Red Bull stay ahead but KERS is still a weakness

2011 Malaysian GP race review

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Red Bull won again in Sepang but two KERS failures revealed their vulnerability.

Sebastian Vettel Mark Webber
Qualifying position 1 3
Qualifying time comparison (Q3) 1’34.870 (-0.309) 1’35.179
Race position 1 4
Laps 56/56 56/56
Pit stops 3 4

Red Bull drivers’ lap times throughout the race:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56
Sebastian Vettel 109.614 104.539 104.209 104.369 104.378 104.265 104.541 104.568 104.782 104.945 105.798 106.893 110.561 125.241 105.211 105.36 104.026 103.993 103.45 103.393 103.52 103.5 103.447 103.435 105.734 122.148 102.582 102.259 102.688 102.043 102.284 101.668 101.539 102.003 102.387 102.704 102.798 102.901 102.774 102.823 105.479 121.36 102.31 101.876 102.237 101.711 102.004 102.746 102.018 102.012 102.072 101.858 102.38 101.992 102.861 105.543
Mark Webber 116.366 106.656 107.142 105.651 105.887 106.843 106.738 107.346 106.181 109.035 122.007 104.27 104.184 105.599 103.961 104.57 104.431 104.835 103.872 104.511 104.341 108.908 119.513 103.351 101.6 101.642 102.307 102.295 101.981 102.332 102.939 105.969 120.064 102.232 102.5 101.423 102.135 103.514 103.125 103.22 102.867 103.048 105.367 119.397 100.736 100.571 100.789 101.091 103.57 101.76 101.111 101.228 101.405 102.481 102.488 102.831
Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Sepang, 2011

Sebastian Vettel

At Melbourne there was speculation Red Bull were running a special Kinetic Energy Recovery System that only worked at the start.

Although it turned out not to be the case, it wasn’t far from what happened to Vettel in Malaysia. He had the vital extra boost in hand at the start but had to drive much of the race without KERS after it failed.

Fortunately for him by that time he’d already made the advantage of starting from pole position count.

It’s not clear why the stewards didn’t class Vettel’s behaviour at the start, where he clearly made two moves away from the racing line to defend his lead, as the same kind of weaving which Lewis Hamilton was given a penalty for later.

Hamilton was poised to dive down the inside when Vettel feinted right for a second time, and while Hamilton was held up Nick Heidfeld split the pair of them and inadvertently helped Vettel build an eight-second lead in the first 11 laps.

Vettel’s lead was reduced by Hamilton during the second stint but in the third stint he stretched his advantage again despite having lost his KERS.

Jenson Button took up the chase later in the race. But by this stage Vettel was managing the gap en route to his fifth win in six races and a perfect start to his championship defence.

Sebastian Vettel 2011 form guide

Mark Webber

Webber’s KERS failed before the start leaving him easy prey when the red lights went out. From third on the grid he fell to tenth.

Unlike Vettel, Webber committed to ‘Plan A’ which turned out to be a four-stop strategy. A lengthy scrap with Kamui Kobayashi delayed him to begin with.

But despite no boost button and four visits to the pit lane he was able to make some progress and overtook Felipe Massa for what would become fourth place.

Mark Webber 2011 form guide

2011 Malaysian Grand Prix

    Browse all 2011 Malaysian Grand Prix articles

    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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    46 comments on “Red Bull stay ahead but KERS is still a weakness”

    1. I clever bloke, but got pretty annoyed when Newey described Red Bull as a ‘privateer team’ after the race

      1. jsw11984 (@jarred-walmsley)
        11th April 2011, 20:14

        Well, by definition they are, a privateer team is a team that is not affiliated directly with a manufacturer. I.e. Mercedes, Renault, Ferrari, McLaren, they are all manufacturer teams the others are in essence privateers

        1. I consider Sauber, Williams, Team Lotus, Virgin, HRT privateers. Red Bull might not make cars but they are massive global company that are using F1 for marketing (the owners, obviously the team is in it for the fun).

          1. RedBullRacer
            12th April 2011, 0:55

            Red Bull might not make cars but they are massive global company

            and Virgin aren’t?!

          2. ad Virgin aren’t?!

            Got you there. Bigtime.

            1. Not really, if you consider that are only getting very limited funding.

              To be honest, I think we need a new word, to describe a team that has to rely on finding sponsors to build it’s own budget.

              Like Sauber, Williams or HRT.

          3. and Virgin aren’t?!

            Got you there.

          4. True Virgin are privateer and are a massive company, way bigger than Red Bull. But when it comes to budget Virgin are the main sponsor except they don’t pump tons of money into it. Red Bull have the budget of a factory team, I think that’s why they are not really considered privateer.

    2. They seriously need to improve their KERS. Their car seems to be very sensitive to ‘dirty air’, it’s a beast when on pole, but when it’s fighting for positions, it’s not as good as the others (or maybe it’s their drivers).

      If the others manage to get close to them, and overtake them in the process, they’ll struggle badly to recover.

      1. partialy agree. I also felt they are more rely on aero grip than other cars. They’ve never won by overtaking except in start or very unusual situation(2010 Brazil). Despite their insane quali performance, when they are behind of Ferrari or Mclaren, it have been almost impossible to pass both of them.

        1. that’s what Vettel’s lacking, really….

          the last time he won a race at any other position than pole was precisely at Sepang last year.

          1. And that was a good start coupled with Webber leaving the door open (hard to believe those stupid mirrors were allowed for so long!)

          2. What drivers have actually made an overtake for the lead that was not either in the first corner or though the pits? I remember Canada, Turkey aaand.. That’s it.
            He started from pole in over half the races last season, it shouldn’t be a surprise that he didn’t have many wins that were not from pole position.
            You cannot judge a drivers ability to overtake on the number of non pole position to win races. That is absolutely worthless.

    3. Well Red Bull are not a vehicle manufacturer, are they?

      1. (that was a reply to ‘zecks’)

      2. As far as the start, the Schumacher Chop(s), have become so ingrained in the sport since the 90s, now no one even notices or cares. When is the last time a driver got penalized for start-line swerving. I haven’t gone to the archives, but I can’t recall it happening recently Its bizarre, right, because when is swerving more dangerous—in a raging ball of accelerating cars on cold tires with cold brakes, or when one car is 50 feet in front of another and pulling away?

        1. jsw11984 (@jarred-walmsley)
          11th April 2011, 20:11

          The swerving is not to do with being dangerous, rather it’s about gaining an unfair advantage

        2. Webber against Barrichello at the Nurburgring in 2009. He hit him, mind you.

          1. Well, Webber got a drive thru for his actions after all…

            Didn’t stop him ;)

        3. Well said

          1. Except the ‘Schumacher Chop’ is within the rules, as long as its only one move. Vettel did not only make one move, he went once, then back to line for the corner, then back over again to block Hamilton.

    4. I agree. I think if Vettel can’t maintain the lead, then he will struggle more without the power of a Mercedes or Ferrari engine, and especially without KERS (IF they have problems again).

      Although I don’t think that’ll be the case in Shanghai. The run down to the first corner isn’t long, and the corner style probably suits Red Bull quite a lot. Not to mention Renault will probably intervene again. They have amazing traction!

      1. Yes, if both of Renault get in front of the mclarens and ferraris that will play in hand for Red Bull, assuming Seb will take another pole. I wounder, is there some agreement between these teams, it looks like Renault is working on Red Bull, Renault dont have the pace to chalenge them, yet they have good starts and a good pace to hold the main competitors back.

      2. but the back straight is incredibly long!. They’ll surely struggle there.

    5. in Melbourne, they looks like invincible but now they’re in much more risky situation than last year. Already Mclaren match them with quali pace and even Ferrari could challenge them in race. Their KERS is troublesome and not competitive as Mclaren(I’m still not sure how Ferrari’s is. but it looks like better than RB’s)

      Yeah. China will be real challenge to them. Welcome another 3 way battle.(even tighter!)

    6. Actually a pretty good drive from Webber, given how many places he lost off the line and not having KERS working all race.

      Vettel, great qualifying. Not the first time he was a bit rough off the start, but the Stewards had to give a penalty to Hamilton, eh! Shame, I would have liked to see how Vettel would have fought back.
      And it might have gotten Heidfeld in the lead for a few laps extra!

    7. I never noticed the subtle weaving at the start when watching the race live. When watching it back I was furious that he didn’t get a penalty. Yet again Red Bull are doing a great job. Looks like it’s Mark Webbers turn to have the bad luck with reliability this season.

      1. jsw11984 (@jarred-walmsley)
        11th April 2011, 20:16

        Well they both had bad luck in this race, Marks was just more so.

    8. Did anyone else wonder why Webber looked so dejected after the race? Given that he had no KERS and a terrible start which languished him back to 9th almost instantly, he drove an excellent race to 4th (albeit inheriting two positions he was fortunate to get).

      It could have been far worse for Mark.

      Perhaps he senses the title is already slipping away from him? I know it must be hard watching your team mate have two wins on the slate and you having less than half as many points, but still, Webber can take a lot of positives from the race which could easily have been far worse. Chin up fella, still 17(/18) races to go yet!

      1. Mark could have won this race. Two races with no KERS must be frustrating. It is interesting to see from looking at the graph above he made 2.5sec on vets in every pit stop.

    9. According to the Technical Report, Webber had the KERS battery pack replaced after Qualification and before the start. Either the batteries are a duff batch or the control electronics used by RBR is problematic.

    10. I read an article that they may not fix Webbers KERS before China. That must be not true, surely?

      1. Not bloody good enough if that’s true. I bet if it was on vets car as a last resort Horner would take time out and remove himself from vets a$$hole, slap on some overalls & get his hands dirty to even try & solve this problem…

    11. Yep. Vettel clearly made 2 blocking move. He should have been penalised.

    12. Webber recovered well since his start. Red Bull’s biggest problem has been reliability. They have the pace in the car but if they struggle to finish the race due to error of the car then they will have a hard time defending their title this year.They need to sort out their KERS issue.

    13. Q: So you didn’t have KERS with Seb from lap 30 on?

      CH:We just chose not to use it.

      Q: Was there a problem with it?

      CH: No problem at all with Seb’s KERS.

      Shouldn’t be a problem then for RBR to cure the electrical issue that killed Webber’s KERS if they have one unit working.

      1. Where’s that from? It doesn’t quite match up with what Vettel said.

        1. Here…

        2. Here, Keith..

          (link failed first time)

    14. I’m sorry but I have got to disagree with Keith on two counts here,
      1) Webber’s Plan A was 4 stops (because even before race started Brundle/DC mentioned that Webber is looking at 4 stops) whereas Vettel’s Plan A was 3 stops, so I’m pretty sure Vettel was also committed to his Plan A
      2) Secondly about weaving: Driver A sees Driver B on the inside and blocks him, Driver B moves further inside or moves outside and Driver A blocks him again, now that is weaving. In Vettel’s case when he made the first move Hamilton was neither behind him nor beside him. Secondly, it would have been weaving if the pole position was like last year where Vettel would have to block Hamilton first (move 1) and then block him again on the inside line (move 2). Since Vettel started on the same line I don’t see how this can be considered weaving.
      I do see many a difference in opinion with fellow fanatics on how Lewis is unfortunate to get a penalty for weaving whereas Vettel got scot-free. If Lewis is unfortunate to get penalized for weaving then how can you advocate the same penalty for Sebastian? The offence is the same or are we seeing at different set of rules for each teams?

      1. If Lewis is unfortunate to get penalized for weaving then how can you advocate the same penalty for Sebastian?

        I didn’t say it was wrong for Hamilton to get a penalty:

        1. Apologies, that was for the general population calling for Sebastian’s Head

    15. Did Webber have a problem with his DRS towards the end? He seemed to be within the 1s gap behind Heidfeld but he appeared to not bother with it.

      Anyway, brilliant stuff from Seb, I expect no less really.

      You can sense a real reluctance to use KERS and so far they don’t seem to be suffering too much without it. There will come a crunch moment for them though.

    16. seems to be unnoticed, but rbr performed a 2.7 second 4-tire change (vettel, lap 26). absolutely incredible!

    17. Isn’t this a bit like saying you don’t think Barcelona’s football team doesn’t have very good substitutes? ;)

    18. kERS was nothing more than a minor distraction

    Comments are closed.