Off-line start is bad news for Button (Turkish Grand Prix pre-race analysis)

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Button has a strategy advantage but he starts on the dirty side of the grid
Button has a strategy advantage but he starts on the dirty side of the grid

We’ve got the championship leaders in the top four positions, tricky track conditions and one of F1’s best modern circuits.

Can Sebastian Vettel keep the heavier-fuelled Jenson Button behind? Is Rubens Barrichello the biggest obstacle to a Button win? And how much of a problem will the soft tyres be?

Let’s take a look at how the Turkish Grand Prix could unfold.

The story of the weekend has been the lack of grip on the track, which will affect many of the team’s key decisions in tomorrow’s race.

The start

Historically, Istanbul has been a venue where the difference in grip between the ‘clean’ and ‘dirty’ sides of the grid is most apparent.

Sure enough, in the GP2 feature race today third-placed Romain Grosjean easily beat second-placed Luca Filippi off the line. Just as last year Lewis Hamilton moved up from third to second and Robert Kubica from fifth to third.

So Jenson Button’s first concern tomorrow will be not ‘how can I get past Vettel?’ but ‘how can I keep Barrichello behind?’. Barrichello has claimed he does not have team orders to follow, so it will be fascinating to see how close the Brawn cars are through the first corners.

Tyres will play a significant role at the start but, given the lengths of everyone’s first stints, it looks as though few are considering starting on the soft tyre. The most likely exception is Fernando Alonso, who is fuelled shortest.

Although using the soft tyre at the start of the race increases the chance of a good start, it will likely suffer worse degradation than later in the race, when the build-up of rubber on the surface has increased, as we saw at Monte-Carlo two weeks ago.

Finally, we have the KERS cars to consider. The Ferraris start sixth and seventh and, with Istanbul’s wide straights to take advantage of, they have an excellent chance of picking off a couple of cars in the first few corners.

A dream scenario for Vettel would be Button losing a couple of places and being picked off by the fast-advancing F60s – leaving him to suffer the kind of race Vettel had at Barcelona.

The strategy

The trump card in Button’s hand is that he is fuelled farther than Vettel. So, if the pair end up running line astern, Button should be able to pit later and use his extra laps with less fuel on board to jump ahead.

Button’s advantage is equal to two laps at best, so this is by no means a done deal. If Vettel can eke out even a small lead over Button, it could be enough for him to prevail. But whichever way you carve it up, Vettel drove with less fuel on board today, so he’ll have to stop for more tomorrow.

Soft tyre degradation has been a concern during practice. At Istanbul if a driver finds himself stranded on worn tyres he is not going to be able to keep rivals behind for long, as there is a lot of space for overtaking.

Every Turkish Grand Prix so far has been won from the driver starting on pole position. But it may not be easy for Vettel to extend that run tomorrow.

What do you expect to happen in Sunday’s race?

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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48 comments on “Off-line start is bad news for Button (Turkish Grand Prix pre-race analysis)”

  1. Perhaps Button should point his car towards the clean side off the track at the start. This may if successful also head off the Rubens threat…

    1. Thats what Shumi used to do, the odd times he wasnt on pole.

    2. I don’t know how keith has missed this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


      1. Well Litespeed bought the right to use the name… I dunno how they can justify calling themselves Lotus. Wasn’t there a split with the F1 side and the Lotus car company?

        I doubt Keith missed it…I believe it’s been pointed out in these blogs that it’s not any sort of guarantee of membership into F1 to “submit an entry”.

        Overall…I’d say Colin Chapman is rolling in his grave.

        1. Along with Sir Jack.
          We (F1 fans) are getting taken for idiots. Do they really think we are so stupid to be conned this way?
          I guess those that are eager to see Bruno Senna in F1 will get their way if only for his surname.
          I`m also starting to see why the Nepotism Series (F2) is going to be the feeder. It`s full of ‘surnames’.
          Boy, this is getting tackier looking by the day :(

          1. Along with Sir Jack.

            Sir Jack Brabham has nothing to do with this team. They just have rights to his name.

          2. The Brabham family are seeking legal advice, Macca. They knew nothing about the use of their name, apparently.

  2. Lets hope the Brawns don’t get away 1-2 or it could just be a repeat of the last few races. Would be good to see Vettel challenge the Brawns.

  3. I think Vettel will easily win this. If he pulls a 5sec lead on Button then the race is his to lose.

    If Barichello gets infront of Button at the start i expect to see a longer pit stop for him so that Button can get out infront. I think its time Barichello accepted this

    Vettel is their main challenger and they wont want Button to lose points to him

  4. I think Jenson will start on the softer tyre to maximise his chances off the grid (dirty side). Vettel I think will avoid this so he doesn’t suffer early on like he did in Monaco – if he also starts on the softer tyre I think Jensen will have the advantage with his superior tyre management skills. If Vettel does start on the softer tyres, with his experience at Monaco may ease off too much if he tries to emulate Jensen’s tyre management giving Jensen the advantage in the early laps.
    I think Jensen will go aggressive and try to get Vettel in the opening lap on his softer tyres. Rubens I think will start on the harder tyres & will be the deciding factor in this if he gets ahead of Jensen at the start this could prove difficult, but the extra grip early on for Jensen just might let him take Rubens early on.. but he’ll have to do it in the first lap.

    The more I write this the more I thinks this race is all going to be decided by TYRES

    1. Ross, your driver’s name is Jenson :)

  5. There is no way Brawn will let Rubens pass Button at the start. We have seen ample evidence to date that Button is the chosen one, in a Brittish team and w/ a Brittish owner, sponsors, etc. So Button will stick behind Vettel and it’s up to the German to build up a sufficient lead before the 1st stops. The disadvantage for Vettel is I think that he did not do any appreciable long running in practice and will have to rely on Webber’s data rather than his own. I believe Webber’s car is set up differently, so I don’t know how much good borrowed data will do.

    Looking at Q3 times, we see that Vettel beat Button by a little over a tenth, which on this track should be the equivalent of one lap’s time penalty, but Vettel is 2 laps lighter, so one can argue that relatively speaking Button did a better job in Q. I think it will come down to who takes better care of the soft tyres. It looks like Brawn and RBR are evenly matched here, so it could come down to the little things.

    Oh, and like I was saying the other day, Kimi DID beat Massa in Q, AND he is 2 laps heavier. The nonsense about how Massa is the master in Turkey has now come to an end.

    1. We’ve also seen ample evidence over the years that Barrichello isn’t that great a driver.
      He may be good enough to win a few races a season but he’s never been World Champion material.

      Schumacher may have been given a few races due to team orders but for the most part he was in a different class than Rubens.

      I hate to say this because I think Rubens is a great bloke but I think some people are going way over the top on the conspiracy theories. Jenson has, for the most part, done a better job with this years car.

      And no, I’m not a Button fan :-)

      1. I would say that Barrichellos best years were stifled by his Ferrari contract, rather than he being a poor driver..

        1. Read Rubens` Ferrari contract, Achilles?

    2. We have seen ample evidence to date that Button is the chosen one

      So there was the Spanish Grand Prix strategy thing, where people differ pretty strongly on interpretations (personally I just think Barrichello’s strategist messed up).

      That aside, where is the rest of this ‘ample evidence’?

      1. That aside, where is the rest of this ‘ample evidence’?

        Button is winning. Isn’t it obvious?

      2. At least one, apart from this race, in all other races, Rubens is fuelled heavier than Button! :)

        1. At least one, apart from this race, in all other races, Rubens is fuelled heavier than Button!

          You can say the same thing about Vettel and Webber but noone is bitching about that are they.

          (And Webber is STILL only 4 points behind)

  6. Red Bull seem to always mess up the strategy and Button always gets it right. I can’t see anyone other then Jenson winning I’m afraid to say.

  7. vettel or kimi for the win

  8. Rubens might pass Jenson on the start but will fade in the closing stages(RACE PACE)..Button to finish at least second..

  9. Strange how everyone seems to have forgotten Webber sitting pretty in 4th place! I reckon he will fall behind a car or two as he is on the dirty side, but he looks good for a podium maybe… Or if he is lucky, a win as well??

    1. Boston F1 Fan
      7th June 2009, 0:40

      – I know! Webber is fueled heavier than all 3 drivers in front of him. He qualified .3 seconds slower than Vettel with 7kg more fuel. I hope he gets at least a podium finish. He deserves it.

      1. Totally agree – the BBC commentators are the worst offenders – when webber was setting purple sector times and put it on pole they could barely pause babbling about button long enough to notice during qualifying….I hope he sticks it to them and gets a win

  10. Assuming it doesn’t rain at all now is the time for Vettel to show just how good he is (no doubt about his ability in the wet.)

    I think Brawn will win this…

  11. In the past I saw very few mistakes in Ross Brawns strategy and I think is very difficult to beat him. I think Button will win tomorrow any way. I wish I am wrong.

  12. Massa vs Kimi off the start will be interesting, Massa’s on the clean side of the track, but has Trulli ahead of him, who’s not always that quick off the line. Should be an interesting race. Hopefully the KERS will allow the F60’s to get past Webbo and Trulli and give the Brawns something to think about. Button will pass Vettel in the pits for the win (yawn).

  13. StrFerrari4Ever
    6th June 2009, 21:17

    I’m confident that Vettel will win this race if he can exit that first turn ahead he could streak away through turn 8. Webber if he can hassle Rubens which would make Rubens run into Button come on we’d love to see that then a Red Bull 1-2 with the big guns fighting for the points however realisticly I hope Red Bull’s strategy is spot on. And If a safety car does come out in the right window for Bourdais he could just be in with a shout.

  14. BIgbadderboom
    6th June 2009, 21:42

    I think that we will se the RB suffer graining on the option tyre, with all the changes that Adrian Newey has made to the rear end of the car they do not have a real understanding on how bad this problem may be, and I suspect it is going to be severe. On the other hand the Brawn is known to be good on tyres and Jenson has demonstrated that his driving style is excellent at preserving tyres.

    Vettel can take the win but he needs either the F60’s or Webber to get invovled, I think if they get away in the grid order then Vettel will not pull out a big enough gap. Also I wouldn’t be suprised if there is an incident on the first lap, if we get a safety car (As GP2) then Vettel is in trouble.

  15. As posted in the race weights entry, I don’t believe Alonso is that light.

  16. I, too, think Vettel will suffer pretty severely from tire graining. Have you seen his onboard footage yesterday vs. Jenson’s? The difference in driving style (partly due to the car, I’m sure) is HUGE! Looking at turn 8, Jenson turns in and his steering wheel pretty much just stays where he puts it. Vettel, on the other hand, has to constantly adjust, jerking at the wheel violently. Given how sensitive F1 cars are to steering input, it cannot be easy on the tires, especially the fronts.

  17. Beneboy,

    you must be kidding that Brawn is not favoring Button. Recall the fiasco in Barcelona where Rubens had him beat and they changed his strategy to a 3-stopper. That alone speaks volumes. And, how did these two compare last year in equal cars and under non-British ownership ? I think Rubens more than held his own. How many GPs has Rubens won and how many has Button won before this season ? One, for the latter, and that took a typhoon in Budapest to bring things upside down. Flavio is right, Button has the speed of a telephone pole … but he has the best car. No more, no less.

    1. “F1Fan”:I’d have to say, based on what you say that you know very little about what makes a good F1 driver…

  18. Daks,

    you are dreaming. Consider it a success for Webber if he doesn’t crash in the first lap, as he has done so many times. He is simply a very average driver, perhaps technically OK, but w/ very poor racing instincts. There is no way Webber gets a podium here … under normal conditions.

    1. See pSynrg’s post above.

    2. Webber is simply a very average driver

      In an 8 year F1 carrer, to date Webber has never been beaten by a team mate. I rest my case. Webber an average driver, I don’t think so.

  19. theRoswellite
    7th June 2009, 4:21

    How about a preemptive strike against the probable….

    Jenson tries a bit too hard at keeping RB at bay into corner one…with a carbonic-fandango dancing them both into the small print, and just so…the Energy Drink Twins run up front most of the race…..finishing, as would befit Mr. Webber’s homeland, in an unexpectedly inverted order. Mark, Vetts, and Kimi.

  20. Why does Webbo say this?

    4 . M. Webber – Red Bull Renault RB5
    “That was a good qualifying session for us, I’m happy with how Q3 went and it’s put us in a reasonable position for the start of the race. We’re also on the right-hand side of the grid, which is good. I don’t think I could have finished much further up. I’m happy with the performance of the car, it worked well today and I’m aiming for a podium tomorrow. The team did a good job today.”

    1. The outside of the track grid positions 2 and 4 are on the racing line! as I see it. The racing line moves towards the apex of the corner as they get closer to the corner. So grid positions 1 and 3 are on the dirty part of the track at the very start!

      1. Last year the pole sitter was on the racing line, which is on the right-hand side of the track (from the drivers’ point of view – the left-hand side as we see it on TV). That was also the case in the GP2 support races this weekend.

        I haven’t heard anything about them swapping it around so Webber and the other drivers with even-numbered starting positions are on the racing line. Sounds like Webber’s been mis-informed.

        1. From

          I initially thought I was on the right side of the grid but I’m not which is a shame.

  21. I also see the positions as being switched. 2,4,6, havvind the advantage and Kimi as the dark horse but having to watch Rubens switching across. I hope Webber gets going well and picks up the scraps but their start mapping guy needs to have a revelation before he can do that.

  22. Barrichello relly doesn’t care anymore, don’t you guys get it? It’s not team orders or something like that – he’s just slower than Button so far. But if he has a chance, he will take it. What the hell does he care? He’s been driving F1 since Senna was alive, this is probably his last year and he’s tired of following team orders. If he keeps playing this game, then he’s a very stupid man. But if I had to bet, I’d say he won’t, and whenever he gets a chance to beat Button, he’ll do it, even if it’s only to prove to himself that he can.

  23. Looks like another strategy win for Jenson.. HURRAY! ^_^

    1. Won’t bother me at all to see Jenson win again…He’s been in crap cars mostof his career…he deserves it.

  24. Yo dudes, i think that button for da win cuz vettel will muck up off the line because hes got jenson in his wing mirrors

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