Indian Grand Prix `dream come true` for Karthikeyan
New Delhi: Sahara Force India will carry the sentimental expectations of motor racing fans in the country, while for Narain Karthikeyan driving at the inaugural home Grand Prix at the Buddh International Circuit on Sunday is a "dream come true."
The Formula One World Championship may well have been decided, still there will be no dearth of excitement when 24 cars line-up on the grid for Friday`s free practice, qualifying the next day and the real showdown on Sunday.
A new venue on the F1 calendar poses a fresh set of challenges for the teams, especially getting to know the track that has never been used so far.
All drivers have tested the track on the simulator, but the real feel of it for the likes of newly-crowned champion Sebastian Vettel and the racing great Michael Schumacher came on Thursday when they took the customary walk on the 5.14 km circuit.
Team Lotus`s Jarno Trulli did his customary cycle-run around the track to get familiar with it.
The two practice runs on Friday will further help the teams to understand the dynamics of the track.
"The first time you run on a new circuit is a strange experience because you are piecing together an incredibly diverse and vivid set of data in your mind. That is quite an intense experience," says Jenson Button of McLaren Mercedes.
"You are quickly gathering everything together -- constantly assessing the grip-level, watching for unexpected bumps, checking the kerb-height, run-off areas, pit-lane entry and exit, gradient... And that all happens at about 170 mph," he adds.
The drivers are obviously excited about getting behind the wheel on the track which has a 1.4 km-straight going into turn three, hairpins at turns three, four and 16 and frequent elevation changes making the fastmen blind for a moment.
A brand new circuit usually lacks basic grip so having the right set of tyres throughout the weekend will play a crucial role in the teams` performance.
As far as the standings go with three races still left in the season, Red Bull Racing have claimed the drivers` and constructors` titles by whopping margins. Vettel secured his second title in Japan three weeks ago while the team sealed their championship in the next round in Korea.
Vettel is a runaway leader in the drivers` standings with 349 points, including 10 wins in 16 races and has made it clear that he is very much motivated to win the remaining races.
Things, however, are nicely poised for the second and third spots with Button (222 points) and his McLaren teammate Lewis Hamilton (196), Ferrari`s Fernando Alonso (212)and Red Bull`s Mark Webber (209) all in the running.
It will be a special race for Force India who will make their maiden appearance in front of the home crowd. The Silverstone-based outfit has made rapid strides in the second half of the season and looks set to maintaining its sixth position in the Constructors` Championship, leaving the Saubers and Toro Rossos behind.
Hispania`s Karthikeyan has said it often that driving in the Indian Grand Prix will be the proudest moment of his career. It seems fitting, too, that the first F1 driver from India will get to race in the historic event. Karthikeyan scoring points is out of question and his target will be to finish the 60-lap race as high up the grid as possible.