Off-line start is bad news for Button (Turkish Grand Prix pre-race analysis)

Button has a strategy advantage but he starts on the dirty side of the grid

Button has a strategy advantage but he starts on the dirty side of the grid

We’ve got the championship leaders in the top four positions, tricky track conditions and one of F1′s best modern circuits.

Can Sebastian Vettel keep the heavier-fuelled Jenson Button behind? Is Rubens Barrichello the biggest obstacle to a Button win? And how much of a problem will the soft tyres be?

Let’s take a look at how the Turkish Grand Prix could unfold.

The story of the weekend has been the lack of grip on the track, which will affect many of the team’s key decisions in tomorrow’s race.

The start

Historically, Istanbul has been a venue where the difference in grip between the ‘clean’ and ‘dirty’ sides of the grid is most apparent.

Sure enough, in the GP2 feature race today third-placed Romain Grosjean easily beat second-placed Luca Filippi off the line. Just as last year Lewis Hamilton moved up from third to second and Robert Kubica from fifth to third.

So Jenson Button’s first concern tomorrow will be not ‘how can I get past Vettel?’ but ‘how can I keep Barrichello behind?’. Barrichello has claimed he does not have team orders to follow, so it will be fascinating to see how close the Brawn cars are through the first corners.

Tyres will play a significant role at the start but, given the lengths of everyone’s first stints, it looks as though few are considering starting on the soft tyre. The most likely exception is Fernando Alonso, who is fuelled shortest.

Although using the soft tyre at the start of the race increases the chance of a good start, it will likely suffer worse degradation than later in the race, when the build-up of rubber on the surface has increased, as we saw at Monte-Carlo two weeks ago.

Finally, we have the KERS cars to consider. The Ferraris start sixth and seventh and, with Istanbul’s wide straights to take advantage of, they have an excellent chance of picking off a couple of cars in the first few corners.

A dream scenario for Vettel would be Button losing a couple of places and being picked off by the fast-advancing F60s – leaving him to suffer the kind of race Vettel had at Barcelona.

The strategy

The trump card in Button’s hand is that he is fuelled farther than Vettel. So, if the pair end up running line astern, Button should be able to pit later and use his extra laps with less fuel on board to jump ahead.

Button’s advantage is equal to two laps at best, so this is by no means a done deal. If Vettel can eke out even a small lead over Button, it could be enough for him to prevail. But whichever way you carve it up, Vettel drove with less fuel on board today, so he’ll have to stop for more tomorrow.

Soft tyre degradation has been a concern during practice. At Istanbul if a driver finds himself stranded on worn tyres he is not going to be able to keep rivals behind for long, as there is a lot of space for overtaking.

Every Turkish Grand Prix so far has been won from the driver starting on pole position. But it may not be easy for Vettel to extend that run tomorrow.

What do you expect to happen in Sunday’s race?

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48 comments on Off-line start is bad news for Button (Turkish Grand Prix pre-race analysis)

  1. Chaz said on 6th June 2009, 18:20

    Perhaps Button should point his car towards the clean side off the track at the start. This may if successful also head off the Rubens threat…

    • Rich said on 7th June 2009, 4:57

      Thats what Shumi used to do, the odd times he wasnt on pole.

    • mp4-19 said on 7th June 2009, 9:51

      I don’t know how keith has missed this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/motorsport/formula_one/8084475.stm

      LOTUS IS RETURNING TO F1!!!!!

      • Alex Bkk said on 7th June 2009, 10:19

        Well Litespeed bought the right to use the name… I dunno how they can justify calling themselves Lotus. Wasn’t there a split with the F1 side and the Lotus car company?

        I doubt Keith missed it…I believe it’s been pointed out in these blogs that it’s not any sort of guarantee of membership into F1 to “submit an entry”.

        Overall…I’d say Colin Chapman is rolling in his grave.

        • persempre said on 7th June 2009, 10:40

          Along with Sir Jack.
          We (F1 fans) are getting taken for idiots. Do they really think we are so stupid to be conned this way?
          I guess those that are eager to see Bruno Senna in F1 will get their way if only for his surname.
          I`m also starting to see why the Nepotism Series (F2) is going to be the feeder. It`s full of ‘surnames’.
          Boy, this is getting tackier looking by the day :(

          • Macca said on 7th June 2009, 11:49

            Along with Sir Jack.

            Sir Jack Brabham has nothing to do with this team. They just have rights to his name.

          • persempre said on 7th June 2009, 12:38

            The Brabham family are seeking legal advice, Macca. They knew nothing about the use of their name, apparently.

  2. TommyB said on 6th June 2009, 18:49

    Lets hope the Brawns don’t get away 1-2 or it could just be a repeat of the last few races. Would be good to see Vettel challenge the Brawns.

  3. Giuseppe said on 6th June 2009, 18:54

    I think Vettel will easily win this. If he pulls a 5sec lead on Button then the race is his to lose.

    If Barichello gets infront of Button at the start i expect to see a longer pit stop for him so that Button can get out infront. I think its time Barichello accepted this

    Vettel is their main challenger and they wont want Button to lose points to him

  4. MrRossBrawn said on 6th June 2009, 19:09

    I think Jenson will start on the softer tyre to maximise his chances off the grid (dirty side). Vettel I think will avoid this so he doesn’t suffer early on like he did in Monaco – if he also starts on the softer tyre I think Jensen will have the advantage with his superior tyre management skills. If Vettel does start on the softer tyres, with his experience at Monaco may ease off too much if he tries to emulate Jensen’s tyre management giving Jensen the advantage in the early laps.
    I think Jensen will go aggressive and try to get Vettel in the opening lap on his softer tyres. Rubens I think will start on the harder tyres & will be the deciding factor in this if he gets ahead of Jensen at the start this could prove difficult, but the extra grip early on for Jensen just might let him take Rubens early on.. but he’ll have to do it in the first lap.

    The more I write this the more I thinks this race is all going to be decided by TYRES

  5. F1Fan said on 6th June 2009, 19:35

    There is no way Brawn will let Rubens pass Button at the start. We have seen ample evidence to date that Button is the chosen one, in a Brittish team and w/ a Brittish owner, sponsors, etc. So Button will stick behind Vettel and it’s up to the German to build up a sufficient lead before the 1st stops. The disadvantage for Vettel is I think that he did not do any appreciable long running in practice and will have to rely on Webber’s data rather than his own. I believe Webber’s car is set up differently, so I don’t know how much good borrowed data will do.

    Looking at Q3 times, we see that Vettel beat Button by a little over a tenth, which on this track should be the equivalent of one lap’s time penalty, but Vettel is 2 laps lighter, so one can argue that relatively speaking Button did a better job in Q. I think it will come down to who takes better care of the soft tyres. It looks like Brawn and RBR are evenly matched here, so it could come down to the little things.

    Oh, and like I was saying the other day, Kimi DID beat Massa in Q, AND he is 2 laps heavier. The nonsense about how Massa is the master in Turkey has now come to an end.

    • beneboy said on 7th June 2009, 1:19

      We’ve also seen ample evidence over the years that Barrichello isn’t that great a driver.
      He may be good enough to win a few races a season but he’s never been World Champion material.

      Schumacher may have been given a few races due to team orders but for the most part he was in a different class than Rubens.

      I hate to say this because I think Rubens is a great bloke but I think some people are going way over the top on the conspiracy theories. Jenson has, for the most part, done a better job with this years car.

      And no, I’m not a Button fan :-)

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 7th June 2009, 9:48

      We have seen ample evidence to date that Button is the chosen one

      So there was the Spanish Grand Prix strategy thing, where people differ pretty strongly on interpretations (personally I just think Barrichello’s strategist messed up).

      That aside, where is the rest of this ‘ample evidence’?

      • Bookgrub said on 7th June 2009, 11:12

        That aside, where is the rest of this ‘ample evidence’?

        Button is winning. Isn’t it obvious?

      • Nirupam said on 7th June 2009, 11:25

        At least one, apart from this race, in all other races, Rubens is fuelled heavier than Button! :)

        • Macca said on 7th June 2009, 11:53

          At least one, apart from this race, in all other races, Rubens is fuelled heavier than Button!

          You can say the same thing about Vettel and Webber but noone is bitching about that are they.

          (And Webber is STILL only 4 points behind)

  6. TommyB said on 6th June 2009, 19:44

    Red Bull seem to always mess up the strategy and Button always gets it right. I can’t see anyone other then Jenson winning I’m afraid to say.

  7. Rahim said on 6th June 2009, 20:01

    vettel or kimi for the win

  8. Rubens might pass Jenson on the start but will fade in the closing stages(RACE PACE)..Button to finish at least second..

  9. Daks said on 6th June 2009, 20:42

    Strange how everyone seems to have forgotten Webber sitting pretty in 4th place! I reckon he will fall behind a car or two as he is on the dirty side, but he looks good for a podium maybe… Or if he is lucky, a win as well??

    • Boston F1 Fan said on 7th June 2009, 0:40

      - I know! Webber is fueled heavier than all 3 drivers in front of him. He qualified .3 seconds slower than Vettel with 7kg more fuel. I hope he gets at least a podium finish. He deserves it.

      • Damo said on 7th June 2009, 2:19

        Totally agree – the BBC commentators are the worst offenders – when webber was setting purple sector times and put it on pole they could barely pause babbling about button long enough to notice during qualifying….I hope he sticks it to them and gets a win

  10. pSynrg said on 6th June 2009, 20:53

    Assuming it doesn’t rain at all now is the time for Vettel to show just how good he is (no doubt about his ability in the wet.)

    I think Brawn will win this…

  11. harisim said on 6th June 2009, 20:56

    In the past I saw very few mistakes in Ross Brawns strategy and I think is very difficult to beat him. I think Button will win tomorrow any way. I wish I am wrong.

  12. Alastair said on 6th June 2009, 21:10

    Massa vs Kimi off the start will be interesting, Massa’s on the clean side of the track, but has Trulli ahead of him, who’s not always that quick off the line. Should be an interesting race. Hopefully the KERS will allow the F60′s to get past Webbo and Trulli and give the Brawns something to think about. Button will pass Vettel in the pits for the win (yawn).

  13. StrFerrari4Ever said on 6th June 2009, 21:17

    I’m confident that Vettel will win this race if he can exit that first turn ahead he could streak away through turn 8. Webber if he can hassle Rubens which would make Rubens run into Button come on we’d love to see that then a Red Bull 1-2 with the big guns fighting for the points however realisticly I hope Red Bull’s strategy is spot on. And If a safety car does come out in the right window for Bourdais he could just be in with a shout.

  14. BIgbadderboom said on 6th June 2009, 21:42

    I think that we will se the RB suffer graining on the option tyre, with all the changes that Adrian Newey has made to the rear end of the car they do not have a real understanding on how bad this problem may be, and I suspect it is going to be severe. On the other hand the Brawn is known to be good on tyres and Jenson has demonstrated that his driving style is excellent at preserving tyres.

    Vettel can take the win but he needs either the F60′s or Webber to get invovled, I think if they get away in the grid order then Vettel will not pull out a big enough gap. Also I wouldn’t be suprised if there is an incident on the first lap, if we get a safety car (As GP2) then Vettel is in trouble.

  15. Paul said on 6th June 2009, 22:45

    As posted in the race weights entry, I don’t believe Alonso is that light.

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