Red Bull: Mystery puncture halts the Vettel steamroller

2011 Abu Dhabi GP team review

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Vettel finished 19 races in the top four before a puncture put him out in Abu Dhabi.

Sebastian Vettel Mark Webber
Qualifying position 1 4
Qualifying time comparison (Q3) 1’38.481 (-0.377) 1’38.858
Race position 4
Laps 1/55 55/55
Pit stops 0 3

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

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
Sebastian Vettel
Mark Webber 114.836 108.735 108.437 107.207 107.049 106.716 106.798 106.827 106.55 106.796 106.425 106.421 106.609 107.026 108.469 107.102 107.92 130.972 105.506 105.512 105.14 105.165 105.081 105.165 105.295 104.975 104.872 105.004 105.407 106.949 105.676 106.935 106.736 104.969 106.305 123.015 104.329 103.671 103.989 104.661 104.617 104.099 103.333 103.183 104.065 103.041 102.907 103.082 102.83 103.074 102.612 102.916 102.803 104.698 125.158

Sebastian Vettel

Start, Abu Dhabi, 2011
Start tyre Soft

Vettel lost time in the second practice session when he spun and hit the wall at the first corner. He was able to rejoin the session later on, though he admitted afterwards he was unhappy with the car’s performance.

After changing the car’s set-up overnight he was much happier and duly claimed his 14th pole position of the season, staying on top of the changing track conditions in Q3 better than his nearest rivals.

So far, so predictable for 2011. But the race went anything but according to plan as Vettel led for all of a few hundred metres before spinning off with a right-rear puncture.

“On the exit of the first corner everything seemed fine,” he said. “And then turning into the second corner I could feel that something was odd on the rear right.

“I had to catch the car surprisingly and then the second time, I couldn’t do it any more, as I’d lost too much air in the rear right tyre. I had a puncture and spun off.”

He limped back to the pits but driving the best part of a 5.5km lap with shredded rubber flailing from the tyre carcass damaged his suspension, putting him out. It also compromised efforts to investigate what had caused the failure.

The manner in which the tyre came away from the wheel rim raised suspicions about a failure in that area, possibly caused by a cut. After the race Vettel inspected the kerb at the exit of turn one to see if anything there might have damaged the tyre.

This was his first failure to finish since last year’s Korean Grand Prix, when he had an engine failure. In the intervening 19 races he has had 13 wins, four seconds, one third and one fourth place finish.

Sebastian Vettel 2011 form guide

Mark Webber

Start tyre Soft
Pit stop 1 Soft 25.182s
Pit stop 2 Soft 20s
Pit stop 3 Medium 19.525s

Webber described his last run in qualifying as “scrappy” and was one of several drivers who couldn’t improve on his Q2 effort.

Fernando Alonso passed him on the outside of turn one. The Ferrari driver then passed Jenson Button leaving Webber to battle the McLaren driver.

Webber got past Button briefly in the first DRS zone but Button reversed the move in the second. He then pulled away from the Red Bull, only for Webber to catch up again.

On lap 15 Webber made another successful move on Button, this time in the second DRS zone, but Button came back at him at turn 14 and claimed the place back.

Webber pitted after Button on lap 17 but a delay getting the right-rear wheel on cost him around six seconds and dropped him behind Felipe Massa. It was the second-slowest pit stop of the race.

Over the second stint Webber reeled in Massa and Button but the Red Bull’s typically poor straight-line speed inhibited his attempts to overtake.

The team therefore gambled on switching him to a three-stop strategy, giving him another set of soft tyres on lap 35. This bought him some clear air and a string of fastest laps put him on the cusp of having enough margin over Massa to pit and come out ahead. Then Massa spun at turn one, handing Webber fourth place.

He never looked like being able to overhaul Button, but the team deferred his mandatory switch to medium tyres until the last lap anyway. That accomplished – with the third-fastest pit stop of the race – he returned to the track to finish fourth.

Mark Webber 2011 form guide

2011 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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    41 comments on “Red Bull: Mystery puncture halts the Vettel steamroller”

    1. I was really surprised to see Webber struggling to get past Button and Massa. As the BBC team kept on saying he looked to be braking a lot earlier than other drivers and he just didn’t seem to have the pace and was also eating up his tyres.

      The fact he couldn’t get past Button who you could argue had a slower car with a broken KERS unit really shows how slow he was.

      I was expecting a Webber podium

      1. Me too, is a big unfair but with out Seb I though Mark will at least have a podium.

        But if I remember correctly he lost 2 position at the start of the race, and them he had the error on the pit stop.

        1. I think the worst reflection on Webber’s season is that he has only had two 2nd place finishes all year (and of course won none)! Considering his teammate has won most of them this is quite incredible.

          Perhaps worse, though, is Massa, who has not finished higher than 5th all year! Yet his teammate has picked up numerous podiums and even a race win.

          I hope they can both up their game again for 2012.

          1. This race really cemented for me how useless Webber, Massa, and Trulli have all become.

          2. Relative to his teammate I think Massa is currently doing pretty okay in quali and the earlier part of races, especially given that often he has a less good strategy – but we saw why he gets last choice when he couldn’t keep the car straight.

            Webber too has had less good strategy options, partly due to his bad starts and lack of tire preservation, but of course, compared to Vettel, he’s just not getting it together.

      2. @smifaye Actually this was the reason for Webber pit stop strategy

    2. He limped back to the pits but driving the best part of a 5.5km lap with shredded rubber flailing from the tyre carcass damaged his suspension, putting him out.

      It looked to me like the tyre rim had already taken a hit when Vettel slid sideways against the grass.

      Almost as mysterious as Vettel’s puncture was Webber’s inability to get by the slower cars. His impressive pace and consistency in his final ‘soft stint’ showed that he should have been battling with Alonso for second, at least. Instead, another bit of bad luck and some over-careful (?) battling with other cars left him a lacklustre fourth. It would be good to see him repeat his 2009 Brazilian win in two weeks time, saving his season to some extent and giving him the right mindset going into the winter – and giving Sebastian something to think about (wishful thinking, I am sure someone will point out ;) ).

      1. It looked to me like the tyre rim had already taken a hit when Vettel slid sideways against the grass.

        At the time I thought this was the cause of the suspension break, although the flailing tyre carcass wont have helped

    3. I like the last little sentence about Seb :

      In the intervening 19 races he has had 13 wins, four seconds, one third and one fourth place finish.


    4. 19 races, 13 wins and P4 his worst result? Thumbs up!

      I’m surprised nobody has came up with conspiracy theories to defend Mark’s poor performance.

      The fact is that Mark Webber failed to pass (and make it stick) a KERSless Button driving the “super RB7”! That’s unacceptable!

      1. Remember that WEB had floor damage to contend with.

          1. You could see it on the telecast and it was commented on by Coulthard.

          2. You sure that wasnt Vettel that suffered the Floor damage due to the Puncture.

            1. Yes. We all saw what he is talking about.

            2. No, it was definitely Webber, the commentators mentioned it quite a few times.

              They were speculating that it was the reason he was braking early, and hence, why he was having trouble passing.

            3. it wasn’t floor damage. Turns out it was a bit of Vettel’s tire that got stuck and according to Horner it didn’t affect Mark’s race (notice his fastest lap at the end of the race?).

    5. Would have loved seeing Vettel come through the field after the puncture and not retiring, that would have been exciting!

      Vettel ruined my predictions this weekend. Had he won and the rest finishing one place further down from their respective places I’d have had full points :(

      1. I chose Hammy for pole and the win, so SV messed me up there.

    6. maybe Alonso just left a dagger in his tyre? just like Sebulba broke something from Anakin’s verhicle in Star Wars (=.

      1. OmarR-Pepper (@)
        14th November 2011, 18:15

        or maybe it was Mark, thinking he could get a podium at least

      2. Uh oh! Crazy conspiracy theories FTW!!!!!
        It was the buttler (Button) on the dinning room… or it was Hamilton ;)

        1. Nah, it was definitely Alonso. Out of the two major cheating scandals in the past few years (Lie-gate and Crash-gate) which driver has been in both of them? :P.

          1. Err, no one’s been involved in both, since “Crash-gate” was a plot by Renault to get Alonso to win, and “Lie-gate” was Hamilton and his team lying to the stewards?

            1. I think @minnis was talking about Spygate and Crashgate…

      3. The mystery solved…it’s the Mclaren team/fan

        1. “Source twitter profile”

        2. I knew Button was the mind behind it…

      4. Haha, interesting theory!

        1. After much though I have reach that conclussion that it was hit man hired by the Toro Rosso boys, Riccardo and Vergne (sp?)

    7. I was somehow shocked by Vettel’s retirement. What caused his puncture? What caused his suspension failure?
      I can believe that the suspension was damaged doing one lap on a flat tyre, but for a tyre to burst after a few metres it takes either a piece of debris hit by Vettel or a tyre which was damaged before the start of the race.

      1. It is about what everyone is thinking it could be, but then the debris should have been caught by somebody during the instalation lap.

        Paul Hembery:

        “That’s always a problem when all you get back is a bag of bits. You’re not always guaranteed of getting a clear answer,” Hembery said.

        “We have the tread back, the sidewalls and the rim, so we’ll work with Red Bull to find an explanation for Seb. We do know it was an instant deflation at least, and the most likely cause with such a quick deflation is debris.


        “Basically all we could see at the moment from the data is that he has had a tremendous start,” said Horner. “He had gone into Turn 1 and, on the kerb, there has been an instantaneous loss of pressure.

        “So, by the time he has arrived at Turn 2, there is no tyre pressure and that has caused the car to spin. That is what has damaged the suspension and ultimately that is why we had to retire the car.

        “At the moment we don’t know if it was a bit of debris from one of the support races, as he wasn’t particularly high on the kerb or anything like that. He just appears to have been unlucky today.”

        What is very interesting is the way that it happened. As Vettel was telling to the BBC guys. Is was really fast loss of preasure. EJ said that the air was lost instantly so it wasn´t a normal punture. I guess thats why everybody is so puzzle that it happened.

    8. Sorry Webber your a average driver in the best chassis of the year, perhaps one of the greatest race cars ever and race after race you are struggling to be competitive with the Ferrari and McLaren.

      1. He did pretty well last year…

        Different cars will suit different drivers…

        1. He did pretty well, but not as well as people make it out to be.

    9. I don’t understand why people are criticising Mark because he was unable to overtake Button when he had a faulty KERS system. KERS only enhances the acceleration of the car, not its top speed, and with the poor straight line speed of the Red Bull versus the good straight line speed of the Mclaren, he never really had a great chance of passing JB.

      1. This may come to bite me later but… Yes RBR7 don´t have a lot of top speed, but it got better speed than the Mclaren in the curves… I think more than juts the fact that Webber couldn´t pass Button is that with out Vettel is the machine were so dominant (like last year) Webber should win the races where Vettel hadn´t won, specially this one in witch Vettel was already out or at least get on the podium.

    10. found time to have a look at the recording of the start of the race
      as already stated , vettel went off really fast and I think that was the problem …he went too fast and got right over the kerb

      you do that at your peril with a full load of fuel and low tyre pressures , and we are all aware that one of RB’s great strength is the ability to operate on the edge of things like tyre pressures

      but I just wonder …pre race hamilton said he wouldn’t be letting vettel have the corner like he did last year , in the event he went off quite steadily

      I wonder if his remarks were a little bit of psychology that paid off

      1. Well, you’ll notice several other cars taking the exact same line as Vettel, so it’s more “luck” than “psychology”.

    11. Mighty impressed with Vettel’s reaction to his puncture. To also learn he went to inspect the track afterwards is fantastic. The cynic inside tells me that it’s easy to commend him when he has nothing to lose and virtually no emotional axe to weird instead, but nevertheless, kudos. I really hope we get an explanation.

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