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?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

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

  1. Gman said on 13th March 2010, 22:14

    I cant wait anymore…. :) im 33 and ifeel again like when i was a kid and watch senna mansell prost racing. Does anyone is feeling the saime? Its going to be a great yr.

    • Dr. Gonzo said on 13th March 2010, 22:57

      Yeah I get the same feeling except that in my case it’s Clark, Brabham, Hulme, Gurney, Hill, Stewart, Amon, Surtees… :-(

      • BasCB said on 13th March 2010, 23:11

        I liked the pictures of vantage cars with these drivers on track.
        But this got me puzzled, reading about all WDC being there: Alonso, Brabham, Schumacher, … Alen Jones, Mansell, HRH Prince Salman bin Hamad al Khalifa – that got me wondering, when he won a F1 world championship, before it continues with Bernie and I realized they are in the picture as hosts for the event :-)

    • chris said on 13th March 2010, 23:09

      it is exciting isn’t it?
      my wife&kids are laughing me out.
      i can’t wait.

  2. Jake said on 13th March 2010, 22:27

    alonso win hopefully!! :D :-)

  3. soulmonkey said on 13th March 2010, 22:37

    The first lap is the most important. If no one over takes Vettel before sector 2, he goes on a two stop and wins the race (esp if they can feed him back into open air)…. The first couple of laps will be the most important to determine the order on the podium (Vettel, Ferrari, Ferrari).
    If no over takes at the front, then the fun race will be between the McLarens and Mercedes for 4th etc…

  4. Ronman said on 13th March 2010, 23:07

    Well my bet was on Hami, for once, but not surprised by Vettel, he’s i think the most adaptable and efficient qualifier on the grid.

    not sure if this is smart, but the guys starting on soft could dive in the pits as soon as they can, take on fresh mediums, race them out, and then pit again for soft when they are lighter? does it make sense?

  5. Stefan said on 13th March 2010, 23:30

    I am so happy, Alonso finally has a car that can fight for podiums again! I’ll be even more satisfied if Fernando is finishing on the podium. For me as a fan, he doesn’t have to win straight away, i’m already happy that he’s back in front and hopefully he’ll reach podium spot! Normally he’ll the way it looks right now, but i’m cautious, it’s still 49 (very long) laps!

    I saw McLaren struggling, Hamilton said he was overwhelmed with 4th, and admitting MP4-25 lost 1 second in the second sector due to a lack of downforce. So I predict Rosberg and Webber will be right on his rearwing at the start.

    Adrian Sutil can become the big surprise but he has got Barrichello behind him, and Rubens likes to overtake people by touching their cars while he’s add it (I’ve seen it several time last year).

    Race prediction:
    1 Alonso (I think he’ll overtake Massa at the start and Vettel during the race)
    2 Massa (Will also overtake Vettel during race)
    3 Sutil (Mediums at the start will give him 15 points?)
    4 Vettel (Race pace wasn’t strong enough, work to do)
    5 Rosberg (Ends close behind Vettel, within 3 seconds)
    6 Webber (Kept Schumacher behind him because MSC still ”needs some time”)
    7 Schumacher (Nothing spectacular…. yet)
    8 Kubica (I think Renault has a car to aim for points, and Kubica should do that)
    9 Liuzzi (If he starts on mediums, he should be in the points)
    10 Button (Lack of downforce but still in the points)

    I think Hamilton will ruin his tyres as he has done in the past, and that’ll cost him a top 10 finish.

    • chris said on 13th March 2010, 23:39

      6 Webber (Kept Schumacher behind him because MSC still ”needs some time”)
      7 Schumacher (Nothing spectacular…. yet)

      schumacher does not have much time left…he’d better step on that gas pedal.

  6. Merk said on 13th March 2010, 23:50

    I thought it was interesting that both Schumacher and Rosberg only went out for one flying lap in Q3. That means they have the least wear on their tires for the start of tomorrows race (I know its very marginal, but i could make the difference when the pits start).

    Do you know of anyone else who only did one flyer in Q3?

    • Merk said on 14th March 2010, 0:02


      “Ferrari and McLaren both sent their drivers out for early laps followed by a tyre change and a final run. The other simply bided their time until the last possible moment.”

      I didn’t think that was allowed, I thought you were only allowed to use one set of tires in Q3 that will carry over to the race. What’s to stop someone from doing a flyer on super-soft’s and then coming into the pits for mediums just to have them for the start?

  7. Still dont get why people saying Ferrari are going to be all over him…. they still have to compensate for the high fuel consumption with the Ferrari engine, while the Renault engine is 1 of the best for fuel management or so I hear. Ferrari have to tune the engine power down abit or carry more fuel, either way its not sunshine and rainbows for Ferrari on raceday like on Q1-3 but I reckon they will still have enough to keep on the podium, since the rest just look “respectfully” slower and wont keep up with the Red bull + Ferrari for this race atleast.

    1st Vettel
    2nd Alonso
    3rd Massa
    4th Rosberg
    5th Webber

    Kudos for Rosberg getting 5th on the grid with a car that Mercedes say isn’t 100% happy with. Roll on Australia and Malaysia for them.

  8. ciao said on 14th March 2010, 0:09

    I was surprised more werent conservative on their tyres with the top 10 in Q3. Maybe Alonso and Button were, maybe even Schu. But Webber and Kubica were hard on it except for the same mistakes at turn 16. An extra couple of laps b4 the pit doesn~t make the same benefit as last year because you come out faster than you go in.
    I hope RBR did finally solve their start mapping late last year. If Schu is going to look bad he will bang wheels even more than normal. Plenty of 2 stops is my bet, I just wish I knew who had what left in terms of fresh tyres.

  9. Matthew said on 14th March 2010, 0:24

    Does anyone know why there was a Force India parked in the spot reserved for the 3rd placed? Alonsos ferrari should be there.

    I think Massa wins and Schumacher goes to the podium. Cant wait.

  10. sato113 said on 14th March 2010, 0:26

    i’ve put money on sutil to win. only driver in top 10 with harder tyres on. could be a big surprise how fast the softs wear out at the beggining…

    but otherwise i think vettel will keep his lead for a bit, and i hope MAS and ALO have a big scrap behind him. hoping for MAS for the win.

  11. Ferrari will take the double, with Vettel in third.

  12. Florida Mike said on 14th March 2010, 0:54

    Do the rules require the exact tires used to set the fast lap, or just the same spec tire? What if the fast lap is from Q2 (for example if Q3 is hampered by rain); will the teams be able to identify the exact tires used for the fast Q2 lap. Or what if qualifying is wet; can the teams chose any tire for the dry race?

    • VXR said on 14th March 2010, 1:08

      Drivers must use the exact same tyres to start the race that they set their fastest lap on in Q3. Teams can choose any slick tyre for a dry race if qually was wet and they could only use wet tyres during that session. They do not need to use both compounds of slick tyre if a rain tyre is used during a race.

    • Dr. Gonzo said on 14th March 2010, 1:09

      From 2010 Sporting Regs$FILE/1-2010%20SPORTING%20REGULATIONS%2010-02-2010.pdf

      25.4 Use of tyres :
      d) At the start of the race each car which took part in Q3 must be fitted with the tyres with which the driver set his grid time. This will only be necessary if dry-weather tyres were used to set the grid time and if dry-weather are used at the start of the race.
      Any such tyres damaged during Q3 will be inspected by the FIA technical delegate who will decide, at his absolute discretion, whether any may be replaced and, if so, which tyres they should be replaced with

  13. VXR said on 14th March 2010, 1:15

    Tomorrows finishing order will be the most unexpected result we have seen for some time. The cars could be all of 8 seconds per lap slower at the beginning of the race, and that is as far away from qualifying as the cars will have been all weekend.

  14. wasiF1 said on 14th March 2010, 1:51

    Alonso VS Hamilton @ row 2 of the grid, expect some fireworks.

  15. F1Fan said on 14th March 2010, 3:17

    Guys, many great posts on this thread, some of the best work I have seen ever on this site.

    I tend to agree w/ some of you who think we will see more than 1 pitstops in many cases. I also think Alonso will at least attempt a strong move on Massa off the line. And there is a question as to whether the RB6 may be lighter than the Ferrari, by anywhere from 5 to 10 kilos, due to their better fuel consumptions. But even so I would still give the edge to Ferrari’s front wing which seems to be working great.

    I think the Scuderia’s strategists will give the tactical edge to driver who is in front after the first 10 laps or so. So I expect to see some pretty good racing between Massa and Alonso. Theoretically Alonso may have the clean-side advantage and of course he is a tremendous starter, historically.

    Looking at practice times, and even Q1-Q2, Alonso has been consistently quicker than Massa by around 2 tenths. So I am surprised that he was slower in Q3 by almost 4 tenths. In fact, Alonso’s Q3 time was almost equal to his Q1 time, clearly not normal. Vettel and Massa went almost a full second quicker in Q3 than in Q1, so you would expect Alonso to follow the same progression which would have brought him a Q3 time in the high-1:53’s … and a pole position.

    Unless there is something wrong w/ his car all of a sudden, I would tip Alonso for the win, provided he can get past Massa at the start or within the first 3-4 laps. I also think Rosberg will be on the podium. He has been very fast and consistent all weekend.

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