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Posts Tagged ‘sebastian vettel’

Adaptability

November 19, 2013 Leave a comment

Yes that wonderful word that seems to sweepingly take Formula 1 these days in a climate where adapting to your surroundings is just as important as being fast.

The US GP failed to live up to the hype of last year. Pirelli’s continued ultra-conservative route still being taken and the lack of Sebastian Vettel looking vulnerable in any situation. Some interesting points did come from the US GP though if you look a little deeper.

For the first time in a good while we saw some of the rawness of drivers and not just their media fronts. This was firstly noticeable with the brash statement of Pastor Maldonado claiming that the mechanics of his number sixteen Williams were tampering with his car. In any circumstance or situation, even if you are leaving, you do not make such comments or statements. It is hardly an appealing factor to any new employee that you may be going to. In this case it looks like Lotus unless Quantum Motorsports cough up some money and, rightly, take Nico Hulkenberg.

We then have other examples of drivers just simply not adapting. Lewis Hamilton was contradicting himself for fun from what we heard of the team radio messages between himself and his engineer. Firstly claiming he knew what he was doing with the tyres, followed up by wanting to know a plethora of information, massive respect to Peter Bonnington for having the patience of a Buddhist monk. Hamilton once again showing he has speed but not the full package.

When we look at the performances of the second half the season it is clear to see that Red Bull have regained their advantage from last season with the 2012 Pirelli tyre construction being brought back. Even when the 2013 tyres were on the car, Vettel still won Malaysia, Bahrain and Canada. This reflects how he is able to adapt to the car and tyres given to him. Arguably, Fernando Alonso is doing an even better job considering the lack lustre Ferrari he has two wins to his name. But what Alonso portrays is firstly confidence and ability within him but also the mental capacity to be able to adapt. The car is not as good as the Red Bull but he is extracting everything from the Ferrari and has now finished runner-up to Vettel. He learns how the tyres work during the race and uses that to his advantage.

Jenson Button is loved by many in the paddock and many fans, but I am not one. Even during his 2009 championship campaign there was this snide character to Button that came across. Button moans about any given situation with the car. He does not understand or learn what the car is doing; he immediately proclaims something is wrong. McLaren have opted to release Sergio Perez from his contract. Over time it will come out if this is on performance or the Telmex money drying up. Have McLaren released the wrong man? No. Both need to go.

Perez in the second half of the season has done a better job than Button. He has understood the team, his engineers and also the simulator and McLaren are now seeing the rewards. I do not believe Perez is the ultimate driver but he is certainly more adaptable than Button. With Kevin Magnussen now joining the team, I believe in 2014 Button is going to get over shadowed by his young Danish team mate. Experience is a tremendous trait to have, if you know how to use it.

The driver that has been impressing most of late is Romain Grosjean. In 2012 he was erratic, reckless and arguably dangerous at times. In 2013 he has calmed down a lot by seeing a psychologist and learning more about himself. I am not a father but they say fatherhood changes you and while he claims it has not changed him, subconsciously I suspect a change has taken place. I have no end of respect for Grosjean to even mention the fact he sees a psychologist. In modern day sport that could be viewed as a sign of weakness to some. He and Lotus identified the issue and dealt with it. Grosjean has learnt the car and the tyres and is now beating one of the Red Bull’s, mighty impressive.

So where does this leave 2014? Currently you would say on driving adaptability alone the title fight will be between Vettel, Alonso, Raikkonen and even Grosjean. With the amount of changes Formula 1 will go through in 2014 it is vital to be able to adapt. But for me Nico Hulkenberg is the star of the future as long as he gets a drive. He is a driver of raw talent, adaptability and speed. I first saw him in A1GP and knew then he was on for greatness.

If Britain has any hope in Formula 1 in the future, it is coming from lower categories. The current crop of drivers are near write-offs.

Follow me on twitter: @nico888

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The heat is on… at Red Bull!

March 24, 2013 Leave a comment

Searching for the right words to describe what we saw at the Malaysian is really very tough. Eventful comes to mind as being the main one but many others would apply fittingly also.

Before we get on to the chaos of the race, let us review qualifying. Sebastian Vettel once again showed he was class of the field by pitting for fresh inters and set a blistering time nine tenths quicker than Massa and a second faster than Alonso. Australian GP winner, Raikkonen was not so clever and also fell foul to a three place grid penalty for impeding Nico Rosberg.

Twenty-four hours pass and the race is started on intermediate tyres after a down pour of rain prior to the race. Lights out and Alonso’s Ferrari got a quick start but Massa was not as quick as in Australia and was passed by his team mate with relative ease. Alonso saw an opportunity to capitalise but locked his brakes on entry to turn two, clipped the back of race leader Vettel and damaged his front wing. Incredibly he battled and held second place until the line of the first lap, but going down the pit straight his front wing collapsed underneath the front tyres and sent him spearing off in to the gravel. Ferrari had told him to pit and were ready with a new front wing but the Spaniard did not and paid the price. Reminded me of Raikkonen at the Nurburgring in 2005 for McLaren where his front right tyre exploded on the last lap of the race.

Alonso’s wing disappears under his car

The first laps unfolded and as the track dried, Vettel was the first to dive in to pit lane for a set of slicks. Turns one to four were still very wet, too wet in fact and Vettel was left battling cars on inters and trying to get his slicks up to temperature. Webber pitted two laps later and benefited massively by jumping his team mate and coming out in the race lead. With Massa’s relative lack of pace it allowed both Mercedes of Hamilton and Rosberg to capitalise and close down the Red Bull pair. Hamilton in particular in the mid part of the race had some excellent pace but it was too much too fast, he had to settle in to fuel conservation mode which allowed Rosberg to close up even further but he was also managing his tyres better.

The turning point of the race came for both Red Bull and Mercedes. Webber had been controlling his pace, tyres and engine management to the point where Vettel came out just behind him after the final round of pit stops. Vettel then engulfed in an all-out battle with his team mate chopping and changing positions for two laps which saw the young German get pushed right up against the pit wall. Vettel had earlier moaned in the race that Webber was too slow but knowing how the Pirelli rubber works, Webber was simply controlling his pace. Vettel eventually threw the car around the outside of turn four and took the lead of the race. While Webber’s earlier battling was valiant he was not too forceful to push his fellow Red Bull driver off the circuit.

Behind the Red Bull pair the battle raged on between Nico Rosberg and, not Hamilton, but Ross Brawn. Hamilton was in pure tyre and fuel conservation mode but settled in to a third place and podium finish. Brawn clearly having understanding of the situation told his drivers to just settle in to their respective positions. A wiley fox like Ross Brawn is not going to be told by anyone, if Schumacher could not then Rosberg is definitely not going to be telling him.

The chequered flag dropped with Vettel crossing the line first, an angered Webber in second and a disappointed Rosberg in third. You can imagine at this point this podium is going to be a rather feisty place. Before the drivers stepped on to the podium and furious Mark Webber walked in to the post-race room, steam pouring out of his ears, glaring looks at Vettel and with a deep Aussie boom voicing the words “Multi 21, Seb. Mutli 21” This is code from the Red Bull team indicating team orders and stay in your positions. On the other side of the podium we had a glum looking Hamilton almost scratching his head and wondering what had just happened.

Martin Brundle joined them on the podium for the post-race interviews and, as ever, Brundle doing an excellent job tried to defuse the situation but Webber was quick to jump and say “Vettel took it in to his own hands, and as ever will be protected by the team”. Sure enough the ears of Dr Helmut Marko and Christian Horner pricked up at that point and knew they were in for a tough evening, the team already in a hot environment the pressure cooker seemingly getting ever hotter.   Hamilton explained how he thought Rosberg should be up there will probably not go down well with Mercedes bosses as it was Ross Brawn’s call. We very much see two different dynamics of team and team mates appearing in both camps. Dr Helmut Marko was quick enough to say that there is a “Clear number one” in Mercedes trying to deflect the attention away from his own team.

Webber’s anger at Vettel © Sutton Images

More was to come yet though as Vettel and Webber had a chat after the podium and before the press conference, Vettel sat down and apologised to Webber but the Aussie was having none of it and did not accept his apology. Webber’s interview with Natalie Pinkham of Sky Sports was the most revealing though. Webber stated that he wanted some time off to head back to Australia and also that he was “questioned things” in the last ten laps of the race. That is quite a bold statement to be saying and while it may be heat of the moment you have to wonder.

I think all Formula 1 fans will have opinions and likely differing opinions on this. Team orders have always been in Formula 1, whether that be a blatant as radio communication or a pre-race agreement. Webber was clearly under the impression that he had the lead, conserve tyres, engine and control the pace to the flag. Vettel was even told “This is silly Seb” by the pit wall but still persisted to pressure and eventually pass Webber. Now, the one big thing here that has been broken is trust. Webber can not only trust Vettel, probably ever again, but also the team. How does he then trust the team that tell him one thing and then another thing happens? Not only that but they still had another ten laps or so to go that they could have swapped the positions back around and never did! This is sour situation to be in and Webber will be left wondering and questioning his own position but also the position of the team. Webber only has this year left on his contract which I am sure he just wants to enjoy racing. After the antics we saw from Vettel today you have to wonder if he will stay.

So let us look at the other side of the garage. Red Bull clearly know that Vettel is the stronger driver and the most likely to challenge for the title. After seeing Alonso drop out of the race they must have been rubbing their hands together. Vettel was behind Webber though after the stops and it took a forceful pass to get back the top step of the podium. The team stated that it was ‘silly’ and that he should be careful. Vettel even said during the race “Get him out the way, he’s too slow” about Webber who was actually looking after his tyres. A lot of comparisons have been drawn with Schumacher in the post-race aftermath and, sure, correlations can be drawn but the things that still stands out for me is Vettel’s immaturity. The youngest triple world champion but hardly the maturity of a world champion. Vettel was booed on the podium in Australia, and even as a triple world champion is far from a fans favourite. Alonso, Raikkonen and Hamilton all with fewer titles hold a better fans reputation than Vettel. After the race today, you can see why.

Flip over to Mercedes and Rosberg got out of the car, fully understood the situation, knows that the same would happen if that roles were reversed and gave a very dignified and diplomatic response to the media, an excellent showing from the German and, if anything, gone up in peoples estimations and I suspect has gained a lot of respect. Hamilton clearly unsatisfied himself, Mercedes almost have a luxury on their hands because they have two friends that want to fight, properly, but also both play the team game.

Fans may be disgruntled by what has happened but I think Red Bull actually have a greater issue on their hands. They have a driver that has clearly disobeyed team orders. Now while Schumacher, Senna or Alonso are/were rarely on the receiving end of that, I do not remember them disobeying the team quite so directly. Argument could state that it is early in the season and they should be allowed to battle, but outright disobeying the team that pays you? That is not something you want to be doing, even as a triple world champion.

Three weeks now until China and a lot of damage has to be repaired and a lot of conflicts to be resolved. Question is, can Red Bull do it or maybe, just maybe was that Mark Webber’s last ever Formula 1 race?

‘Easy’ win for Kimster

March 17, 2013 Leave a comment

Well it is a while since I have written a blog here but I thought I would make my grand return for 2013. I had planned to write consistently but as ever life seems to interrupt along the way and it gets broken up. Along with writing I hope to be able to bring a podcast to the site also.

It is a couple of hours after the race down under around Albert Park, Melbourne and many fans and viewers will be stepping away or back to bed with very wide smiles on their faces. I for one I am exceptionally pleased to see Kimi Raikkonen win for Lotus.

© Sutton Images

After the initial washout of qualifying before both Q2 and Q3 were run on Sunday morning prior to the race I think most people thought this would be a stroll, quite literally, in the park for Red Bull after what can only be described as a stunning pole position lap from Sebastian Vettel, such commitment in very challenging conditions.

Start of the race actually felt quite tame in some respects. Usually the season opener is drivers dusting the cobwebs away from the winter break and the race craft is not quite there but from turn one onwards it all seemed relatively clean other than new boy Chilton in the Marussia having to pit for a new front wing after contact with van der Garde’s Caterham.

The front of the field squabbling for position all the way down to turn three after negotiating the mobile chicane of Mark Webber after a software failure did not allow for a correct bite point for the clutch, the drivers escaped and the race started to unfold.

Fernando Alonso made a wonderful sweeping move around the outside of Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes around turn three and hunted down his team mate in quick smart fashion. Come the end of lap one Vettel had calmly created himself a two second advantage. That would whittle away quite sharply as both the Ferrari’s came tearing up behind him quite menacingly.

Ferrari initially appeared to show equal fairness to the drivers whereby Massa was allowed to pit first and have the luxury of strategy advantage over his team mate who was behind. Were the tables turning at Ferrari? No. Come round two of pit stops Ferrari pitted Alonso earlier to take him out of the traffic and Massa was asked to push to see if he could two stop. He could not and was left tucked up behind Adrian Sutil.

Force India have quietly gone about their business in pre-season, turning many laps and appearing to have a car capable of at least fifth in the constructors at the moment, Adrian Sutil though had other ideas. After starting from twelfth on the grid he quickly made his way up the field starting on the medium compound tyre which proved a great strategy call for the first two stints which put him right in with Vettel, Alonso and Massa. The quad group all running together for many laps as the strategies unfolded.

While this was happening Kimi Raikkonen was carefully lurking off the back of them controlling his pace and his tyre management and in doing so put himself in the window of a two stop strategy. This was quite a surprise as many had foreseen it to be a three stop race but Lotus got excellent longevity out of the super soft compound in the opening stint allowing the ‘Flying Finn’ to only stop twice in the race. It would appear Lotus have an advantage of a car that is very kind on its tyres and looks after them well.

It has to be applauded the valiant effort of Fernando Alonso though. The Spaniard setting fastest lap after fastest lap trying to bring the gap down between the two and the three stop strategies. It was not to be though and other than a moment with a Caterham he could not close the gap and Raikkonen conveniently set the fastest lap of the race with just a few laps to go just to let Alonso know he was not winning today.

Kimi has been quoted as saying “It was one of the easiest races I have done to win. Hopefully we can have many more of these races.” and quite honestly it was. He was flawless in his drive and kept the measure of his competitors when he needed to and turned the wick up just at the right times. He seems to feel at home with the Lotus and the freedom he has. His latest interviews we have even seen a more open smiling Kimi which is rather nice but his cool character approach was always a winner with those that liked him.

Raikkonen wins in Melbourne © Sutton Images

So what have we learnt from Melbourne? Kimi is up for it, Fernando wants it and Vettel is not really sure what to think. Red Bull have made improvements to what is already a good car but have they over done it and now have degradation issues? I doubt it and I think Malaysia may see Red Bull come to the front again but now more than ever they have a big challenge on their hands and it’s not just from one team it could be anything up to three teams currently.

And just to round my first piece of the season up, a word on Mercedes. Qualifying looks be a strong point for them but similar to the past few seasons, add the fuel in and the balance of the car changes. They tried their best to two stop with Hamilton but they could not and while Lewis is happy with the base clearly the overall package is missing something. Work to be done but definite promise for the Silver Arrows.

Follow me on Twitter: @Nico888