Ferrari poised to attack Vettel but Alonso has an eye on Raikkonen

2013 Malaysian Grand Prix pre-race analysis

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Sepang, 2013Sebastian Vettel claimed pole position for the Malaysian Grand Prix. But as we saw last week that isn’t the ticket to race victory it often was last year.

The unpredictable threat of rain, the challenge of preserving tyres if it stays dry, and a pair of fast-starting Ferraris on his heels are just a few of the obstacles between Vettel and victory.

And then there’s the small matter of what Kimi Raikkonen, the winner of last week’s race, can do from tenth on the grid.

The start

The Sepang International Circuit features the longest run from the grid to turn one of any track on the calendar. The cars have already covered two-thirds of a kilometre before they reach the apex of the long, looping turn one.

A driver who makes a poor start or loses KERS at a critical time – as happened to Mark Webber in Australia – will have car after car dodging past him on the sprint from the grid.

Both Ferraris made strong starts last week – particularly Fernando Alonso, who then found himself boxed in on the narrow Albert Park course. The vast width of Sepang makes that far less likely to happen here.

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Sepang, 2013If the red cars get away better Vettel could have both of them looming in his mirror as they race to turn one. Which one will he block first: Massa, who starts closest to him – or his two-times championship rival Alonso?

The latter anticipates putting Vettel under pressure when the red lights go out: “I think if everything goes normally I will have a very good start so we should be able to at least maintain the position, if not attack, so we will see how are the first meters tomorrow,” said Alonso.

However he added that the frantic dash to turn one is not as crucial now as it once was: “I think that in this Formula One that we are experiencing today, the start is very low priority.”

“I think that 56 laps is a very long race, a lot of strategy calls to make, a lot of tyre issues that everybody needs to get through during the race.”

Strategy

With Pirelli expecting three pit stops per car during the race, the desire to save as much fresh rubber as possible was uppermost in the minds of many drivers during qualifying.

Red Bull took it to the greatest lengths, Vettel using a single set of mediums in Q1 and Q2. Webber attempted to do likewise but had to resort to using a second fresh set. The only other driver who pulled off the same trick as Vettel was Adrian Sutil.

In Australia Ferrari were able to get more performance out of their tyres over a stint than Red Bull. If that is repeated here they are in a strong position for the race, but bear in mind this is a very different circuit with a harder tyre compound and higher temperatures.

Romain Grosjean, Lotus, Sepang, 2013Practice did not give a great guide to race stint performance as the second session was cut short by rain. In the few laps that were run the Lotus pair seemed content to push their tyres harder and sooner than their rivals, indicating a degree of confidence in their tyre management.

Alonso is certainly wary of their potential: “If you have a good race pace, as I think Kimi has or Lotus has, I think they will arrive sooner or later in the race and will put some pressure on us, so I think we need to be very calm.”

However before they contend with the front runners Raikkonen and team mate Romain Grosjean have to make their way forward from tenth and eleventh on the grid. This is a consequence of Raikkonen’s penalty and Grosjean missing Q3 after the team lost its radar picture at the beginning of Q2, leading them to send him out on worn tyres for the brief window of dry running.

One point that stood out in Q3 was that of the five drivers who put on fresh sets of intermediates halfway through, three claimed the top places on the grid but the other two – Raikkonen and Sutil – languished at the lower end of the top ten.

Both these drivers also completed the previous race making one pit stop fewer than most of their rivals. That tells us something about how their cars treat the tyres – preserving their life well over a race stint but lacking that vital instant warm-up for a qualifying scenario.

Tyres

Each driver started qualifying with three sets of hard tyres and three sets of mediums for it and the race. Here’s how many new sets of each type of tyre they have left:

Position Driver Hard Medium
1 Sebastian Vettel 3 2
2 Felipe Massa 2 2
3 Fernando Alonso 2 2
4 Lewis Hamilton 2 2
5 Mark Webber 3 1
6 Nico Rosberg 2 2
7 Jenson Button 2 2
8 Adrian Sutil 3 2
9 Sergio Perez 2 2
10 Kimi Raikkonen 3 1
11 Romain Grosjean 3 1
12 Nico Hulkenberg 2 2
13 Daniel Ricciardo 3 1
14 Esteban Gutierrez 2 1
15 Paul di Resta 3 1
16 Pastor Maldonado 2 2
17 Jean-Eric Vergne 2 2
18 Valtteri Bottas 2 2
19 Jules Bianchi 3 1
20 Charles Pic 3 1
21 Max Chilton 3 1
22 Giedo van der Garde 3 1

As all the drivers in Q3 set their best times on intermediate tyres, all drivers will have a free choice of which tyre compound they start on.

Qualifying times in full

Driver Car Q1 Q2 (vs Q1) Q3 (vs Q2)
1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1’37.899 1’37.245 (-0.654) 1’49.674 (+12.429)
2 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1’37.712 1’36.874 (-0.838) 1’50.587 (+13.713)
3 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1’37.314 1’36.877 (-0.437) 1’50.727 (+13.850)
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1’37.513 1’36.517 (-0.996) 1’51.699 (+15.182)
5 Mark Webber Red Bull 1’37.619 1’36.449 (-1.170) 1’52.244 (+15.795)
6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’37.239 1’36.190 (-1.049) 1’52.519 (+16.329)
7 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1’36.959 1’36.640 (-0.319) 1’52.970 (+16.330)
8 Jenson Button McLaren 1’37.487 1’37.117 (-0.370) 1’53.175 (+16.058)
9 Adrian Sutil Force India 1’36.809 1’36.834 (+0.025) 1’53.439 (+16.605)
10 Sergio Perez McLaren 1’37.702 1’37.342 (-0.360) 1’54.136 (+16.794)
11 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1’37.363 1’37.636 (+0.273)
12 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber 1’37.931 1’38.125 (+0.194)
13 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1’37.722 1’38.822 (+1.100)
14 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1’37.707 1’39.221 (+1.514)
15 Paul di Resta Force India 1’37.493 1’44.509 (+7.016)
16 Pastor Maldonado Williams 1’37.867
17 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1’38.157
18 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1’38.207
19 Jules Bianchi Marussia 1’38.434
20 Charles Pic Caterham 1’39.314
21 Max Chilton Marussia 1’39.672
22 Giedo van der Garde Caterham 1’39.932

Sector times

Driver Sector 1 Sector 2 Sector 3
Sebastian Vettel 25.139 (10) 32.520 (10) 39.586 (10)
Felipe Massa 25.080 (9) 32.416 (8) 39.378 (7)
Fernando Alonso 25.014 (4) 32.274 (4) 39.372 (6)
Lewis Hamilton 24.987 (3) 32.209 (3) 39.321 (4)
Mark Webber 25.016 (5) 32.194 (2) 39.239 (2)
Nico Rosberg 24.983 (2) 32.048 (1) 39.159 (1)
Kimi Raikkonen 24.932 (1) 32.309 (5) 39.336 (5)
Jenson Button 25.169 (11) 32.356 (6) 39.518 (9)
Adrian Sutil 25.046 (6) 32.394 (7) 39.316 (3)
Sergio Perez 25.234 (13) 32.483 (9) 39.625 (11)
Romain Grosjean 25.065 (8) 32.560 (12) 39.695 (12)
Nico Hulkenberg 25.366 (15) 32.685 (15) 39.824 (15)
Daniel Ricciardo 25.233 (12) 32.675 (14) 39.814 (14)
Esteban Gutierrez 25.240 (14) 32.672 (13) 39.761 (13)
Paul di Resta 25.048 (7) 32.826 (19) 39.509 (8)
Pastor Maldonado 25.422 (17) 32.541 (11) 39.856 (16)
Jean-Eric Vergne 25.366 (15) 32.802 (17) 39.986 (18)
Valtteri Bottas 25.467 (19) 32.792 (16) 39.906 (17)
Jules Bianchi 25.443 (18) 32.804 (18) 40.187 (19)
Charles Pic 25.649 (21) 33.341 (20) 40.324 (20)
Max Chilton 25.593 (20) 33.526 (21) 40.553 (22)
Giedo van der Garde 25.689 (22) 33.772 (22) 40.471 (21)

Speed trap

Pos Driver Car Speed (kph/mph) Gap
1 Adrian Sutil Force India 307.1 (190.8)
2 Paul di Resta Force India 306.9 (190.7) -0.2
3 Romain Grosjean Lotus 306.9 (190.7) -0.2
4 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 306.5 (190.5) -0.6
5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 303.2 (188.4) -3.9
6 Sergio Perez McLaren 303.0 (188.3) -4.1
7 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 302.8 (188.2) -4.3
8 Felipe Massa Ferrari 302.6 (188.0) -4.5
9 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 302.5 (188.0) -4.6
10 Jenson Button McLaren 302.0 (187.7) -5.1
11 Charles Pic Caterham 301.9 (187.6) -5.2
12 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber 301.9 (187.6) -5.2
13 Max Chilton Marussia 301.7 (187.5) -5.4
14 Jules Bianchi Marussia 301.4 (187.3) -5.7
15 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 301.1 (187.1) -6.0
16 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 300.4 (186.7) -6.7
17 Giedo van der Garde Caterham 300.3 (186.6) -6.8
18 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 300.1 (186.5) -7.0
19 Mark Webber Red Bull 299.6 (186.2) -7.5
20 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 298.5 (185.5) -8.6
21 Pastor Maldonado Williams 298.0 (185.2) -9.1
22 Valtteri Bottas Williams 296.4 (184.2) -10.7

Over to you

Who’s your tip for victory? Where will Raikkonen finish from tenth on the grid?

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

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94 comments on Ferrari poised to attack Vettel but Alonso has an eye on Raikkonen

  1. Cyclops_PL (@cyclops_pl) said on 23rd March 2013, 17:03

    If Red Bull haven’t improved their tire management and race pace then we are in for a Ferrari double.

  2. Tom_ec1 (@tom_ec1) said on 23rd March 2013, 17:09

    Keith, I may be wrong but as I understand teams start qualifying with three sets of primes and three sets of options.

    See here: http://www.formula1.com/inside_f1/rules_and_regulations/sporting_regulations/8680/fia.html

    If so then I think your tyre allocation table is incorrect, as it appears to have assume that teams started with 4 tyres of each compound.

  3. DaveF1 (@davef1) said on 23rd March 2013, 17:12

    The top speed of the Red Bull looks pretty slow. It predict that Vettel will be 3rd and Webber 23rd by the time they get to the first corner.

    • ME4ME (@me4me) said on 23rd March 2013, 17:17

      Only 5km/h difference between Alonso and Vettel. It’s not that huge a difference, and should be easy to overcome if Vettel gets DRS. But im with ya, the Ferrari’s probaly are quick as lightning at the start.

    • HoHum (@hohum) said on 23rd March 2013, 17:36

      Steve Matchett on NBC pointed out what was a visibly smaller rear wing on the RBR’s than the rest and yet they are still down on top speed. Strange!
      David Hobbs also observed that contrary to percieved wisdom the Medium tyres, seemed to be as or more durable than the Hards, certainly I saw some shocking failures of the hards in P3.

      • panache (@panache) said on 24th March 2013, 5:33

        Steve Matchett on NBC pointed out what was a visibly smaller rear wing on the RBR’s than the rest and yet they are still down on top speed. Strange!

        Gear ratios. Red Bull are always hitting the limiter in final gear way before the end of straights.

    • Cucamest (@kevincucamest) said on 23rd March 2013, 18:22

      @davef1 There are only 22 cars on the grid this year ;)

    • Kingshark (@kingshark) said on 23rd March 2013, 18:22

      @davef1

      The top speed of the Red Bull looks pretty slow. It predict that Vettel will be 3rd and Webber 23rd by the time they get to the first corner.

      I laughed.

    • Palle (@palle) said on 23rd March 2013, 19:13

      @davef1 Often a high top speed comes with the penalty of slower acceleration, and they don’t reach top speed on the dash to the first corner. That said, You’re right to think that the 2 Ferrari’s probably will be very fast out of the start grid as we have seen in Melbourne and last year. However Vettel is not Webber, so probably he will make it through the first corner.

  4. Matty No 2 (@mattynotwo) said on 23rd March 2013, 17:13

    I’m shocked how slow the cars are in the speed trap, I would have imagined 200mph on the long straights of Sepang.

  5. WilliamB (@william-brierty) said on 23rd March 2013, 17:21

    I will be very surprised if Vettel ends the first lap in any position higher than third. In fact I’d be surprised if that was the case after the first sector. Red Bull are on the defensive tomorrow, because, from where I’ve been sat, they seem to have the worst degradation of any team on the grid. I will be gobsmacked if Ferrari don’t win tomorrow, because they’ve been quietly quick all weekend, and seem to have created a car pretty much perfect for the 2013 tyres. I know everyone’s thinking that Raikkonen may still come through, and he might, but the only reason that Raikkonen won in Melbourne was because Ferrari opted for the slower two stop strategy. Alonso was capable of a two-stop, and was, in terms of raw pace, the fastest car on track, so he will almost certainly take the victory tomorrow. I know people are reading this comment, looking at my avatar and thinking: “Sad Ferrari fan alert”, but Alonso and Ferrari were the quickest package in Melbourne, and will almost certainly be tomorrow regardless of the conditions. However, Mercedes also look good, and will be yet another barrier stopping Raikkonen from making it to the podium. I cannot see any other podium than Alonso from Massa from Hamilton. Now tell me why I’m wrong why don’t you…

    • WilliamB (@william-brierty) said on 23rd March 2013, 17:23

      *…Ferrari opted for the slower three stop strategy

    • Joshua Mesh (@joshua-mesh) said on 23rd March 2013, 17:25

      We havnt really seen how RBR treat these harder tyres. For all we know, they could be one of the few teams who will find the sweet spot.

    • scuderia_fan85 (@scuderia_fan85) said on 23rd March 2013, 17:28

      Kimi and Lotus had the quickest package, not Ferrari. they couldnt do two stops cuz of tires. and certainly couldnt of set fastest race lap on 24 lap worn tires. plus Kimi is on his game this year and watch him cut and slice thru the field. Merc wont be anything of a barrier. Vettel wont finish on the podium; two Ferraris and Kimi(if its a fully dry race)

      • WilliamB (@william-brierty) said on 23rd March 2013, 19:28

        Being “on the game” is no guarantee of success, or at least in wasn’t for Hamilton in 2012. Also I think your interpretation of Alonso’s Melbourne pace is rather subjective. Alonso wasn’t pushing in the final stint, he had been held up behind the traffic, and in that traffic the dirty air rather ruined his tyres, so he knew that catching Kimi wasn’t on the cards. Here’s a fact. Ferrari could have done a two stop. All of Ferrari’s stops in Melbourne were reactionary, and utterly within confines of the three stop strategy structure, however the Ferraris didn’t seem to be struggling at the ends of their stints; unlike Vettel. The Ferrari strategists wrongly believed that the pace advantage of being on fresher tyres for longer would counter act the tyre ware, which was no were near as extensive as it seemed throughout practice and testing. Ferrari read the race incorrectly, and that was what lost them the race, not a chassis that is hard on its tyres. Also, you say that Mercedes won’t offer much of a barrier to Kimi’s “slice thru the field”. I’m sorry mate, but there’s being a die-hard fan and then there’s being a fantasist; and saying that Raikkonen is going breeze past a team that showed excellently consistent long runs in practice is very much the later.

    • TMF (@tmf42) said on 23rd March 2013, 17:36

      Too many variables.

    • Sorin (@sorine) said on 23rd March 2013, 17:47

      Okay, and now let’s add some unpredictible events…

    • In fact, Both Ferraris would had prob. beaten Kimi if it hasn’t been for the fast Force India that were in the way some times.

    • Sankalp Sharma (@sankalp88) said on 23rd March 2013, 22:22

      I’m not quite sure I agree with your outright dismissal of Vettel. Let’s not forget that the top 10 runners get a free choice on tyres, and I’m certain that Vettel, unless he has a disastrous Webber like start, can hold on to his lead for at least the first stint. Then given that there is a 50% chance of rain after 4 pm (Malaysia time) it can be anybody’s game right up to p10 on the grid. But under statistical Expectation my money would still be on Vettel given his wet weather performance yesterday. (Even though I went with Raikkonen as the predicted winner!). Although since I’m a Ferrari fan, I’m hoping Alonso and Massa can conjure some magic in the dry/wet conditions to relegate Vettel to at least third.

  6. TMF (@tmf42) said on 23rd March 2013, 17:22

    the tires make races way too random and what was supposed to be an equalizer became an even bigger distortion of individual performances.

  7. Who’s your tip for victory? Maybe my heart is ruling my head, but I’m going to say Massa.

    Where will Raikkonen finish from tenth on the grid? Fourth.

  8. Osvaldas31 (@osvaldas31) said on 23rd March 2013, 17:27

    Well, Raikkonen almost won from 11th in Bahrain, so I don’t rule him out, especially if E21 can preserve it’s tyres better than rivals. Besides, Lotus brought quite big update, so they should be very quick in tomorrow’s race. If it rains, then it’s a different story. Then Vettel or Hamilton can gran victory. But I would bet on Alonso. He has one of the quickest car, especially in race trim and starts from 3rd (remember, Felipe is ahead of him, so he’s almost 2nd).

  9. Franton said on 23rd March 2013, 17:46

    Surprised Keith that you’re not keeping track of the wet weather tyres. Didn’t the Merc’s only run one set of inters each? If it rains tomorrow, they’re in a better position than those around them.

    • Nirupam (@nirupam) said on 23rd March 2013, 17:49

      Dont think that matters
      First: I doubt its going to be a full WET race
      Second: Even if it is, tyre degradation wont be a major issue for inters

      • John H (@john-h) said on 23rd March 2013, 19:44

        Even if it is, tyre degradation wont be a major issue for inters

        It will be in changeable conditions (as in qualifying today) though, but granted it would probably be a strange set of circumstances.

        Come to think of it, the dry option tyres remind me a little of the backup car on the top gear challenges!

      • Franton said on 23rd March 2013, 20:53

        I mentioned intermediates. You mentioned full wets. Not sure what the correlation is there.

        Tyre deg is a MAJOR contributor because it’s likely for mixed conditions. Those with fresher tyres will do better assuming the correct tyre calls are made.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 23rd March 2013, 20:43

      Who said I’m not?

  10. Sumedh said on 23rd March 2013, 17:48

    How come Sebastian is so slow in the sector times? Is it because of the worn tyres? Or is the Red Bull genuinely slow?

    I somehow don’t think Kimi will be a factor tomorrow. I think the victory will go to Alonso or Hamilton tomorrow.

    Vettel will get a solid haul of points.. which is all he needs to do till Newey figures out the 2013 tyres.

    • Nirupam (@nirupam) said on 23rd March 2013, 17:50

      Probably you missed the quali Sumedh, Vettel did Q1 and Q2 in a single set of medium, thereby the slow sector times

    • How come Sebastian is so slow in the sector times? Is it because of the worn tyres? Or is the Red Bull genuinely slow?

      He used worn tyres in Q2 and of course Q3 was wet, so that fully explains it! It does look rather odd though seeing “10th, 10th, 10th” yet he stormed to pole though!

  11. AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 23rd March 2013, 17:52

    It will be an interesting race if Massa leads at the end of the first lap ahead of someone other than Alonso. I don’t think Massa’s race pace in Australia was as strong as Alonso’s, but perhaps leading the race will be the confidence boost Felipe needs.

    I’m still a bit wary of Red Bull and all their talk of not having enough tyres for the race; I would be very surprised if they need more than three stops. Like @tom_ec1, I understood that each driver only had three sets of the primes, in which case Red Bull could have a useful advantage over Ferrari and Mercedes.

  12. Dream senario will Massa and Alonso win, in that order :)
    I betted some Money on Massa as WC Before Australia when the betting were 65x the Money. so fingers crossed.

    I know its a super-longshot, but when i saw the multiplier i figured that if i didn’t do it i would forever forget it if he had won.

  13. Dion (@infinitygc) said on 23rd March 2013, 18:00

    I think Vettel will win and Kimi will manage to get 5th.

  14. Estesark (@estesark) said on 23rd March 2013, 18:15

    The penalty for Kimi Räikkönen could be more significant than it appears on the surface if Adrian Sutil is planning to run the same, presumably two-stop, strategy. If Kimi doesn’t get past him in the first couple of laps then he could be held up for a long enough time to scupper his chances of making it to the podium. Kimi is near the top of the speed trap ranking, but Sutil is still ahead of him, at the very top.

    The Mercedes pair are looking sharp as well, so I’d say fifth place would be a good result for Kimi now.

  15. electrolite (@electrolite) said on 23rd March 2013, 18:26

    Ferraris are looking strong, but at the same time anything can happen here!

    Come on Felipe.

    • J Dubya (@j-dubya) said on 23rd March 2013, 18:43

      Sadly, I expect Ferarri will be on the radio during the installation lap telling Masa that Alonzo is faster. If they can dispatch Vettel and work together, they could use the double DRS zones to slingshot each other and drive away for the field. I wonder if the double DRS zones will make for some opportunistic alliances.

      • Eggry (@eggry) said on 24th March 2013, 2:13

        That’s sort of Villeneuve and Pironi situation when they had swapped position again again for the show. And then Pironi decided to maintain his lead…forget it. I’m just saying.

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