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

  2. Florida Mike
    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?

    1. 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.

      1. Florida Mike
        14th March 2010, 3:20

        Thanks for the clarification.

    2. 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

  3. 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.

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

  5. 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.

  6. There are just a few things I would say everyone needs to consider for the race tomorrow:

    – Race pace and qualifying pace can differ vastly
    – We have no idea how much abuse drivers put their tyres through
    – Whatever happens here has only 1/19th bearing on the season ahead. Already I hear talk of what implications guesses about the races will have on the championship, but these cars are so sensitive to tracks and conditions, let alone updates, that we’ll he luck if we have any clarity even by mid-season. Which is what’s going to make this year so exciting!

  7. Im so looking forward to this race, I just hope it lives up to the expectations.

  8. massa all the way.forza massa,,,,,alonso eat massa dust

  9. Massa i think is on a disadvantage as he’s on a dirtier side…more on that is that this year he will be starting the race on full tank and therefore dirtier side will hurt more than before….lets see if he can hold his position after a lap…i doubt

  10. with my limited knowledge on med-soft tyres, is it that Sutil , Rubens and Vitantonio are in a better position for the race than Schumi , Jenson and Kubica ?!!

  11. i had a dream last night that ferarri went 1st n 2nd, webber 3rd and vettel 4th. Ferarris got DQ’d and redbull took the honors…. hahahah. But my dreams dont usually come true, but stranger things have happened. I reckon Kubica will be the dark horse or Bee for that matter. should be a corker cant wait for the race to start!!!!!!

  12. It’ll be interesting to see whether or how some of the longrun impressions from testing can be recognised in the race we’re going to see. There are potentially significantly different conditions, the higher temperatures, for example. Maybe even more importantly, the teams have admitted they haven’t really had the time or made the effort to drive closely together with other cars over the course of a long run, so in a racing situation, with fights for positions going on, I’m seeing the risk for some drivers to use up their tires more severely than in a clean, simulated run.

    From what I’ve seen, I hardly expect the new section of the track to prompt a lot of (additional) overtaking. The only real potential I’m seeing there is that if a driver out front makes a significant mistake and has to leave the track, the one behind might be able to slip past.

    One thing I’m particularly curious to see is the tire-changing flurry the pit stops will now undoubtedly become… as much as I loathe the “show improvement” philosophy in regards to Grand Prix racing, having abandoned the refuelling seems both a sensible decision and something that factors into that.

  13. I notice that the tines for Q3 were generally slower than for Q2. Some as much as a second.
    So I assume, at least some of the top 10 had to adjust the ride height for the start with full tanks. So who got it right.
    And if this has to continue for the rest of the season doesn’t it mean this parc ferme and must use same tyres rule a bit pointless.

    Did anybody else watch the GP2 race and notice the complete difference between this one (using the extra length track) and the previous, two weeks ago, that used the old track.

  14. If I was a team owner I would have a hare and a tortoise with 1 set up bias toward qualifying / track position / and driver instructed to go hard in Q3. and then I would have 1 set up bias toward long runs / less tyre degradation / and tell the drivers to go a bit easy in S2 especially during qualifying. So maybe all the gaps between drivers in the top 4 teams are strategy rather than driver performance. Time will tell.

  15. I’m looking forward to some late on mad dashes. Low fuel new super softs ‘v’ nursing old mediums to the end. aka Senna in the 80s/90s. Can’t wait!!

  16. I think the other dark horse here is Sutil qualified on the medium in 10th and will start the race on the medium. He’s the real bet for a single stopper just will remain to see how long he can make his mediums last before going onto the softs. I think the softs are the real problem because of their short life span. I’m not a bit Schui fan but I wouldn’t right him off either. I suspect his quali performance was compromised making sure the car was good for the race I’m sure Schui and Brawn will come up with a good race strategy. Hmm 3 hrs to go. Better find some thing to do to make the time pass a bit quicker!!

  17. drivers outside the top ten can change tyres if they like.

  18. sorry, this was an answer to a post on page1

  19. We have a new update…. it seems Massa will get a new engine for the race… which means he will drop 10 places down the grid. So now, it is VETTEL, ALONSO, HAMILTON, ROSBERG, WEBBER, SCHUMACHER, BUTTON, KUBICA, SUTIL, BARRICHELLO, MASSA, LIUZZI….. I guess thats the right order…. but maybe i am wrong….

    1. yes he is having an engine change but no penalty not with the current engine rules, but now he is 1 engine less for the rest of the season

  20. how many miles per gallen do the cars do
    and is it true that fallepa massas getting a new engine so he will have to drop out???????????????

    1. Massa won’t drop out-there is no penalty. Massa and Alonso are both changing engines as a precaution

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