Sebastian Vettel photo courtesy of Sara Terrones

Photo courtesy of Sara Terrones

The language used in the media about Sebastian Vettel’s performance in the Austrialian Grand Prix used terms such as ‘Dominanate’ & ‘Romped’ but was he really that comfortable? He finished 1st by some 22 seconds from Hamilton: Hamilton’s broken floor means we may not yet be able to truly compare them over a race distance but there were at least some points when Hamilton was catching him. Tyres probably had a lot to do with this: Hamilton caught Vettel more when they were both on older tyres, this suggests a Red Bull that uses up its rubber to get quick laps in but doesn’t leave much left for later: though this could have been Vettel’s driving style or simply what tactics he was told to go for; mind you Webber’s tyres dropped off at a similar point.

What is clear is that Vettel’s early gap came partly from compromising on the lifespan of the tyres and  also in clean air: making it only truly comparable to Lewis Hamilton’s Mclaren until it broke. Seeing the two cars working throughout over a race distance would show us if Vettel was really that dominaante.

The other thing that gave Vettel that lead was getting a good start while cars behind jostled and squabbled for position. Hamilton had to defend while poistions changed and cars got squeezed behind: the result was a couple of seconds lead for Vettel by turn 2. Looking at a graph of laptimes for the top drivers Lewis Hamilton was consistently matching Vettel until his car was damaged and intrestingly Petrov in the Renault was matching them as well in the mid-stint. As for the fastest lap of the race: Felipe Massa in the Ferrari.

It seems then there are four cars which are arguably fastest or joint fastest and there is no way to really tell who truly had the best race pace at Melbourne: what is true is that if Vettel can keep on putting it on Pole he can make the most of it.

Still qualifying pace wont be as vital as last year perhaps: gone are the days of staying out long enough to steal a pitstop on all but your nearest rivals and therefore avoiding traffic, ability to overtake whoever is in front of you when you come out on new tyres will be vital and perhaps this will truly be what leads to more overtaking.  Sebastian Vettel won last season with his qualifying pace as a deciding factor: it may well be this year’s world champion will have overtaking skill as their deciding factor.

April 4, 2011 at 11:28 pm by admin
Category: F1 Comment