x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Red Bull's Indian Grand Prix incentives

Red Bull Racing want to reward Mark Webber with a win on Formula One's newest circuit, while Sebastian Vettel says he is not driving for statistics.

NEW DELHI // Formula One moves to its newest frontier for the Indian Grand Prix this weekend, and with the dominant Red Bull Racing team eager to give Mark Webber his first win of the season.

Webber, and everyone else in the paddock, has been eclipsed by his teammate and world drivers' champion Sebastian Vettel this season, yet the team wants to reward the Australian driver for his part in delivering the constructors' championship.

"We want to finish the year on a high, get Mark into second in the drivers' championship and it would be great to see him win a race," Christian Horner, the Red Bull team principal, said ahead of Sunday's race in New Delhi.

"We are going to attack the final races. They are like cup finals; we can really go for it now both titles are resolved."

Vettel may have already wrapped up back-to-back titles but the German still has statistical incentives in the remaining three races of the season: he can equal Michael Schumacher's record of 13 wins in a season if he takes all three, and he needs two more pole positions to equal the single-season record of 14 set by Nigel Mansell in 1992.

"I care about the sport, I know its history and the numbers according to the drivers," Vettel said. "I like to see from time to time your name somewhere, but I don't set myself targets about the number of wins. I'm not racing for statistics."

The main obstacle to Vettel's chances of setting the records appears to be McLaren-Mercedes, with the team having a late-season resurgence, a race win and a pole position over the past two grands prix.

On paper, the Buddh International Circuit — situated in Noida outside Delhi — appears to be one that will suit cars with good straight-line speed, that perform well in a low-downforce setting. That would include McLaren, as well as Mercedes GP and even the "home" team Force India.

"I am expecting something exciting, I think we all are," Martin Whitmarsh, the McLaren team principal, said. "It is a venue we have not been to, it is a country we have not visited on the grand prix calendar, so it is going to be interesting.

"We felt quite strong in Japan, we felt quite strong in Korea, but Red Bull did a good job. Hopefully it can swing our way in India, and that is what we are trying to do."

Reports out of India suggest ticket sales have been good for the inaugural race and a good crowd is expected.

Many will be there to cheer on local driver Narain Karthikeyan, who will race for Hispania, with Vitantonio Liuzzi stepping aside for one race.

"Driving in front of the home crowd cheering on is a once in a lifetime experience and I feel extremely fortunate," the 34-year-old Karthikeyan said.

"Making it into F1 at the time I did was a seriously uphill task and the thought of being able to compete in the inaugural Indian GP was nonexistent. But it is finally here and I'll be on the grid."

Karthikeyan is impressed by the Buddh lay out, which has been designed by Hermann Tilke; the man who also designed the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi.

"They've taken a lot of corners from many tracks. They've kind of taken the best and put it there," Karthikeyan said. "There are a lot of medium-speed corners, and a long straight. It's very wide in places."

"There is a lot of up and down. Even on the main straight you climb up and then come down and then climb up and brake. It's come out really well."

While Karthikeyan has been given the drive for his home race, Team Lotus elected not to promote their Indian reserve driver Karun Chandhok.

He will take part in Friday practice, but the team chose to stick to the experienced pair Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen for the race as the team fights for position in the constructors' championship, with millions of dollars at stake depending on the final order.