Qualifying kings struggle in the rain (Chinese GP team-by-team: Red Bull)

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

The Red Bull pair swapped places several times
The Red Bull pair swapped places several times

Red Bull’s qualifying performance was clearly not affected by the FIA’s clarification about ride height control devices as they locked out the front row in Shanghai.

But they can’t be happy about turning a one-two qualifying result into a six-eight finish.

Sebastian Vettel Mark Webber
Qualifying position 1 2
Qualifying time comparison (Q3) 1’34.558 (-0.248) 1’34.806
Race position 6 8
Average race lap 1’54.919 (-0.337) 1’55.256
Laps 56/56 56/56
Pit stops 4 4
Chinese Grand Prix lap times: Red Bull
Chinese Grand Prix lap times: Red Bull (click to enlarge)

Sebastian Vettel

Vettel hit the top of the times sheets the first time it mattered in Shanghai – in Q3. There wasn’t much to choose between him and Webber in the first two sectors but his third sector was flawless, edging him to pole by almost a quarter of a second over his team mate.

Vettel was powerless to stop Webber passing him at the start, however, as his team mate simply got away more quickly. This meant that when they both came into the pits for intermediate tyres, Vettel faced having to queue behind his team mate, losing precious time.

To lessen that disadvantage Vettel dawdled on his way to the pits, only arriving at his pit box just as Webber was pulling away, delaying the other cars who couldn’t pass him under the safety car conditions or in the pit lane. The stewards have frowned on this tactic in the past, handing Giancarlo Fisichella a penalty for it at the same track in 2005, but they overlooked Vettel doing the same this time.

The upshot of this was that Vettel lost fewer places than he might. But the tyre choice still hurt him as he had to come back in for slicks three laps later.

His second pit stop was controversial for more obvious reasons – he came in side-by-side with Lewis Hamilton and they left that way too, Vettel edging Hamilton worryingly close to the air lines of other teams’ pit boxes. Both drivers were given reprimands.

By lap eight Vettel lay ninth with Hamilton two places behind him and Fernando Alonso even further back. Yet both these key rivals ultimately finished ahead of him.

Hamilton got past Vettel as the Red Bull driver ran wide trying to pass Adrian Sutil. At the second safety car restart Sutil re-passed Vettel, leaving the door open for Alonso to follow him through.

Vettel later got past Sutil a second time and Vitaly Petrov’s spin promoted him to sixth where he finished.

Compare Sebastian Vettel’s form against his team mate in 2010

Mark Webber

Beat his team mate off the line, which gave him the upper hand when it came to the first pit stop. However he brought the RB6 to a stop too late and hit the front jack, damaging his front wing, and delaying both stops.

Webber switched back from intermediates to slicks one lap later than Vettel and fell behind him again. The tables turned once more when Webber pitted for his next set of intermediates one lap before Vettel and Hamilton, putting him back ahead of them.

Then came the controversial wheel-banging episode with Hamilton behind the safety car which knocked Webber off the track and down to 12th place.

He took his final set of intermediate tyres early as well to get out from behind the Sutil-Schumacher-Massa queue. He leap-frogged the lot of them plus Vitaly Petrov to hold seventh behind his team mate. But he couldn’t make the tyres last until the end and Petrov re-passed him with three laps to go.

Interestingly, both Red Bull drivers were well off the pace in the final laps, losing up to two seconds per lap to leader Jenson Button even as most of the cars around them were catching the McLaren.

Perhaps the high downforce levels the RB6 enjoys, particularly in qualifying, makes it too hard on the new 2010 intermediate tyres?

Compare Mark Webber’s form against his team mate in 2010

2010 Chinese Grand Prix

Browse all 2010 Chinese Grand Prix articles

21 comments on “Qualifying kings struggle in the rain (Chinese GP team-by-team: Red Bull)”

  1. Forgot that Vettle did that, thats not sportsmanship, just as black an white flag worthy as weaving to break tow.

    Well if being to hard on the intermediates is the Redbulls only problem you’d have to say on board hoses might be leagal under the current regulations, probably nothing in their about strictly non leathals. Expect Whitmarsh to spill the beans in Spain about a system ready for Turkey an a FIA clarification two days before the race.

    Redbull must be very thankful for this years tyres, masks well one of the few chinks in their armour. Well well well, Redbulls go badly in wetter variable conditions. Still says something about the downforce they’ve got on that car.

  2. Maybe Red Bull didn’t suffer from the ride height clarification, but McLaren sure closed right up to them. In previous races they were over a second and 6 tenths slower than the Red Bulls in qualifying, but this time Hamilton could have been between the two Red Bulls and Button was only 0.1s away.

    Does that mean that McLaren implemented the same (legal) device to aid their qualifying?

    Horner claimed that they would have easily won the race if it hadn’t been for the “luck” of the others. It’s always sad to see sore losers like that, but I wonder if that’s even true if the race would have been dry.

    The Red Bulls were doing fine after the first restart and they were almost matching Hamilton. Although they moved through traffic a tad slower.

    Still, Webber, Hamilton, Vettel, Alonso and Massa were practically all behind each other before the second restart. No “luck” or changing conditions were invovled from that moment onwards

    Looking at the “sprint race” from that restart, the Red Bulls were simply beaten. Button and Hamilton were on average over a second a lap faster than Vettel! Alonso was 0.7s per lap faster. The gap to Webber was even worse.

    Would be good to see how the Red Bulls hold up when they are challenged in a dry race. I’m starting to doubt whether Vettel would actually have won those two races if his car hadn’t failed. They seem to drop off in race pace towards the end of the race quite badly while Ferari and McLaren seem to able to keep on going.

    1. Maybe Red Bull didn’t suffer from the ride height clarification, but McLaren sure closed right up to them. In previous races they were over a second and 6 tenths slower than the Red Bulls in qualifying, but this time Hamilton could have been between the two Red Bulls and Button was only 0.1s away.

      Perhaps we’re seeing the benefit of the time McLaren are spending in free practice working on their one-lap performance.

      1. Webber did exactly the same thing though. He ran exactly the same program as the McLarens.

        To be honest I was joking, but it is a remarkable improvement for McLaren.

        I was thinking more along the lines of the number and length of the straights helping McLaren with their F-duct.

    2. Be intresting to see if this has changed following the Barca upgrades, an equally interesting to see if Redbull can keep pace with Ferrari an McLaren on development.

      According to the BBC Redbull put 2 seconds on their car last year, mostly from that giant step at Silverstone, so while they outdeveloped cash strapped Brawn, an it has presumably become harder to find such huge amounts of time now the regulations are settleing down, it will be facinaiting to see if Redbull can really mix it with the big boys where it counts, the race to have the fastest car during the European season.

      I’d also like to know where Ferrari are with respect to McLaren, an how much of McLarens pace in China was F-Duct dependent, obviously not every track will be that helpful, I get the feeling McLarens traditional strength at Monaco has been sacrificed this year. Still the F-duct adds an interesting performance variable to F1 year, although McLaren advantage may start to disapear soon, although they’ll probably have the best system for the rest of the season.

      1. These “we improved by so much” claims just don’t seem to be true.

        Compare the lap times of the cars between this year and last year. They are not 2 seconds faster.

        Let alone that we believe that they added 2 seconds over last season and then again some during the winter development.

        If we believe the teams they should be 3 or 4 seconds faster this year. They simply are not.

        Besides, I though that Force India, McLaren and Ferrari outdeveloped Red Bull last year. Thought that they claimed that McLaren gained something like 2 seconds. No way that Red Bull gained that much then.

      2. An interesting observation from Nico Rosberg about the F-ducts made after fridays training.
        He said he was quick on the straights as he was behind a McLaren and using its slip stream actually the F-duct thing making it easier to follow and use the slip stream. Maybe that made it easier to follow Hamilton for Petrov in Malaysia as well.

        Something to look into for improving racing? Let all cars have stalling devices for the rear wing to help slipstreaming and overtaking.

  3. Simple explanation: Redbull cars are good enough in wet( see how Vettel overtakes Sutil in curves: great dowforce and grip ). Drivers are poor or average.
    Vettel is a joke. He perfomed poorly and didn’t forget to moan after race.
    Webber is also a joke. He even moaned in the race.
    Horner is maybe the biggest joke. He threw a question on Saturday (who needs ride height adjustment?) and answered by himself on Sunday.

    1. I think what Red Bull have done is outstanding, frankly.

      1. Based on what? I am curious.

        1. The out-of-nowhere giant killing that’s gone underway the last two seasons, that’s what!

          1. I’m not sure it counts as giant-killing when you’ve had the best aerodynamicist in F1 on your payroll for four years!

          2. an when your backed by a man with around a billion $ yearly turnover

    2. Vettel and Webber aren’t at all useless in the wet – in fact they’re two of the best, especially Vettel. If anything the Red Bull now seems to produce too much downforce in the wet conditions and that, coupled to the extra weight of the cars and softer compund intermediates means that they work their tyres too hard.

      The moaning after the race about “we would have won if the race was normal” is a bit petty yes, because it wasn’t a normal race and they didn’t perform. They’re entitled to be disappointed though because they would still have been expecting to get at 2 cars on the podium at least, whatever the weather.

  4. Mark Hitchcock
    19th April 2010, 23:00

    oh yeah, forgot about Vettel’s OTHER pit-lane shenanigans. That really was poor sportsmanship. Hopefully the stewards had a word with him about it at some point.

    1. There’s no indication they did, so my guess is we’ll see more of it.

      1. I watched the race but don’t remember that incident. Would Vettel not have fallen foul of regulation 40.7?

        “All competing cars must then reduce speed and form up in line behind the safety car no more than ten car
        lengths apart…”

        I didn’t see it so I don’t know how far behind the car in front he was.

        1. When Fisichella did it though, didn’t he do it after the speed limit line? I believe Vettel slowed down before the line, so perhaps that’s the difference. I could be wrong though!

          1. Just watched a replay. Vettel is nowhere to be seen behind the safety car as Alonso and Webber enter the pitlane.

            He must have held up the rest of the field by a few seconds already before they entered the pitlane.

            That’s a pretty clear violation of the safety car rules.

    2. It’s not poor sportsmanship, you use everything you’ve got until the loophole is closed. We’ve seen plenty examples of drivers acting as ‘rear-gunners’ on the track for their team-mates, this is pretty much the same.
      I’m more surprised there’s been no clarification about racing on the way into the pit-lane and crossing the pit-lane entry line. Clearly it’s allowed, but had Hamilton/Vettel or Alonso/Massa had a coming together they could have totally blocked the pits. Mind you, it is refreshing to see racing without endless penalties imposed, but there’s a few tighter pit-lane entries coming up where that could be… interesting…

  5. I think RBR and morso Webber had some peculiar circumstances.

    Webber had more wing on for a wet weather set up than Vettel as was stated by Coulthard before the race and as backed up by the fact that Vettel just cruised past him for top speed at the end of the straight (noting that the RBR is a terrible follower and has trouble with this type of pass). High downforce, inters, and an extra abrasive Shanghai tarmac obviously don’t mix.

    So what does this mean?
    1. Webbers qualifying lap was extra special
    2. Inters were the worst sort of tyre for RBR and more especially for Webber.
    3. Full wets or full dries and the race would have been a different story for RB and especially for Webber.

    Let’s not talk about Webber’s luck.

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