Webber and Vettel set to resume their grudge match

2013 Japanese Grand Prix pre-race analysis

Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Sepang, 2013With the two Red Bull drivers sharing the front row of the grid, and Mark Webber ahead for the first time this year, this could be the first serious contest between the two since their notorious confrontation in Malaysia.

If Webber can hold on to his lead at the start we could be set for a race-long scrap between him and Sebastian Vettel.

The start

Whether Webber can thwart Vettel’s hopes of another win in Suzuka could be decided by the sprint to the first corner. Starts are not a strength of Webber’s (on average he’s lost a position on the first lap of every race this year) and as Suzuka has one of the longest runs to turn one – 545 metres – this will have to be one of his best.

“We?re doing the prep we can,” said Webber of his starts, “the clutch is in good shape and we should be able to get away well and head down after that for a good race.”

Vettel’s first concern for tomorrow will be whether his mechanics can fix the KERS problem that dogged him on Saturday. After that he has to work out how he can become the first man since Mika Hakkinen in 2000 to beat the pole sitter to turn one at Suzuka.

Felipe Massa, Ferrari, Suzuka, 2010The run to the first corner has produced carnage in two of the last three starts. Last year Fernando Alonso tripped over Kimi Raikkonen, Romain Grosjean took out Mark Webber and Bruno Senna collided with Nico Rosberg. In 2010, Vitaly Petrov didn’t even make it as far as turn one after hitting Nico Hulkenberg, while Felipe Massa cut across the first corner and smashed into Vitantonio Liuzzi.

That’s the kind of mayhem the drivers immediately behind the Red Bulls will be wary of avoiding. As last year Alonso starts on the right-hand side of the grid one place ahead of Raikkonen, albeit a row further back, and will not doubt be a little more cautious about moving left at the start.

Both need good starts if they are to have any hopes of finishing on the podium or passing their team mates – both of which have out-qualified them.

Lotus trackside operations director Alan Permane has no doubts Raikkonen can get the job doe, having taken podium finishes from ninth and thirteenth in the last two races. “To have Kimi start P9 is no big drama, especially as we know how well he can work through the field in race conditions,” he said.

Team orders

Romain Grosjean, Lotus, Suzuka, 2013With Vettel on the cusp of claiming the championship – he could win it on Sunday – and Webber out of the running, thoughts inevitably turn to whether Red Bull will impose team orders on their drivers.

But recent history has shown neither of their drivers has the inclination to obey them – Vettel didn’t in Malaysia this year and Webber didn’t at Silverstone two years ago. And with Webber just five races away from retirement the chances of him suddenly having a change of heart about playing second fiddle to his team mate seem even more remote.

Given that, and the fact Vettel’s lead in the championship is already so large he’s unlikely to need Webber’s help, perhaps Christian Horner would be better off reminding his drivers not to take each other off and leave it at that.

Webber certainly doesn’t sound like he’s think of giving up a shot at what could be his last F1 victory: “Tomorrow is a new day and let?s see how it?s looking at the end of the race. Normally you talk about these things and they never happen but in general, yeah, we?ll be there for ourselves tomorrow.”

Following the Malaysia row Horner said a discussion with Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz had led them to conclude that “Red Bull is not a fan of team orders” and “we will not impose team orders at the end of a race”. Words worth bearing in mind tomorrow.

But it’s not just Red Bull who may have some decisions to make on team orders. Last week Lotus firmly declined Romain Grosjean’s repeated requests to be let past Raikkonen.

And Ferrari may have to engineer a means of getting Alonso ahead of Massa to maximise the former’s slender chances in the drivers’ championship. Since announcing his departure from Ferrari there have been mixed messages from the team whether Massa will continue to do Alonso’s bidding.

Strategy

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Suzuka, 2013Two stops were the way to go last year and Pirelli expect the same again this time. All the drivers in the top ten will start on the medium compound tyres they qualified on.

Red Bull’s long run pace looked predictably good on Friday. But following their disrupted build-up to the race Lotus now believe they’ve got a handle on the tyres.

“We spent more time on race preparation during morning practice and managed to unlock some extra pace in the car ?ǣ especially on the [hards] ?ǣ so we?re now very happy on both compounds,” said Permane.

“Yes, we did struggle with the hard tyres yesterday, but we?ve made a significant set-up change which has certainly been beneficial in this area. Both drivers are much happier with their cars.”

Although Ferrari’s pace didn’t look as encouraging, Alonso believes they are in good shape: “The long run tests went better in terms of degradation than in Korea and that gives us hope that we can make up ground in the race.”

With a fairly narrow gap in performance between the tyres, and more durable compounds than were used in Korea, tomorrow should see the drivers exploiting the limits of their cars much more than in Korea. So even if the battle for victory is decided at the first corner, 53 racing laps of the mighty Suzuka will still be something to savour.

The championship

Vettel could win the championship in Sunday’s race – here’s what result he needs to clinch the crowd:

Qualifying times in full

Driver Car Q1 Q2 (vs Q1) Q3 (vs Q2)
1 Mark Webber Red Bull 1’32.271 1’31.513 (-0.758) 1’30.915 (-0.598)
2 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1’32.397 1’31.290 (-1.107) 1’31.089 (-0.201)
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1’32.340 1’31.636 (-0.704) 1’31.253 (-0.383)
4 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1’31.824 1’31.565 (-0.259) 1’31.365 (-0.200)
5 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1’31.994 1’31.668 (-0.326) 1’31.378 (-0.290)
6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’32.244 1’31.764 (-0.480) 1’31.397 (-0.367)
7 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber 1’32.465 1’31.848 (-0.617) 1’31.644 (-0.204)
8 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1’32.371 1’31.828 (-0.543) 1’31.665 (-0.163)
9 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1’32.377 1’31.662 (-0.715) 1’31.684 (+0.022)
10 Jenson Button McLaren 1’32.606 1’31.838 (-0.768) 1’31.827 (-0.011)
11 Sergio Perez McLaren 1’32.718 1’31.989 (-0.729)
12 Paul di Resta Force India 1’32.286 1’31.992 (-0.294)
13 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1’32.613 1’32.013 (-0.600)
14 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1’32.673 1’32.063 (-0.610)
15 Pastor Maldonado Williams 1’32.875 1’32.093 (-0.782)
16 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1’32.804 1’32.485 (-0.319)
17 Adrian Sutil Force India 1’32.890
18 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1’33.357
19 Max Chilton Marussia 1’34.320
20 Charles Pic Caterham 1’34.556
21 Giedo van der Garde Caterham 1’34.879
22 Jules Bianchi Marussia 1’34.958

Sector times

Driver Sector 1 Sector 2 Sector 3
Mark Webber 32.008 (2) 40.963 (1) 17.904 (3)
Sebastian Vettel 31.946 (1) 41.254 (7) 17.889 (1)
Lewis Hamilton 32.115 (4) 41.213 (5) 17.925 (4)
Romain Grosjean 32.181 (5) 41.123 (2) 18.060 (11)
Felipe Massa 32.201 (6) 41.264 (8) 17.897 (2)
Nico Rosberg 32.090 (3) 41.186 (4) 18.091 (14)
Nico Hulkenberg 32.463 (11) 41.144 (3) 17.953 (5)
Fernando Alonso 32.344 (9) 41.357 (10) 17.958 (6)
Kimi Raikkonen 32.321 (8) 41.231 (6) 18.054 (10)
Jenson Button 32.222 (7) 41.388 (11) 18.100 (15)
Sergio Perez 32.405 (10) 41.548 (16) 18.036 (9)
Paul di Resta 32.514 (13) 41.400 (12) 18.065 (12)
Valtteri Bottas 32.550 (14) 41.434 (13) 18.029 (8)
Esteban Gutierrez 32.560 (15) 41.348 (9) 18.155 (16)
Pastor Maldonado 32.465 (12) 41.546 (15) 18.082 (13)
Daniel Ricciardo 32.992 (17) 41.440 (14) 17.998 (7)
Adrian Sutil 32.870 (16) 41.771 (17) 18.249 (18)
Jean-Eric Vergne 33.156 (18) 41.951 (18) 18.169 (17)
Max Chilton 33.630 (21) 42.421 (20) 18.269 (19)
Charles Pic 33.586 (20) 42.296 (19) 18.431 (21)
Giedo van der Garde 33.827 (22) 42.470 (21) 18.582 (22)
Jules Bianchi 33.525 (19) 42.874 (22) 18.350 (20)

Speed trap

Pos Driver Car Speed (kph/mph) Gap
1 Mark Webber Red Bull 302.3 (187.8)
2 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 301.8 (187.5) -0.5
3 Max Chilton Marussia 301.0 (187.0) -1.3
4 Valtteri Bottas Williams 300.5 (186.7) -1.8
5 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 299.5 (186.1) -2.8
6 Pastor Maldonado Williams 299.5 (186.1) -2.8
7 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 299.5 (186.1) -2.8
8 Felipe Massa Ferrari 299.3 (186.0) -3.0
9 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 299.2 (185.9) -3.1
10 Paul di Resta Force India 298.5 (185.5) -3.8
11 Adrian Sutil Force India 298.2 (185.3) -4.1
12 Charles Pic Caterham 297.6 (184.9) -4.7
13 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 297.6 (184.9) -4.7
14 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber 297.0 (184.5) -5.3
15 Jules Bianchi Marussia 296.7 (184.4) -5.6
16 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 296.4 (184.2) -5.9
17 Giedo van der Garde Caterham 296.2 (184.1) -6.1
18 Romain Grosjean Lotus 295.4 (183.6) -6.9
19 Sergio Perez McLaren 294.7 (183.1) -7.6
20 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 294.7 (183.1) -7.6
21 Jenson Button McLaren 294.4 (182.9) -7.9
22 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 293.9 (182.6) -8.4

Over to you

Will Webber score his first win of the year at Suzuka? What can Alonso and Raikkonen recover from the lower reaches of the top ten?

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

2013 Japanese Grand Prix

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Images ?? Red Bull/Getty, Lotus/LAT, Daimler/Hoch Zwei

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44 comments on Webber and Vettel set to resume their grudge match

  1. Krichelle (@krichelle) said on 12th October 2013, 16:25

    Bring on the Red Bull showdown!!! Bring on the fight!!! Hopefully, this can lead to some others coming into contention too!!!

    Interestingly, both Red Bull and Mercedes have different speed traps to both of their drivers..

  2. So if Vettel had improved by the same margin as Webber, he’d have been on pole by 0.223 seconds with a 1:30.692: 0.516s quicker than the next non-Red Bull. Just for some context on the advantage they could theoretically have.

    I doubt he’d have managed to improve that much though – Webber’s Q3 lap was mega whichever way you look at it!

  3. Patrick (@paeschli) said on 12th October 2013, 16:30

    All the ‘n°2 drivers’ of Red Bull, Ferrari and Lotus are ahead of their team-mates. Hopefully this will result in some great racing tomorrow :D

  4. Karthikeyan (@ridiculous) said on 12th October 2013, 16:35

    Mark finally has an opportunity to perform his Webbo-chop and gets a puncture in the process while Vettel loses his front wing leaving Hamilton to run off into the distance during the early part of the race. Alonso and Kimi will do their customary slice through the field moving ahead of their teammates. The last 10 laps will be spent watching who will get passed for the lead but nothing would happen and the race will be rated 10/10 for plenty of action. PS: Seb somehow finds his way back in 10th and Mark Webber retires with KERS failure.

    For more realistic predictions ask @fer-no65 for tips – http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/2013/10/12/2013-japanese-grand-prix-third-practice-result-fp3-2/#comment-1382638

  5. sato113 (@sato113) said on 12th October 2013, 16:48

    Hey guys i’ve just come back from the future. Here’s what will happen in the (predictable) race:

    Webber has a poor start and vettel takes the lead by turn 1 (thus winning the race).
    Hamilton’s tyre give up early as each stint he holds back a train of cars. eventually he falls back to 5th at the finish.
    Alonso climbs to 5th by lap 2, finishes 3rd as grosjean suffers a mechanical failure of sorts.
    Kimi ends up 4th after doing longer stints.
    rosberg has an awful strategy between a 2 and 3 stopper. (mercedes can’t decide)
    Di resta retires

    • kpcart said on 12th October 2013, 16:58

      this is a perfect assessment of how things seem to go in the races! in terms of Hamilton… he must have set a record this year for finishing in races lower then he qualifies, especially the record in a season of qualifying from pole and not converting to wins.
      one thing I will add to your assessment.. if Grosjean finishes, he will be passed by the end of the race by Raikonnen as a result of a safety car.

  6. kpcart said on 12th October 2013, 16:52

    I would like to see Webber rewarded for his work at Redbull – developing the car, being a good number 2 by actually being gifted the win by redbull if he is ahead after a few laps from Vettel. No harm in telling Vettel to finish second, it would go towards evening things out from earlier this year…. and also with the balance of things, Webbers car has had all the problems in past few years – like it is the test vehicle to make vettels better… I wonder if the redbull team as a whole would be willing to help Webber win as a send-off for his service. I know that sour character Helmutt Marko hates him and will not be in on it though. It would be a good thing for the team though, Vettel has no chance of losing the championship, but redbull has a chance of making it a 1-2 for the team in the driver championship along with the constructors championship. It would be a popular win, and go some way to eliminating the booing towards Vettel if Vettel raced as No.2 tomorrow. Knowing what Webber is like though, he will not take any favours! so I wish him the best of luck tomorrow. if he had any other teammate, it would be so much more easier tomorrow.

    • iAltair (@ialtair) said on 12th October 2013, 16:56

      Making Vettel race behind Webber because of Malaysia controversy is just being next level hypocrite.

    • iAltair (@ialtair) said on 12th October 2013, 16:56

      And to add on to that, it going to look like the biggest team order ever in F1 history.

      • kpcart said on 12th October 2013, 17:01

        not if “Vettel, your KERS is not working” and also, look through the history of team orders, there have been much much worse ones.

    • Mads (@mads) said on 12th October 2013, 19:16

      Do you really think Vettel would give up a race win, to please a bunch of people who hate him anyway? I think not.
      If their relationship had been like Schumacher and Barrichello, where Barrichello really did give up a lot for Schumacher, then it would be a different story.
      But Webber never did Vettel any favours on track. So I don’t see what Vettel has to give back or pay tribute to.
      He has to go out there and do his job. Just like Webber has to.
      May the best man win.

  7. JCost (@jcost) said on 12th October 2013, 16:54

    Webber being unable to outqualify Seb of get himself onto front row, and poor starts, have been keeping us from watching this long awaited show-down after Malaysia, let’s see what happens. However, I’d like to see Grosjean or Lewis jumping both the Bulls :)

  8. bull mello (@bullmello) said on 12th October 2013, 17:20

    Red Bull, Horner, will likely counsel Webber and Vettel as @keithcollantine described in the article to not take each other out and leave it at that. It matters little in the larger scheme of the season title whether Vettel wins in Japan or the next race or the next. But, the funny thing is, neither Webber or Vettel are likely to listen to any of that. Webber is keen to win this race as he may never have another chance at pole in front of Vettel again. If he needs to compensate for a typical slow start, Webber will probably do whatever it takes to get ahead. Vettel just wants to win every time and feels no need to be behind. Stay tuned.

    The rest of the field will be keenly watching the action at the front as well as trying to get ahead/stay ahead of their teammates and everyone else. Oh, the drama! Alonso will not want to be stuck behind Hulkenberg again. Massa is determined to be aggressive so as to win his new job before arriving at the first corner. Raikkonen will be wanting to gain as many places as possible at the start. Hamilton usually starts well and will be ready to fly by any Red Bull horn locking. This may be one of the most action packed starts of the year. Little or no carnage at the start will be a miracle. I always wish for a clean start and clean racing with no wrecks, but all it takes is one guy to put something where it don’t belong…

    For the race I think Webber will win, then Vettel, Raikkonen, Grosjean, Alonso, Hamilton.

  9. AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 12th October 2013, 17:39

    Whether we will get to see a battle for the lead tomorrow will depend on Webber getting at least as good a start as Vettel. Mark’s starts have been a mixed bag this year, with a couple of good ones and also quite a number of poor ones. Let’s hope he pulls another good one out of the bag tomorrow. If he does beat Vettel to turn 1, I think he has a decent chance to win. I don’t doubt Vettel will be faster again tomorrow, but he was kept behind in Malaysia, too, at least until Red Bull granted Vettel the undercut to counter a phantom Mercedes threat.

    As for the other cars, Grosjean might pose a threat, only so far he’s never been able to get ahead one of the Bulls despite, on occasion, being able to go a little longer in his stints. I suspect, though, that Mercedes, Lotus and Ferrari will have to contend themselves with fighting over the final spot on the podium.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 12th October 2013, 19:54

      @adrianmorse

      Red Bull granted Vettel the undercut to counter a phantom Mercedes threat

      I think the data makes it pretty clear it was now a “phantom threat”. When Hamilton made his last pit stop he was 2.5s behind Vettel, who in turn was 4.6s behind Webber. Vettel was clearly under greater threat from Hamilton than Webber was from Vettel.

      • AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 13th October 2013, 6:08

        @keithcollantine, I assume you mean ‘not’.

        Looking at that chart, it seems Hamilton had an extremely slow in-lap, though, so he wasn’t really a threat. Also, I seem to recall you defended McLaren’s strategy in the 2012 Australian Grand Prix where Hamilton was struggling with his tyres at the end of the first stint, but kept him out because Button was leading and had pit stop priority.

        What would having pit stop priority be worth if the guy behind has another competitor within three seconds. Does the second driver then automatically get the priority? It feels a bit unfair if this causes the leading driver to lose the lead, as Webber did in Malaysia.

      • AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 13th October 2013, 6:19

        Let me add that I don’t necessarily agree with the absolute pit stop priority rule. I think in such situations, it would be better if the leading drivers gets first call on a lap to pit. So if the second driver wants to pit, the first driver is informed and if he does not want to pit then, the second driver is allowed to.

        This would keep some preference to the leading driver, but take away the possibility of the first driver to ruin the second’s race by keeping him out lap after lap on worn tyres.

  10. I hope Webber will win, but I won’t like it if Red Bull orders Vettel to not challenge him.

  11. TMF (@tmf42) said on 12th October 2013, 18:12

    They have shown so often that they can race wheel to wheel and I think Vettel has learned so much he won’t make the same mistake as Turkey 2010.
    Best case: Horner tells them to take care without imposing team orders and they come out within seconds after the last stop and show us an epic battle like in Sepang.

  12. Dear @keithcollantine,

    Can we have an article which shows the best engine manufacturer in F1. According to this artice it seems Renault are doing quite a good job, but I have no clue about other manufacturers (even the ones who are no longer operating, like Honda etc)

    http://www.renaultsportf1.com/RENAULT-SETS-NEW-F1-RECORD.html?lang=fr

  13. Anele (@anele-mbethe) said on 12th October 2013, 20:33

    made the mistake of reading comments in the dailymail, while my mind recovers… excited for tomorrow. something special about F1 in the morning

  14. kenke said on 12th October 2013, 20:51

    this my prediction,webber starts poorly,seb takes the lead and wins the race,and alonso will climb his way into 2nd

  15. Deej92 (@deej92) said on 12th October 2013, 20:54

    Let’s hope for an exciting, clean battle between a partnership that will live in the memory. Malaysia seems like yonks ago, so I think we could do with another edge-of-your-seat fight between the two, as there won’t be many more (if any).
    But, c’mon Lewis!

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