Questions, questions: Indian GP preview
With just four races remaining in the 2012 season, the Sky Sports F1 Online team discusses the big talking points as F1 heads off to India...
By Pete Gill, Mike Wise and James Galloway. Last Updated: 24/10/12 12:57pm
Will the penny finally drop for the young guns?
Recent races have proved something of a goldmine for F1 headline writers with some of the grid's elder statesmen having used an array of rather unflattering terms to describe the driving standards being displayed by the younger generation. With Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg the latest established names to join in with the criticism, it's all getting rather 'them against us'.
But as Sky Sports F1's Johnny Herbert and Anthony Davidson suggested in Japan, the onus should really be on the drivers' collective body - the GPDA - to get together and make clear to its younger members the standards expected at the top level. The desperate nature of some of the first-lap lunges may well reflect the pressure on many in the driver market but, as Martin Whitmarsh bluntly remarked after seeing Button punted out in Korea, there are simply just too many incidents wrecking too many people's races at the moment. It simply needs to stop. JG
Will Massa maintain his improvement?
Or will he slip back to his old ways now that a contract extension has been signed, sealed and delivered? It's a chicken and egg scenario: nobody can be quite sure whether Felipe's recent improvement was a result of a reassurance that he could/would be staying on or if his upturn in form was galvanised by the threat that he wouldn't be. Now we'll find out. PG
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Who will win the next round of the development war?
Red Bull will be bringing new parts to India. And so will Ferrari. On recent form, Red Bull are the more likely to make a bigger leap forward, but the critical importance Ferrari are attaching to their new upgrades was underlined by their hierarchy returning to Maranello in-between the Japanese and Korean GPs whilst the rest of the F1 fraternity remained out east. They can't afford another failure. PG
Can Mercedes get themselves out of their rut?
Michael Schumacher has entered the final month of his F1 career, but if Korea was anything to go by, he might well secretly already be longing for the chequered flag to drop in Brazil. Despite optimism that they were set to enjoy a more competitive weekend at Yeongam, a thirteenth place finish served as another sobering reality check for Mercedes. Indeed they were fortunate that Sauber's race effectively self-destructed inside the first lap and meant that they lost no further ground in the battle for fifth place in the standings. Still, given the fact they are actually continuing to develop the W03, the increasingly underwhelming nature of the team's performances cannot be doing morale much good ahead of what, on paper at least, should be the exciting arrival of Lewis Hamilton in January. The team really need a shot in the arm before the season's out - and fast. JG
Can the front-row stranglehold be broken again?
Though 2012 has felt like an unpredictable, topsy-turvy year, the statistics suggest that it has almost literally been a straightforward affair (at least off the line at the start of races) with thirteen of the sixteen races won from a front-row starting position. Pole position itself has led to victory on nine occasions. Can someone further down the grid ladder buck the trend in India? PG
Will Mr Consistent move up in the standings?
The season seems to have settled down after the wild ups and downs of performance we saw in the early races, with more drivers able to produce consistently strong displays. Reward for Sebastian Vettel has come with the lead in the Drivers' Championship, while Felipe Massa has earned himself another year at Ferrari. Kimi Raikkonen now has more points finishes than anyone but what of the fourth most consistent driver since the summer break, Daniel Ricciardo?
The Australian's ninth place in Korea was his fourth points finish in five grands prix, a quietly impressive string of results for the Toro Rosso driver and one which, surely, would result in another season at the team were it to continue. Certainly the driver himself sees no reason why it shouldn't - Ricciardo having spent time during the summer analysing his F1 performances to date and seeing where he might improve.
That he has improved is there for all to see, and is all the more impressive given that there's little in the STR7 that suggests a similar improvement. Toro Rosso enjoyed their joint best result of the season in Korea, with Jean-Eric Vergne finishing ahead of his team-mate after Ricciardo suffered brake problems late on. The Frenchman also holds a three-point lead in the drivers' standings, something which surely provides more motivation for Ricciardo to make it five from six in India. MW
Can Williams finish with a flourish?
It's safe to assume that any continued improvement from Ricciardo and Toro Rosso won't be sufficient to snatch eighth place in the Constructors' Championship from Williams. But it's also reasonable to ask what Williams are doing down there in the first place?
Currently 31 points adrift of Force India, they head to India after another poor showing in Korea and one wonders whether anything can be done now to inject at least a measure of consistency into their season.
That the team's drivers can struggle with that particular attribute is one few people will argue against but there's clearly more to their malaise than the antics of Messrs Maldonado and Senna. Pastor kept his nose clean two weeks ago but there was nothing Perez-like about his one-stop race; more the case of an afternoon chug in midfield anonymity. The car simply wasn't fast enough.
The result was in fact blamed on an inconsistent car (its handling specifically) but the team claim to know how to fix it and expect to challenge for points once more this weekend. Can they flourish once more in India? And more pertinently, can they then maintain their performances to the end of the season? MW