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