Fast and hot wheels

Written by Vikram Chaudhary | Updated: Oct 27 2012, 07:41am hrs
So, we are hosting the second edition of the Indian Grand Prix and are now respectably placed on the Formula One calendar. The five red lights that will go out to signal the start of the second edition of the Indian Grand Prix on Sunday will also mark Indias consolidation in the field of hosting the premier motor racing event in the world. Before some facts about the current race, lets have a brief look at how last years race went. The Indian Grand Prix 2011 was won by Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull Racing, whose timing for the race was 1:30:35.002, followed by Jenson Button of McLaren-Mercedes and Fernando Alonso of Ferrari. In fact, Vettel also clocked the fastest lap of the race at 1 minute 27.249 seconds. The only Indian driver, Narain Karthikeyan of HRT F1 finished at 17th place and Indian team Sahara Force Indias driver Adrian Sutil stood ninth. Cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar waved the chequered flag to end last years race. As far as the trackthe Buddh International Circuitis concerned, the participants loved it, especially the elevation changes that add to the fun. In fact, Red Bull Racings Mark Webber told FE in a recent interview that the BIC is different because of its mix of challenging as well as top-speed sections. There is a lot of elevation change around the lap which adds to the fun, from as much as 8% downhill and up to 10% uphill; its like a roller coaster. It really has emerged as one of the most challenging circuits on the calendar for the drivers, he said.

Though last years race went smoothly with no major accidents, the run-up to the race wasnt that smooth. First, a few weeks before the race, Indian customs officials demanded import duty on the necessary items that are generally imported by participants before the race and stored in a bonding facility near the track. Although the issue was sorted outsince after the event the items are packed and sent to the next Grand Prix destinationthe news did take away some of the positives that come with an event such as Formula One. Then there were talks on whether Formula One is a sport or simply entertainment and do we really need it. But the Indian Grand Prix went well and we saw a record attendance of just under a lakh spectators. Additionally, hotels and airlines also recorded a spike in demand during the event. And lastly, Formula One, to a little extent though, did bring us onto the global sporting arena. (Remember, our Bric peers are hosting some serious sporting eventsChina hosted the Olympics in 2008, Russia hosts the Winter Olympics in 2014, Brazil the Football World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016, and Russia the Football World Cup in 2018.)

Coming to this years race, unlike last year, the race is quite open. Although Vettel (Red Bull Racing), with 215 points, will start as the favourite this year too (last year, by the time Indian Grand Prix came around, Vettel had already won enough points to win the drivers championship), Alonso (Ferrari), with 209 points, is a close second, and, as far as the years drivers standings go, trails Vettel by just 6 pointsso expect an epic battle at the BIC. Kimi Rikknen of Lotus-Renault is third at 167, while Lewis Hamilton of McLaren-Mercedes and Mark Webber of Red Bull Racing are at fourth and fifth spots, with 153 and 152 points, respectively.

But as far as constructors standings (team standings) go, Red Bull Racing (at 367 points) is leading Ferrari (290) by a good 77 points, though McLaren-Mercedes is a close third at 284 points and will be looking to regain its form and, hopefully, a second place by the end of the season (if it can retain lost ground at the BIC and later in Abu Dhabi, US and Brazil). Lewis Hamilton of McLaren-Mercedes, though effectively out of drivers title contention, will be fired up to deliver at the BIC for his team one last time (Hamilton will be leaving McLaren after the 2012 season to join Mercedes for the 2013 season onwards, partnering Nico Rosberg). At the fourth team spot is Lotus-Renault, at 255 points, and Kimi Rikknen and Romain Grosjean are the hopefuls the team has. At the fifth spot is Mercedes, at a distant 136 points. Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg are the teams drivers. It must be mentioned that this race is, in all probability, the last time when people will be able to see Michael Schumacher driving in Delhi. And we have a considerable army of Schumi fans in India. Now, Schumi is a wizard when it comes to driving in the rainremember the fact that early this week it rained in Delhiso its likely that the rain gods are going to receive numerous prayers from his fans for a repeat of the deluge. Sauber-Ferrari, at 116 points, will be doing all they can to close the gap on Mercedes, while being chased hard by Force India-Mercedes (at 89 points), for whom this is probably the most important race. The race is equally important for Narain Karthikeyan, whose team HRT-Cosworth is languishing at the last spot, with 0 points.

So, while this year, according to some, the novelty factor might have worn off, what hasnt is the fan base of the race in India. Arguably, the Indian Grand Prix has done much more than just increase Indias stature as both a host and a sporting nationremember the fact that with a global television audience of close to 500 million, Formula One is a broadcasters delightand the second edition will only consolidate this. Additionally, we look forward to seeing more than just Formula One at the BICwith the MotoGP, the World Endurance Championship, the Superbike World Championship, the DTM touring car series ... the arena is open.