While Formula 1 fans tuned in to last year\'s season-ender trying to remember a long list of championship permutations, this year Sebastian Vettel\'s fourth title depends on the simple matter of getting fifth place on Sunday even if Fernando Alonso wins the race. To be honest, it\'s likelier that Seb will win and Fernando will finish fifth. Working in the German\'s favor is that he\'s the only F1 driver to have won in India since the venue was added to the calendar in 2011. Yesterday, he also topped the two practice sessions.
In case you still want to know the rest of his title odds, they are as follows: Should Alonso take second place, Vettel only needs to bring the car home in eighth. And if the Spaniard only gets the third podium spot, it\'s game over in the championship battle. It\'s been pretty much game over for a long time now, actually. On to the predictions.
1. Romain Grosjean will best both Mercs on qualifying, and Ferrari will retain its lead over the German squad in the team standings. Grosjean is really taking off at the moment, and despite showing brief flashes of inexperience (such as in Korea), he looks fully capable of being Lotus\'s lead driver in 2014. He\'s been getting closer and closer to the front-runners on Saturdays, too, and we\'re eyeing a potential repeat of his qualifying performance in Japan two weeks ago, when he stole P3 from Mercedes.
That will put Merc on the back foot in its quest to overhaul Ferrari for the constructors\' title. As it stands, the Italians have a 10-point lead with four races (including India) left.
2. No Pirelli issues on race day. F1\'s sole rubber supplier has suffered a brand battering this year for building tires as per the instructions of the sport\'s powers-that-be. Maybe Pirelli had taken things too far earlier this season, but then it got caught in a political struggle between the teams when it tried to implement changes to improve safety. Now, the tiremaker is threatening to leave the sport shoeless in 2014 if it is not given enough opportunities to test and develop its racing rubber during winter break. For all of Pirelli’s troubles, we\'re hoping there are no image-impacting tire blowouts this weekend.
3. A tale of opposing fortunes: Nico Hulkenberg will score; Paul di Resta will finish outside of the top 10. To recap these drivers\' second-half performances so far, in the last five races, Hulkenberg had four points finishes and di Resta suffered four retirements. Compare that to the first-half stats: Hulkenberg scored points in only three of the first 10 races, and di Resta managed points finishes in all but three.
It will be the same story of contrasting results for these two fellows, we suspect. Which means di Resta will again be pulling long faces in his post-race interviews. If he\'d lived in the 1950s as a writer instead of a racer, he would have been a poster boy for the angry young men.
4. Red Bull will clinch the constructors\' title for the fourth year running. The permutations for this battle are far longer and more complicated, so we’ll direct you to the official Formula 1 website, which has done a good job of summarizing them.
5. The race will see Vettel as Sebastian the Fourth--and Grosjean as a grand-prix winner. We might as well stick our necks out for the second part of this guess. And why not? If Grosjean can start from at least the second row of the grid, and if the cars ahead of him run into tire-degradation issues, he stands a good chance of emerging victorious. Already, Red Bull encountered blistering on the soft tire yesterday, when the track was green. But even when the surface conditions improve, Lotus still has the edge in rubber conservation. Play it cool, RoGro, and you could add your name to F1\'s roster of winners.
Tune in to qualifying today (October 26) at 4:30pm. The race begins tomorrow (October 27) at 5:30pm.
Photo from Lotus F1 Team
|IND||Free Practice One||Free Practice Two|
|Pos||Driver (Team)||Time||Driver (Team)||Time|
|1||S. Vettel (Red Bull)||1:26.683 (M)||S. Vettel (Red Bull)||1:25.722 (S)|
|2||M. Webber (Red Bull)||1:26.871, +0.188 (M)||M. Webber (Red Bull)||1:26.011. +0.289 (S)|
|3||N. Rosberg (Mercedes)||1:26.899, +0.216 (M)||R. Grosjean (Lotus)||1:26.220, +0.498 (S)|
|4||R. Grosjean (Lotus)||1:26.990, +0.307 (M)||L. Hamilton (Mercedes)||1:26.399, +0.677 (S)|
|5||L. Hamilton (Mercedes)||1:27.227, +0.544 (M)||F. Alonso (Ferrari)||1:26.430, +0.708 (S)|
|6||J. Button (McLaren)||1:27.335, +0.652 (M)||N. Rosberg (Mercedes)||1:26.582, +0.860 (S)|
|7||S. Perez (McLaren)||1:27.416, +0.733 (M)||F. Massa (Ferrari)||1:26.601, +0.879 (S)|
|8||F. Massa (Ferrari)||1:27.692, +1.009 (M)||K. Raikkonen (Lotus)||1:26.632, +0.910 (S)|
|9||N. Hulkenberg (Sauber)||1:27.770, +1.087 (M)||S. Perez (McLaren)||1:26.857, +1.135 (S)|
|10||V. Bottas (Williams)||1:27.800, +1.117 (M)||J. Button (McLaren)||1:26.972, +1.250 (S)|
|11||J. Vergne (Toro Rosso)||1:28.035, +1.352 (M)||D. Ricciardo (Toro Rosso)||1:27.304, +1.582 (S)|
|12||F. Alonso (Ferrari)||1:28.214, +1.531 (M)||A. Sutil (Force India)||1:27.375, +1.653 (S)|
|13||D. Ricciardo (Toro Rosso)||1:28.336, +1.653 (M)||V. Bottas (Williams)||1:27.429, +1.707 (S)|
|14||P. Maldonado (Williams)||1:28.342, +1.659 (M)||N. Hulkenberg (Sauber)||1:27.491, +1.769 (S)|
|15||A. Sutil (Force India)||1:28.468, +1.785 (M)||P. di Resta (Force India)||1:27.608, +1.886 (S)|
|16||E. Gutierrez (Sauber)||1:28.538, +1.855 (M)||P. Maldonado (Williams)||1:27.720, +1.998 (S)|
|17||K. Raikkonen (Lotus)||1:28.730, +2.047 (M)||E. Gutierrez (Sauber)||1:27.949, +2.227 (S)|
|18||J. Calado (Force India)||1:29.197, +2.514 (M)||J. Vergne (Toro Rosso)||1:28.431, +2.709 (S)|
|19||G. van der Garde (Caterham)||1:29.413, +2.730 (M)||G. van der Garde (Caterham)||1:28.692, +2.970 (S)|
|20||J. Bianchi (Marussia)||1:29.560, +2.877 (M)||J. Bianchi (Marussia)||1:28.799, +3.077 (S)|
|21||C. Pic (Caterham)||1:30.026, +3.343 (M)||C. Pic (Caterham)||1:29.366, +3.644 (S)|
|22||M. Chilton (Marussia)||1:30.471, +3.788 (M)||M. Chilton (Marussia)||1:30.164, +4.442 (S)|
Legend: M—medium compound; SS—supersoft compound. For first free practice, J. Calado drove in place of P. di Resta for Force India