Greater Noida, Oct. 27 -- We could discuss the tepid response to the Indian Grand Prix in its second edition, both in terms of ticket sales and 'buzz'. Or Ferrari making a meal of handling a controversial topic, but let's just stick to the action on track shall we?
Sebastian Vettel looks set to repeat his 'grand chelem' of last year's Indian GP, when he took pole, fastest lap and a victory. He set the fastest lap in both practice sessions on Friday and was not too far ahead of Red Bull Racing teammate Mark Webber in the second session. However, there were some signs of life from Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, who at one point during the season was leading the drivers' championship by 40 points.
Just like in every season since 2009, however, Red Bull have been the best at developing their title challenger throughout the season. Especially towards the end of a season, which is of course, when it all really matters. Put that down to the fact that they are owned by an energy drinks giant or that they have the most creative designer in Formula 1 today or that they have in Vettel, a driver with little in the way of shortcomings. It's up to you really, but what you should know, going into the serious part of the Indian GP weekend is that unless it pours or the temperature drops enough on Sunday for the track temperature to drop into the mid-20s there will be little to stop Vettel opening up a 13 point (at least) lead over Alonso.
With that out of the way, you should be scanning the field of 24 cars in its entirety to get the most out of the weekend. There's the extremely engrossing battle between two of the best young drivers on the grid who also happen to be teammates at Force India. Paul Di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg are separated by a single point and the latter is rumored to be off to Sauber to replace Sergio Perez who is off to McLaren to replace Lewis Hamilton who is off to Mercedes to replace Michael Schumacher who is retiring (whew, long sentence).
The various plot points that will play out amongst this group alone will be influenced by the results of qualifying and the race and will be worth keeping an eye on.
There's also the potentially strong performance of Schumacher's Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg who was sixth and fourth fastest in the two sessions on Friday. Look out for him to possibly grab the limelight for a while in qualifying but don't expect too much as the German himself is not confident of the W03's abilities in the Buddh International Circuit's most technical section (turns 5 to 12).
Do expect something of a challenge from McLaren's Jenson Button, however. The Englishman placed second here last year and was second to Vettel again in the opening session by just over 0.3 seconds. Limited running in the second session possibly helped hide his true cards. But again, Vettel was able to hold him off last year, so be prepared for a similar outcome.
Then of course there is a chance of seeing a repeat of Narain Karthikeyan's strong performance at last year's race when he finished ahead of Red Bull's highly touted junior driver Daniel Ricciardo. The two may have been teammates with an uncompetitive team but it served to solidify Karthikeyan's credentials as one of the fastest and most determined racers in F1 today.
Karthikeyan has stacked up well against experienced Spaniard Pedro De La Rosa this year and in practice too until a hydraulic failure caused him to sit out a large part of the second session. Should there be no more mechanical gremlins ailing his HRT F112 on Saturday and Sunday, expect Karthikeyan to stack up well against even the Marussia F1 drivers, one of whom is the 2007 GP2 champion.
In case you are one of the hardy ones coming all the way to the circuit, there is also some good news in that the Yamuna Expressway is open to the public at last. Inacessibility to it by spectators last year due to it not being open caused major headaches for people trying to get to the circuit either by car or the park and ride facilities. Expect a smoother ride this year, but this being the National Capital Region don't expect there to be no traffic snarls at all.
Whether you're in front of the tube, tracking live updates on the net, or hopefully here in person, expect a pattern to the coming events, but this being F1, expect the unexpected too.
Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.