Martin Brundle predicts a close Indian GP despite Red Bull cruising clear on Friday
But there may be no stopping Red Bull in qualy
By Pete Gill
Last Updated: 26/10/12 1:44pm
Although the headline-grabbing statistic at the close of play on Friday at the Buddh International Circuit was Sebastian Vettel's half-second lead over Fernando Alonso as the World Championship leader headed a Red Bull one-two in Practice Two, there was plenty of consistent encouragement towards the end of the session when the teams ran their race simulations.
Lewis Hamilton, in particular, looked fast throughout his long-running stint, with his McLaren team repeatedly assuring their Mercedes-bound driver that he was the fastest of the heavy-fuellers. Both McLarens were, however, almost a second down on the Red Bull in the opening segment of Practice Two when the teams ran their qualy-specs on the soft compound.
"Red Bull look mighty fast again in India but McLaren, Ferrari and possibly Lotus look pretty good on longer race runs thankfully," commented Brundle.
"There's no surprise at the race pace of the Red Bull. But it was really interesting to see the race-pace of the McLarens. Of course, we don't know the fuel loads, but you have to assume that teams like Red Bull and McLaren don't kid themselves and run anything less than the fuel they expect to run during the race, and in that respect it looked quite close.
"Lotus were hanging in there, Ferrari's pace looked good as well, and the tyres hung on too. It all bodes well for the race."
Indeed agreement with that view came from Vettel himself, who predicted that the field would close in on Red Bull come qualifying.
"I know it's not between Mark and myself; I think it's between all of us," he told Sky Sports News.
"I think Friday is always difficult. It depends on a day like this, on a circuit like this, when you are out doing your new tyre run. I think track improvement was quite big, we saw that until the end, so I wouldn't be surprised if tomorrow looks a little bit different.
"But we've had worse Fridays so I'm quite happy."
However, qualifying would appear to be another matter entirely, with Red Bull, on this form, poised to complete a hat-trick of qualifying front-row lockouts. "It just sticks to the road better than anything else which is giving them that raw pace," purred Martin.
McLaren's own reaction to the day was mixed. While Lewis Hamilton refused to be downbeat, Jenson Button has predicted a tough challenge and suggested the team could struggle to qualify in the top half-dozen.
"The long runs we look quite good, but we didn't get the temperatures into the tyres," added team boss Martin Whitmarsh on Sky Sports F1. "Lewis's fastest time was on his eighth flying lap, which isn't how it should be, and Jenson was saying that the car was shuddering through the corners.
"We looked reasonable on the harder tyre, we looked good on the soft tyres on our longer run, and we looked fairly average on the option tyre on the short run. If we don't fix that, we'll struggle a bit in qualifying."