Vettel’s low straight-line speed may leave him vulnerable

2011 Italian GP pre-race analysis

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Monza, 2011

Vettel is 21kph down on the fastest car

With his tenth pole position of 2011, Sebastian Vettel is on course for victory at Monza.

But will his poor straight-line speed leave him vulnerable to attack from the likes of McLaren and Ferrari?

The start

The first place Vettel’s lack of straight-line speed could hurt him is at the start. The long-straight run to the first corner makes it difficult to defend a sluggish getaway.

Last year Jenson Button took the lead having started second on the grid alongside Fernando Alonso.

Quick opening laps have been key to Vettel’s advantage this year. If he can hold the lead at the start, his first priority will be to get more than a second clear of his pursuers so he is impervious to their DRS attacks.

The positioning of the two DRS activation zones may come to his aid here, as they are both after quick corners where his advantage should be at its greatest.

Keep an eye on Michael Schumacher at the start as well: he’s gained places in his last four starts.

As for Lewis Hamilton, if he makes it around Lesmo 1 he’ll already be doing better than he did last year.

Vettel’s straight-line speed disadvantage

A crucial element of this race is whether Vettel’s comparatively poor straight line speed will leave him vulnerable. Here are some of the top speeds from qualifying:

1. Sergio Perez 349.2
2. Bruno Senna 347.2
3. Vitaly Petrov 344.8
4. Felipe Massa 342.3
5. Fernando Alonso 342.2
11. Nico Rosberg 339.5
14. Michael Schumacher 338.7
18. Mark Webber 336.1
20. Jenson Button 333.1
21. Lewis Hamilton 332.7
24. Sebastian Vettel 327.7

In race conditions, with DRS closed most of the time, these figures will change considerably. But they give an insight into what speeds drivers can reach when they get the DRS open for overtaking.

Vettel may be over 21kph slower than Perez in a straight line, but the gap to his closest pursuers – the McLaren duo – is far less, around 5kph.

Last year Button went into the race with an 11.5kph speed deficit to Alonso, yet was able to keep the Ferrari behind until the pit stops.

Ferrari’s straight line speed looks very good, though possibly exaggerated slightly by slipstreaming in qualifying. Coupled with their race pace, which is reliably better than their qualifying pace, and warm track conditions, they could have a strong race.


The medium tyres were Ferrari’s weakness in Spa, while McLaren and Red Bull managed them well. They will all start on softs, as will Schumacher.

But, unusually, Nico Rosberg will start on medium tyres having used them in Q3.

This also means he has saved a set of fresh soft tyres to use during the race. This raises the prospect of Rosberg attacking on soft tyres late in the race when everyone else is getting their mandatory stint on mediums out of the way.

He will be vulnerable at the start of the race and will have to make sure he doesn’t lose too much time. But a safety car period could play into his hands later on.

Monza is not a particularly demanding circuit for tyres. And with teams now required not to exceed Pirelli’s maximum allowable camber limit the concerns over blistering seen in Spa are not likely to resurface.

Who’s your tip for success at Monza? Can anyone keep Vettel from his eighth win of the season? Have your say in the comments.

The qualifying analysis is delayed as the FIA has not published a full list of lap times from qualifying yet.

2011 Italian Grand Prix

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90 comments on Vettel’s low straight-line speed may leave him vulnerable

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  1. “As for Lewis Hamilton, if he makes it around Lesmo 1 he’ll already be doing better than he did last year.”

    that was brilliant!

  2. If Vettel is still in the lead at the end of lap 3, then I think he has it in the bag!

    • Aussie Fan said on 11th September 2011, 5:02

      Yes, but if someone overtakes him, then maybe they have a chance at winning…….
      The sun is round too, & at night it gets dark…

  3. It’s funny the top speeds are exactly the same as they were here in 1995. The Williams-Renault topped the charts back then with 345km/h as I can remember.

  4. I wish Ferrari’s straight line speed help them a lot. Well, actually I don’t care whether it’s Mclaren or Ferrari. Just I don’t want to see Vettel on the podium at least here!! :D

    • Wallbreaker said on 10th September 2011, 18:57

      Same here to be honest…

    • Interestingly, Ferrari is about 12kph faster than FP1 while others are almost same. I guess they changed set up for the race.

      Actually, they have the fastest straight line speed among top 3 teams even faster than Mercedes! They could be the fastest on the track tomorrow. so my hope might be not so groundless :)

      • If Vettel dominates tomorrow, I will have to say RBR is cheating…

        • rick2k9 (@rick2k9) said on 10th September 2011, 22:04

          They’re not cheating. Red Bull simply has better aerodynamic efficiency than any other team. With the current rules in place, there’s really not too much you can change on the car through the year. You can improve the floor, front and rear wings, and engine cover. Anything else is considered a crash structure and can’t be changed. Any improvements made by the other teams can be more or less matched by RBR. They started the season with a car that was 1 second faster than the rest. This gives them huge flexibility on wing setup for each race. It’s a question of how much downforce you’ll need at each track, but any setup they go with, they still have better aerodynamic efficiency.

          • beckenlima (@) said on 11th September 2011, 1:28

            My grasp of english is very poor, but sometimes I can recognize irony. Suka is only joking, I guess…

          • dragon said on 11th September 2011, 2:12

            Sarcasm is lost on rick, who believes Vettel’s success is due to the Red Bull he’s driving.

    • I guess its one of the few things (together with a relatively warm afternoon) that will play into their hands.

      But they will have a fight on their hands to keep both cars ahead of Rosberg at the finish, at least I think so.

      The dream scenario would be for Hamilton, Button and Alonso to jump Vettel at the start and then have Vettel stuck behind an Alonso slow in the parts where Vettel would like to get by and fast on the one part of the track where DRS would help him.

  5. Ferrari can benefit from the tow and the high to speed in the openening laps to make up some positions. Vettel will have a hard time getting one second clear in two laps, and with two DRS zones his lead could be cut in one lap. The battle could be very interesting…

  6. LSL1337 (@lsl1337) said on 10th September 2011, 19:06

    I don’t think Vettel is at a disadvantage at the start, It’s the opposite. He has low top speed, beacuse he has lower gears, and not beacouse of the high downforce level. He is running a race setup (gearing for no DRS, that’s why he was on the limiter for a long time before the first corner), These circumstances should help him get a good enough getaway, and by the time the DRS will be enabled, UNFORTUNATELY he’ll be long gone :(

    • Possibly. short gear ratio would help start acceleration either. Difference between Webber and Vettel should be interesting to watch…if Webber gets close to Vettel though!

    • rick2k9 (@rick2k9) said on 10th September 2011, 21:05

      I completely agree. As long as the heavy fuel load doesn’t upset the balance in the first few laps, Seb will open enough of a gap that no one will be able to keep up.
      Mark should be able to stay with the others quite easily and when DRS is enabled he will probably make his way through the field.

    • Depends on the getaway. If the McLarens and/or Alonso jump him before that first corner its going to be tough for him, as he will not have much chance to get past them with DRS either.

      And passing backmarkers or getting back to the front if a pitstop drops him down in between the Renaults, FI, Mercedes and Sauber will be a struggle to get past them. That might prove disastrous if Rosberg manages to get ahead of him.

  7. Crispin said on 10th September 2011, 19:06

    How many of the cars are running skinny wing,a nd which car is fastest when downforce is required?

  8. In today’s GP2 race 1, Luca Filippi, starting 2nd, overtook Pic in the run to turn 2, which was the key to winning his race, combined with his excellent pace.
    Maybe after all 2nd place is a better position to start in?

  9. David-A (@david-a) said on 10th September 2011, 19:20

    Keep an eye on Michael Schumacher at the start as well: he’s gained places in his last four starts.

    I hoped he wouldn’t lose any at Spa! :)

    • You are right :) Passing the KERS-less HRT, Lotus and Virgin cars on the first lap probably wasn’t too hard as well.

      That said, he has made some good starts from top 10 grid positions as well.

  10. DeadManWoking (@deadmanwoking) said on 10th September 2011, 19:21

    Here’s the full Speed Trap data from the Official F1 Website:

    09 – 11 Sep 2011

    Pos No Driver……… Time of Day Speed
    1.. 17 Sergio Perez…… 14:19:24 349.2
    2… 9 Bruno Senna……. 14:19:25 347.2
    3.. 10 Vitaly Petrov….. 14:59:47 344.8
    4… 6 Felipe Massa…… 14:59:41 342.3
    5… 5 Fernando Alonso… 14:59:44 342.2
    6.. 18 Sebastien Buemi… 14:07:21 341.9
    7.. 19 Jaime Alguersuari. 14:07:26 341.8
    8.. 16 Kamui Kobayashi… 14:16:23 341.7
    9.. 11 Rubens Barrichello 14:19:48 340.4
    10. 12 Pastor Maldonado.. 14:19:07 340.2
    11.. 8 Nico Rosberg…… 14:59:12 339.5
    12. 15 Paul di Resta….. 14:04:31 339.3
    13. 14 Adrian Sutil…… 14:07:14 338.7
    14.. 7 Michael Schumacher 14:33:36 338.7
    15. 25 Jerome d’Ambrosio. 14:06:57 336.7
    16. 24 Timo Glock…….. 14:13:56 336.6
    17. 22 Daniel Ricciardo.. 14:02:22 336.2
    18.. 2 Mark Webber……. 14:15:11 336.1
    19. 23 Vitantonio Liuzzi. 14:03:51 335.7
    20.. 4 Jenson Button….. 14:07:03 333.1
    21.. 3 Lewis Hamilton…. 14:59:38 332.7
    22. 21 Jarno Trulli…… 14:03:20 331.8
    23. 20 Heikki Kovalainen. 14:06:56 331.8
    24.. 1 Sebastian Vettel.. 14:54:01 327.7

      • F1fanNL (@) said on 11th September 2011, 0:07

        Well, with those sector times if Vettel goes into the first corner as the leader the others won’t get close enough to activate DRS. Especially with the DRS detection in between the lesmo’s and after Parabolica.

    • It’s fascinating that the top of the grid are all at the bottom of the top speed chart. Webber was even hitting the limiter when slip streaming with DRS.

    • DeadManWoking said on 10th September 2011, 19:58

      The sector times were interesting as well. The McLarens slightly faster than Vettel in S1, Vettel slightly faster than them in S2. The big gap was in S3 where Vettel was 0.447s faster than Lewis whose Lap Time was 0.450s slower.

      • What’s strange is whatever Vettel is gaining at either Ascari or Parabolica, surely he would also gain at the Lesmos?

        Perhaps we he’s just pushing the car through Ascari (note his power sliding earlier in qually!) and driving better than Lewis, Jenson and Mark… maybe he deserves some more credit.

        • DeadManWoking said on 10th September 2011, 20:30

          He was .182 up on Lewis and .201 up on Jenson in S2 which runs from the entry to della Roggia to the start of braking for Ascari. The time he gains in the corners would be clawed back a bit on the long straight to Ascari (a DRS zone in the race). His exit speed off Ascari probably gives him a great launch on the run down to the Parabolica.

      • We have to remember that until Vettel’s very last lap, the gap was much smaller. (If I remember correctly, his time was 1:22.662.) Then he went over 3/10ths faster in the last, all, or most of it, in S3. (You can tell I’m doing this without looking at timing sheets!) The real question is, where did that come from? Button was flabbergasted by the gap after qualifying, and Vettel himself said he thought it would be much closer. If the huge gap in S3 on the last lap was due to somekind of “11/10ths” move that paid off, he won’t be repeating it regularly in the race.

    • kowalsky said on 10th September 2011, 20:58

      i doubt he will take the win tomorrow.He justcan’t win them all.
      Schumacher won’t win the gp either, but he is capturing myimagination again. something is building up there. It’s my gut feeling.

    • I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Why doesn’t show us the time to 1/1000s in Live Timing, rather than the ridiculous and often useless restriction to 1/10s?

  11. I expect Vettel to win the race but I believe we will see a close fight between the top three teams. If Schumacher manages to avoid hitting his competitors, he could be ‘the best of the rest’. I guess Senna has saved an extra set of fresh tyres as well so it will be interesting to see what he can make of it tomorrow. This is also the fourth time Jaime Alguersuari has qualified in 18th position this season. He managed to convert this starting position into a points finish the previous three times.

  12. It seems as if Vettel is using a very short gear-ratio.

    In any case, I like how the teams are gambling on their set ups.

  13. It’s curious that Senna and Petrov were 2nd and 3rd fastest at the speed trap, so it seems Vettel’s problem is not related to Renault engines…

    • energyturnaround said on 10th September 2011, 21:15

      I don’t think its a problem!
      It’s simply a calculation. When everybody has some 100 kg of fuel in his car at the beginning of the race, we won’t see the qualifying topspeeds, since acceleration is not so fast and the corner-exit-speed is much lower, so the gear ratio will only be important at the second half of the race.
      Also higher downforce normally helps extending tire-lifespan. In a race, in which a pit stop is extremely “expensive” (not too short pit length, but very high passing speed on the straight) less pit stops can be a 20 second advantage.

  14. Dave_F1 said on 10th September 2011, 20:31

    when they were doing there high fuel race-sims on friday the red bulls were nearly 1 second faster than anyone else & i dont expect that to change much tomorrow.

    having less top speed in qualifying isnt necisarily an indication of where they will be in the race because some have more effective drs systems than others and some have gear ratios set differently because of drs etc…

    i gather that vettel has gone purely for a race/non constant drs setup & has the thing geared optimuly to work without drs active.

    i just hope drs isnt as effective this weekend as i fear its going to be, ive no intrest in once again watching cars simply driving past one another in the middle of the straghts because of it. could be even worse with these stupid 2 drs zones.

  15. Adrian J (@adrian-j) said on 10th September 2011, 20:32

    Surely Vettel’s short gears will be somewhat offset by the more powerful KERS in the 2 McLarens??

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