FORMULA ONE / Watching Force India and Narain perform here would be a rare experience
Most circuits would yearn to swap slots with Suzuka (Japan), a venue that has seen a number of world drivers' titles being settled ever since it came into the Formula One fold.
However, the organisers of the inaugural Grand Prix of India aren't complaining — it isn't anybody's fault that the Grand Prix of India, making its debut in the Formula One circuit, has been accommodated at No. 17 in a season of 19 races.
A new track almost always gets a late slot in the calendar.
So what if Sebastian Vettel has already sewn up the World title — his second in succession — at the Japanese Grand Prix? And does Red Bull wrapping up its second successive World constructors' title in the previous race in Korea render the remainder of the races meaningless?
Not really. For one thing, drivers such as Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber are resolute that they have a lot to fight for in the last three races of the season.
And then the prospect of racing on a new track gives the drivers the kind of adrenaline rush that's only next to what the racers experience in a close struggle for the top prize.
“We want to win here, and the next two races. We don't like to finish second in any of the three remaining races. We are very competitive persons. There are so many people working for the team, and many more backing us. So our only target is to win,” said Alonso later this evening. That best sums up the mood in the Ferrari camp; and perhaps in the McLaren and Red Bull paddocks.Friday is a big day for the drivers and the teams. When they get on to the tarmac at the Buddh International Circuit for the first time in the morning for the first free practice, it will be a whole new experience for them, far removed from those fervent, multi-lap sessions they had completed on the simulator before arriving in Greater Noida.
Their biggest challenge would be gauging, among other things, the level of down force, grip and severity of braking.
As McLaren's Jenson Button explained recently, “It's a strange experience when you run for the first time on a new circuit because you're piecing together an incredibly diverse and vivid set of data in your mind.
“You're quickly gathering everything together, constantly assessing the grip-level, watching for unexpected bumps, checking the kerb-height, run-off areas, pit-lane entry and exit, gradient. And all that happens at about 170mph!”
What has been really striking is the unanimity of the drivers who have all expressed their eagerness to get on to the virgin track. With the pressure of going for the championship off, they are expected to go flat out with KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovering System) and DRS (Drag Reduction System) operable in three zones.
Drivers such as Hamilton were of the view that the down force and severity of braking would be reasonably hard on the tyres.
In effect there could be at least two if not three pit stops and the one who nurse the rapidly degrading Pirellis could hold the key.
Meanwhile, Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel has vowed to help his teammate Mark Webber finish second in the championship. Webber, with 209 points, is in the throes of a struggle for the second spot with Button (222), Alonso (212) and Hamilton (196).
Milestone in sight
Vettel, who has 12 poles and 10 victories so far, has a couple of milestones within his sights — Nigel Mansell's most pole positions in a season (14) and Michael Schumacher's most wins in a season (13).
What a wonderful season it would be for the German if he were to add these two to his one fabulous record — the youngest driver to win back-to-back titles.
From India's point of view, watching Sahara Force India and Narain Karthikeyan (Hispania Racing Team) perform here would be a rare experience.