Lotus threat to Vettel’s bid for third Valencia win

2012 European Grand Prix pre-race analysis

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Valencia, 2012In Canada two weeks ago Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton shared the front row of the grid – but victory went to the McLaren driver.

Can Vettel stay ahead this time – and become the first driver to score two wins this season? Or might Lotus finally make good on the potential they’ve previously shown?

The start

On Valencia’s little-used track, starting on the racing line can be a distinct advantage. That was certainly the case in today’s GP2 race, where the drivers on the even-numbered grid positions got away poorly.

Vettel should have no difficulty getting to turn two (the first real corner) ahead of the chasing pack, who may well be led by third-placed Pastor Maldonado if Lewis Hamilton struggles on the slippery side.

The opening sequence of chicanes offers a precious chance to gain places before the cars settle in to their usual single-file pattern at Valencia.

Strategy

Romain Grosjean, Lotus, Valencia, 2012Valencia has the shortest pit lane on the F1 calendar. Because drivers lose comparatively little time in the pits, teams are more likely to risk making an extra pit stop.

Given the tyre performance seen so far this weekend, that could edge them towards two pit stops instead of three.

Counter-balancing that is the potential risk involved in getting stuck behind a slower car. Yes, the DRS zone should help reduce that (see below), but until the race begins teams will be unsure just how straightforward overtaking may be.

A pit stop typically costs drivers around 22 seconds in Valencia. But the field is especially close this weekend – less than a second per lap covered the top 14 in final practice – so the leaders may find it takes a long time for a gap to appear which they can drop into.

The teams will also be concerned about the potential deployment of the safety car and the effect it could have on their strategies. Historically we’ve seen fairly few safety cars here, but we only have four (F1) races of data to go on.

The three safety car appearances in today’s GP2 race served as a reminder that the tight confines of this track can force a safety car appearance in circumstances where, at a different track, it might not be necessary.

It also illustrated the high risk in not pitting after your rivals do – as erstwhile runaway leader James Calado discovered to his cost, falling from first to ninth.

Hamilton and Vettel will be wary of the pace shown by the Lotus drivers – who start fourth and fifth. Lotus’s trackside operations directory Alan Permane said: “We?re very happy with today?s performance and both drivers have done an excellent job.”

“We?ve come from much further back on the grid than [fourth or fifth] and finished very well, so we have good confidence heading into tomorrow?s race.”

While the top ten will start with the soft tyres they qualified on, the likes of Michael Schumacher and the Ferrari drivers have a free choice, which should allow them to make progress.

Qualifying times in full

Driver Car Q1 Q2 (vs Q1) Q3 (vs Q2)
1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1’39.626 1’38.530 (-1.096) 1’38.086 (-0.444)
2 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1’39.169 1’38.616 (-0.553) 1’38.410 (-0.206)
3 Pastor Maldonado Williams 1’38.825 1’38.570 (-0.255) 1’38.475 (-0.095)
4 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1’39.530 1’38.489 (-1.041) 1’38.505 (+0.016)
5 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1’39.464 1’38.531 (-0.933) 1’38.513 (-0.018)
6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’39.061 1’38.504 (-0.557) 1’38.623 (+0.119)
7 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1’39.651 1’38.703 (-0.948) 1’38.741 (+0.038)
8 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1’39.009 1’38.689 (-0.320) 1’38.752 (+0.063)
9 Jenson Button McLaren 1’39.622 1’38.563 (-1.059) 1’38.801 (+0.238)
10 Paul di Resta Force India 1’38.858 1’38.519 (-0.339) 1’38.992 (+0.473)
11 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1’39.409 1’38.707 (-0.702)
12 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1’39.447 1’38.770 (-0.677)
13 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1’39.388 1’38.780 (-0.608)
14 Bruno Senna Williams 1’39.449 1’39.207 (-0.242)
15 Sergio Perez Sauber 1’39.353 1’39.358 (+0.005)
16 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1’40.087 1’40.295 (+0.208)
17 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1’39.924 1’40.358 (+0.434)
18 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1’40.203
19 Mark Webber Red Bull 1’40.395
20 Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1’40.457
21 Pedro de la Rosa HRT 1’42.171
22 Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1’42.527
23 Charles Pic Marussia 1’42.675
24 Timo Glock Marussia

Unusually, most of the drivers who reached Q3 did not improve their times. One of them was Nico Rosberg, who blamed Lewis Hamilton:

“I can’t be happy with the outcome today. We were quick throughout but when I was just about to start my final lap, Lewis was slowing down in the last corner. I had to start my quick lap behind him which made it impossible to improve my time.”

The stewards investigated Hamilton but decided he had not driven unnecessarily slowly in the final sector.

Paul di Resta was especially disappointed at his failure to improve – had he matched his Q2 time he would have qualified on row three. “I locked a wheel and really screwed up the last sector,” he said.

Jenson Button had shown improved pace during practice and throughout most of qualifying – but hit trouble during the crunch time in Q3: “The team worked really hard overnight to improve the issues we?d had with front [wheel] locking during Friday practice ?ǣ and, this morning, I felt we?d improved the car a lot, which was really encouraging.

“Somehow, however, my car felt very different on fresh rubber at the end of Q3 than it had felt all day up to then. On my final run in Q3, the balance felt very different ?ǣ I had too much understeer ?ǣ and, every time I touched the brakes, I locked the fronts. I don?t know whether the circuit had changed, but I just couldn?t stop locking my fronts.”

Sector times

Driver Sector 1 Sector 2 Sector 3
Sebastian Vettel 25.844 (2) 44.594 (1) 27.648 (3)
Lewis Hamilton 26.021 (8) 44.612 (2) 27.634 (2)
Pastor Maldonado 26.051 (10) 44.771 (10) 27.517 (1)
Romain Grosjean 25.827 (1) 44.860 (13) 27.670 (4)
Kimi Raikkonen 25.973 (3) 44.775 (12) 27.705 (7)
Nico Rosberg 26.027 (9) 44.731 (6) 27.745 (8)
Kamui Kobayashi 25.980 (6) 44.759 (7) 27.889 (14)
Nico Hulkenberg 25.978 (5) 44.657 (5) 27.848 (12)
Jenson Button 25.997 (7) 44.767 (9) 27.695 (5)
Paul di Resta 26.098 (12) 44.654 (4) 27.700 (6)
Fernando Alonso 26.075 (11) 44.772 (11) 27.805 (10)
Michael Schumacher 25.977 (4) 44.766 (8) 27.795 (9)
Felipe Massa 26.219 (14) 44.622 (3) 27.900 (15)
Bruno Senna 26.229 (15) 45.038 (14) 27.854 (13)
Sergio Perez 26.108 (13) 45.055 (15) 27.828 (11)
Heikki Kovalainen 26.457 (16) 45.311 (17) 28.318 (19)
Daniel Ricciardo 26.535 (18) 45.296 (16) 28.024 (16)
Jean-Eric Vergne 26.485 (17) 45.466 (18) 28.095 (17)
Mark Webber 26.586 (20) 45.521 (19) 28.193 (18)
Vitaly Petrov 26.565 (19) 45.567 (20) 28.325 (20)
Pedro de la Rosa 26.930 (21) 46.237 (21) 29.004 (23)
Narain Karthikeyan 27.166 (23) 46.657 (23) 28.704 (21)
Charles Pic 27.126 (22) 46.522 (22) 28.893 (22)
Timo Glock

The times were remarkably close in qualifying. A superb final sector from Pastor Maldonado – a tenth of a second quicker than anyone else’s – put him in the hunt for pole position.

Both Lotus drivers lost time in the middle sector which prevented them from qualifying higher. But Sebastian Vettel had the measure of all his rivals.

Speed trap

Pos Driver Car Speed (kph/mph) Gap
1 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 321.4 (199.7)
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 320.4 (199.1) -1.0
3 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 320.0 (198.8) -1.4
4 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 319.4 (198.5) -2.0
5 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 318.1 (197.7) -3.3
6 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 318.0 (197.6) -3.4
7 Sergio Perez Sauber 317.9 (197.5) -3.5
8 Paul di Resta Force India 317.9 (197.5) -3.5
9 Jenson Button McLaren 317.9 (197.5) -3.5
10 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 317.8 (197.5) -3.6
11 Felipe Massa Ferrari 316.0 (196.4) -5.4
12 Bruno Senna Williams 314.6 (195.5) -6.8
13 Pastor Maldonado Williams 314.4 (195.4) -7.0
14 Narain Karthikeyan HRT 313.5 (194.8) -7.9
15 Pedro de la Rosa HRT 313.1 (194.6) -8.3
16 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 312.6 (194.2) -8.8
17 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 312.2 (194.0) -9.2
18 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 312.0 (193.9) -9.4
19 Vitaly Petrov Caterham 311.4 (193.5) -10.0
20 Mark Webber Red Bull 311.3 (193.4) -10.1
21 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 310.2 (192.7) -11.2
22 Romain Grosjean Lotus 310.2 (192.7) -11.2
23 Charles Pic Marussia 307.6 (191.1) -13.8

Overtaking has tended to be very difficult in Valencia. The DRS zones for this year have been reconfigured, with one instead of two, albeit a slightly longer zone.

Sebastian Vettel is giving away almost 6kph to Lewis Hamilton in a straight line – not much, but it could prove decisive if Hamilton can get within DRS range.

2012 European Grand Prix

Browse all 2012 European Grand Prix articles

Image ?? Red Bull/Getty images, Lotus F1 Team

Advert | Go Ad-free

46 comments on Lotus threat to Vettel’s bid for third Valencia win

  1. icemangrins (@icemangrins) said on 23rd June 2012, 19:22

    Romain Grosjean is definitely the surprise package this year. He is quiet, humble and always smiling.

    I hope he does win tomorrow. Having said that, come on KIMI!!!!!!

  2. Eggry (@eggry) said on 23rd June 2012, 19:22

    I wish one of Lotus to win and Ferrari makes big progress. Anyway I think Vettel or Hamilton’s chance is not that good as previous seasons.

  3. Colossal Squid (@colossal-squid) said on 23rd June 2012, 19:23

    I wouldn’t write off Hamilton yet, as shown in Canada, (although a very different circuit) all it takes is for Lewis to keep in touch with Vettel then ensure they make the correct call on when to pit. Maldonado will be another driver I’m very interested in watching. Kimi’s usually pretty good at the start too.
    But the big question is: Can Michael Schumacher finish a race? :)

  4. Tifoso1989 (@tifoso1989) said on 23rd June 2012, 19:28

    With Maldonado 3rd & Grosjean 4th there’s a big chance that the safety car will come out in first lap but the question is who will be their victim ? Raikkonen ?? or Hamilton ?? or they will crash into each other ??

  5. Aldoid said on 23rd June 2012, 19:43

    Looking forward to a good race tomorrow (can’t believe I’m saying that about Valencia!). I’m surprised there’s not much being mentioned anywhere about Maldonado’s chances for victory or even the podium tomorrow… I’m not too confident in him either, mind you, but with a race win under his belt & a car that looked solid so far most of the weekend (not to mention lining up on the clean side of the grid behind Vettel), I’d say the Lotus pair that everyone is expecting to storm to the front will have to contend with him first before sending any longing glances in LH or SV’s direction. Rosberg seems to have a fairly decent car beneath him this weekend too. Vettel looks good for the win, but since I don’t want him to win I’m predicting Lewis will take it. Both of them typically go very well here, but it’s definitely advantage Vettel & Red Bull.

  6. danclapp (@danclapp) said on 23rd June 2012, 20:24

    im gutted guys looks like lewis will be penalized but rosberg said he backed him and pastor up yet pastor imptoved i really dont like N.R,smacks of sour grapes to me the man is not quick he thonks he is because he’s beating a 42 yr old legend.

    Rosberg found his last run of Q3 compromised when he was held up behind Hamilton – who had been driving slowly in the final sector of the lap to try and build himself a good buffer to the cars ahead of him.

    Hamilton managed to deliver a lap that secured him second on the grid, while Rosberg was left ruing what might have been – as he was left down in P6 with the time from his first run.

    Speaking about how much Hamilton’s situation had cost him, Rosberg said: “It had a big impact. But that’s beside the point really. The point is that there is a rule, stating very clearly that you are not allowed to slow down in those last couple of corners unnecessarily. That is the rule, it is very clear, because it is dangerous.

    “In this case, me and [Pastor] Maldonado were arriving flat out, and Lewis was driving extremely slowly all of a sudden. It’s just a very dangerous situation, and that’s what the rule is there for.

    “At the same time, as a side point, it did ruin my lap because I started the lap stuck behind him.”

    Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn believes that Rosberg had had the potential to be fighting for a front row start if he had got a clean run on that final lap.

    “Nico had a good balance and was looking as if he could challenge for the front row,” he said. “And he got caught up with Lewis.

    “He had Maldonado behind him so he was conscious of making sure he gave Maldonado clearance to finish his lap, and Lewis backed him up into Maldonado. So that was the end of our qualifying.”

    McLaren confirmed on Saturday evening that Hamilton had been summoned to see the stewards to discuss the matter.

    Rosberg found his last run of Q3 compromised when he was held up behind Hamilton – who had been driving slowly in the final sector of the lap to try and build himself a good buffer to the cars ahead of him.

    Hamilton managed to deliver a lap that secured him second on the grid, while Rosberg was left ruing what might have been – as he was left down in P6 with the time from his first run.

    Speaking about how much Hamilton’s situation had cost him, Rosberg said: “It had a big impact. But that’s beside the point really. The point is that there is a rule, stating very clearly that you are not allowed to slow down in those last couple of corners unnecessarily. That is the rule, it is very clear, because it is dangerous.

    “In this case, me and [Pastor] Maldonado were arriving flat out, and Lewis was driving extremely slowly all of a sudden. It’s just a very dangerous situation, and that’s what the rule is there for.

    “At the same time, as a side point, it did ruin my lap because I started the lap stuck behind him.”

    Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn believes that Rosberg had had the potential to be fighting for a front row start if he had got a clean run on that final lap.

    “Nico had a good balance and was looking as if he could challenge for the front row,” he said. “And he got caught up with Lewis.

    “He had Maldonado behind him so he was conscious of making sure he gave Maldonado clearance to finish his lap, and Lewis backed him up into Maldonado. So that was the end of our qualifying.”

    McLaren confirmed on Saturday evening that Hamilton had been summoned to see the stewards to discuss the matter.

    • Aldoid said on 23rd June 2012, 20:34

      The stewards cleared Hamilton of any wrong doing. They compared his sector times with those of Rosberg and found that he’d actually been quicker than Nico through there on a previous lap & that the gap between them distance & time wise didn’t indicate Lewis slowed down unnecessarily.

    • sorin (@) said on 23rd June 2012, 21:13

      No, Lewis won’t be penalised because he is not on pole. He learned the lesson: if he is in pole, stewards will find something to penalised him. He is smart and he will start second from now on (and Canada). But if he continous to win, starting second, i think the stewards will start penalise him even if he is second. I tell you guys, I’m not joking.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 24th June 2012, 3:16

      @danclapp Read the article:

      The stewards investigated Hamilton but decided he had not driven unnecessarily slowly in the final sector.

  7. M30 said on 23rd June 2012, 20:35

    Easy win for Hamilton

  8. de Hooch said on 23rd June 2012, 21:28

    would please me no end to see RAI take this one.
    He makes an average 3 or 4 places in a race, so unless VET is consistent with his top lap pace….
    I expect Alonso’s ferrari to be in p7 by end of 2nd lap. first thing tomorrow I’m putting a tenner [100 drachmas] on ALO to make the podium….

  9. Jake (@jleigh) said on 23rd June 2012, 21:42

    Hamilton would probably have been better off if he received a 3 place-grid penalty! In both GP2 and GP3, the driver who started 5th has led the driver who started 2nd into turn 2.

  10. wigster (@wigster) said on 23rd June 2012, 21:55

    Unfortunately I think it looks like being another race dominated by Vettel tomorrow, especially if Maldonado or the lotuses get in front of Hamilton in the first lap. I say unfortunately as I’d prefer Hamilton or one of the Lotuses to win, but I’m not sure it’s likely to happen.

    It’ll also be interesting to see how well Maldonado holds on to the front runners, I don’t expect him to finish in the top 3, and if and how the Ferraris (or just Alonso) manage to fight their way into the top 10, which I expect them to.

  11. mclaren (@mclaren) said on 23rd June 2012, 22:12

    Lotus’s chances are always talked up pre-race, then they don’t deliver. Unbelievable laps from Hamilton and Vettel. Just a matter of interest, how many front rows have HAM and VET shared, surely its some sort of a record?

  12. davidwhite (@davidwhite) said on 23rd June 2012, 23:42

    “this morning, I felt we’d improved the car a lot, which was really encouraging.

    “Somehow, however, my car felt very different on fresh rubber at the end of Q3 than it had felt all day up to then. On my final run in Q3, the balance felt very different – I had too much understeer””

    – What a surprise. Button when it actually counts i.e. final run in Q3 Button fails to deliver and blames it on a different level of balance and grip. When is this guy going to stop moaning and accept responsibility for his poor performances.

    • nickfrog (@nickfrog) said on 24th June 2012, 0:39

      You’re being harsh. He is one of rare humble yet eloquent and down to earth F1 drivers. He doesn’t need excuses, it’s just not working for him atm but he’ll be back.

      • davidwhite (@davidwhite) said on 24th June 2012, 0:44

        He’ll be back? This is what he’s been doing for the whole of his career – unless the car is perfect he can’t cut it with the best. And it couldn’t possibly be because he isn’t as fast as Vettel, Hamilton etc – of course not – it’s all to do with the balance of the car. Yawn.

    • Aldoid said on 24th June 2012, 2:40

      I always thought that there wasn’t too much fundamentally you could change on the car during qualifying anyway… just how much are they allowed to tinker with settings during qualifying? I’m really not sure, but I always thought it wasn’t a whole lot… either way, it doesn’t really matter because it looks like the only thing McLaren changed on Jenson’s car between Q2 & Q3 was tires. I’ve always wondered how come Jenson’s “balance” normally seems to be fine in Q1 & Q2 but come Q3 when the Alonsos, Vettels & Hamiltons usually buckle down & set about the task of hunting 10ths wherever they may lurk, his “balance” goes AWOL. I’ve never heard another driver complain about a lack of “balance” as much as Jenson either. Whenever he doesn’t perform, it was the “balance” that magically disappeared. I’d get that thing on a leash.

  13. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 24th June 2012, 4:21

    Pretty confident that Vettel will take this one. He seems very fast and has a circuit beneath him that makes it harder to over-take. I expect that watching Webber try to climb through the race as well as Alonso and Massa will provide us with some entertainment. Another 18th to 3rd for Webber?!

  14. Njack (@njack) said on 24th June 2012, 4:55

    Webber has already said he thinks that is unlikely. I can’t see him making past sixth if none of the front runners hit trouble. From espnf1: Webber“Strategy is a little bit easier than Monaco in terms of trying to come through … but it’s a completely different track (to China). There’s one line. Shanghai has the long back straight, you can pass in turn four, you can pass in many places in Shanghai, here it’s very tricky to pass. We know that the top speed is not our forte, we have to have a clean track to do our lap times.

    “One more doesn’t work because that means you need to clear people on track and we’re not clearing people so well. So it has to be one less.

  15. Todd (@braketurnaccelerate) said on 24th June 2012, 5:22

    Anyone have a decent live feed? (Preferably free)

    Stupid Fox/Speed doesn’t air it until 11am, which means it’ll have been over for 2 hours… :(

    • Julian (@julian) said on 24th June 2012, 8:34

      @braketurnaccelerate
      Google vipbox and go from there.
      I shall say no more because I’m not sure of Keith’s policy on live streams and what not in the comments.

      • Todd (@braketurnaccelerate) said on 24th June 2012, 9:21

        @julian – Thanks. I didn’t necessarily mean some type of “underground” website. I seem to have remembered a few legitimate websites that offered streaming, but maybe I’m wrong. Either way, if I can’t find a legitimate website, I’ll definitely watch it somehow. Showing it after its all said and done isn’t an acceptable practice IMHO.

        • Julian (@julian) said on 24th June 2012, 10:54

          @braketurnaccelerate
          As far as I’m aware there aren’t any ‘legitmate’ websites offering streams, especially not free ones, and I’ve done a lot of searching.

          We get commercials here in Australia so I switch to a stream for around 3 minutes everytime they come on just so I don’t miss anything!

          If FOM got off their bums and put streaming functionality on their website I’d happily pay for it but alas, they are so far behind the times so I resort to this.

          But yeah, if it’s not your thing I hope you can find another way to watch and enjoy the race :)

Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments must abide by the comment policy. Comments may be moderated.
Want to post off-topic? Head to the forum.
See the FAQ for more information.