Advantage Vettel – but Alonso still believes

2012 United States Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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Sebastian Vettel has a chance to clinch the drivers’ championship with one round to spare in the United States Grand Prix.

But Fernando Alonso, who starts seven places behind his rival, said he believes he will out-score him this weekend.

The start

The first corner at the Circuit of the Americas is already recognised as one of its most distinctive features. Wide and tight, it sits on top of one of the steepest climbs on the Formula One calendar.

And there are concerns it could be the scene of a first-lap pile-up as drivers seize their best opportunity to make up places at the start. Particularly as overtaking is expected to be difficult during this race.

But before they reach turn one another potential problem awaits half of the field: the lack of grip off-line.

Alonso originally qualified ninth and he might wish that’s where he was starting. Romain Grosjean’s penalty has elevated him to eighth, but that is on the dirtier side of the grip where little rubber has been laid so far this weekend. Even if the organisers clean the track, it could prove a significant disadvantage for the likes of him, Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen, Felipe Massa and others.

That is more good news for Vettel, who starts from pole position on the clean side and has a good chance of making it through turn one with being troubled by second-placed Hamilton.


Strategic options are likely to be very limited. Pirelli expect a one-stop strategy to be the standard as tyre degradation is very low.

This will not help Alonso’s bid to gain places during the race. His best bet of coming good on his pre-race prediction of out-scoring Vettel appears to be some kind of technical problem for the Red Bull – something which has already happened during practice this weekend.

But if Vettel converts pole position into victory, Alonso must finish at least fourth or else the championship is over.

The championship

The drivers’ and constructors’ championship titles could be won by Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull respectively in the race. Here’s how:

Qualifying times in full


Q2 (vs Q1)

Q3 (vs Q2)
1Sebastian VettelRed Bull1’36.5581’35.796 (-0.762)1’35.657 (-0.139)
2Lewis HamiltonMcLaren1’37.0581’36.795 (-0.263)1’35.766 (-1.029)
3Mark WebberRed Bull1’37.2151’36.298 (-0.917)1’36.174 (-0.124)
4Kimi RaikkonenLotus1’38.0511’37.404 (-0.647)1’36.708 (-0.696)
5Michael SchumacherMercedes1’37.9271’37.102 (-0.825)1’36.794 (-0.308)
6Felipe MassaFerrari1’37.6671’36.549 (-1.118)1’36.937 (+0.388)
7Nico HulkenbergForce India1’37.7561’37.066 (-0.690)1’37.141 (+0.075)
8Fernando AlonsoFerrari1’37.9681’37.123 (-0.845)1’37.300 (+0.177)
9Romain GrosjeanLotus1’37.4861’36.906 (-0.580)1’36.587 (-0.319)
10Pastor MaldonadoWilliams1’37.5371’37.011 (-0.526)1’37.842 (+0.831)
11Bruno SennaWilliams1’37.5201’37.604 (+0.084)
12Jenson ButtonMcLaren1’37.5651’37.616 (+0.051)
13Paul di RestaForce India1’38.1041’37.665 (-0.439)
14Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso1’38.4341’37.879 (-0.555)
15Sergio PerezSauber1’38.5001’38.206 (-0.294)
16Kamui KobayashiSauber1’38.4181’38.437 (+0.019)
17Nico RosbergMercedes1’38.8621’38.501 (-0.361)
18Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso1’39.114
19Timo GlockMarussia1’40.056
20Charles PicMarussia1’40.664
21Vitaly PetrovCaterham1’40.809
22Heikki KovalainenCaterham1’41.166
23Pedro de la RosaHRT1’42.011
24Narain KarthikeyanHRT1’42.740

Ferrari tried to improve their position in Q3 by using scrubbed tyres but their qualifying result of seventh and ninth matched what they achieved in Abu Dhabi, albeit with their drivers reversed.

“A very difficult qualifying, there’s no doubt about it,” said technical director Pat Fry. “The tyre-asphalt combination created conditions that were very difficult to interpret and we probably struggled more than others.

“We even tried to make the most of [third practice] to prepare as well as possible for qualifying and now we must look at the data carefully to try and understand what didn’t work out as it should have done.”

Another team which struggled with the track conditions was Sauber. “We have lost a lot of performance compared to this morning’s practice session and at the moment we don’t really know why,” said Sergio Perez.

“The track temperature increased a lot, but for me the tyre warm up still wasn’t any better. My car tended to oversteer quite a lot in qualifying. Perhaps we did not follow the way the track conditions developed in the right direction.”

Sector times

DriverSector 1Sector 2Sector 3
Sebastian Vettel25.919 (3)38.009 (1)31.566 (1)
Lewis Hamilton25.818 (1)38.026 (2)31.873 (3)
Mark Webber25.915 (2)38.347 (7)31.771 (2)
Kimi Raikkonen26.221 (7)38.208 (3)32.093 (6)
Michael Schumacher26.326 (11)38.343 (6)32.062 (5)
Felipe Massa26.260 (10)38.339 (5)31.932 (4)
Nico Hulkenberg26.225 (8)38.309 (4)32.315 (11)
Fernando Alonso26.164 (6)38.539 (11)32.255 (9)
Romain Grosjean25.976 (4)38.411 (8)32.156 (7)
Pastor Maldonado26.092 (5)38.485 (9)32.290 (10)
Bruno Senna26.459 (13)38.553 (12)32.196 (8)
Jenson Button26.234 (9)38.532 (10)32.591 (13)
Paul di Resta26.579 (16)38.633 (13)32.432 (12)
Jean-Eric Vergne26.532 (14)38.715 (14)32.600 (14)
Sergio Perez26.559 (15)38.922 (17)32.637 (15)
Kamui Kobayashi26.428 (12)38.747 (15)32.819 (16)
Nico Rosberg26.678 (18)38.916 (16)32.845 (17)
Daniel Ricciardo26.625 (17)39.308 (18)32.960 (18)
Timo Glock27.091 (19)39.765 (20)33.129 (19)
Charles Pic27.149 (20)39.930 (22)33.357 (20)
Vitaly Petrov27.397 (21)39.701 (19)33.688 (21)
Heikki Kovalainen27.499 (22)39.855 (21)33.761 (22)
Pedro de la Rosa27.531 (23)40.299 (23)34.152 (23)
Narain Karthikeyan27.623 (24)40.403 (24)34.714 (24)

Lewis Hamilton was quickest through the first sector and was in with a chance of beating Vettel until the final sector: “I did two consecutive quick-laps – and, on my second lap, having put in a ‘banker’, I didn’t really have anything to lose, so I went almost over the limit, really on the edge, but the car still seemed to handle it well.

“On the final corner, I gained a little time on the entry but lost it on the exit. I got every corner perfect, I reckon, except for that last one.”

Kimi Raikkonen was surprised to find himself fifth, which became fourth after his team mate’s penalty. “I was actually expecting a more difficult qualifying session today,” he said, “but the car was the best it’s felt all weekend so it turned out to be quite good.

“The set-up is still not exactly how I want it but it’s much closer. The warmer conditions make the car work much better and that certainly makes a difference.”

Speed trap

PosDriverCarSpeed (kph/mph)Gap
1Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso320.4 (199.1)
2Sergio PerezSauber320.2 (199.0)-0.2
3Kamui KobayashiSauber320.0 (198.8)-0.4
4Bruno SennaWilliams319.5 (198.5)-0.9
5Pastor MaldonadoWilliams319.3 (198.4)-1.1
6Felipe MassaFerrari319.1 (198.3)-1.3
7Paul di RestaForce India318.4 (197.8)-2.0
8Nico HulkenbergForce India318.3 (197.8)-2.1
9Michael SchumacherMercedes318.2 (197.7)-2.2
10Nico RosbergMercedes317.7 (197.4)-2.7
11Fernando AlonsoFerrari316.8 (196.9)-3.6
12Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso316.6 (196.7)-3.8
13Romain GrosjeanLotus315.6 (196.1)-4.8
14Kimi RaikkonenLotus315.4 (196.0)-5.0
15Narain KarthikeyanHRT314.5 (195.4)-5.9
16Lewis HamiltonMcLaren314.4 (195.4)-6.0
17Jenson ButtonMcLaren314.3 (195.3)-6.1
18Pedro de la RosaHRT314.1 (195.2)-6.3
19Timo GlockMarussia313.2 (194.6)-7.2
20Charles PicMarussia313.1 (194.6)-7.3
21Heikki KovalainenCaterham312.5 (194.2)-7.9
22Vitaly PetrovCaterham312.3 (194.1)-8.1
23Sebastian VettelRed Bull308.4 (191.6)-12.0
24Mark WebberRed Bull308.0 (191.4)-12.4

The only consolation for Alonso is that he is significantly quicker than Vettel in a straight line – but there’s little so far to suggest he might be able to get on terms with the Red Bull in the race.

Over to you

Can Alonso stop Vettel from winning the championship in America? And how will the all-important start unfold?

Share your views on the United States Grand Prix in the comments.

2012 United States 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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    82 comments on “Advantage Vettel – but Alonso still believes”

    1. Alonso seems very confident. But, really, he must be trying to put pressure on Vettel, because it’s very hard to see him getting anywhere near the Red Bulls in the race.

      I think the best he can hope is to stay in the championship. Getting up to 4th is already a massive task for him right now, even if Massa gets out of the way.

      Maaaaaaaaaybe he has something up his sleeve we don’t know about… but I’m not holding too much hopes for him. Hamilton should be his bigger bet…

      1. Alonso needs a miracle, honestly. I’m his fan though. But let’s hope for good race overall or a first class mayhem at turn 1.

        1. @johnbt – the problem with that is, as you are an Alonso fan, that Alonso is actually more likely to be caught up in any ensued chaos because of his grid position. Likely he will have to fight at the start with Grosjean as Alonso is on the dirty side of the grid with a complete lack of grip (and we know how that’s turned out in the past!) whilst Vettel is out front with Hamilton also on the dirty side and seemingly unlikely to be able to challenge unless Vettel does a Webber-esque start.

          Alonso will likely have to rely on the vastly better race pace of his Ferrari to make up positions and a higher top-speed than some of the cars ahead but for sure it is going to be difficult for him to get the 4th place he desperately needs given how difficult that Ferrari looked to drive.

          1. Maybe the first corner mayhem @Johnbt was talking about is to perhaps knock vettel out of the race ….as much a spectacle it would be, that’s least unlikely . vettel is going to power up and fly off much to my disappointment :P

    2. Chris (@tophercheese21)
      18th November 2012, 3:47

      I get the impression that Alonso is just saying these things to inspire his team, which is fair enough, but surely he must know that he has very little chance of out scoring Vettel in the race right? Unless Vettel has a mechanical failure of some sort, then that would be Alonso’s only hope.

      The Ferrari’s just not quick enough

      1. I think Alonso’s mission now is to simply ensure that he is in with a shot in the last race of the season. He is betting I think that Vettel is “due” for a DNF in one of these races. Who would have thought that Alonso’s best hope for the championship is LH taking points off of Vet :)

    3. Well now that I have compared Ferraris Q2 and Q3 times I think I can say without contradiction that qualifying on scrubbed tyres was a mistake, unless that is they are at least considering a 2 stop strategy.

    4. Why did Ferrari not have Massa give Alonso a tow during Q3? I was extremely surprised they didn’t organise that one.

      Something for the race strategy?

      1. Towing is very hard to time and there isn’t much benefit especially when you can open DRS anyway. And another reason is that Massa had his own qualifying – it’s a bit sad that he is seen and treated as a waterboy lately.

    5. How on earth did SV gain a third of a second over MW in section 2 when Webber was faster in section 1 and their top speed is virtually identical?

      1. I think Vettel has a better line exiting onto the two straights in S2, potentially sacrificing a bit of midcorner speed to go through the straight quicker.

      2. Because obviously Red Bull have given preferential treatment to Sebastian in the third sector.

        It obviously cannot be that Vettel is a good driver because that would mean accepting that Vettel is as good as Hamilton or Alonso which is a cardinal sin! Remember, Red Bull is some mega car 3 seconds a lap faster than everyone and Vettel is a below-average driver who is 2 seconds a lap slower than the others but is lucky to be in a Red Bull.

        1. davidnotcoulthard
          18th November 2012, 8:57

          3 seconds? I’m not really sure about that. At the Green Hell, maybe, instead of COTA?

        2. LOL, your Sarcasm hurts … :(

        3. @sumdeh – I hope you don’t genuinely believe that and you are being sarcastic, otherwise you are very much mistaken.

      3. Webber had some sort of problem – I’d assume it was his Kers. But even so Seb seems to hit the exit of turn 10 better.

    6. Ferrari and STR both have 1 car substantially higher in top speed than the other and both have a reversal of the qualifying norm, interesting.

      1. Drop Valencia!
        18th November 2012, 4:51

        It is interesting, short gearing is clearly better for qualy, let’s see in the race

        1. In the race, with heavier fuel-loads, the demand for acceleration will be higher than in qualifying, so short gearing may be even more beneficial in terms of race pace. Overtaking will still be a hell of a job, even with DRS and a small topspeed advantage.

    7. I cant wait for this race to get going! It should be a very fun track because of the grip levels being low. Lets hope for a great one. Also what do you guys think of the massive crowed turn out? They had 82,710 fans for todays qualify

      1. qualifying***

      2. qualifying*

    8. That speed difference is something (Red Bull), hope Hamilton gets the first corner, that should make things interesting.

      1. The problem is that there is no grip off the racing line. If things are as bad as the drivers are making them out to be, Hamilton will need an absolute blinder when the lights go out, and even then, he will probably have to rely on Vettel bogging down if he wants to get the jump. It’s certainly possible, and Hamilton is probably one of the few who could pull it off, but I have my doubts – primarily because Vettel’s starts have been fairly consistent of late.

        1. True PM, but if you remember the love songs between Hamilton and Alonso of late and the dislike both have for Vettel (e.g. Hamilton seeing him as “currently the most lucky F1 driver out there”). Could Alonso’s hope be dwelling on the fact that Hamilton has repeated he has “nothing to lose” and therefore will be ready to take more risk at the start? If I were Vettel I would watch Hamilton very carefully.

        2. I think Hamilton will probably be thinking of how to fend of webber rather than going after Vettel. It’s going to be epic this evening. I really hope the championship is not decided today. There is a good chance of carnage at turn one. Lets hope it doesn’t involved to top drivers.

          1. @dt Hamilton has said he doesn’t want to get in the way of Vettel’s race which says to me he won’t take any risks at the first corner and as has been said he is more concerned about loosing places.

            1. @Max Jacobson Which is very true. I think he wants to ensure that he beats Button this season. To be fair he already has. 4 DNF and still leading him.

        3. Will the low off-line grip-levels really be a problem? I haven’t noticed much of it this year. Usually the drivers on the dirty side got away pretty well, so I’m a little sceptical.

          1. that’s a great observation, however the difference is that Austin is a brand new track and even ON-line it is very slippery, so if a bit off-line is like being on ice, not just at the start, but around the entire track.

    9. You’ve got to think that Alonso’s positive attitude is down to him recently taking to “the way of the Samurai”. The man seems to be quoting Sun Tzu a lot, and of his most famous philosophies is to “appear strong when weak”. He’s obviously trying to come across confident with a view to getting into Vettel’s head.

      1. @geemac

        He’s obviously trying to come across confident with a view to getting into Vettel’s head.

        I’d say it’s working. Vettel very much wears his heart on his sleeve, and we’ve seen him get frustrated when things don’t go according to the script. Even in Abu Dhabi; he bounced back from being excluded in qualifying, but his race was riddled with mistakes. He hit Senna in a sloppy move from too far behind. He ran into the DRS bollard because he missed Ricciardo slowing down. He needed the team to pit Webber early so that he could take the position. And while his laps are fast, Lewis Hamilton was right when he said they are rarely perfect. Vettel is vulnerable when he isn’t controlling the race, and I think Alonso is trying to put him into a state where he is vulnerable even when he is in a situation where he knows he should be in control.

        I think Red Bull have also been a little uneasy of late as well. They’ve been making mistakes, like the refuelling problem in Abu Dhabi, and they were clearly tense in India and Korea when Vettel had problems, even if they strenuously denied them after the fact. And even though Vettel started this weekend 1.4 seconds faster than Hamilton, the team has to be keenly aware that he is now only 0.1 seconds quicker. On top of that, this is the first race where they have been using the new specification of alternator. Renault got permission to use the 2011-spec alternators after Vettel’s retirement at Monza, but they had to introduce a new part by the end of the season, and those new parts are debuting in Austin. With the water leaks on Friday, the obvious differences between Vettel’s car and Webber and now new, untested parts, Red Bull are probably wanting to wrap things up as quickly as possible. And I think that is where Alonso sees his opportunity. Even though he led the championship for seven races, his lead fluctuated wildly, but he always bounced back (until Suzuka). If it can fluctuate one way, it can fluctuate the other, and given that he’s had several recovery drives from low positions to the podium this season, Red Bull are probably feeling the pressure.

        When Alonso sees the jugular, he goes for it.

        1. @prisoner-monkeys

          He needed the team to pit Webber early so that he could take the position

          Webber needed to come into the pits at that point to gain position over Maldonado, who he had already gone off once trying to overtake, and it worked. If that also helped Vettel then it was a happy coincidence for Red Bull. But given that the move was to the benefit of Webber’s race it is rather uncharitable to insinuate that it was only done to help Vettel.

          1. no. webber would have refused to leave way for seb as he is already frustrated with rbr favouring vettel. and hence they “PIT” him.

        2. He hit Senna in a sloppy move from too far behind.

          Senna overtook Vettel after Vettel had passed him into the hairpin. Vettel kept to the inside and Senna cut across. Racing incident. Vettel can’t just make his car disappear and it’s not like he braked too late and under steered into Senna’s car.

          “And while his laps are fast, Lewis Hamilton was right when he said they are rarely perfect.”

          Neither are Hamilton’s, or Alonso’s for that matter. Just look at Alonso’s Q3 yesterday. One mistake after another.

          “the obvious differences between Vettel’s car and Webber”

          LOL. What difference. This, ‘Webber get’s inferior machinery’ nonsense is getting very old. He’s been beaten by Vettel 4 years in a row now.

          1. Jackie Stewart once said that Schumacher makes more mistakes per lap than he did in his entire career…

            1. @xjr15jaaag

              I think it’s just drivers being in denial about others matching or even surpassing their accomplishments.
              I was very surprised to hear Webber say “He’s the fast one” to Hamilton when Hamilton said they were so quick through the two corners yesterday. It’s not something drivers say. Most of the times it’s “I couldn’t get the tyres to work.” or “I just couldn’t get the grip/balance.” but never something like “I just couldn’t have done that.”.

              That’s why Hamilton and Alonso will never say Vettel has impressed them because that would mean admitting they’re not as exceptional as they believe themselves to be.

            2. @f1fannl

              I heard that too–along with Mark’s incredulous shake of his head and you know he meant it.

              It’s funny because while Webber would rather be the one on top, he’s in an odd position about being realistic about how good Vettel is, because if it’s “the car” and Vettel is just a regular driver, then why can’t Webber match his success? It’d mean that Webber was worse than a so-so driver.

              But Webber has proven through his career that if there’s one thing he can do and that’s put in a stunning qualifying lap. And knowing what he did and what Seb did in essentially the same car (and whatever issues Mark had he said wouldn’t have made a difference) and he was gobsmaked.

              His reaction reminded me of Hamilton at Monza last year when Vettel just pulled out a stunner and Hamilton was like “I have no idea how he did that.” Drivers know when the got the maximum out of the car or where they lost a 100th of second, so you believe them when they say “there’s no way I could match that”. I bet that makes them feel better in a way, since there’s no nagging doubt that they should have beaten the other guy with a better lap.

        3. we all see what we want to see. But clearly the pressure, or more likely, the frustration, is getting to Alonso this weekend. There was the raised hand in FP2 (to Perez iirc) and then in Q2 with Schumacher and Alonso on the radio whinging about MSC. Which is fair enough (and if MSC got a 5 spot penalty after quali, that would have moved Alonso up one more grid spot and back on the clean side). But Alonso’s not being cool, calm and collected.

          As for qualifying, Alonso, when he really needed to step up his game, was out qualified by his teammate.

          So to say Vettel is cracking and Alonso is the hunter going for the jugular is really stretching things beyond the reality. Vettel sat out most of FP2 and you didn’t see any fits. Vettel right now is driving better than any driver on the grid except maybe for Hamilton.

          Alonso may still win the WDC, and if he does, it will most likely be due to a mechanical or another driver taking Vettel out. Alonso will not win because he’s panicking SV into mistakes.

          As for “mistakes” in Abu Dhabi, it was bad luck for the DRS board to be right where it was, but Vettel wasn’t the only one with mistakes–Alonso had a huge mistake on the restart after the first SC and it was only through great driving afterwards that he didn’t get passed by Webber. Hamilton also had a massive lock up on the second lap at the end of one of the straights, and was lucky Kimi wasn’t closer to him as he lost chunks of time.

    10. Can it be that under highest pressure, the mighty Fernando Alonso doesn’t perform as well, in contrary to what we see in Seb Vettel? Abu Dhabi 2010, Austin 2012??

      1. To be fair I don’t think Alonso was crumbling under pressure in Abu Dhabi 2010.

        1. agree – but Ferrari did.

      2. LoreMipsumdOtmElor
        18th November 2012, 8:34

        I don’t believe Alonso is under pressure. Noone expected him to turn this championship around for the last few races.

      3. You can’t say he is crumbling under pressure when his car is 4th fastest in qualifying. It isn’t good enough especially when your challenger is in the fastest.

        1. @brum55 – well explain how Massa is starting 2 positions ahead of his teammate in equal machinery.

          1. Explain to me how Webber (who???) out qualified Vettel 8 times in this season in equal machinery?

            1. Because Webber has been a better driver this season than Massa.

            2. @tifoso1989
              Massa is a better driver than Webber. When Massa had a “Vettel car” in 2008 he was winning like him and beat Raikkonen…but in the end a percentage of 2 race in 50 when Massa outqualified Alonso i don’t think is a problem

            3. @tifoso1989 – because Webber is actually a very strong qualifier and much better than Massa, who has a clear no.2 status at Ferrari.

            4. @Max Jacobson

              because Webber is actually a very strong qualifier and much better than Massa

              Massa used to be faster than Kimi & Micheal i can’t see actualy Webber beating Micheal or Kimi

        2. But also well behind Massa for once.

        3. he doesn’t have the 4th fastest car, that’s just not true!

          1. @magon4
            agree he had the 5th

    11. Disgusting to see the MP-4/27 slower than the HRT of Karthi on the speed trap! ….. what a joke!!

      1. It’s only 0.1 and 0.2 kph! McLaren are probably taking a leaf out of RBR’s book when it comes to choosing gear ratios. RBR are consistently near the bottom of the pack at the speed trap.

      2. The HRT is faster than a lot of cars. F1 isn’t about straight line speed, it’s more important to have speed through the corners. HRT has no speed (relative to the other cars on the grid) through corners.

        RedBull is the slowest car in the speed trap. But have the fastest laps. Plus RB, because of the cornering speed and gearing, they get to their top speed faster than the other cars, so being a few km slower for 200 meters at the end of the straight doesn’t lose that much time, if any (unless you’re stuck trying to overtake a faster car in a race).

        Another way to look at it is in cycling. On a mountain stage in the Tour for instance, some of the fastest descenders are the bigger riders and sprinters. Only problem is, the time gain is so miniscule compared to time lost going up the climbs.

    12. It’s the usual pre-race hopes: that Hamilton can keep Vettel in sight for the first couple of laps and nab the lead off him down the straight. Looking at the speed traps, Red Bull have the mother of all qualifying set-ups on (while they still can).

      If Ferrari were on scrubbed tyres, what tyres was Maldonado on – square ones?

    13. I think Alonso will be equally concerned about starting alongside Grosjean as he is about starting on the dirty side.

      1. At the speed trap 308 km/h for Vettel and 318 km/h for Alonsoi: did Ferrari chose a more oriented race setup for Alonso rather than a qualifying one?

        1. @tim-rbr – I think so. The Ferrari has definetly had a more race orientated setup in the last few races and I don’t see why they’d change that now given that qualifying seems to be the F2012’s Achilles heel.

          They have had a higher top speed in the last few races as was evident with the ease in which he overtook Webber in India.

          1. Yeah, Ferrari has tuned the set up for the race and the ~10kph advantage over RBR should give him an edge however, he’s far behind the leader and needs to give his everything to be able to challenge the front runners. He’s been great at the start in the last couple of races but today he has to be extra cautious as he’s on the dirty side and vulnerable to Grosjean’s mistake (if any).

            I heard the commentators saying that the Ferrari has been a stable car with full load of fuel during the FP sessions so the team will be looking to capitalize on that in the race.

        2. @tim-rbr It’s the usual gap. RBR runs on shorter gear ratio and higher downforce. Ferrari knows that they will be in the middle of the pack so they have to give Alonso a better race setup from the get go.

    14. Ugh it’s over for Alonso and Ferrari. I don’t see why he keeps having to come out with the ‘I’m certain I will be champion’ or ‘I’m certain I will outscore Vettel’ crap. All it’s doing is inserting false hope into his fans, his team and most importantly himself. I think he’s so confident that he will win this title that when the reality kicks in and Vettel takes it he won’t recover. He bounced back after 2007 and 2010 but I think this one will be too much.

      I guess two is better than what most drivers have…

    15. Im wondering if Button could do a “Perez at Monza” and start on the hard tyre, race on it for 75% of the race and be superquick at the end. Really depends on how easy overtaking is going to be i guess…

    16. I’ve read somewhere that Ferrari might have decided to switch Massa’s gearbox in order to favour Alonso. Can anyone confirm that?

      1. @a4p Yeah, I heard that too. It’s not official, though.
        I hope it’s not true, it would be a very bad move for Ferrari.

        1. Why would it be? It’d be the first time in their lives they make a reasonable decision at that pitwall!

          1. Doesn’t the gearbox change implies a real problem to justify that change?

            Can it be used as a simple and free team option and aid to obtain a driver’s positional advantage beyond any question of disavantage for the other driver and the lack of a real material inability?

          2. @a4p

            Imagine the ********* if Red Bull did this to benefit Vettel….

        2. If Alonso could benefit from the cleaner side and perhaps pass Hulkenberg and Räikkönen before turn 1 and maybe be alongside Schumacher as well, how would that be a bad move? That would mean that with a bad start from Vettel and a good start from Hamilton, there is a miniscule chance that he might be right in the position to lead at the end of the first lap.
          I don’t really want to get into this discussion, but I’d rather see a team use this kind of strategic manouvers to gain an advantage, rather than try to sneak in technical solutions that are against the idea but not the letter of the regulations.

          1. It would sure as hell be better than risk losing position to Grosjean and Senna.

          2. @stjuuv @a4p
            Sorry, I said “bad move” because it’s not a very nice thing to do to Massa and to the sport in general. I think it’s quite sad that they have to penalize one driver because the other one was not good enough yesterday.

            1. Well, since team orders are allowed, it would seem that at least from the sporting point of view, it is not considered inappropriate or harmful. After all, ordering a pass during the race or timing pit stops to benefit one driver over another would achieve exactly the same result for the sport and the other driver. At the start of the season, one could argue that it is unfair for the losing driver, since the championship is open for everyone, but at the current stage I would assume that if two drivers in a team are on at least favourable terms with each-other, it wouldn’t even require a team order for the other driver to help the championship contender in any legal way possible.

            2. @stjuuv
              Team orders have no direct impact on other drivers but if Ferrari moves Massa back they will change the starting places of 4 competitors.

            3. @crr917 I would argue that timing a pit stop in a way that one driver of a team will be in a position to hold up competitors from catching up with the other driver of a team can have a direct impact of 4 or more competitors as well. Not to mention just using the actual starting position and a track with little passing opportunities to do the same and allow the front-driver to gain an advantage.

              But it seems that FIA has threatened to have Massa start from the pit lane if the gearbox doesn’t have a legitimate problem, and keep his grid slot empty, so it would seem that they agree with you :) link

            4. In the pitstop scenario one can always say that the alternative strategy was viable and and no one could argue otherwise because the explanation is good enough.
              In the current situation Ferrari seems unable to find the problem or prove there is one with Massa’s gearbox.

            5. @crr917 I guess Ferrari don’t need to prove anything. Seems C. Whiting said Ferrari can change gearbox if they want.

        3. It was embarassing enough the Korea advice to Massa: «You are becoming too near Fernando… Slowdown…»

          This kind of strategies can damage Alonso’s image.

    17. Button mentioned that starting 2nd can be an advantage since you’re on the inside of that trick corner. I think It can be even better for people stating further back.

    18. Fernando, I think it’s time for

    19. Doesn’t make much sense that Hamilton was quicker through S1 than Vettel when I would have considered that definite RB8 territory; fast corners.

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