Vettel faces Ferrari threat in season opener (Bahrain GP pre-race analysis)

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Ferrari's race pace could halt Vettel's charge
Ferrari's race pace could halt Vettel's charge

Can Sebastian Vettel start 2010 the way he ended 2009 – with a win?

He’ll have to keep the fastest Ferraris of Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso behind him for 49 laps of the punishing Bahrain circuit. And the F10s are expected to have an advantage over Vettel’s car on race pace.

The start


The pole sitter starts on the left hand side of the track. The first corner is a right-hander.

Row 1 Sebastian Vettel
Felipe Massa
Row 2 Fernando Alonso
Lewis Hamilton
Row 3 Nico Rosberg
Mark Webber
Row 4 Michael Schumacher
Jenson Button
Row 5 Robert Kubica
Adrian Sutil
Row 6 Rubens Barrichello
Vitantonio Liuzzi
Row 7 Nico H?â??lkenberg
Pedro de la Rosa
Row 8 Sebastien Buemi
Kamui Kobyashi
Row 9 Vitaly Petrov
Jaime Alguersuari
Row 10 Timo Glock
Jarno Trulli
Row 11 Heikki Kovalainen
Lucas di Grassi
Row 12 Bruno Senna
Karun Chandhok

Lap one

The drivers will all have to remember to brake a lot earlier for the first corner than they used to do on lap one at Bahrain as each will have a full load of fuel on board.

Those on the left-hand side should benefit from starting on the cleaner side of the track but last year Timo Glock went into the lead from second on the grid. Positioning the car around the opening set of tight bends is crucial. But once they get to the narrow new section expect it to become a case of follow-my-leader.

Both the Ferrari drivers will fancy their chances of beating Vettel on race pace as the RB6 has been hard on its tyres in practice. Can either of them get past on the first lap?

They will also have to keep an eye on Lewis Hamilton, who is fourth on the grid. He’s known for his attacking starts and the MP4/25 was the fastest car through the speed traps in practice. If the lead trio get into a tangle and slow themselves down in the first three bends he could give them some trouble on the run to turn four.

The race


The top ten qualifiers have to start the race on the same tyres they used to set their quickest time. Here are the tyres they used:

Sebastian Vettel – Super soft
Felipe Massa – Super soft
Fernando Alonso – Super soft
Lewis Hamilton – Super soft
Nico Rosberg – Super soft
Mark Webber – Super soft
Michael Schumacher – Super soft
Jenson Button – Super soft
Robert Kubica – Super soft
Adrian Sutil – Medium

Almost all the top ten opted to use the super soft tyres, which are quicker over a single lap. But how long will they be able to make them last at the start of the race with a full fuel load onboard in the Bahrain heat? They will have to take extra care not to lock up and damage their tyres on the opening lap.


The Ferrari drivers are expected to have better race pace than Vettel’s at Bahrain and this present an interesting challenge for Alonso and Massa’s race crews if the pair find themselves stuck behind the RB6.

In this scenario whichever of the two Ferraris pits first stands the best chance of ending up ahead of both Vettel and the other Ferrari. No doubt both Ferrari driver would fancy that advantage, so how will the team make the call?

Red Bull aren’t the only team with tyre wear concerns – McLaren were struggling with tyre wear yesterday too.

On the other side of the coin, what about the Saubers? Much has been made of how the C29s are kind to their tyres over long runs, so how late can they leave their tyre changes?

Everyone from Rubens Barrichello in 11th and back can start the race on whatever tyres they choose, which means they can use a fresh set, if they have any left. Expect them to start on mediums which should cope with the heavy fuel load better in the early laps.

It seems two things will dictate when drivers will make their first pit stops. For the top nine it will be question of how long the super softs hold up. Ideally they’ll survive long enough so they can complete their remaining distance on medium tyres and do the race with a single tyre stop. At the very least they’ll want to get out of the pits ahead of the drivers who started on mediums.

But reacting to other teams’ strategy decisions will also be important. An early pit stop could help a driver who’s stuck in traffic to gain a few places in the short-term – but that means spending longer on the next set of tyres and potentially wearing them out too soon.

New teams

Lotus and Virgin will probably be in a race of their own at the back. Much has been said about the difference in speed between them and the leaders but even at five seconds per lap off the pace they’re only likely to get lapped two, maybe three times over the race distance.

The leaders are likely to come across the HRT F1 cars a bit more often – assuming they last the race distance.

How do you think the Bahrain Grand Prix will pan out? Who do you think will win? Have your say in the comments.

2010 Bahrain Grand Prix

138 comments on “Vettel faces Ferrari threat in season opener (Bahrain GP pre-race analysis)”

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  1. Vettel’s pole was a surprise. I was betting on Alonso. I still expect him or Massa to grab the lead from Seb as I think the Ferrari’s will be quicker…

    1. We r all guessing what will happen but my prediction is as follow: ALO MAS VET with alonso passing massa on tge track and vettel losing positions because of tires prob. That will create a great situation within Ferrari in order to pivk the 1rt driver. P.S. Thanks everyone for the comments this web page is great.

    2. im predicting

      high # of dnf:
      -Hrt and Vrigin wheels are going to explode
      -heikki is going to burn his ass on the lotus
      -bruno senna smashes the 2 ferraris
      -shumacher is going to crash into Rosberg

      Boring race:big gaps

      checkered flag: Mas Alo Vet Ham Ros Web

      1. Nick Someone
        14th March 2010, 3:11

        If Red Bull and Ferrari have a performance advantage over Mclaren and Mercedes I think it might be reasonable to expect Mark Webber to finish a little higher than that. I think he got that position through making a mistake on his quali run. Hamilton is great driver, but might go backwards after the first few laps because of tyre and downforce/suspension problems.

      2. will shuey crash into Rosberg after the checkered flag? or will he limp home in 5th after the crash? i do agree on a few points u made.

  2. Massa will win

  3. Keith the first paragraph of ‘strategy’ doesn’t make sense

    ”The Ferrari drivers are expected to have better race pace than Vettel’s Bahrain and this present an interesting challenge for Alonso and Massa’s race crews if the pair find themselves stuck behind the RB6.”

    I hope its a good race and Vettel doesn’t just disappear into the distance.

    1. If both get stuck behind Vettel,then things get tricky.They will have to rely on their better tyre management to buy them a few laps more on-track than Vettel.But a correctly timed pit from Vettel could MAYBE keep him on top.
      I would like to see the Ferraris try and overtake Vettel on-track,than wait for the pits.

    2. Missing ‘at’ – fixed it, thanks JProc.

  4. I think Alonso or Massa will take the win. Massa only if he doesn’t get into trouble during the race, he doesn’t handle that particularly well. But he’s starting on the front row, which should be good! the RBR showed great speed, the Ferrari showed great consistency throughout the testing and qualifying. let’s see what it brings! McClaren was struggling a bit. Rosberg might do well too, he seems quick!

  5. I see it as a Ferrari win…..however I am disappointed Mclaren have not got over the downforce issues from last year!

    1. McLarens BIG mistake was that it didn’t scrap its 2009 project from mid-season and focus on its 2010 car.Ferrari did that,it lost one place in the championship but it now has by far the best race pace.Aero problems can be solved relatively fast.But problems with tyre wear are almost impossible to solve before mid season,due to the testing ban.

      1. I will rather wait for the end of the race or better after next race to make up my mind on the McLaren.

        Racing will show a little bit different picture of the cars and the characteristics of other tracks as well.

        But the differences between the firs and 10th qualifier are really huge, compared to last year.

      2. Younger Hamilton
        13th March 2010, 23:12

        Not really Redbull is a big threat this weekend and this season.Dont Rule out Mclaren and Mercedes because they havent been very quick here in bahrain im a big Mclaren and Mercedes fan and i’ll tell u something they are not teams u can easily rule out in championshpis and race weekends.Ferrari not really in a comfort zone this season

  6. Webber says that ‘all’ of the teams are worried about tyre wear for tomorrows race.

  7. I doubt how Vettel can do just 1 stop tomorrow. The RedBull is not as soft on its tyres. Plus, the higher temperatures at Baharain are no match to the cool conditions of Barcelona.

    I think he will have 5-6 laps on the supersofts at first, followed by -30-35 laps on medium, and a final dash with the supersofts for remaining 10-12 laps.

    The same strategy could be used by others who are starting on super-softs.

    I reckon only Ferrari and Sauber will do a 1 stopper. Unlike Vettel’s 5-6 laps, Alonso and Massa can probably go till lap 11-12 before the supersofts become useless. And then run remaining 35-40 laps on mediums.

    It won’t even be necessary for them to overtake Vettel off the starting line if the above situation holds true.

    1. Great post Sumedh.

      Long run stints on Free Practice 2 (same hour of the day race) were made of consistent 8-9 laps, then Tyres went to degrade. Hopefully Ferrari’s will run some laps more then others, but i think will be hard to divide tha race in only two stints. This way Sutil could be very dangerous for podium… IMHO top drivers will do
      S.SOFT-MEDIUM-S.SOFT stints…

      1. Has anyone done more than 20 laps in a row on the Mediums yet? I know Massa had a decent stint on Friday but don’t recall how long it was.

        If the Mediums can’t make it 40 laps, nobody will make it on one stop. If they start degrading before 30 laps I think 3 stops might be the way to go.

        1. Indeed, I don’t think it matters when the stops are made as long as your competition is planning on stopping the same number of times.

          Unlike last year, one car would not be fueled lighter than another to take advantage of an early stop. I see all the top qualifiers this year running on the softer compound and making earlier stops. Negating the ‘strategy’ of starting on the same tire.

          1. I haven’t seen it anywhere, but does anyone know how much time will be lost to simply driving down pit lane?
            Is it about 20 seconds plus the time actually stopped?

            That might be just enough time for a leader pitting on lap 10 to come out in the battle between Hulkenberg and De La Rosa for 14th place.

    2. No way the medium will last for 40 laps,even on an F10.A S-M-S combination with fast 10lap stints on the S and long endurance run on the M is more realistic.At least for the Bahrain inferno.

  8. I don’t necessarily see the race as a one-pit-stop phase ordeal. Once the field stretches by the end of the race and the cars become faster, I can totally see a driver in P6-P8 opt for a second tyre pit-stop to demonstrate even higher speed by the end of the race and catch up on rivals. Pit-stops will be much shorter this year – about 5 seconds shorter – so the lost distance may be gained back given a set of new tyres – especially if the driver is a decent overtaker. I can see Schu trying out the strategy if he finds himself at the bottom end of the top 10.

    1. “Bottom of Top 10” Which Schu will!

    2. Can you imagine a repeat of 1998 Hungaroring?
      A Shuey doing 3 stops going S-S-S-M on 10 laps S stints and a longer M stint at the finish?

      1. al them stints were done on one type of tyre. as were the rules at the time. plus fuel played a bigger part.

    3. i certainly hope so! Schumacher magic pit-strategy, anybody?

      Maybe someone else will try as well? I think Vettel might do an early stop if he gets cought out in the first corners.

    4. One pit-stop is very much likely for someone like Sutil.

      If the supersofts are expected to last for 8 laps on heavy fuel (at the start of the race), then they would be expected to last close to 12-16 laps on low fuel (at the end of the race).

      Now, going 33-37 laps on mediums isn’t entirely impossible.

      1. but the harder tyre, which I thought was softs, were wearing badly as well, It isn’t just the option tyre that is degrading, which I thought was Super softs.

        can someone correct me on what tyres are available?

        1. ok worked it out, Super soft and Med, But regardless, the Meds are degrading quickly as well, and I think 37 laps on them will have the driver most likely hurting by the end.

  9. Lets not forget the factor of fuel efficiency. The Ferrari is a known gas-guzzler. Spa last year graphically revealed this detail, specifically, vis a vis the Mercedes engine. That means more weight.

    Also Ferrari and Vettel need to make sure they dont burn their tires racing each other. Hamilton will be waiting.

    1. But he will ‘burn’ his tyres as much if not more

    2. The last time Ferrari was a “gas guzzler” was 1987. Things have changed since then. Spa is a very different track from the one we have tomorrow and if you look at the times today Ferrari have 1 sec on Mclaren. Over 49 laps that is a lot of fuel. I am not getting carried away here, Mclaren showed some very serious issues today. Ferrari are not way out there but the colsure of the F60 very early on has shown to be worth while.

      1. You can hardly say any F1 engine is fuel efficient from an mpg point of view! Surely they must be about 4 mpg.

        Saying Ferrari the worst could be 3.5mpg and Renault at 4.5mpg, both are still hellish!!

        Do you think if for the new engines (if this no-fueling malarky stays) we could see teams severely sacraficing performance for efficiecy, like a 20mpg engine so they are much lighter for the whole race?

        1. The engines themselves are actually incredibly efficient, but because they run at 18,000rpm in such aerodynamic cars they use a lot of fuel.

          Were an F1 engine installed in a normal car and driven up a motorway at 70mph the fuel consumption would be much lower then any car on the road today.

          1. UNaerodynamic cars, apologies.

      2. Remember when Ralf beat Michael in Canada? That was put down many to the disparity in fuel efficiency. Whether or not it’s true I don’t know, but Ferrari is generally believed to be less efficient than Mercedes and Renault.

      3. From Domenicali’s mouth:
        “I believe this year consumption will be fundamental. We are working very hard with [fuel supplier] Shell on this. We have relative expectations but we are going in the right direction.”

        Let me paraphrase: the Ferrari guzzles the gasoline.

        Let’s do the math: A 5 percent differnce in consumption means an additional approximately 15 pounds at the start more or less, relative to other cars. And that weight is carried way up high. Further, the cars just ahead and behind are well known for good efficiency.

        Tomorrow, I look for Vettel to make like Houdini and for Hamilton, Rosberg, and Webber to be straight up Alonso’s diffuser in the first stint. If Alonso can’t keep that lot behind at the first stops the long run second-stint consistency will be academic.

    3. DMW

      Yes, that means that the Renault powered Red Bull should be carrying less weight and be slightly lighter than the Ferrari’s. Over the course of the race the fuel burned by the Ferrari will bring it closer to the weight of the Red Bull.

      1. And thus the Ferrari, should be faster pound for pound, never mind the tire advantage.

        1. Well we simply don’t know that yet, it may be slower at the start of the race but quicker at the end as it is nears the weight of the RB and has better tyres.

          I don’t know where you get the idea that we know for sure who’s quickest on heavy fuel loads

          1. They both qualified on race fuel. Assuming the Renault is more conservative on fuel we can also assume the Ferrari is slightly heavier but still within a few tenths on a hot lap.

            I’m just guessing that the Ferrari will be able to stay close at the beginning and be faster at the end.

          2. @DanM, sry won’t let me hit reply for your comment.

            I believe you’re mistaken, the whole qualifying this year is low fuel, so they don’t have the race fuel on board.

  10. I think the Sauber’s will at least get into the points because they will be able to leave their pit stop nearer to the end than the other teams so hen they get their super-soft’s they wont have as much time to get worn enough for it to be noticeable on the time sheets


    1. I find the battle at mid-field more exciting, than at the top which will most probably be Ferrari 1-2 and then Lewis. But find it very difficult to predict the mid-field topper. There’s very little that separates Renault, Force India, Williams and Sauber. Watch out Adrian and Rubens, 10 & 11 can spring a surprise if the super-softs wear out in 5/6 laps.

  11. Totally agree with sumedh —^^^^

  12. theRoswellite
    13th March 2010, 19:06

    The Ferrari’s should still have the edge.

    Hope we get to see a final 10 laps with cars changing position around the issues of fuel and tire management.

    I’m obviously not the only one who hopes for this scenario.

    If we get someone motoring off into the distance after the mid-point, no thanks Mr. Vettel, and big gaps between the remaining top 10….then it may be a very long season for F1 promotion.

    But for me, I think it is going to be exciting…let’s hear it for the old fashioned… “breaking down on the last lap”.

  13. Massa will be first in for a new front wing after wiping out Vettel at the first corner. ;)

    1. 10 pound bet? massa is much too experienced to be doing things like that. but heavy fuel should make for an interesting turn 1

  14. I see this as a double Ferrari podium with Hamilton in there too, though in what order I can’t say.

    I think the ferraris will both try a one-stop, whereas Hamilton and Vettel will be nearly forced to go for two stops, which I think both of them will do. Ferrari and McLaren should have the edge over Red Bull in race pace, so that’s why I see Vettel falling out of the podium positions. In fact, if Hamilton has a mega first lap and somehow gets 1st place, I see him doing an aggressive two-stop strategy, making the most of clean air and pipping a surprise over the Ferraris. Otherwise, it’ll be a Ferrari victory, I think.

    1. One thing is for sure, McLaren’s race pace is not 1 sec/lap quicker than Red Bull’s and that’s the differential that they have to bridge to RB on raw pace.

      1. That’s assuming both Red Bull and McLaren were running at maximum, or the same percentage of their potential, during qualifying. McLaren, for instandce, may have been saving their tyres, knowing they had a one-lap disadvantage.

  15. After all that, my money is on Alonso for a convincing win.

  16. If a Ferrari can get in front of Vettel, he will probably pit for new tyres early (Ferrari being a little slower with the extra 10-15 kg of fuel compared to the Renault engine) and make 2 stops to get ahead of them.

    Next to that, i expect some colisions in the lower part of top-10 or in the mid-field

    After that it will probably be up to tyre management and maybe a short sprint on super softs in the last few laps to get back places for some drivers.

  17. Its possible that the front runners might run into traffic before the end of the first lap. HRT is the first lap wildcard :l

    1. They can’t run into back markers on the first lap. Not physically possible ;)

  18. if ferrari needs just one stop, and the others two as some people imply, the world championship is decided already. So i doubt the difference in tyre wear is that big. And don’t forget, the car that is deciding on strategy, is the one on pole.

    1. It’s not that Ferrari may have such superior tyre wear, it’s that they could afford to gamble on nursing theirs through two stints, whereas it would be suicide for the others. That’s the theory.

  19. Force Maikel
    13th March 2010, 20:10

    i am not the biggest lewis fan but i think we need to watch out from him ass well on fourth.

    1. Who is going for Lewis ass? Do you think Schumacher will try, or maybe Webber. Or maybe Sutil will make a fast start and go for it!

      1. Doubt it’ll be one of the Virgins.

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