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Vettel pulls a “win” out of a bad situation
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Vettel pulls a “win” out of a bad situation
Posted By: James Allen  |  10 May 2010   |  10:33 am GMT  |  34 comments

In the aftermath of yesterday’s Grand Prix, everybody was focussed on Mark Webber’s stunning weekend and the last minute heartbreak of Lewis Hamilton, who had second place in the bag when his left front tyre blew, possibly as result of a wheel rim problem.

Vettel: Revealing more of his qualities (Darren Heath)


But the most interesting story for me yesterday was Sebastian Vettel’s ability to overcome a host of technical problems and come though to collect 15 points. Along with the 12 points he salvaged in Bahrain after his spark plug problem, this could prove crucial later in the season. It could be what wins him the championship.

Vettel had a slow pit stop, because his team did not want to release him into the path of Alonso. He lost four seconds and this also lost him second place to Lewis Hamilton. He was forced to drive off the circuit to avoid a collision with the McLaren after it exited the pits. He later went off track after one of his front brakes failed and he had to make an unscheduled pit stop on lap 54, which dropped him behind Alonso,

“I still had three brakes around the car, I think, so then obviously towards the end it was getting critical because you don’t want to have another failure,” said Vettel. “Every time I touched the brakes the car was massively pulling to the right and didn’t stop properly, obviously, so I knew that something was wrong. I was lucky as there was so much gap to the back, to Michael. I was able to bring the car home.Third is not a bad position and I think we had a horrible, quite bad race.

“I got the call to come in and retire and then I said ‘is there no chance to save some points?’ Obviously at that stage I didn’t know I was fourth but then I was telling the team that I would love to try and keep racing and try to save some points.”

Vettel had over 20 seconds in hand over Schumacher in fourth place and he relied on engine braking to slow the car down for those final laps. It will have taken a bit out of that race engine, which he will have to use again. But this is the kind of thing we have seen in the past from Schumacher and Alonso, where they have nursed a sick car that others would have retired, through to a result. It was another important step in his development as a Grand Prix driver and another window onto his quality.

From what we saw at the weekend and from many conversations with engineers in other teams it is going to be tough for the opposition to catch Red Bull this season, certainly in the coming months. Their car is untouchable in single lap pace in qualifying and, as they showed yesterday, the race pace isn’t too shabby either. Webber put in several bursts of pace when he needed to open a gap and after the pit stop to ease out the margin, but generally he was not over-extending the car to stay well clear of the field.

So all things being equal, both Webber and Vettel have to be considered championship favourites at this point with this car. Red Bull are clearly going for it this year. It looks like Mateschitz and his team have decided that this is the year and they are bringing parts to the car at an amazing rate, which is serving to push them further ahead. Whether this will have a downside cost in competitiveness on next year’s car remains to be seen.

Of the upcoming circuits they will be very strong in Monaco, Turkey and Valencia and unbeatable at Silverstone with its exciting high speed corners. Montreal is the only track on the horizon where McLaren and Ferrari might feel they could have a chance, with its long straights and lack of fast corners. Red Bull was 20th fastest through the speed trap over the weekend, so they may be on the back foot in Montreal.

Of the two Red Bull drivers Vettel is generally the more consistent, so my money would be on him to lead the charge and yesterday’s third place could turn out to be one of the most important results of his season, because the team was telling him to retire the car, but he stuck with it and picked up 15 points, instead of zero for parking it. Championships are built as much on results on bad days as they are on the glory days.

Red Bull have thrown away plenty of points already this season when they’ve had a dominant car, but yesterday Vettel refused to let that happen again. It could prove decisive.
But Webber highlighted how on the edge the F1 cars are that we are seeing at the moment,
“You need a quick car, but you need to have one that is always there for you,” he said.”It showed with McLaren with the failure there that everyone is pushing things to the limit. Ferrari have had some engine problems. We can build tractors, but they are slow. You need to build Formula One cars that are on the edge and this is the balance everyone is chasing.”

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34 Comments
  1. Jake Pattison says:

    James, we got to hear quite a bit of team radio to Vettel and I never heard the team telling him to retire. It just sounded to me like they were telling him to not brake so hard, not to go so fast. “we don’t need this”, I heard at one stage, but I presumed the engineer was talking about not needing to be so far ahead of Schumacher.
    Did you hear other team talk where they told Vettel to retire?

    1. James Allen says:

      I didn’t hear it, but he said it quite clearly

    2. Alex says:

      I’m pretty sure the team did tell him to come in. They cleared a space for him in the garage when he was having problems, so I think what Seb said was true. They did ask him to come in and not risk it, but he was smart enough to coast it home.

  2. Long Nguyen says:

    Great article! Not the best race for Vettel but in the end, he got a podium. Red Bull has the constructor champions in their bag now, and for the driver price, I agree with James: Vettel is the favorite!

    1. macahan says:

      Agreed on the article.

      As for in their bag not sure I agree it’s not yet 1/3 through the champion ship. True RBR made a storming surge forward in the championship points. But there are still 2 other teams within 6 points. So far this year they been on and off being able to capitalize on their cars speed and their grid position. They where allowed to catch up because of one driver each from the other teams failed to capitalize (Hamilton, Massa).
      They need a couple of races now with no failures and both drivers consistent on the podium then we can start talking about in the bag.

      1. Long Nguyen says:

        Nothing it’s impossible in F1, but RB’s advantage in Catalunya at qualifying is HUGE. I can’t see Ferrari or McLaren can catch up till the end of the season (QL). Moreover, it’s look like Ferrari and McLaren fighting and taking a lot of points from each other rather than from Red Bull.

  3. GLM says:

    From what I understood about last years RB car, and i’m sure someone will correct me if i’m wrong, but i didn’t think it liked the start-stop of the Monaco circuit (esp with Webber), so is this years car that much different?
    Won’t it be a case of the McLaren, Ferrari (and even Renualt and Merc with good traction out of the corners,) will be able to close the gap down at Monaco?

    1. Dave says:

      Last years RB5 struggled on slow speed corners; all evidence this year is that this problem has been rectified. Webber and Vettel were 3rd and 4th fastest respecitively in Q2 last year even with this deficiency.

    2. paddy says:

      True about last year but they didn’t have the fastest car at this stage last year. They lacked a double diffuser and where waiting for Turkish GP to add there updates to the car. This year if anything they are going to go faster than in Spain. There car lacks horsepower but has a huge aero advantage. Which means more traction coming out of corners and more speed coming round them. If they get a clear lap im thinking in the hands of Webbo and Vetsee they might have a 1.5 to 2 second advantage in quali anyway. As a Red Bull fan im pretty stoked with this.

  4. Robert Higginbotham says:

    Vettel was resoundly beaten by Webber yesterday, nevertheless his ability to nurse a failing car home is the sign of a great driver.

  5. Snowy says:

    Surely by Canada RBR will have some sort of F-duct in place so things might not be so great for McLaren and Ferrari there either.

  6. Michael Grievson says:

    “Whether this will have a downside cost in competitiveness on next year’s car remains to be seen.” Hopefully not :)

    Last year they were in the title hunt until the end. Although I’m more of a Williams / Mclaren fan it would be great to see another independant team win

  7. frank says:

    Great article, but I can not imagine that the f-duct will not be on the RB 06 until Montreal – still a month to go – that should be plenty of time since China

  8. Rob Jackson says:

    A great drive from Vettel in those closing laps, further supporting his future champion status. Not sure if it will be his year though. Webber might be more hungry for it give he’s in the twilight of his career – let’s not forget he placed higher than Seb until almost the end of last season when he just got pipped.

  9. James says:

    With no F-duct and an engine that isn’t exactly the most powerful, Red Bull are looking in stonking shape. It’s early days yet, but surely this is Red Bull’s year.
    Thankfully, there has been enough “random events” to keep this season lively.
    But where’s Massa gone?

  10. M. Balthazar says:

    Great quality from Seb ! So far this season we have seen this behavior from him and also from Alonso. I think Mark will prove a stiff challenge to Seb though, as a poster above mentioned, he’s been in F1 a long time and is very hungry. It will be great to see the two of them battling towards the end.

    Both MW and SV are great characters, always good mannered and seem to get along great. I wonder how this relationship will evolve (or devolve) if they become the clear favorites for the WDC…

  11. Mike says:

    It was S3 in Spain where Webber seemed to have the biggest advantage over Vettel and the other drivers. Isn’t S3 in Spain more representitive of the Monaco Circuit? Also Webber has traditionally excelled in Monaco given the cars he’s had at his disposal. If Webber were to win and Vettel got second then they would be equal on 78 points. That would certainly add some spice to an already intriguing 2010 season.

    If this were to transpire I think the scales might tip in Webber’s favour. If nothing else it will be fascinating to see how both of Red Bulls drivers and the team handle the situation.

    1. Harriet and Blah Blah Nyborg says:

      I would love to see another Red Bull 1-2 at Monaco, but with Webber first and Vettel second. And as you point out, equal on 78 points. That would be fascinating!

      But Saturday’s Q1 and Q2 qualifying at Monaco will be some of the most fascinating of the year, perhaps even more so than a wet one like in Malaysia. I think one of the Big Four teams will have a driver or two baulked by a slower car and as such, an Alonso or Button, say, will be starting 12 or 15 on the grid.

      Of course, this could happen to one of the Red Bulls too, so I won’t hold my breath on a Webber-Vettel one-two.

  12. John Whitling says:

    My money is on Webber. He’s killer at Monaco and if he can bring a win there he will have tremendous momentum. Of course Seb won’t just let this happen. You have to say thet RB have a really good lineup and I hope that the two of them will continue work in harmony. If yo’re not an RB fan you better become one .. and quickly!

  13. knoxploration says:

    James, I’m not sure where you got the idea that Red Bull was telling Vettel to retire his car — they never made any such suggestion. They knew Schumacher was the next car back down the track, and that Vettel could safely turn much slower lap times without risk of losing any further points.

    What surprises me is that Red Bull weren’t more forceful about giving Vettel a target lap time, knowing he was moments away from a brake failure. (Although it’s certainly possible that they did so, and the chatter wasn’t picked up for use in the race broadcast.)

    Over the last six laps, Vettel could easily have gone anywhere from three to six seconds a lap slower without any risk of being caught by Schumacher, and with greatly reduced brake usage.

    1. James Allen says:

      Well from Vettel himself – his quote saying that they asked him to retire the car.

      1. Paul says:

        James you have replied to something like this before and dont people watch the press conference after the race or read driver reactions after the race because they will be more informed before they leave a comment.

  14. D. says:

    James,

    this was one of your best articles ever. Simply outstanding. Your analysis and insight into the world of F1 is unrivaled.

    Keep up the great work. Your is the best web site on F1 commentary & analysis. Period.

    Cheers.

  15. Bill Day says:

    A future champion. If not this year, then soon.

    1. Harriet and Blah Blah Nyborg says:

      They said the EXACT same thing about Rubens Barrichello when he arrived on the scene in the mid 90s. I happen to think Vettel is as good a bet as you can make on the WDC this year, but, still, you NEVER EVER know!

  16. Pierre says:

    Great article James, thanks.
    The Red Bull looks like a fantastic car, even more dominant than last year’s Brawn car. Probably one of the best and more sophisticated car we’ve seen these last 10 years. Happy for Newey. If they are able to quickly resolve their (small) reliability issues, I really see them beeing able to win nearly all the remaining races.
    Have you got any informations how much the Renault engine and its ability not be fuel thirsty relates to the global car performance? I personnaly thing it is a major reason, but nobody says much about that. So?

  17. Chetz says:

    james are next year’s rules so different that concentrating on bringing updates to their 2010 car will affect red bull’s preparation for next season? the indecision on KERS n tyres aside,i guess FIA is retaining the no pit stops rule, right? so that wont mean too many changes except taking out the double diffuser n the f-duct which they still dont use?

  18. D. says:

    James,

    shouldn’t we expect to see a very strong Ferrari in Monaco this week ? They were right behind the Brawn last year and given that this is more of a driver’s circuit, I would expect Alonso in particular to fight for the win. And the RBR will not be that far ahead (if at all) on this layout. I would expect Alonso, Lewis and Vettel to fight it for pole and the race win.

    1. monktonnik says:

      Yes, I wouldn’t have thought that this was a particularly a Red Bull track, except I suppose that the car is amazing everywhere.

      I was hoping to see MSC pull off some magic actually.

  19. Dave says:

    Hi James,

    You said “Whether this will have a downside cost in competitiveness on next year’s car remains to be seen.”

    Given that at the start of 09 RBR had the fastest non DDD car of the field and with f-ducts and DDD being banned come next year surely they are in a great position of understanding of where to base their development. The biggest question remains to be tyres.

    However I see the RB7 as blend of the original RB5 and the RB6.

    I have read elsewhere that the Red Bull’s ability to generate it’s downforce has less to do with the Diffuser than with it’s overall abillity to channel airflow from the front to the rear of the car.

    The real question in my mind is whether Ferrari or McLaren are able to produce a decent package given their disastrous cars at the start of 09.

  20. Mr Squiggle says:

    I totally agree James. I heard over the broadcast RB team told Sebastian things were ‘critical’, and yet he stayed out and did the business. Its the mark of a future champion.

    Also, further evidence that the RB strategy choices from the garage are not the best.

  21. james says:

    I read from another website, Vettel actually had to adjust to brake balance to the rear nurse the car home.

    This is job from Vettel. A great contrast to Webber’s brake failure in Singapore 2009.

  22. Bruce Hoult says:

    Yes, the car looks fast but brittle and Webber and Vettel are having trouble bringing it home.

    What are the chances that Alonso or Hamilton in that car would simply break it even quicker? (Button or Schumacher would be OK though).

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