Rickshaw rides in Old Delhi, 'wild' encounters with elephants and no simulator data on the Buddh International Circuit. These are the experiences of Mercedes GP drivers Nico Rosberg, Michael Schumacher and their team principal Ross Brawn as they gear up for the Indian GP. Addressing a press conference, the core of the team who lie fourth in the constructors' championship gave the feeling that is a walk into the unknown for the majority of the grid.
Teams fortunate enough to have simulator data like Red Bull, and reportedly Force India, have some idea of what to expect when their drivers gear up for the first practice session on Friday. However, Mercedes have to go into the race unprepared.
"We usually get an accurate laser scan of a new circuit before a race," said Brawn. "But we weren't able to get any data for this circuit unfortunately." Fortunately for Brawn and Mercedes GP, one of their two drivers has some experience of driving on the brand new circuit. "I have driven the circuit on a scooter," said Rosberg. "There's a section with some really fast chicanes that is pretty challenging with a lot of elevation changes too."
Rosberg's illustrious teammate, however, is yet to sample a circuit that some in the foreign press have described as a modern version of the Interlagos track in Sao Paulo that is used for the Brazilian Grand Prix. "I have had plenty of experience driving on new circuits before," said Schumacher. "So it's not something that is very new to me." What was new to him, however, was the sight of an elephant in the hotel in Greater Noida where he and the other drivers are put up.
"I love it when there are wild things about," Schumacher joked, when asked about his first impression of India. "I know the elephant was there for tourists, but it was still pretty fun."
Rosberg went one step further to soak in the atmosphere of the capital by taking a rickshaw ride in Old Delhi. "It was an amazing experience to ride in that rickshaw through these streets," he said.