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Question marks for teams over best way to attack the Indian Grand Prix
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Posted By: James Allen  |  24 Oct 2012   |  1:41 pm GMT  |  58 comments

The new Buddh International Circuit, hosting the Indian Grand Prix for only the second time, proved popular with drivers last season on its inaugural event. It is the second fastest race track on the calendar after Monza, with an average lap speed of 131mph.

But it’s a tricky one on strategy. Last year the harder tyre was too slow relative to the softer one so the strategies were quite skewed. This year the teams will hope to play it like they did in Japan, favouring two stints on the hard tyre, but there is a possibility that one stop might turn out to be the way to go. As the teams have so little data to work with from last year and with different tyres this year, the free practice sessions will be vital in finding the best way to attack the race.

Another awkward thing here is that the temperatures drop as the race goes on and that can affect the tyres and the performance.

The track has some similarities with other new tracks designed by Herman Tilke, but it also has some distinctive features, not least quite a bit of elevation change; the track rises 14 metres from Turn 1 to Turn 3, which contributes to increasing the fuel weight penalty, in other words the weight of every 10kg of fuel you carry slows you down by more than at some other tracks.

Buddh is a combination of slow and medium speed corners and some long straights, which leads to a high average speed. The first sector of the lap is stop-start, with two straights intercut with hairpins, while the middle sector is a flowing section featuring some faster corners, including the banked Turn 10/11.

During practice and qualifying the adjustable DRS wing can be used for approximately 62% of the lap, roughly similar to Spa. The difference between qualifying lap time and race lap time will be quite pronounced as a result. In the race it will help overtaking on the straight. With 20 metre track width, overtaking is not a problem at Buddh.

Last year’s Grand Prix was a two stop race for most drivers, with race winner Sebastian Vettel stopping on laps 19 and 47, spending as little time as possible on the hard tyre. This year the gaps between the two tyre compounds are smaller and the strategies will change accordingly.

When you have read up on the race, why not see if you can find the best way to do the race using our Race STRATEGY CALCULATORRace Strategy Calculator?


Track characteristics

Buddh International – 5.125 kilometres. Race distance – 60 laps = 307.249 kilometres. 16 corners in total. Average speed 131mph. A new circuit hosting a Grand Prix for the second time

Aerodynamic setup – High downforce. Top speed 323km/h (with DRS open) 310km/h without

Full throttle – 70% of the lap time. Total fuel needed for race distance – 161.6 kilos (high). Fuel consumption – 2.65 kg per lap (ave)

Brake wear – average.

Loss time for a Pit stop = 16 seconds
Total time needed for a pit stop: 21 seconds

Fuel effect (cost in lap time per 10kg of fuel carried): 0.35 seconds (ave/high)


Form Guide

The Indian Grand Prix is the 17th round of the 2012 FIA F1 World Championship. Sebastian Vettel has won the last three races for Red Bull to take the lead of the drivers’ world championship and is the favourite for this race.

Fernando Alonso, who had led the points race since June, has slipped to second place, but Ferrari look set to bring updates to this race to try to get back into the game.

There has only been one race held at Buddh International to date, won by Vettel with Jenson Button second and Alonso third.

Weather Forecast

The forecast for the weekend is stable with temperatures likely to be high; somewhere in the low 30˚Cs and track temperatures up in the 40˚Cs.


Likely tyre performance and other considerations

Pirelli tyre choice for India: Soft (yellow markings) and Hard (silver markings). This combination was seen in Spain, Silverstone and Japan.

The circuit provides a similar level of tyre challenge to Silverstone, with 80% of the tyre energy of Suzuka. The high temperatures are likely to lead to tyre blistering, particularly on the shoulder of the tyre and camber angles will have to be conservative to cope with heat build up the long straights.

The high temperatures should suit the soft tyre, which has problems sometimes with graining if the weather is cool.

Pirelli believe that the soft tyre will be around 0.7sec faster than the hard. However at Silverstone and Suzuka the hard was the preferred race tyre for the second and third stints, which may well happen again in Buddh.

The surface of the track is not like many other venues, not particularly abrasive and as it is rarely used it is usually quite dusty at the start of the weekend and stays fairly dusty. That said, the track does improve quite a bit over the weekend, so tyre data from Friday practice will not necessarily translate to performance on Sunday.

The front-left tyre is usually a limiting factor in the race, due to the layout of the corners, while wheels spinning under acceleration out of the many low speed corners will also take quite a bit out of the rear tyres.


Number and likely timing of pit stops

The pit lane at Buddh is long at 600 metres, but last year the fastest stops were in the 20-21 second range, so it’s not as bad from a strategic point of view as might be imagined; a pit stop is not too expensive.

The likelihood is that this race will feature two stops, with the front runners starting on the soft tyres from qualifying, pitting around lap 15 and then again around lap 38, both for new hard tyres. We are likely to see some variations on that from cars starting outside the top ten, particularly the Saubers (if they don’t qualify well) and any fast car which has qualified out of position.

Chance of a Safety Car

As this is only the second race on the track and there was no safety car last year, the probability is yet to be established. A Safety Car at Buddh would help drivers attempting to make one less stop.

Recent start performance

Starts are a critical part of the race and strategy can be badly compromised by a poor start, while good starts can make strategists change their plans in the hope of a good result.

As far as 2012 start performance is concerned drivers have gained (+) or lost (-) places off the start line this season on aggregate as follows:

[Note- This table is intended as an indicator of trends. Where drivers have had first lap incidents which dropped them to the back of the field, they are not included above, but are detailed in the notes marked * below. This affects other drivers’ gains, but the sample still shows prevailing trends of places won and lost at the start. Belgian GP start is not included as it eliminated many cars, skewing the sample.]

Gained:

+33 Massa ***** *******
+32 Glock
+29 Kovalainen
+27 Senna* ***** ********
+22 Alonso********, Perez***
+20 Vergne
+17 Pic
+16 Karthikeyan
+14 Raikkonen
+12 Hulkenberg
+11 Schumacher* ******
+10 Maldonado****
+9 De la Rosa ****
+8 Button*********
+6 Kobayashi**** *********
+5 Hamilton, Petrov***** *******
+2 Vettel, Di Resta *****

Held position:

Lost:
-4 Webber********, Grosjean** **** ***** ********
-6 Ricciardo*
-10 Rosberg********

* Senna, Ricciardo and Hulkenberg were all involved in accidents on 1st lap in Australia
** Schumacher and Grosjean collided on Lap 1 in Malaysia, Senna and Perez pitted for wet tyres on opening lap
***Perez punctured on lap 1 in Spain and went to back of field
**** Eliminated by or involved in first lap accident in Monaco
***** Di Resta eliminated lap 1 at Silverstone, Petrov did not start
***** Massa, Senna and Grosjean involved in first lap collisions dropping them to the back
****** Schumacher forced to pit lap 1 in Hungary (lost six places)
*******Massa (puncture) and Petrov (broken nose) pitted for repairs on lap 1 in Singapore after making contact.
******** Alonso, Rosberg, Webber, Senna and Grosjean either retired or dropped to the back following first-lap accidents in Japan
********* Button eliminated, Kobayashi pitted for repairs, on lap 1 after collision in Korea

Pit Stop League Table

Of course good strategy planning also requires good pit stop execution by the mechanics and there have been some amazing performances; we have seen tyre stops carried out in less than two and a half seconds this year.

The table below shows the fastest single stop by teams in the recent Korean Grand Prix, expressed as the total time in the pit lane. Results from the previous race are shown in brackets.

1. McLaren 19.447secs (1)
2. Red Bull 19.616secs (2)
3. Ferrari 19.930secs (3)
4. Mercedes 20.087secs (5)
5. Toro Rosso 20.151secs (11)
6. Lotus 20.211secs (4)
7. Force India 20.218secs (8)
8. Marussia 20.494secs (6)
9. Sauber 20.767secs (7)
10. Williams 21.137secs (9)
11. Caterham 21.489secs (10)
12. HRT 22.749secs (12)

Now you have read up on the race, why not see if you can find the best way to do the race using our Race STRATEGY CALCULATORRace Strategy Calculator?


The UBS Race Strategy Briefing is written by James Allen with input and data from several of the leading teams’ strategists and from Pirelli

* We’ve got two great competitions coming up shortly. One for 2 VIP Paddock Club passes for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and the other for a JA on F1 hosted factory tour of Mercedes, Lewis Hamilton’s new team (and Nico Rosberg’s and Michael Schumacher’s current team!)

Keep your eyes pealed for details!

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58 Comments
  1. Jane Kay says:

    really looking forward to this race.
    James!
    OT and of course it it is of any interest to you – could you write a short summary on which team is testing which young driver this season? What are Bottas’ chances of getting a Williams seat? Have you heard of the possbility of testing a young Polish Porsche Super Cup driver Kuba Giermaziak?
    thanks!

  2. MISTER says:

    James, I know this has been suggested before, but could you include a picture of the circuit layout?
    I find it that I need to visit other websites with a circuit layout in order to follow the detailed information you wrote in your article.
    Would be prefered for you to change that picture with the McLaren with one with the circuit layout.

    Thanks

    1. Ed says:

      Good suggestion. I also think this would be valuable, especially as we see more new circuits come to the calendar.

      Ed

      1. Wayne says:

        Great idea, and a great way to top-off a consistently great article (that’s a lot of great!).

      2. Tim says:

        Yes, agree with the circuit maps. It would just make the best F1 (JAonF1) site on the Internet even better.

        Tim

  3. Giles says:

    Hi James, why week on week does the pit stop times change from stationary time to total pit time? is this just the information you are given at any perticular GP weekend? I always feel that the total pit time is some what useless as although it includes everything it doesnt actually show how well the teams did (i.e disruptions due to other cars, wheel spinning off the out of the pits etc)

    1. Scott D says:

      Agreed. I am only interested in the actual time the car is stationary in the pits.

  4. Michael bye says:

    This will be a 2 stop race of tyre conservation. The soft tyre just doesn’t last long enough, especially with the dust, for 1 stop to be viable and the long pitlane rules out 3 stops, especially when they can’t do quick quali style laps to make up the time, because then the tyre’s degrade .
    I hate these softer compound Pirelli’s I really hope they make them last longer next year, or make the performance better so they can make up the time for an extra stop.

  5. Tornillo Amarillo says:

    Let the harder tyre for the end and you will win! :)

    1. Raymond U says:

      And what if all 24 do it? Who wins?

      1. Gunner says:

        Narain!!

      2. Tornillo Amarillo says:

        Of course, who have started from pole, without pitstop problems and finishing without clashes or incidents!

  6. Sebee says:

    Dear Sebatian Vettel,

    May I suggest your approach at India to be: qualify on pole, lead every lap, bag 25 points, not get voted driver of the day at JAonF1.

    Yours Truly
    Red Bull Racing Strategist

    1. ferggsa says:

      Maybe Seb needs to miss Q3, get a gearbox penalty, be hit by Grosjean, move up the field and finish 3rd to become DOTD

      1. Sebee says:

        Why work harder, when you can work smarter?

    2. F12012 says:

      Is that you Sebastian lol

    3. Phil Too says:

      But that would be BORING! And undeserved, etc…

      Let it be Button or Hamilton doing that, then it will be the most inspired fantastic win of the year, well worth a vote of DoD

      1. Captain LeChuck says:

        Now now, children.

        Besides, Massa’s been the best driver over the past couple of races.

    4. Wayne says:

      Easily done!

    5. F1addicted says:

      So DOTD has to be the winner only?

      Have a word with yourself…

      1. Phil Too says:

        So DoTD can be anyone but Vettel.

        Have a word with yourself…

      2. F1addicted says:

        How very short-sighted

    6. Moog says:

      Regarding DotD, I ran some stats on this recently.
      Of the 16 races, the winner has received DotD on 9 occasions.
      Vettel has won 4 races, yet never once had DotD.

      Five drivers lead the DotD championship all having received the honour twice:
      Alonso, Button, Perez, Raikkonen, Webber.

      However it’s worth noting that the voting is still open so these figures could be out of date by now!

    7. Scott D says:

      I will refuse to vote for Vettel as DOTD on any occasion where he wins and then scrawls something on Jake Humphrey’s shirt with his marker pen as if it’s the funniest thing ever. Grow up man!

    8. F1fan4life says:

      I vote Sebastian should automatically lose DOTD everytime he shows us the finger. I bet if we put that to a vote it’d be almost unanimous. We get it Sebastian, you have the number one car on the grid literally and figuratively!@#

    9. Rishi says:

      Nothing like a good bit of banter about DotD voting trends to start the Grand Prix weekend:). I will of course be looking out for any midfield runner who drives a quietly effective race from about 13th on the grid to finish about 7th or 8th!

      1. Sebee says:

        Sounds like Alonso has your vote!

        Ouch! :-)

      2. Rishi says:

        Hahaha! The Ferrari early on in the season was tailor-made for my voting tendency…but Fernando kept ruining it by sneaking into Q3!

        Ironically, after his performance today, I am tempted to go for Alonso…although I guess that will be a break from the midfield runner trend, rather than conforming to it!

    10. Mr Ed says:

      LOL. You must be psychic.

  7. Bring Back Murray says:

    How many laps in will it be before Lewis starts to complain about his tyres going off? (on any particular compound)

      1. Bring Back Murray says:

        I take it you are talking about the harder of the two compounds :-)

    1. PDiddly says:

      That would depend on if his rear roll bar was broken or not ?

      Have you missed the rest of the season, he has totally changed his driving style around to accommodate the tyres, yet is always there or thereabouts. Frequently Lewis is making tyres last longer than Jenson Tyremaster Button.

      1. Bring Back Murray says:

        Come on dude you can have a laugh and a wind up every now and again!

        I agree Lewis has got much better at looking after his tyres since the start at the season, but come on he still moans far more than anyone else! (will this be the case still at Merc next season?)

      2. Gunner says:

        I should think he’ll have a LOT more to complain about next season.

        But, he did say he wants to struggle………….

      3. shri says:

        knowing how Merc eats their tyres, he may moan before he even puts a lap on them.

    2. nusratholla says:

      warm up lap :D

  8. Rob Newman says:

    Ferrari will not be the only team to bring updates to India. Everyone is talking about RRA and at this stage of the season, everyone seems to spend as if there is no tomorrow.

    I am sure it will be a two stop strategy for the front runners. Everyone will be keeping an eye on the person first to blink and then follow accordingly. That will be the strategy.

    I think Ferrari, McLaren and Lotus will be much stronger here. Ferrari were on the podium last year and I don’t see any reason why they can’t do it this year.

    Time to see some fireworks.

    1. thejudge13 says:

      Saw some figures yesterday for team spend 2011, For example Red Bull spent 245m euros and Mercedes by comparison 145m euros (full details I posted here – not all teams are yet available wp.me/p2HWOP-fh )

      1. Rob Newman says:

        Thanks for that. Nice article. I really like to see what Ferrari is honestly spending. They never practice what they preach.

  9. Paul du Maître says:

    Hi James,

    as usual, interesing stuff! Concerning the pit stop league table, would it be possible to show the team’s average times rather than the fastest ones? This year McLaren have shown that you can have the fastest pit top and compromise a race with just one bad pit stop.

  10. thejudge13 says:

    Where is everyone? So few comments, but hey, it’s been very quiet for days in F1 internet land.

    Loads going on. Di Resta appears to be resigned to be the bridesmaid – uttering platitudes about staying at Force India for another year.

    His boss is also doing an impression of the invisible man at their home GP??? No appearance by Force India at the team press conference by Vijay or even Bob F. Just the ‘Hulk’ at the drivers interviews tomorrow.

    Lord Lauda – as Helmut apparently calls him – has declared Mercedes will be launching a ‘new concept’ of car for 2013 unlike everyone else who appears to believe next year is an evolution process. Not sure whether Lewis should be delighted or concerned.

    Anyway, I believe the McLaren secret DDRS will kick in this weekend and carry them to a 1-2 – thus keeping us all on the edge of our seats for the dullfest awaiting us next week.

    It’s as though everyone has checked out believing the Red Bull late stash of dubiously legal development cash (under the RRA) has kicked in and will take them over the line again.

    My only worry is the marshal’s and/or safety car waste another 20% of the race messing around and take the tally of ruin to 3 out of the 4 last races.

    Still its forecast sun all the way – so James will get a good tan whatever.

    1. Bring Back Murray says:

      Winter is drawing in

      People are having trouble getting out of bed, let alone finding the energy to post comments!

    2. Doug says:

      Entertaining & Informative post…James should give you a job! :-)

    3. Gul says:

      I think its a case of deja vu….Finger and RB :(

    4. F1addicted says:

      F1 media and online buzz has disappeared since Suzuka, when everyone realised that it was going to be another Adrian Newey whitewash.

      Sadly it’s just the way of things and nothing can be done, as long as Ferrari and McLaren are both way, way behind Newey’s talents.

    5. John says:

      With you noting the lack of internet interest recently I am surprised you ask where Vijay is. It is well known that his airline is strapped for cash and bounced a £2m cheque at one of the Indian airports. It is very unlikely that the Force India boss is even in India as he would not be allowed to leave. There is an arrest warrant out for him due to the bounced cheque.

      What you should be asking is what this means for his F1 team. With his partner Sahara equally strapped for cash Force India could easily face real problems quite soon. Di Resta must be nervous if he has no alternative drive for next year.

  11. mayberth says:

    three long straights……E20 gonna suffer badly than in korea..kimi will be shouting “give me more power” after Spa.

  12. Captain LeChuck says:

    This is actually a fun track to drive on the F1 2012 videogame. Lots of elevation changes, and that sharp right hander in Sector 1 that leads on to the big straight is totally blind.

    Overtaking my prove difficult through the more twisty windy bits, but don’t be surprised if a few moves are made at Turn 1 throughout the race.

  13. forzaminardi says:

    On the elevation changes, maybe I’m being stupid here, but surely what goes up must come down etc. I appreciate it will take more energy (fuel) for the car to go uphill, but equally wouldn’t it take less for it to go downhill?

    I admit I failed my schoolboy physics lessons…

    1. Warren Groenewald says:

      Good question, but unfortunately not true. It only takes less fuel to travel downhill if you adjust the throttle travel accordingly, but they don’t, they stay full throttle if the track permits.

      1. F1addicted says:

        Right, it’s not like they just coast down on the downhill parts :P

  14. F1addicted says:

    It doesn’t matter how anyone approaches it – Adrian Newey will win and we have 3 more races to put us out of our predictability-misery.

    1. Warren Groenewald says:

      It’s a serious buzzkill to the end of the season, that’s for sure.

  15. Iwan Kemp says:

    Seriously time for the law makers to stop the use of DRS willy-nilly in qualifying. Should be restricted to the same zones as in the race.

  16. SD says:

    Great article, very interesting. Only thing is where has it come from that the Buddh circuit is the second fastest on the calendar? Silverstone, Suzuka and Spa are all faster circuits and I wouldn’t be surprised if Montreal was as well.

    Other than that, superb piece.

  17. nusratholla says:

    There is a huge controversy brewing here in India concerning the Ferrari team sporting Italian Navy Flags on their cars as a protest and support to the Italian Naval Officers facing murder charges here in India for killing Local Fisherman.

    I think they are here to entertain and not make any political statement…. then what is next? Our Force India putting up Anti Obama Slogans as a protest to his Out Sourcing Policies which are designed to hurt us Indians?

    Its appalling what Ferrari are doing here… They are not the most popular team here anyways… You will find more support for Mercedes here then the Ferrari and in terms of Driver following Michael Schumacher (who is a household name here and is greater than F1 here) its Kimi Raikkonen who has the second most fan base in India and what Ferrari had done to Kimi is already condemned by us Indians.

    All in all I think Ferrari are losing the Jean Todt, Brawn, Schuey and Kimi era lustre and this is only acting as a catalyst to it.

    GO SCHUEY GO KIMI GO LEWIS !!! :)

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