Sadly, qualifying more or less ran to the script, making it less exciting than earlier in the year. Vettel got pole, Webber got second and the McLarens and Ferraris lined up in rows 2 and 3 (Hamilton heading Button and Alonso leading Massa).
Vergne will be disappointed to join the pointless teams in failing to leave Q1, perhaps especially as he and his team mate enjoyed a double points finish in Korea. However, their qualifying performance there was also not great, so maybe they'll progress during the race.
Both Force Indias got dropped in Q2, and Schumacher, Senna, Grosjean and Ricciardo likewise. It was pretty tight from the bottom of the top 10 to those just knocked out, but Schumacher was over half a second behind Rosberg and Senna was almost as far behind Maldonado.
As mentioned above, the sadly predictable Red Bull front row lockout happened again, with McLaren getting row 2 and Ferrari row 3. Massa might've done better, but cocked up the end of an otherwise tasty looking lap. Despite that, sixth is a good result for him (but also a tricky one. He can't pull his punches at the start, but being alongside his team mate means he has to make sure he doesn't get in Alonso's way). Raikkonen may be disappointed to start just seventh, and is followed by Perez, Maldonado and Rosberg.
Raikkonen revealed afterwards that he buggered up the setup, which he reckons cost him a place on the second row of the grid. He's a great driver, but with the three teams flying in formation ahead of him a wonky setup won't help him much.
Strategy poses an intriguing question, as, before the weekend, Alguersuari said the circuit was pretty abrasive, yet the drivers could put in 2-3 good qualifying laps on the soft tyre, and the hard seems competitive on pace. This suggests a 1 stop strategy could work, although Gary Anderson, BBC technical chap, reckons in reality the front-runners will go for a 2 stop.
This matters not just because of the time involved, but also because of how the cars differ. The Red Bull is not rubbish in a straight line but it is slower than its chief rivals, but has absolute dominance in the twisty bit. This means that if the Red Bull is ahead it will pull away, but if it's behind it'll find passing its adversaries slightly more difficult because passing in the twisty bit is harder, and whilst passing on the straight is much easier they lack the pace there. So, a McLaren or Ferrari could better recover from ending lap 1 in fifth than a Red Bull (probably).
The corners deliberately have wide entry/exit points to encourage overtaking. This did not happen at all last year because of the large amount of dust off-line. Whilst that isn't quite the same this year, the track isn't used much so the racing line will probably still have far more grip than the rest of the track surface.
So, that means Red Bull need to either go for a 1 stop and make that stop after its rivals do the first (of a possible two), so that they remain in the lead, and then manage their tyres, or they need to exactly mirror what those behind them do (assuming they keep the lead). Well, that's my theory, anyway.
I can't see much past a Vettel victory, unless he goes for a 1 stop and suffers tyre degradation issues as happened in Korea (with a smaller gap to the following car). Annoyingly, the McLaren and Ferrari could be quite competitive in race trim.
The weather, incidentally, is almost certain to be dry and sunny.
So, from a betting perspective the only relative certainty is the niceness of the weather. One or two stops could work and the top three teams might be equally matched on pace.
I considered Grosjean and Hulkenberg for points (partly because I strongly suspect Maldonado and Rosberg will go backwards) but the odds were too short. Hamilton for a victory at 8.8 was tempting. Very tempting, in fact, but McLaren's iffy reliability and my suspicion that Vettel will be over the hills and far away within a couple of laps makes me somewhat hesitant to back it. In the end I decided against tipping it because working out where McLaren is in pace terms from Korea is impossible (Hamilton had a broken rear thingummyjig and Button lasted less than a lap).
I've decided to lay Webber to get a podium at 1.64. Controversial, but my reasoning is thus: he's not as fast as Vettel, he often starts a bit poorly (in Japan, where he was the 2 in a Red Bull 1-2, he got passed immediately off the line) and if Red Bull is equal to others in race pace I think Hamilton, Alonso, Button and Massa are good enough to pass him. There's also the real possibility that Red Bull are harder on their tyres than other teams, which is borne out by Korea and by how easily they switch them on in qualifying.
No hedging on this tip.
The race starts at the slightly weird time of 9.30am. Hopefully it'll be more entertaining than the inaugural visit to India and mark a welcome return to profitability.