Less than three weeks to go. This is it. We’re closer than close can be- to the first ever International racing event in India. 

Tickets pre-booked, delivered and all set to top up your Diwali with the best kind of noise-pollution? Make way, firecrackers, for the smoothest and most sophisticated devices running on Planet Earth (apart from PM Manmohan Singh, of course). The mean machines are ONE race away from landing in the capital, and strutting their stuff in front of the elite 100k-odd spectators that have made the wisest decisions of their lives (apart from watching the World Cup Final Live, of course)  

As part of our exclusive 3-month build up to the biggest race on the calendar year, atleast for everyone who is not Vettel fan or family, we present to you the top teams participating in this speedfest- subject to the current situation and championships standings: 

RBR Renault : 

The UK-based Red Bull Racing team has demonstrated to the world, that if there was ever a graph for a ‘promising’ up-and-coming team to follow, this is how it should be done. For their first few years, they were always mid-table and amongst the points- mighty impressive for a brand new outfit. And then, a 20 year old Sebastian Vettel arrived in 2009 from their sister team Toro Rosso. He was already the youngest point-scorer in F1 history (when he stood in for Kubica), for BMW in 2007. In his first full season as Formula One driver for backmarkers Rosso, Vettel became the sport’s youngest race winner in a stunning race at the rain-soaked Monza track- unforgettable for the skill and poise shown by a baby-faced 20 year old kid in the face of ex-Champions like Alonso and Hamilton. The world hailed Hamilton as the next big thing in Formula One, but nobody saw this young German pole-vaulting his way to the stars.
2009 was the season where it all changed for Red Bull Racing with their quick RB5 car. A maiden win for them in China, was followed up by 3 more wins, and in one season, they were amongst the top 3. Vettel finished 2nd in the championship, and that was it. 2010 saw RB6 suffer from a few reliability issues, but emerged victorious and 2011, as they say, is history. A last-dash stunning race at Abu Dhabi in 2010 saw Red Bull have their first world championship title, as Vettel jumped from 3rd to first in that one race. They had two drivers in the top three, and they were officially the best team in the world.
Untouchables, this season, with 518 points to their closest competitor McLaren Mercedes’s 388- all they have to do now is put their heads down and wait for that inevitable Constructors Championship title to fall into their hands. Who knows? It may happen at Buddh, and we may see a double-celebration from the best team in the world.

McLaren Mercedes :

Lewis Hamilton won them their first driver’s championship title in 10 years back in 2008. Still, their ‘partnerships’ have always been a problem, with Hamilton not exactly a team driver. What he did to Alonso and then Kovalainein , has eventually come back to haunt the over-ambitious Brit- with Button easily outpacing him in 2011. McLaren have still not won a Drivers title for a good 11 years (Hakkinen), with their 2007 title disqualified after an ugly dispute with Ferrari. They have always been around, at either second or third, batting with old sworn rivals Ferrari for bragging rights. They have endured troubled seasons in 2004 and 2009, where their cars refused to score points for the first half of the season. The second of every season, in an interesting trend, has always seen them dominate standings- but a war is not won after sundown. Sadly, they seem a lot like the Arsenal of F1 racing, always flattering to deceive when it really matters. With Hamilton and a stable Button driving for them, their failure to win a title comes down to the lack of engine speed, and of course, Hamilton’s suicidal intentions. A distant second this season, they will need to start a season strong, to stand any chance of winning a title- and Button will need to lead from the front come 2012.    

Ferrari :  

Fernando Alonso has arguably been the driver of the season. He has pushed an unreliable and weak car to its absolute limit, combining temperament, experience and skill to still have a huge shout-in as far as a Championship podium is concerned. One is not sure how long he can sustain his struggle, but Massa is not helping matters at all. Clearly hampered by a ‘partnership’ meltdown here, Ferrari are a distant third in a season that has not seen them challenge at all. Once the toast of the world for a full decade, the Tifosi are now a shadow of their decorated selves, and if they are to come a full circle- they need a better car, and a better partner for Alonso, because face it- Massa has not been the same driver after his horrific skull injury back in 2009 (and intense heartbreak back in 2008). Kubica, if fit, could be a massive boost to the struggling ex-champions, and it might just come down to pure engine reliability and constructor issues overall. They blew their best opportunity to add to their silverware in 2010, with Alonso- the Spaniard who never cracks under pressure- completely unraveling in the season-decider at Abu Dhabi- cracking to Mr. Freeze himself (Vettel). The irony of their situation has been the fact that when Raikkonen won the drivers title back in 2007, Ferrari were second in the constructors standings. In court, of course, it all changed- but they were beaten on track. In 2008, when Hamilton beat Massa by a single point in the standings, Ferrari were clearly the better team- with a dominant second half of the season.

These are three teams that, in all probability, will see one of their drivers standing at the top of the podium (or occupying all slots too) at Buddh International Circuit on Oct 30th, 2011.
There is, of course, the added bonus of every male/female born pre-2000 to see their idol and childhood hero Michael Schumacher, racing for the fourth-placed Mercedes- and locked in an intense battle with younger teammate Rosberg in the drivers standings. Three points separate them, with Rosberg suffering from qualifying errors lately.

Another bonus would be to see India’s first and only F1 team race live, with drivers Sutil and Di Resta- The ever-improving-and-declining Force India team. After the heartbreak that was IPL-2011 and CL T20-2011 (and shutting down Kingfisher Red), owner Vijay Mallya desperately needs some solace. Here’s to his chances of scoring a few points- and being satisfied with yet another mid-table performance. 

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