With little more than a month left to go for the 2012 Indian Grand Prix, the competition around Europe is shaping up to give us a race for the ages at the Buddh International Circuit.
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Just when you’d think McLaren Mercedes, the team everyone loves to hate, is out of the reckoning- they’ve had a storming 10 days that has seen both of their drivers win a race each. After Button at Spa, it was the Hamilton show at Monza- every F1 layman’s favorite and most popular circuit. Italy saw the arrival of upto 5 ex-Monza winners, each of them still a threat on their weekend.
Not surprisingly, the famed Tifosi showed up in massive volumes to back their very own- the Prancing Horse, the Scarlett Sea, the team for all times- Ferrari.
Amidst this ocean of red, though, it was Hamilton who stole Saturday Qualifying, disrupting the party after Alonso struggled in his Ferrari for the first time, only managing to secure himself a 10th place starting grid. For the first time this season, his teammate Felipe Massa had outpaced him, and started second row in 3rd.
Everyone’s hero, Michael Schumacher, was to start 4th- further showing signs that his age is seeming to have no bearing on petty human conditions like reflexes, reactions, nerves or fitness. This could mean that he has every chance of replicating his impressive 5th place Buddh finish of 2011.
As the race began at Monza, it was a clean getaway for most out the first corner, after Button accompanied Hamilton as McLaren began their 62nd front row lockout. But it was Fernando Alonso, who was to be have the most inspired race of the day, as he stormed his way upto 5th in no time, passing by Raikkonen and Schumacher in quick succession. As he tried to pass defending Champion Vettel, he was pushed into the grass, a move that earned the young German a drive-through penalty, and a lot of under-the-breath-curses by the angry Spaniard. This left Alonso behind the Brits and Massa, and soon, that was taken care of as Button retired in the 33rd lap- a far cry from his spectacular Belgian win a week ago, pretty much sealing his chances of any miraculous comeback over the next 7 races. Alonso did the inevitable, passing his teammate eventually, upto 2nd, as Ferrari were looking for a double-podium at their Home Circuit.
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That was not to be, as the impressive Mexican Perez, went on a tearing rampage to put in 4 of the race’s fastest laps- as he took Massa easily, and then overtook Alonso with 5 laps to go. Ironically, he drives a Sauber- whose engines are supplied by Ferrari, so one way or the other, it was a 2-3-4 for F1’s most loved team.
Another record that could be the talk of the month is most likely Red Bull’s first failure in ages to have both their drivers cross the finish line. One doesn’t remember the last time that happened, and at the business end of 2012, this is turning out to be quite a nightmarish period for the defending Champions. Vettel, pre-favorite in Italy, sees himself in 4th in the standings now, a few points behind new second-places Hamilton- who is bound to shuttle up and down the pack with his erratic performances.
For now, though, he can celebrate- joining Alonso in 2012 to be the second driver with 3 race wins- in the most closely-fought season yet.
Alonso, with his impressive 3rd place finish, extends his lead to 37 points, a bit better than the 25 last week, with dark horse Raikkonen still in contention with another top-5 finish.
The Asian stretch begins soon, with Singapore- F1’s dazzling night race up next. Japan and Korea follow, and the weekend of 17th-20th October will have the world descending upon India’s Capital, to watch, hopefully, a new Winner, and a new World Champion being crowned in the process.