That you’re reading this column, and being greeted a very Happy New Year by me, means that the Mayans went the HRT way – I mean they got it all wrong, very wrong. However, greetings aren’t all that I’ll convey this month. There’s more, so read on…
December is probably the most hated month of the year for Formula 1 fans – for obvious reasons. No action whatsoever meant that I, at least, suffered from massive withdrawal symptoms all month long! The only respite was penning this column, and, of course, the Race of Champions, as well as the SIDVIN Festival of Speed – both important events in their own right.
The Race of Champions is a very good concept, and offers a few things that Formula 1 could never do. For starters, it’s held in an indoor circuit where spectators can view every corner of the circuit. Second, it offers a variety of equal machinery to all participants. Third and the most interesting are the participants themselves. It attracts ‘champions from all forms of motorsport on one platform to compete for the title of ‘Champion of Champions.’
This year, we saw Jorge Lorenzo and Mike Doohan represent two wheels, while Jamie Whincup (V8 Supercars), Tom Kristensen (Le Mans), Sebastian Ogier (World Rally Championship), Ryan Hunter-Reay (IndyCar) and Andy Priaulx (DTM) represented four. Crash kid Grosjean, Vettel and Schumacher represented our favourite sport, while Coulthard was there as a ‘DTM racer.’
Surprisingly, Grosjean beat Vettel (in the quarters), Schumacher (in the semis), and Kristensen in the finals to clinch the ‘Champion of Champions.’ Now who would have thunk that an almost discarded driver from Lotus, who was suspended from a Grand Prix meet in 2012 due to his first lap antics, would win the coveted title! Jokes apart, though, Grosjean is a talented young bloke. And within days of his Race of Champions title, Lotus extended his contract for 2013. I wonder if they waited to see if he could actually win something in 2012.
However, the interesting part here also is that Indian drivers, Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandhok, drove in the Race of Champions Nations Cup representing our country. Now, I did have a few messages on social media asking why our ‘not-so-champion’ drivers would compete in the Race of ‘Champions.’ However, the reality is that our drivers have been crowned champions in various other categories, if not ‘Formula 1.’ For the record, both our drivers are former Formula Asia Champions. And for those still not convinced, Narain and Karun beat Japan in the finals of the RoC Asia Nations Cup and clinched the ‘Asian Champions’ title for India – so, there you have it (critics)!
The Race of Champions victory is a feather in the cap for our drivers, and hopefully it’ll help them secure better racing contracts for next year. As I write this, Narain’s Formula 1 career is in the dark yet again with HRT shutting shop. As for Karun, he might be considering a second year in the World Endurance Championship after a good show in 2012. Let’s hope we see them both competing in prestigious championships in 2013. However, I am keen to know how Indian audiences will take to the 2013 Indian Grand Prix with no Indian driver on the grid (Bernie, at least, is worried, I’m sure).
Talking about the Indian Grand Prix, the Buddh International Circuit hosted the SIDVIN Festival of Speed in the first week of December. In a country where ‘motorsport talk’ is very seasonal, and regional (primarily in the South), we need events such as these to keep the buzz alive and give Indian motorsport fans more to cheer for. And, hopefully, the buzz will lead to the sale of more tickets for next year’s Indian Grand Prix.
The SIDVIN FoS also saw arch rivals JK Tyre and MRF Tyres come together to put up a good show with their respective racing series – a phenomenon that hasn’t occurred for the last few years, or maybe even a decade. This festival saw all the top racers from India fight for their respective classes, and the organisers claim that around 15,000 spectators attended the weekend, which is extremely positive for India’s motorsport economy (is the growth in sync with our GDP growth though?).
And, last but not least, I can’t end my F1 column without actually talking about the pinnacle of motorsport. Hopefully, by the time you read this, all the seats in the various teams would have been confirmed, and their 2013 contender launch dates will have been announced. However, it’s only in the month of February that pre-season testing will start. Will the pecking order change in 2013, or will it carry forward from 2012? Here are my two bits.
The regulations remain constant, which is very good for the sport – and the teams. Given that we’ve had one of the most competitive seasons in the sport, I expect this to remain for 2013. The only shake-up expected could be due to Pirelli, which is altering their construction pattern for 2013 – and the ‘walls’ of the tyres are expected to flex more. Although I do hope that Pirelli don’t go too conservative with their compounds, like they did towards the fag end of 2012.
However, will we see a repeat of 2012, when the opening seven rounds were won by seven different drivers? I highly doubt it! But what I do hope is that we have yet another cracker of a season, where Alonso and Raikkonen are capable of taking the fight to Vettel. Button will be leading McLaren and Hamilton will be bringing Mercedes out of the shambles. A Sahara Force India win too perhaps? And also, I do think that we will see Schumacher racing somewhere in the near future. Formula 1’s loss will be whose gain?