Given the multitude of tyre strategies and the grey area of soft tyre degradation, an intriguing Indian GP was in prospect. And that turned out exactly to be the case for most drivers, although it didn’t change things by much upfront. Sebastian Vettel secured a hat-trick of Indian GP wins and sealed his fourth consecutive world title, with
Red Bull sewing up the constructors’ championship as well.
After what was mostly a routine start barring a few incidents at the back, Vettel’s early stop for a tyre change on lap two took most by surprise. But I think it was critical to Red Bull’s strategy as they quickly realised that the degradation on the soft tyre with full tanks of fuel was immense, and each lap without pitting would mean he would be losing time.
Out of the way
So they got those tyres out of the way quickly and even though it dropped him right to the back of the pack, it took him all of ten laps to come through the field and slot himself in third place. That searing pace really summed up the class Vettel was in at Buddh.
But of course in Formula 1, it is never about the driver alone. Machinery plays a critical role and there is no doubt that Adrian Newey has been the standard as far as F1 design is concerned. Most new fans would know him only since the time he turned around Red Bull’s fortunes from a backmarker team to a four-time world
championship winning squad. But the Briton’s brilliance has been consistently been on display ever since he first came into F1 back in 1988.
After a few years in lower categories and Indycar, Newey’s first F1 design — the March 881 almost took victory in its maiden season, with Ivan Capelli finishing second in Portugal in 1988. He then moved to Williams in the early 90s and the team’s domination of that era was unprecedented — with the 1992 FW14B perhaps being the most technically advanced F1 car of all times.
His move to Mclaren in 1997 also met with instant success — with Häkkinen winning consecutive titles in 1998/99 and the following Michael Schumacher era was perhaps the only dip in form on his CV. He then joined Red Bull in 2006 and when the first major rule change came along in 2009, he seized the opportunity and the rest is history.
With another major rule change in the pipeline next year, it will be a fascinating prospect to watch the design genius adapt to the new era against the might of factory teams of Ferrari and Mercedes. Under the current rules with engine development pretty much frozen, the efficiency of chassis design dominates a team’s performance equation.
But with new powertrains with heavy reliance on electric hybrid technology slated for next year, the ratio is certainly set to change and it will be fascinating to see which team adapts to it the best. Back to the Indian GP, ultimately we never found out if Webber had the winning strategy thanks to his alternator failure, but I was a little surprised that Red Bull decided to put him on the soft tyres for his second stint. Logically, you would use the softs in the last stint when the fuel load is at its lowest — like in China when Vettel pitted on lap 52 (of a 56 lap race) to take on softs for a short dash to the flag.
Apart from Vettel, I think the driver of the day was Grosjean — who managed to get on the podium having started 17th because of some ill-judged moves. But this year he has been really sublime. He braved it out and made a one-stop strategy work, and I think the Lotus strategists more than made up for their disastrous Saturday.
Despite the underwhelming start to the weekend — the Indian GP ended on a remarkable note. Everyone at the circuit witnessed history and if for nothing else, the third running of the Indian GP will forever be etched in F1 history for crowning a deserving four-time world champion. How many places can boast of that?
The writer is India’s first F1 driver