Indian Grand Prix: Inside the Paddock

By Ubaid Parkar, 31 October 2013
The moment when Sebastian Vettel crossed the finish line to seal the win and the title © Ubaid Parkar/F1 Pulse

Sebastian Vettel mercifully sealed the championship in India and he did it, as his team rightly pointed out, in style complete with donuts and an endearing bow to his car and to those seated in the main grandstand.

Maligned throughout the season by fans for his dominance and preposterous perceptions about his character, Vettel was humble throughout the weekend during all his media appearances prompting at least a smile if not laughter from the quizzical journalists.

The celebrations started early for the four-time world champion © Paul Gilham/Getty Images/Red Bull Racing

A bit tipsy (seemingly) from frequently sipping his champagne between intervals at the post-race presser, he not only unknowingly slipped an expletive, but also amused the lot with a hilarious imitation of an Indian accent, somewhat like Apu Nahasapeemapetilon from ‘The Simpsons’.

“Actually, don’t get me wrong, but yesterday there were a couple of guests we had from the team and I signed some autographs and I was asking for their names and I regret that because I looked like an idiot,” Vettel replied when asked if he would consider naming his next year’s car with an Indian angle. “They were spelling the names and I’m... ‘OK, can you say that again?’ and one guy who had, I don’t know, some Ts in his name and he spelled it and he said (cue Indian accent) ‘D like Tomato’. So I put D and I looked like an idiot because he actually meant T.

“Don’t get me wrong, you look like an idiot when he spells the name and you put something down wrong. For sure, my English isn’t perfect either but I struggled to understand him. I really like the people here, they are very friendly. He didn’t actually take it personally so we just did another card. With the right spelling,” he smiled.

The F-bomb had caused some concern to the slightly embarrassed but smiling FIA official standing next to him but he only shook his head, as after all it was a “special circumstance.”

Brad Spurgeon, of the International New York Times, was determined to get something out from Vettel's crowded presser © Ubaid Parkar/F1 Pulse

The bubbly had done its bit.

On Thursday, the media session with Vettel was filled to capacity, with an army of reporters surrounding the imminent four-time world champion to form a semi-circular wall. The buzz drowned out the speakers for those who came in late, leading to some journalists choosing ingenious ways to record the proceedings.

Vettel entertained there too.

Unlike Nico Rosberg, who encountered a cow on the motorway earlier in the week, Vettel didn’t come across any bovine interventions.

“I rode an elephant,” he smiled referring to his Indian moment.

“I didn’t come across any cows... or goats,” he replied when asked if he had any incidents with any domestic animals. “I am not into goats.”

Fernando Alonso cut a sorry figure after the race © Ubaid Parkar/F1 Pulse

In contrast, it was a gloomy affair for Fernando Alonso, who didn't secure any points and failed to add to the record he had set in the previous Grand Prix of being the top scorer in Formula 1. He had just lost the title for the fourth straight year to this prodigious young talent and it figured.

He sat in a closed posture with his voice considerably lower than the day before when he sounded like a confident and perky politician letting out a rallying cry that there was much to look forward to the race.

“I have said yesterday, I have said before and I am afraid I will say it in Abu Dhabi as well; Congratulations to him. I don’t know him personally enough to have an opinion about his character or whatever. It won’t be fair,” said a dejected Alonso when asked about his views about Vettel after the race.

Jessica Michibata looked comfortable in Indian attire © Ubaid Parkar/F1 Pulse

Lewis Hamilton was out of contention ahead of the weekend and appeared to be much more relaxed. Probably a bit too relaxed. During the post-qualifying press conference, when the three drivers were asked about their views on the new Formula E series; Vettel spoke against it, Rosberg for it and Hamilton?

“I agree with both of them,” he replied promptly lifting his head when poked for a response. Laughs followed.

Meanwhile, Marussia had a bit of a trouble ahead of the race when smoke emerged from outside the garage in the paddock. A quick investigation revealed that it was a generator which “probably has too much oil,” according to a mechanic.

Still, it probably turned more heads than Jessica Michibata, who had turned up on Sunday in a saree, some even wide-eyed suspecting a serious fire... at Marussia.

The mysterious smashed up truck outside the circuit © Ubaid Parkar/F1 Pulse

Obviously, it didn't affect the team as the day progressed with the smoke managing to disappear quickly into the smog that had enveloped the circuit.

But what was more worrying was the state of two vehicles at the pick-up/drop points of the shuttle buses meant for the media. A smashed truck lay there along with a compacted car suggesting that the twain had met at high speed. Not sure why they were kept there.

Thankfully, Vettel had lightened up the weekend.


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