F1 Power Rankings: Indian Grand Prix

The 2012 Formula One World Championship returns to India for the second with a new points leader for the first time since June. Fernando Alonso took the World Drivers’ Championship lead at the European Grand Prix but Sebastian Vettel left Korea with the Championship lead for the first time since the Spanish Grand Prix. Will momentum be on Vettel’s side over the last four races or can Alonso mount a comeback? I start answering that question in this week’s Power Rankings.

#1 Sebastian Vettel (Last Race #1)
The twice-defending World Drivers’ Champion likes the challenge provided by this circuit. He also points out what makes this track unique from other Tilke tracks: “With an average speed of 235kph, the course is the second quickest of the year after Monza. There is a lot of elevation change around the lap which adds to the fun, from as much as 8% downhill and up to 10% uphill; it’s like a roller coaster! It really has emerged as one of the most challenging circuits on the calendar for the drivers.”

#2 Fernando Alonso (LR #2)
With four races to go and a six point deficit to Vettel, can Fernando Alonso still win the World Drivers’ Championship? He’s definitely been consistent since the summer break (three 3rds and two DNFs at the start) but Vettel has been consistently better (three wins, four podiums). The main advantage Alonso still has is the F2012’s reliability. Hot weather has knocked Vettel out of two races this season (Valencia and Italy). With four races with the potential for hot weather to close the season, Fernando needs some luck to close the gap since the car doesn’t have speed.

#3 Jenson Button (LR #3)
I call that multi-apex right an homage to Turkey’s Turn 8. Jenson thinks it’s a copy of Suzuka’s Spoon Curve: “The combination of Turns 10 and 11 is also pretty special – it’s a huge, bowl-shaped double-apex right-hander, a bit like Spoon at Suzuka. It’s unusual for a new circuit to have such fast corners, and it’s really enjoyable when you get the car hooked up through there – the lateral g feels great.”

#4 Felipe Massa (LR #6)
Pirelli Motorsport boss Paul Hembery talks about the tyre situation at the Buddh International Circuit: This year we know a little more about the track so we’ve made a less conservative choice, with the hard and the soft tyres striking exactly the right balance between performance and durability… The Buddh circuit has been specifically designed to encourage overtaking, which is also one of the objectives behind the design philosophy of our tyres, so we should be set for an action-packed race at a crucial point in the championship.”

#5 Kimi Raikkonen (LR #5)
The Iceman says that he hadn’t given up his chase for the championship: “We have to keep working hard and keep a high level of motivation. Personally I feel my own motivation is very high – like it has always been. I’m keen to get the best results I can. Of course, in 2007 the championship wasn’t decided until the last race so anything is possible. Let’s see what happens.”

#6 Lewis Hamilton (LR #4)
Old Louise compares the Buddh circuit to Spa. He’s like a pro wrestler trying for a cheap pop with local fans: “The circuit, too, is something of a revelation. Most modern tracks have a very similar feel; you find that the same driving style and rhythm suits them all. But the Buddh International Circuit is different: it has more in common with a great track like Spa than it does with any number of the more modern places we visit. And that’s because it’s got an incredible flow – basically, from Turn Four, a wide-apex right-hander that sweeps downhill, the track is just a series of fast, rolling curves which really allow you to put the car absolutely on the limit.”

#7 Mark Webber (LR #7)
@AussieGrit sees the Buddh International Circuit as comparable to Korea: “The track is similar to Korea with mainly long straights in sector 1 followed by a very busy sector 2 and 3, so we need to get the balance right between downforce and top speed. It should be reasonably straightforward weather-wise and I’m looking forward to getting out there.”

#8 Romain Grosjean (LR #9)
Grosjean talks about how he learns new tracks: “With all the data we have today we know more about what we need to do in the corners; things like what brake pressure to use on approach, how much throttle to use on exit, how much speed you can carry through the mid-phase of the corner… all this can be looked at with your engineer in advance. In a way it’s easy when you know to use exactly 80 bar of pressure on the brakes or 80% of lift on the throttle for example. You take this information with you on a lap and you know how the car should behave. Of course you find the limit as you push more and more – there are always one or two corners that are more tricky – but normally the majority of the track is actually quite easy.”

#9 Nico Hulkenberg (LR #15)
The Hulk has been on a role since the summer break: “I feel comfortable and confident in the car and the team is doing a good job. We’ve just got a good rhythm and momentum, and that’s so important in Formula One… We just need to make sure we can repeat what we did in Korea during the final four races. We really need to stretch ourselves to get everything we can from the remaining races.”

#10 Nico Rosberg (LR #8)
Keke’s kid is hoping to right the ship this weekend: “The Buddh International Circuit is very challenging with an interesting combination of slow speed corners and long fast straights. The track also has one of the highest average speeds in Formula One and is good for overtaking… I hope that I will have a bit more luck than recently next weekend, and I will have the chance to achieve a good result.”

#11 Michael Schumacher (LR #10)
Old Seven-Time wants to see if India will maintain its passion for Formula One as they return a second time: “The Formula One debut of India last year was certainly a success. There were a surprising amount of fans during the weekend, and the track itself really is cool. We drivers were given a very enthusiastic reception, and it will be interesting to see if this enthusiasm has remained as strong.”

#12 Daniel Ricciardo (LR #14)

#13 Kamui Kobayashi (LR #13)
Kobayashi Maru talks about food in his pre-race quotage so I am obligated to run it but I thought butter chicken wasn’t native to India: “Unfortunately I haven’t seen much of the country yet. What I really love is Indian butter chicken – an Indian classic dish and one of my all time favourites. Perhaps this year I can manage to go and visit the city of New Delhi, but it is quite far away from the track and, as it is so big, it is not easy to get your bearings there.”

#14 Paul di Resta (LR #11)
Dario’s cousin has more than just driving to focus on this weekend: “It’s obviously our home Grand Prix and a special weekend. There’s pressure on us to perform and clearly we need to go there ready to keep the momentum going. It’s a busy week for everyone involved with the team and there’s a lot going on in terms of media work and extra events, but it won’t distract from our focus to come away with the best result we can.”

#15 Sergio Perez (LR #12)
Checo can’t believe the season is almost over. Or is that he’s hoping the season will soon be over: “I cannot believe we have only four races left, so the season will now end quite soon. To make up 20 points to finish fifth in the Constructors’ World Championship means we have quite a job to do. The race in India should be a bit better for us than in Korea, and our car will be quicker there.”

#16 Bruno Senna (LR #16)
Bruno thinks he’s in with a chance at points this weekend: “I’m looking forward to this weekend because India has a different atmosphere to many other Grand Prix and it’s always a unique place to visit. As a new track the surface is very smooth and the layout is fast and flows well with some high speed corners which will suit our car.”

#17 Jean-Eric Vergne (LR #18)

#18 Pastor Maldonado (LR #17)
Wait. What does Pastor mean when he says that India is “so different?” I hope he means that the food is good unlike some British cooking: “India is enjoyable because it’s so different and the track is one of my favourites. It’s still a new track but it has a good combination of medium and high speed corners, chicanes and good changes in direction.”

#19 Heikki Kovalainen (LR #19)
Heikki’s strategy is to hope for attrition ahead of him: “Performance-wise I think we’re all realistic about what we can do in India, but that doesn’t mean we’re not working as hard as we can to keep progressing. The guys behind us are putting up a good fight and, while we have clear air between us on track, we need to make sure we keep that gap, and, where possible, take advantage of anything that happens ahead.”

#20 Timo Glock (LR #20)
Tim O’Glock implies that his car’s KERS-lessness will leave him at a disadvantage: “There are so many special sections to the track, especially Turn 3, which is a very extreme corner. You have to completely turn into the steering wheel, followed by a very long straight. I’m excited to see what we will achieve there this year there, however with the long straight the KERS factor will again play an important role.”

#21 Vitaly Petrov (LR #21)
The drivers really seem to like this track. I can’t say I’m a fan of Tilke’s long medium-speed rhythm sections: “The Indian track is one of the good ones. It’s pretty smooth, nice and wide, so you can take different lines into some of the corners, and it has a couple of really good corners like the double left turns five and six which you come into quickly, and then braking for the chicane through seven, eight and nine.”

#22 Charles Pic (LR #22)
Chuckie makes another Spa comparison. This is getting kind of odd: “I have done a lot of work in the simulator to prepare and I can appreciate the parallels with Spa; it looks very fast and free-flowing. I think the long straight will be a challenge for us because we don’t have KERS, but we did a good job of achieving a good balance across the whole lap in Korea, so we will see how well the package works for us this weekend.”

#23 Pedro de la Rosa (LR #23)
Pedro doesn’t know what to expect when he shows up this year: “Just like Korea this will be a new circuit for me and all I know of it is from the work I did on the simulator last year. From what I know it’s an interesting circuit with a lot of medium and fast corners where we will have two DRS zones. It will be interesting to see how the asphalt has evolved from one year to another because last year it was brand new and quite dirty.”

#24 Narain Karthikeyan (LR #24)
Narain is stoked for his home Grand Prix: “Obviously this is the most anticipated race on the calendar for me and there is already a great buzz around the event… I’ve got great memories from last year’s Grand Prix as I had a great weekend; the car was good and we were quick. I hope this year things go even better and I can dedicate it to the fans who are showing me so much support. I can’t wait to get out on track!”

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