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.

Tyres

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

  1. energyturnaround said on 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.

  2. 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.

    • Alex Bkk said on 11th September 2011, 11:55

      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…

  3. 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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