Vettel should expect no favours from Webber

2012 Korean Grand Prix pre-race analysis

Mark Webber pipped Sebastian Vettel to pole position in Korea.

And he’s already given short shrift to suggestions he might drive to help his team mate improve his position in the championship.

“I need to win, so that?s my goal,” said Webber when asked the inevitable question about team orders during Thursday’s press conference. “I’ve come here to push.”

Last year saw the first dry-weather start in Korea and it was a dramatic affair with much swapping of positions which set the shape of the race. Who will come out on top this time?

The start

Start, Korea, 2011The Korea International Circuit offers little grip at all – whether a driver starts on the racing line or off it. So starting off-line is not necessarily a disaster for the likes of Vettel and Fernando Alonso, particularly as the run to the first corner is so short.

“I don’t think it’s a big disadvantage,” said second-placed Vettel in today’s press conference. “Surely I think I would rather be on pole but qualifying is over so we start from second and I don’t think it’s a big problem.

“Last year we made a good launch and I think here that you never know what happens. You might as well start third, fourth, fifth and you could end up first by turn four, so you don’t know. There’s a long straight after the second corner.”

The 1.05km straight leading to turn three is followed by another long stretch before turn four. These offer huge potential for first-lap jousting where judicious use of KERS (for those that have it) is vital.

Last year none of the top six cars at the end of the first lap were in the same positions they’d occupied at the exit of turn one. So even if pole sitter Webber comes out of turn one in the lead he’ll need to keep an eye on his mirrors.

Some drivers can’t afford to be as aggressive as others, notably the top title contenders. Alonso has had enough first-lap disasters already this year and he acknowledged his potential vulnerability at the start: “Maybe I might lose a few places immediately after the start, as I?m on the dirty side of the track, but we have shown we have a good pace over a long run and so we should be able to stay with the lead group.”

Romain Grosjean would do well to borrow Alonso’s philosophy. The Lotus driver faced fresh criticism of his driving following his collision with Webber at Suzuka. He needs to keep out of trouble at all costs, even if it means surrendering places at the start.

Strategy

Sebastian Vettel, Mark Webber, Red Bull, Korea, 2012Red Bull may have locked out the front row but Friday’s practice times indicated they might not have things all their own way during the race. In the high fuel laps Ferrari, McLaren and Lotus all improved their times at a faster rate than Red Bull.

The top ten drivers will all start on super-soft tyres. Jenson Button is the first driver with a free choice of tyres, and that could prove particularly valuable here.

Two-stop strategies are expected to be commonplace, but drivers may be able to get away with one. Button could be well-placed to make that strategy work. This is a tactic Sauber have used to great effect as well, and the two C31s are lined up behind Button on the grid.

“With around 0.2 to 0.6 seconds lap time difference between the two compounds, we would expect to see two pit stops during the race, but some teams could even try one stop, as the smooth surface means that wear is low,” explained Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery. “So we could see longer stints than expected, with the front tyre being the limiting factor here.”

Qualifying times in full

Driver Car Q1 Q2 (vs Q1) Q3 (vs Q2)
1 Mark Webber Red Bull 1’38.397 1’38.220 (-0.177) 1’37.242 (-0.978)
2 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1’38.208 1’37.767 (-0.441) 1’37.316 (-0.451)
3 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1’39.180 1’38.000 (-1.180) 1’37.469 (-0.531)
4 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1’39.144 1’37.987 (-1.157) 1’37.534 (-0.453)
5 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1’38.887 1’38.227 (-0.660) 1’37.625 (-0.602)
6 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1’38.937 1’38.253 (-0.684) 1’37.884 (-0.369)
7 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1’38.863 1’38.275 (-0.588) 1’37.934 (-0.341)
8 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1’38.981 1’38.428 (-0.553) 1’38.266 (-0.162)
9 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’38.999 1’38.417 (-0.582) 1’38.361 (-0.056)
10 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1’38.808 1’38.436 (-0.372) 1’38.513 (+0.077)
11 Jenson Button McLaren 1’38.615 1’38.441 (-0.174)
12 Sergio Perez Sauber 1’38.630 1’38.460 (-0.170)
13 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1’38.719 1’38.594 (-0.125)
14 Paul di Resta Force India 1’38.942 1’38.643 (-0.299)
15 Pastor Maldonado Williams 1’39.024 1’38.725 (-0.299)
16 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1’38.784 1’39.084 (+0.300)
17 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1’38.744 1’39.340 (+0.596)
18 Bruno Senna Williams 1’39.443
19 Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1’40.207
20 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1’40.333
21 Timo Glock Marussia 1’41.371
22 Pedro de la Rosa HRT 1’42.881
23 Narain Karthikeyan HRT
24 Charles Pic Marussia 1’41.317

Alonso chose to put on a set of super-soft tyres in Q1 to ensure safe passage to Q2. But he used them with impressive skill, taking just enough life out of them in Q1 to move up one position in the rankings, ensuring that Lewis Hamilton would have been eliminated instead of him had Bruno Senna improved his lap time.

He then used the same set of tyres in Q2 to set the 1’37.987 which got him into the top ten shoot-out. His economical use of tyres in qualifying may pay dividends in the race, and is further evidence of him wringing the absolute maximum out of a car which is still lacking in outright one-lap pace.

Sector times

Driver Sector 1 Sector 2 Sector 3
Mark Webber 34.272 (4) 42.636 (2) 20.334 (2)
Sebastian Vettel 34.225 (2) 42.828 (5) 20.155 (1)
Lewis Hamilton 34.287 (5) 42.583 (1) 20.546 (7)
Fernando Alonso 34.226 (3) 42.731 (3) 20.456 (3)
Kimi Raikkonen 34.350 (9) 42.792 (4) 20.483 (4)
Felipe Massa 34.324 (8) 42.987 (7) 20.573 (8)
Romain Grosjean 34.441 (14) 42.921 (6) 20.530 (6)
Nico Hulkenberg 34.423 (13) 43.152 (8) 20.662 (10)
Nico Rosberg 34.185 (1) 43.183 (10) 20.806 (14)
Michael Schumacher 34.306 (7) 43.196 (11) 20.801 (13)
Jenson Button 34.382 (10) 43.227 (12) 20.706 (11)
Sergio Perez 34.512 (16) 43.174 (9) 20.614 (9)
Kamui Kobayashi 34.400 (11) 43.315 (15) 20.507 (5)
Paul di Resta 34.487 (15) 43.290 (13) 20.719 (12)
Pastor Maldonado 34.540 (17) 43.311 (14) 20.835 (15)
Daniel Ricciardo 34.420 (12) 43.418 (16) 20.857 (16)
Jean-Eric Vergne 34.288 (6) 43.599 (17) 20.857 (16)
Bruno Senna 34.708 (18) 43.667 (18) 20.935 (18)
Vitaly Petrov 34.882 (20) 44.162 (19) 21.163 (19)
Heikki Kovalainen 34.850 (19) 44.210 (20) 21.273 (20)
Timo Glock 35.315 (21) 44.684 (22) 21.372 (21)
Pedro de la Rosa 35.748 (23) 45.455 (23) 21.678 (23)
Narain Karthikeyan 59.901 (24) 31.840 (24)
Charles Pic 35.467 (22) 44.475 (21) 21.375 (22)

You don’t need to look at the sector times to know Vettel let a chance of starting from pole position slip through his fingers. He was visibly unhappy after catching Massa during Q3, costing him time.

“I don’t want to blame it on Felipe,” he said afterwards. “I don’t like all these discussions; we’ve had a lot of them lately. These things happen, it’s not Felipe’s fault at all. I should have known earlier. If anything it was my mistake.”

Speed trap

Pos Driver Car Speed (kph/mph) Gap
1 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 325.1 (202.0)
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 320.5 (199.1) -4.6
3 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 320.0 (198.8) -5.1
4 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 319.2 (198.3) -5.9
5 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 317.6 (197.3) -7.5
6 Sergio Perez Sauber 317.4 (197.2) -7.7
7 Charles Pic Marussia 315.6 (196.1) -9.5
8 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 315.6 (196.1) -9.5
9 Felipe Massa Ferrari 315.5 (196.0) -9.6
10 Timo Glock Marussia 315.4 (196.0) -9.7
11 Bruno Senna Williams 314.8 (195.6) -10.3
12 Romain Grosjean Lotus 314.7 (195.5) -10.4
13 Pastor Maldonado Williams 314.7 (195.5) -10.4
14 Jenson Button McLaren 313.8 (195.0) -11.3
15 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 313.7 (194.9) -11.4
16 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 313.7 (194.9) -11.4
17 Pedro de la Rosa HRT 313.7 (194.9) -11.4
18 Paul di Resta Force India 313.4 (194.7) -11.7
19 Mark Webber Red Bull 312.0 (193.9) -13.1
20 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 311.9 (193.8) -13.2
21 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 311.7 (193.7) -13.4
22 Vitaly Petrov Caterham 311.7 (193.7) -13.4
23 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 310.2 (192.7) -14.9
24 Narain Karthikeyan HRT 305.2 (189.6) -19.9

Raikkonen is using Lotus’s new Coanda exhaust which should improve his car’s downforce but appears to be having a negative effect on his straight-line speed.

With Narain Karthikeyan not setting a time due to his brake failure, Raikkonen’s car was the slowest in a straight line during qualifying.

Over to you

Who will prevail in the battle of the Red Bulls? Or will one of their rivals keep them from victory?

Share your views on the Korean Grand Prix in the comments.

2012 Korean Grand Prix

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Image ?? Korean GP/Sutton, Red Bull/Getty images

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42 comments on Vettel should expect no favours from Webber

  1. Eggry (@eggry) said on 13th October 2012, 13:57

    Speed trap data is interesting. Weren’t Mclarens slowest in FP? Ferrari has small amount of advantage in straight so first lap would be crucial for them since rest part of the track would be not their side than sector 1. Also I expect Mercedes’ massive maximum speed will help them. Their tyre consumption is worrying though.

  2. bag0 (@bag0) said on 13th October 2012, 14:03

    The sector times really show that Webber done the best job. The ultimate lap would be Rosberg/Hamilton/Vettel 1:36.923.

  3. leotef (@leotef) said on 13th October 2012, 14:04

    Ferrari is arguably the best at the start but launching it up from the dirty side of the track and being more mindful of potential entanglements, they may not necessarily be the case at Korea. One possible scenario for the start could be that VET is wheel to wheel with HAM into first corner which can be either disaster for both or HAM pushed outside in turn 1.

    • leotef (@leotef) said on 13th October 2012, 14:29

      And I don’t think VET will be handed position by WEB. Most likely pit stop or something shall shift their position if VET is keeping his car at shooting distance, which I reckon Red Bull is very good at.

  4. JamieFranklinF1 (@jamiefranklinf1) said on 13th October 2012, 14:17

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jenson starting on the softs tomorrow, rather than the super softs. The tyre might be slower straight away, but given that he’ll probably have a new set of them, and his usual tyre conserving ability, he could end up pumping in some quick times in free air, when those in front come in to pit.

    I reckon he can pull himself into the top 5-6, but he’ll need to be very good (And possibly lucky) to get on the podium, with the likes of the Ferraris, Lotuses, and Hamilton in front of him, not to mention the Red Bulls obviously (Though I’m not sure how their race pace will fare).

    • leotef (@leotef) said on 13th October 2012, 14:26

      I think that’s pretty much certain for BUT, just like Perez style. But not so sure of its effectiveness. Can soft compound keep running up to 22-24 without much loss of time?

      • @leotef – In FP2 the super-soft appeared to be “going off” after about 16-18 laps during the race simulations on heavy fuel. With fundamentally more track grip now I think he could afford to go perhaps 25 laps or more (provided he doesn’t get stuck in the turbulent air of the cars ahead for too long) before having to pit. I’m not sure if he’d use the softs first though, if he tries a one-stop (which I presume he will given his grid position) he might be better off starting on the super-soft to gain as much time as possible in the first stint.

    • John H (@john-h) said on 13th October 2012, 14:39

      I expect Button to be in the mix if he can avoid Grosjean at the start. The ridiculous tyre ruling makes me think he’s about net 5th or 6th on the grid at the moment.

    • Jeanrien (@jeanrien) said on 13th October 2012, 14:47

      If they want to be able to do a one stop works they need to start on the soft, on full load we have seen on other track that the harder was not much slower but hold for much longer and allowing to have less load on the softer compound reaching max distance on one stop.
      This was obvious from previous GP with medium-soft or hard-medium combinaison but I don’t know for soft-super soft … But I don’t think Button have much to lose to start on soft, and he definitly has much to gain

    • Pedro Costa (@pnunocosta) said on 13th October 2012, 14:58

      It would be interesting to see Button start on softs and manage to do a long first stint, maybe 35 to 40 laps and then a shorter final stint of 15-20 laps. That would give him an advantage in the final part of the race and the chance of getting a podium.
      The problem is making the tyres last so long while maintaining a good pace.
      That´s also Sauber´s favourite strategy and I´m pretty sure that they´ll give it a try.

    • Hotbottoms (@hotbottoms) said on 13th October 2012, 15:56

      Raikkonen is using Lotus’s new Coanda exhaust which should improve his car’s downforce but appears to be having a negative effect on his straight-line speed.

      Doesn’t Grosjean have Coanda exhaust?

  5. xjr15jaaag (@xjr15jaaag) said on 13th October 2012, 14:28

    I think that Vettel is faster than Webber in all the right places to snatch victory from Webber; faster through S3 and S1, whih lead into each other, and with the DRS addition, Vettel should have no problems getting Webber if he doesn’t get him at the start.
    If he does, then I expect him to pull away at a vast rate of knots to quote Brundle.
    Either way, i can only see Vettel winning it.

  6. AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 13th October 2012, 14:32

    The first sector of the first lap will be crucial tomorrow. For the first corner, the battle between the Red Bulls will be interesting. I expect Webber and Vettel to be side-by-side into turn 1. There won’t be any team orders at that stage, I would think, but how hard will Webber dare to defend, and Vettel dare to attack? They can both be pretty tough racers at times.

    I can only see Hamilton making up a place before turn 1 if Vettel bogs down. There’s unlikely to be room on the inside between Vettel and Webber, nor round the outside of Webber. If Mark bogs down, though, Hamilton could be boxed in and passed by Alonso. As @vettel1 mentioned on another page, Hamilton seems to be having a terrible time in turn 1 this weekend (and if I remember the 2010 Grand Prix, he was having trouble braking into T1 then as well), so I hope we won’t see a massive lock-up and Lewis smashing into the back of Webber’s Red Bull.

    Fernando has sounded a little cautious along the lines of “maybe we will lose a few places at the start”, but I doubt this will translate into actual cautious driving. Alonso is excellent at using controlled aggression to make up places in the first few laps of a Grand Prix, and I don’t expect him to pass up an opportunity tomorrow either.

    If a Red Bull is leading tomorrow after the first lap, I think it will be difficult to beat it. Even if they have slightly weaker race pace, it will be difficult for anyone to pass them on track given their strong sector 3. Also, since this race is expected to be a comfortable two-stopper, it probably won’t matter if Red Bull have to make their first stop a few laps earlier. Unless of course Alonso can get away with a one-stopper, though I don’t expect that.

    There might be others capable of a one-stop, though. In Canada, with the same tyre allocation, we saw Grosjean and Perez have fantastic pace on a one-stop strategy, and perhaps that group can be joined by Button tomorrow.

  7. Kimi4WDC said on 13th October 2012, 14:53

    Now I understand why Kimi was constantly slower compare to everyone in first sector. His KERS better not fail him at start!!! :)

  8. Enigma (@enigma) said on 13th October 2012, 15:53

    Really looking forward to this one. In a way the championship is more interesting now it’s two drivers so close. There’s plenty of interesting battles coming up at the start and Korea has what is probably the best first sector in terms of race starts – as we’d seen last year with many great battles on the opening lap.

    Then there’s the battle for the win – Red Bulls up against each other, and as many as three other teams potentially being as fast as Red Bull on race pace. Add to that the chance of someone doing what Grosjean and Perez did in Montreal and we’ve got a great race coming up.

    I think as many as the top seven could have a chance of winning tomorrow, and I wouldn’t completely rule out drivers starting in 11th, 12th and 13th neither. Can’t wait!

  9. KaIIe (@kaiie) said on 13th October 2012, 16:27

    Like last year, I’m expecting a pretty epic fight from the star until the field reaches T6. It’s impossible to say who’ll come out on top, as the track is wide and there are so many variables in the game; like using KERS, is it worth trying overtaking into T3 and get a poor exit onto the following straight, do you take the outside line into T4 to get on the inside for T5 and so on.

    It’ll be interesting to see if Kimi’s poor top speed has an effect on his race pace, he isn’t that far off the Red Bulls in the speed trap, but definitely lacking some downforce compared to them. Hopefully he doesn’t get stuck behind someone slower again.

  10. As far as I can see, Alonso has the best set-up carrying 3rd in all sectors. Well done Fred! ;-)

  11. IceBlue (@iceblue) said on 13th October 2012, 19:16

    In this series of multi-million dollar race events, would it be too much to have the track promoters chase a street sweeper around the track prior to practice? After all, Korea has had around 360 days to perform that feat.
    I’m sorry, but I’m just sick and tired of everyone whining about dusty or dirty race tracks, and even NASCAR maintains their tracks better than F1.

  12. Cobra (@cobra47) said on 13th October 2012, 20:44

    I just hope that tomorrow there are the usual “kamikaze” on Sunday and you can assistire a hardened street without risks, nor for the Ferrari nor for his rivals.

    If I can, I would to add a small note about the yellow flags: being a problem now common, especially in qualifying, why not return to the glorious rule of 60 minutes all on the floor, eliminating the elimination of the pilots? Also because, given the restrictions test individuals, small teams will have the opportunity to test more thoroughly its cars to improve and develop in the best way.

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Kamui-Kobayashi-in-Ferrari-the-return/273978009380220

  13. If any drivers KERS fails, then theyre literally a sitting duck with the straight being that long
    Webber needs to sort his starts, that said my guess is Vettel will lead into turn one. Even if he doesnt, Vettel will overtake Webber down the straight, behind them i think there will be a fascinating battle between Hamilton/Alonso and Raikkonen for second,third and 4th
    I also have this bad feeling Grosjean will crash again and if he doesnt, he will get a podium

  14. ogogogg said on 13th October 2012, 22:09

    The shot of Vettel before He talked to WEB an HAM was priceless, a cross between the fuhrer an stewie……victory will be mine.

  15. electrolite (@electrolite) said on 13th October 2012, 23:04

    I expect the Lotuses to be rather vulnerable on those straights. Just looking at that data.

    Hopefully Rosberg should be able to make up some places however (for once). That’s a very quick first sector time…

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  • tf1xx
    on 13th October 2012, 12:57