Mark Webber, Red Bull, Shanghai, 2011

Red Bull: Poor qualifying gives strategy advantage to Webber

2011 Chinese GP team reviewPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Poor qualifying left Mark Webber 18th on the grid but left him with plenty of soft tyres to make his charge to third.

Meanwhile Sebastian Vettel’s two-stop strategy left him vulnerable to an attack from Lewis Hamilton.

Sebastian Vettel Mark Webber
Qualifying position 1 18
Qualifying time comparison (Q1) 1’35.674 (-0.794) 1’36.468
Race position 2 3
Laps 56/56 56/56
Pit stops 2 3

Red Bull drivers’ lap times throughout the race:

http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/charts/2011drivercolours.csv
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56
Sebastian Vettel 107.942 104.769 104.636 104.275 104.094 104.007 104.018 104.132 104.365 104.741 105.048 105.136 105.367 111.161 122.384 103.2 104.424 102.784 102.761 103.016 102.622 102.558 102.467 102.677 102.936 103.054 102.727 103.111 102.964 104.097 109.097 120.475 102.392 102.238 101.735 101.795 101.927 101.675 101.457 101.551 101.671 101.933 101.797 102.221 101.777 101.373 101.321 101.712 101.608 102.58 102.993 103.873 102.97 103.269 103.394 103.117
Mark Webber 115.869 106.755 105.886 106.189 105.659 106.059 105.986 106.532 107.976 113.841 123.169 103.468 103.313 102.68 102.939 103.587 104.354 102.736 102.888 103.119 104.44 103.75 104.02 103.818 108.332 118.09 101.2 101.311 100.849 101.372 101.256 102.106 103.554 102.949 100.717 100.986 101.423 102.613 101.354 105.725 116.169 98.993 99.232 101.222 100.328 99.462 99.83 99.553 99.619 99.502 101.276 100.101 101.92 101.749 101.933 102.022

Sebastian Vettel

On Saturday evening it looked like a routine weekend for the world champion, apparently on course for his fifth consecutive Grand Prix victory.

He’d headed all three practice sessions and taken pole position from Jenson Button by seven-tenths of a second.

But when the lights went out on race day he got away slowly, despite his KERS working correctly, and both McLarens beat him into the first corner.

As Hamilton began to wear his tyres out, Vettel picked him off on the back straight on lap 13 – but he followed Button into the pits at the end of the lap anyway.

Despite Button’s strange attempt to park in his pit box, Vettel got in and out quickly enough to leap-frog the other McLaren.

Red Bull stuck to their plan of pitting him twice, even as the McLarens and Mercedes used three-stop strategies to extend their soft tyres stints.

This was one of several problems that left them vulnerable. Vettel’s radio also failed and he was told to switch off his KERS during the race as well.

His relatively early first pit stop meant he had to begin his final stint with 25 laps to go – a tall order. His lap times (see above) indicated he might have been able to run longer in his middle stint, potentially saving valuable time.

Hamilton reeled him in on fresher tyres and although Vettel defended carefully around the DRS zone, the McLaren nipped down the inside at turn seven to take the lead.

Sebastian Vettel 2011 form guide

Mark Webber, Red Bull, Shanghai, 2011
Mark Webber, Red Bull, Shanghai, 2011

Mark Webber

Webber’s weekend was dogged by problems with his Kinetic Energy Recovery System.

It failed in first practice and again on Saturday morning. It was all hands on deck in the garage as some of Vettel’s mechanics joined in to help fix Webber’s car in time for qualifying.

Running without KERS in Q1 the team gambled on him not needing soft tyres to get through. But he lapped 0.8s slower than Vettel and failed to make the cut.

Although it condemned him to start 18th it handed him the considerable advantage of several sets of fresh, soft tyres, which aided his recovery drive.

Smartly, the team got his hard tyre stint out of the way at the beginning of the race when he was always likely to be stuck in traffic anyway.

Despite losing KERS again shortly into the race he was able to move his way up through the field and take advantage of the RB7’s scorching pace when he had clear air.

After his final pit stop he was seventh but he picked off both Ferraris, Nico Rosberg and Jenson Button to claim third and complete an impressive recovery drive.

Mark Webber 2011 form guide

2011 Chinese Grand Prix

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Image ?? Red Bull/Getty images