You have all of the off-season and 2014 to wonder if the indian gp is coming back. leave this time for giving vettel some love
Given that you will be reading this probably by the time the 2013 Formula One season as a whole will be done and dusted, you would be forgiven for thinking that the events of the Indian Grand Prix – hopefully not the last – won’t be particularly relevant.
However, contentious crowd turnout figures, future uncertainty and a Michael Schumacher-esque domination by Sebastian Vettel could not overshadow the fact that the 26-year-old German won his fourth F1 championship on Indian soil.
And as much as F1 is touted as a pursuit of the ultimate machine with four-wheels, it was good to be reminded of the humanity of the man behind the wheel of the last 2.4-litre engined, V-8 machine to stand atop the F1 pile.
Vettel a ‘three M’s’ fan by his own admission (Michael Jackson, Michael Jordan and Michael Schumacher), threw post-race protocol by the wayside to perform donuts on the main straight after his slowing down lap. He then went one further to climb out of the car, bow to his mighty ‘bull’ and climbed the catch fencing to get a little closer to the “crazy” Indian F1 fans that he admits to have come to love.
A special post-race press conference after the other two podium finishers – one of them being Romain Grosjean who charged from 17th to 3rd – left was one that looked as surreal from the TV screen in the media center as it must have to those actually in the press conference room. Scrambling back from trackside with a camera and bag to the paddock in time for the press con has its limitations even with the welcome assistance of media shuttles at the Buddh International Circuit!
The sight of an increasingly inebriated Vettel answering questions in great detail – going off onto some wild tangents too – while taking swigs from the giant bottle of Mumm made for a sobering (odd choice of word in this context!) reminder of the human factor behind the image of the well-oiled machine of the F1 circus.
A WELCOME RELIEF
It was also a good way to forget the machinations of the forces behind F1 giving India a miss in 2014. The explanation of the calendar being tweaked was one that brought out the skeptic even in Sahara Force India team principal Vijay Mallya. Although a very public assurance by Jaypee Group head Jaiprakash Gaur that the Indian GP will indeed be back in 2015 and beyond seemed good enough for Mallya to take at face value.
Others, both those in the know and those just speculators, were hesitant to do so, however.
One of the chief reasons being a perceived lack of promotion for the event in India despite the fact that F1 remains a significant draw on television. Not to mention being a much discussed topic on social media.
In fact the recently concluded United States Grand Prix, which was shown live in India at 12:30 am on a Monday garnered enough interest to become the fifth highest trending topic on micro-blogging site Twitter in India (ahead of even Rahul Gandhi) just after 6:00 am. Around three and a half hours after the chequered flag had fallen in Austin following a dominant win by Vettel that saw him win his record breaking eighth straight race of the season.
IF IT’S BUILT, WILL THEY COME?
Translating that interest to both the dedicated fanatics - most of whom seem to be located outside of the National Capital Region - as well as those from the NCR to make the effort to come to a track around which there isn’t a whole lot to do still poses a problem for race organizers Jaypee Sports International (JPSI).
And that of course, is before you get into the nitty-gritty of dealing with a championship promoter who admittedly tells race organizers, up front, that they won’t make money hosting an F1 race. Along with ticket sales being the only direct source of revenue from the race available to them.
Going by the raceday attendance figure provided by JPSI, just under 61,000 people turned up to watch what many of them thought to be the last time F1 cars would be seen racing in India. Out of that, 3,500 to 4,000 were believed to be in the Paddock Club and Jaypee Lounge.
Nothing quite like the 95,000 raceday turnout in 2011 but if it holds up then not a particularly big drop from the 65,000 raceday figure of the previous year.
Of course, walking trackside past all the stands – including three that were kept shut throughout the weekend – that final figure was a little hard to believe around an hour before the race started.
By lap 42 of the 60 lap race, however, the boisterous natural stands and grandstands were all but full. Although the sight of full stands next to all but empty ones were still eerie.
It lead to a strange atmosphere within the paddock where journalists and photographers would converge following their forays trackside, into team buildings and the pitlane.
BACK TO THE SHOW
But the show still went on. And even though Vettel’s searing charge to the front of the grid after a tyre stop on lap two prompted some groans regarding predictability, one had to appreciate the driving and technical genius (Vettel and Adrian Newey) on display. And that was regardless of whether one liked Vettel.
Former McLaren chief mechanic and Jordan technical director Gary Anderson was pretty clear that it was Vettel making the Red Bull a better car.
“If you were to look at a car and understand some the reasoning behind the concepts behind it, Vettel drives that car to use that potential,” Anderson told autoX. “If you were to ask if Lewis Hamilton could come into Red Bull and be asked by Adrian Newey to look at a car and find the right driving solution to optimize the performance of it, then the answer would be no, he couldn’t.
“Alonso couldn’t do it either because he is too old and fixed in his ways, which is also why Vettel is quicker than Mark Webber. I would be willing to say that nobody would drive a Red Bull quicker than Vettel would.”
Hard to imagine any of them being as engaging as Vettel out of the car or with a well earned bottle of champagne either!