Martin Brundle column: India a huge success for F1
The inaugural Indian Grand Prix was a major success as an event. The sheer energy, colour and vibrancy of the city of Delhi and the Buddh International Circuit were something to behold.
It takes a day or two to adjust to India. The air is rather too smoggy, the chaos and lack of discipline on the roads is frankly terrifying - and I am not easily scared - and cleanliness is clearly not a priority. But somehow it all works.
The people have a default smile you rarely witness around the world, and they are ready to politely help wherever possible.
Once you learn to take the whole experience for what it is, you relax and simply get on with whatever you have to do.
It's a pity, then, that it was such a boring race, with relatively little overtaking and wheel-to-wheel action.
The drivers seemed to universally praise the layout of the 3.2-mile 16-turn circuit, though.
It's the sixth Tilke-designed track in Formula 1 after Malaysia, Bahrain, China, Turkey, and Abu Dhabi. Key features are the mid-sector of relatively high-speed corners and chicanes - which worked well - and the massively wide entries into three slow corners. Which didn't.
The theory makes sense - create a very wide track in the heavy braking zones into a hairpin therefore making it impossible to defend.
But in reality, as we already know from Malaysia's wide Sepang circuit, it doesn't work because the cars end up burning one racing line not a whole lot wider than a car, thereby leaving the rest of the track extremely dirty and slippery.
This was especially the case in India - as we also saw very graphically in the run-off areas and pit lane.
“There really is some serious bad blood now between Hamilton and Massa, and I think that may have contributed to this latest episode”
There has been a lot of recent construction in the area, of course, but for next year they should import a couple of the high-pressure-jet track cleaners used at other circuits to 'open up' more of the race track.
The super-wide corner entries served only to create a number of first-lap incidents as cars reached the pinch point three abreast.
Talking with co-commentator David Coulthard, we agreed that actually a very wide exit can be more effective for overtaking, such as at the Adelaide hairpin at the former French Grand Prix track Magny-Cours and the Turn Four hairpin in Hockenheim.
As Ferrari's Felipe Massa twice demonstrated singlehandedly, some of the kerbs were a little brutal and I am sure this will be fixed for next year.
Accuracy was critical in order to maximise the apex speed of the corners while playing dare with the kerbs, and staying off the ever-present dusty areas just off the racing line. It was fun to watch.
For me, that was the biggest story of the Indian weekend - that it was a great event that is already one of the best races on the calendar.
Of course, I also have to discuss Lewis Hamilton's latest adventures.
ANDREW BENSON'S BLOG
“Hamilton has been involved in some high-profile incidents, many of which have been his fault. But his collision with Massa in India on Sunday was not one of them”
His three-place grid penalty for not lifting off while passing yellow caution flags - along with Sauber's Sergio Perez - was pretty cut and dried. Hamilton had the DRS rear wing overtaking aid open, seeking out more speed, and put his hand up straight away for that.
In the race, he came together with Massa's Ferrari yet again.
After contact in Monaco, Silverstone, Singapore and Suzuka there really is some serious bad blood now between those two , and I think that may have contributed to this latest episode.
Hamilton was clearly faster at this stage of the race and a great exit from Turn Four saw him moving partly alongside Massa.
What is significant here is that Turn Five is a fifth-gear sweeping left-hander with limited braking, and hard enough to get right one at a time.
Massa was penalised for the subsequent contact because he was looking in his mirror and so was deemed to have seen the other car.
That is nonsense - at 180mph, you have to look in your mirror and make a split-second judgement call as to whether it is your corner or not depending on exactly where the other car is.
I wrote this column on the plane back from Delhi and around me were drivers and team principals, along with other people I respect, and nobody can understand the Massa drive-through penalty.
I stand by my instant call in the commentary box that it was a racing incident - as Hamilton himself described it.
Massa should have left more room but Hamilton should have eased out of the throttle - in that particular bend. There is no point in risking another front-wing change there unless you are fully alongside and have claimed the corner.
Hopefully we will hear what damage Hamilton had on his car thereafter because his pace was largely poor after the incident.
Out front, Sebastian Vettel won at a canter for Red Bull, with his first career 'full house' of pole, leading every lap of the race, victory and fastest lap.
Only McLaren's Jenson Button seems able to keep him on his toes, although we must not forget Hamilton's tremendous drive in Korea .
It has been an epic end to the season for the teams in terms of travel, with Singapore, Japan, Korea and India in short order, and now just Abu Dhabi and Brazil to go.
Next year Austin, Texas will be added to this globetrotting. Many in F1 are getting punch drunk on the air travel and time-zone changes, but we are lucky to experience events such as India.