Greater Noida, 25 October – In terms of how the teams are performing relative to one another at the Buddh International Circuit, for the most part the picture is about as clear as the visibility through the smog that hangs over this industrial area outside the Indian capital city of New Delhi. What can be seen in all light conditions is that all the momentum is still with Red Bull Racing, as Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber occupied today’s two virtual front rows of the grid. Trying to hang on to their coat tails was third placed Romain Grosjean in the Lotus, with Lewis Hamilton fourth in the Mercedes.
After a difficult start to the day, due to a mechanical gremlin on his F138, Fernando Alonso pulled things together in the afternoon to post the fifth fastest time in the afternoon. The Spaniard put in 39 laps, to catch up for lost time, while Felipe did two more in his F138 on his way to seventh place on the time sheet. Splitting the two Ferraris is Nico Rosberg in the second Mercedes. The times mean little on a day when the most expensive race cars in the world spend some time acting as the most expensive road sweepers in the world. Even so, the Prancing Horse performance was relatively encouraging, but the first real answer will come tomorrow in qualifying.
The main preoccupation today, as has so often been the case this season, surrounded the tyres. After accusations that last year’s one-stop Indian Grand Prix was a bit dull, Pirelli has gone for a more aggressive tyre choice, with its Soft and Medium compounds and the softer Option was showing signs of graining and blistering on some cars. Dealing with these additional factors makes for some interesting strategic choices both for tomorrow and Sunday afternoon’s 60 lap race. Given the accepted fact that the F138 is not the quickest car in the field, it’s these unknown factors that offer up the chance of gaining an advantage through clever choices. That means one thing at the moment at the Buddh circuit – a long night of analysing data for the Prancing Horse engineers.
Indian GP – Encouraging signs?
Fernando Alonso “It was a Friday like any other, apart from a mechanical problem this morning which reduced my track time. Fortunately, this did not affect the programme too much, with a first session given over mainly to getting used to this track again. It’s always important to get the right feeling for a circuit, and especially to try the tyres, that are very important here. We also got a first idea of our race pace and also the rate of tyre degradation: we must take into account that track conditions on Sunday will be very different to today’s. The situation is not that different to recent races. We are a bit behind in performance terms and tomorrow we must try and get a good starting position to get away well in the race and make it to the podium”.
Felipe Massa “A positive day today, with the car working well and I hope that on Sunday things will end up even better, because I like this track a lot. On my first lap with the Softs, I didn’t manage to set a good time because of the traffic, but I am quite pleased with the race simulation I did in the afternoon, because on the Medium tyres, I managed to do a lot of laps and that’s a very interesting point in terms of the race. Degradation is not that high here and so I don’t think we will see a lot of pit stops. I think we won’t see too many pit-stops, even if we will have to be careful with the Soft tyres in the first stint because of blistering. The team to beat is still Red Bull, but we have to see how the other cars will perform, especially in qualifying, because Mercedes and Lotus are very quick. As usual, we will have to push to the maximum”.
Pat Fry “A problem on Fernando’s gearbox restricted his running in the morning session to just six laps. Some components were changed for reliability reasons and that got him back out on track in the afternoon, when he made up for lost time, working on set-up and the general balance of the car. With both drivers we tried to adapt the aerodynamic downforce to the amount of grip available from this track, as it gradually improved. Looking ahead to the race, today it was important for us to understand the behaviour of the tyres chosen for this track by Pirelli over a long run. It was the usual Friday in that the time sheet has little significance, but it did supply worthwhile clues for the race and the data relating to our pace is encouraging. We just need to pay close attention to the performance of the two compounds, starting with tomorrow’s qualifying to work out the best race strategy”.
Indian GP – Hopeful simulation
Greater Noida, 25 October – Everything went smoothly for Scuderia Ferrari in this afternoon’s practice session at the Buddh International Circuit. A dry track and smoggy skies provided the backdrop to a busy programme which saw Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa complete 39 and 41 laps respectively. The Spaniard was fifth fastest in 1.26.430, while the Brazilian was seventh in 1.26.601.
In under two hours the engineers identified and solved the gearbox problem which stopped Alonso in the morning, so that he was able to complete the full session. He did his first 7 lap run on Mediums. Massa did 10 laps in the first half hour, also on Mediums. The Spaniard made his second run on the same set for another 7 laps, getting down to a 1.27.598. He thus made up for the time lost in FP1 before going out on the Softs for a qualifying simulation, lapping in 1.26.430 on his first flying lap. Massa had done a 1.26.601 on the Option at the end of his second flying lap. The last 40 minutes were given over to the usual long runs with Massa and Alonso alternating between the two compounds, acquiring valuable data on different fuel loads.
Indian GP – A dusty start
Greater Noida, 25 October – The two Red Bulls topped the first time sheet of the Indian Grand Prix weekend, taking place at the Buddh International Circuit on the outskirts of New Delhi. The track was very dusty for the start of the sixteenth round of the world championship, as Sebastian Vettel went quickest in 1.26.683, followed by Mark Webber (1.26.871.) In third place was Nico Rosberg (1.26.899) for Mercedes. The first of the Ferrari drivers was Felipe Massa, eighth on the time sheet with a time of 1.27.692, while in the other F138, Fernando Alonso was twelfth with a lap in 1.28.214. However, the Spaniard’s session came to a premature end, because of a gearbox problem currently being evaluated by the engineers. He therefore only managed 6 laps, in a session spent, as usual, working on car set-up, with both drivers using just one set of Medium tyres.