Fast cars, hot dogs and Buddh

2011-10-28 14:40

NOIDA, India - Felipe Massa was fastest for Ferrari on Friday as Formula 1's oldest team set the pace at the sport's newest circuit in practice for the inaugural Indian GP.

If the morning was a tale of Indian pride, stray dogs and Englishman Lewis Hamilton collecting a three-place grid penalty for ignoring warning flags after setting the quickest lap, the afternoon ended as a red-letter day with a red car on top.


Massa's lap was the fastest yet in the heat and dust of the barely completed, $450-million, Buddh International layout near New Delhi – 1min25.706. The day had started with times in the 1min30’s.

Double World champion Sebastian Vettel was second in both sessions on a day of huge significance for Indian motorsport but with very little importance in a championship whose titles have already been won by the German and his Red Bull team.

Fernando Alonso reinforced Ferrari's potential with the third-fastest time in the second session after blowing an engine in the morning.

In keeping with the sense of history, teams hit the track for the first time with the colours of the national flag leading the way. The first car out of the pits lane was the saffron, white and green Force India, driven by Germany's Adrian Sutil.

It was followed closely by Team Lotus's Indian reserve Karun Chandhok, the second Force India of Paul di Resta and then Indian racer Narain Karthikeyan in the HRT.

Chandhok, who will not race on Sunday, had the honour of setting the first timed lap.

Karthikeyan, who became the only Indian ever to score points in F1 when he was with Jordan in 2005, ended the day last on the time sheets but comforted that his presence was what really mattered.


"It's an emotional moment for all of us," Force India team principal Vijay Mallya said later. "There was a lot of speculation about whether the track would be ready and the event has had its fair share of controversy after what happened with the Commonwealth Games but we're ready.

β€œIt's a great track and the drivers love it."

A large, black, stray dog appeared on the main pits straight, one of the longest in the sport, just before the first session was due to start.

Another appeared minutes into the action, causing practice to be red-flagged for safety reasons for five minutes while the offending canine was rounded up.

Hamilton set a best lap of 1min26.836 right at the end of that session to deny Vettel and Red Bull's Australian Mark Webber an immediate 1-2 on the time sheets but fell foul of the stewards with his sixth penalty of the season.

They ruled the 2008 champion and Sauber's Mexican Sergio Perez had each ignored waved double yellow flags warning that a car was being recovered by marshals working close to the track. The penalty meant Hamilton, sporting a helmet with the image of the late reggae singer Bob Marley on top, could no longer hope to start on pole for a second successive race.

There were no dogs to delay matters in the afternoon but the session was again red-flagged when Belgian Jerome d'Ambrosio crashed his Virgin heavily.

Many of the drivers' cars and helmets carried the logos and numbers of British racer Dan Wheldon and Italian MotoGP rider Marco Simoncelli. Each was killed in racing incidents since the previous GP in Korea – Wheldon in a Las Vegas IndyCar race and Simoncelli in a MotoGP race in Sepang, Malaysia.