How Sebastian Vettel lost the race (Bahrain Grand Prix start analysis)

The Bahrain Grand Prix got off to a hectic start

The Bahrain Grand Prix got off to a hectic start

Before the Bahrain Grand Prix started Sebastian Vettel was favourite to win – with 64% of us on the live blog picking him to come home first.

But his chances evaporated in a frantic first lap where he slipped from third to fifth behind Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton. Here’s how the first lap unfolded:

Bahrian Grand Prix lap one position change (click to enlarge)

Bahrian Grand Prix lap one position change (click to enlarge)

Three of the best starts belonged to KERS-powered cars: Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen and Nelson Piquet Jnr. Fernando Alonso might have done better had he not been squeezed off the track on the run towards turn one.

Button, crucially, pounced on Vettel while the Red Bull driver was being passed by Hamilton. Vettel was pinched between Hamilton and Button at turn one and had to back off. He made a stab at re-passing Button on the run towards turn four but there was no way through.

That was the first moment that cost Vettel the race – the second came on the following lap when Button scrambled by Hamilton – but Vettel wasn’t able to replicate the move.

Raikkonen had made up five places at the start but was passed by Rubens Barrichello halfway around the first lap. Similarly Hamilton briefly got ahead of Jarno Trulli for second but couldn’t keep the Toyota behind.

Both the BMWs broke the right hand sides of their front wings on the first lap, and as they dropped back they held up a string of other cars and allowed Mark Webber to make some useful progress from 18th.

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51 comments on How Sebastian Vettel lost the race (Bahrain Grand Prix start analysis)

  1. Pete_Firestarter said on 26th April 2009, 20:57

    This season is shapping up nicely. 4 dangeerous diffusers enroute to Barcelona – McLaren, Renault, Ferrari and Red Bull. Combine that with the powerful (but legal) Mclaren KERS and also Ferrari’s not forgeting Renaults. OMG!!

  2. sean said on 26th April 2009, 21:14

    Im not trying to be negative about the new regs but I thought there was supposed to be overtaking galore apart from the first handfull of laps the kers cars had a obvious advantage on the straight’s ala piquet holding off ruben’s kimi on glock but it did turn into a procession.They may be running visable closer on the track but not close enough to have ago or are they to scared to rub off those snow ploughs.Once these kers cars sort out the aero packages they will be untouchable.

  3. The Sri Lankan said on 26th April 2009, 21:55

    the tyre stratergy cost Toyota Dearly. i think Bahrain was their last chance ever to win an f1 reace. i think they will be heading outta f1 without anything. especially that win.

  4. From a technical point of view this race was an interesting reflection of what the Trick Diffuser provides. Hamilton, with a standard diffuser, was losing 4-5 Tenths in the high speed sector 2 alone, but was able to qualify within a few tenths of the best cars and run with them in the race, at least on the good tires. The Red Bull was able to contend with the brawns and toyotas easily and could have won if not for aforementioned railway traffic. I conclude that the Brawns/Toyotas have no mechanical grip or chassis advantage at all and live by their diffuser. In terms of mechanical grip, clearly the McLaren was the class of the field, as Hamilton was consistentlu winning sector 1 with grossly subpar aerodynamics. I predict that after 2-3 European races, and certainly after Monaco, the Brawns are going to be getting smoked by the Newey cars with the McLarens and Ferraris right up their tailpipes.

  5. m0tion said on 26th April 2009, 23:56

    It was the Rubens show with Piquet and Webber as the support acts for my viewing attention. Great race too by Kimi with what he had available to him. But these Tilke tracks are shockers aren’t they? The relatively high amount of dirty air generated by the Renault surely means that it was one of their design priorities. I’m off to look to see some decent words from Briatore for Piquet.

  6. The Limit said on 27th April 2009, 2:49

    The biggest problem for Vettel and Red Bull is that the Brawns so far have been consistant, and reliable. Button has had three victories and a third place, consistency that, if it continues, is without doubt
    championship form.
    Red Bull need to score maximum points, with the Brawns having a couple of DNFs, in order to get their noses infront.
    I recall Renault at the beginning of 2006, scoring a huge points haul at the start of the season which gave Fernando Alonso a huge advantage. Even though Michael
    Schumacher and Ferrari stormed back to the front towards the end, it wasn’t enough to stop Renault and Alonso.
    Its certainly not impossible, but the Brawn cars are
    without question the most robust and reliable machines on the 2009 grid.
    What struck me the most, not being a particular fan of KERS, was the lack of overtaking once the race settled down from the opening five or so laps. To be brutally honest, I ‘HATE’ KERS and any device that deflects from the drivers’ skills behind the wheel.
    Call me old fashioned, but the battle between Piquet Jnr and Barrichello showed the usage of KERS to devastating effect. Also with some drivers running KERS and others not, how can we deduce who ‘really’ performed better during the race.
    Anyhow, a couple of drivers today notably had horrible races. Felipe Massa was one offender, the biggest for me hands down was Heikki Kovalainen.
    I have savaged Piquet Jnr in recent weeks for his poor performances, but Kovalainen’s performance today was
    beyond embarrassing.
    We all no that the 2009 McLaren is a dog, but the difference between Hamilton’s drive and Heikki’s to me showed a lack of desire rather than a lack of talent on Kovalainen’s part.
    I like to see drivers giving their all, and I don’t see it in Kovalainen. Piquet Jnr, probably with Briatore burning his eardrums on the radio, drove his best race since last years German Grands Prix. He showed determination and spirit, something Heikki did not!
    As for BMW Sauber, I am speechless. I had them pegged as potential constructors champions this year, with Robert Kubica as a potential drivers champion. Their lack of performance is certainly more eyebrow raising than McLaren’s or Ferrari’s. Atleast they have to excuse
    of last years bitter title race to fall back on.

  7. Jay Menon said on 27th April 2009, 3:35

    I personally thought that vettel was not pushing enough. He seemed like he was happy to sit behind Trulli and conserve his machine while his target was on Prime tyres. I was rooting for him to pass Trulli and chase down Jenson for a grandstand finish.

    Maybe he was managing his race? He was probably happy to get the 8 points. Red Bull are confident they can mount a serious title push this year, and Bahrain was proof that they would rather manage their engines, not tax it too much in the very demanding heat and dust.

    Things may have been different if he had got a better start. If he was third going into the first corner, he would have picked up the win..I’m quite sure of that.

    On another note. Good drive by Lewis. His car seems to be getting better. Kimi was brilliant for me, he drove a great race, pity what happened to Massa. Ruebens may be a tad disappointed, and Glock too has every reason to be upset. Fernando Alonso managed to wrestle his truck into the points again, the Renault did show some pace early on, but never quite enough. Hopefully Catalunya would prove to be a better race for them, especially with Fernando in from of his home crowd.

    Disappointing race for the BMWs and Heikki in particular. I’ve always had a soft spot for Heikki, but I think its wearing thin, he needs to pick up his performance this season. Does anyone know if he has the same new bits on his car that Hamilton got?

  8. sean said on 27th April 2009, 7:27

    interesting comments about vettel holding out and not overtaking on more than one occasion BBC took crossovers from the pits telling drivers when the guy in front was pitting no point to have a go if he’s coming in the next couple.I only saw one massive dive and that was by rubens as for brawn reliability at the moment they are running out front in clean air maybe when there buried in a pack and having to stress the engine and gear box we could see reliability rear it’s ugly head.On running close I dont think they can Brundle made the comment in the commentary “they’re running closer but still not close enough” even glock never had a real go at kimi in the first laps when they were close he didn’t send a hail mary down the inside. Remember lewis last year he had a reputation for it and never flinched yet jenson telegraghed his move and lewis waved him threw Ithink they are so scared of damaging the front wing they just don’t bother live another lap.as for the kers they say now that there are circuit’s that suit it others that don’t but they haven’t got there head’s around it yet so if they figure out how to run it on the unsuitable circuit’s what’s going to happen at monaco our hungary if the first three row’s are filled with kers cars what’s the point of anyone else turning up.

    • pSynrg said on 27th April 2009, 8:08

      I like to think Jenson got past Lewis on merit alone. Lewis as any F1 driver doesn’t like to be passed.
      On second thoughts though it was possibly a practical decision to not fight the pass. Lewis knowing maybe that keeping Jenson behind would compromise his full race. Possibly taking too much away from his tyres in the long run which would ultimately have Jenson getting past anyway.
      Normally I would have expected Lewis to hold the defensive line on entry to the 1st corner, but he jinked hard left back onto the normal racing line, as if almost opening the door for Jenson to go up the inside.
      Just a thought.

    • Patrickl said on 27th April 2009, 9:16

      Button had the corner at that time. If Hamilton tried to defend, his exit would have been compromised and he might have lost more positions to the guys behind Button.

      From the post race interviews, Hamilton was of the opinion that the Brawn was just so much faster and that he could follow Hamilton through all the corners. Probably not much sense in fighting a car that is so much faster and able to attack all the time. Again, defending the position would have cost him more than just letting Button go.

  9. Oliver said on 27th April 2009, 10:48

    What I found ridiculous was Vettel saying Hamilton just pressed his magic button, as if to imply he was cheating, to go past him. Redbull have an option of fitting KERS to their car, but choose not to do so. Vettel can have his magic button too and watch his car balance and rear tyres deteriorate.

    • Chua said on 27th April 2009, 11:12

      What I found ridiculous was Vettel saying Hamilton just pressed his magic button, as if to imply he was cheating, to go past him.

      I didn’t think he meant it that way. Or at least, I didn’t take it that way. To me, he was stating it in a good-natured way, smiling while he was doing so. He seems like a “good guy” to me, and I don’t sensed any malice in any of his interviews.

  10. Oliver said on 27th April 2009, 11:18

    I agree BMW are really disappointing, I just have a feeling they were depending too much on KERS and forgot they needed to design a car around it.

  11. Toyota have blamed their strategy for missing out on a win

    http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/74909

    In 2004 when Button got his first pole and podiums with BAR Honda, despite having the second fastest car at the start of the season they didn’t manage to get a win yet both McLaren and Williams got wins later on in the season even though they started with relatively poor cars.

    I remember reading an article which said some other teams had done an analysis of Honda’s strategy decisions throughout the year and the conclusion had been if they had chosen the correct strategy they could have got a couple of wins.

  12. antonyob said on 27th April 2009, 11:52

    Thank you Rubens for your crazy driving, very exciting. All over the place but brilliant to watch,. I know people like to be seen liking the smooth drivers – ie Button but give me the rallycross guys anytime. A fantastic indian summer for a driver i never really thought got going during a slightly underperforming career. more please!

  13. Kutigz said on 27th April 2009, 12:32

    LH was the driver of the weekend – period! He beautifully extracted every ounce of performance out of that Mc even though it lacks the pace of the Brawns, Toyota’s and the Redbull. His performance was very brillant!

  14. antonyob said on 27th April 2009, 12:36

    “period” makes it sound like its a fact. So he couldnt make an overtake sti on trulli, he easily got done by Button and he made up one place because Glock went backwards. hmmm, doesnt excite me.

    If i had to choose in car views and watch it again id choose Rubens or Webber.

    • John H said on 27th April 2009, 13:51

      Is Nelson Piquet your favourite driver? He seems to be involved in a lot of incidents and oversteer moments.

      The fact that your even talking about Hamilton almost overtaking Trulli in the race I think tells you all you need to know about his weekend.

  15. Oliver said on 27th April 2009, 13:04

    @Chua, I wasn’t implying he said it with any malice. I’m just stating that Redbull have KERS ready to run but choose not to run it. So Vettel can have his magic button too.

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