Red Bull: Conservative approach delivers Vettel’s title

2011 Japanese GP team review

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Red Bull took a cautious approach in Japan and it paid off.

Both drivers ran short stints on the soft tyres due to high wear and Sebastian Vettel was urged not to risk anything in his battle with Fernando Alonso.

He may not have won the race, but he did win the championship.

Sebastian VettelMark Webber
Qualifying position16
Qualifying time comparison (Q3)1’30.466 (-0.69)1’31.156
Race position34
Pit stops33

Red Bull drivers’ lap times throughout the race (in seconds):

Sebastian Vettel100.257100.1299.85299.88299.783100.07101.2101.7104.787118.78899.91699.46599.50899.56599.32299.5399.568100.367102.94116.87399.04198.69298.582107.871143.072147.661153.93498.17698.01497.99798.13998.414100.724116.44199.54797.57697.44996.93197.54697.85298.53498.36597.44498.10198.94997.23297.38897.13497.12997.00197.13496.91696.954
Mark Webber104.792101.771101.056100.481100.635100.958101.083101.395101.42103.538118.19599.73999.47899.29299.724100.05799.779100.244101.874115.04999.02698.82798.675114.224133.164146.957152.66398.4998.38998.70998.40198.34498.822101.271115.20198.88799.67497.48697.60297.498.07197.72998.12497.32297.40997.42696.82897.34797.49797.66297.37797.74498.19

Sebastian Vettel

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Suzuka, 2011
Start tyreSoft
Pit stop 1Soft 22.374s
Pit stop 2Soft 21.596s
Pit stop 3Medium 21.705s

Vettel damaged his front wing in a minor off at Degner in first practice. The team had to quickly ship a new front wing to the track for him to use on Saturday.

He paid tribute to the team for their efforts after taking his 12th pole position of the year on Saturday: “The nose that I had on the car yesterday morning you couldn’t really use it anymore. It was crashed.

“I shunted the car at the exit of turn eight and went straight into the barrier, so it wasn’t really helpful from my side. We got a new front wing out just in time. It wasn’t easy, but fortunately we did.”

Vettel receive a surprising amount of criticism from some for his defensive move against Jenson Button at the start of the race. Particularly given that his much more questionable weaving at the start in Malaysia this year was largely overlooked.

Vettel did squeeze Button but with the track narrowing to Button’s left it was a rather optimistic attempt to draw alongside the Red Bull.

And, as Vettel pointed out in the press conference, the stewards did not punish Fernando Alonso for pushing him onto the grass in Monza.

That said, Vettel’s claim that “I didn’t really see him” was undermined by video footage of him looking in his right-hand mirror at the start. Button warned him: “I might not lift off next time.”

The stewards investigated the move and took no action, saying: “Having noted that car one Sebastian Vettel and car three Lewis Hamilton both followed similar lines off the start the stewards decide to take no further action.”

For the first few laps it looked like Vettel was going to do his usual thing – he was five seconds ahead after five laps. But after that Button began to catch him and, once Button had cleared his team mate, the pair who had crossed swords at the start were drawing closer to one another.

Vettel pitted early on lap nine and the ‘undercut’ proved no advantage – Button was much quicker on his in-lap and Vettel’s lead was trimmed to two-and-a-half seconds.

Button continued to draw in over the second stint and Vettel was defenceless when he came to pit again. Button stayed out two laps longer and took the lead. Vettel never saw the front of the field again.

Instead he slipped back into the clutches of Alonso, who ran a long third stint to get in front of the Red Bull driver.

Vettel briefly held tenth after his third pit stop – the lowest position he has occupied in a race all year. Having to pick his way past Nico Rosberg and Adrian Sutil, Vettel lost second place to Alonso.

He piled pressure on the Ferrari driver to begin with, then fell out of DRS range while lapping Jerome d’Ambrosio – Vettel shaking his fist at the Virgin driver.

The team hurriedly reminded him – twice – that third place was more than enough to secure the championship. Vettel duly backed off while a corresponding call went out to fourth-placed Webber telling him not to attack his world champion-elect team mate.

Vettel duly claimed the championship crown with third place and celebrated with a couple of doughnuts in front of the crowd at turn two. This, sadly, was missed by the television cameras.

Afterwards he paid tribute to his team, saying the championship had been won earlier than last year despite them not having as great a performance advantage as they had in 2010:

“I think with a less dominant car than last year we were able to do a very, very good job. We are very strong as a team.

“Every time it mattered, we made very few mistakes, especially at those times when it was critical, we were there, we were performing. I think everyone working for Red Bull Racing can be very proud today”

Sebastian Vettel 2011 form guide

Mark Webber

Start tyreSoft
Pit stop 1Soft 21.82s
Pit stop 2Soft 21.369s
Pit stop 3Medium 21.455s

Webber was disappointed to line up on the third row of the grid: “I’m very surprised to be sixth.

“I did my best, but it wasn’t quick enough and it was a bit of a surprise that I couldn’t go with the pace there at the end.”

Webber only just managed to set a time at the end of Q3 having dived past Lewis Hamilton at the chicane before starting his lap.

He made a better start than usual, not losing any places, but like his team mate was held back by high tyre wear. Red Bull seemed more sensitive than usual to the tyres going off, tending to bring the cars in at the first sign of lap times increasing.

They did this even if it meant bringing both cars in on the same lap, which they did on lap 19. But, far from harming Webber’s race, it allowed him to leap ahead of both Hamilton and Felipe Massa.

He finished the race in fourth despite front wing damage incurred when he hit Michael Schumacher’s car in a half-committed overtaking attempt at the Dunlop curve before the first safety car period.

Mark Webber 2011 form guide

2011 Japanese Grand Prix

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    Image © Red Bull/Getty images

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    Keith Collantine
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    33 comments on “Red Bull: Conservative approach delivers Vettel’s title”

    1. Funny how title deciders have a way of flipping the year’s formbook eh? Title deciders seemingly always serve up the opposite of the rest of the year. Vettel here was absolutely out at sea and unable to even get 2nd. Button in 2009 Brazil was absolutely charging rather than his usual more opportunistic approach. 2008 Brazil; Lewis played things rather safe after a year of “win or bust”

      1. Haha, yeah that’s true but it’s ironic how in 2007 poor Felipe had to move aside for his team mate…

    2. It’s worth noting how much faster Button’s pit stops were than Vettel. Button gained over 1.2 seconds on his first pit stop. It’s likely he wouldnt have ended up in front of Vettel if it wasn’t for that. Regardless, Red Bull just didn’t have the pace of McLaren on the soft tires.

      1. @olivier42 it was interesting to see how Vettel lost time in the pits at his first stop (at the second it was probably the inlap/outlap) compared to Button, as Red Bull has been right at the top of the pitstop performers all year!

        That fists with wath @raymondu999 writes about title deciders flipping the formbook!

        1. I wonder if they were extra cautious to make sure all 4 wheels were on at each stop as retirement was the only way Vettel wasn’t going to win the title here. That said, it does seem that McLaren have finally got their act together at the stops.

    3. I saw something strange in Vettel pitting so early, thinking of a Spa-repeat, and that if Ferrari didn’t have that problem they could benefit from it. They did so with Alonso, as did Button, and it was unusual to see Vettel so “down” the order in this track, but his title is very much deserved.

    4. I would like to take the chance to write how I think the stewarding was good here. Investigating incidents to conclude thats racing. Good job there Alan Jones and the rest of the stewarding team.

      1. Sadly we are in an age where everything that is slightly questionnable has people demanding sanctions and penalties. Moves like Vettels at the start and Hamiltons squeeze on massa have been going on for years and that was ‘good close racing’ Now its dangerous all of a sudden. Why?
        Live I thought it was very firm but the right side of fair and illegal, though i was concerned when they said it was under investigation. If it was Hamilton though… (and i say that as a Vettel supporter)

        1. If it were Schumacher who squeezed his opponents at the start, everyone would have cried loudly. It’s unfair to defend your position at the start by risking an accident. Button should have been the race leader after the first corner instead of being overtaken by his teammate.

          1. I agree on F1 fans giving Schumacher extra stick for it. However I don’t believe the Stewards would have come to a different conclusion.

          2. schumacher did it more often then any other driver, and often weaved or moved twice, not one continuos motion. people were up in arms about it because: he kept getting away with it, not because he was michael schumacher. we soon had the term the “schumacher chop”. schumacher also had the most dangerous form of blocking, he waited till a driver pulled out of his slipstream before making a blocking move, which is very dangerous at 300km/h, and often before the driver pulled out of his slipstream, he had already weaved across the track, which was technically the one allowed defensive move. he was the dirtiest of the dirtiest drivers, even though he was fast. now he isnt even fast, and cant be bothered being dirty with blocking moves, guys in saubers and force indias pass him at will.

            1. What rubbish. His “blocking” moves, with the exception of those at thestart of a race see him move once like you’re allowed to, and return to the racing line, which guess what? You’re also allowed to do. But sure, it’s better to wave your opponent through, that’s racing at its finest.

              And since when did Saubers and Force Indias pass him at will? Last time I checked, he beat a Ferrari and came home two seconds off a Mclaren.

    5. I think Vettel mentioned that his new front wing was worth around .4s a lap; all the more remarkable that Webber lost a piece of his wing as able to continue seemingly unaffected.

    6. Welll done, Fuji TV, successfully missing Vettel’s doughnuts.

      Webber didn’t lose any places at the start?!

      *faints in shock*

      1. That was not all that was missing.

    7. I Believe RB were playing it safe with Seb at the end & it was definitely the right thing to do,Adding that Seb has been outstanding this season,i wouldnt like ending my Likely Championship winning race in the walls going for 3 more Points while the 15 i currently have will just do,I’d drive the car home to the Podium & celebrate my Glory on the Podium & thats exactly what RB did.

      From a McLaren Fan,Congrats Red Bull & Sebastian Vettel,You’ve both been extremely successful in all departments.Good Luck Next Year & prepare for competition

    8. Kudos for Vettel for closing out the deal. I have to say, it was not Winning in Style, though. He starts off with a nasty chop and an investigation, has a disastrous stop where he gets out behind a stack of midfielders, shakes fist at a backmarker when he can’t catch up to a Ferrari, and comes home in third. But who will remember all of this because this season will ikely only be topped by next year as the most devastating domination post-Schumacher.

      I like the tough talk from Button now. He “might” not lift of, next time. You tell him, Jenson.

      1. “He “might” not lift of, next time. You tell him, Jenson.”

        He will when he needs to win to keep his chances of a possible championship alive.
        If he’s ahead by a landslide like Vettel was he would probably go for it.

      2. Well if he’d said ‘I won’t lift off’ it just sounds like he’s not going to avoid crashing into him. Nothing wrong with saying ‘might’ and keeping the mystery in it.

    9. i still cant see where the conservative approach comes from really…

      1. The (**** poor) pitstops and the message to back off from trying to catch and overtake Alonso at the end.

      2. I thought that they really needed to pit, judging by Vettel aggresiveness at the start and after the pit stops I cant really see the conservative approach

    10. I think Alonso Hamilton and Vettel should have all been punished. Why? Because drivers shouldnt push opponents off track I dont care if they dont mean it. This situation reminds me of Prost vs Senna, Senna was the talented faster guy and Prost the resonable one, Prost Often said that Senna expected his opponents to “chicken” out of hard situations, that was one of Sennas strong points for example weaving through backmarkers. The Day one of these Drivers Alonso Vettel Hamilton really challenge themselves we can see a disaster like some in the near past. In 2009 the Nurburgring start by Mark Webber was very dangerous, The Schumacher squeezing Hungary 2010 these were Webber and Schumacher fault now imagine when both are responsible the result is this years Hamilton vs Alonso in Malaysia, it could have been lot worse.

    11. Driver’s title is over. Well done Vettel, there’s no doubt. Now I hope remaining races would be pierce and competitive as well as next year!!

      Anyway, I don’t like Vettel did to Button at the start. I didn’t think it would cause penalty but still it was quite dangerous. I think he did quite many times similar things this year didn’t he? Maybe because he was (almost) always in pole position but…

    12. You can’t take anything away from Vettel, such a superb season and F1 is still enjoyable even though he is dominating it.

      One thing I would say though is that Webber is not a match for Vettel and I’d really like to see what he can do against someone like Alonso in the same machinery. A lot of the time championships can be won because of perfect timing between driver and team. However I don’t think this says that Vettel doesn’t deserve two titles because there is no doubt he is. I just think that the next 4 or 5 years will be the making of his reputation. If he gets another title very soon he will surely be up there with the greats of this sport.

    13. We know Vetel was on a conservative strategy, but with the right car can Button and Alonso comprehensively beat Vettel each time ?

      1. Occasionally.

    14. IMHO we should NOT become the complete “nanny state”. While not condoning dangerous behavior we should allow racing drivers to race….

    15. I found it so bizarre that Vettel had to pit so early. I knew from that point on that he wouldn’t win the race. A shame, i’m sure he would have loved to amplify his dominance by winning the race too.

      I don’t usually condone donuts and nor do I like them, but I can let him off in this case, especially in Japan!

      Bit weird that Webber never showed his face during Vettel’s celebrations…

    16. Ofcourse Red Bull would be conservative with their strategy when there was a championship at stake, but that does not deflect from the fact that Vettel appears to want to win every grands prix he can. His pass on Alonso at Monza was terrific, but was also a pass he didn’t have to make. He could have held position, not taken any risks, and still won the championship such was the lead his possessed. But that it not his style, he wants to win every race he can by any means he can, and I admire that for him.
      I hope next year his car is just as good as in 2011, and that Ferrari and McLaren can make theirs’ just as good so we get parity between all three teams in terms of performance. Then we will see the fur really fly!

    17. Ah, two fingers from now on is it? “Look how many championships I’ve won!”

    18. On lap 43 battle between vettel & alonso, vettel had drs open but alonso look like he had his drs open as well eventhough no one’s in front of him

      1. This was because Alonso had gone through the detection zone within one second of a car they were lapping, allowing him to use his DRS:!/f1fanatic_co_uk/status/122933650814799872

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