Formula 1 comes to India for the only the second time in the country's history and this time it is set to be a far more exciting race. The 2011 Formula 1 Indian Grand Prix was a dead rubber, so far as the championship results were concerned; Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel had already won the championship by the time the drivers and teams came to the Buddh International Circuit.
This time though, Red Bull and Ferrari arrive with the lead drivers locked in a tense battle to determine the 2012 Formula 1 World Champion and the Indian Grand Prix could prove to be a turning point in the race, if Vettel can repeat his 2011 success.
Going into this weekend, Fernando Alonso (209 points) of Ferrari has lost what was once a dominant lead over Vettel (215 points). The defending champion has won the last three races on the trot and seems to be shifting in championship mode at just the right time. By contrast, Alonso is clearly struggling with a Ferrari which neither handles well nor has any real race pace.
In the constructors' race, the consistently high points-scoring performances of both Red Bull drivers, Vettel and his team mate, Mark Webber, have racked up enough points (367 points) to keep Ferrari (290 points) and McLaren (284) at bay for the remaining four races... providing the Milton Keynes-based outfit does not have a meltdown between now and the end of November.
Where to Watch Live
Live coverage of the 2012 Formula 1 Indian Grand Prix starts at 6.15 am BST, with the start of the third and final Free Practice session. This will be followed by the hour-long qualifying session, starting at 8.30 am BST. You can also catch live and free real-time updates on the Live Timing section of the sport's official Web site
Free Practice Sessions Review
Vettel and the Red Bull team come into this race with a lot of confidence and that showed through the Friday practice sessions. The German was fastest through both Free Practice 1 (FP1) and Free Practice 2 (FP2), with McLaren's Jenson Button (1:27.929, 0.310s slower) and his team mate Webber (1:26.339, 0.118s slower) keeping him honest through the day.
The best news for Vettel, though, was that his championship rival, Alonso struggled a little bit. His time in FP1 was 1:28.044 (0.425s slower) and 1:26.820 (0.599s slower) in FP2, meaning the Ferrari has a bit of work to do on Saturday.
The McLaren duo of Button and Lewis Hamilton has already admitted defeat in the race to the drivers' title. Button has 131 points and Hamilton 153. It may still be mathematically possible for either driver to win but it would require the most improbable set of results between now and then. However, the British drivers have promised to try and reel in Red Bull at the top of the table. The 83 point gap between the two does seem a little too much, though.
Button followed up his second place finish in FP1 with a seventh place in FP2 (1:27.182, 0.961s slower), while Hamilton, who will leave McLaren to replace seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher at Mercedes for next season, managed fourth (1:28.046, 0.427s slower) and sixth (1:27.131, 0.910s slower in the two sessions.
Among the other results of note on Friday were good performances for Lotus in the second session, with former Ferrari world champion Kimi Raikkonen finishing fifth (1:27.030, 0.809s slower) in the second session. The Mercedes team of Schumacher and Nico Rosberg had decent runs in both sessions, with the best time of the day going to the latter's fourth position in FP2 (1:27.022, 0.801s slower). Schumacher's best was eighth in FP1 (1:28.993, 1.374s slower).
Finally, Alonso's team mate, Felipe Massa, had a rather forgettable day in the car. The Brazilian, who has only recently signed a year-long contract extension with the team, managed a best finish of seventh in FP 1 but a best time of 1:28.296, in FP2, which was 2.705s slower than Vettel.