Webber needs to limit damage as Vettel eyes five-in-a-row

2011 Chinese GP pre-race analysis

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Mark Webber, Red Bull, Shanghai, 2011

Sebastian Vettel could become the first driver in seven years to win five races in a row if he wins in China.

He’s in the perfect position to following a comfortable run to pole position.

Meanwhile for the second race in a row team mate Mark Webber finds himself needing to limit the damage.

The start

It’s a short run to the first corner at Shanghai – 260 metres, just 60 more than Melbourne – and when the drivers get there there isn’t a lot of braking to do.

As a result is it’s very rare for anyone other than the pole sitter to be leading at the end of lap one. Yes, Fernando Alonso leapt into the lead from the third on the grid last year – but that was only because he jumped the start.

But Sebastian Vettel will still have to fight off a pair of McLarens who are unlikely to have to worry about any fast-starting Renaults this time – unless Vitaly Petrov pulls off something really special from the fifth row.

Nico Rosberg started poorly in Sepang, losing four places. Ferrari showed the race pace to challenge McLaren there, but their opportunity to use it here will be limited if they can’t pass Rosberg at the start.

Similarly, Petrov needs a good getaway to clear the likes of Paul di Resta and the Toro Rossos. They’re likely to be slower than him in the race and he needs to take the fight to the Ferraris.


Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Shanghai, 2011

Lewis Hamilton had one eye on avoiding a repeat of his Sepang problems in qualifying.

He only used one set of new soft tyres in Q3, saving himself one more fresh set for the race than his team mate or Vettel have.

The fall in temperatures from Friday to Saturday has allowed the teams to eke out more life from their tyres. Conditions on Sunday look to be similar to Saturday, perhaps a few degrees warmer.

Strategies look more likely to follow Melbourne lines with most teams needing two stops, some making three and others – most likely the Saubers – trying to get away with just one.

The top nine drivers will all start on the soft tyres they qualified on. Tenth-placed Petrov, who did not set a time in Q3, will have a free choice of which compound he uses, as will everyone else behind him.

Then there is the question of Mark Webber, mired down in 18th. He showed in Malaysia that he can make up places even when deprived of KERS, but he will need some help from strategy to get him into the higher reaches of the top ten.

Unfortunately for him Webber has tended to need one pit stop more than his team mate. Jockeying for position in the thick of the midfield is not going to help his tyre life, nor offer him the space he needs to gain the benefit of running shorter stints and making an extra stop.

He should at least have DRS to help him out – though it may not prove as useful as he was counting on.


In the press conference Jenson Button indicated the DRS zone has been shortened from its previous length of 902m:

“The line has changed. When I woke up this morning and got in, I noticed that the DRS position has changed on the circuit. It was 900-odd meters, now it’s 750 before the last corner. 752 meters.”

The FIA have not confirmed this is the case and the graphic on their site still indicates it’s 902 metres. Any further updates on this will be posted here or on F1 Fanatic Live during the race.

It wouldn’t be a great surprise if the FIA have shortened the zone, as it was set to be similar in length to the one in Sepang, which we saw made overtaking quite easy.

Over to you

Do you think anyone can beat Vettel in tomorrow’s race? And where will Webber finish from 18th on the grid?

Have your say in the comments.

2011 Chinese Grand Prix

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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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    93 comments on “Webber needs to limit damage as Vettel eyes five-in-a-row”

    1. Very strange… Webber gets all the problems for himself while Vettel has 3 truoblefree grandprix…

      Red Bull would try to make Vettel their number one, they would not act otherwise…

      Do you really believe Horner when he says both pilots have equal treatment for winning GPs ??????????

      For myself I have huge doubts….


      1. Vettel had the lion’s share of unreliability last year. Was that a Red Bull conspiracy against Vettel?

        I doubt it’s at all likely that over the course of a season two drivers in the same team will have an equal number of mechanical failures. Have a look at the data for last year for example:


        1. And also Weber is not that kind of guy who accepts being treated like number two. We would hear a lot of angry comments from him like in silverstone last year. And team needs points from Weber to win contructors title and 18 grid position is not very good for the team either. I see no conspiracy here, just bad luck for Weber. I’m sure the both have same treatment.

        2. Keith,

          it is not just a problem of statistics…

          It is very strange it arrives to Mark in the very beginning of the season and three times in raw…

          After that if you compare on a whole year, perhaps it is not that important but psychologically three times in raw in the very beginning is hurting quite more…and it can leave mark without words when he will be said ” Well Seb is too far away from you now” so he is number one without any other choice possible…


          1. If three bad days in the first three races is a conspiracy what was going on here?

            1. wow, how not to run a GP team… that’s an amazing run of retirements!

      2. i dont think that they have any intent to hinder Webber. Last year Vettel had all the bad Luck with a malfunctioning car this year its Webber.
        Plus Webber is in no shape atm to really challenge Vettel even if he had no Problems with the car.

        1. Do we then assume that as number one, Vettel gets the first choice on the technical crew?

      3. You should also read this quote from Christian Horner today:

        It’s been a rotten day for Mark today. He had an electrical issue this morning and a massive effort by the entire crew, including the mechanics on Sebastian’s car, to get the car ready for quali.

        Webber knocked out in Q1 on “frustrating day”

        1. I don’t see these last 3 races as bad luck for Webber, I see it as his normal luck.

          Last year was the weird one when things actually went his way for a change. :)

          Seriously, he has to be the unluckiest driver in F1 doesn’t he?

          1. The unluckiest driver in F1 would be Kimi, by far. Lost 2 titles because of car issues purely.

            1. Poor guy made £10m last year for doing absolutely nothing. My heart goes out to him.

            2. and one world championship because hamilton and alonso fell over each other

            3. If prancing around in shorts eating ice cream constitutes as having bad luck, rather than gross neglect. By god I could be a race winning driver too!

              *I don’t prance.

            4. what about Johnny Herbert?

          2. At least he has plenty of new soft tyres for the race tomorrow. Maybe he’ll really push and run another 4 stopper just to be on fresh soft tyres for as long as possible…

            …that’s what I’d do. Pit before your tyres go off at the right time to slot back into clear air and push for the whole race.

          3. Well.. things went perfectly well for him when they really mattered. Last year was his bset chance of winning the WDC, and he couldn’t asked for a faster and more reliable car all season. He lucked in at the right time, and yet he came up short.

            1. Sorry mate I don’t agree… If RBR better managed Mark I think we would have seen a much different situation. They quickly burst his bubble when they took parts from Mark’s car at an important stage of the championship, he also took over vets so called damaged chassis & Helmut publiclly laid blame all on Mark for there tangle which everyone clearly new it was the team & vets fault. I Yes i lay blame on the team for that tangle as they new they instructed Mark to run lean & vets to run rich fuel mixtures…

            2. I would have to disagree with you. Mark’s performances were at an all time best when he had all these team politics going on.

          4. Taking in account Webbers luck in his career so far this is pretty much normal, yeah.

            And his race results are about level with last year, maybe even better after the chinese GP.

      4. There’s too much money involved for a top team like RB to be playing favorites until the season winds down. As an example, Massa and Alonso last year.

    2. aaah! I thought five in a row pitstops!

    3. I think Vettel will win the race and Webber will finish 10th or crash on the 1st lap.

      1. I’d have to agree with you… I can imagine him getting making mistakes due to frustration and desperation.

        1. I’d have to agree with you…

          1. I just hope he keeps all four wheels on the ground this time (cf. Valencia 2010).

    4. Nobody will catch him all race if he gets through the tight first two corners in 1st.*

      *Unless the gremlins return.

      1. …Or he has a tyre wear problem.

    5. well i don’t have Vettel in the top 5 so i guess he’ll have big trouble some time. make sense? :-)

    6. One would think that after so many trouble-free races the laws of probability would suggest that something might happen to Vettel. Of course those races that have happened have happened and he stands a good chance of winning this one too, esp. from pole, but one can never be sure can one?

    7. Webber may yet go on to score points but there is no denying the fact that, Redbull, have now become a one car operation with the second car taking a secondary role in terms of priority.

      Redbull have learned from last year. Early reliability issues seriously slowes down their championship challenge last year. With the benefit of hindsight, they are now focusing all efforts on at least getting their number one and trusted driver, a reliable car, with the number two (as in number on car :-) ), getting more reliable as they improve their manufacturing quality and quantity.

      I don’t see Webber getting priority when any performance part is introduced, unless of course it is at a point when it won’t be detrimental to the number one car. Likely then to be towards the end of the year.
      It’s the sort of stuff Renault used to do, and probably still do, concentrate on one car and leave the other to sort himself out.
      Such an attitude can be contrasted with that of Mclaren, where, they sometimes delay the introduction of a performance enhancing part, till they can manufacture enough for both cars.
      You dilute your efforts that way, but you don’t leave your driver meditating late into the night on, why me.

      1. Totally agree with you , Oliver


      2. It will turn around for Webber at some point. Generally he has been very close to Vettel in lap time. He is going through a bad time and Vettel is going through a good time at the moment. The long term performance trend is likely to return and I hope it does soon because it seems like we are going to need Webber on form to actually have a race for the lead. I really hope the other teams can cut the performance deficit they have to Red Bull soon so that we can have a competitive season. I want to see Mclaren, Ferrari and Renault winning races this year.

    8. KERS or start failure would make race interesting.

    9. “Saturday has allowed the teams to ((eke)) out more life from their tyres. ((Conditiosn))”

      Few edits for you keith

      1. Only one, actually, but thanks anyway!

        1. lol thought it was “take” you were trying to get across, my mistake.

        2. It boggles my mind
          16th April 2011, 23:30

          that people so often are correcting Keith’s posts (and often being incorrect themselves ). He should institute a one race suspension policy for all the pedants.

    10. Someone other than Vettel should win tomorrows race. My bets on Jensen to do it.

      1. Someone have to stop his dominance…whoever…actually whatever!

        1. after 6 years without domination, I’m actually liking Seb streak away a bit.

          We’ve been right near spoiled for different race winners for the last 1.5 years and, well, I’m happy to let them go for at least a few more races!

    11. Vettel can only be rattled at the start. If Vettel still has daylight in front of him by the first corner, then the next chance any driver has of catching up with him will be in parc ferme, assumimg I got the spelling right, else at the hotel.

    12. Its impossible to look beyond Vettel for the win, i just hope the mclarens with hopefully no renaults in the way and Hamiltons better tyre situation can stay close enough to give him a fight.

      I hope Rosberg can stay where he is and mix it with the Ferraris too, their car appears to be good around shanghai and a good result would give them connfidence going forward. If he can keep Alonso busy then that may help the mclarens chase after Vettel at the front too.

      It will also be interesting to watch Webber and Heidfeld to see if they can use DRS, KERs and tyre strategy to come through the field in cars that are both capable of scoring major points. I think Heidfed will get a point or 2 but unless Webber becomes an overtaking demon which will ne difficult if his KERS isn’t fixed and can seriously curb his tyre wear issues and at worst 2 stop I cant see him scoring any points.

      1. It is very possible for Vettel to lose tomorrow.

        1. Anything is possible. The question though is what is likely. The likeliest outcome is that he will win.

          …But yeah, doesn’t mean he will.

      2. Webber passed the most cars on track in Sepang… I don’t think a week will change much…I hope!

    13. its time someone put a stop to this redbull dominance…and mclaren and ferrari can do it if they employ the strategy right by pushung vettel to make mistakes.
      vettel is known to crack under pressure…we saw that when he took out jenson last year..

      1. but if he run away after start…no one could make him unter pressure. and it’s the biggest problem.

    14. Lewis and Jenson should be more concerned with Nico and Fernando at this race, limit the damage on vettel’s points. I reckon vettel won’t even have to use KERS for most of this race.

      Still be great to see a driver of vettel’s quality win 5 races in a row, it’s been 7 years lol, somebody has to get the chance to do it.

      1. lewis and jenson have already forgoten who nico and alonso are! even alonso knows he cant challenge the mclarens tomorrow. Nico will be lucky to retain his position let alone challenge lewis ……

        1. So Vettel thinks the same about Jenson and Lewis then? ;)

          Nico is closer to Lewis and Jenson on race pace then they both are to Vettel.

          1. lewis and jenson live in postcode miles behond nico?

    15. The only problems webber will have tomorrow will be kobiyashi, petrov/hied, and massa/alonso. As much i hate him and was exstactic to see him 18th! he is still miles above most of them on track?. he’s no chance of getting near the top 3? My money is on jenson(As always) vettel knows hamilton will be going tooth and nail to destroy him and good luck! but im sure he is smart enough to know jenson is soooooooooo patient and will be right there given the chance to pounce?.

      1. Kinda funny how you point out exactly why I dislike Jenson. Sitting around waiting for the others to fail is simply not racing in my book!

        That crazy mixture of adrenaline and physics is pretty much lost on Jenson, Prost and the likes. The patience work to a certain extent but is utterly boring to watch.

        Anyway, I think Vettel might win though the statistics must be about to end the spree. I pretty much agree with the rest that Webber will make it to the lower end of the points or become a victim of his own frustrations.

        1. kinda funny how you mention not racing? this isnt Nasca where all the cars are 99% aero the same and the same wheight and the same engine. The drivers are left to race it out to the end. f1 requires tech imput from the driver like for example.. aero rear wing in monza 2010 2nd place, tyre imput melbourne and china 2010 1st place. tyre paitentce melaysia 2011 soft tyres 19 laps 2nd place where lewis(flat out racer?) could have done better, he didnt because he could not make his last like jenson. unfortunatly in f1 what isnt racing?

    16. Once Vettel wins tomorrow, the Championship’s done and dusted

      He may as well slack off from Turkey just for the sake of entertainment. He’ll still regularly be on the podium, even if he does though.

      Unless he wants to take advantage of the car and break the record for most wins in a season…

      Either way, it won’t stop me from watching this season.

    17. Unless there is rain tomorrow (Or a car failure), I think we could be looking at another straight forward Vettel win.

      The gap McLaren “miraculously” closed in Malaysia seems to have opened up again, maybe it was just a bad weekend for Red Bull!… 0.715 is a big gap, so unless KERS or something else fails on Vettels car, I dont think anyone else will be taking Victory tomorrow.

      1. I wonder whether McLaren have taken a different approach this weekend.

        In Melbourne they were further away in quali but had the pace in the race. In Sepang they were closer in quali but not quite there in the race.

        Maybe they knew that they had the speed to be in the top 4 cars on the grid and they’re focusing on their race setup this weekend to try and take the fight to Vettel on Sunday.

        1. Nice point made there, mate. Let’s just watch and see if there’s any pattern there.

    18. I’d say Vettel will do the business tomorrow but hopefully it will be a close fight. Hopefully Webber will fight his way through the field!!

    19. As a Webber fan it has been disappointing to see his results in comparison to Vettel’s, but it;s still the best start Mark has made to season, including 2010. So all hope is not lost yet!

    20. What are the rules when it comes to defending against two cars? Are you permitted to make more than one defensive move?

      I only ask because Vettel may find a Mclaren either side of him and it would be in Mclarens interest for Vettel to get a penalty for excessive swerving..

      ..otherwise he’ll probably win.

      1. Vettel does`nt get penalties, haven`t you noticed ? The worst example of weaving in the last race was him at the first corner.

        1. Vettel vs Button Spa? Vettel vs safety car in hungary? I think it has more to do with the stewards being less hard on offends done on the first lap, except jump starts of cause.

    21. There is a big performance gap to Vettel, but observe that Hamilton was focused on his tires collection yesterday. McLaren probably believe, looking at the last two races, that they can take the fight ot RBR on the basis of tire consumption, rather than raw pace. Last time, Hamilton looked ready to jump on Vettel’s back before he ran out of tire. So they aim to throw tires at Vettel, so to speak, until they wear him down. Unfornately for McLaren, the car with the best portfolio of tires is starting third, not second. If things go as they would on the white-board, McLaren may have a team-strategy moment tomorrow — if it seems like Button is holding up Hamilton in stint two, with the latter having a fresher set of softs on.

      1. Actually the best McLaren strategy for tomorrow would be to let Button chase down Vettel hard for as long as his tires can last and then let Hamilton take over on the fresh ones. I think it would be the only way for both of them to stand a chance of getting in front but I am also sure that they are both too concerned with beating each other for that to ever happen – which is why Vettel will stay in front.

        1. Mclaren have a way they go racing lately. Whatever the potential of their driver to get ahead of the opposing team’s car, they will still stick to their scheduled pit stops. They did that the first 2 races and I don’t see them changing now.

    22. I’m convinced that Hamilton had to save tyres out of necessity rather than for strategic reasons. He just isn’t getting anything like the number of laps out of them that other drivers are.

      Red Bull have a fast car that’s very, very good on it tyres, and if Vettel’s KERS does fail, it won’t be such a big deal in the race if it helps to conserve the tyres even more.

      Webber seems to have been hit by the double-whammy of poor qualifying and also not being as good as Vettel with the tyres.

      1. Necessity and strategy can mean the same thing in this instance. If it’s necessary for you to save tyres then that is your strategy.

      2. Actually, in the last two races, Hamilton was faster than Vettel at the end of a parralel stint. RBRs tire consumption is not beyond suspicion, and they were inclined to run a tight set up in Sepang to preserve the rear tires. This time around, it is relatively cold, which will help mitigate that issue for them. However, McLaren have got religion about stockpiling pristine tires, and their pursuit will not likely be delayed by some feisty but slowish Renault or Mercedes.

    23. matthewf1 (@)
      16th April 2011, 20:08

      This continuing debate is running a bit dry.

      Red Bull know that Vettel is No1 driver. I don’t think there is anything wrong with this either. He is younger, has a longer contract, is World Champion, and as everyone really knows, is the faster driver. Some of his pole laps have been exceptional. Red Bull would never say this ofcourse.
      Vettel knows he is No1 driver, he’s just not going to say so though is he.
      Webber knows he is No2 driver, he just won’t admit it. Let’s face it he is No2 in ability as well. Vettel is threatening to do a Schumacher, ie give him the car and he will deliver.

      There is a No1 and No2 in each team. Ask Ferrari who they would want to win, they would select Alonso. McLaren-Hamilton, Mercedes-Schumacher, Renault-Heidfeld. There is nothing wrong with this. It doesnt take a genius to work out who the best/preferred driver is in each team even from the outside, so I’m sure the teams themselves are definitely in no doubt.

      1. I would disagree on both the McLaren and Mercedes statements there.

        I honestly think that McLaren are happy whichever driver wins for them and, with the noises that have been coming from their direction lately, I wonder whether they are seeing Jenson as their long-term plan in case Lewis does jump ship.

        As for Mercedes, yes they would love to see Schumi win, but Rosberg is the future of that team. Besides which I think at the moment they’d just be ecstatic to win anything!!

        1. well put!

        2. Button as a long term plan? Are you serious. If you had said Di Resta, I’d had thought that credible. Hamilton is their long term plan unless of course they choose to release him.

      2. I really doubt that Heidfeld is considered a “Number 1” at Renault. Kubica is and will be number 1 there even while he’s recuperating.

    24. oh man, somebody better start taking points off of vettel soon.

    25. I still think it is too early to fear that Vettel is running away with this years championship. Remember Button winning 6 races out of first 7 and made a big lead but still RBR and Vettel improved and challenged him for the championship. In 2009 there were only two teams fighting for championship but still it was close and this year there are 3 and potentially 5.

      I am expecting second half of the year to be very competitive with many teams having copied flexing wings successfully.

      For this race, Vettel is favorite but this time i hope Mclaren drivers challenge him for the lead. Than it will be very interesting. Hoping for a race when someone else other than Vettel is leading at the end of lap 1 and lets see if that changes the outcome.

      1. Didn’t Brawn GP run out of money to develop the car in 2009? That’s not going to happen to Red Bull.

    26. In Singapore. without KERS, Webber overtook several cars to make amends for the botched strategy Red Bull put him on. I think he could make coming through the field work for him well.

    27. Any idea why Vettel took such a long time to get out of the car? Is he trying to hide something?

      anyway, here’s the official highlights video of the Malaysian GP :


      1. Hahaha! What exactly do you think he was trying to hide? In any event, here is what he said about that during the press conference:

        With the new regulations and the fixed weight distribution the FIA has the chance whenever they want to check that and unless I get a thumbs up and it is okay from an official that I can jump out of the car I have to remain seated. Otherwise, if I do it the other way around I might get into trouble. Maybe I didn’t see him or didn’t see the steward the first time so I ended up waiting and waiting until we clarified and someone said okay it is good to go out.

        But who knows what the REAL story is…

        *ominous music*

        1. With the ominous music playing in He`s crash helmet, Vettel pedals away at the secret front wing bendy device cooling mechanism, with a `we gotta get it at ambient temperature` before Charlie gets He`s hands on it, worried look……allegedly ;-)

      2. Perhaps waiting for a hard-on to subside.

        1. LOL!

          I wouldn’t think it’d matter as the weight distribution would be measures without the driver in scrutineering?

    28. I hope to god Rosberg or Massa win this one. Not because I really like them that much or I dislike Vettel, but I would hate to see that neat streak of no two-time winners broken.

    29. Is Vettel running KERS..?
      Or are Red Bull keeping quiet on that too..?

      If not how much of a threat will the McLarens be down into the 1st corner..?

      Also I don’t know why but i have a feeling it’s going to be a troublesome race for both Red Bulls tomorrow :/

      ..probably just wishful thinking :)

      1. Of coarse the golden boy is running KERS. The FIA graphics also indicate that he was during Q1-3.

      2. Yep, Vettel’s running KERS.

    30. Vettel, Hamilton & Roseberg my top 3.Will be a exciting race just can’t wait for it to start.

    31. Im hoping Web will suck it up and make it the drive of the season tonight. Considering the things going wrong with his car and the issues he has with the tyres he’s been making the most of it, 4th in the championship, only 4 points off 2nd in the championship. A three week gap to Turkey, Red Bull can get back to the factory and fix Webber’s car. Bring on Monaco! Want to see Webber jumping in that water again! Maybe a bit of rain will spice things up today and bring the pack back together. Its a long season and its still only the 3rd race of 19…Will Vettel handle the bad times as well… time will tell.

      1. sounds like a TV race intro :)

    32. As i’ve said previously Webber is in a reasonably good position. I think he’s only got the Renault’s to worry about. He’s got new tyres and as a result could get away with one less stop.

      Can’t see anyone but Vettel winning.

    33. boris the one-eyed bilby
      17th April 2011, 12:29

      Damage limited :)

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