lap!”
Phew! Whose would these thoughts be, come Sunday, October 26th? The doc will be hoping against hope that they belong to Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard desparately needs some luck and a lot of speed to go his way. Another romp to victory from Sebastien Vettel, and Alonso might as well kiss his title hopes goodbye for another season. It’s been a very closely fought battle, but the late Bull-run has now gone beyond just looking threatening. There’s a certain rhythm that seems to be forming under the surface. The McLarens look strong in practice, Ferraris show promise, but the Red Bulls come into their own from FP3. Qualifying is still anybody’s game from rows 3 through 8, but at the top, the pattern seems set. Alonso’s consistent podium finishes have kept him in the lead, but he needs race wins, badly. Each race he doesn’t win is a race where he’s hoping and praying to finish ahead of Vettel, which doesn’t look like it might happen naturally.
The constructors’ title is not mathematically won yet, but it is hard to see RBR lose the plot. The real tussle seems to be for second position, between Ferrari, McLaren and Lotus. Felipe Massa‘s return to form will definitely help Ferrari’s bid to stay in P2, while McLaren need both their drivers to have problem free races and score points to move past the prancing horse in the championship standings. Lotus’ lack of race wins means they’ll be struggling to keep up in the race for P2, but that doesn’t take anything away from their phenomenal season thus far. Lotus have been the revelation of the season, alongside Sauber, both teams looking to finish one position above their respective 4th and 6th current standings by the end of the season.
Well, with so much at stake, the 60 laps around the Buddh International Circuit for the 2012 Airtel Indian Grand Prix promise to be action packed and spectacular! Be sure to catch all the action right here, as we bring you all the bytes and analysis right through the Grand Prix Week!