Indian F1 Grand Prix 2012: Complete Report (VMM)

I. Friday's Free Practice Report

- MP4-27A-02
- FP1: 1m28.046s (+0.427s), 25 laps, 4th
- FP2: 1m27.131s (+0.910s), 38 laps, 7th

“It was quite a positive day – on my side of the garage, at least.

“The car felt quite good, but to get the best from the tyres each lap wasn’t so easy. We’re not quite quick enough yet, but tyre durability and our long-run pace both looked quite good. In fact, I was very happy with the long run. If we continue in that direction, we’ll hopefully be strong in the race.

“I think we’re probably quick enough to qualify third or fourth fastest at the moment, but, to go for pole, we’re going to really need to push hard in our development work tonight.

“It looks like it’ll be another close race.”

- MP4-27A-01
- FP1: 1m27.929s (+0.310s), 21 laps, 2nd
- FP2: 1m27.182s (+0.961s, 24 laps, 8th

“It hasn’t been a perfect day.

“Our lap-times in the first session were okay, but we couldn’t really get the Option [tyre] working in FP2 – perhaps that was down to a temperature issue.

“Then I had a gearshift problem during my long run in the afternoon. The team is currently looking into it – hopefully, we’ll have it sorted by tomorrow.

“Still, I think Lewis’s long-run pace looks promising. We’re still a few tenths shy of the very fastest cars, but I think we’re more competitive on long runs than we are on short runs, where we’re slightly struggling to get the tyres working.

“Fortunately, this is a good circuit for overtaking, but our aim is obviously still to qualify as close to the front as possible.”

Team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes

“This was a relatively routine practice day for the team, although it proved quite difficult throughout both sessions to find a low-fuel balance that worked for both drivers. However, our long-run pace certainly looks competitive.

“Unfortunately, Jenson’s final run of the afternoon was cut short by a gearshift issue, but Lewis’s race pace was more encouraging – Lewis himself felt the car was very well balanced during his long run.

“Our aim for this evening will be further to maximise our race-pace potential while simultaneously looking to improve our performance in qualifying. Whilst a good grid position isn’t essential for the race, since overtaking into Turns Three and Four should be relatively straightforward, it’ll still be important to stake a place close to the front of the grid in order to optimise our chances of scoring maximum possible points on Sunday.”

II. Saturday's Qualifying Report

- MP4-27A-02
- FP3: 4th, 1m26.151s (+0.309s), 21 laps
- Qualifying:
- Q1: 4th, 1m26.516s (on Primes)
- Q2: 4th, 1m25.816s (on Options)
- Q3: 3rd overall, 1m25.544s (on Options)

"I’m very satisfied that I’ll be starting tomorrow’s race from the second row. This is one of the best circuits we race on and I definitely think third position gives us a fighting chance to win tomorrow.

"Even if I’d had a perfect qualifying lap, I think I’d only have found another tenth. I reckon I got everything out of the car, particularly on my final run in Q3; the middle and last sectors were particularly strong.

"At the start tomorrow, I feel I have a lot less to lose than Sebastian [Vettel] in front of me, so I’ll certainly be pushing a bit. Seb has more to worry about than I do, and, if I can get up with the two Red Bulls, I’d love to take a win for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes.

"We have the race pace to be able to stay with the Red Bulls, so as I say a win is definitely possible."

- MP4-27A-01
- FP3: 2nd, 1m26.034s (+0.192s), 17 laps
- Qualifying:
- Q1: 5th, 1m26.564s (on Primes)
- Q2: 2nd, 1m25.467s (on Options)
- Q3: 4th overall, 1m25.659s (on Options)

"Fourth isn’t a bad place from which to be starting tomorrow’s race.

"We struggled a little to get the Options [tyres] working, particularly on the first lap, so I went for a different strategy from most other drivers, carrying out a three-lap run. The longer run really worked out for me in Q2, in fact, but I didn’t quite have the right balance in Q3: I had a bit more understeer, as the circuit had gripped-up more than we’d anticipated. In terms of my performance, my Q2 lap was better than my Q3 lap.

"Overall, as a team, we should be reasonably happy with what we achieved today: we’re not far from the Red Bulls and we’re ahead of the Ferraris. As a result, I’m very excited about the race tomorrow. Our starts tend to be pretty good, so let’s see what we can do from the second row."

Team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes

"We struggled a little to get the Options instantly ‘switched on’, and consequently our first few laps on them were a tad tricky. As a result, we weren’t able to post Q3 laps quite as rapid as the Red Bulls’ – our fastest Q3 time was 0.261s away from their fastest, in other words a delta of just over a quarter of a second.

"But both our drivers did a superb job in the circumstances – Lewis’s and Jenson’s respective Q3 times were separated by just 0.115s – and we think we’ve got a very good race car. Yesterday our long-run pace was very strong, in fact. So, as a result, tomorrow’s race may be a bit closer than some pundits are currently prophesying.

"Moreover, the Buddh International Circuit is a fantastic racetrack, and all the drivers relish the challenge of racing here. Ours certainly do. So here’s hoping that, collectively, we can all put on a brilliant show for the tens of thousands who’ll be making the trip to Noida from all over this great country to watch the Indian Grand Prix, and also for the tens of millions all over the world who’ll be watching it on their sofas at home."

III. Sunday's Race Report

- MP4-27A-01
- Started: 3rd
- Finished: 4th
- Fastest lap: 1m28.944s (+0.741s, 5th)
- Pitstops: One: lap 32 (3.12s) [Opt-Pri]
- Points: 165 (5th)

"I don’t yet understand why I got such a poor start – it lost me ground and then I fell under attack from the guys behind. During the first lap, I was primarily focusing on not colliding with Jenson, then I saw Fernando [Alonso] in my right mirror. He was towing me from very far back. Even if I’d had a better start than I did, the guys in front were still maybe a bit too fast, particularly in the first stint.

"During that first stint I started having a downshift problem – I was having to change down with my right hand instead of my left, so the team elected to change the steering wheel at the pitstop.

"I’ve never had to change a steering wheel during a race before. We’ve done it in Barcelona testing before, but never in a race. Even so, the guys did it fantastically quickly, under immense pressure, so I want to say ‘well done!’ to them all. I took the wheel off before I’d even stopped the car, and threw it out of the car. The team then fitted a new one, I clicked it into first gear, and I was away – all in just a bit over three seconds flat.

"I tried to chase down Mark [Webber] in the closing laps, but by then it was too late and he was going too quickly for me to be able to mount a serious challenge. But I never give up, and, right until the very last corner, I thought I might just be able to catch him, but in the end it wasn’t to be.

"Still, I loved it out there today – I can’t remember the last time I’ve pushed so far, so hard, for so long, right on the limit – it felt great. It felt fantastic, in fact, to be in the middle of such a battle.

"I’m so proud of all the guys in the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team, too – it was a really great race."

- MP4-27A-02
- Started: 4th
- Finished: 5th
- Fastest lap: 1m28.203s (1st)
- Pitstops: One: lap 25 (3.34s) [Opt-Pri]
- Points: 141 (6th)

"The start of the race was my highlight – there were just millimetres between Lewis, Fernando and me. I’ve never had a start quite like that before – unbelievably hard-fought – and none of us hit each other. It was so close, so tight, yet so clean. It’s just a pity that the rest of the race wasn’t as enjoyable!

"My first stint was pretty disappointing; I think maybe we struggled more on the Options [tyres] than the other runners did, so I couldn’t keep the guys behind me. I then made my pitstop earlier than anticipated, so that we could find a better balance on the harder tyre, but that didn’t work out because I got stuck behind Romain [Grosjean], which lost me more time.

"But getting fastest lap on the final lap was great, and I think there’s plenty of potential that we can build on and take with us to Abu Dhabi next weekend."

Team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes

"We scored 22 world championship points here today, but we’d hoped to score quite a few more than that.

"We found it difficult to coax sufficient pace out of the Options, but our car was the fastest in the field on the Primes. The trouble was, by the time we were running on Primes, the gap to the cars ahead was a bit too large. Even so, Lewis pushed as hard as he possibly could in the closing stages, carving chunks out of the gap between him and Mark ahead, and, if the race had been just a few laps longer, I’m certain he’d have fancied his chances of getting past.

"Jenson, too, drove superbly, in difficult conditions, losing quite a bit of time while stuck behind Romain, but he made as rapid progress as Lewis did once he’d got onto Primes. Indeed, he drove the fastest lap of the race on the very last lap. It was McLaren’s 150th fastest lap in world championship grand prix racing, incidentally.

"Finally, here’s another stat for the train-spotters out there: today, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes tied Ferrari’s all-time record of 55 consecutive world championship grands prix in the points. We started that run in Australia in 2010, which race Jenson won for us of course; indeed, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes has scored points in every single grand prix since Jenson joined our team.

"In Abu Dhabi, in a week’s time, we’ll be seeking to establish a new benchmark: 56 consecutive world championship grands prix in the points. In fact, of course, we’ll be aiming to do a bit more than that: there are three grands prix still to run this season, and you can be well sure that everyone at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes will be doing his or her level best to win as many of them as we possibly can."

~ Official photos and reports courtesy of Vodafone McLaren Mercedes ~

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