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Red Bulls' Sebastian Vettel takes the pole

Roudra Bhattacharya Greater Noida | Updated on March 12, 2018

Two-time world drivers' champion Red Bull Racing's Sebastian Vettel continued his strong run by leading the high-on-adrenaline qualifying session, which saw the cars whizz by at around 300 kmph, on Saturday, ahead of the first ever Indian GP.

The second of the three-day race saw strong turnout at the Buddh International Circuit, which was filled to almost half the capacity.

For Sunday's main race, Vettel will be accompanied on the starting grid by team-mate Mark Webber who finished second and Scuderia Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, who came in third.

Vodafone McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, who had qualified second as per lap time, will start fifth after suffering a penalty.

Mr Vijay Mallya, Force India chairman and team principal, said: “I'm delighted to see a Sahara Force India starting the very first Indian Grand Prix from the fourth row of the grid.

“The whole team has worked very hard to bring our final upgrade package here this weekend and I think that showed in our performance today. It's our home race and I hope all the fans will get behind Sahara Force India.”

Force India's Adrian Sutil put up a strong performance by qualifying eighth behind Mercedes GP's Nico Rosberg, while Sutil's team-mate Paul di Resta will start from the 12th spot.

The only Indian on the 24-driver grid, Hispania Racing Team's Narain Karthikeyan, finished last-but-one after being penalised five spots for blocking Mercedes GP's Michael Schumacher.

Fan turnout

The positive fan response to the first two days of the race at the brand new $400-million circuit in Greater Noida is understood to be higher than other countries.

Usually, the first two days see a much lower turnout, organisers JPSI said. “More than 90 per cent of the tickets are now sold and the response has been very good. The team members said that in other places people don't come on Friday and Saturday, but here we saw a large turnout on both days. Tomorrow (Sunday, race-day) we're hoping more than 90,000 people will come,” Mr Askari H Zaidi, Vice-President at JPSI told Business Line.

Of the 1 lakh seats available, 85,000 were sold by online ticketing partner Bookmyshow till Friday. The rest are now available at select outlets.

“We have come from the UK to support Button and Hamilton for the first Indian GP. It's been very exciting so far, although the heat is a bit too much. We plan to travel around over the next week,” said Mr Rob Green, a 60-year-old fan who follows the Vodafone McLaren team at races around the world.

“Some drivers had mentioned dust on the track, but that's because it is new. After three practice sessions they have now got used to the track, in fact Vettel today praised it,” Mr Zaidi said.

>roudra.b@thehindu.co.in

Published on October 29, 2011

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