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Red Bull get back in their stride

Posted by Carrot on May 8, 2011 | No Comments

Sebastian Vettel wiped out his car with a crash in FP1 and there were KERS issues for Red Bull on Saturday morning, still come Sunday afternoon nothing could match Red Bull and Vettel as they returned to their winning ways in Turkey. The race proved that the amount of overtaking in China wasn’t a one off event and that no team can adequately challenge the defending champions yet.

Recording their first 1-2 finish of the season, Red Bull must be feeling confident as we begin the European season. Even the three week break after China couldn’t allow their rivals to get on terms with them. Vettel again beat Mark Webber, it’s all well and good for the Aussie to slowly build his performance this year, but by the time he does Vettel might have an insurmountable lead in the standings. There’s not much else to say about Red Bull’s performance, it was the benchmark of the weekend and is looking like they’ll take both titles with ease and with races to spare.

Fernando Alonso brought his Ferrari to the line in third, recording Ferrari’s first podium of the year. The general pace of the car this weekend showed that there’s speed there if the team can continue to work on the problems that have hobbled them so far this season. On the other side of the garage it was a different story, Felipe Massa finishing eleventh casts serious doubts on his future. Yes, he’s finished in front of Alonso in half the races so far this year, but when the pace is there to be taken advantage of Alonso has delivered. Despite an equal split in beating his team mate, Massa has just over half the points of the Spaniard. While Ferrari are undoubtedly consumed by their technical issues at the moment, it won’t be long before the gaze of blame will be cast Massa’s way.

McLaren had an abysmal weekend by their standards. While the victory in China came as a result of correct strategy combined with race pace, this weekend they had neither pace nor strategy. Jenson Button was left adrift on a three stop strategy and finished sixth, while Lewis Hamilton could only manage fourth, being overhauled by Alonso in the Ferrari. Beaten by Nico Rosberg in qualifying and Alonso in the race is certainly not the result they were looking for after victory at the last race.

Speaking of Rosberg, he managed to bring the Mercedes home in fifth, splitting the McLarens. This weekend was a mixed bag for the German team, while their qualifying pace was excellent, showing the team had made great strides forward in understanding their car, the lack of a double points finish and a lack of early race pace will trouble them. Michael Schumacher’s poor run to twelfth and his multiple mistakes in basic race craft aren’t what we expect from someone who’s worn the crown a record seven times.

Renault’s early season podium form seems to have waned somewhat. Nick Heidfeld led his team mate Vitaly Petrov to the line to finish seventh and eighth for the team. While their form isn’t enough to replicate he podiums they scored at the beginning of the year, chasing Button home and beating the non-scoring Massa and Schumacher should certainly establish that the front of the grid this year is composed of five teams, Renault included. Maintaining consistency from their drivers and development programme this year could allow them to mount a serious challenge to Mercedes GP for fourth in the final standings.

Rounding out the top ten, and the points, were Sebastien Buemi for Toro Rosso in ninth and Kamui Kobayshi in tenth. The lack of race ending reliability problems for the top teams in this race could set the trend for the rest of field for this season. The midfield are really going to have to be on form to take any points when the top teams make errors. Although both drives were commendable, you can only think that they scored due to the mistakes and lack of pace from Massa and Schumacher.

Today we’ve finally been able to confirm that in modern Formula 1, more stops are better. If we look at the progress made by Kobayashi today and Webber in China, compared to Button’s strategy today, sacrificing qualifying for extra fresh tyres is the way to go. If Jenson Button can’t stretch these tyres, no-one can. It’ll be a brave frontrunner that tries Q3 on a set of primes, but they could end up stealing the victory if they can survive the traffic in the first lap.

A lot was said about Ferrari’s supposedly unsafe release of Massa into the path of Hamilton. I agree that it could have been dangerous, I also think no penalty was required in this instance. However, given all the drama surrounding ‘off board’ mirrors last year, that cumulated with the FIA mandating that mirrors be made useful regardless of cost, why aren’t they stepping in now? This isn’t the first incident caused by these ridiculous ‘traffic light’ systems, so can we just have them banned outright please?

Schumacher’s future will be the subject of many column inches this year, but a simple look at the stats should be telling Mercedes to push him if he won’t jump. Rosberg is demonstrating just how fast that car can go and Mercedes will have to decide whether they want race results or good PR with the German public. Can you imagine what Paul di Resta would do in that car considering how quickly he’s got on pace with Adrian Sutil at Force India?

The DRS made the overtakes a little easy today, but at least drivers are using KERS and good old fashioned skill to overtake elsewhere on the track as well. DRS needs to be tweaked again, but it’s a learning curve that F1 should get on top of soon. Certainly the fans’ desire for more overtaking has been fulfilled. It’s hard to talk about individual passes today as there were that many, it’s great TV but almost overwhelming to write about. Though I’ve got to give overtake of the day to Button for going around the outside of Rosberg into the final corner.

And so Turkey, and race four, is over. Vettel and Red Bull have extended their leads in the standings. There’s going to have to be a lot of work put in otherwise Red Bull victories by Vettel are going to become as regular as qualifying sessions. Two weeks until Spain, see you there.

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  • Drivers Championship 2013

    1 Kimi Raikkonen 25
    2 Fernando Alonso 18
    3 Sebastian Vettel 15
    4 Felipe Massa 12
    5 Lewis Hamilton 10
    6 Mark Webber 8
    7 Adrian Sutil 6
    8 Paul Di Resta 4
    9 Jenson Button 2
    10 Romain Grosjean 1

  • Constructors Championship 2013

    1 Ferrari 30
    2 Lotus 26
    3 Red Bull 23
    4 Mercedes 10
    5 Force India 10
    6 McLaren 2
    7 Toro Rosso 0
    8 Sauber 0
    9 Williams 0
    10 Marussia 0
    11 Caterham 0