The only new track of the 2011 Formula One season, India is set to present a huge challenge for the driver's, with world champion Sebastian Vettel predicting that the track will be the second fastest of the nineteen circuits, behind Monza.
The main reason for this is the very long straight from Turn 3 to Turn 4, which is one of the longest of Formula One. Turn 1 is a right hander, which you simply cannot run wide at, while Turn 2 and 3 are a hairpin, preparing you for the longest straight. At the end of Turn 4, you have another straight before twisty corners from Turn 5 to Turn 9. Turn 10 is essentially a hairpin, followed by another very short straight. Two short straights follow, before a left hander back onto the pit straight.
India will see a double DRS Zone, the first been the pit straight. The detection is the exit of Turn 15, with the activation been at the start of the pit straight. The second DRS Zone, the detection point is at the entry to Turn 3, while the activation is about halfway down the main long straight, creating an excellent chance for overtaking. India is the third track to have a double DRS Zone, behind Montreal and Monza.
One of the important things about this race is that there will be an Indian driver involved, as Narain Karthikeyan has been recalled by Hispania to replace Tonio Liuzzi, meaning a return to the cockpit for Karthikeyan, for the first time since the European Grand Prix. There was discussion that Karun Chandhok would return for Lotus at his home race, but this hasn't happened, and Jarno Trulli stays in his Lotus seat. Personally, I was disappointed with Lotus' decision, because I believe Chandhok is a good little driver, and it's extremely unlikely that Trulli will score points this weekend anyway. With 10th in the Constructor's virtually secured, I would have liked to see Lotus take a risk and give the popular, talented Chandhok a chance.
|Narain Karthikeyan returns for his home race|
When looking at form, we can see that in recent races, Mclaren have closed in on Red Bull, with Jenson Button winning the Japanese Grand Prix, and Lewis Hamilton ending Red Bull's qualifying dominance with pole at Korea a fortnight ago. And with long straights, Mercedes will also be confident, because their straight line speed is immense, as demonstrated at Spa and Monza. Another team flying at the moment is Toro Rosso, with Jaime Alguersuari driving brilliantly right now, and again, in Korea, Toro Rosso had excellent straight line speed. Force India are closing in on Renault but with three races left need some excellent performances to take fifth place in the Constructor's.
But a team that needs a result more than anyone must be Ferrari. Another disappointing year for the Scuderia, despite Fernando Alonso driving superbly this season. The car simply hasn't been quick enough, and look at it this way, in the last three years Red Bull have won 25 Grands Prix, Ferrari just 7. They must improve to keep star man Alonso happy, and they need Felipe Massa to find his 2008 form again.
The tyre selection from Pirelli for this weekend is the soft and hard tyres. The hard tyre hasn't appeared since early this season, and Ferrari really struggled to work on the harder tyre. Pirelli Motorsport director Paul Hembery said: “We’ve opted for a deliberately conservative nomination in selecting the hard tyre alongside the soft, simply because on a brand new circuit you are never quite sure of the exact race conditions you will encounter.” However, Narain Karthikeyan said ahead of his home Grand Prix: “The texture of the tarmac is exceptionally smooth compared to most circuits on the calendar, so I think that’s a plus. “The lap time difference between the hard and soft tyres is going to be huge, maybe in excess of two seconds a lap. I’d expect the teams to use the hard as less as possible: maybe just a short final stint in the race as the benefits in lap time produced by the soft tyre should outweigh its shorter life as the track surface isn’t abrasive at all and track temperatures I think should be under 40 degrees during the weekend.”
So a new circuit, who will reign supreme? Red Bull will obviously be favourites, but will Sebastian Vettel claim an 11th win of 2011? Or can Mark Webber finally climb atop the podium? McLaren will be confident given their recent form, and what of Ferrari? Desperate for a result, they will be looking to oust their hard tyre issues here. Mercedes and Toro Rosso will be expecting a result, while Narain Karthikeyan will just be looking to please the fans in the Hispania.