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A little pointer as to why Red Bull will be quick in Brazil
A little pointer as to why Red Bull will be quick in Brazil
Posted By: James Allen  |  06 Oct 2009   |  6:50 pm GMT  |  65 comments

Mark Webber’s Japanese Grand Prix looked like a bit of a write-off; he finished last, two laps behind his team mate who won the race in the same car. But it could turn out to have been a very worthwhile afternoon.

Picture 46
The Australian crashed on Saturday morning, doing enough damage to his car for it to be scrapped and this meant he had to miss qualifying and start the race from the pit lane.

He was back into the pits twice in the first few laps to fix a loose headrest. From then on his race was a test session.

But it appears to have been a very valuable one.

The team had a range of front wings with it in the freight. They have promised to bring a new one to each of the final two races.

As the race went on, Webber tested out parts for the next race in Brazil and he was using the Brazil front wing when he set the fastest lap of the race in 1m 32.569s, shortly after the safety car period.

Looking through the race lap times his long run pace was not particularly good the rest of the time, but sources say that the team was very encouraged by the results of Webber’s 53 lap ‘test session’ – a rare opportunity in Formula 1 these days.

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  1. Alison says:

    But surely Brazil is a TOTALLY different track to Suzuka ? What’s the point of testing stuff at a totally different track ??? It’s quite funny and totally MAD !

  2. Dave Cameron says:

    Are teams legally allowed to change parts on the cars during a race to a different spec? Surely that violates the point of parc ferme which restricts what teams can change aero wise on the car from qually?

    1. **Paul** says:

      I also wondered this. James’ comments below suggest it’s all ok. Which makes me wonder that if you can change the front wing assembly to a completely different one during a race what else can be changed???

      1. CL says:

        As far as I know they can change whatever they want during the race.

      2. John says:

        I believe you can change part during the race. However, you will lose time in the pits as a result which is why teams don’t change them. Also, if a part hasn’t been tested (as is the case these days with testing restrictions), you may not want to put it on if you are fighting for points. Webber had nothing to lose so they tested the new parts. Maybe they should have used that front wing for this race too???

  3. Andrea says:

    …and I thought they want to fuel their cars with their energy drink… ;-)

  4. Jameson says:

    No doubt that the aero performance of Red Bull is more than up to par, but what about the engine situation with Vettel? He’s counting on his used engines, and if he has to take a new one he’s up for a huge grid penalty.

    If all of the cards fall in place, Red Bull will be at the top of the pack in Brazil. This is going to be another close season if Vettel’s engines can hold it together.

  5. Silverstoned says:

    Great news. Shaping up for a nice bit of drama to end the season.
    Only two races ago MW was in the hunt for WDC 2009 now he’s relegated to test driver. He will need all the luck in the world to end up 4th in the championship. But he is due some good luck IMO.

    And now there’s rumours that Horner is looking to cancel his contract to get KR in

  6. James says:

    I’ve posted this before and done a fair amount of research accross the interweb, but to no avail, but does anyone have any scoop on how Vettel’s engines are looking? With two races to go, both involving reasonable amounts of time at top speed, surely he must be feeling a little nervous given the poor reliability he and Mark have had with Renault? Although Vettel believes he can close the gap which is smaller than the one Kimi had to overcome, he must know deep down that something is bound to happen?

    That said, Brazil will be at a higher altitude and looks to be cooler and potentialy wet – which may be a big help for Vettel and Red Bull.

    Bah, 12 days couldnt pass more slowly, could they!?

  7. Button needs to have a good race in Brazil. Red Bulls will be quick, McLaren (or should I say LH) should be at the same level as Suzuka and the most impressive Kimi doesn’t seem to let go either. Would be great if the championship went down to the wire in Abu Dhabi.

  8. Rodrigo Lamas says:

    New soft tires, 8 laps of fuel onboard… Still, his time was about Vettel’s pole which was done on a much bigger fuel load.

  9. That’s a good point James – maybe he’ll be able to help Vettel control things at Interlagos? He deserves some good luck as well; out of the points now for 4 races after being on the podium for 4 races!

  10. Speedsailor says:

    So Webber was using different wings during the race to test different types out. I call foul! This can’t be fair to the other front running teams especialy Brawn. What will stop another team doing the very same thing thing late into the championship next year with the driver who is out of the title running. For a start the team with both drivers in the running would have their hands tied (like Brawn now) Red Bull have carte blanche on ordering Webber to do the same thing in Brazil as they are out of the constructors race effectively. The FIA need to nip this in the bud

    1. James Allen says:

      Disagree. It’s not against the rules

      1. Rick says:

        It may not be against the letter of the rules, but deliberately using a race as a test session with no intention of racing is definitely against the spirit of the rules.

        If this is within the rules, any team could actually bring the entire test team to a race and just run tests with one car, not even bothering to start from the grid. That would be a farce.

        But if it turns out to work for Red Bull, other teams will copy it, especially the new teams next year who will need all the testing miles they can get.

      2. John says:

        If the teams don’t care about points than sure, do whatever you want as long as you are within the rules. But i doubt any team would want to do that since their take from FOM depends on where they finish, the garage they get for next season depends on this as well, the sponsors would surely voice their concerns, and much more. I dont think redbull is any danger of losing second place or any sponsors!!

  11. a rare oppurtunity indeed, i wonder how much development they have put into next years car. Considering the current pace of the current model and newy’s fondness for evolution as opposed to re-designing i think red bull could be the team in the best position at the start of next year.

    1. James Allen says:

      I’m told next year’s car is very aggressive. But they must be getting to the point now where not knowing what engine they will be using is starting to hurt them

      1. Tim Lamkin says:

        …With no refueling then the car would need to be a bit different then this one now…..correct?

      2. Peter says:

        Mercedes engine with Kimi would be fantastic. James, could you please comment on the Kimi – Red Bull option? Kimi`s free spirit could well suit the team and certainly the brand, however I would be sorry for Mark.Thanks.

      3. James Allen says:

        In place of whom? Webber? Both RBR drivers have contracts for next year

      4. John says:

        James, so did Kimi for next year!!

  12. GM says:

    Good to see them making the best of a bad situation. But technically, it was a 51 lap ‘test session’, not 53.
    Go RBR in Brazil and beyond.

  13. knoxploration says:

    Hi James – This is one I’ve idly wondered about before, but never actually sat down with the regs to confirm. Your post suggests that Webber tested different front wings at different parts of the race. Do the rules actually allow changing of one part for a non-identical part (other than tires, obviously) during a race?

    If so, what prevents the teams from running an underweight car and then adding a heavier part in the final pitstop to raise the car’s weight for scrutineering – are the parts taken off the car checked to confirm they have the same weight as those added? (Note that I’m not suggesting this has actually happened at any point, just curious as to whether there’s a possible loophole here).

    1. James Allen says:

      The car has to be in conformity with the rules at all times. Teams try out different front wings as a matter of course during practice sessions. This is no different

      1. knoxploration says:

        Understood James, but as we’ve seen the teams themselves can’t necessarily be trusted to police themselves. My point is – does the FIA actually check parts that have been replaced on the car mid-race, to ensure that the car complied with the rules, or just take it on trust that the teams aren’t playing games with heavier parts?

      2. James Allen says:

        The car has to go through full technical checks at the end of the race.

      3. knoxploration says:

        Well, I’m still uncertain on this from your replies, but I ought to take the time to read the rules myself and confirm. Certainly, one hopes that this includes inspecting any parts that were removed from the car and replaced mid-race. ;-)

  14. Graham Bell says:

    Vettel is 16 behind, but loses on countback with a draw, you can’t get 17 points from two races in F1 so Vettel effectively needs an 18-point overhaul on Button with a 10-place grid drop (also behind KERS cars) likely to be in the mix for him as well.

    Vettel may finish ahead of Barrichello when all is said and done but for me the title is realistically between the two Brawn drivers. If I were Rubens I’d hope for rain. As a Brit but principally a fan of the sport I’d take a well deserved victory for Rubens at home with a championship clinch from Button.

    1. The Artist says:

      Nope, you’re wrong.

      Suppose Vettel wins the final 2 races, and Button finishes 7th and 8th. ergo, 17 point change.

      1. Axu says:

        I think Graham is talking about the best case scenario for Vettel, in which Button takes zero points from now on. Vettel cannot aquire for himself 17 points; 16 or 18 are the closest possible gains. 16 points – not enough. So a victory and a second place would be his most easy job to do. But it’s a pretty high order, I would say…

  15. Ian Blackwell says:

    Clever thinking by Red Bull here. Great spot James. Unfortunately for them, the championship isn’t really in their hands anymore. They could be 1-2 in the remaining two GPs and still lose both championships by a large margin. I think the biggest advantage Brawn has had over Red Bull all season is the reliability and power of the Mercedes engine. Any idea if Red Bull are going to stick to Renault next year as an engine supplier or are they considering a switch? Based on current form, Mercedes makes the best engine in Formula 1 by some distance (surprising given how dull and soggy most of their road car engines feel!)

  16. Bevan says:

    Great news,we’d all like to see the season go down to the wire.This total testing ban is unworkable,Red Bulls brilliant idea will become common practice if the test ban isn’t amended to something more logical in 2010 for sure.

    1. Tim Lamkin says:

      Why do you think Ferrari wants to run three cars….they have already figured it out.

  17. Mattw says:

    It’s difficult to predict form, but the Red Bull should be the quickest thing round the first half of the lap in Brazil, and the McLaren should be the quickest thing round the second half.

    Over the complete lap? Who knows!

    It will be interesting to see if the Renault engine proves a handicap compared to the Mercs up the hill.

  18. Jose Arellano says:

    saw the race with my girlfriend, when lewis started talking in the press conference she said “ooh my god that guy does his eyebrows!” hahaha

    1. Bevan says:

      “Jose,pathetic mate”.Did you actually read the story your posting on as your view bears no resemblance to the subject in question.You must hold your “girlfriend in high esteem to share her weak attempt at humor with us Lewis fans on this site.

      1. Jose Arellano says:

        yes i read it, and it sums up things that happened during the raceday… lewis doing his eyebrows its one of them…

        and this is not only a lewis fans site..

        cant wait for next year when kimi kicks his ass!

    2. Brace says:

      Just eyebrows? I think he gets a fresh haircut every week or so.

    3. GP says:

      It’s probably Nicole who does’em, in bed???

  19. PaulL says:

    What are Red Bull doing about Vettel’s engine situation? Interlagos is likely to be a little easier on engines at high altitude, but he’s done what- 2 races now on the 8th engine already? They’ll do well to make that last won’t they?

    On the other hand Renault are still only on their 7th aren’t they, they could possibly go for broke and use the 8th only for Abu Dhabi and crank it.

  20. Werewolf says:

    Fascinating insight, James – the reason why this site is so much more compulsive than others.

    Red Bull do appear to be in the ascendancy but while the Constructors’ title is realistically a pipe dream the drivers’ is far from impossible, albeit an uphill struggle, especially given the perceived KERS advantage of Hamilton at Interlagos. As we all know, the Drivers’ is the one that gets the headlines and that most people remember, so the push is very worthwhile.

    I was reading elsewhere about Brawn looking to manage “negative tension” between its drivers. Given the Construictors is virtually a certainty, has something developed here, James?

  21. Fuller says:

    That’s good news (for a redbull fan)! Now if red bull had only actually picked a driver to back earlier in the season, vettel could have 5 points just from swapping the races where webber finished directly ahead of him. Not to mention another 9 from not crashing in Australia and not getting the penalty in Singapore! That would make 14 and he’d only be 2 behind!

    … Ah the ‘what if’ game!
    Fingers crossed though! I doubt vettel will actually do it, he might just get the 2 wins but I think button will get his 5 points!

  22. Hutch says:

    Haha that’s awesome. I thought they might have been using it as a test session. Go Webber!

  23. Rudy Pyatt says:

    I was wondering about this. Very good move by RBR. Lemons into lemonade and all that.

    1. Chris Hawkins says:

      On the other hand, no-one’s noticed that McLaren are beating the test ban by miniaturising the whole test team and Lewis, and running the car on Scalextric track! It must be true. I saw it on TV…..(the session seemed to be interrupted by a passing dog…)

  24. Dave says:

    Fair point James about Webber’s ‘test session’ being priceless and I believe they will be strong at Brazil and maybe ahead of the Brawns but just behind Mclaren and their KERS, Ferrari and Toyota will probably also trouble Brawn and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the same 3 teams on the podium as we saw at Suzuka.

    I have to mention here that there are signs in the last year and half that Vettel has probably got the most raw pace on the F1 grid and it’s really surprising that most people don’t rate his title chances for next year.

    Because I think that Redbull with Vettel, Adrian Newey and possibly the Mercedes engine will be very tough to beat next year and maybe in middle of the Alonso/Hamilton titanic struggle we will see Vettel take the fight to Mclaren and Ferrari’s ressurgence next season.

    I was just wondering James do you think Vettel is championship material if he can iron out some of the mistakes?
    What is now clear is the fact that Monza last year was no fluke or flash in the pan.

    1. James Allen says:

      Too early to say. He is improving all the time, is very fast, very clever and seems to be technically strong. You would expect a guy of his age and experience to make some mistakes. But he’s up against some formidable racers in this field over the next few years.

  25. mael says:

    It shows there is more than one way for a team to enlist team orders other than having a driver pull over.

    Webbo will no doubt be disappointed at how his season has finished but he may have just done the single most valuable thing to help his team mate win a world title.

  26. Hi James,
    I suspected Webber was running a test session because his laptimes were very erratic and inconsistent – on average he was the slowest, yet he set the fastest lap. I’m not sure how to read into his long-run pace because I can’t tell whether he was trying to run a whole stint at race pace…

    I mentioned this the other day in my post-race laptime analysis, which measures driver consistency and is posted on my blog called “Making Up The Numbers”. The link to the post is here: http://f1numbers.wordpress.com/2009/10/04/driver-consistency-japan/

    I think my graphs support the theory that he was running a test session.

    1. James Allen says:

      Cheers Gavin. That’s a great way of looking at driver consistency, tells its own story.

  27. Lia says:

    I am actually struggling to see the benefits of the front wing (not of the race used as a test, of course). Mark’s best lap was 0.003 faster than Sebastian’s. Not a big deal.

  28. Spyros says:

    While I like to hear that RBR salvaged a bad race this way, it doesn’t say a lot for the current FIA rules on testing that a (relatively wealthy) F1 team would have to resort to this to get some mileage done…

    I know the rules are there to help cost-cutting, but unless the new, small teams build and setup new wind tunnels and/or computer-based fluid dynamics software (neither of which is what we might call “cheap”), then the only teams that seem to benefit are the ones that already have these – like, Red-Bull – and this event shows that even they can use a REAL test session!

    Remember the old 108% qualifying rule? I really hope the new teams will be good enough that it won’t have to be re-introduced…

  29. Paige Michael-Shetley says:

    Brazil is going to be a very interesting race from a technical perspective. Red Bull obviously have to be considered a favorite because of the quick corners. But I think McLaren have at least an equal chance to win. There are some slow corners in Sector Two, and they’ll have one of the longest flat-out portions in the championship in the run from the final turn down into turn one, which will allow them to deploy KERS with excellent effect. I expect it to be a really tough fight between those two for the win. If it rains, we could be up for a real regenmeister duel between Vettel and Hamilton!

    Brawn theoretically should be pretty good, as it’s quick in a straight line and has the slow section in Sector Two. What may be its undoing, at least for Button, is that it’s about going to be 20 degrees celsius in Sao Paolo this time a year, which isn’t really hot enough to allow the BGP001′s tire management advantage to come into play.

  30. jose says:

    i can see some of you looking for any way to make the red bull racing effort to go for the championship, look bad,”webber being a testing mule the last gp”. Just because you want button to get the title. If vettel is able to get the title, from his actual position, it would be good for all the fans. it would mean a good end of a pretty boring season so far.

  31. BAR4ever says:

    Slightly OT (still about Red Bull’s development): Will the loophole that allowed double-decker diffusers be closed for 2010?

    The DDD situation really hurt Red Bull this year and, arguably, seriously inhibited overtaking for everyone. From a spectator’s point of view I’d like these oversized diffusers outlawed (as was the intention), but the teams all have a lot invested in the concept now…

    1. James Allen says:

      Not at all. In fact Ferrari and McLaren are going super aggressive on that side.

  32. Clackers says:

    James, what do other drivers think of Jenson Button and his likely tainted Championship? I am sure many of the other drivers must be biting their tongues at the moment, I am sure they all want to publicly say that Button has been mediocre this season and is the worst Champion for over 10 years. However, not many of the drivers speak their mind publicly so Button may be let off in that regard.

    1. Cliff says:

      Clackers, you make a good point. However, let’s phrase the question to the other drivers in another way:
      Q: Given your current position in the drivers standings, would you (a) prefer to go into the last race with 15 point lead in the WDC, knowing you had driven below par recently? or (b)Would you prefer to go into the last two races knowing that to win the WDC is out of your control? or (c)would you swap position with JB given half the chance? I don’t know any of the Drivers but I have a good idea which option they would choose.

  33. Steven says:

    I hope Red Bull will not be too fast in Brazil.
    Wonder if Lewis will help Jenson in his championship battle as his record of youngest champion is at risk from Vettel? All Button needs a fifth so he needs a good solid qualifying with no mistakes. If Lewis can win both races though the championship is virtually Jenson’s if he can get just two points (if Vettel finishes second). I really fear that Vettel will win the title. He has momentum now.

  34. Arya says:

    I understand the performance gain you are refering to. But I heard Vettel might be using his Spa engine in Interlagos and Monza engine in Abu Dhabi. He might use his Suzuka engine in Abu Dhabi Free practice. Thats what I have read, I am sure you have better idea. But how big a handicap do you think it will be for Vettel especially on a track like Interlagos?

  35. whilyn says:


    What SMALL PART will Kimi get from his beloved Ferrari?


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