Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Monza, 2011

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

2011 Italian GP pre-race analysisPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

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.

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

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  1. themagicofspeed (@)
    10th September 2011, 22:13

    Together, Vettel and Red Bull’s strategy engineers will find some way of making idiots out of everyone else, like they’ve done so flawlessly (much to my dissapointment) all season. Vettel will still win, either because his car becomes magically quicker, or because Red Bull devise a genius strategy on the fly.

    This year, i make no apologies for saying McLaren and Ferrari should be ashamed of themselves when you look at how rarely Red Bull make strategy errors. Theres something to be learnt, especially for Ferrari, whose strategy is at the best of times, ridiculous.

    1. Its easy to make a strategy work when you have the fastest car, so easy that you can actually be alot MORE flexible on strategy that others that are doing everything they can just to try & keep up…

      A good car makes the pit strategy people look good, but it all comes down to the package they have to work with in the 1st place.

      1. But the problem is their car is NOT the fastest in the races, and when it is, it is not by much. RB have been under a lot more pressure from behind then lets say McLaren. They have nearly always been hunting the RB’s to the end of the races and RB have had to get it 100% right to keep their lead because as soon as a McLaren gets ahead they are virtually impossible to catch.

  2. Webber in for a win tomorrow if he had a good start as he saved a set of soft tyres in Q3.
    but i hope Massa wins somehow he need a win.

    1. Not sure it’s going to make that much of a difference – tyre wear is low here…

      1. That may actually work in Webber’s favour, as he’s not that good at saving the soft tyres. If he can make them last long, he’ll be able to go faster for more of the race than others, say if he does a two stopper.

    2. “if he had a good start” and how likely is that? one in a million chance? This year so far his starts have been average at best.

    3. Webber practically never has good starts, and his tyres won’t be worth all that much time. Massa has even less chance of winning than Webber. I think if he was leading the race with five laps to go and Fernando Alonso was in eleventh, Ferrari would tell him to slow down and let everyone overtake him so Alonso could get a point! ;)

  3. It’s good to see a circuit where, as in days of yore, we have the juxtaposition of cornering speed versus top-speed, almost like, but totally different from, the era before wings.

  4. “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.”

    That says it all doesn’t it. Only thing off course is the fact they didn’t have DRS but the Ferrari was the faster package last year.

    Now you have Vettel/Red Bull as the fastest package over a single lap and with a clear advantage through the corners.
    The McLarens need to pass him before the first corner if they want to win this race.

    1. Don’t be too sure yet. The bulls are often slower during the race as long as they don’t scurry away in the first few laps

  5. When you really think about it, Vettel has done something very bold here – even bolder than Jenson Button’s high-downforce setup last year. By shortening his gear ratios, Vettel has deliberately limited his top speed at a circuit where top speed rules over everything else, which is like putting pineapple on a pizza: on paper, it just doesn’t make sense. His entire race strategy hinges on his ability to clear the chicanes faster than anyone else. He’s going to have to put in a handful of qualifying laps at the start of the race to get out of range of the DRS, and he’s probably going to have to produce a few more when the pit windows begin. If he pulls it off, it’s going to be hard to fault him.

    1. I think the qualifying analysis indicates that even at Monza top speed does not rule over everything else…

    2. According to quali top speed doesn’t rule at this track after all, the fastest 6 odd cars weren’t the ones at the top of the speed traps….

    3. You’re right. Pineapple on pizza on paper doesn’t make sense, but take away the paper and you’re in for a tasty meal :)

      I agree that if Vettel can pull off a victory today, we should give him, and not the car, the lion’s share of the credit.

      1. It’s it sweet and salty… like prosciutto and cantaloupe, ricotta and water melon and a million other confounding mouth watering delights.

  6. Vettel generally has good starts so I have no concerns about him getting off the line. The way he used to pull out so convincingly in the first two laps was majestic, I miss that about him.

    I’d like to think that Rosberg has a chance of a great points finish but it just never seems to work out, they get bogged down and usually end up being pretty quiet. A shame we won’t get a chance to see the likes of his Spa start this weekend.

    I’d like Alonso to take the win, just so I can experience the jubilant Tifosi in full swing. Of course Massa would also provide that but, well, you know…

  7. Analysis Paralysis !! Vettel’s got the championship in his pocket.

  8. best strategy from Webber all year. RB can’t have him mapped to go backwards off the start from P5, new tyres, higher top speed. Webber for the win.

    1. Yeah, I seriously hope so! I’m kinda sick of defending him for his rubbish starts!

      As long as it doesn’t rain!

  9. My top 3 Hamilton Alonso with Button will be a great race.Roseberg will be the dark horse of the race.

  10. With less than six hrs to go the BBC and Keiths French weather predictors indicate there could be rain even heavy thundery showers.
    So maybe all plans and predictions for the race can be thrown away.

    1. In my experience the BBC’s weather website should be entirely disregarded.

  11. energyturnaround
    11th September 2011, 10:38

    unlinke some others here, I can see no evidence that there will a single drop of rain in Monza today.
    Three german and one Italian weatherforecast tell all the same: dry, warm, less the 0.1mm of rain by a 10% chance.

  12. If Vettel’s gear ratios really are significantly lower than the rest and he has a decent start then he’ll probably lead into lap 3 with more than a 1 second advantage. This won’t be the end of the story though.

    Past results show just how hard it is to lose and gain time here, even with clean/worn tyres. I expect the top 6 to dive into the pits with a ~5 second time difference between them. Will they change position? Probably not, again it’s just so hard to gain any time on in/out laps.

    If there’s an early safety car then Rosberg will be put onto the same strategy as the rest, if not then he’s at a potential disadvantage starting on hards. You could argue he’ll have better tyres towards the end, but who cares when he’s lost so much time at the start. DRS could make him a sitting duck to the lesser (but faster straight-line-speed teams).

    The only interest later in the race may be if Vettel’s low-fuel, short-ratio RB has a tyre wear issue. If a McLaren or Ferrari can get within 1 second then they could get past. However, with a race ending like this – should it be celebrated?

    Sorry but I predict another dull Monza race.

    1. I’d say that Vet is gambling that he can gain over a second on his pursuers by lap 3 to clear the DRS zones to prevent being passed. If he doesn’t, he will be swallowed alive by pursing mob, chewed up by the toppermost and spat out to the middlemost…

  13. also yesterday people thought Vettel would have been vulnerable due to his kers problems, and he got the pole anyway. So I would not rely on his gear issues today

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