Fernando Alonso

Indian GP – Brief Encounter

Maranello, 22 october – Even if the most likely scenario is that at some point in the next few weeks, we will be congratulating Sebastian Vettel on a fourth world title, Scuderia Ferrari will be tackling the remaining four rounds of the championship with the same determination as ever. The target the Prancing Horse is aiming for is that of finishing second in both the Drivers’ and Constructors’ classifications.

The final quartet of races begins at the first of a back-to-back pairing, the Indian Grand Prix, which takes place on the outskirts of the country’s capital city of New Delhi. The 5.125 kilometre Buddh International Circuit was well received by drivers on its debut in 2011. We asked James Allison, the Scuderia’s new Technical Director on the Chassis side to assess the team’s current situation in the run up to India. “The Korean and Japanese Grands Prix were both disappointing for us as our car was not right at the front or winning, which is not the level we should be at,” began the Englishman. “However, the team performed very well at the track with a group that is strategically very astute and we have drivers who can bring the car home in good positions. But those results are not what we are aiming for, so we need to improve for the remaining races.” The need to improve is why Allison has been brought in to strengthen the technical side of the Gestione Sportiva. It is a familiar environment, as he previously worked for Ferrari for five years, starting in 2000. “After nine years away, I have a mixture of feelings returning to Maranello,” he revealed. “There’s excitement but also a lot of nostalgia as this is a team with whom I share many happy memories of all the victories from 2000 to 2004. So nostalgia, excitement and pleasure at seeing so many faces I remember from before, who were junior members in the team when I was here the last time, but have now grown up with the team and hold senior positions. But most of all I have a feeling of determination to play my part alongside everyone else, in returning to victory with this team.”

On to more immediate matters relating to the coming weekend. “The Buddh International Circuit is an interesting track which offers the full range of challenges, with a reasonable number of straights, some fast corners and slow ones,” says Allison. “A bit like Korea, the track has a slightly schizophrenic nature, because you want the car to be good down the straights, but there are also some very demanding slow speed sections. It therefore requires a lot from the car. To go well in India, a car needs the same qualities it requires at any type of circuit: it needs to be stable under braking, well balanced in both high and low speed corners, with good traction out of the latter, and good speed down the straights. These are the generic qualities required by every car for every track, but with India having such a wide range of corners, it stretches the car to it limit, similarly to tracks like Suzuka.”

A combination of lack of use and dust from heavy industry in the area means the track conditions change very rapidly on the first day of practice as rubber gets put down by the cars. The track surface is very smooth so degradation is not normally an issue, with Pirelli bringing its Medium and Soft tyres, therefore getting tyres up to temperature for qualifying can be a challenge.

This year’s event will be only the third Indian Grand Prix and, it seems, the last one, at least for two years. That’s a shame, as despite this brief encounter, it has proved very popular with the drivers. The Hermann Tilke layout features plenty of changes in elevation and there are some standout corners, such as the double apex of Turns 10 and 11 that run together, tightening on the exit. As for the Scuderia’s record here, Fernando Alonso has always been on the podium, finishing third in 2011 and second last year, while Felipe Massa was in the points in 2012 with a sixth place finish. The podium will again be the target for the Spaniard and the Brazilian and Allison will be following every moment of the weekend from Maranello. “After nine years of separation, I can see there are many changes within the Scuderia,” he says. “The team is bigger and more complex, but its character, its emotion is very similar and recognisable the moment you walk through the door. You can also feel the hunger to win again.”