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Winners and Losers: Indian GP
Sunday 28th October 2012

Pic by Sutton Images

Star of the Race
Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, 1st
The positive statistics for Red Bull and Vettel were coming as thick and fast as the haze in New Delhi – four wins in a row for Seb, his biggest winning streak in F1; three consecutive front-row lock-outs for Red Bull; no-one apart from Vettel has ever led the Indian GP; the most consistent period of race leading for 20 years. No wonder Alonso looks gloomy despite his second place.
Vettel’s only scary moment, apart from the “plank which is sparkling like hell” (Andrea Stella) was when he came across a Maldonado not at full racing pace

The Big ‘What If…’
So what would have happened if…it had been Lewis Hamilton, not Jenson Button who got ahead of Fernando Alonso on the opening lap. Hamilton thought that if he’d got the position Jenson had, then he could have hung onto a podium place. Given that Alonso was going away from him in the opening stint at quite a rate, that’s highly unlikely. On Lap 23 Alonso was 10.3 seconds ahead and the Ferrari was just so much better on the Softs. Fernando would have been “able to DRS him” (the new F1 verb) at about the same interval that he DRSed Jenson.

Overtaking Move of the Race
Lap 16: Bruno Senna on Pastor Maldonado, Williams-Renault
Pastor Maldonado’s never the easiest driver to overtake and certainly he and Grosjean have had their moments this season. So when they both headed towards Turn 4, together with Bruno Senna in close attendance, you had three of the five members of the Carbon Fibre Club in place (Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez being the other two). Pastor defended, Grosjean had the DRS advantage and Senna had the not-being-able-to-defend-against-two-drivers-by-looking-in-both-mirrors-at-once advantage over his team-mate. Grosjean got past thanks to the technology, but Senna’s move by running wide and then getting on the power early on the exit to outdrag Maldonado to Turn 5 was as neat as you’d expect from Alonso. And nobody touched. Senna’s pass of Rosberg late in the race looked equally classy. A point for Bruno is good, but it’s hardly going to change hearts and minds at Williams.

Sat on the Naughty Step
Kamui Kobayashi, Sauber, 14th
Another visit to the naughty step for Kamui Kobayashi after he did one of his unfathomable turning-left-when-he-should-be-turning right moments. As Pastor Maldonado overtook him the Japanese driver just steered his front wing into Maldonado’s right rear tyre, gave him a puncture and destroyed his race. As the commentary said, he should have been looking to position his car right to make the turn, and he went left. It was vaguely reminiscent of the moment at Spa when he steered into Lewis Hamilton’s rear tyre instead of dropping back and taking the line for the corner (for which Hamilton unnecessarily took the blame)

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, 2nd
Well, you can’t say he’s not trying, can you. Alonso did everything within his power to get close to Vettel at the Indian GP and his unremitting pursuit paid off when Mark Webber’s KERS picked the wrong moment to let him down.
The opening lap duel between himself and the two McLaren drivers was one of the best bits of in-car footage we’ll see all season. Especially the moment where he looked like he’d made the move and then they both came past on either side, but neither could brake in time.

Mark Webber, Red Bull, 3rd
As Mark said matter-of-factly after the race, “there was a lot of housekeeping going on during that one.” Meaning he had to pull the brake balance forwards and back as the KERS harvesting kicked in and out as the Red Bull Achilles heel continued to plague them. He did very well to keep ahead of Alonso as long as he did and he also did extraordinarily well to keep Hamilton at bay after Lewis closed to 1.5 seconds on Lap 53, and then lost ground to the Aussie.

Lewis Hamilton, Mclaren, 4th
Lewis was quite buzzy after the race, enjoying being able to drive the cahunas off the car without worrying what the tyres were going to do. In fact he was quite evangelical about how much he enjoyed not having to manage his Pirellis for once, throwing the car through the elevation changes and fast sweepers that makes the Buddh Circuit one that the drivers really enjoy. (So they’re going to love the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, too).
It’s nice to see a smile on his face, but it makes you wonder about his comments on team radio on Lap 39 (just seven laps after taking on his new set of Hards) – “I don’t know if these tyres are going to last…” Unless that was an in-joke.
It shows you how much we missed out on the action, when one of the highlights of the race was watching someone plugging a new steering wheel into Lewis’s car. Though even Mclaren detractors would have to admit that it has to be high in contention for Pit-stop Of The Year. (In fact we also ought to have an award for the worst pit-stop of the year, currently being led by Kamui Kobayashi after he managed to knock two of his pitcrew over – he would collect the D’Ambrosio Award)
I wonder if Lewis is keeping tabs on his ‘new bezzies’ in the Mercedes team. He would have had time to come into parc ferme, have a shower, get changed, do the debrief, a few interviews and still have time to watch Nico Rosberg finish the race. Never mind. He gets to keep all his trophies from now on, something that XIX Management couldn’t swing for him with McLaren. As accountants like to tell you - 100% of nothing is still nothing.

Jenson Button, McLaren, 5th
JB got racy in the final stint when he had nobody to chase down, but he took the fastest lap of the race by over 0.4 of a second on the final tour, which will have hacked off Sebastian Vettel no end. Presumably that’s why he did it.

Felipe Massa, Ferrari, 6th
Judging by the number of spins by drivers in free practice – and the fact that there are a few blind entries to corners and some punitive kerbs (which got Felipe last year) the Buddh International circuit is not easy. So to race for 60 laps with your rival never more than a second a way, while managing a diminishing-too-fast fuel load and not making a mistake is a pretty good day’s work.

Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, 8th
More points for Hulkenberg at the team’s spiritual home grand prix, and an important result for team owner Veejay Mallya with his airline on strike. Hulkenberg’s beginning to shade DiResta.

Sergio Perez, Sauber, DNF
Much better qualifying from Sergio than his team-mate, but it came at a price, an awful set of tyres for the first stint. The impatience that got him into trouble in Japan and Korea was still there with a too-hasty move on Ricciardo that put him out of the race.

Indian GP Promotors
Forget about the main grandstand (because if you can’t fill that you might as well not bother), there were many other grandstands around the circuit with nobody in. Bernie Ecclestone likes to say that he’s taking F1 to new, emerging markets, but there isn’t a solid fanbase in these markets and probably won’t be until they can see home drivers competing. Or the race is based in a city (such as Singapore) where the race comes to the fans. So it’s getting a bit tedious seeing Bernie pull that sad old face of his and saying the money’s not there in Europe – it’s the willingness to back a white elephant with a lot of state capital that’s not there. Abu Dhabi might get a much better bums on seats-to seats ratio, but how many tickets are they selling – 110,000 or 45,000?

Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus, 7thIn his rush to get past Felipe Massa at the pit-stops Raikkonen made the fatal error of getting in front of Massa before the DRS detection line when Massa rejoined after the pit-stops and that was sixth place up the kybosh. He was disappointed after a wrong set-up choice before qualifying and he would have been a whole lot more disappointed after spending a race staring at the Ferrari rear wing. And probably a bit disappointed that Felipe didn’t make a mistake.

Can Caterham Reserve Drivers Do Passable Yoda Impressions?
That’s the kind of question we all end up asking ourselves before a race. They might be great behind the wheel, and big shots in GP2, but can they impersonate some of the much-loved characters in Star Wars? In India James Allen had Caterham reserve driver Giedo van der Garde in the commentary box to assist him and you could always tell something had just happened, because there was a sharp intake of breath from Giedo. When Kobayashi hit Maldonado on Lap 31 we got a big gasp and then: “You touch the brakes. You lose the rear end. And gone you are.”

Andrew Davies