A bad weekend for Ferrari: the winners and losers from Valencia

June 28, 2010

 
 
 
 

Valencia 2010 was a race to forget for the Scuderia

Winners

Sebastian Vettel. From the air Valencia is an attractive circuit, but like most of the city based street circuits such as Monaco and Singapore it has tended to deliver a noisy, high speed procession rather than an exciting F1 race. So the formula for winning at Valencia is pretty simple – get pole, make sure you keep it at the start of the race, and stay there for the rest of the afternoon, if anyone starts to close on you, put in a few quick laps to let them know you have more in reserve if they want to make a fight of it. That was exactly what Sebastian Vettel did. It was a faultless performance and one in which he has now reasserted his championship campaign.

AussieGrit. While his team mate put in a faultless performance to dominate the European Grand Prix, Mark Webber had a more difficult time, he didn’t make a good start from his second position on the grid and things seemed to go from bad to worse as he moved back through the field during the opening lap to ninth place. Red Bull responded by changing his strategy and bringing him in to make his pitstop early, this resulted in his now having to make his way through the ‘B’ teams of HRT, Virgin and Lotus. Heikki Kovalainen was leading this group and decided, as they were racing for position – allbeit 18th place, that he would defend against the Red Bull. This resulted in a potentially horrific accident where, on colliding with the rear of the Lotus, Webber’s car did a backward summersault and then hit the barriers at speed, fortunately Webber was able to immediately climb out of the car and return to the paddock. Of course the safety features of the car and track, and a good dose of Aussie grit enabled him to do this, but it was also clear that a small variation in Webber’s trajectory could have produced a far worse outcome. It also vividly underlined the inherent danger in having too large a performance gap between the back and front of the field. This is something that the Le Mans 24 hours has always had to contend with, but it reinforced the case of those who have successfully argued for reintroducing the 107% rule (any car which is slower than 107% of the lap time of the fastest is not allowed to race) for 2011.

Kobayashi-San. At Abu Dhabi in 2009 Kamui Kobayashi was the talk of the paddock after his performance for Toyota, standing in for an injured Timo Glock. However during 2010 the abilities he demonstrated at the Yas Marina circuit have been far from evident, until Valencia that is. As I mentioned earlier this is a hard circuit to demonstrate any kind of race craft, but that was what Kobayashi did, with a lot of help from the strategic minds on the Sauber pit-wall. He stayed out when the safety car was deployed and therefore found himself moving from 16th to third place, as pretty much everyone else had dived into the pits. He kept his position meaning that he used his harder compound tyres for 52 laps of the 57 lap race, he then popped into the pits to change to the obligatory softer compound and promptly overtook the duelling Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Buemi, both of whom were equipped with the same Ferrari engine as Kobayashi. Perhaps there was a bit of luck involved, but in F1 it’s all about making the most of it when you’ve got it, and that’s exactly what Kobayashi-San did in Valencia.

Losers

Ferrari. Valencia was Fernando Alonso’s big opportunity to reinstate his campaign to be a contender for the 2010 world championship – a position which was very much taken for granted at the start of the season, and underlined by a dominating performance at the first Grand Prix in Bahrain. But things change quickly in F1 and their season has been undermined by an underperforming car and some uncharacteristic mistakes from the two times world champion. With this also being one of the two home grand prix for Alonso, and with Ferrari also bringing along a number of well publicised upgrades, the expectations were being built up well before the race. Fernando was undoubtedly well placed for a good result at the start, but all of this unravelled horribly when the safety car came out at the worst possible moment and saw him slip back from a solid third place to ninth. What really urked Fernando was that his nemesis, one L. Hamilton, who had been just ahead of him as the safety car emerged from the pitlane, decided to pull ahead, rather than tuck behind the silver Mercedes. Hamilton momentariy hesitated on seeing the safety car emerge, but then floored the throttle, leaving Fernando to sit behind the safety car, undoubtedly fuming and waiting for retribution to be exacted on the McLaren driver. Eventually Hamilton received a drive-through penalty, but given the twenty minutes or so that had elapsed from his misdemeanour this meant that, even having served his penalty, he still retained second place, whereas Fernando now found himself in ninth. As a consequence all the frustration that Fernando and Ferrari were experiencing was directed onto the FIA, the safety car rules and their implementation. In the Jean Todt and Ross Brawn era the idea of Ferrari publicly declaring that the FIA handling of a situation was a ‘scandal’ and their driver claiming that the outcome of the race had been ‘manipulated’ would have been unheard of. Ferrari would handle this kind of thing behind closed doors and in a way that did not create overt division between themselves and the regulatory body. The fact that such public statements have been made is a sign of their frustration at a lack of progress in a season in which they should have played a far stronger role than they have managed to do so far. Things can only get better for Ferrari.

Mercedes.

The other big team who are not delivering to expectation is Mercedes. There was much talk about the fact that the Brawn car of 2009 performed so well because the (then Honda) team had switched focus to its development early in 2008. I wonder at what point Mercedes will decide that most of its technical efforts should now focus on their 2011 car? With Nico Rosberg finishing 12th and Michael Schumacher 16th, even though they too were effected badly by the safety car, it suggests that they may have already made their decision.

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3 Responses to “A bad weekend for Ferrari: the winners and losers from Valencia”

  1. muaz Says:

    Hello professor, I’ve been following your blog for a while and I love the way you pen your thoughts, any chance for me to reproduce some of it at my website, racerevo.com with full links here?

  2. muaz Says:

    Thanks professor, appreciate it a lot


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