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

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???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

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

  1. pSynrg said on 13th March 2010, 19:40

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

  2. BasCB said on 13th March 2010, 19:46

    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.

  3. Dan M said on 13th March 2010, 20:02

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

  4. scarface said on 13th March 2010, 20:07

    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.

    • Icthyes said on 14th March 2010, 1:52

      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.

  5. Force Maikel said on 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.

  6. Victor said on 13th March 2010, 20:11

    Apparently the McLaren and Renault diffusers are illegal and they have to change them for the Australian GP…

    Also, apparently has a puncture or something of the sort in one of his tyres and asked the FIA whether he may change it.

  7. Victor said on 13th March 2010, 20:12

    *Kubica has a puncture

  8. McLaren diffuser banned, along with others.

    • statix said on 13th March 2010, 20:31

      thanks for a link! macca and renault.any idea about other teams?

      • statix said on 13th March 2010, 20:33

        anyway this is so stupid :) last year 3 teams could use DD and now they do some rule clarification? during first race weekend?
        what is it all about?

    • But not for this race.

    • BasCB said on 13th March 2010, 22:14

      Why can’t they do these things before the season. With those Fly-away races it is pretty bad to have to bring in something else.

      I understood, that McLaren tested the last days in Barcelona with a smaller diffusor, so they were probably expecting something like this though.
      Might even be a trade off for getting to keep the clever F-duct thing.

      Will Renault use their more extreme W wing in exchange?

    • sato113 said on 14th March 2010, 0:28

      comment seems harsher than it is. they just need to make some small changes.

      • BasCB said on 14th March 2010, 7:50

        Yes, the article says so

        “ESPNF1 understands the FIA’s ruling will prevent teams adding another layer to the diffuser by exploiting the hole where the external engine starter fits. The cars have all passed scrutineering in Bahrain and their participation in this weekend’s grand prix will not be in question. Under the latest clarification the teams are now clear on what will be allowed for the rest of the championship, starting in two weeks time in Melbourne.”

        Maybe Ferrari will now be saved the trouble of bringing their “diffusor with a hole the size of a A3-sheet” idea taken from a former Toyota engineer.

  9. Nikos said on 13th March 2010, 20:43

    Well,i see an end-of-1st-lap Massa-Vettel-Alonso-Hamilton.
    That is if there is not a massive accident in Turn 1.
    Ferrari will be heading to an easy 1-2 since their race pace should be vastly superior.Not due to raw car performance but more due to better tire/fuel management.
    My money is on Alonso for win,i think he is more mature and consistent and,although he will be stalled behind Vettel until mid-Race,he will catch up with Massa until the 2nd pit stops.

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

    I just hope they all remember that they have three times as much fuel onboard than last season at the start of the race. I have a feeling that some may leave their braking far too late.

  11. Does anyone think that drivers will try not to overtake because of the tyre wear situation? The race could end up a disappointment if that’s the case.

  12. Todfod said on 13th March 2010, 21:19

    I think Alonso has an advantage over Massa by starting on the clean side of the track. I expect him to steal that position from him by the first corner.. and then its simply a wait game, as I’m sure Vettel will pit before the Ferraris.

    Alonso for the win.. Massa Second.. Vettel third

  13. Peter said on 13th March 2010, 21:46

    Anyone notice the Ham-But difference in Q1/2/3 was
    pretty steady at 0.4-0.5s. This is the margin that got
    Kov sacked.

    Also, Vet, Ham, Alo, Ros all showed about 0.3-0.4s worse
    in Q3 that Q2. Mas improved 0.1s from Q2 to Q3.

    Is there any reason Q3 should clock differently to Q2,
    other than the drivers staying easy on their tyres
    for race preservation?

    Does this mean MAS has thrashed his tyres in Q3 to leap Alo, when others were backing off a bit?

    Anyone note that BUT stated to press HAM was *over* 1s down, when in fact he is just about 0.9s down.

  14. Snoopy said on 13th March 2010, 22:04

    Alonso and Hamilton will drive each others out of truck, Webber will do same to Rosberg and Massa will win, Vettel second and Schumi 3th. Webber drive like most aussies aka ” I will past you even if it would be my last thing to do” and Hamilton can not look that ALonso is front of him, while Alonso can not let Hamilton past him.

    Well maybe I am just dreaming…At least there would be some actions in that way lol.

    • BasCB said on 13th March 2010, 22:16

      I expect some accidents with Hamilton involved as well.
      Maybe he will do the same type of move on Alonso, like in Australia 2007. Guaranteed to give some fireworks with these fuel heavy cars.

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