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.

2013 Malaysian Grand Prix

Browse all 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix articles

Advert | Go Ad-free

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

  1. andae23 (@andae23) said on 23rd March 2013, 18:35

    … Grosjean missing Q3 after the team lost its radar picture at the beginning of Q2 …

    Didn’t know that. Was this an error from the Lotus guys, or was this out of their control? I guess the former.

  2. Cyclops_PL (@cyclops_pl) said on 23rd March 2013, 18:47

    Kimi admitted his car was set up for dry weather. If it’s in fact true, then no rain can give him a huge chance of reaching the podium. One way or the other, I don’t see Seb winning this one. Ferrari’s are a huge threat in any conditions and Lotus seems to be superior in the dry.

  3. Merv (@) said on 23rd March 2013, 19:03

    I think Kimi will make up a lot of ground in the run down to T1 and they’ll run the race from there.
    If Sutil is still ahead of Kimi I don’t see that as a problem, Sutil was quickest in Q1 and is fast down the straight so unlikely to hold Kimi up.
    Unfortunately if it’s a dry race it’ll probably be won on strategy again. If it’s mixed wet/dry then all that is out of the window.

  4. Tomsk (@tomsk) said on 23rd March 2013, 19:22

    I think Massa’s a good bet to lead after lap 1 – he’s had some storming getaways in the last few races, and maybe the answer to your question of who Vettel blocks first is: the one he wants to beat most.

    I’d be surprised (but delighted) if Massa won the race though. Leaving aside all the conspiracy theories about Ferrari, Massa and Smedley aren’t always the sharpest tools in the box when it comes to strategy. Melbourne I thought was one of those occasions.

    • J Dubya (@j-dubya) said on 24th March 2013, 1:03

      Don’t you think that was by design. Massa was on the radio clearly wondering why he wasn’t covering. My thought at that time was that Ferrari were making sure Alonzo pipped Massa as well. I suspect Smedley takes orders as well, that’s Racing 101, he can’t be that stupid.

  5. Carl Craven said on 23rd March 2013, 20:48

    I think RBR will suffer from tyres as will Mercedes, Lotus no, Ferrari maybe, Mclaren may come into it in this case but who knows.

    All I know is if the title of the article is anything to go by we should be in for a good race.

  6. toiago (@toiago) said on 23rd March 2013, 21:03

    “The Sepang International Circuit features the longest run from the grid to turn one of any track on the calendar.”

    Wasn’t Barcelona the circuit with the longest run from the start/finish line to the first corner?

  7. bull mello (@bullmello) said on 23rd March 2013, 22:00

    For the win?
    1 Alonso
    2 Massa
    3 Kimi
    4 Sutil
    Alonso will get by Vettel and Massa on the first lap.
    Force India (probably Sutil) will get podiums this season and I will predict win at least one race.

  8. Melchior (@melchior) said on 23rd March 2013, 23:26

    Am predicting a reasonably good start from Webber today due to his proximity to Vettel.

  9. K0V4LA1NEN said on 23rd March 2013, 23:57

    gutierrez will have a few tyre troubles IMO

  10. ivz (@ivz) said on 24th March 2013, 0:14

    I wonder where Sutil would have qualified if it stayed dry……..

  11. Rahim.RG (@rahim-rg) said on 24th March 2013, 5:25

    i think it would have been a battle for pole between Raikkonen and sutil and maybe hamilton too…if it was a dry quali…

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.