Rain may hinder Vettel’s path to victory

2011 Brazilian GP pre-race analysis

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Interlagos, 2011

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Interlagos, 2011

Sebastian Vettel will start from his 15th pole position of the season.

And if the forecast rain doesn’t arrive, it’s hard to see him failing to convert it into his 12th win of the year.

The start

With team mate Mark Webber alongside him on the front row it’s hard to see anyone threatening Vettel on the short (190 metre) run to the first corner. As discussed in several recent pre-race articles, Webber’s starts have been less than great in 2011.

With the obvious exception of his disastrous first lap in Abu Dhabi, there’s been little to fault Vettel’s starts this year. He’s often pulled out enough of a margin in his first lap along to pull clear of those behind behind him.

It’s not unusual to see collisions on the first lap at Interlagos. The first lap in 2009 was particularly destructive, with Kimi Raikkonen hitting Mark Webber, then Adrian Sutil, Jarno Trulli and Fernando Alonso all colliding.

Strategy

Rain is by no means certain tomorrow, so it’s worth taking a quick look at the strategy situation.

Pirelli’s soft and medium compounds are the tyres of choice this weekend. The soft is a new compound introduced at this race.

There were some signs of blistering in practice which could present a problem on race day. But even if the rain doesn’t materialise, temperatures are expected to be cooler, which should help contain any such problems.

The usual policy of starting on the soft tyres and using those up until in a sufficient window to make the mandatory switch to harder tyres will apply for most drivers. But the above average potential for a safety car period, due to the limited run-off in places and comparatively short lap length, makes alternative strategies more appealing.

The weather

There is a good chance of rain showers on race day. As we’ve seen in the past, rain at Interlagos can mean anything between a light sprinkling and a thunderous downpour.

It would be an exaggeration to call wet conditions an Achilles’ Heel of the RB7. But it’s true that none of the three rain-affected races this year were won by Red Bull. Jenson Button triumphed in Canada and Hungary, and Fernando Alonso won in Britain.

Alonso has mixed feelings about the prospect of rain tomorrow: It?s true that for us, the problem of getting the tyres up to temperature are more acute in the wet, but then it?s equally true that when the track does dry, we are quicker than our rivals: the various stages of the race at Silverstone demonstrated this to be the case.”

Drainage has been a problem at Interlagos in the past – notably in 2003 when several drivers crashed after hitting a stream of water in the Senna S.

One of those drivers was Jenson Button, who says the track is now much improved in that respect: “I think what they?ve done with the drainage system, putting the little grooves in the track has helped a lot but it?s still a very tricky circuit, especially when it rains hard.”

But the man who has most to lose from unpredictable conditions is not put off by it. “It?s a good thing we cannot control the weather,” said Vettel. “We control too many things, I think.”

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70 comments on Rain may hinder Vettel’s path to victory

  1. Enigma (@enigma) said on 26th November 2011, 23:14

    Second paragraph in the “The start” section is obviously talking about Vettel but doesn’t mention him, a mistake there I reckon Keith.

  2. cduk_mugello (@cduk_mugello) said on 26th November 2011, 23:16

    Wasn’t the main problem in 2003 not the amount of water on track, but more that they didn’t have the correct tyres?

    If memory serves right, teams were only allowed to take one set of wet-weather tyres to races – either intermediates or extreme wets. The problem came that the rain was heavy enough for full wets, but all they had were intermediates.

    Still, what a cracker of a race.

  3. Jake (@jleigh) said on 26th November 2011, 23:21

    When you say rain is by no means certain, do you mean forecasts have changed indicating a lower chance of rain or just that you can never be sure with interlagos? because the last i heard the chance of precipitation between 1 and 4 local time was 100% !

  4. davidwhite (@davidwhite) said on 26th November 2011, 23:29

    Looking at the forecast it looks like we’ll get a downpour at some point with light rain forecast in the morning. I just hope it’s dry enough at the start of the race not to need a SC start.

    If it’s changeable conditions, i think we may get a surprise result. If it’s wet all race, i can’t look past Red Bull (Vettel) or McLaren (Hamilton). Button is always touted as being great in the wet, but IMO he’s not been as quick as Hamilton in wet conditions but makes better decisions in drying conditions. So watch out for Button if it’s wet then dry….

  5. mantolwen (@mantolwen) said on 26th November 2011, 23:45

    To be fair to Vettel, he almost won in Canada. The British GP was held under extraordinary conditions due to the change in blown diffuser rules and Vettel still came second. In Hungary, he again came second. I don’t think the RB7 is that bad in the rain, and Vettel won for Toro Rosso in the rain as well so he can cope with the conditions.
    Of course, I’d much rather somebody else won, but I think it’s possible!

    • 91jb12 (@91jb12) said on 26th November 2011, 23:54

      i agree, with the exception of Hungary, Vettel has consistantly been the fastest man when everyone was on inters/wets.
      What didn’t help Vettel in Canada was when they all put slicks on, in Silverstone Vettel was the last to go to slicks, losing most of the big lead he built up when it was wet. In Hungary Hamilton was too quick but then had Vettel gone to slicks earlier, he may well have kept Button behind him. (He got by as Vettel was warming his slicks up).
      If its a wet race like China 09 with no running on dries I’d back him to do well but if its a changeable race (like it often is these days with how quick they dry the tracks) then its a lottery

      • IsaacTham (@isaactham) said on 27th November 2011, 2:26

        I disagree. Hamilton has been fastest on inters in Britain and Hungary, and I daresay on wets in Canada.

        In Canada, even though he retired early, he was all over Button’s and Schumacher’s gearbox, even as he made a mistake at the hairpin the lap before the crash. He was consistently 1/2s faster than the rest though him being stuck in traffic (spray) made him slower than Vettel, who was out in front.

        In Silverstone, Hamilton started 10th but was up to 6th by first lap. He was much faster than Massa but was stuck behind him for a few laps. Though the Mclaren was 1s slower than RBR/Ferrari due to blown diffuser regs during that race, Hamilton was the fastest in the damp conditions and that got himself up to 2nd at one point.

        In Hungary, Hamilton overtook Vettel and immediately built up an 8s lead in around 12 laps before change to slicks.

        If this isn’t proof that Hamilton is the master of wet conditions, I don’t know what is.

        Hamilton should be the man to watch if the track is wet during the race.

        • Mike (@mike) said on 27th November 2011, 2:40

          … Winning two of them? Oh wait that’s Button…

          Hamilton is very good… But wet races haven’t been his strong suit this year. As evidenced from his results.

          (Noting the small sample pool)

        • raymondu999 (@raymondu999) said on 27th November 2011, 9:05

          @IsaacTham Let’s take a look at some raw figures for Canada then, where you say he was very quick.

          Below we have the lap times, and position where each was running in:

          The first four laps are useless due to the fact that they were safety car laps. In racing conditions, in the 3 laps they both did, Vettel was 4.774s, 5.090s, and 2.309s quicker.

          Lap Vettel Hamilton Laptime
          1. 2:18.174 [1] 2:22.459 [5] -4.285
          2. 2:06.919 [1] 2:06.157 [5] +0.762
          3. 2:05.303 [1] 2:05.340 [5] -0.037
          4. 2:05.715 [1] 2:03.927 [5] +1.788
          5. 1:36.175 [1] 1:40.949 [6] -4.774
          6. 1:34.827 [1] 1:39.917 [7] -5.090
          7. 1:35.452 [1] 1:37.761 [7] -2.309

          Regarding Silverstone, they were 1s (more, actually) down in qualifying. That is absolutely indisputable. But we don’t know that would be the case in race pace. RBR were 1s quicker than McLaren in Barcelona qualifying; come the race McLarens were 1.5s/lap quicker than the Red Bulls.

          • bosyber (@bosyber) said on 27th November 2011, 13:00

            But Vettel also was faster than everyone else because he was the only one that had a clean view without spray.

            I think Vettel staying ahead in Canada doesn’t say much about his ability in the rain (pro or con), although it does show he’s been really good at keeping himself out of trouble this year, especially as there was so much SC there earlier on.

            If it rains today the race just gets more unpredictable, and HAM, BUT, and ALO have a better chance to surprise and win because Vettel has to work harder to stay in control when the weather is changeable, it doesn’t mean he won’t manage to stay ahead. He has confidence and a good car to help him stay on top of things though.

          • raymondu999 (@raymondu999) said on 27th November 2011, 13:06

            @bosyber Vettel was pulling away at 1-1.5 seconds every lap. It had come to the point that P2 wasn’t usually in dirty air or even in spray.

          • bosyber (@bosyber) said on 27th November 2011, 13:19

            Away from the two Ferrari’s, who had trouble getting temperature into their tyres in the rain; and then they all had a sort of rhythm, and he had the fastest – because of no spray, and knowing he was ahead in a good car.

            I’m not saying Vettel can’t drive in the wet, far from it. Certainly this year I don’t think there is any circumstance where you can say Vettel is having trouble driving the car.

            Near the end of the race, Vettel seemed a bit too cautious in the drying circumstances, while Button knew he had to fight for it with little to lose, and maybe that cooled Vettels tyres a bit too much (as we have seen happen in the dry with others this year); I don’t think he drove badly, but Button did the better job.

            Here something similar might happen by some of those behind him. Although Vettel also has less to loose, and he has learned from that experience. He might well win it, but I hope he’ll have to fight visibly for it.

          • raymondu999 (@raymondu999) said on 27th November 2011, 13:35

            @bosyber
            not quite true – If you look at all of the races this year; Ferrari have never had issues getting heat in their tyres when traction and braking are the name of the game. And like I said, Vettel was so far ahead that there was already no spray.

            Vettel drove too cautiously at the restart, and he admitted that too. I don’t think it would’ve cooled his tyres too much; rather more that Jenson would have had more heat (if you catch what I’m saying). The McLarens this year have been supreme at getting heat into their tyres when others can’t (e.g. Nurburgring; Canada – Canada, Button was the first to go on slicks and intermediates; and was faster than anyone else immediately). It also helped that both McLarens had a wet setup for some bizarre reason (things weren’t really looking like rain on the Saturday).

            Vettel is a very good wet weather driver; and that shouldn’t be put down to just the car. Spa 2008, Monza 2008, China 2007, Fuji 2007 – all stellar drives in the wet. Monaco 2008 too, something like 19th to 4th. Brazil 2008 too – which nearly cost Hamilton the title.

        • bosyber (@bosyber) said on 27th November 2011, 13:52

          Maybe you are right, and Alonso just wasn’t doing a good job in Canada, you clearly have the date at the ready, while I don’t.

          I’m also not saying that Vettel was doing things wrong in Canada, I just said that Button did better (and had more luck?), in the end.

          Look, I’m not saying Vettel can’t drive in the rain, I think he’s a very fast driver in all circumstances, and he’s able to be fast in the dry as we saw this year again and again, as well as in the wet as he has indeed shown in those races (and Korea last year until his engine gave up).

          I do think that Button, and Schumacher, for example, have the benefit of experience in changing conditions, and Hamilton is very good at feeling the car, if he gets it together.

          Since they have a slower car in the dry, their changes will be relatively improved in the wet, because Vettel has to put more effort into keeping it all together as there simply is more risk, rather than putting in great laps at the front, just looking at what the car and team need.

          This year I don’t think Vettel has had a real change to show his best in the rain, although he has certainly shown he’s good just about all the time. Maybe today that changes though.

  6. Lin1876 (@lin1876) said on 27th November 2011, 0:20

    Well we haven’t had a properly wet race in Brazil since that 2003 race, but a repeat of that would be very interesting with regard to the (5th)/6th/7th/8th battle in the constructors. Could you also argue that Brazil ’03 was the last really surprising victory? If so, could we see another (maybe we’ll see Force India or Sauber on the Podium, never say never). Anyway, wet weather means no DRS – real racing fans rejoice!

    I think I’ll be glued to the TV at 3pm tomorrow. This could be a classic!

  7. David-A (@david-a) said on 27th November 2011, 1:03

    I hope Schumacher is on a wet setup and it rains, not only because I want to see him do well, but to give a decent explanation for his lack of qualifying pace this weekend (judged by Q2, anyway).

  8. wasiF1 (@wasif1) said on 27th November 2011, 4:40

    Just can’t wait for the race to start but on the other hand I will be sad as for this time it will be the final time in 2011.

  9. Sergio Perez (@sergio-perez) said on 27th November 2011, 4:56

    I’m a hopeless romantic (that’s probably why I make highly dramatic videos) and would love to see it rain and Bruno Senna do, on this date, a dream race, finishing in the top 3. Bruno lacks the “fire” that Ayrton had, but something sometimes just comes out from this guy. Or maybe that’s what an Ayrton Senna fan wants to see…

    I would love to see this done in rainy conditions, a “Donington Senna Like start”, etc.

    I really do hope however, that with the recent Interlagos unfortunate fatalities, that with slight rain they start the race with a safety car. Its the last race of the year, these cars are fairly safe, and I would really like to see one hell of a show. Nothing to lose and win here- Maybe Hamilton beating Button in the Championship battle, or the Toro Rosso Sauber battle, but seriously would love to see a memorable, drama filled, “one for the books” Brazilian GP.

    And also I don’t forget Michael Schumacher’s final, before retirement race there. So I think there’s something in there to look forward to, as well!

    It has everything to be a classic Brazilian GP, can’t wait!

  10. BradFerrari (@brad-ferrari) said on 27th November 2011, 5:10

    I think back in 2009 you will find it was Webber who hit Raikkonen not the other way round.

  11. Funkyf1 (@funkyf1) said on 27th November 2011, 5:34

    Keith, just an observation, but I think the title of this article is detracting from everything that follows it. “Will rain hinder Vettel’s path to victory” might have been more appropriate, as your article is very insightful, yet the header screams Vettel can’t win/drive in the wet! I expect carnage on the first corner by the way… Too many drivers will be trying to impress the teams to guarantee a seat for next year.

    • John H (@john-h) said on 27th November 2011, 11:39

      yet the header screams Vettel can’t win/drive in the wet

      It doesn’t to me.

      A dry race means there is more chance of a lights to flag victory, regardless which driver it is. It doesn’t scream of anything. Instead the headline suggests that rain may mix things up a little and hence there is less chance of a Vettel victory.

  12. graigchq (@graigchq) said on 27th November 2011, 7:30

    I’m well excited about this race, not least because, for the first time in 2011, I now have 3G internet up on Kilimanjaro in Tanzania Africa, which means no more traipsing down to the big hotel to watch, but right here, on my laptop at home!! Bring it on!!

    • Adam Tate (@adam-tate) said on 27th November 2011, 7:57

      You’re on Kilimanjaro?! As in climbing it?

      That is so awesome, I’ve wanted to go and climb Kilimanjaro ever since I saw a documentary on it when I was very young.

      How is it? It’s simply amazing that you can catch the race from there. Lot’s of people in lot’s of places are grumbling and saying the world is all gone mad, but we just don’t realize how good life truly is.

  13. Joseph94 (@joseph94) said on 27th November 2011, 9:04

    Call me a pessimist but.. with all this excitement of ‘possible’ rain for the race and a classic grand Prix, I’m afraid a lot of people may well be dissapointed. There is a decent chance of a dry race and also a decent chance of a wet/dry race. However, I think an all wet race is very unlikely. As, where the track is located they usually experience very short but heavy downpours (usually last 5-15 minutes). But if one of these showers decides to miss the circuit (which is very possible), we could well have a dry race. It’s a coin flip whether it will be dry and wet for the race basically. I’m a weather enthusiast by the way. Enjoy the race ! .

    • bosyber (@bosyber) said on 27th November 2011, 13:03

      Heh, I like your mindset ^^ I’m certainly trying to prep myself for the race by thinking like that so it can only be better. I wouldn’t want the last race of the season to be a let-down!

  14. alexf1man (@alexf1man) said on 27th November 2011, 9:05

    Who noticed that the top 5 qualifiers are in their 2012 car number order? Vettel, Webber, Button, Hamilton and Alonso.

  15. rdpunk (@) said on 27th November 2011, 10:13

    Whether it rains nor it doesn’t the Red Bulls look so quick around this track. Looking at the speed trap speeds with the Red Bulls being a bit slower than the rest it could indicate a higher downforce because although they aren’t normally topping it, they aren’t that slow. Vettel is going to be lightning off the start because 1. He normally is and 2. He’s on the right hand side of the grid which is on the racing line, so it wouldnt supprise me if the person in third place managed to jump to second above Webber.

    • raymondu999 (@raymondu999) said on 27th November 2011, 13:48

      @rdpunk yes. However Interlagos is a very funny circuit in that wing level almost doesn’t affect anything. Add wing, what you lose in the straights is almost perfectly nullified by the extra braking, traction, and speed in the infield. The same is true reverse.

      What a lot of people don’t consider with more downforce is that means they will have more traction at the start. Look at Monza 2010 – Button’s start if you want a perfect example of that

      • rdpunk (@) said on 28th November 2011, 12:19

        Ahh I never really took into consideration the different sectors. I just took my assumptions from the way that the BBC where putting alot of emphasis on the set ups of cars :p

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