Simulator, Xbox help drivers prepare for new track

A screen grab of an Xbox session "on" the Buddh International Circuit

The Buddh International Circuit opened to great fanfare but with the FIA and F1 teams fine-tuning the track and its facilities, the drivers of either the Airtel Grand Prix of India or its support races, the JK Racing Asia Series and the Delhi Championship with MRF, will not be able to get on track until the formal practice session on Friday.

So then how do drivers prepare for a new track? The answer lies in modern gaming technology letting them experience the challenges that the track would present.

One of those who has spent a lot of time playing the F1 Game on her xBox is 18-year-old Alice Powell. The youngest ever female driver to win the Formula Renault UK Championship in 2009, she will compete in the Delhi Championship with MRF that is a support event this weekend and is with the team that launched Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton into Formula 1.

“The simulator gives you a very good idea about the track, its turns and elevation changes,” she said. “The longer you spend with the simulator, the more familiar you get with the track. Obviously, more fine-tuning would be needed on the track itself but the simulator is a great way to get familiar with a track.”

Formula 1’s newly-crowned double world champion Sebastian Vettel had not even stepped on Indian soil when he said the Buddh International circuit is a combination of slow corners and high-speed straights which flow into each other. “By the time we race in India, I’ll have done several laps of the track on the simulator,” he said,

His Red Bulls team-mate Mark Webber, who was looking forward to the chance of getting to know the real thing in a few days, said drivers would have an 85 per cent understanding of what the track is going to be like well before their land in India. “In the simulator it looks like quite a quick flowing track, very rewarding … In terms of the kerbs and other subtle final details, these will obviously come into place right at the end,” he said.

Sauber’s Sergio Perez puts the whole thing in perspective. “It is another unknown circuit for me, but this time it will be new for everybody, so it won’t only be me who has to start from zero. On Monday before the race I will actually get to know a bit more about the circuit when I will be testing in the Ferrari simulator.”

Obviously playing the Red Bull or Ferrari simulator or the F1 Game on xBox does replicate the actual conditions – teams fear that they are concerned that the dust hanging over Greater Noida would impede their cars – or how the competition may fare on a given day. But, it will be fair to say that that the simulator goes a long way in helping drivers prepare for a track.