Webber needs to limit damage as Vettel eyes five-in-a-row

2011 Chinese GP pre-race analysis

Mark Webber, Red Bull, Shanghai, 2011

Mark Webber, Red Bull, Shanghai, 2011

Sebastian Vettel could become the first driver in seven years to win five races in a row if he wins in China.

He’s in the perfect position to following a comfortable run to pole position.

Meanwhile for the second race in a row team mate Mark Webber finds himself needing to limit the damage.

The start

It’s a short run to the first corner at Shanghai – 260 metres, just 60 more than Melbourne – and when the drivers get there there isn’t a lot of braking to do.

As a result is it’s very rare for anyone other than the pole sitter to be leading at the end of lap one. Yes, Fernando Alonso leapt into the lead from the third on the grid last year – but that was only because he jumped the start.

But Sebastian Vettel will still have to fight off a pair of McLarens who are unlikely to have to worry about any fast-starting Renaults this time – unless Vitaly Petrov pulls off something really special from the fifth row.

Nico Rosberg started poorly in Sepang, losing four places. Ferrari showed the race pace to challenge McLaren there, but their opportunity to use it here will be limited if they can’t pass Rosberg at the start.

Similarly, Petrov needs a good getaway to clear the likes of Paul di Resta and the Toro Rossos. They’re likely to be slower than him in the race and he needs to take the fight to the Ferraris.

Strategy

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Shanghai, 2011

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Shanghai, 2011

Lewis Hamilton had one eye on avoiding a repeat of his Sepang problems in qualifying.

He only used one set of new soft tyres in Q3, saving himself one more fresh set for the race than his team mate or Vettel have.

The fall in temperatures from Friday to Saturday has allowed the teams to eke out more life from their tyres. Conditions on Sunday look to be similar to Saturday, perhaps a few degrees warmer.

Strategies look more likely to follow Melbourne lines with most teams needing two stops, some making three and others – most likely the Saubers – trying to get away with just one.

The top nine drivers will all start on the soft tyres they qualified on. Tenth-placed Petrov, who did not set a time in Q3, will have a free choice of which compound he uses, as will everyone else behind him.

Then there is the question of Mark Webber, mired down in 18th. He showed in Malaysia that he can make up places even when deprived of KERS, but he will need some help from strategy to get him into the higher reaches of the top ten.

Unfortunately for him Webber has tended to need one pit stop more than his team mate. Jockeying for position in the thick of the midfield is not going to help his tyre life, nor offer him the space he needs to gain the benefit of running shorter stints and making an extra stop.

He should at least have DRS to help him out – though it may not prove as useful as he was counting on.

DRS

In the press conference Jenson Button indicated the DRS zone has been shortened from its previous length of 902m:

“The line has changed. When I woke up this morning and got in, I noticed that the DRS position has changed on the circuit. It was 900-odd meters, now it?s 750 before the last corner. 752 meters.”

The FIA have not confirmed this is the case and the graphic on their site still indicates it’s 902 metres. Any further updates on this will be posted here or on F1 Fanatic Live during the race.

It wouldn’t be a great surprise if the FIA have shortened the zone, as it was set to be similar in length to the one in Sepang, which we saw made overtaking quite easy.

Over to you

Do you think anyone can beat Vettel in tomorrow’s race? And where will Webber finish from 18th on the grid?

Have your say in the comments.

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93 comments on Webber needs to limit damage as Vettel eyes five-in-a-row

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  1. Chris (@chris) said on 16th April 2011, 17:17

    Very strange… Webber gets all the problems for himself while Vettel has 3 truoblefree grandprix…

    Red Bull would try to make Vettel their number one, they would not act otherwise…

    Do you really believe Horner when he says both pilots have equal treatment for winning GPs ??????????

    For myself I have huge doubts….

    Chris

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 16th April 2011, 17:23

      Vettel had the lion’s share of unreliability last year. Was that a Red Bull conspiracy against Vettel?

      I doubt it’s at all likely that over the course of a season two drivers in the same team will have an equal number of mechanical failures. Have a look at the data for last year for example:

      http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/statistics/f1-2010-statistics/#retirements

      • Bazooka (@bazooka) said on 16th April 2011, 17:30

        And also Weber is not that kind of guy who accepts being treated like number two. We would hear a lot of angry comments from him like in silverstone last year. And team needs points from Weber to win contructors title and 18 grid position is not very good for the team either. I see no conspiracy here, just bad luck for Weber. I’m sure the both have same treatment.

      • Chris (@chris) said on 16th April 2011, 21:35

        Keith,

        it is not just a problem of statistics…

        It is very strange it arrives to Mark in the very beginning of the season and three times in raw…

        After that if you compare on a whole year, perhaps it is not that important but psychologically three times in raw in the very beginning is hurting quite more…and it can leave mark without words when he will be said ” Well Seb is too far away from you now” so he is number one without any other choice possible…

        Chris

    • RenM said on 16th April 2011, 17:28

      i dont think that they have any intent to hinder Webber. Last year Vettel had all the bad Luck with a malfunctioning car this year its Webber.
      Plus Webber is in no shape atm to really challenge Vettel even if he had no Problems with the car.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 16th April 2011, 17:46

      You should also read this quote from Christian Horner today:

      It’s been a rotten day for Mark today. He had an electrical issue this morning and a massive effort by the entire crew, including the mechanics on Sebastian’s car, to get the car ready for quali.

      Webber knocked out in Q1 on “frustrating day”

      • Macca (@macca) said on 16th April 2011, 18:23

        I don’t see these last 3 races as bad luck for Webber, I see it as his normal luck.

        Last year was the weird one when things actually went his way for a change. :)

        Seriously, he has to be the unluckiest driver in F1 doesn’t he?

        • F1Fan said on 16th April 2011, 20:25

          The unluckiest driver in F1 would be Kimi, by far. Lost 2 titles because of car issues purely.

          • Jonathan said on 16th April 2011, 21:58

            Poor guy made £10m last year for doing absolutely nothing. My heart goes out to him.

          • zecks said on 16th April 2011, 22:51

            and one world championship because hamilton and alonso fell over each other

          • Mike said on 16th April 2011, 23:17

            If prancing around in shorts eating ice cream constitutes as having bad luck, rather than gross neglect. By god I could be a race winning driver too!

            *I don’t prance.

          • Scottie (@scottie) said on 17th April 2011, 4:05

            what about Johnny Herbert?

        • Adrian J (@adrian-j) said on 16th April 2011, 20:28

          At least he has plenty of new soft tyres for the race tomorrow. Maybe he’ll really push and run another 4 stopper just to be on fresh soft tyres for as long as possible…

          …that’s what I’d do. Pit before your tyres go off at the right time to slot back into clear air and push for the whole race.

        • Todfod (@todfod) said on 16th April 2011, 20:30

          Well.. things went perfectly well for him when they really mattered. Last year was his bset chance of winning the WDC, and he couldn’t asked for a faster and more reliable car all season. He lucked in at the right time, and yet he came up short.

          • mingmong said on 17th April 2011, 0:38

            Sorry mate I don’t agree… If RBR better managed Mark I think we would have seen a much different situation. They quickly burst his bubble when they took parts from Mark’s car at an important stage of the championship, he also took over vets so called damaged chassis & Helmut publiclly laid blame all on Mark for there tangle which everyone clearly new it was the team & vets fault. I Yes i lay blame on the team for that tangle as they new they instructed Mark to run lean & vets to run rich fuel mixtures…

          • Todfod (@todfod) said on 17th April 2011, 7:05

            I would have to disagree with you. Mark’s performances were at an all time best when he had all these team politics going on.

        • BasCB said on 17th April 2011, 16:46

          Taking in account Webbers luck in his career so far this is pretty much normal, yeah.

          And his race results are about level with last year, maybe even better after the chinese GP.

    • semilost (@semilost) said on 17th April 2011, 7:05

      There’s too much money involved for a top team like RB to be playing favorites until the season winds down. As an example, Massa and Alonso last year.

  2. box this lap (@sebashuis) said on 16th April 2011, 17:17

    aaah! I thought five in a row pitstops!

  3. Joseph94 (@joseph94) said on 16th April 2011, 17:21

    I think Vettel will win the race and Webber will finish 10th or crash on the 1st lap.

  4. Calum (@calum) said on 16th April 2011, 17:22

    Nobody will catch him all race if he gets through the tight first two corners in 1st.*

    *Unless the gremlins return.

  5. walster said on 16th April 2011, 17:23

    well i don’t have Vettel in the top 5 so i guess he’ll have big trouble some time. make sense? :-)

  6. bobo said on 16th April 2011, 17:26

    One would think that after so many trouble-free races the laws of probability would suggest that something might happen to Vettel. Of course those races that have happened have happened and he stands a good chance of winning this one too, esp. from pole, but one can never be sure can one?

  7. Oliver said on 16th April 2011, 17:33

    Webber may yet go on to score points but there is no denying the fact that, Redbull, have now become a one car operation with the second car taking a secondary role in terms of priority.

    Redbull have learned from last year. Early reliability issues seriously slowes down their championship challenge last year. With the benefit of hindsight, they are now focusing all efforts on at least getting their number one and trusted driver, a reliable car, with the number two (as in number on car :-) ), getting more reliable as they improve their manufacturing quality and quantity.

    I don’t see Webber getting priority when any performance part is introduced, unless of course it is at a point when it won’t be detrimental to the number one car. Likely then to be towards the end of the year.
    It’s the sort of stuff Renault used to do, and probably still do, concentrate on one car and leave the other to sort himself out.
    Such an attitude can be contrasted with that of Mclaren, where, they sometimes delay the introduction of a performance enhancing part, till they can manufacture enough for both cars.
    You dilute your efforts that way, but you don’t leave your driver meditating late into the night on, why me.

    • Chris (@chris) said on 16th April 2011, 21:39

      Totally agree with you , Oliver

      Chris

    • Nick F said on 17th April 2011, 4:13

      It will turn around for Webber at some point. Generally he has been very close to Vettel in lap time. He is going through a bad time and Vettel is going through a good time at the moment. The long term performance trend is likely to return and I hope it does soon because it seems like we are going to need Webber on form to actually have a race for the lead. I really hope the other teams can cut the performance deficit they have to Red Bull soon so that we can have a competitive season. I want to see Mclaren, Ferrari and Renault winning races this year.

  8. Eggry (@eggry) said on 16th April 2011, 17:36

    KERS or start failure would make race interesting.

  9. Pedal to the Vettel (@pedal-to-the-vettel) said on 16th April 2011, 17:36

    “Saturday has allowed the teams to ((eke)) out more life from their tyres. ((Conditiosn))”

    Few edits for you keith

  10. splinter said on 16th April 2011, 17:37

    Someone other than Vettel should win tomorrows race. My bets on Jensen to do it.

  11. Oliver said on 16th April 2011, 17:49

    Vettel can only be rattled at the start. If Vettel still has daylight in front of him by the first corner, then the next chance any driver has of catching up with him will be in parc ferme, assumimg I got the spelling right, else at the hotel.

  12. wigster (@wigster) said on 16th April 2011, 17:51

    Its impossible to look beyond Vettel for the win, i just hope the mclarens with hopefully no renaults in the way and Hamiltons better tyre situation can stay close enough to give him a fight.

    I hope Rosberg can stay where he is and mix it with the Ferraris too, their car appears to be good around shanghai and a good result would give them connfidence going forward. If he can keep Alonso busy then that may help the mclarens chase after Vettel at the front too.

    It will also be interesting to watch Webber and Heidfeld to see if they can use DRS, KERs and tyre strategy to come through the field in cars that are both capable of scoring major points. I think Heidfed will get a point or 2 but unless Webber becomes an overtaking demon which will ne difficult if his KERS isn’t fixed and can seriously curb his tyre wear issues and at worst 2 stop I cant see him scoring any points.

  13. SPIDERman (@spiderman) said on 16th April 2011, 18:05

    its time someone put a stop to this redbull dominance…and mclaren and ferrari can do it if they employ the strategy right by pushung vettel to make mistakes.
    vettel is known to crack under pressure…we saw that when he took out jenson last year..

  14. Pedal to the Vettel (@pedal-to-the-vettel) said on 16th April 2011, 18:20

    Lewis and Jenson should be more concerned with Nico and Fernando at this race, limit the damage on vettel’s points. I reckon vettel won’t even have to use KERS for most of this race.

    Still be great to see a driver of vettel’s quality win 5 races in a row, it’s been 7 years lol, somebody has to get the chance to do it.

  15. lawler said on 16th April 2011, 18:28

    The only problems webber will have tomorrow will be kobiyashi, petrov/hied, and massa/alonso. As much i hate him and was exstactic to see him 18th! he is still miles above most of them on track?. he’s no chance of getting near the top 3? My money is on jenson(As always) vettel knows hamilton will be going tooth and nail to destroy him and good luck! but im sure he is smart enough to know jenson is soooooooooo patient and will be right there given the chance to pounce?.

    • Poul said on 16th April 2011, 20:04

      Kinda funny how you point out exactly why I dislike Jenson. Sitting around waiting for the others to fail is simply not racing in my book!

      That crazy mixture of adrenaline and physics is pretty much lost on Jenson, Prost and the likes. The patience work to a certain extent but is utterly boring to watch.

      Anyway, I think Vettel might win though the statistics must be about to end the spree. I pretty much agree with the rest that Webber will make it to the lower end of the points or become a victim of his own frustrations.

      • lawler said on 16th April 2011, 20:26

        kinda funny how you mention not racing? this isnt Nasca where all the cars are 99% aero the same and the same wheight and the same engine. The drivers are left to race it out to the end. f1 requires tech imput from the driver like for example.. aero rear wing in monza 2010 2nd place, tyre imput melbourne and china 2010 1st place. tyre paitentce melaysia 2011 soft tyres 19 laps 2nd place where lewis(flat out racer?) could have done better, he didnt because he could not make his last like jenson. unfortunatly in f1 what isnt racing?

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