Wednesday, April 17, 2013


Another weekend, another race. That was quite entertaining actually. I expected it to be a bit boring as most Chinese GPs tend to be, at least to me. The pack did fan out quickly as expected, the cars were spread out quickly within a lap due to the nature and layout of the track. But the tires did cause varying strategies to be played out. We saw this coming during qualifying especially during Q3 when Button purposely set a slow lap of 2 minutes plus while Vettel didn't bother to set a time.

That set up an interesting race strategy wise as teams chose different tires to start and finish the race. The start was pretty clean and as expected Lewis lost the lead to the shockingly fast Ferraris. Seems their race pace is hugely strong compared to their qualifying pace. Just imagine if Alonso had put the car on pole? He would have blitzed the start and romped away. In comparison, Lewis had a good start but couldn't stretch out a lead over the Ferraris at all with mediocre pace throughout. He ended up being overtaken before pitting for the medium tires. Lewis commented:
"I am not really sure where we are losing out. Today just the overall pace was not there and there are definitely a couple of areas we can focus on on the car. We are really happy with it, and it is almost to the point that it shows how we have improved so much.
To be disappointed with a third is a fortunate position to be in. It has been a good weekend. Of course I would have loved to have won, as that is what I came here to do, but we just were not as quick as the Ferraris. Maybe if we did not have some of the issues with the front wing then I might have been able to overtake the Lotus [of Kimi Raikkonen], maybe, but they were still very quick even though he had problems with his front wing.
We just need to improve. As Ross [Brawn] said on the radio, we are not quite there yet but we are not that far away."
But looking at how Lewis has done the past 3 races, it would seem to me that he is surpassing his or Mercedes' expectations for this year, at least mine. I was set to forget him having a chance at this year's title but it does look like that is possible. I'm still not really rooting for it though as I still believe their target should still be to produce a car that will blitz the field in 2014. But at the current pace, Lewis will definitely win a race this year. Just waiting for the right development on the car to coincide with the right track and tire combination.
P1 to P3. Someone pulled the 'ol switcheroo on me there..

Mercedes does look to have a genuinely strong package, unless of course if you're looking at Rosberg. Something is wrong with him or his car. Conspiracy anyone? So far he's had the share of bad luck, it will swing the other we know that much in F1. But if he can sort out his issues, Mercedes will collect more points. I feel that Rosberg is shaken a bit by the performance of Lewis, who wouldn't be, even a 2 time world champion was rocked. Maybe he was expecting more of himself after hammering Schumacher for 3 years. Rosberg will need to get himself together if he is to have any chance of moving up the ladder.

Alonso was in a league of his own this race. Although the Ferrari's qualifying pace is not that great, the race pace is awesome. And the stability of the car with its tires was the cornerstone of the race for them. Alonso was able to push and keep a steady pace with more pace in his pocket. His race engineer was heard telling him no need to push and his answer was "I'm not pushing" just after setting another fastest lap.
“It was fantastic race for us.The tire degradation was better than expected. After the retirement in Malaysia we had some pressure today. You always push but it is true that we had some pace in our pocket. We had more potential but maybe we can show that in Bahrain next week.”

It is a sign of the domination of a driver in a race when there was very little coverage of him during the race as what happened to Alonso. His pace was supreme throughout that the race director focused on other drivers most of the time. Are we seeing a resurgence of Ferrari power? I hope so even though I am not a Ferrari fan as I want to see a more balanced F1 with Red Bull not sweeping every race.

Kimi Raikkonen had a pretty good race as well. He qualified 2nd and finished 2nd. In fact the top 3 qualifiers finished the race together albeit Lewis and Alonso switched positions. But the interesting thing and what really impressed me what that Kimi managed to finish the race with a very strong pace even with a broken front wing. Early on in the race he hit Sergio Perez in the back and damaged his front wing and nose cone. There was a big hole there with bits of carbon fibre flapping around.

Yet he continued to race. When he pitted for tires, the team did not change the wing as they did not want to waste time and the car was still stable. This showed in the sector times and lap times when comparing Kimi and Lewis as Kimi was chasing Lewis for most of the race. In his laidback style he said:
"I think in the end it was an OK result. Obviously we want to win. After a bad start, the car was handling well. Overtaking Perez, I was next to him and he just pushed me on the kerb. I tried to avoid him and when on the grass and I hit him.
It damaged the nose but luckily it didn't damage too much the handling, just a bit of understeer. Anyhow, good points and we try to do better next time."
I know what I'm doing!!

Kimi matched Lewis' pace throughout the race with that damaged nose and even managed purple sectors on ocassions. It was a testament on the stability and toughness of the car that secured Kimi his position in the championship last year. We saw many mishaps with the Lotus hitting and being hit by other cars but it just does not break down. That has allowed Kimi to collect points race after race for the last 20 races! He is a strong contender for the title this year I'd say.

Mark Webber was the low point in this race. His race weekend couldn't have gone any worse. Not only did he not complete qualifying by not making it past Q2 due to low fuel, he was then demoted to the back of the grid due to not having enough fuel to make it back to the pits. In the race he proceeded to hit Jean Eric Vergne damaging his car. After that his day went from bad to worse after pitting for repairs and a new set of tires, his day came to a premature end when his right rear wheel came loose at the Turn 14 hairpin. That was quite funny to see as the tire came off the car rolled nicely across the track and back nearly hitting 3 cars including Vettel. Not so funny for Mark I guess. What is even more not funny is that he now carries a 3 place grid penalty to Bahrain for that incident.


That incident has ignited a firestorm of conspiracy theories now. Maybe Red Bull sabotaged Mark's weekend (does not make sense) or maybe it was Helmut Marko (plausible but nah). The conspiracy theories are fun to read and for Webber fans believable but it does not make sense from a team perspective. As Autosports F1 group editor Jonathan Noble puts it:
It makes no sense at all for an outfit to invest nearly £200 million per year on its two car operation and then throw half of its efforts away by deliberately stopping one of its drivers. To suggest that the team would purposely not put enough fuel in Webber's car for him to complete qualifying is ridiculous, as there is no benefit to the team's constructors' championship ambitions by having one of its men at the back of the grid.
In fact, the conspiracy theories would actually have more credibility if the team had done the opposite and put too much fuel in Webber's car – thereby deliberately adding extra weight to the car which would have slowed him down and left him behind team-mate Sebastian Vettel.
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner has been popping some veins trying to deny and explain away this "conspiracy" towards Webber.
"It's complete rubbish, forget conspiracy. We're all about trying to get two cars to the finish as high as we can. Anybody who thinks there is a conspiracy here against either driver does not know what they are looking at."
There's no conspiracy!! La la la la la la...

Webber himself in interviews did not specifically deny the word "conspiracy" adding fuel to fire. Maybe he is too pissed at the situation and he knows his position in the team that he has deluded himself as well. When it was pointed out to Horner that Webber had not exactly denied a conspiracy, Horner said:
"Mark knows exactly what happened - exactly! That's it. There is no conspiracy."
Ooh, doesn't he feel a brain freeze coming from a popping vein in his forehead? I'm having one just looking at his face.

And what of Vettel? He had an unusual qualifying session where he did not bother to set a time in Q3 and ended up staring P9. Red Bull they took a different approach from qualifying onwards, starting Vettel with the mediums and only going on the softs on lap 52. Nothing much happened with Vettel with him stuck in traffic most of the time but the stint on soft tires was the highlight of the race. With Alonso leading to the win followed by Raikkonen and Hamilton, Vettel changed to the softs and proceeded to chase down Hamilton overtaking Massa with relative ease (not in DRS zone).

Vettel was 11.5 secs away but pulling in about 4 secs a lap to Hamilton and by the last lap was right on his gearbox. With the Caterham of Charles Pic in front of them, Hamilton was heard on the radio yelling "Blue flag! Blue flag!" to get Pic out of the way. Hamilton overtook Pic nicely then Vettel tries the same but overcooked the final 2 turns and finished the race 0.2 secs behind Hamilton. Phew! That was close. Many fans were standing on needles on that one, myself having hair standing all over.

That was an exciting and yet dull race at the same time. A lot of people felt the soft tires were too fragile and it showed in China. Pirelli has taken note of this and has changed the allocation fro Bahrain from soft to medium. Imagine the heat and sand of Bahrain destroying those softs. Bring on Bahrain!!

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