Bulldozing the opposition to front row
Vettel and Webber may have sealed a qualifying one-two for Red Bull, but on a track with many overtaking opportunities it will be an open race, Narain Karthikeyan writes.india Updated: Oct 28, 2012 01:18 IST
After the initial emotional rush of the first day of track action at Buddh, things were slowly falling back to normalcy on Day Two. As I said yesterday, we had some issues in second practice, which cost me some track time — so I was keen to get on in the final morning practice and qualifying.
The session was quite productive but the track was still changing so much that it was difficult to decide the setup direction at times. The setup was working well yesterday, but since the track temperature was lower in the morning, the balance changed slightly.
In qualifying, we encountered something I've never experienced before. It was incredible to run into so much traffic on a circuit of this length and width. All cars were staying out as tyres were easily good for more than one lap and I paid the price on my fast lap.Anyway, we put on the second set and went out again — the lap was pretty good but I lost, maybe, two-tenths when I ran wide at Turn 14. I think, the car had the pace to do a low 1:30 lap (mine was a 1:30.593).
Looking ahead to the race, I think last year's 17th place was a dream result considering the equipment we had, but matching it this year would be tough on pace alone. But I'm just hoping to keep my nose clean and looking forward to a strong finish.
The tyre strategy looks quite interesting. The primes are lasting really long and degradation isn't a problem. So, I think a one-stop strategy may be possible, although it would be a brave call.
Up ahead in the front, Red Bull's domination was expected since early on in the weekend. The momentum is clearly behind them, having won three races on the trot. But while it is clear that they had an undeniable edge over the McLarens in qualifying, there is still hope for an interesting race at the head of the order. It is easy to look at lap times and divide it by the number of laps to get an average lap time for a long run, but no one, except the teams, has any clue about the amount of fuel everyone is running on. So, it is difficult to gauge race pace, but it is the only hope that will keep Vettel and Webber from sprinting away into the distance and give Button, Hamilton, Alonso and Massa a fighting chance.
Overtaking is another key aspect and despite the fact that the BIC was the first circuit to be designed under the new FIA guidelines to promote overtaking with wide entries in three places and two DRS zones leading to second gear corners, it is still going to be difficult to pass. The second DRS zone leading up to Turn Four has been extended by 80 metres, which means we'll see some action with drivers going into turn four side by side.
So, lots of factors in play, and tonnes to look forward to in the second Indian GP. See you there!