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GP Week : Issue 173
him in the points for the duration of the race, but he was in fuel-saving mode for the final phase of the race, and was forced to pull over mere metres after crossing the finish line, lest he run out of fuel on the cooling down lap. Another driver to suffer fuel problems was Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg, who was told by his team to enter fuel-saving mode before the first round of pit stops had got under way. Rosberg’s problem was not his to suffer alone – the German racer spent the Indian Grand Prix leading the sort of train Jarno Trulli would have been proud of in his Toyota days, with the turbulent air generated by the Mercedes’ rear wing making him a very challenging man to pass. It was a tough race overall for Mercedes – Michael Schumacher incurred a puncture on the opening lap, thanks to minor contact with Jean-Eric Vergne. Having limped to the pits, the German racer found himself in P24 on lap 2, and lapped by race leader Vettel by lap 10. The ignominy of an endless stream of waved blue flags didn’t bother the seven-time world champion, however, as he appeared to be utterly unable to see or process them, resulting in an investigation by the stewards that eventually led to nought. In the end, the boys from Brackley decided that their goose was pretty well cooked, and the pit wall called Schumacher into the pits to retire with what team principal Ross Brawn later attributed to gearbox issues. The sense in the paddock was that Mercedes were relying on that old chestnut to afford them the opportunity to give the elder German a brand new – and penalty-free – gearbox for next weekend’s race in Abu Dhabi. The other theory doing the rounds was that Schumacher’s retirement was a deliberate attempt to avoid a grid penalty at Yas Marina. Schumacher was not the only man to retire from Sunday’s race, although he was the only driver to retire tactically. Sergio Perez retired in the pits on lap 20 after a lap 19 incident left the Sauber driver with a puncture. The Mexican racer was in the process of overtaking the Toro Rosso of Daniel Ricciardo when he clipped the Australian’s front wing with his right rear tyre, causing a puncture. By the time Perez had made it round to the pits for a replacement, he had caused enough damage to his rear bodywork that there was no sense in continuing. The only other man to retire was HRT’s Pedro de la Rosa. The Spanish racer suffered a sudden and dramatic brake failure with fifteen laps remaining, and ended up parked in the tyre barriers at Turn 4. HRT had been experiencing problems with brake overheating from the beginning of the race, but until de la Rosa’s crash it looked as though the team had the issue largely under control. But in the end, the Indian Grand Prix was less about what did happen in the sixty laps between lights out and chequered flag than what didn’t: anything of real interest. One of the highlights of the afternoon for the TV audience was Hamilton’s pit stop, which saw the McLaren crew change five wheels (including the steering wheel, which was suffering issues with downshift) in just over three seconds. It was a mark of just how undramatic the race really was – a quick steering wheel change has no place in a highlights reel. “I’ve never had to change a steering wheel during a race before,” Hamilton said. “We’ve done it in Barcelona testing before, but never in a race. ... I took the wheel off before I’d even stopped the car, and threw it out of the car. The team then fitted a new one, I clicked it into first gear, and I was away – all in just a bit over three seconds flat.” F1 >>> INDIA 23 GPWEEK.com // 23 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: Don't forget The Flying Lap live every week on http://smibs.tv CLICK HERE