Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Suzuka, 2011

Red Bull: Conservative approach delivers Vettel’s title

2011 Japanese GP team reviewPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Red Bull took a cautious approach in Japan and it paid off.

Both drivers ran short stints on the soft tyres due to high wear and Sebastian Vettel was urged not to risk anything in his battle with Fernando Alonso.

He may not have won the race, but he did win the championship.

Sebastian Vettel Mark Webber
Qualifying position 1 6
Qualifying time comparison (Q3) 1’30.466 (-0.69) 1’31.156
Race position 3 4
Laps 53/53 53/53
Pit stops 3 3

Red Bull drivers’ lap times throughout the race (in seconds):
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
Sebastian Vettel 100.257 100.12 99.852 99.882 99.783 100.07 101.2 101.7 104.787 118.788 99.916 99.465 99.508 99.565 99.322 99.53 99.568 100.367 102.94 116.873 99.041 98.692 98.582 107.871 143.072 147.661 153.934 98.176 98.014 97.997 98.139 98.414 100.724 116.441 99.547 97.576 97.449 96.931 97.546 97.852 98.534 98.365 97.444 98.101 98.949 97.232 97.388 97.134 97.129 97.001 97.134 96.916 96.954
Mark Webber 104.792 101.771 101.056 100.481 100.635 100.958 101.083 101.395 101.42 103.538 118.195 99.739 99.478 99.292 99.724 100.057 99.779 100.244 101.874 115.049 99.026 98.827 98.675 114.224 133.164 146.957 152.663 98.49 98.389 98.709 98.401 98.344 98.822 101.271 115.201 98.887 99.674 97.486 97.602 97.4 98.071 97.729 98.124 97.322 97.409 97.426 96.828 97.347 97.497 97.662 97.377 97.744 98.19

Sebastian Vettel

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Suzuka, 2011
Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Suzuka, 2011
Start tyre Soft
Pit stop 1 Soft 22.374s
Pit stop 2 Soft 21.596s
Pit stop 3 Medium 21.705s

Vettel damaged his front wing in a minor off at Degner in first practice. The team had to quickly ship a new front wing to the track for him to use on Saturday.

He paid tribute to the team for their efforts after taking his 12th pole position of the year on Saturday: “The nose that I had on the car yesterday morning you couldn?t really use it anymore. It was crashed.

“I shunted the car at the exit of turn eight and went straight into the barrier, so it wasn?t really helpful from my side. We got a new front wing out just in time. It wasn?t easy, but fortunately we did.”

Vettel receive a surprising amount of criticism from some for his defensive move against Jenson Button at the start of the race. Particularly given that his much more questionable weaving at the start in Malaysia this year was largely overlooked.

Vettel did squeeze Button but with the track narrowing to Button’s left it was a rather optimistic attempt to draw alongside the Red Bull.

And, as Vettel pointed out in the press conference, the stewards did not punish Fernando Alonso for pushing him onto the grass in Monza.

That said, Vettel’s claim that “I didn?t really see him” was undermined by video footage of him looking in his right-hand mirror at the start. Button warned him: “I might not lift off next time.”

The stewards investigated the move and took no action, saying: “Having noted that car one Sebastian Vettel and car three Lewis Hamilton both followed similar lines off the start the stewards decide to take no further action.”

For the first few laps it looked like Vettel was going to do his usual thing – he was five seconds ahead after five laps. But after that Button began to catch him and, once Button had cleared his team mate, the pair who had crossed swords at the start were drawing closer to one another.

Vettel pitted early on lap nine and the ‘undercut’ proved no advantage – Button was much quicker on his in-lap and Vettel’s lead was trimmed to two-and-a-half seconds.

Button continued to draw in over the second stint and Vettel was defenceless when he came to pit again. Button stayed out two laps longer and took the lead. Vettel never saw the front of the field again.

Instead he slipped back into the clutches of Alonso, who ran a long third stint to get in front of the Red Bull driver.

Vettel briefly held tenth after his third pit stop – the lowest position he has occupied in a race all year. Having to pick his way past Nico Rosberg and Adrian Sutil, Vettel lost second place to Alonso.

He piled pressure on the Ferrari driver to begin with, then fell out of DRS range while lapping Jerome d’Ambrosio – Vettel shaking his fist at the Virgin driver.

The team hurriedly reminded him – twice – that third place was more than enough to secure the championship. Vettel duly backed off while a corresponding call went out to fourth-placed Webber telling him not to attack his world champion-elect team mate.

Vettel duly claimed the championship crown with third place and celebrated with a couple of doughnuts in front of the crowd at turn two. This, sadly, was missed by the television cameras.

Afterwards he paid tribute to his team, saying the championship had been won earlier than last year despite them not having as great a performance advantage as they had in 2010:

“I think with a less dominant car than last year we were able to do a very, very good job. We are very strong as a team.

“Every time it mattered, we made very few mistakes, especially at those times when it was critical, we were there, we were performing. I think everyone working for Red Bull Racing can be very proud today”

Sebastian Vettel 2011 form guide

Mark Webber

Start tyre Soft
Pit stop 1 Soft 21.82s
Pit stop 2 Soft 21.369s
Pit stop 3 Medium 21.455s

Webber was disappointed to line up on the third row of the grid: “I?m very surprised to be sixth.

“I did my best, but it wasn?t quick enough and it was a bit of a surprise that I couldn’t go with the pace there at the end.”

Webber only just managed to set a time at the end of Q3 having dived past Lewis Hamilton at the chicane before starting his lap.

He made a better start than usual, not losing any places, but like his team mate was held back by high tyre wear. Red Bull seemed more sensitive than usual to the tyres going off, tending to bring the cars in at the first sign of lap times increasing.

They did this even if it meant bringing both cars in on the same lap, which they did on lap 19. But, far from harming Webber’s race, it allowed him to leap ahead of both Hamilton and Felipe Massa.

He finished the race in fourth despite front wing damage incurred when he hit Michael Schumacher’s car in a half-committed overtaking attempt at the Dunlop curve before the first safety car period.

Mark Webber 2011 form guide

2011 Japanese Grand Prix

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Image ?? Red Bull/Getty images