Greater Noida: In 2011, when the Buddh International Circuit (BIC) hosted the maiden Indian Grand Prix here, the motorsport enthusiasts predicted a great future for the game in India.
While a hundred thousand spectators gathered to watch the race and super celebrities swamped the VIP stands, leading drivers said they were thrilled to come to India.
Drivers haven’t changed their opinion much, but sadly the situation has. The interest of the spectators has dwindled and the organisers are already feeling the heat.
So much so, there are speculations that the curtains could be drawn on the Indian Grand Prix forever this Sunday itself and there could no race in March 2015.
Whatever be the off-the-field drama, there is one thing that has remained constant for the past two seasons and unlikely to change this time, too. Red Bull’s German driver Sebastian Vettel continues to remain “untouchable” and looks set to win his third straight title and fourth consecutive world crown, here on Sunday.
On Saturday afternoon, Vettel braced for his sixth consecutive 2013 success by clocking the fastest-ever lap around the BIC. Given the way the unstoppable German displayed his skills in the morning practice session and later in the qualifying, there is little chance of anyone upsetting his applecart on Sunday.
Vettel timed 1 minute 24.119 seconds on his first run of the final qualifying shoot-out. He timing on the soft tyre was seven-tenths quicker than Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg, who took the second spot ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton.
“Yes guys, yes,” Vettel shouted on the team radio. “We did what we had to. Great job, the car was fantastic.” Vettel has never been beaten at the BIC, winning from pole position in both previous visits in 2011 and 2012.
Vettel leads the standings by 90 points from Alonso. He will only let the title slip if he fails to score another point and Alonso wins three of the last four races and is second in the other.
Mark Webber was fourth fastest in the other Red Bull car, but could prove to be Vettel’s biggest challenger in the race after opting for a different strategy to his teammate and qualifying on the much more durable medium-compound tyre.
Fernando Alonso will start on the fourth row after timing only eighth quickest for Ferrari.
The Qualifying One saw some incredibly close timings as McLaren’s Jenson Button surprised everyone by setting the pace with 1 minute 25.574 seconds ahead of Webber, Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo, Ferrari’s Felipe Massa and Hamilton.
The other shock came as Romain Grosjean failed to make it through for Lotus after a gamble staying on mediums failed and was compounded by a couple of scruffy moments on his best lap.
The Frenchman — who starred at the last race in Japan — was 17th and the first faller, on 1 minute 26.577 seconds, with Williams’ Pastor Maldonado on his tail with 1 minute 26.842 seconds.
Jules Bianchi was right with them with a superb lap of 1 minute 26.970 seconds for Marussia, outclassing the Caterhams of Giedo van der Garde and Charles Pic on 1 minute 27.105 seconds and 1 minute 27.487 seconds, and teammate Max Chilton on 1 minute 28.138 seconds.
As Vettel went fastest in Qualifying Two with 1 minute 24.568 seconds ahead of Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, Webber, Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen, Hamilton and Rosberg, Ricciardo was eliminated from the super-close contest. Button’s 1 minute 25.458 seconds was enough to keep McLaren in Qualifying Three, as the Toro Rosso’s best was 1 minute 25.519 seconds.
Jean-Eric Vergne also failed to make it with 1 minute 25.798 seconds in the sister STR8, as they were separated by the Force India’s of Paul Di Resta and Adrian Sutil on 1 minute 25.908 seconds and 1 minute 25.740 seconds.
Valtteri Bottas’ Williams was 15th on 1 minute 26.134 seconds as Esteban Gutierrez took the final place for Sauber on 1 minute 26.336 seconds.
starting grid at the buddh international circuit