Reflections from Barcelona: is qualifying the real loser in 2011?

May 23, 2011

So as the season now enters its second phase with the traditional European races, who are the winners and losers from Barcelona?

Winners

Vettel: Looks every inch in control of the tyres, the race and the championship, not sure about the Crazy Frog impressions though.

Racing: Yet again we had an exciting race, it was a big shame that Alonso’s stellar start didn’t pay dividends for him, but it was really great to see three different car/engine combinations (Red Bull Renault, Ferrari and McLaren Mercedes) running so closely in the early stages.

Sauber: With the disappointment of having been disqualified from Australian, Sauber were able to underline the quality of their 2011 package with ninth and tenth places.

Williams (in Q3): Pastor Maldonado was able to bring some cheer to Williams by making it into Q3 and bringing the team from Grove their highest grid position of the season so far – eighth place, although sadly he was only able to turn it into fifteenth in the race.

Losers

Mark Webber:  this was his chance to undermine some of Vettel’s momentum, but it didn’t happen and Mark, as usual, was pretty open about the reasons in a tweet today “Barca didn’t turn out for me in terms of top result… wasn’t good enough on the day”– so how about Monaco?

Qualifying: the new regulations certainly seem to have improved the racing, although I’m not sure about DRS. However one of the casualties seems to have been qualifying. The teams are now compromising qualifying performance to ensure they have enough tyres – particularly the softer option, to remain competitive on Sunday. It is also interesting that in a couple of notable cases – Webber in China and Heidfeld in Barcelona, someone who has started last, with a full set of tyres, has been able to overhaul most of the grid: Webber finished 3rd, and Heidfeld eighth, so if grid position becomes a disadvantage is this the end of qualifying as we know it (or at least qualifying pre-2011)?

Some further musings

Not sure if Pirelli are winners or losers, they certainly seem to be responsible for a big change in the unpredictability of the race and the variations in performance, but I’m still not sure if this is a good or bad thing – need more races to come to a final view.

It was interesting to see that things seemed to have gone a bit quiet on the ‘off track’ front. For ‘off track’ read negotiations for the 2013 Concorde Agreement, which normally means things are happening behind closed doors. It was interesting to see both Ron Dennis and Dietrich Mateschitz present at Barcelona so perhaps there were a few high level meetings going on.

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One Response to “Reflections from Barcelona: is qualifying the real loser in 2011?”

  1. BazL Says:

    Up until Barca I was relatively excited, if undecided, by the degrading tyres. In Spain I felt that the tyres made it such that it was a spectacle rather than a race. I thought it was too easy to hunt down and pass the car in front if your tyres were fresh and the car in front appeared to have no defence against it.

    Part of the concept of racing is surely that you can mount a tactical defence against an opponent – the tyres (and DRS even though it was relatively ineffectual in Spain) are designed to deny the leading car any defence against a car on fresher tyres.


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