The recently-constructed Buddh International Circuit, scene of this weekend’s inaugural Grand Prix of India, represents brand new territory for all the teams.
With the track never having been used before, Pirelli has opted for a tire nomination that should cover every eventuality, with the P Zero Silver hard tire — making its final appearance of the season — alongside the P Zero Yellow soft tire.
Contrary to convention though, the softer tire has been nominated as the prime choice in India with the harder tire as the option. This means that the teams will have more of the softer tires than the harder tires at their disposal during free practice on Friday: the first opportunity that the teams will have to run on the 3.19-mile track.
In addition the teams will also get an extra set of soft tires on Friday, allowing them to maximize their running and provide Pirelli with some valuable information for the future.
Collecting as much data as possible prior to qualifying and the race will be a priority for everybody, but the track is likely to be green and slippery, as it has never been used before. Just as was the case at the last race in Korea, there is likely to be considerable circuit evolution over the course of the weekend as more rubber gets laid down and the amount of grip changes.
One of the highlights of the clockwise Buddh circuit is Turns 10 and 11, which is similar in its characteristics to the famous Turn 8 in Turkey. It is fast and long, putting a lot of lateral energy through the tires, but unlike Turkey’s Turn 8 it tightens rather than opens.
“We’ve opted for a deliberately conservative nomination in selecting the hard tire alongside the soft, simply because on a brand new circuit you are never quite sure of the exact race conditions you will encounter,” said Paul Hembery, Pirelli’s Motorsport Director.
WHAT THE DRIVERS ARE SAYING
Narain Karthekiyan (Hispania Racing Team): “This is going to be one of the most challenging circuits on the calendar and, as new tracks are always a bit of an unknown I can understand the choice of compounds Pirelli has made. The texture of the tarmac is exceptionally smooth compared to most circuits on the calendar, so I think that’s a plus.
“The lap time difference between the hard and soft tires is going to be huge, maybe in excess of two seconds a lap. I’d expect the teams to use the hard as less as possible: maybe just a short final stint in the race as the benefits in lap time produced by the soft tire should outweigh its shorter life as the track surface isn’t abrasive at all and track temperatures I think should be under 104° (F) during the weekend.
“The long pit lane will play a part in strategy as well with teams trying to get through the race with as few stops as possible. The layout itself is going to put tremendous energy through the tires — especially the banked Turn 10, which is a long, multiple-apex right-hander, somewhat similar to Turn 8 in Turkey. The front-left will definitely experience a lot of load through there — and there are a couple of slow speed corners that will challenge the rears on exit.
“So overall it will be a great challenge for the tires and it’ll be interesting to see how it pans out. I am so looking forward to it.”
— The simulation data for the Buddh International Circuit, which has 16 corners, suggests a lap time in the region of 1m27s. Average speed will be approximately 130mph, and the cars will reach nearly 200mph on the main straight, which will be the longest on the current Formula One calendar at just over .6 of a mile long.
— The circuit contains a number of elevation changes, increasing the vertical energy that is put through the tires. The entry to the corners tends to be wide in order to promote overtaking, with Turns 10 and 11 being one of the key places for passing, overlooked by a 13,000-capacity series of grandstands.
— The pit lane is one of the longest in Formula One, at over 1,969 feet, which will increase the time spent in the pits and therefore influence the race strategy. The race is scheduled for 60 laps, with a compromise medium downforce set-up needed. The weather should be warm and dry, in the region of 86° F.