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Tricky but rewarding: Drivers give the new Buddh Circuit the thumbs up
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Ferrari
Posted By: James Allen  |  28 Oct 2011   |  1:42 pm GMT  |  64 comments

Felipe Massa set the pace on Day 1 at the Buddh International Circuit, with Sebastian Vettel second and Fernando Alonso third after three hours of running on the new track. It is a hit with drivers and teams alike, certainly as far as the layout is concerned, even if the facilities behind the scenes aren’t quite there yet.

Alonso had an engine failure in first practice, which was halted early on due to a dog on the track. An earlier support race session had to be stopped for the same reason.

The track was very dusty in the morning and rubbered in as the day went on. The weather is very stable, not overly hot, but warm and mild. Track improvement was significant from morning to afternoon and this will continue as the weekend goes on and drivers explore the limits further.

The drivers were given an extra set of Pirelli soft tyres to use today and most took full advantage, Lotus, for example, covered 80 laps this afternoon on top of the 43 they did this morning, while most teams did well over 100 laps during the course of the day, equivalent to a good day’s single car testing pre-season. Mercedes 118 laps means 604 kilometres of running.

Many teams are using the final races as a test session for new parts with carry-over potential for next year. Ferrari have once again brought the revised front wing they tried in Korea.

The pit lane remained very dusty all day and the circuit is also dusty off line. When that combines with bits of rubber coming off the tyres it will make it very slippery off line. The track is wide in parts to encourage overtaking, but getting off the racing line, especially late in the race, will be risky.

Reaction to the track has been positive, it’s certainly designer Hermann Tilke’s most interesting layout for a while, possibly his best yet. The undulations and contours make a big difference and, although there are some slow corners, several of the corners are taken in fifth gear. The average speed of the fastest lap today is 215km/h, which is 134mph, which is pretty high by F1 standards.

And the TV pictures look fantastic; it’s just a shame that there are few defining features which make it look like we are in India. From the pictures, the track could be anywhere in the world.

Lewis Hamilton was fast straight away, but lost track time in the afternoon with a driveshaft problem. His record on new circuits is very good and he feels he has the pace to be a contender this weekend. But he will have a three place grid penalty for ignoring yellow warning flags in practice.

“The track is fantastic, ” he said. “The organisers here in India have done a great job. It’s very fast and flowing, the grip-level is fantastic, the run-off areas seem to be good, and the kerbs are probably the best of any track.”

Here are some more driver reactions –
Nico Rosberg: “The new track here in India is awesome. It has some very interesting corners, and that’s why it takes a bit longer to get used to the layout than at some of the other new circuits.

Bruno Senna:” The corners are very fast and they encourage you to push, push, push so I think we can have a good weekend here.”

Michael Schumacher: “This is a very interesting track with a challenging layout, and it’s certainly enjoyable to drive.”

Vitaly Petrov: “The layout of the circuit is quite tricky. On some corners you can’t see the apex which makes it difficult to find your braking point and turning in point.”

Karun Chandhok ended the morning session as the fastest Indian, in the Team Lotus car of Heikki Kovalainen, “It was a real honour to be the first car to set a timed lap in front of the fans,” he said. “I want to thank the team for giving me that chance.” Meanwhile Kovalainen observed that he definitely lost ground by not running in the morning session. He managed 40 laps in the afternoon. With this being a new track to learn and a tricky one at that, none of the other Friday drivers got a run today.

INDIAN GRAND PRIX, Free Practice 2
1. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m25.706s 33
2. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m25.794s + 0.088 34
3. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m25.930s + 0.224 34
4. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1m26.454s + 0.748 26
5. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m26.500s + 0.794 30
6. Jenson Button McLaren 1m26.714s + 1.008 28
7. Adrian Sutil Force India 1m27.316s + 1.610 34
8. Bruno Senna Renault 1m27.498s + 1.792 36
9. Paul di Resta Force India 1m27.853s + 2.147 35
10. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso 1m27.868s + 2.162 35
11. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1m27.890s + 2.184 37
12. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1m28.050s + 2.344 34
13. Sergio Perez Sauber 1m28.289s + 2.583 36
14. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso 1m28.552s + 2.846 31
15. Rubens Barrichello Williams 1m28.691s + 2.985 29
16. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m28.708s + 3.002 24
17. Jarno Trulli Lotus 1m29.332s + 3.626 39
18. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 1m30.241s + 4.535 41
19. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m31.098s + 5.392 38
20. Timo Glock Virgin 1m31.469s + 5.763 32
21. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m31.804s + 6.098 28
22. Jerome D’Ambrosio Virgin 1m32.593s + 6.887 12
23. Daniel Ricciardo HRT 1m32.768s + 7.062 33
24. Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1m32.824s + 7.118 33

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64 Comments
  1. Jeremy says:

    I’ve done several hundred laps around this circuit in the new F1 2011 game. It was very interesting to see some of the pros making the same mistakes I do (cutting across the grass at turn 7, for example). It’s a really fun drive, and the 5-6-7 complex is much more challenging than it looks at first as each corner needs to be taken slower than the previous and there isn’t a huge amount of space to slow down.

    It will be interesting to see how much overtaking we get in the race. I’ve a feeling we’re going to see most of it in turns 1-4, with the rest of the lap being just about going as fast as possible.

    1. AlexDS says:

      Some things are indeed similar, some are different. While driving…some are loosing weight, others are gaining….

      1. wayne says:

        A completely unnecessarily sarcastic comment. People who play video games are not all ‘couch-potatoes’ and the act of playing the game does not lead to weight gain as you well know. I too love the new F1 2011 game from Codemasters and it’s a close a look as mere mortals can get at what the F1 drivers display in terms of skills and bravery. Of course the only danger to me is that I fall of my sofa!

    2. Parisian Bob says:

      I’ll bet you didn’t make the error of smashing your suspension on the kerb

  2. s sreenivasa reddy says:

    I saw the free practice sessions on TV. I agree with you Mr. Allen on that it’s just a shame that the track has few defining features which make it look like we are in India. I feel its a great track from Mr. Tilke. May be the organizers could have given a touch of Indian feel to the architecture, but I feel very proud as an Indian and than Jaypee group for constructing such a great racing track.

  3. JohnBt says:

    Liked the elevations very much, sure made viewing look interesting. Good job done from the organisers, but no hints of any Indian culture, guess it will be more apparent next year. A huge statue of an elephant will be great somewhere.

    1. The layout looks very interesting indeed. Turn 11 looks spectacular.

      Hopefully we’ll see some landmarks making the track look more ‘Indian’.

      A first grand prix is always a bit difficult for the organisers. Even the Japanese found it difficult in Fuji with the first GP on the new layout in 2007.

  4. Andy Wallace says:

    Hamilton is always quick on slippery, new and tricky wet/slippery circuits, it is one of his defining features.

    1. Rob Newman says:

      Nor really, he did the fastest lap ignoring yellow flags and rightfully got a penalty. Getting penalties seems to be his defining feature this year.

      1. Tom in adelaide says:

        Only 3 places though. No big deal with 2 DRS zones. It could put him near Massa though….. :O

      2. F1Fan says:

        Interestingly, while Hamilton was quick to do a mea culpa, it seems that the F1 Live Timing data also thought that the track was clear of the yellow during those last few moments. At least that’s how it was displayed. And Autosport’s live update during practice also stated that the track was clear at that time.

        Hamilton now seems to be in a mode where he is ready to concede every penalty and criticism rather than contest any. Not sure if that is him being defensive or simply not wanting to create controversy.

      3. wayne says:

        Smacks of someone who is just sick and tired of the whole thing. Let’s hope all the fight does not drain out of him – that’s what those of us who love him love him for!

      4. wayne says:

        Easy to say from here isn’t it. That’s like me saying your defining feature is posting caustic comments without really taking the time to know and understand you. For one the penalty appeared to be debateable depending on which systems you were looking at at the time. Also, a fine was sufficient, why affect a race two days away for a transgression in a free practice session? I would have agreed on a penalty if this happened in Qualy as qualy has a DIRECT affect ont he rave but FP1? No, a fine would have done.

      5. Rob Newman says:

        I don’t understand your point. Two drivers were penalised for putting marshalls lives at risk during the race weekend and duly penalised. It doesn’t matter whether it is Friday, Satruday or Sunday. Lewis in particular went on for Friday glory by trying to set the fastest lap at that time while other drivers backed off.

        The steward was Johnny Herbert and he thinks it is fair. Hamilton thinks it is fair and so do other people at McLaren. Perez also feels the same.

        Also this is not the first time someone was given a grid penaly for an offence caused on Friday. So, I don’t think there is anything o debate here.

  5. vicki says:

    The Indian Grand Prix circuit looks amazing!! The elevation changes, long straights, fast turns and chicanes create what looks like a very dynamic track. Looks like we are in for a very exciting weekend of racing in a very exciting country!!! Welcome to Formula One India :)

  6. Richard says:

    Yes when I first saw the layout and gradients I thought perhaps this is the best Tilke designed circuit yet, and probably amongst the best in season. Let see how the race pans out.

  7. Sufyaan Patel says:

    Glad to hear the track is a ‘hit’ with both teams and drivers. I just hope DRS isnt in such a place that it makes passing too easy. Lewis states the grip levels were fantastic, so as the track rubbers in even further I’m guessing time will really tumble.

    Any info on the tyre usage James? Its early days yet but Ferrari seems to have found something. Alonso recovered well from the morning too.

    On a side note, those Kimi to Williams rumours are getting stronger. Apparently, an announcement is due pretty soon. But then again, I also read that they wont announce drivers until the end of the season. Oh how I wait!…….

    1. mo kahn says:

      F1 desperately needs Kimi… Oh how I wait too :)

  8. Nick says:

    I think it looks fantastic. Great layout should prove for some fast, exciting racing. Much better than some of the current tracks we have…Valencia, Abu Dhabi and Korea are just awful!

  9. Chris says:

    “Alonso had an engine failure in first practice, which was halted early on due to a dog on the track.”

    …The HRTs never caused such an issue before ;-)

    1. Bubbles says:

      At least the HRT’s can’t spread rabies…

      “Roughly 36% of the world’s rabies deaths occur in India each year, most of those when children come into contact with infected dogs.”

      http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/87/12/09-021209/en/index.html

    2. Simon says:

      Huh! there weren’t any cows; may be next year.

  10. goferet says:

    I love the way, everything seems to be stacked against Massa, he doesn’t get depressed & give up, No sir, he picks himself up & does & fights.

    So am pleased to see Massa up his game of late & give Alonso something to think about especially in qualifying but oh weeee, that new Ferrari front wing sure does flex now – How the heck did they figure that out?

    Thankfully, they (Ferrari) have the hard tyre to content with, which will erode away all they gains they were able to make.

    Right, as we were all hoping, this Indian track is very promising, it has all the ingredients for a cracking race & it’s good to know the drivers feel the same way.

    Now poor old Lewis just had to make the race & qualifying that more exciting for us than it was already set out to be by getting himself a grid drop, well bless his soul. I hope he takes no prisoners especially that mutinous rebel – Jenson Button!

    Now JA on F1, am not sure what India could have done to give the Indian Grand Prix track an Indian feel to it, surely they couldn’t built a Taj Mahal carbon-copy, right smack in the middle of the circuit, come now, this is the 21st century we living in now.

    Okay boys & girls see you on track tomorrow. As for my prediction for qualifying

    Vettel
    Hammy
    Alonso

  11. DG says:

    In a comment reply to your Strategy post you said

    “It’s strange, Red Bull are quoting 235km/h average speed, which is more than other teams simulators are seeing. Either a) they got it wrong b) it’s a clever piece of gamesmanship or c) they are correct and are going to blow the opposition away!”

    On the commentary I am sure I heard the commentators say that the track is up to 2 seconds faster than most teams simulations. I wondered if there is a further option…d) they are correct but not going to blow the opposition away… with the implication that like most things..even their SIM is better than their competitors?

  12. Danish Hanif says:

    The track looks great, I hope it will be the best race of the session.

    As usual Redbulls looks strong followed by Mclarens. Ferraris showed a good pace.

    i saw alo was .437 up on second sector but just behind another car on his second last lap, i think he has been held, has any one noticed?

    but i suspect both bulls & Macs are quicker.

  13. Rob Newman says:

    The circuit looks really impressive. But when you see the dust, it is worse than Bahrain or Abu Dhabi. I wish they will wash the track overnight.

    After all Red Bull’s prediction on the track speed is not bad. Looks like they have a better simulator.

    I was surprised when I saw they were bringing Maldonado’s car to the garage during the middle of FP2 after he beached it on the gravel.

    The penalties for Hamilton and Perez are reasonable. It sends a clear message. Safety comes first.

    As expected, back marker Karthikeyan was not using his mirrors and several drivers got stuck behind him. This is silly. He needs to use his head if he is F1. Hope he doesn’t spoil someone’s qualifying or race.

    Hope there won’t be animals or people on the track tomorrow and on Sunday.

    Wonder what is happening with Ferrari. When Alonso was driving, the car looked very bumpier than normal. I don’t know if that is the track or some sort of vibration on the car. Also the front wing was behaving strangely and for a moment I thought the car is going to fly. It was like a bird flipping its wings trying to take off. Red Bull gives you wings – and Ferrari takes them.

    1. matski says:

      At one point during FP2 there was a close-up shot of Massa’s front wing moving so much that that the endplates were alternately touching the track surface causing sparks to fly – surely that amount of movement on a ‘fixed’ aerodynamic part of the car is illegal?

      1. Tom in adelaide says:

        Desperate times call for desperate measures. With jobs on the line it’s not surprising to think that they might push the limits too far…

      2. Rob Newman says:

        Aparently Ferrari have been to the stewards and there is no issues with the wing.

      3. John T. says:

        Kinda reminds me of the RB6 wing at Suzuka last year. Hopefully it passes the load test.
        Ferrari is looking ahead to 2012 and should take risks, they have nothing to lose.

      4. HansB says:

        In the past there has been loads of talking about the RB wing flexing too. FIA has made more stringent regulations around this flexing as a reaction (and to satisfy complaints by other teams).
        So if these Ferrari wings pass these regulations there is no point questioning legality.

  14. vikram says:

    I re-read your blog and apologise for my message. I totally misunderstood what you have said. I have been reading too many negative articles in the telegraph and daily mail etc.
    I am sorry, please ignore my post.

    Regards

  15. Paul H says:

    Liking the look of the new track, seems to hold a variety of challenges for the drivers and especially like the way the track widens on the entry to certain corners to enable overtaking opportunities.

    Any information on the Ferrari front wing which flutters a silly amount at various parts of the the lap? Maybe designed to slap down the opposition when Massa goes anywhere near Hamilton :op

  16. Brian says:

    James – have you heard much about the non-appearance of buses to take fans home after quali?

    1. James Allen says:

      Wouldn’t surprise me – it’s chaos here!

  17. mo kahn says:

    Michael Schumacher is a Rage in India…. Every other driver looks minuscule here in his presence :)

  18. Chris of Adelaide says:

    Looks like a good track. James, Any reason for Mercedes being so far of the pace? Track not suiting them or busy testing parts for next years car?

    1. Christine says:

      Mercedes looked pretty good to me!

      1. Chris of Adelaide says:

        18. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 1m30.241s + 4.535 41
        19. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m31.098s + 5.392 38
        20. Timo Glock Virgin 1m31.469s + 5.763 32
        21. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m31.804s + 6.098 28
        22. Jerome D’Ambrosio Virgin 1m32.593s + 6.887 12

  19. pankaj nalavde says:

    James could you please elaborate on”it’s just a shame that there are few defining features which make it look like we are in India” i’d like to know your perspective and why the derogatory tone.

    Times have changed, F1 is in India because India can afford it now!

    1. James Allen says:

      You’ve missed the point. What I’m saying is It’s great India has a race, it’s a country where I think F1 will succeed. The shame is there is nothing which gives the TV pictures of this great track an Indian character – it could be anywhere in the world. A1 ring had meadows, Interlagos has the bustling city of Sao Paolo, Montreal has the St Lawrence seaway and the Expo ball symbol

      1. pankaj nalavde says:

        I am a practicing architect, and i agree with your point. It has been a trend in India to seek out big brand architects from other countries and transplant structures that have no connection to India, culturally, symbolically or climatically.

        the dogs on the track just made me laugh so bad, i am sure they could have designed a pasture and have some cows sitting by the track…haha

      2. Damian J says:

        In a country with such grinding poverty, F1 does seem incongruous. How many Indians will be able to afford a ticket to see the race?

        I think the circuit layout will be a success for overtaking but will this be another Turkey?

      3. James Allen says:

        I don’t think so. It will succeed I believe. As for the poverty, the key thing is that government money hasn’t gone into this rather than into social programmes, as in some countries. This is a private enterprise, it’s business and on that level there is nothing to reproach it for

      4. mo kahn says:

        You will be surprised as to just how many people are rich in India… of course there is the underprivileged section in India but there is also a very large rich section as well.

        Despite of its outlook, India is a very diverse country and a Happy Country with the most Vibrant Culture. Even the underprivileged in India are happy people.

        I can buy any place in any part of the planet and yet I choose not to for I never found a place that would match the excitement my country (India) has.

      5. mo kahn says:

        you are right Allen.. India is extremely rich in its Architectural Heritage and yes it seems to be absent at this track. I’m sure Jaypee were busy allocating resources and meeting deadlines for this track, which is quite a task I may add, so a standing ovation for them to have accomplished all the requisite deadlines and to give us this wonderful track.

        I think after this they (Jaypee) will re-evaluate the areas that needs to either be altered or improved and I’m sure that Indian-isation through tweaks in Architecture to its Grandstands and Pit Building would do the trick. Cost of which should be negligible considering the vast financial resource the Jaypee Group possesses.

  20. SD says:

    Super proud of IndianGP though i live in Australia (INDIAN)…first love for me is MelbGP but i have to say the track is super..probably one of the finest .

    SPA-MEL-MONACO-INDIANGP

    But it is so dirty ? sometime i was like is that DAKKAR or F1

    I would love Webber to take p2 here.
    GO WEBBER

    1. Tom in adelaide says:

      I wonder how long Melbourne has left in it?

      I’d love to see it back in Adelaide, as would Chris one post above I suspect!

  21. Christine says:

    Hope we don’t see any more stray dogs on the circuit!! Very scary! My heart says Jenson to win:) But ultimately I hope no one gets Delhi belly and we have a great inaugural Indian GP with NO serious crashes. RIP Dan and Marco.

  22. CJD says:

    looks really like a good track – not very thielke like ;) hopefully good racing on sunday

    but it was horrible to watch a 5 min. documentary on mateschitz’s “servus TV” on monday evenings “sport and talk from hangar 7″, about the building of the track!

    it seems to me, nobody realized it, but for a couple of seconds there where seen children doing heavy working with concret (paving the pitroad), so children workers were building a F1 track!!! – i really was quite disturbed.

    i’ll try to do a youtube copy, as the whole evening is recorded on my dreambox

    greetings

  23. chris green says:

    james – is that new ferrari front wing legal. Seems to flex a lot.

    1. mo kahn says:

      I was wondering that as well… It looked funny though.

  24. Rudy Pyatt says:

    Nice, oh very nice. Elevation change! Flow! This, THIS is what road circuit is supposed to be!

  25. C Lin says:

    I like the track.

    Rubens seems quite happy…so Kimi to Willy not happening ha!

    1. mo kahn says:

      Kimi ought to be back… The speed he has exceeds boundaries and extends beyond nations :)

  26. Alex_D says:

    James, there is a problem when I post on the site. In order to post, I need to change my name…like now, it can work with un-real, changed email…but it doesn’t work with the real one.
    I have seen that other people say it too. It happens to me from time to time and it is very frustrating because I want to participate, however technical glitches are making it very complex….thanks for helping:-)

    1. James Allen says:

      We’re looking into it. It’s certainly strange. Sorry for the inconvenience

  27. Arya says:

    First of it is so refreshing to be at a place free from all those negative arguments about how a 3rd world country like India should not given a bite of the pinnacle of Motorsport. James, I would really like to thank you and the moderators for keeping this place clean.
    It was absolute mayhem on the way back yesterday on my way back.
    BTW, James have the organizers made any accomodation arrangements for media personnel like they have for teams and drivers in Jaypee resort?

  28. Lez Martin says:

    Seems like a great circuit, but like you say, it has no Indian character, and could be any where in the world…The end of the curbing seems a bit harsh, as we saw when Massa came to an abrupt end in Q3, I suppose it is rough round the edges, and after this weekend, will learn what needs sorted, in time for next season.
    On another note, have you heard the rumours of Martin Brundle leaving the BBC for Sky next season?, Maybe the BBC has approached you, offering a commentators job?, Would you jump at the chance if they have, or if they do?, any thoughts who may replace Martin, if its not you?…..

  29. Andrew Carter says:

    It looks like the drivers are finding it to be a challenging track, but does anybody else find the TV pictures underwhelming. A lot of the time its being made to look very flat, I think the cameras could do with being moved.

    1. mo kahn says:

      You are right… The track looks nothing like as shown on TV. In real it is magnificent.

  30. DMyers says:

    Great track, abysmally boring race.

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