Greater Noida: The man known as the fastest Indian in the world had a mixed day on October 27 when the action started at Buddh International Circuit.
Narain Karthikeyan was 22nd in the opening 90-minute free practice session but his second ended prematurely when his HRT Cosworth developed a hydraulic problem. Karthikeyan, 35, was upbeat despite the minor setback.
“It was a great feeling racing in India once again, at home,” he said. “The first session went pretty well and in the afternoon we decided to change the balance of the car to improve certain aspects. We’d just put on a set of the soft tyres when, unfortunately, we suffered a hydraulic failure which impeded us from improving our times.”
Meanwhile there were several drivers getting to grips with the spectacular Indian track for the first time. One was last-minute stand-in Esteban Gutierrez, who stepped up to replace fellow-Mexican Sergio Perez at Sauber for the first session.
Gutierrez, a GP2 race-winner this season, is widely tipped for promotion to a full race seat with the team next season. He completed more laps than any other driver with 29, his fastest of 1 minute 31.212 seconds good enough to put him in 20th place.
“I think the circuit here is amazing, especially with the chain of fast corners,” Gutierrez said. “However, my target was to progress during that session and make sure I brought the car home in one piece. Now Sergio will be taking over again but, in case anything should happen, I feel ready to get into the car again.”
Quickest of the newcomers was Valtteri Bottas, enjoying another session in the Williams in place of Bruno Senna. The young Finn was a highly creditable 11th in the first session, just four-tenths and one place behind his illustrious compatriot Kimi Raikkonen’s Lotus.
Perhaps with an eye to his F1 future, Bottas was also highly complimentary about the track: “This was my first time driving this circuit and I can tell that it will become one of my favourites,” he said, “because it has a nice flow to it and the surface is very smooth which means that tyre wear is lower so you can push the car a bit more.”