Who will win the battle of the Bulls? (Spanish Grand Prix pre-race analysis)

Vettel needs to repeat the turn one pass on Webber he performed in Sepang

Vettel needs to repeat the turn one pass on Webber he performed in Sepang

Red Bull will naturally be thrilled at locking out the front row for the Spanish Grand Prix.

But they will also be concerned at how hard their drivers will push each other as the run to the first corner at Barcelona could decide who wins the race.

Start

Often in Spain the drivers on the pole sitter’s side of the grid enjoy the benefit of starting from the clean side of the track.

But Sebastian Vettel, who starts from second on the grid for the second year in a row in Barcelona, can take heart from Sergio Perez’s start from the same place in today’s GP2 race.

Perhaps thanks to rain washing the track clean this morning and levelling out the available grip, Perez easily drew alongside pole sitter Jules Bianchi and (after banging wheels with Dani Clos) got away into the lead.

The Red Bull drivers have swapped position on the opening laps of the last two Grands Prix. Webber will be especially keen not to surrender his lead to Vettel as he did at Sepang, when he couldn’t see Vettel lining up at a pass due to his outboard wing mirrors – devices which are now banned.

Webber may also have to worry about Lewis Hamilton, whose McLaren starts behind him on the favourable side of the grid. Hamilton’s F-duct may help him make a move on either or both of the Red Bulls as they reach the first corner.

But if he can’t do it then, he’s not likely to get another chance over the remaining 65 and three-quarter laps.

The narrow first corner with its tarmac and speed bumps by the inside kerb tends to invite first-corner crashes – again, see today’s GP2 race for an example and last year’s F1 race for examples.

If Adrian Sutil makes it as far as lap two it will be an improvement on his last two efforts at this circuit.

Strategy

Once again, all the drivers who qualified in the top ten used the soft tyres so that’s what they’ll be starting on.

The decision on when to pit and switch to the hard tyres will be determined by two things: whether they can make it to the end of the race on the next set of tyres they change to (not likely to be a problem) and what kind of traffic they’re going to come out in.

In dry races this year we’ve seen a domino effect to pit stop strategy. It begins with the drivers towards the back of the field who pit first in an effort to jump ahead of cars in front of them (enjoying quicker lap times on their new tyres).

The drivers they are racing for position then have to pit to ‘cover’ what their rivals are doing. That also frees up track position for drivers further ahead to drop into when they pit.

But this can present a dilemma to teams whose drivers are running closely together. It may be necessary to give their trailling driver his pit stop first in order to protect him from a rival who has pitted. But that could allow him to jump ahead of his team mate – something the leading driver would rightly feel aggrieved about.

Last year team tactics was a bone of contention as Jenson Button passed team mate Rubens Barrichello by using a different strategy. Even without refuelling, strategy could still be a problem at this race and others this year.

Outside the top ten drivers like Sutil and Pedro de la Rosa may stand to benefit from starting the race on hard tyres and running a longer first stint. If degradation is a problem on the soft tyres they could pick up quite a few places.

Rain again?

There is still a chance of rain during the race, McLaren and Red Bull being among the teams to have raised it as a possibility.

There has been intermittent rain in the area over the past few days. A shower was heading towards the GP2 race this afternoon but the clouds faded before it reached the track.

But rain doesn’t have to fall to play a role in the race. If the teams think rain is coming they’re more likely to postpone a pit stop. Those drivers contemplating starting on the hard tyres will be eager to see forecasts for rain in the second half of the race.

Not for the first time this year, Red Bull are staring at an open goal. For Webber, this is a race he simply has to win – not just to keep his team mate in check, but because after the last nine consecutive Spanish Grands Prix were won by the pole sitter it will reflect badly on him if he fails to convert pole to victory.

What’s your reading of the Spanish Grand Prix heading into the race? Who do you think will win? Post your thoughts below and join us for live comments during the Grand Prix starting from one hour before the race tomorrow.

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60 comments on Who will win the battle of the Bulls? (Spanish Grand Prix pre-race analysis)

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  1. Hamilton and Alonso both making noises about good starts in their Saturday post-qualifying quotes too. They know it is their only chance to disrupt the Red Bulls.

  2. kowalsky said on 8th May 2010, 22:23

    webber won’t let this one get away. Vettel second, and third that’s the big question. I think hamilton.

    • Patrickl said on 8th May 2010, 22:59

      Perhaps Webber will be so busy keeping Vettel behind him that Hamilton slips by on the other side …

      • MigueLP said on 8th May 2010, 23:33

        impossible but good for mclaren low chances for title

        • Mike said on 9th May 2010, 4:59

          No it’s not, remember the red bulls might be faster around a lap, but on the straight the Mclaren still is considerable quicker.

      • My thoughts exactly Patrickl, Red Bull’s will be so busy watching eachother at the start they shouldn’t count out Hamilton. I think he could make it to turn one first or second.

    • MigueLP said on 8th May 2010, 23:34

      barcelonas 1st corner is very hard making predictions may be risky im predicting the unknown big crash

      • MigueLP said on 8th May 2010, 23:37

        talking about the weather i live in Portugal and it has rained here all day ussually cold fronts from the atlantic first strike Portugal than the rest of the european region barcelona is very far away from Lisbon but who knows rain again!?

        • Patrickl said on 9th May 2010, 9:37

          Could you add some points and comma’s?It’s virtually impossible to understand your replies.

  3. Scribe said on 8th May 2010, 22:26

    We all knew the Redbulls had superior qualifiying pace, an I suppose this confirms. What this race could really answer, with Alo an Hamy starting just behind the Bulls, is if the race pace of the McLaren an the Fer can actually match the pace of the Redbull. Which would be perfect. Still this circuit is natural Redbull territory an the cars will likley spread out to the dirty air effect like in Bahrain.

    Lets hope for a race that defies tradition an produces a cracker!

  4. Brdude said on 8th May 2010, 22:28

    I had to use my time machine and here is the result. Weber will be out on the first lap. Vetel will win, alonso second followed by button.

    • Just Me said on 9th May 2010, 8:16

      Then Senna from Hamilton?

      I guess you had your time coordinates set to 2013 ;-)

    • schnib said on 10th May 2010, 12:06

      looks like you better put that time machine to sleep. Although you did get second right

  5. Scalextric said on 8th May 2010, 22:31

    One difference from the last 9 Spanish GPs at which the pole sitter won the race is the lack of refueling. Can a differential in pace or tyre wear at heavy loads at the start of the race be big enough to overcome Red Bull’s overwhelming single lap speed? I doubt it but that, and the chance of rain, are maybe the only things that can stop a Red Bull one two.

  6. Vettel. Remember the start of the Malaysian GP

  7. I say vettel because I think he can/will go faster over the race then webber can. He also has the inside line with a not so dirty side because of the rain cleaning the track.

    The first corner will be pritty much the same as malaysia “whoever gets out infront in the first corner will win the race since it’s still a red bull 1-2″ I can see Horner screaming down the mike telling them to not fight each other and behave the whole race.

    And by some chance Webber will get into trouble with something or another damaging his front wing.

    Alonso vs Lewis will be a lot more interesting, I’m sure fireworks will fly for the podium.

    • Henry said on 9th May 2010, 10:03

      yup, the red bulls will most likely get away from the pack and cruise the race, unless something happens on the first corner/safety car/rain.

      So the really interesting battle will be Alonso – Hamilton; however with the two of them having the best stalling rear wings, it could go either way, I reckon it will come down to strategy.

  8. haha said on 8th May 2010, 23:04

    I was hoping both RB to use Inters for Q3 since they were far superior, then have a completely different strategy from all others in case they are tangled up with others during pit stops etc.

  9. James said on 8th May 2010, 23:25

    The BBC forecast suggest that there will be light rain early in the morning, and then light showers for the remainder of the morning and into the early afternoon.

    Those on the “even” side of the grid will probably be doing a rain dance tonight, so that the rain will was away the rubber laid down on the “clean” side, and any dust which may have accumilated in the last few hours on the “dirty” side.

    I wouldnt mind seeing a bit of rain later on in the race. It seems that the race will otherwise be a procession. If rain does come later in the race we’ll get a balance of the things we want. At the start we’ll see who is on the ball in race pace (My money is on Red Bull and Mclaren, with Alonso nipping at their heels) as well as some last minute action because of the rain.

    Roll on tomorrow…!

  10. JUGNU said on 8th May 2010, 23:50

    RBR seems untouchable and should be an easy victory for them but we know they are very unreliable.
    I hope Lewis gets a good start and pass at least one Redbull and who knows with better race pace and F-duct he may give a good fight to Redbulls and make the race more interesting.

    BTW so far i haven’t seen the BLUE Ferrari shirt. Can anybody please provide a link. Thanks.

    • steph said on 9th May 2010, 9:44

      I’ve had a look even on the Ferrari star but I can’t find it anywhere. Sorry! I did notice that GMM seem to be running that story a lot just without pictures too so they’ve either for copied a story that is right or brainwashed whoever said it existed in the first place! :P

    • mvi said on 9th May 2010, 10:01

      Here’s a pictue of the blue Ferrari shirt in an article in Marca. I think I saw a close-up of it elsewhere …

      http://tinyurl.com/3694b78

      • JUGNU said on 9th May 2010, 11:44

        Thanks mvi

        Blue Ferrari shirt is not bad at all. Fernando should wear it if he gets on the podium.

  11. Ed said on 9th May 2010, 0:12

    There will be a lot of aggression at the front of the grid going into Turn 1, it will be interesting to see if they can all get through cleanly.

    It will definitely be interesting to see the dry race pace though, because we still haven’t seen a straight race fight all the way to the end at the front.

  12. DaveW said on 9th May 2010, 0:19

    WEB often crumbles under pressure. Swill have a massively superior car here, but Horner always seems to find a way to eff up race strategy and the cars are not reliable. Oh, and they often have terrible starts.

    They also have two guys right behind them who don’t take no for an answer on the brakes. So if they dont get off the line sharply, they may find themselves behind one or two f-ducted cars for a long time. And as Keith so eloquently set out, unlike with refueling, the lead car can tailor its strategy to cover a trailing threat. It is doubtful that an outlap on fresh hard tires will allow you to jump easily a car on hot worn option tires.

    • David said on 9th May 2010, 7:20

      Can you provide me 5 examples of Webber crumbling under pressure to substantiate this claim?

  13. Sam said on 9th May 2010, 0:34

    i reckon webber will fold on the launch as always and i also have a good feeling 2-3 top contenders will be off by the 2 or 3 turn. with the composition of the grid as it is now and the fact that everyone knows redbull will run away with the race expect for 3-6 taking big chances in the course of the race. hope it will be interesting as we think, or next time im not waking up at 7am to watch.

  14. F1Fan said on 9th May 2010, 1:19

    No surprise here, Webber doesn’t stand a chance w/ Vettel. He will either screw up the start, get in an accident in turn-1 or do some other stupid thing later on in the race … and even if he doesn’t, Vettel is far and away the quicker and more consistent driver.

    The only possible spoiler for Vettel, barring the weather, will be if Lewis makes a tremendous start and gets between Webber and Vettel.

    • yelrom said on 9th May 2010, 1:36

      Oh no not you again, lmao Gte ovr urself.

    • wasiF1 said on 9th May 2010, 2:53

      I think the concern for Webber is that nobody so far this season have won the race from pole & both the times when the Red Bulls were 1-2 the second car always gets a good start than the pole sitter.

    • nsx said on 9th May 2010, 7:40

      People like you who know little are helping me out. Webber always has tremendous odds, and I won another $300 on him winning qualifying because they give such long odds for him. Please F1Fan remain dumb and silly, and keep the good odds for me coming in. Go Webber!

      • LOL… :-) What better way to make money than cash in on someone’s ignorance!

      • Patrickl said on 9th May 2010, 9:41

        Ah yes. Indeed everytime when I do the statistics on the predictions, people seem to utterly underestimate Webber.

        Do the bookies make the same mistake?

        I thought it was just a fan based thing that they *want* Hamilton or Alonso to get the pole/win rather than to face the fact that the Red Bulls are untouchable.

        • @nsx

          yer I was looking at webber myself for some quick cash 5/1 it was before practice 3, with my luck when i do bet on somebody it rarely ever happens, but when I don’t bet on a driver it mostly happens lol.

          you just had to look at vettel’s odds and laugh at evens and some even lower then that. Webber and hamilton were good odds and now I’m kicking myself for not doing it.

  15. Prisoner Monkeys said on 9th May 2010, 2:08

    My money is on Vettel.

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