Here on our Lets Race blog, we are introducing a new feature where we review the greatest races and incidents to have taken place at the forthcoming circuit on the Formula One circus. We start with the Buddh International Circuit which has hosted only 2 Indian Grand Prix so far, but both have been spectacular races.
The 2011 race started chaotically, with the Williams team mates of Rubens Barrichello and Pastor Maldonado making contact in turn 1. Barrichello's car collected the Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi and then the Virgin Racing car of Timo Glock, both retiring as a result of the collisions whilst the Williams cars continued. Narain Karthikeyan tipped Jarno Trulli into a spin just 2 corners later, though neither retired as a result of the damage. At the front of the field, Jenson Button made a great start, leapfrogging both the fast starting Fernando Alonso when he went deep into turn 1, and then Mark Webber on the run down to turn 4. It was Sebastian Vettel who got the best start of all, leading away from pole position and into a healthy lead.
The race then settled down after this hectic first lap, and just after the first pitstops played out the races major talking point occurred. Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa had already made contact 4 times within the season at Monaco, Silverstone, Singapore and Suzuka. The result was therefore inevitable when Lewis Hamilton closed in on Felipe Massa for 5th position, getting a good run out of turn 4 and down the hill towards turn 5. Hamilton moved to the inside and was initially alongside before needing to brake to make the corner. Massa continued on the racing line unsighted, and it was Lewis Hamilton's front right wheel that made contact with the left rear of Felipe Massa's car. Hamilton's front wing required repairing as it pitched Massa's car into a spin, but Massa was able to continue without damage. The stewards later deemed the Ferrari driver responsible, and he was handed a drive through penalty. This decision gained a mixed reaction, as a lot of people felt that Hamilton was not fully alongside at the point of contact, making him responsible instead. Felipe Massa retired not long after serving his drive through penalty, as he was too aggressive with the kerbs through turns 8 and 9 and broke the front left suspension on his Ferrari.
Out front, Sebastian Vettel was imperious throughout. On his way to victory, he surpassed Michael Schumacher's record for laps lead and completed his first ever "Grand Chelem", having qualified on pole position, lead every single lap of the race, and recorded the fastest lap of the race. Jenson Button finished in second place, with Fernando Alonso passing Mark Webber in the second round of pitstops to complete the podium positions.
The 2012 edition of the Indian Grand Prix started in much cleaner fashion, with only Michael Schumacher suffering a puncture as a result of turning across the front of Jean-Eric Vergne's Toro Rosso. Sebastian Vettel once again sprung into an instant lead from pole position and away from second place man Mark Webber. Behind them however, the McLaren pair Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button were tussling over third position with Fernando Alonso's Ferrari ever looming. The McLaren drivers were side by side along the straight to turn 4, but Alonso had an even better run out of turn 3 and overtook both of them on the straight. There was then enough time for Lewis Hamilton to get behind and make use of the slipstream, springing his own move up the inside in the braking zone. Jenson Button also reversed the move, braking later around the outside to regain the position from the Ferrari. The McLaren cars again met side by side on the exit of turn 4, compromising the run out of the corner again and giving Alonso another chance to pass them both. He managed to pass Lewis Hamilton, but Jenson Button had the track position to hang onto third place. It was a spectacular demonstration of the trios overtaking prowess, improvisation and intelligence within the space of seconds.
Michael Schumacher's puncture was the first of many in the race, with Sergio Perez repeating the incident across the front of the other Toro Rosso of Daniel Ricciardo on lap 20. Kamui Kobayashi collided with Pastor Maldonado at half race distance, cutting across the rear of the Williams without his front wing being clear of the rear right wheel. Sebastian Vettel was one of the first cars to come across the recovering Williams, and nearly ran into the back of him having caught up in the awkward complex of corners between turns 5 and 9.
More records were broken during the 2012 Indian Grand Prix, starting with the fastest ever 5 wheel change pit stop for Lewis Hamilton. Within 3.3 seconds all 4 tyres were changed, along with his steering wheel which was giving him radio problems throughout the race. It was a slick effort by the team and allowed Hamilton to stay in the fight for a podium position. Sebastian Vettel won his fourth consecutive race, an achievement he had yet to concur within his career, and once again lead every lap of the race. Having taken pole position as well, he looked set to complete his third ever Grand Chelem on the circuit where he gained his first. As he took the chequered flag he set the fastest lap of the race, but first Fernando Alonso and then Bruno Senna and Jenson Button all set faster lap times.