- Indian Grand Prix - The Final Stint
A Buddh day for Vettel
A round-up of the good, the bad and the downright ugly from the 2012 Indian Grand Prix
- Indian Grand Prix
A sense of deja vu
No one else can touch Sebastian Vettel at the moment. He's won the last four races and led the last 205 laps of grand prix racing. At the start of the season that would have been unthinkable, but Red Bull have tapped into an incredibly rich vein of form to the point that it's hard to imagine any other driver winning the last three races. Fernando Alonso has been powerless to react in a Ferrari that is over 0.5s slower over one lap, but is keeping the pressure on. Finishing second in India was a fantastic result but he still dropped points to Vettel, with the gap now at 13. Ferrari has been playing up its next update to the car in Abu Dhabi - and it needs it to be big - but don't expect Red Bull and Adrian Newey to stand still. Ultimately, Alonso needs Vettel to register a DNF or two to stand a real chance.
On Thursday Ferrari issued a statement on its website saying it would be running the insignia of the Italian navy on its cars' nose cones in India. "In doing so," read the statement, "Ferrari pays tribute to one of the outstanding entities of our country, also in the hope that the Indian and Italian authorities will soon find a solution to the situation currently involving two sailors from the Italian Navy." The two Italian marines referred to in the statement were arrested in India in February after being accused of the accidental shooting of two Indian fishermen while accompanying the oil tanker Enrica Lexie. Authorities in Italy and India disagree over how the issue should be resolved and Ferrari's decision to run the flag was understandably seen as a political statement. At no point since February has the flag been run on the car, but in India the team suddenly slapped it right on the nose cone for all to see. Under its own statutes, the FIA should have intervened as teams are not allowed to take political standpoints, but there wasn't even a statement from the governing body. Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali was completely unprepared for questions about the flag and referred journalists to the press office. When ESPNF1 talked to Ferrari's head press officer it was referred to the website. A proper explanation of what Ferrari was trying to achieve was never issued, but fortunately the local Indian motor authority had the good grace not to take the issue any further. Hopefully that will be the last of it in Formula One and the issue can be resolved amicably and fairly between the two countries without any outside pressure.
The Story of the Weekend
- Shock Charles Pic - From last on the grid it looked like it could be an anonymous weekend for Pic, but he finished the race ahead of team-mate Timo Glock after an impressive race. It might not be the biggest headline, but in a day when everybody else finished as you would expect it's worth highlighting the efforts of the Marussia driver
- Shocker Sergio Perez - For someone who is supposed to be an expert in tyre management, Perez chewed through his first set of tyres and put himself on a two-stop strategy. He then ruined his race by clipping Daniel Ricciardo as he tried to pass
- Best overtake Bruno Senna - He had a good afternoon but one of the highlights was his move on team-mate Pastor Maldonado on the run down to turn five on lap 16 after the other Williams had come under pressure from Romain Grosjean
- Best lap Sebastian Vettel - His final lap was yet more proof of just how dominant he was in India. It was eventually beaten as the fastest lap by Jenson Button's final lap, but was an impressive display of tyre management nonetheless
- Worst lapSergio Perez - He ran wide at turn four on lap 19 in his eagerness to pass Daniel Ricciardo and before he had the opportunity to reach turn four again he misjudged a move at turn one and picked up a puncture
- Drive of the day Fernando Alonso - Sebastian Vettel was very impressive, but Fernando Alonso was under more pressure and had more positions to make up. With the help of a KERS problem on Mark Webber's car he finished ahead of one of the Red Bulls but was up there all afternoon
Budget cap on the agenda
Cost cutting has been a divisive issue in the sport this year. The Formula One Teams' Association was divided over the future of the RRA and Red Bull and Toro Rosso were not invited to recent meetings about how the other teams intended to go forward. But one man who thrives on dividing and conquering is Bernie Ecclestone and once he again he seems to have come up with a solution. The proposal is for a budget cap with an initial limit as high as $250million, but the promise of lowering that limit over time. At the moment it would barely have an impact on the top teams but the smaller outfits are happy to sign up as they see it as a starting point for lowering costs in the future. Red Bull is happy because the budget cap is supposed to incorporate all aspects of expenditure apart from marketing, meaning there won't be any of the loopholes Red Bull believes its manufacturer rivals have available to them under the current RRA. It's not quite a done deal, but it's the closest F1 has come to agreeing on anything to do with cost measures for some time.
Smoother round the edges
The first Indian Grand Prix was well received by the public, but circuit goers found a track that wasn't quite ready. Bats were seen in the media centre, stairways were unfinished and working conditions weren't ideal. Second time round and many of the creases had been ironed out. Martin Whitmarsh revealed that FOTA sent a list to the circuit owners with improvements and changes it wished to see, and in the weeks running up to the race a reply was received detailing how many of then had been addressed. It made for an easier experience for the teams, drivers and media at the circuit, and another successful grand prix. However, despite it being a privately funded race, the contrast between life inside the paddock and the world outside remains uncomfortable.
Driver market remains unstable
One thing that became clear in India was that plenty of question marks remain over the driver market. Force India wants to retain Paul di Resta, but he admits he's "disappointed" not to have secured a move to a bigger team. The second seat appears open, with Nico Hulkenberg moving to Sauber - a switch yet to be announced - and Kamui Kobayashi mentioned alongside Jules Bianchi and Adrian Sutil as his possible replacement. Kobayashi is still in contention to remain at Sauber as Esteban Gutierrez did a solid but unspectacular job when given an obvious chance to impress during FP1, while at Williams Pastor Maldonado will stay and Valtteri Bottas is set to replace Bruno Senna who in turn could chase a seat at Sauber, Force India or Caterham. Heikki Kovalainen's recent performances make his future at Caterham uncertain, with the team more likely to keep Vitaly Petrov if not both. Marussia and HRT's second seats remain anyone's guess as they are generally available to the highest bidder.
Bernie going nowhere
Bernie Ecclestone was in a happy mood in the paddock on Sunday; exempt from questions about the BayernLB damages claim on his birthday. Turning 82, Bernie is showing no signs of slowing down and is not ready to move aside. He confirmed that reports that management consultants were searching for his successor were purely a bureaucratic development as part of this year's proposed flotation on the stock exchange, saying "This was something that was put in the prospectus when we were doing the IPO; the people who put together that said we have to put something." When asked if he loved what he does, Ecclestone enthused: "Yeah, absolutely. If I didn't I wouldn't do it."