Indian Grand Prix Preview: Still some Vettel value

Sebastian Vettel will hope to wrap up the 2013 Formula One Drivers’ Championship in style with victory at this weekend’s Indian Grand Prix (Race: Sunday, 10:30am BST, live on BBC 1 / Sky Sports 1).

Vettel continued his domination of the second half of the year with a fifth consecutive victory in Japan two weeks ago and will secure his fourth consecutive drivers’ championship if he finishes in the top five this weekend.

Less than that will be required if his sole remaining challenger, Fernando Alonso, fails to win the race. Alonso had not tasted victory since round 5 at his home Grand Prix in Spain, so a points finish will probably be sufficient for Vettel to be crowned champion.

sebastian vettel

Vettel: Can wrap up championship

Vettel did not have everything his own way in Japan, with teammate Mark Webber and Renault’s Romain Grosjean both in contention for victory until the final stint. Further back, Nico Hulkenberg again impressed with a strong drive to sixth, while his Sauber teammate Enzo Gutierrez came through from 14th on the grid to finish seventh.

This weekend’s race could well be Formula One’s final visit to the Buddh International Circuit. Financial and taxation worries, plus slow ticket sales, have led to the circuit being banished from the 2014 calendar. The organisers hope it will return in 2015, but face an uphill battle to make that a reality.

The circuit is varied in its layout, with a number of long sweeping corners punctuated by low-speed turns where braking stability is key. Among the drivers it is one of the most popular of the new circuits, but there are few overtaking spots, with the turn 4 hairpin perhaps offering the best opportunity to pass.

Pirelli have selected their soft and medium compound tyres for this race. Current weather forecasts suggest it will be a hot, sunny weekend.

Sebastian Vettel

Having qualified on pole position in three of the last five races and won each of the last five, it can be little surprise that the odds on Vettel to do either of those things this weekend have shortened to relatively unattractive levels, at 1/2 apiece. There is, however, some value to be found in backing him to do both, particularly considering his past record in India.

Vettel has qualified on pole position and gone on to comfortably win both of the Indian Grand Prix to date. The layout of the Buddh International Circuit really separates the good cars from the bad, and his Red Bull is currently the class of the field. With this in mind, Vettel looks well placed to secure both pole position and the race victory this weekend.

Qualifying

Sauber have had at least one car in the top 10 in qualifying each of the last five Grand Prix and although Hulkenberg has, rightly, taken most of the plaudits for superb performances in Monza, Korea and Japan, his teammate Enzo Gutierrez has also reached the final session of qualifying in two of the last three races.

Gutierrez qualified ninth in Korea, at a track with similar characteristics to the Buddh International Circuit, and does have previous experience in India, having taken part in free practice during last year’s event. Sauber have hit a sweet spot in recent races and with Gutierrez fighting to stake his claim for a drive next year he can be fancied to qualify well.

The Race

Once Vettel is removed from the picture, it is clear to see that the Lotus team have been the strongest performers over the last three races. They have had at least one car in the top three in each race and scored a double podium finish in Korea.

Pirelli’s choice of tyres for this weekend will play to Lotus’ advantage, as they are one of the better teams at managing the soft and medium tyres. The circuit also looks well suited to their car, particularly in light of the team’s strong performance in Korea.

Romain Grosjean drove an excellent race to finish third in Japan two weeks ago and also finished in the same position in Korea. With car and driver in good form he looks well placed to secure another podium finish on Sunday.

Sauber’s Hulkenberg continued his impressive recent form with a fourth consecutive points finish in Japan. He has now finished in the top six in three of the last four races, including in Korea, where he held off challenges from Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton to take fourth.

Hulkenberg secured a strong eighth place finish for Force India at last year’s Indian Grand Prix (having finished sixth in Korea) and with both history and recent form on his side is capable of fighting for a top six finish this weekend.

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