Fernando Alonso is not sure if his drive to second place in the Indian Grand Prix was his best performance of the season. The Scuderia Ferrari man cited Valencia, in his home country and Monza, the team’s home race, as being particular favourites, but in pure driving terms, let those of us watching from outside the cockpit assure the Spaniard this was indeed a truly bravura performance. Under normal conditions on a dry track, you are not supposed to go from fifth on the grid to second place, by getting ahead of two McLarens and one Red Bull. But that’s what he did. As for his team-mate, Felipe Massa finished where he started in sixth place: that might sound dull, but the Brazilian was on something of an “economy run” for around two thirds of the race because of a fuel management problem and had to fight for all he was worth, using all his skill and experience to fend off a hard-charging Kimi Raikkonen who stuck to his tail all race long.
When the lights went out, it seemed that the script Fernando had described after Saturday’s qualifying was playing out. He had said he would hope to attack the McLarens immediately and then pursue the Red Bulls that had monopolised the front row. Webber seemed to have the edge off the line, but pole man Vettel asserted his authority, while behind, Hamilton and Button swapped sides as they tried to get the better of one another. This allowed Fernando to pass Hamilton on lap 1, while Button was dealt with four laps later. Felipe was still sixth, as his team-mate set about pursuing the flying Red Bulls. Going into this race, the lack of wear on the Pirelli tyres, both the Hard and the Soft meant that a one stop strategy was being touted as a viable alternative to a two stop and come the afternoon, the single tyre change was clearly the way to go: timing the stop right would be important therefore. Button was the first of the front runners to come in on lap 25, while Raikkonen made his change on lap 27, one ahead of Felipe. This was a fascinating contest and although the Brazilian came out ahead of the Finn, Felipe appeared to be overwhelmed by the Lotus a few corners later. But it had been a clever bluff, to ensure that the Ferrari would be behind going down the long straight and therefore secure the position for good by using the DRS to draw well past. Obviously, Raikkonen is not the sort to give up and Felipe’s mirrors were full of black Lotus all the way to the chequered flag. Fernando’s tyre change was made on lap 29.
For the Spaniard, the move from the lowest to the middle step of the podium came on lap 48 of 60, when he finally got past Webber, who was suffering from a problem with the KERS and finished third. It was the only piece of outside help Fernando got all afternoon, during a truly epic drive. Come the flag, separating Felipe from the podium trio of Vettel, Fernando and Webber were the two McLarens, with Hamilton fourth and Button fifth, while behind the Ferrari man, the rest of the points went to the tenacious Raikkonen in seventh, followed by Hulkenberg for Force India, Grosjean in the other Lotus and Senna tenth for Williams.
The Indian Grand Prix was the first of many races which will take place in the next few days: there is the usual one going on now as all the teams are feverishly packing up cars and equipment in the Buddh circuit paddocks, as they have to be ready for action in a few days in Abu Dhabi, then there’s the race against the clock going on in Maranello to bring as many updates as possible for the F2012 to Arabia and on Sunday, we will have the eighteenth round of this year’s World Championship. The primary objective will be to close down Vettel’s 13 point lead over Fernando, or better still, wipe it out completely.
Click here for FIA lap chart.
Stefano Domenicali: “What a race that was from Fernando, simply amazing! Yesterday, he’d said he would tackle this race like a sixty lap qualifying session and he was true to his word: on the attack from start to finish, the only one from the top ten on the grid to make up places by the end. This second place is all down to his talent, to his aggressive approach and the fact he never wants to give up."
Felipe Massa: ““It was a very tough fight, from start to finish. After around 20 laps, I was told from the pitwall that I had to try and save fuel, so I ended up doing over half the race without being able to go flat out and I can assure you, it was definitely not easy, because Kimi was always very close to me. Now we go to Abu Dhabi. Let’s hope we have some more updates on the car and can secure a better result than this sixth place.”