Can Ferrari hit back at Red Bull in India?

2012 Indian Grand Prix preview

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India circuit information

Lap length5.125km (3.185 miles)
Distance60 laps (307.5km/191.1 miles)
Lap record*1’27.249 (Sebastian Vettel, 2011)
Fastest lap1’24.178 (Sebastian Vettel, 2011)
TyresHard and Soft

*Fastest lap set during a Grand Prix

India track data in full

F1 was warmly embraced by India on its first visit last year. The drivers raved about the track, which was deemed a cut above the usual modern circuits.

Unfortunately it produced a less than scintillating race. The championship was already over by this stage, and Sebastian Vettel simply turned up and crushed his rivals.

Heading into the year’s race the championship is much closer, though recent events have swung it in Vettel’s favour. The big question this weekend is whether Ferrari and Fernando Alonso can offer any resistance to Vettel’s march towards a third world championship.

Pirelli erred on the side of caution ahead of last year’s race, bringing the hard and soft tyres. It turned out the harder compound was capable of completing at least one race distance.

Nonetheless Pirelli will bring the same allocation this year, though both compounds are softer than they were last year.

“The surface isn’t abrasive at all,” said home driver Narain Karthikeyan. “Wear shouldn’t be an issue.”

Indian Grand Prix team-by-team preview

Red Bull

Red Bull have moved ahead in the development race at a crucial point in the season. Sebastian Vettel heads into the Indian Grand Prix on the back of three consecutive wins.

He dominated the first ever race at Buddh International Circuit last year, scoring his first ever perfect result by winning from pole position, setting fastest lap and leading all the way.

But for all the team’s recent success his championship lead is a slender six points, and he needs to keep making the most of the advantage he has to shore up his lead over Alonso.


Persistent reliability problems have dogged McLaren in recent races. What they need above all else is a clean weekend.

If they can do that, the combination of the MP4-27 and its two world champion drivers (enjoy that while it lasts) should allow them to reclaim the second place in the constructors’ championship they lost to Ferrari in Korea.


Alonso finally surrendered his hard-won advantage in the drivers’ championship to Vettel in Korea. Ferrari are puling out all the stops in their effort to take it back and tried out a raft of new components in a straight-line aerodynamic test last week.

But as ever with Ferrari, the crucial question will be whether these updates work as planned. Recall the strange sight of Massa’s front wing shuddering at speed during practice in India last year as the team struggled to get to grips with its latest upgrade.


After the last two races Rosberg has a simple objective for this one: survive the first lap without being hit.

The team haven’t scored in the last two races, coincidentally, the two since Hamilton announced he will be driving for them next year. But Buddh’s long straights should give the W03 the chance to play its strong card: the straight-line speed boost from its Double DRS.


For the second weekend in a row the Lotus drivers are at a track which neither of them have driven on before.

The Coanda exhaust introduced in Korea produced a gain in performance, though it came at the expense of straight-line speed, indicating the team still have some progress to make with this upgrade.

Force India

Team principal Vijay Mallya may struggle to turn the local media spotlight onto the home team as his financial and legal problems worsen.

But Force India have come on strong in the second half of the season. Nico Hulkenberg grabbed attention with an excellent run to sixth in Korea.

The prospects of a home podium for the team are slim – the best they’ve managed thus far a pair of fourth places aided by retirements in Belgium and Singapore.


The second half of the lap at Buddh with its high-speed corners should suit the C31 fairly well. The long straights at the beginning of the lap less so.

The team are in with a slim chance of taking fifth in the constructors’ championship off Mercedes, but haven’t capitalised sufficiently on their rival’s recent misfortunes.

Toro Rosso

After a quiet start to the season the Toro Rosso drivers have been increasingly regular visitors to the points since the summer break, particularly Ricciardo.

Vergne did not run in the practice session here last year, so he’ll be starting from scratch with this track.


Williams believe they have found a solution to the balance problem that affected their car in recent races and led to a no-score in Korea.


Giedo van der Garde will have another chance to drive for the team during free practice.

Kovalainen admitted the team are now focussed not on their rivals ahead but those behind them: “The guys behind us are putting up a good fight and, while we have clear air between us on track, we need to make sure we keep that gap, and, where possible, take advantage of anything that happens ahead.”


Karthikeyan will be the only home driver in the race, so he can count on getting a full complement of practice sessions for a change.


Glock is another driver who’s enthusiastic about racing in India: “It’s a fantastic track,” he said. “As soon as we did our first practice runs at the Buddh International Circuit last year, I enjoyed it straight away.

“There are so many special sections to the track, especially turn three, which is a very extreme corner. You have to completely turn into the steering wheel, followed by a very long straight.”

2012 driver form

Q avgR avgR bestR worstClassifiedForm guide
Sebastian Vettel4.444.812215/16Form guide
Mark Webber6.696.512016/16Form guide
Jenson Button6.637.7911814/16Form guide
Lewis Hamilton4.945.7711913/16Form guide
Fernando Alonso6.063.571914/16Form guide
Felipe Massa10.448.821615/16Form guide
Michael Schumacher9.258.223139/16Form guide
Nico Rosberg9.067.8611514/16Form guide
Kimi Raikkonen7.885.3121416/16Form guide
Romain Grosjean6.737.521910/15Form guide
Paul di Resta11.139.5341415/16Form guide
Nico Hulkenberg12.1910.3342115/16Form guide
Kamui Kobayashi10.639.531812/16Form guide
Sergio Perez12.388.1721412/16Form guide
Daniel Ricciardo14.3812.0791715/16Form guide
Jean-Eric Vergne16.6912.3881613/16Form guide
Pastor Maldonado11.2511.9211912/16Form guide
Bruno Senna14.8112.6762215/16Form guide
Heikki Kovalainen18.1316.67132315/16Form guide
Vitaly Petrov18.8116.54131913/16Form guide
Pedro de la Rosa21.6719.33172212/15Form guide
Narain Karthikeyan23.1320.1115239/15Form guide
Timo Glock20.417.14122214/15Form guide
Charles Pic21.4418152012/16Form guide
Jerome D’Ambrosio151313131/1Form guide

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2012 Indian Grand Prix

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Image © Red Bull/Getty images, Sahara Force India F1 Team, HRT

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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46 comments on “Can Ferrari hit back at Red Bull in India?”

  1. Now Hamilton is surely out of the title race…my hope is that Alonso takes the tittle. Im hoping McLaren can get right up there and perhaps take a palce or 2 from the Red Bulls…going to be hard for Alonso though!

    If Vettel gets pole, cant see anyone beating him from there!

    1. Renault’s alternator.

      1. Sviatoslav Andrushko (@)
        25th October 2012, 15:42

        Apparently, it’s Renault’s alternator the one to beat)

      2. @jcost The only place where that’s likely to be a threat is Abu Dhabi really

        1. It wouldn’t be bad for the championship if there was a mechanical issue for Vettel. If Alonso could take the lead back here of say 19 points (Vettel DNF – Alonso win) that would leave Vettel needing to win the last 3 realistically)

          Otherwise I think Vettel and Red Bull have too much Performance advantage to throw this away!

  2. Well the headline should be – ” Can Ferrari stop the Vettel juggernaut??”….and I think they can. The recent straight-line test has helped the team’s(Ferrari) understanding of the car. As for Alonso he will bounce back and I am hoping for a close race!!

  3. Very difficult to see past Red Bull at the moment though Ferrari’s recent developments have been tested in Cologne at a wind tunnel that is actually correlated correctly so perhaps they could spring a surprise? If Vettel can do his usual trick of pulling out a significant gap before DRS kicks in then I think it will be 25 points in his back pocket. However, it will be interesting to see how the start unfolds this time. Last time out Rosberg’s misfortune turned prime over-taking laps into a non-event so maybe we could see a bit more of a challenge this weekend.

    1. Ferrari have been using the Toyota facility all year as well as their own. It’s the correlation with CFD they’re struggling with. They design parts with CFD, manufacture them and put them in the tunnel and then the numbers don’t stack up. They are overhauling their whole setup back at Maranello now which is something they have been resisting for years but now they have no choice. I wouldn’t expect any miracles this weekend.

  4. The only occasions I can remember Alonso and Ferrari being quickest in dry qualifying trim are Monza and Singapore 2010, and Monza 2012 although then Alonso’s car let him down in Q3. As a result, it’s likely that Alonso will be behind Vettel in qualifying, with possibly Webber and Hamilton in between as well, and it’s going to be difficult for Alonso to be ahead of Vettel by the end of the first lap. Consequently, I don’t see Alonso beating Vettel this weekend if the latter has a clean run.

    It will be more interesting to see whether McLaren can get back ahead of Ferrari and even level with Red Bull. It wasn’t that long ago that the MP4-27 looked the most complete package, but in Korea last time around they were back in that familiar position of second- or third-fastest car.

    Webber has been in good form the last two weekends, so I’m hoping for him to be ahead of Vettel again on Saturday, or even better on Sunday after the first lap, so we can enjoy an interesting race, and see how Red Bull approach the race if Vettel is directly behind Webber.

  5. Congrats to RB. You can’t knock them down for race and development management compared to what is available to others like McLaren who seem to be in self-destruct mode.

  6. As much as I don’t want to admit it, it is all she wrote for the title race. The RB8 is looking magnificent and Vettel hasn’t put a foot wrong in the last 3 races. It will take a miracle for Alonso to win the title now.

    All we can hope for is that Vettel doesn’t romp to 7 wins in a row to end off the season!

    1. Interestingly, Vettel hasn’t managed a quadruple of wins in his career just yet, just dubious as to how long that statistic can remain.

      The more I view the championship title situation, the more I say to myself that Vettel taking the championship is almost a foregone conclusion providing no reliability or technical issues, their raw performance at the moment is just ridiculously strong. To reiterate, I just cannot believe how Australia looks like a distant memory for McLaren, the latter who need another sincere update on the car If they are to surpass RB on raw performance, although that’s highly inconceivable given the ever increasing but typical concentration teams are putting into next year’s cars.

      Again it’s incredulous to point out – after all that’s happened this season, thinking that Alonso would hold on to his considerable advantage or Hamilton would appear convincingly, we’re looking at the story of 2010 & 2011 in Vettel & RB being within touching distance of the WDC & WCC but I’m keeping an open-mind & concluding – anything & everything is possible.

      1. @younger-hamii he has, actually. Brazil 2010, Abu Dhabi 2010, Australia 2011 and Malaysia 2011.

        1. Well there goes that statistic, like I said, I was wondering how long & Vettel didn’t even break the news. I just presumed a quadruple of wins in a season rather than across two, my apologies!

    2. @geemac

      It will take a miracle for Alonso to win the title now.

      After that terrible car in Melbourne qualifying, Alonso led the championship 8 days later. He’s also had some great achievements this year, like winning from 12th and winning in Hockenheim when he really shouldn’t have.

      Vettel looks the favourite now but Alonso’s surprised us in bigger ways this year, so don’t rule him out at all!

      1. @enigma I’m trying not to get my hopes up!

  7. Long story short,no!

  8. Bob (@bobthevulcan)
    24th October 2012, 14:29

    I don’t think Alonso can edge Vettel in qualifying pace. Buddh Circuit suits the RB8 very well. Sectors 2 and 3 play right into their aerodynamics advantage, as do those hairpins requiring good low speed traction. Their straight line speed deficit on the long straights of sector 1 should be offset by the DDRS system. Hate to say it, but it seems that another easy Red Bull pole position is in the cards.

    Race pace, however, is where Ferrari can make up for it. If their car development produces the intended results, and provided that Alonso qualifies strongly, I can see him challenging for the podium/win, to stay on Vettel’s heels in the standings. Of course, we’ll have to wait for the FP results to know for sure if the upgrades will be effective.

    On a side note, where would McLaren factor in? After their recent streak of bad luck, I’m sure they’ll be fighting to retake 2nd in the constructors’. How would this affect the Vettel/Alonso battle, on-track and in terms of results?

    I, for one, would like to see this championship go down to the wire. Here’s hoping for that.

  9. Championship’s over folks. That redBull rocketship has more upgrades comin!

    1. @M30

      Precisely! Ferrari can bring all the upgrades they want..the fact is, the wont be able to touch Seb this weekend. As much I would hope my statement is wrong…but the writing is on the wall. If Ferrari get their upgrades working for a change..they might get 3rd. I’ll be damned if Alonso out qualifies Vettel, which would mean getting pole.
      Anyways..looks like my title drought is set to continue…no driver I have supported has won a WDC…so maybe I should switch to Vettel for next year..haha

  10. Red Bull will probably manage pole position no.3 in a row; this time I believe it will be Vettel on the first grid slot though. The RB8 also had decent race pace, at least fast enough to remain on a par with the Ferrari. Couple that with clean air and Vettel’s ability to pull out a gap in the opening laps and this could well be another Red Bull 1-2.

    I won’t jump to any conclusions until FP gives an indication though!

  11. I think Alonso can at least pull a podium here on merit. He was very good last year IIRC. Despite the 2011 Ferrari turning from dog to walrus on the 2011 hard tyres Alonso still managed to get a podium, knocking Webber out of the podium.

    Lewis Hamilton was quite good too – he qualified on the front row (but had a 3-place grid drop for having DRS open in a yellow flag zone in practice). He may be out, but I think he may be a big factor in the title run-in here.

    Again – at just about every race weekend, we are threatened with the possibility of having that mythical unicorn that is the Vettel-Alonso-Hamilton podium, but it never seems to materialise. What will it be this weekend?

    I guess the podium isn’t big enough to handle that much talent in one go.

    1. It could very well materialise that Vettel/Hamilton/Alonso podium, if McLaren can build their car properly! It still has the pace (albeit not to match the Red Bull’s at this current moment in time) but still he is in with a shout, as is Alonso with a vastly improved Massa at his aid. By my reckoning it would also be in that order or Vettel/Alonso/Hamilton.

      1. @vettel1 I see nothing wrong with the McLaren pace. I don’t even think it’s too far behind the Red Bull on race pace (other than Suzuka). It’s been reliability that has buggered their chances in the last few races.

        1. Exactly as I said @raymondu999 – McLaren haven’t built their car properly since Hamilton signed for Mercedes. The pace is there, perhaps more in the race than qualifying, but it just isn’t close enough to challenge the Red Bull’s at this moment in time. That could change though…

  12. The nature (high downforce) of this track suits better the Red Bull’s, so its gonna be difficult for Ferrari .
    But if they bring the right upgrades, considering that last year the gap’s between the top three teams were very small , everything can happen.
    In 2011 RB had the best times in sector’s 2&3 and McL were fastest in sector 1 while Ferrari were 2nd best’s in sector 1&2.

  13. There is a rumour in Spain that Massa was running and testing an update for Ferrari last week, that’s why he was faster than Fernando.

    1. Someone mentioned this a few days ago – it turned out the report was wrong.

      1. Yeah it turns out he wasn’t testing an upgrade…he was testing FA’s patience and Ferrari’s rooster philosophy to see how intact they were.

  14. We’ve had plenty of Schuey vs. Newey, and no respect to Herr Vettel, but the last few year have been Newey vs. Alonso. Yeah, it doesn’t have that nice rhyming ring to it, but that’s what it’s been. If Alonso can pull off one more win and Vettel get’s another DNF, he has a chance. Even if Ferrari’s new upgrades from their straight-line test can put the F2012 on the 2nd row in qualy for the majority of the next races, Alonso still has a great shot. Either way, I hope the championship doesn’t wrap up until Brazil.

  15. You’re not allowed to hit a bull. Animal cruelty.

    1. Ha! Tell that Grosjean

      1. * Tell that to Grosjean

        1. Karthikeyan has done it earlier this year. If onee wants to make championship interesting bring the Narain God out to hit the Bull of Vettel.

  16. OmarR-Pepper (@)
    25th October 2012, 14:29

    Alonso finally surrendered his hard-won advantage in the drivers’ championship to Vettel in Korea.

    Hard-won… mmm, not really. He has made the best of the opportunities he has had, but as somebody commented after Japan’s race, it’s just that the retirement among the leaders are now leveled, except for Kimi.
    (I mean: Fernando, Sebastian and Lewis have all had 2 retirements due to external reasons beyond their control)

  17. I can sense a non-finish for Vettel or at least a grid spot way down the order. I can feel it for some reason… perhaps nothing more than wishful thinking though. It would be nice to see Alonso win his third title because the way he has driven he deserves it.

    1. @john-h considering how he performed in India last year, and his run of form of late, logically speaking – not really going to happen though is it?

    2. Dammit logic, thou art a pesky fiend!

  18. Yeah I think the short and easy answer is yes Ferrari can hit back at Red Bull in India, but the odds are against them, given that SV has just won 3 races in a row, and coming off their domination last year making the thought of them not winning again this year a bit hard to imagine at this stage.

    While we saw a record number of various winners at the start of the season, it has come down to certain teams getting a handle on that unpredictability better than others. So while it is definitely possible that FA could find himself particularly hooked up in India, and hard to beat, it just seems the odds are more that that kind of ‘tire lottery’ is less the factor in this late stage of the season, and it is about who has learned about the tires and evolved their car better throughout the season. And that seems to be Red Bull if you go by the last 3 races. Even if FA finds himself particularly competitive this race, I think so will SV be.

    Of course I like most hope that it comes down to the last race of the season, but at this point I think the only way that might happen is if SV dnf’s in India and FA wins. Anything else, and FA won’t have enough car or time to beat SV this year. Of course, SV’s lead is ‘only’ a handful of points, but that might as well be a mountain of points if FA can’t finish ahead of him in the remaining races. And as I see, it seems like that may only happen with misfortune on SV’s part. And of course, there are a million variables that can occur, so we won’t really know until we know, or the math decides definitively.

  19. Sergio Perez will miss FP1 & FP2 due to illness.

    1. @sigman1998 I’ve seen stories about him being unwell but no official confirmation he’ll miss practice. Where have you seen this report?

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