Controversial – RED BULL DO NOT HAVE THE FASTEST CAR (at least on a Sunday)
So, here’s the thing which no-one can seem to answer. How come Vettel/RB is so dominant in qual but never fastest in the race. “But he’s won 5 races” I hear you say. True, but he and RB are not the fastest package (maybe at the start of the season but not any more). I’ve looked at Qual times and fastest race laps to try to get a feel for relative race pace. Take a look at some facts:
1. Australia. Vettel won easily by 22 seconds from Hamilton. We all know that the cars speed up as they get lighter at about 0.1 s per lap. Vettel was ahead and so was cruising at the end so his fastest lap was on lap 44 (out of 58) at 1:29.8 when he was still pushing quite hard. He was 5th fastest overall – both Ferraris and Webber were faster than him at the end of the race Perez did a 1:29.9 on lap 39 !! Given that Vettel was probably cruising at the end this race is inconclusive. On to Malaysia.
2. Malaysia. Vettel won by 3 s from Button. Much closer race (56 laps). Vettel did 6th fastest lap overall but as early as lap 33. Webber, Alonso, Petrov and both Mclarens subsequently went faster. Was Vettel cruising at the end? Or didn’t he have the pace? Button was chasing quite hard. Again inconclusive but Vettel did appear to have this under control.
3. China. Vettel beaten by Hamilton (better strategy, newer tyres). 7 drivers did a faster lap than Vettel who never got any quicker after lap 47. Now this might have been all down to his old tyres, but Petrov, Rosberg and Schumacher all did faster laps than him on tyres that weren’t that much older. Vettel’s fastest lap was on tyres 16 laps old. Petrov did a faster lap on tyres 13 laps old. Vettel was not crusing here, so where was his pace?? He qualified 0.7 s ahead of the pack and so should have been out of sight.
4. Turkey. Fairly routine 1-2 for RB. Vettel winning by 8s from Webber. Vettel had the 3rd fastest lap. Webber was faster by 0.2s 2 laps earlier than Vettel. Hamilton was 0.2 s slower than Vettel, also 2 laps earlier. Vettel probably cruising at the end so difficult to judge actual pace.
5. Spain. Vettel just beats Hamilton by 0.6 secs. Vettel had the 4th fastest lap in the race, Hamilton was fastest. Vettel qualified 0.8s faster than Hamilton yet in the race hamilton was 0.4 s faster on his fastest, with Vettel’s fastest being 5 laps from the end when being chased down by Lewis. Hamilton’s fastest was done 8 laps earlier!! Where was Vettel’s pace at the end?
6. Monaco. Vettel qualified 0.4 s ahead of the field. At the end we had Vettel being chased by Alonso and Button, all on fresh tyres after the red flag. Fastest lap was actually Webber (by less than 0.1 over Vettel). Despite fighting each other Alonso and Button were both within 0.2 s of Vettel. Where had all his qualifying advantage gone??
7. Canada. We all saw what happened here. Vettel fastest in Qual by 0.2 from Alonso (and 0.8 over Button. 0.8s remember that figure). At the end with both Vettel and Button on the limit, both on tyres within 2 laps of age of each other (and both warmed up by now – they both effectively re-started after the last saefty car). Fastest lap Button, 2nd Vettel by 0.3s. So, relative to Q3, Button has gained over 1s per lap. Again, where has all Vettel’s pace gone?
Now, it’s clear, the RB is very very fast, especially in the dry on fast corner flowing tracks like Turkey and Malaysia. But, certainly since Spain, they do not have the fastest package, especially towards the end of a race on a Sunday. RB have been on pole every race yet to date Vettel has not had a single fastest lap of the race – even when he needed to. His best was actually yesterday (2nd).
So, what do RB do on Saturday that they don’t can’t on a Sunday. Or is it the “package”? Is Vettel the supreme time trialist, but can’t sustain it on a Sunday? Maybe the RB only works at its best on brand new tyres?
Or is it strategy on RB’s part? Put all your effort into getting at the front in Q3 and then use the pace of the car (over a short stint??) to try to stay in front. Maybe they have an engine setting of “11″ that they can only use in Qual and for short stints?
I suggest that Vettel being so far ahead is a bit of a false picture. He was close to being caught by Hamilton in Spain and was lucky to win in Monaco. Yesterday revealed that he can make a mistake when under pressure from a faster car and driver. It’s not over yet!!!