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2011 Indian GP Good for Fans? Not If They Like Racing

NOIDA, INDIA - OCTOBER 30:  Race winner Sebastian Vettel (2nd R) of Germany and Red Bull Racing celebrates on the podium with Red Bull Racing Chief Technical Officer Adrian Newey (2nd L), second placed Jenson Button (L) of Great Britain and McLaren and third placed Fernando Alonso (R) of Spain and Ferrari following the Indian Formula One Grand Prix at the Buddh International Circuit on October 30, 2011 in Noida, India.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Mark Thompson/Getty Images
Patrick AllenAnalyst IOctober 30, 2011

There has been a fair bit of controversy and praise surrounding the inaugural Indian Grand Prix.

On the good side, it’s great to see the track finished in time, and despite a relatively uninterested population, the stands did seem relatively full.

On the bad side, we witnessed one of the dullest races all season, and many questions have been raised about the treatment of farmers and workers involved in the construction of the track. Vigay Mallya even said on the BBC news that he wished people would stop focusing on India’s poor and concentrate on the rising middle classes and wealth generation.

However, I don’t think this is an Indian problem; I think it is a far more serious Formula One issue. We also race in Brazil, a country where the gap between rich and poor is terrifying, and it seems Bernie Ecclestone would still very much like a race in Bahrain, a country that is currently still struggling to contain political unrest.

I will say that I am seriously concerned that Formula One is becoming a trophy for countries who see a race venue as a sign of national prosperity.

When you consider the prices that ‘fans’ have to pay to watch Grand Prix at the event and even on television, I think the competition is firmly staking its position primarily as a status symbol rather than a sport.

 

Qualifying

Qualifying One of the Indian Grand Prix was not unique. I suppose the most interesting element was considering where people would actually line up after three penalties were applied. (Hamilton got a three-place penalty for ignoring yellow flags in practice. Perez did too, and Petrov received a five-place drop after his Korean crash with Schumacher).

Of course, Red Bull and McLaren were fast straight out of their garages, but it was interesting to see Ferrari able to keep up with those two for the first time in ages.

Q1 was all looking a bit too familiar until a much needed injection of excitement was brought about by the changing track conditions. The circuit was only finished days before the F1 circus rolled into town and this left a ton of dirt and dust lying around.

There were a couple of support races, but it was clear that the track still needed an F1 car or two to lay down some rubber. As the session drew to a close, there were two very surprising names close to the drop zone.

Jenson Button had loved his car all through practice but was having a terrible time in qualifying. The McLaren man needed to use a set of those precious soft tires to make it through.

NOIDA, INDIA - OCTOBER 29:  Pole sitter Sebastian Vettel (C) of Germany and Red Bull Racing celebrates in parc ferme with second placed Mark Webber (L) of Australia and Red Bull Racing and third placed Lewis Hamilton (R) of Great Britain and McLaren after
Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Michael Schumacher had also looked good in practice, but he too made it through by the skin of his teeth.

Qualifying Two provided very few surprises. Although Schumacher eventually fell by the wayside in this session, it hadn’t looked great for the Mercedes man all day, so it was hardly a shock.

Ferrari’s early promise seemed to melt away, but it was great to see Torro Rosso battle through into the knock-out phase.

Qualifying Three was as dull as they come. In fact the most exciting moment was when Felipe Massa’s car was attacked by a high curb.

Sebastian Vettel took early control and was never challenged. Lewis Hamilton gave up on his last lap, and Button had run out of tires. Torro Rosso and Adrian Sutil didn’t even bother to set a time.

 

Result

Sebastian Vettel, Mark Webber, Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton (penalty), Felipe Massa, Nico Rosberg, Adrian Sutil, Sebastien Buemi, Jamie Alguersuari, Michael Schumacher, Paul Di Resta, Pastor Maldinado, Rubens Barrichello, Vitaly Petrov (penalty), Kamui Kobayashi, Heikki Kovalainen, Jarno Trulli, Sergio Perez (penalty), Narain Karthikeyan, Jerome d'Ambrosio, Timo Glock, Daniel Ricciardo

NOIDA, INDIA - OCTOBER 30:  Felipe Massa of Brazil and Ferrari rides over the kerbs during the Indian Formula One Grand Prix at the Buddh International Circuit on October 30, 2011 in Noida, India.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
Paul Gilham/Getty Images

 

Race

The start of the race promised some great action.

Fernando Alonso got off to a now trademark great start and looked as if he had snatched P2 from Mark Webber. However, the Ferrari lost rear grip going into Turn 1 and Webber was able to hold.

The Red Bull wasn’t in second for long though, as Button used great straight line speed to his advantage and quickly moved up into P2 as the cars all took to the first long straight.

Further back, Lewis Hamilton had slipped back one place and Rubens Barrichello had been involved in an incident with Timo Glock and Kamui Kobayashi.

Here were the positions after a close first lap:

Vettel, Button, Webber, Alonso, Massa, Hamilton, Rosberg, Schumacher, Sutil, Senna, Alguersuari, Buemi, Di Resta, Maldinado, Petrov, Kovalainen, Karthikeyan, Ricciardo, D’Ambrosio, Perez, Glock, Trulli.

I’m afraid that was quite literally almost it for reportable action. The Torro Rossos found their way past Senna—with the help of DRS—and a few other minor positions changed hands.

The first round of pit stops changed absolutely nothing and although Button was holding onto Vettel, the race just progressed in processional order.

We had to wait 20 laps for anything to talk about, but thankfully when action did occur it provided an arguing point that will no doubt go on for a while to come.

I bet you can’t guess who the two drivers involved were?

Lewis Hamilton found himself behind his old pal Felipe Massa after the Ferrari jumped the McLaren at the start.

I think everyone was surprised that Hamilton had done so little up to lap 19. However, after a first corner mistake from Massa, the cars were closer and beginning to battle.

Hamilton just looked faster, but he wasn’t able to pass on the DRS straight from Turn 4, and although he was close up the outside of Turn 5, the corners that followed only really allowed one car at a time.

Hamilton was clearly itching to take Massa and after getting closer up the straight on the last lap, he decided to try a move up Massa’s inside going into Turn 5.

Massa thought he had the racing line, and Hamilton thought he had the maneuver wrapped up (so the Ferrari should have backed off).

Neither man was right and both collided.

Now, I believe that this was most likely a racing incident, but if anyone was to blame, it was Hamilton. As the two cars took to the corner, Massa was in front and the Ferrari would have to run off the road to avoid the McLaren.

I think Hamilton was clearly faster, but just wasn’t thinking as he made another unnecessary and unplanned move.

The stewards clearly disagreed and handed Massa a drive-through penalty. It was all academic though, as a few laps later the Ferrari clipped those pesky raised curbs again and ruined his suspension.

Hamilton may have suffered some damage in the crash because he never really figured in the race afterwards.

And that was pretty much it.

Fernando Alonso was able to undercut Mark Webber in the second pit stop phase after lapping consistently up to that point, and Vettel broke Nigel Mansell’s 1994 record for the amount of laps led in one season.

My drivers of the day were Alonso and Button for great starts and consistent driving, but they didn’t exactly set the world on fire.

Was the Indian GP good for the people of India and F1 fans? Not if they like close racing and excitement.

 

Drivers’ Championship Top Three

Vettel 374

Button 240

Alonso 227

 

Constructors Championship Top Three

Red Bull 595

McLaren 442

Ferrari 325

 

Result

1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault

2 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes

3 Fernando Alonso Ferrari

4 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault

5 Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP

6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP

7 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes

8 Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari

9 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes

10 Sergio Perez Sauber

11 Vitaly Petrov Renault

12 Bruno Senna Renault

13 Paul Di Resta Force India-Mercedes

14 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Renault

15 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth

16 Jerome d'Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth

17 Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth

18 Daniel Ricciardo HRT-Cosworth

19 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Renault

RET Felipe Massa Ferrari

RET Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari

RET Pastor Maldonado Williams-Cosworth

RET Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth

RET Kamui Kobayashi Sauber

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