Indian Grand Prix – day one


Thanks to the advice of our features editor Simon Arron, we’re staying in a decent hotel here in India that is blessed with a curry-serving restaurant called Flavours. All of us have been eating it since we arrived. Well, not quite all of us as a fellow journalist opted for another local speciality last night – Fish and Chips (weirdly the chips turned out to be crisps). He was still standing this morning, though, ready for Williams’ Friday Brits breakfast. Their Full English is a delicious taste of home when you’re over 4000 miles from London.

The second odd decision in 24 hours came in the shape of the Supreme Court’s decision to delay the hearing into whether Sunday’s race should go ahead until after the event. Still, no one at the circuit was complaining as the Formula 1 cars took to the track.

There were no huge surprises when Vettel topped both practice sessions, on each occasion followed closely by his team-mate. As every lap passed and every run completed he edged closer to title number four. So close, in fact, that someone played the first two bars of the German national anthem over the tannoy by a mistake. A bit premature, perhaps. Christian Horner certainly thinks so as when he was questioned whether Red Bull had a stash of victory t-shirts hidden in the back of a truck he commented, “if there are any t-shirts I certainly haven’t seen any and they would be well advised to keep them away from me…”

Both practice sessions passed largely without incident, but with such a green and dusty track the entire grid struggled to make the soft tyres last any longer than seven or eight laps. “They don’t last long,” said a very relaxed Vettel about the option tyres, “but the track is rubbering in and it will improve tomorrow as well.”

Maldonado raised a few eyebrows in FP1 as he decided to go drifting in his Williams; his sideways approach to Turn 6 looking more like something you’d see on Wales Rally GB rather than on a Grand Prix track. His second session wasn’t without problems either after his front-right wheel nut came off. FP2 ended early for him, as did FP1 for Alonso who suffered a gearbox problem.

In keeping with drivers constantly changing the design of their helmets, Alonso is wearing a special ‘world record’ motif this weekend with the number 1571 on the side. He’s now gained the most points in Formula 1 – beating Schumacher’s 1566. It’s a strange thing to celebrate, though, considering how many points are now available at any one of the many races. Still, even small records mean something to the Spaniard in light of his last four years at Ferrari. Jenson Button and Sergio Pérez also had a small change made to their helmet design in tribute to the late Sean Edwards – a fitting mark of respect to a great driver.

Force India is also paying tribute to a sportsman, but its hashtag ‘masterblaster’ is in honour of India’s great cricketer Sachin Tendulkar. It seems impossible to escape the sport this weekend especially when, in the team principal press conference, the local press asked Vijay Mallya only cricketing questions. My knowledge of the sport has since doubled.

Even if Vettel doesn’t get his third straight pole here in India it would be a brave man to bet against him taking victory, the Red Bulls looking strong on long runs as well as short. The Lotus of Grosjean was also quick, as were the Mercedes cars. However, when Hamilton says that he is “working towards a strong qualifying performance, ideally on the second row”, you know that it’s going to take some effort to depose Vettel tomorrow.

“Should we achieve a quadruple double championship it would be an amazing feat for every single member of the team,” said Horner. “But those thoughts aren’t on our minds at the moment, they’re on this event. The championship tables are obviously looking very healthy, but it’s never done until it’s mathematically impossible for anyone else to win. We want to get the most out of this weekend and then the championship tables tend to take care of themselves.” Hopefully, for the sake of that shaking foot, Horner didn’t hear the premature German national anthem.

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history  I was there when... 2010 Korean GP

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