Sepang will show how far ahead Red Bull really are

2011 Malaysian GP preview

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Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Melbourne, 2011

Heading into the second race of 2011, the key question is whether Red Bull will have the same huge performance advantage as in Melbourne, of almost one second per lap.

If they do, it looks like being a very one-sided season.

Red Bull’s advantage

Drivers spend around one-third of a lap of Sepang not on full-throttle. That means braking and cornering: areas where the RB7’s prodigious downforce pays enormous dividends.

The RB7 can attain higher cornering speeds and carry them onto Sepang’s long straights. But then the extra downforce starts to work against the Red Bulls in the form of increased drag. That left the RB7s only ninth-quickest of 12 cars through the speed trap in Melbourne during qualifying.

Their lack of straight-line speed was not too great a problem a circuit where the longest straight is 843 metres. But Sepang has two straights longer than that, the largest of which is just over a kilometre in length.

Red Bull could find themselves obliged to back off their wing angles to avoid being out-gunned on the straights. But their Kinetic Energy Recovery System may also come into play.

They had to switch KERS off at Melbourne because they couldn’t guarantee its reliability. Getting it up and running in the heat and humidity of Malaysia will be a significant challenge, and one to keep an eye on during Friday practice.

But at this stage we can’t rule out the possibility that it’s all an elaborate ruse and Red Bull aren’t planning to use KERS at all. The conventional wisdom is they would be too vulnerable at the starts if they did that – but it didn’t cause them a significant problem in Melbourne.

Who can catch Red Bull?

Melbourne’s quirky circuit offered a vague glimpse of the balance of power between the teams. Sepang will offer more concrete answers.

Among the questions being asked are whether Mark Webber can access the same level of performance with the RB7 that his team mate is. He was slower in qualifying and needed an extra pit stop during the race – the worst of both worlds.

McLaren and Renault are wary of the threat from Ferrari and Mercedes, who failed to replicate their pre-season testing form in Melbourne.

Another team that conspicuously under-performed in Malaysia was Williams – although the FW33 showed some potential in the hands of Rubens Barrichello.

Sauber had the car that was kindest to its tyres in Melbourne – Sergio Perez was the only driver who made it through the race with just one change of tyres. They were also quickest through the speed traps in qualifying.

But will the C30 perform as well once the team have tweaked its rear wing to ensure it no longer falls foul of the scrutineers?

Getting on the grid

Vitantonio Liuzzi, HRT, Melbourne, 2011

Further back, some teams are striving just to get into the race. HRT say that getting within 107% of the fastest car in qualifying “should not be a problem”.

The F111s only did their first 29 laps in Melbourne and Vitantonio Liuzzi missed the cut by 1.7 seconds.

But the cars did not appear to have a working Drag Reduction System in Australia. If they can get a working one on the car in Sepang, along with other missing parts of their 2011 kit including the front wing, that could be enough to bridge the gap.

Virgin only narrowly got both cars into the race at Melbourne. It means these two teams are vulnerable to the whims of the front runners: if Red Bull choose to do a run on soft tyres in Q1 they could potentially wipe four cars out of the race at a stroke.

Tyres and temperatures

The teams will use the same tyre compounds as in Melbourne: hard (with silver lettering) and soft (yellow). Pirelli predict that in a dry race we could see up to four pit stops per car – that’s one every 11 laps.

Pirelli must expect much more rapid tyre degradation in the heat of Sepang compared to cool Melbourne if they expect teams to give away a minute and a half coming into and out of the pits for fresh rubber on race day.

How the tyres perform will influence many of this weekend’s storylines: from whether Red Bull are still almost a second ahead to whether HRT can qualify.

Last of all is the ever-present variable of the unpredictable Malaysian weather. Last year it made fools of Ferrari and McLaren, who hung around in the pits during qualifying, missed the best of the track conditions and ended up at the back of the grid.

The Pirelli wet weather tyres have had little use in testing but drivers reported high wear when they were used. That could prove a difficult combination given the mixture of high temperatures and sudden, intense rainfall that characterises the local weather.

Your view on the Malaysian Grand Prix

Will Red Bull still be far ahead in Malaysia – and will they use KERS?

Will we see a full field of 24 cars on the grid? And can Ferrari and Mercedes bounce back from their disappointing start to the season?

Have your say in the comments.

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    119 comments on “Sepang will show how far ahead Red Bull really are”

    1. Awesome. Cant wait! It feels like the first race of the year for me because I was at the Australian Grand Prix. Go Webber!

      1. Yeah go Webster! You’re not in there grand plan so don’t buy into Horners techniques to disrupt your season. Your top shelf even if he doesn’t think so… AUSSIEGRIT!

      2. yeah doesn’t feel the same when you’re at the event does it!

        Scottie’s looking forward to it also :)

    2. Virgin only narrowly got both cars into the race at Melbourne. It means these two teams are vulnerable to the whims of the front runners: if Red Bull choose to do a run on soft tyres in Q1 they could potentially wipe four cars out of the race at a stroke.

      I’m not so sure Virgin are in trouble. They were all doom and gloom through Friday practice and early on Saturday, but then Timo Glock was 1.4 seconds inside 107% of Sebastian Vettel’s lap time and just half a second behind Trulli and Kovalainen with no explanation. Jerome d’Ambroiso is more of a concern, since he was only 0.4 seconds, but Virgin just went into radio silence after Glock was in. I suspect they didn’t get a full qualifying simulation in when they would have liked to.

      We also saw Ferrari burning a set of softs just to get Felipe Massa into Q2, while Alonso had no fresh soft tyres going into the race – and this was when Vettel was still lapping on hards. Red Bull have no reason to run soft tyres in qualifying; in fact, it’s in their interests to run hards in Q1 because it gives them a fresh set of softs for the race, and hides their true pace.

      1. The weather could play havoc with the 107% this season. Although if it rains i wouldnt be suprised if we saw the stewards being kinder to anyone under it *should* it be raining in Q1. Im sure we’l not see a repeat of last year of top teams going out in Q1, lessons would (you’d think) have been learned.

        Im not sure what will happen with Virgin/HRT myself. If Virgin made it past 107% in melbourne, you’d think that they will this time too, certainly Glock will. HRT… well who really can say with any certainty, all to often have promised upgrades not work as they intended.

        1. I’m curious, does the field spread increase or decrease in the rain?

          1. Not field spread, performance difference. There’s no field spread in qualifying!

            1. There’s no real difference in performance. if anything, the gaps close up. Most of it has to do with strategy. After all, we saw Lotuses make it into Q2 during heavy rain in qualifying last year.

            2. Sush Meerkat
              6th April 2011, 19:28

              Not field spread, performance difference. There’s no field spread in qualifying!

              Performance tends to equalise a bit more in the rain, obviously a fast car is a fast car, but the rain helped Sutil drag his Spyker to P1 in a wet 2007 Monaco practise session.

              Also some cars tend to work better in the wet, the previously mentioned Spyker was just as fast slow in the rain as it was in the dry.

              The Reb Bulls and Torro Rosso’s seem to love getting wet, Vettel 2008 Monza- 2009 Chinese GP Vettel and Webber and also Buemi bringing up the rear in 8th place.

            3. The Reb Bulls and Torro Rosso’s seem to love getting wet

              So glad you didn’t say “the Virgins”

      2. If Red Bull is fast enough they don’t need it. But, maybe there’s a rain threat and they now Q3 will be wet no matter what.

        Then you might want to use a set of softs, possibly to eliminate these two teams. Because getting rid of as many competitors is always a good idea. The less backmarkers you have to overtake the better. They increase the risk of you falling out, because someone else makes a little mistake. And I would assume that you make the risk as little as possible.

        Also there might be a little money incentive, but of that I’m not sure. It depends how exactly the money is divided at the end of the year. It could be beneficial to have lesser finishers, so lesser starters is better then.

        Having said all this, it doesn’t feel very Red Bull, such a scenario, it would be more of a Ferrari thing to do..
        *hiding for the flak* ;-)

        1. now = know

        2. I suggested this shortly before Melbourne qualifying. It was universally shot down on the grounds that nobody would do it because they would be too concerned about getting their own qualifying position up.

          1. And I must say I still think this is not a strategy any top team would seriously go for.

            Sure, if Q1 starts dry-ish and ends wet, there will be some laps done, but not taking to much risk (ending up next to the track) and going all out.

            1. To add to that, if the top teams set their blindingly fast times on softs before the rain, and the HRTs and Virgins set their timed laps only when it starts raining, that would just mean the Stewards will not look at the fastest times set for being incomparable.

            2. It’s improbable, the (ex)new teams always exit the pits as soon as the session starts to do as many laps as possible.

        3. I think the TV money is divided into two groups, those who score points and those who don’t (it was suggested that being the highest-placed team with no points would be more beneficial than being the least-placed team with points, if – I think – only two teams failed to score), so it’s possible.

          But I don’t see anyone doing it.

          1. The TV rights are paid to anyone who places in the top ten in the WCC standings at the end of the season. Any team outside the top ten receives no money – even if they scored points – and has to make up a budget on their own.

        4. dyslexicbunny
          6th April 2011, 15:19

          I don’t think any of the teams would really do it just to knock someone out though. The way I see it, you’re already putting some wear into soft tires.

          I don’t believe Ferrari, McLaren, Renault, or Mercedes will have the pace to do that yet. It would have to be a Red Bull that can do it and I don’t think they have anything to gain by it. Backmarkers are already blue flagged.

          And I honestly don’t think any of the top teams need to worry about getting past an HRT or a Virgin. So I just don’t see anyone bothering with it.

    3. odds on HRT finishing inside the top 10 anyone?

      1. no, numbers don’t go that high

        1. COTD.

    4. I must say I am really looking forward to the race again. Certainly the weather will be the deciding factor for a lot of things. I guess no one is much expecting a dry race anyway. As for 4 stop races, if its wet/dry we have seen that many stops regularly.

      Nice one about HRT finding the missing bits. Personally I would love to see them get some decent mileage on the car to show its real potential in Q1. But there confidence of making the 107% split might be more about expecting rain than going fast.

    5. “But at this stage we can’t rule out the possibility that it’s all an elaborate ruse and Red Bull aren’t planning to use KERS at all. The conventional wisdom is they would be too vulnerable at the starts if they did that – but it didn’t cause them a significant problem in Melbourne.”

      But isnt the run to the first corner in Melbourne rather short compared to other tracks? maybe thats why they didnt feel the pinch from the kers of other cars? time will tell roll on sunday!

      1. All the more reason to stay quiet about it in Malaysia again, isn’t it? Their comments about it being sort of allowed by Newey as long as it didn’t compromise his aero sounds like overheating issues, and thus them not actually being able to run it during the whole of a hot race.

      2. It’s just a hypothesis, but here’s my thinking:

        All winter long the teams were saying ‘you’ve got to have KERS, or you’ll be at a disadvantage at the start’. But what if you could find some other way of getting good starts without KERS?

        We say it’s a short run to the first corner at Melbourne – but how many other circuits have sufficiently long runs for it to make a difference? What about Istanbul, Monte-Carlo, Montreal, Singapore, Suzuka, Korea and Yas Marina?

        And if Red Bull can take it as read they’re usually going to lock out the front row of the grid, that further boosts their chances of at least getting their pole-sitting car into the first corner first.

        Take KERS out of the car and various advantages of packaging and reliability are available to you. Both Christian Horner and Adrian Newey have said they’re not fans of the technology. If any team were going to build a KERS-less car this year and make it work, it’s them.

        Like I say, just a hypothesis, and one that will be rapidly debunked if we see Vettel jabbing a KERS button at the start on Sunday…

        1. Jelle van der Meer (@)
          6th April 2011, 10:17

          Another factor that should be taken into account it the assumed more pitstops.

          Even if Red Bull would be 2nd or 3rd after the 1st corner they should have no problem following the cars in front of them and then either use DRS to overtake or wait till pitstops as we have seen it before those that follow but no attack can save their tires.

          Even a single lap can be sufficient to bridge the gap and after pitstop come out ahead.

          That said – with minimum car weight increased the penalty for carrying KERS have reduced.

          1. Even if Red Bull would be 2nd or 3rd after the 1st corner they should have no problem following the cars in front of them and then either use DRS to overtake or wait till pitstops as we have seen it before those that follow but no attack can save their tires.

            Even the best Adrian Newey design cannot negate the effects of the wake spilling from a car behind. The RB7 is not a magic bullet; it’s commonly accepted that you need to be at least a second per lap quicker – better to be two – to make a pass work. The RB7 is, at best, 0.827 seconds per lap faster than the competition. And if there are cars in front of a Red Bull, it’s unlikely their advantage over it will be so great.

            1. and wasnt the RB6 esspecially effected by rival cars ‘dirty air’ last year?

              Red Bull with/without KERs appears to be the new secret in F1 that we’re all clutching at straws and little pieces of information to make a judgement on. Friday will answer some of these but Saturday should hopefully end it. I reckon this will be a closer race then Melbourne.

            2. Yeah surely the more downforce you have, the more you have to lose- I imagine they are affected similarly to other cars.

            3. Still, not a problem if you are first, or capable of banging fast laps when one (or at most two) drivers in front pit to overtake without having to do on track overtakes (and there are more opportunities -pitstops- to do so.

              Red Bull will rarely be in a position to claw back a whole field (if they still carry their ultimate pace advantage)

            4. Agree, and I even go further. From last year the RB car looked like suffering more from the dirty air then others, as it negated their enormous potential for downforce creation.

            5. I like it how you make your statement to be taken a lot more seriously with a number like 0.827. :)

            6. and wasnt the RB6 esspecially effected by rival cars ‘dirty air’ last year?

              The RB5 was very bad with this too. Cast your mind back to Turkey 2009 and Vettel trying to make his 3-stopper work, trying in vain to get past Button.

        2. It’s a good theory and I think at the very least a part of the answer. I don’t think if we saw them bringing KERS to places with long starts it would necessarily debunk the theory, because it would be a case of Red Bull changing the car to suit the circuits.

          One could imagine them putting KERS in the car but not turning it on, setting the car up to not have it on and then use it only at the start of the race. They may have designed it with this flexibility in mind. No “star-only mini-KERS”, just a tactical use of how to use it.

          1. Seems plausible indeed.

            However, And non withstanding my previous comment, I actually feel the truth is simply a matter of them not being technically able to run the Kers consistently, but still getting away with it. Red Bull-Newey have become such a formidable machine that we tend to forget they could still do conception mistakes.

            1. Indeed, even Mercedes were having KERS trouble in testing and in Melbourne, and their KERS is arguably the best on the grid. That might need to be qualified however to “best on the grid when operated by McLaren…”

        3. Bigbadderboom
          6th April 2011, 12:08

          Still can’t help thinking that no KERS leaves them too vulnerable on those long straights, for them to maximise that cornering speed through the incredible downforce they seem to be generating they will lose too much top end. If they miss read tyre degradation or the tyres unexpectably goaway they will be like sitting ducks. I think they will make KERS work here, maybe it might be one of the only tracks that Adrain Newey is willing to make design compromises.

        4. Finding another way to have great starts is probably very difficult. Finding some way to overcome a 80 hp deficit is not very easy.. Maybe that they are compromising gear ratios of the first few gears even more, maybe ballast to the rear to have great traction.. These things are not likely because they would probably loose performance! Not to mention that weight balance is somewhat fixed..
          Maybe they are fast enough to make some compromise to equal the start disadvantage.. But unlikely..
          I think they will run KERS when they feel confident it works for them, and especially at tracks that requires it! Melbourne was not a track that required it. Sepang probably is! So we will see!

        5. dyslexicbunny
          6th April 2011, 15:23

          But a KERS-less car should also offer a benefit to rear tire wear. In theory, they’ll be kinder on their tires and maybe get an extra couple of laps per stint.

          1. If Australia is anything to go by, then red bull really need it as Vettel stopped before Hamilton.

            But then different cars like different ambient temperatures. The Brawn was famous for being sensitive in this regard.

          2. NO, because the minimun weight limit and weight distribution its the same for everybody. kers o no kers.

      3. Also, the lack of KERS meant that Webber couldn’t overtake Alonso.

        They lose the advantage of DRS if they run without KERS.

        More importantly there is practically no gain from leaving KERS out. The start weight is the same, the weight distribution is practically fixed (so no moving ballast about) in qualifying.

        At best they could go for slightly better COG and tighter packaging at the rear. Would that really give them such a benefit that the 3 tenths, overtaking power and superior starts that KERS bring are overcome?

        1. If the circuit favours it, I would think so. But I don’t believe for a second RBR are going to get another 0.3s in Malaysia by sticking KERS on. Maybe if teams figure it out we’ll see some interesting solutions in Monaco, Hungary, Valencia, etc.

          1. Malaysia has huge straights. It’s one of the tracks where there is the most to benefit from KERS.

    6. Looking forward for this race! Sadly i got an exam on Sunday, so hope watching FP123,Q and race won’t interrupt my studies a lot!
      As to showing red-bull’s pace, I don’t think we can get concrete view from this race, if its rainy that is!

    7. I think Redbull will still be fast in Malaysia, this time with KERS enabled. Vettel probably takes poll again, i guess. But the race could be all different. Suspect Mclaren to be fast and on the podium.

      1. My heart says Lewis will take the pole in Sepang, Vettel may need a lap of God without KERS to snatch the pole.Ferrari and Mercedes will see drastic improvements but not enough to take pole.

        1. Malaysia, as a track, is rewarding to a car with good aero efficiency and downforce levels. I expect Red Bull to be strong here even without a KERS system. I think its going to be a Red Bull front row lockout, but in the race it wont be all that easy for them.

          Lets wait and see, it would be great to have a non Red Bull driver take pole though..

    8. What are the 107% rules in wet qualy? What happens if, say, Vettel, crashes in Q1 without setting a time? Will he be allowed to race? If yes, based on what?

      It’s looking like a great season is awaiting. Red Bull are at the top, McLaren, Ferrari and Mercedes have a lot of room for improvement, and Renault showed last year how fast they can develop the car, so I believe we have 5 cars fast enough for regular podiums. Great!

      As for the predictions championship, this one’s gonna be even harder than the first race. Malaysia+Rain=Havoc.

      1. What are the 107% rules in wet qualy? What happens if, say, Vettel, crashes in Q1 without setting a time? Will he be allowed to race? If yes, based on what?

        Stewards can make exemptions at their discretion, they can’t be appealed:

        The 2011 F1 rules changes at-a-glance

        1. Generally, and this used to happen, they look at the practice times and assess if they think the car has shown sufficient pace to suggest that it would’ve been within the 107% time. Naturally, you’d think Vettel would’ve been in our hypothetical scenario!

          1. I can remember someone saying that even someone like Virgin if they have lapped within 107% some time say in Saturday practice then they wouold be allowed to start if rain came in before they got a lap in Q1 (presuming RBR or something got a lap in dry)

    9. The conventional wisdom is they would be too vulnerable at the starts if they did that – but it didn’t cause them a significant problem in Melbourne.

      But as you said, the straights in Melbourne aren’t as long, especially when comparing the runs down to the first corner on Lap 1. KERS saved Hamilton from being demoted to third by Webber because he’d had a poor start; a decent start might leave them behind slower cars. which would be very interesting to see. As Red Bull’s speed comes from their downforce, it will be interesting to see how they fare in dirty air behind cars which are less than 1 second slower (whatever their qualifying advantage is, it’s very unlikely their race pace will be that good) and their car produces so much drag even the DRS won’t be of much help, especially if they don’t have KERS either.

      As for strategy, if so many stops are needed I wonder if a few teams might just gamble on going a few extra laps on rubbish tyres to save doing a pit-stop. The key factor is the number of stops that will actually be needed, because the time penalty for a pit-stop is near-constant (about 30 seconds). If they have to do four stops it becomes more viable to give away even as much as 2 seconds a lap. If it’s only three, then it might be too much,

      1. It’s worth pointing out, though, that more downforce will give the RB7 better traction, which will to some extent make up for a lack of horsepower off the start. Acceleration is about how much power you can usefully transfer through the wheels, not how much you have.

    10. Sauber had the car that was kindest to its tyres in Melbourne – Sergio Perez was the only driver who made it through the race with just one change of tyres. They were also quickest through the speed traps in qualifying.

      Maybe suggesting little down force?

      1. What’s your point?

        1. I think he’s suggesting that Perez was able to conserve his tyres because he was running a low-downforce setup.

          1. Wouldn’t it actually be true the other way – more downforce = kinder to the tyres?

            1. That’s how it generally works, yes.

            2. True, but it is about downforce balance so to speak. Sauber obviously found the perfect set-up that meant they had small enough downforce to have grip through the corners but high enough to not chewing their tyres because of sliding. I think that it is a masterpiece of set-up but will be very difficult to replicate every weekend. That said maybe that is how Sauber designed their car, by thinking outside the box.

            3. meant to add, that more downforce also creates more heat and therefore wear in the tyres. Added to aggressive driving leads to over-heating and spinning the rears results in worn tyres aswell. Great job by Perez though it must be said

            4. Wouldn’t it actually be true the other way – more downforce = kinder to the tyres?

              It’s not nearly as influential as the way a driver actually drives. The effects on downforce on tyre wear would probably only become apparent over longer runs, and the Pirellis aren’t lasting nearly long enough for those effects to manifest.

    11. Williams and Sauber to be even more racy

    12. RedBull will still be the best as they are fast not only in corners but on straights too. But this if rain doesn’t show up. Otherwise, any of the top cars may win. I expect McLaren to perform well, and maybe Ferrari; as for Mercedes they’ll still be hugely outperformed by other cars if the race will be dry.

      1. they are fast not only in corners but on straights too.

        Not in Melbourne they weren’t…

        1. Exactly, bcaz to be fast in corner you have to have more downforce and thus increase the drag, so in either way it is a trade off that should be made to improve the performance. In Melbourne RBR car were fast but that is mostly due to their advantage of flex wing in particular section of the track… so when there are few high downforce corners then RBR is due to struggle like the last year.

    13. Actually higher downforce tends to conserve the tires more because the tires are less prone to sliding around in the corners.

      1. Not always true. It really depends on the track surface, temperature and layout. While it’s true that more downforce can prevent tyre graining where the tyre is usually too hard or the track is too cold, it can be a disadvantage at a track where it’s hot and the corners are long and fast that tend to get the core of the rubber too hot which will cause blisters on the surface of the tyre that literally tear off chunks of rubber.

        One of Alain Prost’s best races was the Brazilian GP in 1987 where it was hot and the Rio circuit had many fast corners – he set up his car in a low downforce configuration and won the race by 40 seconds as he didn’t have to stop as many times as his rivals did who all overheated and blistered their tyres caused by their higher downforce settings.

        1. I’ll add that we saw what a good set up in low downforce can do when Sergio Perez only stopped once!

          1. I think part of that could come from him being a rookie in his first race. He openly said he wasn’t pushing at the maximum.

            1. Exactly. Driving style has much more influence over tyre wear than set-up.

            2. No one pushes at the maximum in a race or the tyres wouldn’t last would they?

            3. Prisoner Monkeys

              The car must be set-up according to the preference of a driver and their intended driving style, so no.

            4. Exactly. Driving style has much more influence over tyre wear than set-up.

              I wouldn’t say so, not anymore. The Pirellis seem to go off at a set time no matter what you do with it. However that set time could be extended by adopting a set-up that compliments a “smooth” driver

            5. Set up is stupidly important, but because set up is so interlinked with performance and driver/team preference, you kinda can’t offset it that much to preserve the tyres I would think.

    14. Well it will be interesting to see if they use KERS in malaysia (RB). If they dont they will be forced to have less downforce to get some straight line speed. Now to the question, how much downforce can they remove before Macca and Ferrari are on the same amount of downforce? This could result in some interesting fights.

      Cant wait

    15. I believe RBR will dominate indeed. The circuit screams redbull. But it looks like the same story of last year. Dominance in qualy but McLaren has good race pace. Let’s hope it’s true and we can see them been challenged.

      I doubt we will see a full grid. I can’t see HRT do it, and I have big doubts about Virgin.

      1. Tyre wear will severely hamper Red Bull. Australia was a warning sign, only Hamilton’s undertray and poor pit strategy made Red Bull look more dominant than they actually were…

        1. They haven’t had any problems in winter testing, and only Webber struggled with them in Melbourne. So I’m a little curious as to how this is indisputable proof that they will struggle in Malaysia.

          1. Maybe because it’s called winter testing for a reason? And Malaysia is a tropical climate?

            Are you forgetting that Red Bull had to be first for new tyres? Webber on lap 12 and Vettel only a couple of laps later. If they struggled with tyre wear in relatively cool temps at a track which isn’t known for being hard on tyres, how will they fare at a hotter race with a track layout that’s harder on tyres?

            1. Maybe it was only clever strategy for Vettel, as Hamilton lost a lot of time on his old tyres compared to Vettel on new.

            2. OEL

              I think McLaren gambled on Button holding Vettel up, but as we saw Vettel easily got past him.

            3. The Last Pope
              6th April 2011, 18:51

              Shiro, When saying easily you obviously mean illegaly. Vettel to me has still yet to show he can overtake without crashing or going off track.

        2. James Brickles
          6th April 2011, 15:50

          Both Red Bull and Ferrari do appear hard on it’s tyres, the Ferrari especially but Vettel was actually forced to pit due to his tyres wearing out, plus Webber had to make three stops. As far as I’m aware, both McLaren’s weren’t having any complaints about tyre wear. McLaren actually have a realistic chance against Red Bull in Malaysia.

          If Pirelli do indeed predict four stops, then Malaysia is going to be a very hectic race.

    16. I don’t expect Red Bull to run away with this one. Sure the corners they will own but the Mclaren seemed very efficient. Very fast and yet good downforce… Might be close between them! But we will see over one lap what actually is most beneficial.. Red Bull might have the advantage still.
      And if it rains, as is very likely, Red Bull should work really good!

    17. Overall, it looks like it’s going to be an unpredictable race, I hope it doesn’t get suspended in the mid race, because in 2009 Button won like this, AFAIR.

      1. He did. The field was awarded half points.

    18. my malaysian gp predictions:

      1. vettel
      2. webbo
      3. cloud of dust
      4. fans go home
      5. oh look! another car!

      1. Not sure. McLaren is fast enough to challenge the RedBulls already. Ferrari concentrating on one lap performance. Can’t wait to watch the race.

      2. Vettel spun off in 2009. Who knows he will repeat that. With Webber’s car having “setup problems”, it might be a nice race yet.

    19. The only closing of a gap there is going be this weekend will be Webber on Vettel. Leaving the other teams wondering how on earth they are going to close the gap to two cars instead of just one.

    20. Red Bull should go for it in Q1 if they could knock out virgin and HRT Seb wont have as much traffic to negotiate in the race.

      As Keith said with types of corners at Malaysia the extra downforce will be key and making the cars with litte downforce ie virgin hrt look even slower

    21. Heh heh heh.
      Have a look at the weekend weather forecast.
      Thundery showers predicted Thursday to Sunday by BBC.
      The most local forecast I can find is for Serenbam (approx 20m miles away) and they are predicting Friday as “Widely scattered tstorms [thunderstorms]. Warm (33C).”
      Saturday forecast will be released tomorrow.

      1. Sorry, *not* Serenbam. Should be Seremban!

    22. On the microscopic chance it is a dry weekend, I expect Vettel to be out in front once again, but by a reduced margin. I think Hamilton will be his biggest threat, as in Australia, where the McLaren seemed to be a good compromise between straightline speed and downforce. Fernando and Mercedes may or may not close the gap to the McLarens, dunno how that will turn out.

      In a totally wet weekend, who knows? Vettel could drop the ball in Q1, Fernando or Schumacher could pull out a strategic masterstroke, Hamilton’s fearsome overtaking skills could net him a win. If Red Bull fail to get a banker lap in a wet Q1, and put themselves in McLaren and Ferrari’s position of last year, it would be interesting to see how the RB7 performs behind slower cars. I hope the rain mixes up the field and the results in Sepang, I really don’t want Red Bull to run away with this championship!

    23. Hamilton’s fearsome overtaking skills could net him a win.

      It’s possible that others won’t need to overtake.

      Wet or dry, I don’t see much getting by a Red Bull. The difference in downforce will show which is the best car, whatever happens.

      But the choices made to car setup in qualifying could make things interesting. Will it rain? Won’t it rain? It’s a gamble.

    24. watch out for mercedes this weekend. they have one of the most efficient packages for top speed this year and will surely bounce back from last race to show what the car can actually do.

    25. Tyres: As soon as Hamilton got his tyres up to temperature in Melbourne, he was faster than Vettel and he could make them last longer as well. Sepang is more demanding on the tryes. Wait and see if this indicates a vulnerability of the RBR.

      KERS: if RBR doesn’t get it working at Sepang, they might have a problem. It will emphasize their lack in straight line speed.

      DRS: hope it wont make overtaking too easy on the long Malaysian straights. That would result in a few laps of overtaking galore, followed by a dull procession of cars in their actual speed order. Maybe it could be spiced up by some rain or by the predicted 4 stops.
      2 for Perez ^^

      Rain: anything can happen in the rain. Messed up strategies, teams gambling, drivers spinning, traffic in the pitlane, getting stuck in traffic when rejoining the track…

      In all, it may possibly be the most unpredictable race of the season.

    26. It seems as though the general consensus is that RBR will not run KERS..I’m not sure of that but what will be clear on this track is how soft there car is in the corners and how low the aerodynamics can get while still clearing the FIA regulations. RBR will be at the front no doubt by how much we will have to wait and see. Race pace and strategics will come into play then it could get interesting!! Really looking forward to this weekend!!

    27. If Lewis hadnt bogged down off the start he’d arguably have got ahead of Vettel in to the first corner at Melbourne using his Kers. He might then have just roared through but Lewis looks settled again after a poor 2nd half of the season last year.

      The development race is so fierce now and the element of lucking into a good new part is so much greater now testing is banned that its really difficult to call it from race to race.

    28. I think RBR will reluctantly be forced to use KERS. I know Newey doesn’t like it, or DRS, but I think they are taking a serious gamble if they don’t use it.

      Agree with Keith on this, I think Sepang will be more of an insight into the pecking order and personally i’m keen to see how Sauber will perform.

    29. The Sepang circuit’s second sector features some pretty spectacular high-speed corners. I believe that the real potential of the RB7 will be shown on that specific section of track. Sepang’s second sector contains Turns 5-9 and is comprised of, in sequence, a second-gear corner, two taken in fifth gear, followed by two fourth-gear right handers, and a slow second-gear corner (Turn 9). The measure the RB7’s lead over other designs should be apparent in this sector’s timings.

    30. Both Button and Hamilton have mentioned that the car balance is great. (Even during winter testing) Their tyre wear was very good and they could have probably done one pitstop at Australia.

      Red bulls were suffering from tyre wear, but mostly it was Webber. We cannot be sure how good or bad they are with their tyre wear, Malaysia will give us more info.

      Listening to Newey talk about how McLaren have copied their exhaust and it would be a pain if they then beat Red Bull, i must assume he is worried about McLaren’s pace.

      Ferrari were suffering with tyre wear too, but Alonso is in great form, he is really hustling the car around. However i have to say that Ferrari is very reliable and horribly slow compared to both McLaren and Red Bull.

      My prediction is it will be a 4 way fight between Vettel, Lewis, Button and Alonso. If Webber can figure out what is wrong with this car then maybe a 5 way fight.

    31. yes that was a nice bit of driving off piste by Vettel on Button. Altho piste taking might be nearer the mark

    32. They had to switch KERS off at Melbourne because they couldn’t guarantee its reliability.

      This seems to imply that KERS was on their car to begin with. But, Horner said in an interview that they did not have KERS at all.

      Wouldn’t having the KERS unit in the car and not using it a bigger disadvantage than not having the KERS at all?

    33. If Ferrari improve this year, it will be brought about only by the prodigious will of Fernando Alonso pushing Ferrari to limit of their design and manufacturing capability. The guy really hasn’t had a stone cold race winning car since 07. Neither has Hamilton. So the greatest driving rivalry of this era remains pregnant with undelivered promise. Bummer.

      1. I really hope your right. I just want to see Alonso and Hamilton wheel to wheel again as well as challenge Red bull.

    34. I would think that the logical thing for Red Bull to do would be to use the KERS. 4 fairly long straights should be a good motivator for their decision. If they don’t use it, then we may see a different winner this time. We’ll see.I’m still not convinced that HRT will get into the 107% zone.

    35. slight mistake in the article – You say that williams underperformed in malaysia where you mean melbourne.

      I think its definitely plausible that Red Bull won’t use KERS the whole season. Personally, I was expecting the technology to really make a difference, but I can’t see its benefit again this year. I get the feeling it needs to be unlimited for it to work well

    36. on the onboard camera of Vettel’s poleposition lap is it possible to see how much the front wing flexes.
      I was speaking last year with a Toro Rosso’s engineer, he said that the flexi wings gives you a big hand on performance.
      Said that, they are exploiting the rules at their limit: we’ve seen flexi-wings, something like a ride height control system, a strange KERS and so on. I think they are better on reading the regulations than building a fast cars

      1. No cheating anyone, just beating everyone.

    37. Here’s an interesting article on why Renault powered cars may have the upper hand when it comes to achieving more downforce.

    38. I still think Red Bull will dominate but Mclaren will give them some hard time. Rain is expected in all three days of the weekend so will be interesting.I don’t believe that HRT will qualify for the race,may Virgin will also have a tough time.If it’s a dry race then 3 stop for sure,wet race will make things interesting for everyone but I just hope things don’t turn like 2009.

      1. My NDP (NostraDamus Prediction):
        The new front wing and some track time will do wonders for HRT, and Liuzzi will outqualify both Virgins and be within 4/10ths of the 2nd Lotus.

    39. With rain and Pirelli’s expectation of four stops, we can’t really predict if Red Bull really has advantage or not for 2011 Season.

      Even though McLaren looks good and can challenge Red Bull.

    40. At this point, I have absolutely no idea how each team will go at Sepang.

    41. It means these two teams are vulnerable to the whims of the front runners: if Red Bull choose to do a run on soft tyres in Q1 they could potentially wipe four cars out of the race at a stroke.

      that’s interesting too. In the old days, the 107% time was calculated from the true pole time. Not “just a laptime” the big teams do in order to advance to the next stage. At Q1 they never go flat out.

      So that makes me wonder: it should be either 107% of the pole time or no 107% rule at all.

      1. That is not really fair for the teams that get eliminated in Q1 and Q2, because they don’t get to run again when the track is rubbered in. (Not that they would be much faster but still not fair)

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