Will Red Bull ease Webber’s path to victory?

2011 Indian GP pre-race analysis

Mark Webber, Red Bull, Buddh International Circuit, 2011

Mark Webber, Red Bull, Buddh International Circuit, 2011

Heading into the Indian Grand Prix weekend Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said the team were keen to get Mark Webber into second in the drivers’ championship.

He indicated they could use team orders to achieve it – and with both cars on the front row they may get the opportunity to during the race.

But they will have to keep the fast-starting Ferraris behind first.

The start

The Buddh International Circuit has proved very slippery off-line, which could make for an interesting start. The racing line cuts across the circuit, giving neither side of the grid much of an advantage.

Vettel said: “I don?t know if being on the left or the right side of the track, is really an advantage or not. There’s not one side that seems to be the clean side, as we tend to run down the middle.”

Alonso added: “I don?t think there?s much of a difference between the two vertical lines of the grid because the ideal line on the start-finish straight goes down the middle, so both sides are quite dirty. In fact the dirt off the racing line could be a problem for overtaking with whoever initiates the move having to give it everything without hesitating.”

Alonso starts third behind Webber and on past form you have to fancy his chances of at least getting past Webber at the start. Webber has lost more places on lap one than any other driver this year apart from Bruno Senna – a net 21. Whereas Alonso has picked up nine places in the last five races.

Not for the first time this year, Lewis Hamilton finds himself further back than he should be after qualifying didn’t go entirely to plan.

He shares row three with Felipe Massa – a driver he’s had enough run-ins with already. His sights will be set on moving through the field, which is where he’s come a cropper several times in races this year. But Korea showed he’s lost none of his speed and tenacity when he has a trouble-free race.

Strategy

The Red Bull drivers were clearly able to get better performance out of the hard tyres than their rivals in practice.

However the soft tyres are so much quicker – perhaps as much as two seconds per lap – that all the drivers are likely to avoid using the hard tyres for as long as possible. Expect to see lots of late pit stops for the mandatory switch to the alternative tyre compound.

Hamilton was so keen to preserve as much life in his soft tyres as he could that he aborted his last qualifying run to avoid having to do another lap on them.

This is particularly bad news for Massa, who damaged one of his sets of soft tyres when he crashed in qualifying: “Now I find myself with one less set of softs,” he said.

He also damaged his front wing in the crash: “It was the new one, which we had here for the first time and it delivered a bit extra in terms of performance.”

Massa will have to revert to the front wing he used at the beginning of this morning’s practice session, which at times displayed a severe amount of vibration. It isn’t necessarily the case this will happen again in the race – the phenomenon may have been related to ride height or some other set-up variable – but it’s worth keeping an eye out for.

It’s doubtful we’ll see drivers opting to start on the hard tyre, unless they gamble on an early safety car period allowing them to get them out of the way early. This worked for some drivers at Abu Dhabi last year.

DRS

With two DRS zones, drivers expect overtaking will be possible at the track. Hamilton said: “There will be opportunities to overtake: it?s a high-downforce circuit and, although it?ll be very hard to follow other cars closely, the double DRS zone should make it a bit easier.”

However not all the drivers think this will play to their car’s strengths. Paul di Resta lost several places in the DRS zone in Korea. He said: “It won?t be an easy race with the DRS zones being so effective and likely to result in lots of overtaking.”

The Toro Rossos should be strong on the straights again, as they were in Korea, having topped the speed trap in qualifying.

However the down-side of venturing off-line to make a pass is how dusty the track is. Several drivers have had spins and crashes during practice.

How do you expect the Indian Grand Prix to unfold? Will Red Bull try to ease Webber’s way to second in the championship? Can Alonso challenge them for victory? Have your say in the comments.

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49 comments on Will Red Bull ease Webber’s path to victory?

  1. Rhys Coles (@lightmas) said on 29th October 2011, 18:17

    I would be very surprised if they helped Mark to win, as in moving over or slowing down Vettel, partly because he is a stats man, and secondly because Mark is better than that. Its one thing having help to win the WDC, its a bit embarrassing just to get 2nd.

    As for Alonso, I think he will be a factor for sure. The Ferrari`s race pace is always better and he was only a few tenths off in quali, closer than he has been for a while. Might even get Webber off the start.

    I think a fair bit of overtaking, probably not on Vettel, he is good on the first few laps.

    • I would be very surprised if they helped Mark to win, as in moving over or slowing down Vettel, partly because he is a stats man, and secondly because Mark is better than tha

      Agree. I just can’t see it ever happening esp after all of Red Bull’s comments about Ferrari last year. 2nd in the WDC for their other driver would look great but really it doesn’t mean that much.

      • Not sure its really about being against team orders but there is a conflict between getting a perfect score for a team versus Vettel breaking records that havent been broken yet. Dont remember which those are though.

      • AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 29th October 2011, 23:39

        @Steph @lightmas I can’t see RBR employing team orders for that reason myself either. It makes no sense to do so, given the huge amount of criticism they will receive.

      • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 30th October 2011, 0:07

        @steph

        I just can’t see it ever happening esp after all of Red Bull’s comments about Ferrari last year.

        Much as I’d like to agree, it didn’t stop Horner trying it in Silverstone.

        (Of course team orders were illegal last year but sadly not any more.)

        • @KeithCollatine that’s true and I think they might employ it if Mark were ahead but I couldn’t ever see Mark being ahead and there’s no way (I feel) that they’d switch positions.

    • goofy (@goofy) said on 29th October 2011, 20:40

      he is a stats man

      Dietrich Mateschitz is a stats guy as well ;)

    • Funkyf1 (@funkyf1) said on 30th October 2011, 4:04

      For this situation to evolve, Webber firstly has to keep up with Vettel… A task he has struggled with all year. Good luck Mark

  2. Nick.UK (@) said on 29th October 2011, 18:35

    If I was Mark and the team patronised me by letting me have a win by means of slowing down my team mate. I’d simply wreck him and go home. It would be the biggest insult they could do to him :(

    • AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 29th October 2011, 23:41

      @nick-uk While team orders don’t sit well with many fans, remember that the drivers are paid employees and should act accordingly. No driver is bigger than the team and while we may not respect the wishes of the team we should respect the drivers willingness to carry them out.

      • TED BELL said on 30th October 2011, 7:01

        Absoluetly correct….

      • Nick.UK (@) said on 30th October 2011, 8:15

        I totally understand and agree with that. Its totally correct after all. But in my world, a persons dignity and ability to stand up for ones self is bigger than anything else. Racing is just a job. No matter how much I loved something, I personally would never stand for such an embarressment.

  3. Atanu said on 29th October 2011, 18:37

    Some small typos…”moving through the feidl“..Should be field…

    “How do you expect the Korean Grand Prix to unfold”…Should be Indian…

  4. AndrewT (@andrewt) said on 29th October 2011, 18:53

    good old Rubens was also “allowed” to win races after good old Michael bagged the title many races before the end of the year. is there new under the sun?

  5. ME4ME (@me4me) said on 29th October 2011, 19:24

    Wouldn’t be supriced to see Hamilton and Massa crash again, in the first couple of laps.

    Also i expect Alonso and Vettel to be in a tough fight for the win. Webber not so much, he probably loses some places at the start to find himself racing with Button..

  6. Dan Thorn (@dan-thorn) said on 29th October 2011, 19:50

    I think Alonso might lead early on but drop back and struggle on the harder tyres towards the end after a battle with Webber – as has happened many times already this year. I really hope Massa can get it together and have a trouble free race to fight with the Mclarens, but most of all I hope for a clean, trouble free race with no major incidents.

    • BBT (@bbt) said on 29th October 2011, 20:02

      That is how I see it. although I hope to be proved wrong…..

      and surely sooner or later Webber must make a good start, I bet we’d get good odds on Webber leading after lap one (no one would expect that or would they?)

  7. sumedh said on 29th October 2011, 20:11

    If Mark gets a decent start and maintains P2 with Vettel P1, I am sure Red Bull will give Webber the priority in pit stops, and hence Mark will win.

  8. James_mc (@james_mc) said on 29th October 2011, 20:22

    On the subject of off-line incidents, I could well see someone slamming into the wall at the start of the pit straight after going wide and then being pinged back across the racing line

  9. Mr.Zing Zang said on 29th October 2011, 20:47

    Something inside my mind wants Button to crash into Massa. Am I wicked or what? lol

    • Thecollaroyboys (@thecollaroyboys) said on 29th October 2011, 22:40

      Thats hamiltons job.

    • bosyber (@bosyber) said on 29th October 2011, 23:02

      In a way that would work better as Massa going into Button, I feel. But I prefer a clean race, and wouldn’t mind Massa just getting a good result.

    • Surprising that they keep meeting, looking at the points split between them they should be in different races.
      Racing cars will bump into one another from time to time, arguing and emoting about it really doesn’t help. You end up with drivers unwilling to overtake, which is the complete opposite to what we all want!

  10. Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 29th October 2011, 20:51

    Hope Red Bull don’t try anything ridiculous. If they do, then I hope Alonso wins.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 29th October 2011, 21:06

      I wouldn’t mind if Alonso wins it even if Red Bull do not try anything rediculous (although a Webber, Massa, Rosberg win would be enormous as well, and a win by Hamilton or Button quite nice)!

  11. Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 29th October 2011, 21:01

    The sheer possibility of the headline coming true makes me wince.

  12. verstappen (@verstappen) said on 29th October 2011, 22:29

    I hope we Will see none-DRS-overtakes during this race. That would make me happy. Or maybe hard-fought-DRS-overtakes…
    Just don’t let it be another Turkey

  13. This is going to make me sound like a right Button Fan Boy but, you know what, on this occasion i just don’t care…

    As much as i like Webber, personally, i just don’t think he deserves 2nd in the drivers championship, yes i know the points system rewards consistency, and I’ve always been a fan of that but Mark has been in a car which has managed to win 10 races this year, and he hasn’t even won a single one of them, even Rubens manages to pick up a couple of wins in JBs dominate year of 2009. JB has had 3 wins, they have equal podiums, but JB has had too DNFs which wasn’t his Fault, whereas mark has had one which was a result of a collision. Jee’z even Fernando has won in a car which has consistently looked like it shouldn’t win.

    Basically what im trying to say is Mark this year, so far anyway, doesn’t deserve second place, though he may genuinely blitz the field in the next few races and i might change my mind, i just wont if the team have to switch the drivers around on track or in the pits or whatever in order for him to get second.

    #fanboyrant

  14. George (@george) said on 29th October 2011, 22:56

    I can only see Button going backwards, he had no pace at all in quali. Hamilton will probably come home in 3rd behind the Red Bulls with Alonso in 4th. Just wish i’d remembered to fill in my predictions for this race :P.

  15. electrolite (@electrolite) said on 29th October 2011, 23:07

    I can see Alonso getting a monsterous start, so even is RBR did have a plan for the start it would be screwed if that happened.

    That being said I sure hope they don’t use team orders. Webber in front of Vettel is still team orders, even if I like the former much, much more. Mark’s proved he can dominate races. Let’s just he can do it this season, and on his own.

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