When the lights go out on October 28, India will find its usual spotlight on the Formula One calendar. It feels good to say so, for the inhibitions of its inaugural race last year would have vanished. A repeat success story will only glorify the Indian Grand Prix further. What will add further value to the spectacle is the small matter of the championship this year. At the time of writing, Sebastian Vettel closed in his third world title by winning the Korean GP after an eventful time spent at Suzuka. The Japanese GP has always impressed upon the championship battle. Despite its season-ending status taken away, it continues to do so. A first lap crash-out for Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso meant that Vettel’s victory for Red Bull was doubly sweet.
Red Bull had been working on their double-DRS for long and they finally deployed it at Suzuka. This new weapon gave them immense downforce during qualifying and let them dominate so much that Vettel has now won three races in a row, a feat accomplished only once so far in 2012. They could have scored a one-two on the podium, and only another error from Romain Grosjean stopped it. it means that the red lights are now blinking for Ferrari. If Red Bull continues to dominate and McLaren are peeved with their problems, the Scuderia doesn’t have the speed to stop Vettel from winning.
Elsewhere, the battle for next year was already playing out. Sergio Perez battled hard with both Jenson Button (his team-mate in 2013 at McLaren) and Lewis Hamilton (the one he is replacing there), but in the end lost out under braking. Patience will be one of the key lessons he will learn at the Woking-based team. Kamui Kobayashi showed far more prudence in tackling the track and why not, for he has driven here all his life. And it showed when he drove a near flawless race to get the first podium there for a Japanese driver in 22 years. The chants of ‘Kamui, Kamui’ when he climbed up were enough to induce goose bumps. His hard work means that Sauber are now only 20 points behind Mercedes in the constructors’ championship.
Talking of Mercedes, Michael Schumacher retires at the end of the season and Lewis Hamilton will take up his seat. It will be a sad end for the legend as his dream of winning a race has gone unfulfilled so far, and barring a miracle, it seems doubtful that it will be accomplished. Mercedes will also have the double-DRS working for them in India and for once they will hope Schumacher’s luck shines, having deserted him all through this season. What a send off that will be from Indian F1 fans if he can do well.
Talking about something to cheer about, the Indian fans will see Kimi Raikkonen in flesh and blood for the first time. The Iceman lies third in the championship on his return to Formula One, and has been hunting his first win throughout the season. What bets on him getting it right here? Plus, you cannot forget the home team Force India either. Last season they weren’t in such good shape coming to the inaugural race here and despite wanting a podium, they finished far off. This time though, they have a little momentum going, especially Nico Hulkenberg who has bettered his team-mate Paul Di Resta in the latter half of the season. A podium might be a little too much to ask since we are at the business end of the championship and no top team would want to foul up. But home advantage shouldn’t be ruled out.
While the fans will be hoping for great action from ‘their team’, the organizers are making sure they don’t go home disappointed any which ways. The inaugural edition of the GP witnessed Sachin Tendulkar flagging off the race while teammates Virender Sehwag and Harbhajan Singh joined him in the paddock. This time around cricketing stardom is set to make a bigger presence. Apart from Tendulkar, Indian skipper MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh will attend. Sri Lankan star-batsman Kumar Sangakkara is also expected to fly in. Also, Sania Mirza will also be attending the race, possibly with husband Shoaib Malik at her side.
Singer Shaan and composer Vishal Dadlaani are expected to perform at the race while there will be lead-up performances by various bands, who will be staged at different parts of the circuit. These select college bands will get the opportunity to perform as part of an initiative - Rock The Race - by JPSI to promote young talent in India. These bands will be playing in different entertainment zones at the circuit.
Twenty bands from colleges across Delhi/NCR, Chandigarh and Jaipur participated in the audition round of the Rock The Race. The bands that have qualified from Delhi University are Misba (Guru Gobind Singh College), Stone Age (Hindu College), Yatharth (Maharaja Agrasen Institute of Technology), Bhangra Nights (Venkateswara College), and Electric Notes and Verve, both of which are independent bands formed by college students.
To enable fans to enjoy to the hilt, the organizers, Jaypee Sports, have decided to slash ticket prices as compared to last season. Special deals are being offered for Race Day on October 28 when tickets for the main grand stand are priced at Rs.12000 while grid and pit lane action can be witnessed by F1 fans with paddock passes available at a bargain price for Rs.21000, for all three days. There is more for fans without deep pockets.
The cheapest ticket is of Rs.3000 for the natural or picnic stands while a single day ticket can be had for Rs.2000. The Buddh International Circuit has had a whole year to work and provide enhanced facilities, and they seem to be delivering on that promise.
Most of the major automobile companies and brands associated with F1 are offering freebies to the fans and make sure that their dream of catching all the adrenaline filled action comes true. Bajaj Allianz have an online racing game called ‘Drive Master’ where a pre-set lap time is by Nico Rosberg and you have to beat him time to stand to win tickets. Volkswagen is also giving fans a chance to win passes through test drives. Renault has started a contest wherein participants have to prove how big an F1 fan they are, by uploading a video imitating the sound of F1 cars. The winners will be given paddock passes to the Indian GP.
Mercedes Benz, the race partners, are offering a chance to win grand stand tickets in a contest named Star Chase. The sponsors of the race, Airtel, have launched a ‘Be a part of the pit crew’ contest. They have also launched a new application for F1 racing fans.
Even the teams are expected to enter into one-race associations with brands from the country. Amul sponsored Sauber last season while Hero were also represented by Narain Karthikeyan, who will once again drive for HRT and represent India among the drivers. Meanwhile, Marussia F1 Team has united with Monster Worldwide to engage best of best for a variety of permanent roles that will go a long way in ensuring enhanced technical and commercial accomplishment for the team.
An aerodynamicist had already been appointed through Monster.com for the Marussia Team F1 race car. A design Engineer and Composite Technician have also been found through the same means. All in all, a variety of endeavours are in place to make the 2012 Indian Grand Prix as successful as the inaugural event last year.