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Images: Penalty for Hamilton, drama from Alonso

Last updated on: October 28, 2011 14:57 IST

Images: Penalty for Hamilton, drama from Alonso

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Raja Sen

Raja Sen's trackside analysis of the first practice session at the Buddh Internationa Circuit.

Lewis Hamilton may have topped the timesheets in the first practice session of the inaugural Indian Grand Prix, but as the drivers drove through a significantly dusty circuit and laid rubber down discovering their ideal driving lines, the moment of the day came from Fernando Alonso.

His Ferrari losing its growl over Turns 4 and 5, gears slipping fast, the two-time World Champion barked about "power loss" into his radio and pulled over onto one of the circuit's many in-roads. Crawling to a standstill, he looked lost and confused, and then, having clambered out of the car, sauntered around casually trying to find a place to sit.

His scarlet overalls making him look like a Communist astronaut lumbering around a deserted fairground -- unlandscaped and littered in places with bits of fabric and Bisleri bottle debris, as exasperatingly Indian a visual as it gets -- Fernando perched at the bottom of one of the huge screens showing the F1 coverage.

The base of the screen a makeshift bench, he looked up dramatically as the screen replayed his own immature halt in slow motion, and stared at the screen watching himself with mock theatrical curiosity. The sparse crowds in the stands right across must have had a ball taking pictures as Fernando hammed it up.


Image: Ferrari Formula One driver Fernando Alonso walks inside the barrier after he retired from the first practice session
Photographs: Reuters
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Hamilton moves to fifth spot

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The day's big news came, as said from Hamilton.

Not only did the McLaren driver struggle to find the fastest time around the circuit, doggedly taking on the superlative first sector times of Michael Schumacher and then the great final sector runs from the Red Bulls, but so involved did the British driver get as he stormed to the top of an inconsequential list that he (and Sergio Perez) ignored double-waved yellow flags at the end of the first session, slow-down flags that were out because of Pastor Maldonaldo's engine blowing out at Turn 16.

As a result, both drivers will receive three-place grid penalties following Saturday's Qualifying session. With this latest reprimand, Hamilton's wrist, slapped several times over this season, must be feeling significantly exhausted.

Fans of the driver can't even look to his pit garage for consolation, the McLaren man freshly split from his striking popstar girlfriend, Nicole Scherzinger.


Image: McLaren's Lewis Hamilton is seen on the pitwall following first practice for the Indian Formula One Grand Prix at the Buddh International Circuit
Photographs: Getty Images
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Dusty Buddh International Circuit

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What we learnt most about the Buddh International Circuit was just how dusty it is. It's a mostly dirty track, which will surely be improved as the sessions run on and more rubber is laid onto the track, but the dust is significant.

Almost like the sand we see in Abu Dhabi, there is potentially enough dust around the Greater Noida track to compromise grip severely, a situation that may well play away from the Red Bulls and help cars like the McLarens, cars that have performed exceptionally in the rain (another grip-compromised situation) this year.

The driver seeming to have the most fun on the track was the oldest and winningest one. Michael Schumacher spent the most time on the top of the sheets, constantly going within himself to try and perfect his racing line.

Every time he passed through the long sweeping right-handed parabolica between turns 10 and 11, he experimented with his apexes and took drastically different lines.


Image: Ferrari's Felipe Massa during practice for the Indian Formula One Grand Prix at the Buddh International Circuit
Photographs: Getty Images
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Tributes on helmets

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Fans of the German -- the majority of people in the stands, without question -- would further be encouraged by two things: how quick his Mercedes (teammate Rosberg was lagging behind today) looks in the first sector, which includes that kilometer-long straight; and by how robust the car looks as it rides over the curbs, something that deposed many a driver from Sebastien Vettel to Felipe Massa.

Finally, the day brought us tributes on helmets. Sebastien Vettel, saluting his team that clinched the Constructor's Championship at the last race, has several crewmembers including team boss Christian Horner and Adrian Newey painted on his helmet, while Lewis Hamilton has a Bob Marley helmet, perhaps to exude a carefree single-man 'No Woman No Cry' approach.

Both Hamilton and teammate Jenson Button are racing with black armbands to mourn the two tragic deaths motorsport has seen over the last fortnight, and Alonso's helmet -- marked with Dan Wheldon's logo and Marco Simoncelli's number 58 -- looks the most personal homage of all.


Image: The specially designed drivers helmet of Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and McLaren sporting a motif of Bob Marley
Photographs: Getty Images
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