I have recently upgraded myself to playing 100% race distance, on legend AI, though I still play the short weekend (with only 1 FP and Q session, respectively). Still in the Williams for my first season (my hard disk failed recently, so a reformat lost me all of my saved games :( )
After the misery of leading the first two stints for Australia and Malaysia, and finishing a measly 5th in Melbourne and 4th in Malaysia (hey… it’s HARD to keep the lead in Legend for 60 laps! :P ) China was a fantastic race for me! I thought of saving my options for the race, as I wanted to do a 3-stopper with prime option option option, so I just did one run on a set of primes. I traditionally do 1 more stop in full race distance anyways – the higher number of laps mean there is more chance of a more-stop to work (compared to say 20% distance)
The car felt great. It was responsive, traction was solid. I could have confidence on the throttle, knowing that my fronts could point the car sufficiently. My 1 prime run was good enough for P12 only. I was quite happy with myself – I had 4 stints on brand new tyres tomorrow. I could pull a Kimi!
Alas I had forgotten to check the forecast. It rained on race day, meaning (so far) that my saved tyres were good for nothing, really. With that I added 2 to my front wing and 3 to my rear (From 7-6 to 9-9). I don’t generally do anything else with the car in the wet. But boy was it the right call…
My start was average, and just about everyone got off equal. But when it came to the second, traction phase my car came alive as with my increased downforce I had more grip on the throttle. I was fourth on the entry into Turn 1, but drove clean around the inside of Webber and Vettel in Turn 1, narrowly missing the lead, held by Alonso. I held tight around Turn 2 (that’s still the right hander) and I straightened the car VERY early for the left hander of 3, getting a very clean power out. It wasn’t enough to get Alonso, but I was on his slipstream. He defended lightly into the hairpin of 6 – leaving 90% of a car’s width to his left. I took it though, left tyres on the kerb and all – and being better on the brakes I was alongside him in the entry phase. I knew then and there I was quicker. I had to pass him. I made a split second decision to go outside rather than cut back and lo and behold – I swept around the outside of Alonso, in the rain, in a hairpin.
I pretty much left Alonso for dead after that – pulling a gap of 1.5 in Sector 2 alone (yes, that included my overtake). I was just streaming away at breakneck speed. My pitstop schedule brought me to pitstops on laps 19, 38 and 56, but on lap 17 my engineer told me that rain should slow down in 15 minutes – about 9 laps on my current laptimes. I wasn’t gonna be able to lap by 2.7s quicker thanks to new tyres (9 x 2.7 = 24.3s, which I took to be a pitstop – I hate that about F1 games. No pitwall brain to help you calculate things) so I decided to stay out, given the conditions of my tyres. True to form, a 36s-behind Vettel pitted on L18, while I stayed out. Amazingly my wets were still quicker than their new wets, and I stretched an even bigger gap to Vettel in the meantime. On lap 23 I felt understeer into Turn 2, and Turn 8. I checked my screen, and while my tyres were worn they were still in good shape – I shouldn’t have been experiencing that level of understeer. I changed over to the temp screens, where my front left was starting to turn the color of dollar bills. I selected intermediates on my quick menu, in anticipation of a pitstop. Being half a lap ahead of Vettel, I could pretty much rely on him pitting first to see if the conditions were ok.
The alarm bells started ringing when I killed the fastest lap (my personal best too) by 1.7s on that lap – and no I wasn’t holding back. I was going hell for leather every lap, to build a gap in anticipation of dry track, when the other cars would eat me alive with my wet setup and my good-enough-for-P12 dry pace. I confirmed my suspicions as I beat my S1 time by another 6.4 tenths, and Sector 2 by 1.7 seconds (including the 6.4 tenths from S1) The track was good. Track was VERY good.
I pitted quickly in order to be on the better, inter tyre. I had saved a pitstop not by tyre conservation, but rather by brains. Not bad. On the inters, I couldn’t really gap Vettel. I would pull out a tenth, which he would then pull back the next lap. It kept on yoyoing all the way, staying at a steady 67s. Everyone was setting fastest laps though – I’d set it, then Vettel in P2 would take it, before P3 Alonso took it, and then Button in P4… and so on. It only meant one thing – the track was drying rapidly. I thought to myself, anything less than 17-18 laps, I’m not willing to gamble on not stopping using the primes.
Sure enough it was lap 34 when my fronts started overheating, but this time I didn’t try for another lap like last time. I pitted, opting for an option-option using my new option tyres. The first lap was horrible as I couldn’t get any heat in the tyres and kept twitching, but it was hell fun. Vettel was on primes in P2, and we again lapped equally, despite my being on fresh options. It didn’t look good. I pitted once more on lap 45 for a fresh set of options. Thanks to a seemingly McLaren-trained pitcrew I lost a total of 23 seconds, up to 44s ahead of Vettel. I brought the car home, 40s ahead. It was a fantabulous day, aided by the weather.