Practice Sessions, FP1:
A challenging first session for all the drivers in one of the classic tracks on the F1 calendar. A warm sunny day for teams to asses their initial set ups running the hard tyres. Mercedes duo lead the way as Hamilton topped the time sheets with Rosberg & Vettel behind. Lot of spins & few incidents kept drivers on the edge during the session. A hard session for SFI duo as Sutil ended p only P14 while di Resta was down at P17. Sutil was suffering from understeer while di Resta couldn’t find the sweet spot & the grip.
Practice continued in the second session on Friday as teams focus shifted to check their race pace doing race simulations with long runs on medium & hard tyres. There was no stopping to incidents though as drivers had to take extra care keeping their cars intact. RBR were back to business as Vettel took P1 while Webber ended P2 & Rosberg P3. A slightly better session for SFI but still there was some work to do as di Resta ended P14 followed by his team mate Sutil at P15. Lo of laps completed by both the drivers during the day.
A relatively quick session as compared with the Friday sessions, teams main agenda in this session is to check how much the car has improved after changes brought to the cars overnight and then try the qualifying run towards the end of the session. Webber lead the pack with Hamilton & Rosberg behind as Vettel’s run was cut short due to KERS issues. SFI had their share of bad luck when Sutil spun and hit the barriers, thus ending his session then & there, he ended up at P18. Meanwhile di Resta ended at P15, very near to where he was on Friday but there was improvement time wise for him.
The pole battle became spicy with Vettel’s car issue but he was still the firm favourite to take it home, Webber though was the man to stop him clearly. The Mercedes duo were near but they were falling short to challenge for pole. A rough run for SFI during the practice session but team were hopeful of making it to Q3 for at least one of the car, the pace of their rivals especially Sauber was looking rather dangerous.
Webber set the pace in Q1 as he hunted for his first pole of the season. Hamilton & Alonso ended at P2 & P3 respectively. Chilton out paced both the Caterham & his team mate Bianchi, his best qualifying performance till date. With the 4 drivers, out went Jean as his car caught fire and our own Sutil who couldn’t improve on his time in the end. He had a new gearbox fitted in his car but reckon the damage & time loss during FP3 was a little more while di Resta made it to Q2 safely in the end.
This session was more tight as whole field was covered under a second at the end of the session. Vettel edged out Webber to P1 as Grojean popped up to P3. It was a good showing from di Resta as he ended up P12, after a on the limit lap from the Scot in the not so on form VJM06. He pitted early as the team thought that, they could go no more on those set of tyres. He was almost in line for a Q3 place but surely it was an improved qualifying performance after a patchy practice sessions.
In Q3, it was an all Webber show as his one timed lap (he did two, improved on the second) was enough for his first pole position of 2013 season. Vettel’s KERS issue pushed him down to P2 but RBR got the front row locked out. Hamilton ended P3 alongside Grosjean at P4. Massa once again out qualified Alonso as he was bunched down at P6 with Kimi behind him.
So, the pole battle was won by RBR of course but this time their “No.2” driver Webber took the honours. A nice gift for the Australian as he bids adieu to F1 at the end of the season. SFI had a decent run as di Resta qualified a high P12, right in the mix of points scoring position. Sutil was troubled during the session as he ended P17 but was to start dead last due to gearbox change. Points were a necessity for the team, di Resta was in the best of position to score and that was the aim surely.
Once again, the race day was surrounded with a slight threat of rain but come race time, it was sunny with no chance of rain. The usual weather prediction going wrong, no one was surprised with that bit of news. All the talks were about strategies and whether Vettel could get the win from Webber. At the start of the race, it was all different as Grosjean got a mighty start to go ahead of both the Red Bulls. I bet that no one saw that coming, not even Lotus at start of the race. Behind them Hamilton was pushed down to last after he had a puncture after he hit Vettel in the opening lap. Alonso was behind Massa while Kimi was towards the end of the top 10. For SFI, it was a mixed start as Sutil got a perfect launch to be at P17 ahead of the new teams & Jean while di Resta lost a couple of places to be at P15, he did say post race that he didn’t get a perfect start.
Strategy played an important role for RBR to catch up with Grosjean as both they went for split strategy to fight with Grosjean for the win. Vettel went for 2 stop while Webber went for 3 stop. The top 3 were pretty much decided mid way through the race while behind them the field was spread out with fight all the way till P10. Alonso was in fight with Hulkenberg & Kimi as the Sauber once again posed a big threat to score some good points. Rosberg was bunched down as was Massa due to penalties helping Esteban & the likes of Button & di Resta gain a bit to score some points. Outside points, the fight was on in a 3 way battle with STR, SFI & Williams tussling for positions.
After the mix start for SFI, they were running on a steady pace all through the race. They were always hunting for points but perhaps there were a lot of cars around them on similar pace which made it difficult for them to move ahead. Both the drivers were in fight with the Williams and an aggressive pit strategy helped them move ahead and they were on course for a 2 stop strategy. Towards the end di Resta was running in points and it looked like he would score some much needed points for the team.
The strategy by RBR played dividends for Vettel as he out smarted both Webber & Grosjean with his 5th consecutive win and pretty much confirming his 4th title. Webber lost some time behind Grosjean which costed him the fight with Vettel for a victory. Grosjean had a brilliant race once again ending P3, a marked improvement shown from the French. Behind them Alonso finished a fine P4 while Kimi was up to P5. Yet another brilliant run from Sauber boys as both Hulkenberg & Esteban scoring some valuable points (first points for Esteban). SFI duo ended their race without any points, di Resta’s 2 stop strategy was the best one but some fresher tyres from Button helped him move ahead of him, thus the Scot ended P11 while Sutil faced tyre issues too towards the end as he moved down to P14.
Vettel takes a lead of 90 points over Alonso and could win the title in India. The fight is on for P2 really for both the titles as RBR inches further to seal their CC as well. The last remaining races is all about best of the rest scene here which too is interesting as any position gained or lost means millions of money gained or lost. A tough battle in hand for SFI as they are now in the position of defending rather than chasing. The biggest threat from Sauber is looming but I believe that SFI might just held on to P6 by the end or at least the fight will be really very close. Next up, we move on to our own GP, it is time for Indian Grand Prix. I am really happy & excited to be going for the GP once again. My next article would be my experience of the 2013 Indian GP, and trust me that it will be filled with lots of adventures and surprises. See you guys after Indian GP.
Thanks for reading,