Red Bull: Poor qualifying gives strategy advantage to Webber

2011 Chinese GP team review

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Poor qualifying left Mark Webber 18th on the grid but left him with plenty of soft tyres to make his charge to third.

Meanwhile Sebastian Vettel’s two-stop strategy left him vulnerable to an attack from Lewis Hamilton.

Sebastian Vettel Mark Webber
Qualifying position 1 18
Qualifying time comparison (Q1) 1’35.674 (-0.794) 1’36.468
Race position 2 3
Laps 56/56 56/56
Pit stops 2 3

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 107.942 104.769 104.636 104.275 104.094 104.007 104.018 104.132 104.365 104.741 105.048 105.136 105.367 111.161 122.384 103.2 104.424 102.784 102.761 103.016 102.622 102.558 102.467 102.677 102.936 103.054 102.727 103.111 102.964 104.097 109.097 120.475 102.392 102.238 101.735 101.795 101.927 101.675 101.457 101.551 101.671 101.933 101.797 102.221 101.777 101.373 101.321 101.712 101.608 102.58 102.993 103.873 102.97 103.269 103.394 103.117
Mark Webber 115.869 106.755 105.886 106.189 105.659 106.059 105.986 106.532 107.976 113.841 123.169 103.468 103.313 102.68 102.939 103.587 104.354 102.736 102.888 103.119 104.44 103.75 104.02 103.818 108.332 118.09 101.2 101.311 100.849 101.372 101.256 102.106 103.554 102.949 100.717 100.986 101.423 102.613 101.354 105.725 116.169 98.993 99.232 101.222 100.328 99.462 99.83 99.553 99.619 99.502 101.276 100.101 101.92 101.749 101.933 102.022

Sebastian Vettel

On Saturday evening it looked like a routine weekend for the world champion, apparently on course for his fifth consecutive Grand Prix victory.

He’d headed all three practice sessions and taken pole position from Jenson Button by seven-tenths of a second.

But when the lights went out on race day he got away slowly, despite his KERS working correctly, and both McLarens beat him into the first corner.

As Hamilton began to wear his tyres out, Vettel picked him off on the back straight on lap 13 – but he followed Button into the pits at the end of the lap anyway.

Despite Button’s strange attempt to park in his pit box, Vettel got in and out quickly enough to leap-frog the other McLaren.

Red Bull stuck to their plan of pitting him twice, even as the McLarens and Mercedes used three-stop strategies to extend their soft tyres stints.

This was one of several problems that left them vulnerable. Vettel’s radio also failed and he was told to switch off his KERS during the race as well.

His relatively early first pit stop meant he had to begin his final stint with 25 laps to go – a tall order. His lap times (see above) indicated he might have been able to run longer in his middle stint, potentially saving valuable time.

Hamilton reeled him in on fresher tyres and although Vettel defended carefully around the DRS zone, the McLaren nipped down the inside at turn seven to take the lead.

Sebastian Vettel 2011 form guide

Mark Webber, Red Bull, Shanghai, 2011

Mark Webber

Webber’s weekend was dogged by problems with his Kinetic Energy Recovery System.

It failed in first practice and again on Saturday morning. It was all hands on deck in the garage as some of Vettel’s mechanics joined in to help fix Webber’s car in time for qualifying.

Running without KERS in Q1 the team gambled on him not needing soft tyres to get through. But he lapped 0.8s slower than Vettel and failed to make the cut.

Although it condemned him to start 18th it handed him the considerable advantage of several sets of fresh, soft tyres, which aided his recovery drive.

Smartly, the team got his hard tyre stint out of the way at the beginning of the race when he was always likely to be stuck in traffic anyway.

Despite losing KERS again shortly into the race he was able to move his way up through the field and take advantage of the RB7’s scorching pace when he had clear air.

After his final pit stop he was seventh but he picked off both Ferraris, Nico Rosberg and Jenson Button to claim third and complete an impressive recovery drive.

Mark Webber 2011 form guide

2011 Chinese Grand Prix

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    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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    33 comments on “Red Bull: Poor qualifying gives strategy advantage to Webber”

    1. They’re faster. not fast as last year but they’re more flawless. in terms of car, in terms of strategy(well, today they failed but recoverd)…it will be hard for others but I expect much closer or turn around situation later this year.

      1. After numerous reliability problems last year, it’s understandable that they don’t want to take any unnecessary risks. But with McLaren pushing them hard race by race, they are having to make descisions not entirely of their liking so early in the season.

        For Red Bull it’s not a comfortable place to be, for F1 though it looks like the start of another great season.

    2. Great showing by Webbo, made the strategy work again.

      By the way, isn’t Seb getting a bit too aggressive at the start? He chenged his line very aggressively with Lewis, it could have ended up in a very hard collision with all the pack behind.

      He’s getting right on the limit. Silverstone 2010, Hockenheim 2010, Sepang last weekend and again yesterday, to name a few.

      1. UKfanatic (@)
        18th April 2011, 18:33

        yes you are right but as Brundle said theres no rule in start you can defend as hard as you can and seb made an schumacher move anyway Hamilton wasnt surprised hamilton himself is very aggressive simply the best are always the ones with less respect for others its typical blind by their egos

        1. Really? Remember Hamilton’s startline penalty at Fuji a few years back?

          1. In Valencia 2009 Vettel pushed Button into the pitlane (exit). Similar to Schumacher’s push on Barrichello. He didn’t get punished for that either.

      2. Vettel is too aggressive, especially for his own good! These swerves to block other drivers always seem to let one or two others through. So quite why does it, I don’t know. I think mainly because he has virtually no racing skills. When he can’t pass even in a faster car he often ends up barging his way through or taking them out entirely in bizarre fashion (Button at Spa).

        1. The vettel swerve was found to be a factor behind is slow starts in 2010. after that he went straight and lost less possitions.

          I think he has forgotton about that for 2011

      3. He predictably likes to ‘turn right’ at the start, and I predicted his start and chopping the McLaren exactly, quite to the surprise of my non-F1 following friends.

    3. Believe it or not, now more front running teams have to seriously consider compromising their qualifying positions for better results during the race.
      Of course, this will only work where there are free flowing corners, not the circuits were you have more right angle bends and endless chicanes. So you can rule out Abu Dhabi and to some extent Monaco. Even Valencia will not see such a dramatic rise in position from a lowly start.

      Already, the top ten drivers are compromised by having to use up their tyres in order to make it there. Then starting the race on used tyres, further reduces any performance advantage they might have at the start of the race.

      Great drive by Webber all the same. Redbull should not allow him lose too many points so early. Its even amazing he is about level on points with Button.

      1. Qualifying could become very boring

        1. New rule:

          drivers will use precisely one set of tyres
          for all three quali sessions.

          All drivers can start on a fresh set of
          tyres in race.

          – lots more tyres for race at no extra cost
          – Quali strategy gets a LOT more interesting
          fast guys have to preserve tyres in Q1
          and brings them closer to the slow guys.
          Big benefit to being able to nail
          it with one lap.

    4. Hope Webber’s confidence is back up, and he feels ready to challenge for the title. I have a feeling that this is going top be a Red Bull dominated season, so it will good to have teammates fight it out instead of Vettel just dominating race in race out.

      1. But it will still be in the back of his mind that if Vettel is on the same strategy he will stand no chance.

    5. UKfanatic (@)
      18th April 2011, 18:30

      after the ridiculous mistake by button I was fearing for another vettel victory, thankfully redbulls strategy proved wrong. In the end Redbull proved to be the best, despite all radio and kers problems with seb and webber redbull proved to be the fastest on qualifying by Vettel and Webber in the race, the mclaren did a nice job in qually cause everyone knew that the reds were going to gain loads of time in the 2nd sector but in the race halfway point everything was lost they were being outpaced by rosberg and massa but the strategy was perfect they chose the right stints an huge middle stint and a smaller last stint made them faster in the end than most teams especially after redbull strategy mistake the same mistake that Ferrari followed, the ferraris are very good on the tyres but 2 stop strategy was a big mistake

    6. This surely will entice those who just sneaked into Q3 (Say Torro Rosso/Sauber/Renault/Mercedes) to not go out at all and save a set of tyres and perhaps start on hard.

      More importantly, will entice mid field Q2 knockouts to start on hard and then challenge top and race end.

      We’ve had no safety cars yet but if one comes out at the end, soft tires will kill the hard tyre runners.

    7. Great drive from Webber to make the most of a stop in the back. Almost would have to think about doing the same next time round again!

      Good job done from Vettel but just a little bit off on the start. And they did not get his strategy perfect this time.

      1. Ha, I know! Webber joked that his qualifying may be of benefit in the future…probably some actual truth in that these days.

    8. Can Vettel race? I had a quick look at last year and every race he has won, he has won from pole (except Brazil but the Hulk was no contest really).

      He is, no doubt, the fastest guy over one lap but he didn’t seem to be able to overtake on Sunday even though his car was supposedly 7x10ths faster than the McLarens. Had he had the jump at the start, I’m sure he would have gapped the McLarens very quickly. He kept the McLarens quite close throughout the opening laps but didn’t seem to even try overtaking…

      1. He got past Hamilton on similar tyres and then the 2 Renaults (albeit with far superior tyres)
        He did a good job, just not quite good enough.

      2. Come on, there was Malaysia last year…when Webber opened the door for him.

        Oh but then there was Abu Dhabi in 2009…when Hamilton lost his brakes.

        I was very very impressed when he hugged Lewis before the podium, at times last year he looked a bit sulky but he’s got over that now he’s champion.

        1. both redbull’s were very happy to have hamilton win, because its makes their future wins seem less of a walk in the park

      3. That one is really getting old.
        He overtook lewis, with no advantage on the tyres.
        Had the strategy been right he would have won the race. He did exactly what he had to do.
        He took care of his tyres and waited for the right moment to make his move. He would have won the race if the strategy had been right. So i don’t really see your point.
        And no his car was not supposed to be .7 of a second quicker then McLaren’s. Look at Melbourne. The gap was roughly the same seize in Q3, but did he pull away with .7 a lap? No he did not. The Ferrari was also supposed to be way off the pace, but in the race it wasn’t, especially not in Malaysia. You can’t convert qualifying pace into race pace. It just isn’t the same thing.

    9. His relatively early first pit stop meant he had to begin his final stint with 25 laps to go

      The same error of Ferrari. Their first stop was in line with three-stoppers, then they extended the other stints.

    10. Webber – drive of the weekend. After all the grief he had up to the race he really deserved what he finished with. I knew that qualifying so low down would not be as costly as it could be in the past. He must have been relishing new tyres.

      Vettel – Brilliant drive and he has alot to be proud of. No radio, no KERS and a dodgy strategy didn’t phase him too much and it was his to lose going into the last 6/7 laps. He did indeed pull a nice move over Hamilton but more importantly he knew when he was defeated.

      A good weekend for Red Bull. A little more straight line speed and I reckon Vettel could have held Hamilton off.

    11. Good enough in the end from RBR, their pace was good, just got the strategy wrong. Vettel’s start was a bit pitiful, probably cost him the win in the end, but did well after that. As for Webber, 3rd was brilliant, but anything less than top 5 would have been disappointing.

      1. Vettel was either driving to much on safe or he didn’t have the race pace. He never impressed during the whole race. He couldn’t get rid of Massa close behind him (until Massa ruined his tyres a tad to early at the end of the race) and he didn’t get any closer to Rosberg either.

        Even if they had gone for a 2-stopper, he would have been behind Rosberg and ultimately behind Hamilton too after his fast third stint and even faster last stint.

        1. Vettel was instructed to not use his KERS towards the end so that didn’t help his cause much either.

      2. Webber said after qualifying that he would be very happy if he was able to finish as high as 6th :)

    12. His lap times (see above) indicated he might have been able to run longer in his middle stint, potentially saving valuable time.

      Vettel’s laptimes had started to shoot up a lap before his stop. Het was doing laps around 1:43 and then his time jumped to 1:44 just before he stopped.

      So, if anything his laptimes show that his tyres were shot.

    13. I really hope Webber’s race performance will open up more strategy options for the other teams …

    14. great summary keith! i think your little table at the top shows just how exciting and unpredictable F1 can be

      no doubt other teams will look at how a tyre-light quali can help them!

    15. I just wish that the race was one or two laps longer so Webber could have passed Vettel.

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