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Vettel snatches pole at last gasp to deny Hamilton in Malaysia
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Vettel snatches pole at last gasp to deny Hamilton in Malaysia
Posted By: James Allen  |  09 Apr 2011   |  10:40 am GMT  |  179 comments

Sebastian Vettel took a dramatic pole position at the very end of qualifying to steal pole position from McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton by a tenth of a second.

It was a great showing from the pair, who eclipsed their team mates once again. Webber was third for Red Bull, a full three tenths off Vettel, while Button was a similar margin behind in fourth.

Vettel on top..just (Red Bull)


It was Vettel’s second pole of 2011 and his 17th in just 64 Grands Prix – a ratio of 26%. Going back into last season as well, he has had pole in five of the last six Grands Prix.

But the resurgence of Hamilton and McLaren gives this race weekend a real bite and there is a good chance of him winning the race. It should certainly be a good battle for victory in tomorrow’s Grand Prix. The McLaren looked after its tyres well in Melbourne and appeared strong on that again in Friday afternoon’s long runs. Vettel will be under pressure during the long, hot race. There is a 60% chance of rain, just to mix things up even more.

Nick Heidfeld did a great job in the Renault to split the two Ferraris in 6th place. Ferrari have been struggling again for speed this weekend. Massa has said that the car lacks grip, there is talk of a lack of downforce at the front in particular. Alonso was a second off the pole position pace, while Massa was four tenths behind his team mate.

In Q1 the Lotus cars came closer to the established teams than they managed in Australia. Heikki Kovalainen was less than four tenths slower than the Williams of Maldonado. Revealingly, Lotus was two seconds faster than Virgin. While Hispania qualified for a race for the first time this year under the 107% rule and were just half a second slower than the slowest of the Virgin cars.

In Q2 Renault took the gamble to do only one run, to save a set of tyres and it worked for both drivers. Mercedes had been struggling for pace throughout qualifying, being forced to use a set of soft tyres in Q1 and in the closing stages of Q2 Rosberg popped in a lap which pushed team mate Schumacher out of the top ten shootout. Also out were the Force India cars, with Paul di Resta ahead of team mate Adrian Sutil.

Vettel became the first man to set a lap in the 1m 35s, but Jenson Button showed McLaren’s pace by going faster. It was a difficult session for Williams, who could manage only 15th and 18th places, Barrichello ahead of Maldonado, who was eliminated in Q1.

Into Q3 on the first runs, Hamilton set the fastest time ahead of Vettel, Webber and Button. They were the only four cars to opt to do two runs in Q3. Button made a small change which gave him some oversteer and he couldn’t make the step forward he had hoped.

The final runs were thrilling, with Hamilton and Vettel in a duel for pole position. McLaren made best use of the Mercedes engine and KERS, which have the edge over Red Bull’s Renault package as well as the updates to the exhaust blown diffuser. Fittingly, a podium on Sunday for either McLaren would be their 200th in partnership with Mercedes. It is an amazing comeback for the Woking team from the horrors of winter testing.

Under pressure from McLaren, Red Bull also used KERS in qualifying for the first time in its history, but team boss Christian Horner said that there was a slight concern on Webber’s unit which may have contributed to him losing time to Vettel. In fact it looks more like Webber lost a couple of tenths in the final corner.

Both Red Bull cars start on the clean side of the grid, which is always an advantage at Sepang, but Hamilton can stay with him tomorrow and tyre management will be critical with higher levels of degradation than in Melbourne.

“We learned a lot in Australia but here the tyres don’t last as long,” said Vettel. “It’s much hotter and tougher for the tyres, but we are pretty happy with it. ”

“I don’t think we can be disappointed,” said Hamilton. “We’ve done a fantastic job to be up with the Red Bulls. Of course I would have loved to be in P1 but these guys still have the edge. We always expected that they had something in hand for the last run.”

Hamilton and Webber will be mindful of the quirk of Sepang – Pole on this track doesn’t seem to give as big an advantage as it does on other tracks – only one of the last four Malaysian GPs has been won from pole (2009), and the polesitter has failed to lead the first lap three times in the last four years.

Interestingly they have moved the pole position from the outside to the inside this year.

MALAYSIAN GRAND PRIX, Qualifying

1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m34.870s
2. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1m34.974s + 0.104
3. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m35.179s + 0.309
4. Jenson Button McLaren 1m35.200s + 0.330
5. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m35.802s + 0.932
6. Nick Heidfeld Renault 1m36.124s + 1.254
7. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m36.251s + 1.381
8. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1m36.324s + 1.454
9. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m36.809s + 1.939
10. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1m36.820s + 1.950

11. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m37.035s
12. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso 1m37.160s
13. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso 1m37.347s
14. Paul di Resta Force India 1m37.370s
15. Rubens Barrichello Williams 1m37.496s
16. Sergio Perez Sauber 1m37.528s
17. Adrian Sutil Force India 1m37.593s

18. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m38.276s
19. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 1m38.645s
20. Jarno Trulli Lotus 1m38.791s
21. Timo Glock Virgin 1m40.648s
22. Jerome D’Ambrosio Virgin 1m41.001s
23. Tonio Liuzzi HRT 1m41.549s
24. Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1m42.574s

The 107% cut off time was 1m43.516s

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179 Comments
  1. Owen Li says:

    Great Battle!Really enjoyed it!!!
    Can’t wait to watch the start!!!

    1. wayne says:

      Yes! What a stunning performance from Hamilton if the RBR is an inherrantly a faster car!

      1. Bayan says:

        I was actaually going to say the same but for vettel. Mecca seem to be faster here.

      2. mtb says:

        agree

      3. OldIron says:

        Hard to say, but I think RB still have the lead. In the pole conference, Vettel reckoned he’d made a few mistakes, Ham admitted to only one – so everall, I’d imagine the ‘ideal’ gap is larger than we saw. Webber was also much closer to Vettel, despite his car issues.

        Ferrari and Mac were both closer though, so whatever the cause, it seems RB has slipped back a bit here (I’m all in favour of closer races, so pleased about that).

      4. mtb says:

        Does the ownership of the organisation that Hamilton works for not bother you in any way?

      5. Nando says:

        Of course it does. The better dictatorships were already taken though.

      6. Damian J says:

        Unlike Ferrari’s long association with a cigarette manaufacturer, after many other teams had dropped that connection.

      7. Les says:

        What on earth are you talking about?

      8. russ says:

        not at all.
        What is your point?

      9. mtb says:

        “Unlike Ferrari’s long association with a cigarette manaufacturer, after many other teams had dropped that connection.”

        I have neither condemned nor condoned the associations that any organisation competing in F1 has, or has had, with any other organisations. I have merely highlighted the fact that some people have strongly criticised Bernie Ecclestone for making business arrangements with governments that are not “progressive and accountable western democracies” whilst overlooking the fact that there are organisations (note the plural form) competing in F1 that have, or have had, commercial connections with such governments.

      10. mtb says:

        Nice one Nando!

      11. Les says:

        So Hamilton throw it all in huh? Why just him?

      12. mtb says:

        “So Hamilton throw it all in huh? Why just him?”

        A person who recently strongly criticised Ecclestone for signing contracts with governments which are not “progressive and accountable western democracies” is expressing support for an employee of an organisation that is partially owned by such a government.

        I see nothing wrong with highlighting this gross inconsistency.

  2. tank says:

    Think the merc would’ve looked better with ice skates on instead of wheels. Looking like another lame duck year for Schumacher fans to face.

    About the HD broadcast, how hard can it be to sync the sound? Honestly, the drivers can be touching the hairpin apex in second, yet the engine sound is at full throttle seventh. I grudgingly accepted during the first race, but they still haven’t got it sorted two weeks later. What gives?

    Sorry for being so negative, but I’ve kitted myself out with a new tv and decoder specifically for the F1… would it have been better not to?

    1. Gemma says:

      Even the normal coverage (non HD) was out of sync, got really annoying after a while!! Come on BBC sort it out!

      1. Stu says:

        If it’s happening on all channels, then it’s a problem from FOM not the BBC. I suspect it’s not the latter’s fault.

    2. Born 1950 says:

      It’s not normally a sync problem; rather we’re hearing the sound from one car while seeing another.

      It’s very hard to sync the sound as it’s not coming from the camera shot (like it would be on a domestic camcorder) but from independent microphones placed strategically round the circuit. The sound mixer has to see which car is in the picture and try to match with the appropriate microphone — and remember that the director can choose to cut between cars anywhere on the circuit at any moment, which leaves the sound mixer struggling to follow to create a smooth mix. It’s a hell of a difficult job carried out in an extreme pressure situation.

      Some of us remember how appalling the coverage was in the days when it was supplied by the host countries — rather than a dedicated team travelling from circuit to circuit. As in so many things in life, practice makes perfect.

      1. Carl says:

        You are wrong about the sound from in car shots coming from mics around the track… The car sounds completely different sitting beside the track as opposed to sitting IN the car..have a good listen. There is a cam mic in the car

        TV Audio mixers are VERY intellegent things with mics “married to” the in car & track cams as soon as the director picks a shot.

        The AV sync issue arises from the fact that the audio signal travels more slowly than the Picture signal. This is standard when you have to run many kilometres of cable around the track (as they do) – a lag develops and you see lips moving but they dont marry up with the words you hear.

        This is usually fixed “in the OB truck” by delaying 1 signal by a few ‘frames per second” (there are 25 or 30 frames in 1 second) until it is in sync – then broadcasting it. Every good OB unit can do this and i would expect that FOM have a GOOD OB unit…so maybe its the people IN the truck that have yet to grasp that they can do this.
        It has been by experience that a lot of people inside the OB trucks have little or no interest in the sport they working on – especially in motorsport…and alot of things get missed for this reason.
        FOM are especially good at getting directors that dont know the sport very well – how else do you explain us seeing a Spaniard running in 5th or lower – in favor of watching any close racing further back in the pack…or a battle for the lead up front?

        FOM directors rely on the “replay” ability of the OB unit to show us the overtaking they miss live because they are following a failing Ferrari in a low points position.
        The OB truck has the ability to record everything the cameras see & hear – ALL the time. This enables the director to call up an overtaking move – in replay – and if they dont have external track cams with that vision – they can call up the in car vision…in replay – so you dont “miss it”

        How often do you hear the commentators saying something like ” oh look Driver A has passed driver B…i wonder how that happened? Followed by a replay of that move – up to 30 seconds or a minute after it was made.

        What i really dont understand is why the in car radio radio signals are delayed…and SO selective when they do play them…Every driver talks to their team EVERY lap…yet we hear only very small grabs of it. OK – the teams dont want to broadcast everything as it may show their tactics – but surely we can do better than broadcasting Driver/Team communications up to or more than 1min after they actually happened?

      2. Craig says:

        That’s very backward. They should be able to program the feed to automatically select the best mike depending on which camera is selected. Haven’t they heard of automation?

    3. seifenkistler says:

      Interview in German TV claimed a fail function of the automatic rear wings at Schumacher. Seems they had already trouble with them in Training 3.

  3. Jo Torrent says:

    On Ferrari
    *********

    They’re absolutely rubbish. It’s not the position as much as the gap. A whole second to the pole for ALONSO. You can ditch a couple of tenths given that he did only one run but still, what was all the winter hype about ? What were those 100+ laps every-testing day for if not to further enhance the car ?

    Mr. Dominicali the countdown has started and you’d better come with something interesting rather than hiring every now and then to repair holes in the roof. Start by building good foundations.

    Under him, the team lost its ruthlessness, its capability to innove and to pioneer such as the high exhausts, the spoon front wing, the shark air vents,…

    Now, they’re keeping a pushrod while everybody opted for the pull rods. The sidepods aren’t as tight as the RedBull nor as innovative as the ugly McLaren and the front wing is as simple as HRT’s.

    If the car is still fast, then fine but that’s not what we’re witnessing.

    1. sender says:

      Maybe they thought that reliability will be important in the first races and focused more on this area.
      Maybe they thought that they will be around the same position as they finished last year.
      If it is like that, it did not work out.
      About Domenicali – yes, the team principal is responsible for the whole operation, but it is difficult to say whether his resignation would solve something.
      Last year it was also not so good in the first half of the season, the problem this year is the bigger gap.
      About the innovations – that is the general consensus about this team – that they mostly copy from others.
      I would not be surprised if they will fight back and again will fight for the title. Not surprised at all…

    2. Red5 says:

      The biggest news from Ferrari during winter testing was reliability.

      However, it’s a big ask to expect either Red Bull or McLaren to loose the championship due to technical gremlins.

      Lets hope Alonso and the team have upgrades in the pipeline to bridge the current gap.

    3. James Draper says:

      Your way out of line the McLaren is not Ugly. ;)

      1. Jack says:

        Everything McLaren related is in Jo’s eyes.

      2. iceman says:

        All in the eye of the beholder… every F1 car since 1968 has been ugly in my eyes :)

      3. Flintelli says:

        yeah it is….

      4. Damian J says:

        Who cares as long as it works!

      5. Jack Randall says:

        If it’s slow is ugly. If it’s fast it’s beautiful…

    4. Damian J says:

      Ugly McLaren sidepods?

      How long before all the other teams copy McLaren’s beauty!

      1. Galapago555 says:

        LOL I knew that one, and just one comment leaver, was going to defend the “ugly” Mclarens… and I was right!!

        Jo, Damian, do you have Twitter accounts? If so, may I suggest that you include them in the “Website” box so we can discuss during races – and the rest of the week, why not? You’ll find mine by clicking on the “Website”.

        Now I’ll cross my fingers for a great race tomorrow. I’m looking forward for the very first laps, with a close fight on the front. row.

      2. RickeeBoy says:

        A few things – The Mclarens were closer because the Circuit with long straights does not suit a “Limp” nose as much – and Red Bull have probably degrees of limp noses depending on the circuit.

        If you design a nose that is 100% percent rigid but the the struts can bend back ( the bodywork underneath the nose can rise ) then hey presto the you achieve the actual desire ….. forces down will be 100% secure but push the wing back and suddenly it moves down.

        Perez wanted to start on Hards again … same as Melbourne.

  4. Jo Torrent says:

    On qualies
    *********

    McLaren really impressed me today on a circuit where aero performance is very important, they really delivered and they must showed how fast they were.

    But and there’s always a but with McLaren, Lewis said that “these guys still have the edge”. Today, it’s not these guy who had the edge, it’s one guy who edged another : the guy is Sebastien Vettel and he taught Lewis Hamilton a lesson which is not bad for someone supposedly less talented then Mansell.

    Renault and Sauber showed that they meant buisness and that their pace was genuine and I’m happy for both those teams worth of much praise.

    Virgin misery is confirmed today. They’re sliding towards HRT grasp.

    1. LT says:

      Lewis made a slight mistake on his last run, which probably cost him that 1/10th.

      Actually if you add their best sector times, I think Vettel was only faster by 2-3 hundredths, so it’s pretty even, so I certainly don’t think Vettel taught Lewis any “lesson” at all given the RB is still the slightly faster car.

      1. Gaza says:

        Given that Webber had a problem with his Kers that maybe cost him a bit of time, its still obvious the Red Bull is the quicker car.

        The only lesson learned today is that they are going to need keep the RB7 quicker if they are going to stop Hamilton.

      2. Malcolm says:

        Absolutely correct……Vettel beat Lewis by .778s at Australia, and today in Malaysia by .104s. The Lesson for Vettel and Red Bull, are that Lewis and Mclaren are closing that door of ouright dominance by Red Bull, and closing it fast.

      3. Damian J says:

        Bingo!

    2. Peter says:

      Hamilton is always keen to stress that if he is beaten its because of the other car is faster, never admits when actually the other driver is faster. He has been playing this game for a while.

      1. Damian J says:

        The Redbull car has enjoyed a significant advantage for at least two years. Does that mean all driver’s are playing this game?

        It’s not surprising that any driver including Hamilton will think that Redbull still enjoys a performance advantage until they are beaten.

        BBC commentary certainly though that Hamilton’s drive was faultless….

      2. mtb says:

        “The Redbull car has enjoyed a significant advantage for at least two years. Does that mean all driver’s are playing this game?”

        Was it faster than the Brawn in the first half of 2009? If so, Jenson Button is head and shoulders (no pun intended) over every other driver in the field.

        “BBC commentary certainly though that Hamilton’s drive was faultless….”

        Hamilton seemed to think that his lap could have been better.

        Given that there are two long straights on the circuit, Sepang should favour the M-B powered cars. 5 of the first 6 cars that had the highest speeds recorded through the traps had M-B engines. Interesting, Hamilton’s top speed was 7-8 km/h slower than Button’s, so presumably he has gone for a higher downforce set-up.

      3. mtb says:

        Sorry, Hamilton 7-8 km/h slower than Sutil, and about 3 km/h slower than Button.

      4. Galapago555 says:

        I’ve always thought that Lewis and Fernando are on a different league from the others. But I’m starting to think that this German crash boy is actually as good racer as he seems to be.

        We could be discussing for years, we will never reach an agreement – but the three of them consistently outperform their team mates.

      5. Nando says:

        Vettel has yet to have that one definitive drive where he drives through the field to win.
        We know he can win from the front but so could Damon Hill.

      6. mtb says:

        “We know he can win from the front but so could Damon Hill.”

        A great deal has been said about Button’s drive through the field at Interlagos in 2009, but what is always ignored is the fact that Vettel started the race behind Button and finished in front.

      7. Jonny White says:

        Probably because he (rightly IMO) believes HE IS the fastest guy on the grid!

        Self-belief is a fundamental requirement for any top draw sportsman and surely you can’t deny that Lewis fits that description?

        It’s clearly a consequence of beating every man (including two former and defending world champions) he has ever raced against in the same equipment!

      8. Jo Torrent says:

        beating Alonso is questionable as Alonso didn’t feel at home in McLaren. Mainly after that FIA penalty for not letting Hamilton qualify. I remind you that Hamilton had to let Alonso through and didn’t before the incident.

        As for Button, I don’t consider him and most people agree I presume a world class driver. He’s taking a beating from Hamilton week in week out and he’s always smiling, happy, etc. A champion, a true one would be depressed.

      9. Damian J says:

        Does a true champion shake his fist at all those who beat him fair and square?

      10. Lea says:

        The problem is that there is a difference between arrogance and confidence and Lewis almost always comes across as being arrogant.

      11. AlexD says:

        “Hamilton is always keen to stress that if he is beaten its because of the other car is faster, never admits when actually the other driver is faster. He has been playing this game for a while.” – What do you want him to say? We all know that Red Bull is faster. The only real comparison for Hamilton is Button and Hamilton was faster (same car). That is the only fair comparison.

      12. Jonny White says:

        beating Alonso is questionable as Alonso didn’t feel at home in McLaren. Mainly after that FIA penalty for not letting Hamilton qualify. I remind you that Hamilton had to let Alonso through and didn’t before the incident.

        As for Button, I don’t consider him and most people agree I presume a world class driver. He’s taking a beating from Hamilton week in week out and he’s always smiling, happy, etc. A champion, a true one would be depressed.

        -

        You don’t need to remind me of anything regarding what went on in Hungary 2007 – it was simply two alpha males, the two best racers on the grid, fighting tooth and nail in order to exert themselves as ‘the’ man!

        However, what is beyond dispute is that in 2007, whilst Alonso clearly had difficulties settling in at McLaren, the reigning double world champion was regularly out qualified and out raced by a 22 year-old rookie – albeit a very well prepared rookie.

        Additionally, if memory serves me correctly, in terms of points at least, Hamilton was already beating Alonso before the Hungarian grand prix.

        Re: Button, whilst I don’t rate him as absolute top draw, the fact that he is regularly 3 tenths or so behind Hamilton does not IMO detract from him still being one of the top 5 or 6 drivers in F1 at present.

        Whilst it is impossible to know for certain, I doubt anyone outside of Alonso, Vettel and possibly a fully fit Kubica could get any closer to Hamilton in equal equipment.

        Hamilton constantly beat Kovy – often by bigger margins than he beats Button particularly in races – and many observers argued that Kovy was a waste of space, etc. However, he has done a pretty solid job at Lotus and regularly extracts more from the car than Trulli, even over one lap, and it wasn’t so long ago that Trulli was widely regarded as one of the very best qualifiers on the grid.

    3. mtb says:

      “it’s not these guy who had the edge, it’s one guy who edged another : the guy is Sebastien Vettel ”

      Exactly – not bad for the “Crash Kid”! He showed the measure of a true champion today.

      1. Damian J says:

        The race is tomorrow….

      2. mtb says:

        thanks for the reminder ;)

      3. mtb says:

        And we saw the true gap between Red Bull and McLaren in the race!

      4. Damian J says:

        Where is the “complete” driver? Fourth!

      5. mtb says:

        Yes, Button was out-performed by his team-mate again.

    4. **Paul** says:

      Vettel is still underrated by many, who believe the only reason he won the WDC is because of the car. That’s an accusation you could level at McLaren’s current drivers, especially given the number of race winning cars Lewis has had.

      IMO Seb outperforms his car in a similar way to Lewis does with his. Hamilton’s comments about Mansell just show the fear he has of Vettel. I actually think that Vettel is probably the best qualifier out there, hence Webber (who is well regarded!) can’t beat him.

      There was virtually nothing in it between the McLarens and Red Bulls today, I think qualifying as a whole showed it. If the RBR car was that much faster than the McLaren it would have shown in the sectors 1 and 2, yet what we saw was the McLaren matching it. That screams that the cars are pretty equally matched.

      Qudos to Alonso for his performance today, that Ferrari is a bit of a dog but he still picked up best of the rest. Quality driver, shame about his car.

    5. Aey says:

      What Vettel give Lewis a lesson . . . I don’t see.
      but I think Lewis give Vettel a hard time that if Vettel want pole he have to put every bit out. . . without Lewis, Vettel’s pole would be a lot easier.

      I really impress about the development pace of McLaren, I firstly think that the gap will be about 0.3-0.4 when Vettel do the real lap which still good dev for McLaren. At Sepang, both were pretty much equal, hope McLaren will still keep up with RB at every track.

      at this race, I think RB still taugh that they still have a safety gap to McLaren and they surprise about the pace of McLaren that move from nowhere near to be quite on par. I initially think McLaren will lost the ground in sector 2, but they were closely match in all sectors.

  5. For Sure says:

    What happen to Schumacher? He and Nico were like one tenths all weekend and out of no where 7 tenths slower. Something happened to him or a mistake?

    1. Owen Li says:

      It is said that there was something wrong with DRS on Schumi’s car on Q2 and Nico’s on Q3.

    2. James Draper says:

      Yeah I picked them over Renault in my pool, I am so mad.

      1. For Sure says:

        Yeah i am very upset too :( mercedes should up the game man. It’s embarrsing. Energy drink makers make them look silly.

      2. Jo Torrent says:

        I don’t understand all the talk about energy drink makers. These men are the same men who worked under the name Stewart and Jaguar.

        The men imagining and building the car don’t have clue about RedBull. So why put that on the table everytime.

        Not only that but the guys developing the Mercedes GP are nowhere related to those working on their road cars. The same applies to the engines.

    3. Dom says:

      Nico playing with him as usual… :-)

      1. For Sure says:

        Yeah I thought about it even if you are prolly joking. U can’t do that when u don’t know when u dont know how safe it is. Plus nico would love to put half a second on him all the time if he can to show his worth in the team

    4. frosty says:

      Schumacher had DRS problems.

    5. Aey says:

      If Merc will win the Championship one day, the drive that win the champion won’t be Micheal for sure.
      with the new hope that new car and new tyre will be good for Schu, Rosberg prove that he is faster than Schu in any same car.

      Another bad year for Schu, I can bet that throughout the season Schu will out Qualify Nico not more than 3-4 times at most.

      1. brendan says:

        a bit to early to say. IF he did have Wing problems it would explain how he was ahead of Rosberg the whole weekend uptil the last run.

        sorry but that did happen.

        fair play to rosberg tho. not his fault, he is getting on with his job very very well.

      2. For Sure says:

        Schumacher was faster than Rosberg quite consistently all race and apart from the issues in Qualifying, faster all weekend at Rosberg’s favorite circuit.

        Anyone want to let us know the facts, because nothing else matters…

  6. Darren says:

    With McLaren usually closer to Red Bull in race pace, tomorrow should prove very interesting.

  7. Jo Torrent says:

    Williams !!!???
    **************

    How can Williams be so miserable ? They’re fighting with ForceIndia just ahead of the 3 untouchables (TLotus/Virgin/HRT).

    If you only consider the established F1 teams, they’re not in the midfield : they’re next to last.

    What a shame ! Every new idea they bring put them one spot lower and that low gearbox with the Z upper-suspension element did absolutely nothing to enhance their position.

    Williams is no longer a top team, no longer a midfield team : they’re at the back and soon they’ll be fighting for survival. The Chavez’s of this world are a species in danger of extinction and soon Williams will find itself without money to spend.

    Here’s my recipe. When you’re not good at anything work on the essential the aeros and the mechanics of the car. Do what Sauber, ForceIndia and so on did : buy an engine with a gearbox and a rear suspension and work on your car aerodynamics and ditch any useless department starting with their your KERS irrelevant to F1 : keep only what’s necessary for survival and bring some decency back to the team.

    It’s acceptable to be so bad when you’re poor, unexperienced or both. But when you’re confident enough to develop everything yourself, you’ve got to deliver.

    They used every trick in the book : every partnership possible, flotation, irrelevant innovative solutions, badly developed conservative solutions, unexperienced & experienced drivers, pay drivers, crying & old drivers (Barrichello).

    It seems that they got 2 WindTunnels thanks to the money brought by the BMW partnership. Ferrari has one.

    What else ?

    1. sender says:

      I also wrote about Williams in my comment. Glad that someone else mentions them.
      There definitely is some kind of a problem. I will not be surprised if eventually they will be better as the season progresses but will it be enough and for how long they will be better? I am afraid that the next season will not be that much different.
      Some people say that this or that team has got resources to dig themselves out of trouble (if they underperform), but those teams are only a couple (Mclaren, Ferrari, maybe now Red Bull). That is it. The rest have to rely on something else. Now that the testing is so limited it gets even more difficult.
      Of the so called midfield teams it seems that Force India is going downwards, Toro Rosso is OK, Sauber is OK. Williams is somwhere there with Force India in their overall performance. I am talking about the general picture, not concrete race results.

    2. Aey says:

      Totally agree, I love to see Williams back to the front.
      Williams getting worse every year, please pickup the problem soon.

  8. Ram says:

    It was great to see the HRTs finally make it within the 107%. Suprisingly Virgin seem to be going backwards with Lotus finally unlocking the potential of their new car and the HRT seem to be gaining on them with so little mileage… so is it CFD the righ way to go about designing cars .. or is it the old Windtunnel way the better route to ply on… ?

    1. Craig says:

      What do you mean finally? It’s only the 2nd race. Last year also they were within 107% at most races.

  9. Keith says:

    James, (subject to rain changing everything), how significant is it that Hamilton did 19 laps in qualifying, Vettel 12, and the Renault’s only 9?

    Not sure exactly who used which tyres when, but with talk of three of four pit stops, will this mean, for example, that Renault could need a pit stop less than Hamilton?

    1. Max says:

      I think they all used the same amount of softs today, we shall see if its “dry” tomorrow… wet race should be interesting tho…

    2. mtb says:

      Hamilton flat-spotted both his fronts after one run, the front-right had a sizeable flat spot.

      1. Damian J says:

        But he still managed qualy second position….a remarkable achievement compared to where their critics expected them to finish after winter testing.

      2. mtb says:

        The original comment questioned whether the Renaults would need one less pit stop than Hamilton. I was pointing out that Hamilton will probably have one less set of soft tyres for the race because of the flat spots.

      3. Nando says:

        He’ll only need two sets of softs max anyway you’d imagine. A few short-sharp showers could change the situation.

      4. mtb says:

        Looks as though the flat spots in qualifying hampered Hamilton’s race strategy :)

  10. frosty says:

    I am still wondering if we know the whole story on the Red Bull KERS system. Whenever CH is asked about it, he becomes slightly shifty.
    Maybe it’s unreliable.

    1. Red5 says:

      Highly probable that CH had to twist AN’s arm quite a lot to get the system installed.

      With Hamilton right on their tail today perhaps the RB is not such a great leap forward as we thought.

      Once the system has been given a few runs I’m sure he’ll settle down in front of the cameras. Won’t be long before CH has to answer questions about the team favoring Vettel over Webber. He’ll be happier to draw attention away from KERs and moveable front wings.

      1. mtb says:

        With its two long straights, Sepang is a circuit that should favour cars with M-B engines.

      2. Damian J says:

        Why not the Ferrari engine?

      3. mtb says:

        It is widely acknowledged that the M-B engine is the most powerful engine in F1.

    2. . says:

      20 bucks says there is no KERS in the car, haha.

      1. Sossoliso says:

        here, here!

      2. Peter C says:

        Where,where?

        Oh, hear,hear. I see.

    3. James says:

      Smaller batteries? Less power over the lap?

      1. Carl says:

        We never saw the DRS/KERS telemetry from the RB cars thru all of Qualifying .. we did see it on a number of other in car shots..
        I would have thought that the FOM director would be as keen as the rest of us to see if the little KERS indicator actually went down at all in the RBs.. but unfortunately for us all – he/she wasnt that interested in showing it….or could RB be asking the FOM guys NOT to show the DRS/KERS screen? – as it would let their competitors know exactly what is and is NOT being used.

        At Melbourne day 1 practice – was filled with rear facing shots of the DRS in action – especially Vettels car..
        LOTS of comments/team interest in where/how SV was using DRS (mid corner etc)…but come day 2 prac and qual… NO rear facing DRS shots..??

        I presume that is because it shows exactly when it is used to max advantage (in SVs case) and could give other teams an idea on how to use it better.

        I personally dont think that RB are using KERS – at least NOT on BOTH cars.
        But we could sort this out once and for all if the TV coverage would actually SHOW US THE DRS/KERS SCREEN

  11. Marc says:

    Tomorrow will reveal much about how much closer McLaren is from the red bulls. It looks a tie to me up to now this week end. It looks like a good race is in the cards for us tomorrow. Marc

    1. Toby says:

      Agreed – I thought Hamilton’s remarks about Red Bull just having the edge, as if were it not for the car he’d have beaten Vettel, were slightly disingenuous! The cars looked extremely well matched, but Vettel seems to be a master of Q3! I hope it’s as close tomorrow as it appeared today.

      1. Rich C says:

        and we all know that statements to the ‘press’ are taken under oath, right?

        Its all gamesmanship!

  12. goferet says:

    With the Malaysian track not being kind to the pole sitter & the fact that Hammy has never won from P2, I predict the win will be between Webber & Jenson.

    Yeah, I will go with a Webber win

    1. Ryan Eckford says:

      Hamilton won from P2 in Turkey and Belgium last year.

    2. Sossoliso says:

      I’ll go with Jenson when it starts drizzling.. He has that sixth sense to make those calls for himself.

      1. mtb says:

        Based on one inherited victory in Australia last year when he had to make a tyre change…

      2. Luke Robbins says:

        LOL. To be fair he made good decisions at China as well.

      3. Damian J says:

        Jenson does n’t win the WDC based on luck!

      4. Damian J says:

        And he made good with his tyres this weekend to maintain a strong P2 finish!

      5. mtb says:

        “And he made good with his tyres this weekend to maintain a strong P2 finish!”

        But failed to make any impression on Vettel’s wounded Red Bull!

      6. mtb says:

        “Jenson does n’t win the WDC based on luck!”

        No, it was based on having vastly superior machinery at his disposal for half a season. Once the opposition had caught up in 2009 he reverted to being a lower-mezzanine driver.

  13. Phil says:

    Hi James, as Alonso only did one run in Q3, does that mean he has an extra set of fresh tyres for the race and do you think this will offer him an advantage that could see him the podium?

    1. James Allen says:

      No, it’s because he used a soft set in Q1

    2. James Draper says:

      I think Alonso has a great chance of a podium. Webber is sure to hit someone. Including last years snacks and out of the top four qualifiers he hasn’t had a piece of Button yet.

      1. Damian J says:

        Priceless!. I fear that you are correct….Redbull drivers taking out other drivers happened too frequently for excuses to be accepted!

      2. mtb says:

        Hamilton seemed to have his fair share of collisions in the second half of last year, however he was always the one who came out worse off. Then there was his propensity to overshoot whenever Alonso was on his tail. :)

      3. Lilla My says:

        We can also say that out of the top four qualifiers Vettel hasn’t hit Hamilton yet (including last year). And when it comes to Webber I would suggest him hitting Hamilton – he seems keen on that (two crashes last year) ;-). However, no matter if it’s Webber hitting Button, Vettel crashing into Hamilton or Webber into Hamilton – it still gives podium to Alonso (as long as he starts well).
        I’d so like to share your optimism when it comes to Alonso on the podium tomorrow ;-)

    3. mtb says:

      Most cars that only did one run in Q3 did so because of a lack of unused softs.

      1. Lilla My says:

        Re your comment above – they all seem to have their share of some common “adventures”. Webber keeps on crashing into Hamilton and Hamilton misses the corner when he’s got Alonso on his tail (funnily enough, after Korea Hamilton said that he had psychological edge over Alonso but he in fact made two costly mistakes in two races in a row with Alonso behind;-) ). It seems that Hamilton is always the victim ;-).
        But then Alonso didn’t need anybody to help him with his misfortunes at the beginning of the season last year as he kept putting himself into trouble ;-). I hope it doesn’t repeat this year – he looks more confident which is great.
        The Red Bull guys on the other hand seemed to be crashing every time they saw any opportunity.
        Just kidding – last season was so great also because of all those mistakes and rapid changes in the standings ;-).

      2. Damian J says:

        Both Hamilton and Button sliced past Alonso like butter through knife in Canada last year making Alonso look like nothing more than a rookie after dithering with back markers!

        The incidents you refer to between Hamilton and Alonso was when Ferrari had a performance edge over the McLaren.

      3. mtb says:

        Great stuff! :)

      4. mtb says:

        The incident in Canada was when McLaren had a performance edge.

        The incident in Korea occurred on the first corner after the safety car had pulled in. The incident in Brazil occurred despite Hamilton having a clear straight line speed advantage.

      5. brendan says:

        Both Hamilton and Button sliced past Alonso like butter through knife in Canada last year making Alonso look like nothing more than a rookie after dithering with back markers!
        The incidents you refer to between Hamilton and Alonso was when Ferrari had a performance edge over the McLaren.’

        get real man you sound like a fanboy fool, remember not long before in turkey alonso qualy 12th and in canada fought for victory, with some great battles with lewis with lewis coming out on top after a great drive. the mclaren was clearly ahead(even of red bull that day). yes he hesitated when lapping a lotus that lost him a place to button. i cant remember much else he did wrong? no thats right nothing, he even avoided a unsafe mclaren pit release…which was nicely missed by FIA.

        as for ferrari being ahead late on. well on alonso side of garage yes. dont remember massa doing much challenging towards mclaren. and alonso passes on lewis in korea and brazil were errors on lewis part. he out broke himself under pressure;

        so cut the like a rookie BS. your talking about 2 great world champions.

  14. sender says:

    It seems that after the qualifying one of the Ferrari drivers was shaking his head, looking at the overall results on the screen.
    It is still early days. It is possible that on other circuits they will be better and some updates and better understanding of the car will help.
    About Williams – before the season in this blog it was said that Williams could become good and Barichello with his development skills will have a good input on this car. Look what has happened. They again start the year on the back foot. Usually they either start good and then fall behind or start badly and then catch up (but if they catch up, then can’t bring forward this performance to next season). A lot of people have said countless times that Williams will be better but each season is more or less the same.
    About Mercedes – Rosberg again deserves credit although his Q3 spot is not so good. Before the season they said that they hope to fight for some podiums…It is still possible, but so far this season seems like repeat of the last one.

  15. Ryan Eckford says:

    What about the battle today between Red Bull and McLaren for pole position! It is going to be a great race tomorrow, be it rain, hail or shine between Vettel, Hamilton, Webber and Button.

    Ferrari and Mercedes are really struggling at the moment to find speed. Ferrari are struggling because of their rear suspension being a more conservative pushrod system, rather than an aggressive pullrod system, meaning that they are not generating an adequate amount of downforce with the car to be successful. Mercedes are struggling because they have lost their way with the car. The general speed of the car is getting worse, and if they want to be at the top of the sport, changes must happen to all car performance departments of their team.

    Renault are doing very well this season, but it is a terrible shame that Robert Kubica is not driving that car. I believe that he would have been competing for a Drivers World Championship and Renault would have finished a very comfortable 3rd in the Constructors World Championship. They may still finish 3rd in the Constuctors, but they won’t be competing for a drivers title.

    James, could you find out how Robert Kubica is going with his health and rehab if possible, please?

    1. renato nysan says:

      alex wurz said today in the austrian tv, that he’s getting better slowly. he already can move the hand slightly, but he’s frustratet by the low speed of the recovery. doesn’t look like he’ll be back this season.

    2. Paul says:

      I hope we aren’t going to get much more of the “I wonder what Kubica could have done” comments. There is no way he would have found the second or so to get him up with Red Bull and McLaren.

      Fact is that Heidfeld matched him on pace when they were teammates and Petrov has clearly made a big improvement. I honestly don’t think Kubica could do that much better with that car.

      1. Luke Robbins says:

        Heidfeld is not in the same class as Kubica and that cannot be denied. He would definitely be faster than both Heidfield and Petrov.

      2. Paul says:

        Heidfeld scored more points over the course of when they were teammates did they not. It is undeniable that Kubica is quicker in terms of raw pace, but Heidfeld is a strong racer, and arguably a better overtaker.

        I was very disappointed that Jake Humphrey asked Eric Bouiller in Australia what Kubica could have done in the car when Petrov was standing right there. Bouiller was smart to dodge the question because it is extremely disrespectful to both Heidfeld and Petrov’s efforts.

  16. Patrick McLaughlin says:

    I dont understand how the Ferrari, after being so widely touted in testing, are so far off the pace ?

    Were RedBull sandbagging in testing ?

    Barcelona is meant to be a very good indicator of aerodynamic performance and Ferrari was close on pace around there.

    How is it Ferrari have got it wrong at start of the season, again ?

    After a fortunate win in Bahrain last season it took them until Valencia to catch up with Red Bull. It has been a few seasons since they have had an inovation that has been the envy of the pitlane. Last year it was the McLaren F-Duct and the RedBull Blown Diffuser & Flexi Wing.

    What have Ferrari brought since their all conquering days ?

    Looking forward to a great race tomorrow between the RedBull and McLaren. I expect fireworks into Turn 1 !

    1. Sossoliso says:

      Watch Webber Slam into Hamilton @ turn 1.

      1. Luke Robbins says:

        LOL – I always feel that Webber has a crash in him when he is following someone closely.

    2. Harvey Yates says:

      Patrick,

      It was almost ever thus. Every year their car would beat the lap record on their own private circuit, raising hopes and sponsorship. The only time they didn’t was when they were class of the field. It is part of the Ferrari myth.

      What still confuses me is the McLaren performance. I find it difficult to see how they can have a dog one minute and then be virtually on par with Reb Bull the next. And that means a second faster than the best of the also rans.

      If it was that easy to build a competative car, wouldn’t all the teams be doing it?

      I can’t believe they were sandbagging but then I find it hard to believe that they weren’t given the speed of the car.

  17. Red5 says:

    Renault covered fewer laps during the qualifying session, could this be an advantage tomorrow?

    With the front runners now all using the KERs system the gap looks much closer than it did in Australia. Bodes well for another season of twists an turns.

    Will have to wait until race day to see whether the moveable wing will add overtaking opportunities down the long straight. James, of the current grid which drivers are later on the brakes?

  18. Dom says:

    Great job from di Resta on a proper circuit.

    Mclaren have done a great job to tweak their car up to almost RB standards – given the rate of improvement, they should be able to edge RB soon.

    1. mtb says:

      Yes, di Resta was out-qualified Sutil for the second race in succession.

  19. James Draper says:

    James,what is the over under on number of races before a bushy eyebrow-ed Spaniard walks into his garage and throws a hissy fit?

  20. D@X says:

    Fair enough quali was exciting as four cars went for it, it can only be a matter of time before we have 5 or 6 cars battling out for pole depending on Ferrari’s development program.

    The race should be more exciting and I can see good battles taking place all over the grid, the best strategy and the car that looks after it’s tyre’s will command the race. I expect to see so many mistakes during the race, which is what will make it exciting.

    Bring on the race,

  21. manos says:

    James what happened to Williams?
    they seem nowhere.
    I hope you can inform us about the team cause noone else does.

    Thanks,
    Manos

  22. Andrew Woodruff says:

    Really disappointed for Schuey and Merc. If Michael isn’t covering himself in glory, then neither certainly is Ross Brawn.

    In the Ferrari glory days Brawn used to talk a lot about the F1 nirvana of total integration of chassis, engine/gearbox, tyres, aero and driving style. The Ferrari team of the early noughties managed to achieve that, but it was only really possible because Ferrari built their own engine and gearbox, Bridgestone made them bespoke tyres, and Schumacher was so at ease with himself that he could have put a wheelie bin on the front row (to borrow one of my favourite Brundle quotes of the decade!).

    At Mercedes now they obviously build their own engine and gearbox – arguably the best on the grid for most circuits, but one out of those three is not enough. Compounding the matter is the fact that the technical team in charge of chassis and aero development clearly isn’t up to the job. It is basically the old Honda team responsible for the Earth car amongst a number of other shockers, so no real surprise there.

    I’m sad that Schumacher’s comeback seems destined to end in failure, particularly after the ray of hope given by the last test at Barcelona. I was watching the highlights of some of his and Brawn’s classic races on the BBC website (take a look: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/andrewbenson/2011/04/michael_schumachers_classic_f1.html). There’s no doubt in my mind that the young Schumacher (let’s say 1994-2004) would have taken championships down to the wire with the best of any era, given even vaguely competitive machinery. I wager he would have won a good number of them too.

    I am glad that he came back and gave it another go though. It showed grit and a burning desire for competition. I don’t think he will regret it either, even if he gets overshadowed by Rosberg again all season before calling it a day at the end of 2011. At least he gave it a crack. The only caveat to that is if he gets into too many more situations like the one with Rubens against the Hungary pit wall last season, which in my view did more to tarnish his lasting legacy than any number of Q2 drop outs from here on in will do.

    1. Sossoliso says:

      get Flavio in to run the show.. maybe a bit of razzmatazz will go some way at disguising their performance deficiencies

  23. Torzonborz says:

    If you compare the results with the qualification of the Australian GP, it’s amazing, that the top 5 remained exactly the same. And even Renault remained in 6th position, in Melbourne it was Petrov, this time it’s Heidfeld.

    If you look at the time differences, you can see, that they are much smaller. In Melbourne 5th-placed Alonso was almost 1.5 seconds off the pole position, this time it’s less then 1 second. Vettel won the qualification of the first race by almost 0.8 second, now the difference is only 0.1 second.

  24. David Hamilton says:

    Were all the top 10 on soft tyres in Q3?

  25. alex says:

    It seems that Vettel is making the difference.
    Look at Webber-Button duel and you can see the cars are really equal this weekend. And Webber is excellent at quali.

    1. Sossoliso says:

      I suspect the difference between Webber and Button is the true gap between RB and McLaren. The other two are a notch ahead and flatter to deceive their respective garages.

      1. mtb says:

        Vettel was 0.104 seconds quicker than Hamilton.

        Webber was 0.021 seconds quicker than Button.

        ie. Vettel’s gap over Hamilton was larger than Webber’s gap over Button.

      2. Gaza says:

        You can only compare drivers when in same machinery.

        Seems quite a few people are keen to prove Vettel is faster than Hamilton.

      3. Damian J says:

        Not sure what you are trying to say here.

        One could infer that Redbull still have a performance advantage.

        One could also infer that both Hamilton and Vettel were pushing their respective cars to the limit.

      4. mtb says:

        “Not sure what you are trying to say here.”

        I was very confused by what the comment about Webber and Button showing the true gap between RB and McLaren means.

        “One could also infer that both Hamilton and Vettel were pushing their respective cars to the limit.”

        I would say that it does a lot more than infer!

      5. James Draper says:

        OK so iff WEB = BUT then VET>HAM
        but iff VET=HAM then WEB>BUT
        but iff HAM>VET then BUT>WEB
        also
        iff MAS=BUT=WEB then ALO>VET>HAM

        In all seriousness I don’t think that because Vettel out qualified his team mate by more that Hamilton you can assume Vettel is faster than Hamilton. I think that Webber also had a KERS problem.

      6. Damian J says:

        LOL…a point well made!

      7. mtb says:

        “I don’t think that because Vettel out qualified his team mate by more that Hamilton you can assume Vettel is faster than Hamilton”

        Agreed. I was simply trying to understand what the orginal point being made was referring to.

  26. Nuno M. Vieira says:

    the star of the session was Team Lotus. Why nobody noticed that the reason for all those laps on soft tyres by a lot of teams (ferrari, mercedes, force india, williams,..) was the great times by kovalainen and trulli. Almost everyone had to go to the track to make sure they get in Q2

  27. Delano - Antiguan F1 Fan says:

    Thanks James for this great site, always informative.
    Great Quali – Mac right there with RB is amazing. Have to give it to Vettel – so clutch in Quali.

    - Congrats to Mac on their turnabout but it’s not a surprise and they were not that much off the pace in test as most people thought.
    -Congrats also to Renault – great job.

    - I’m a big Alonso fan and I was quite surprised to see him as high as 5th in Qual 0.932 off the pace.
    - Ferrari is going to faster in the race compared to their quali pace as usual lately. They were setting competitive times in P3 on the hard tyres.
    - Like Ferrari and the rest of the f1 world I’m confused by their lack of pace. Their race sim at the last test was great, right up their with RB. There is pace in the car for sure but they really need to figure out their quali pace. I could see Alonso on the podium for sure but not victory if it stays dry but who knows.
    - I have a feeling this Championship is going to be a cracker.

  28. Setay says:

    Hello,

    The key info I’d like when trying to understand the difference in lap times is the distance. i.e. at Sepang what does 0.1 of a second mean in car length. Is it one whole length of a car in front at the line or two?.
    Kind regds Setay

    1. Rich C says:

      Well, how fast are they going at the line?
      150 mph? 150=220 ft/sec so 22 feet if they’re going 150 at that point.

    2. Carl says:

      Wouldnt it be nice to see Qual laps overlayed on TV? – so we could see the RB and the Mclaren in virtual side by side vision.

      This would show exactly which driver was quick…and where…at any point of the track A bit like they do with WRC – without the play staion graphics. This would give us a relative distance (in meters & car track position) between cars on a Quali lap

      Ok.. i accept that this would require a helicopter shot to follow each car on its pole lap – but surely they can get a second chopper/camera……or what about a big blimp anchored high above the middle of the track with multiple cameras? They were all the rage a few years ago..

  29. TheLegend says:

    Appart from Fernando and maybe Seb and Robert, there’s not a driver out there capable o beat him with a similar or worse car.

    1. TheLegend says:

      This should have been answering Peter’s reply at Jo Torrent’s message about qualifyng…

  30. Dale says:

    McLaren & Hamilton in particular, simply superb. To be that close to the much faster RedBull was just amazing, in my view put Vettel in the SAME car as Hamilton and he’d come second every time.

    Williams, I guess they’re nothing more than the modern-day Tyrell’s (once a great team), a spent force if ever there was one (big mistake Williams in not giving Newey what he wanted – and deserved)!!!!

    Of the 3 top teams, it’s clear to me that they now all have a clear number one in terms of speed, we’re lucky to have Hamilton, Vettel and Alonso racing together, it’s a real shame Kubica got injured as we could well have had him in the mix as well.

    Schumacher – like Williams a spent force, nobody fears him anymore, not the man he was and Rosberg has the measure of him, he never should have come back.

    1. . says:

      Much faster car?

      Not on this track obviously.

      Hamilton is a great driver, but he is on the same level as Vettel and Alonso. It is these 3 that rule F1 at the moment.

      When you talk about one of them like they would be easily beaten by the other in the same car, you are just being very biased.

      1. Mike from Medellin, Colombia says:

        I don’t buy into Vettel being a great driver. I cannot imagine him hauling a Force India into P5 for example. He is no Alonso or Hamilton.

        Vettel is simply benefiting from Helmut Marko demoralising Mark Webber.

      2. Jo Torrent says:

        neither Alonso nor Hamilton can put a ForceIndia P5. All the drivers are good nowadays, some are great but the margin between the good and the great drivers isn’t as significant as the margin between the good and the great cars.

      3. Russel says:

        Vettel WON at Monza in the ToroRosso!

        Where is the ToroRosso on the grid now?

      4. Tom Johnson says:

        ‘…you are just being very biased…’

        No we’re not, we’re being informed through observation and the educated views of engineers up and down the pit lane: according to Brundle, everyone in the paddock throughout Thurs Fri was convinced it would be a cake walk for RB, that it wasn’t is testimony to the extraordinary pace craft and determination of Hamilton. It won’t be long before Hamilton schools Vettel.

      5. Andrew Woodruff says:

        There is an ebb and flow to who is the fastest driver on any given track, in any given car, at any given time. I agree, anecdotally Lewis is reckoned to be the most aggressive driver with the most raw speed in the pitlane, but the margins are tiny and not scientifically quantifiable. This makes any debate like this pretty futile.

        Any Vettel fan could equally point to him winning the Italian GP in the wet in a Toro Rosso and outclassing the whole field, or the fact that everyone in the paddock was instantly impressed by his Friday drives in the BMW when he first started. There’s no doubt the boy is a supreme talent, and to deny that must indicate an agenda bias.

        Equally, while Hamilton might be generally agreed to have a slight raw pace advantage over a single lap, I believe that Alonso is universally acknowledged as the most complete driver and probably the best bet over a race (and championship) distance, all other things being equal.

  31. mtb says:

    I think I heard Button say on BBC that he should have handed his position back to Massa immediately in Melbourne.

  32. James Draper says:

    Yes and then pitted! Ferrari quick thinking to have massa let alonso through effectively screwed button. I think a DT penalty was too severe a punishment in this case, even though it was the right one. If the officials could add time to pitstops by not letting the mechanics touch the car for say 5 seconds I think punishments would be more fair.

  33. Ross says:

    Congrats to HRT for making the 107% rule. Quite impressive all things considering.

    I wonder how close to the 107% rule the likes Lotus Virgin and even Williams would have been if they had turned up to this race having only completed a handful of laps.

    Virgin completed a fairly big pre season proggrame and yet are only 0.5 seconds off ahead of HRT. Glock must be looking at the escape clauses in his contract.

    1. Dale says:

      Not really so impressive as the top teams didn’t show their true pace in Q3, not sure HRT were in the 107% of the pole time?

      1. Stu says:

        I believe at least Luzzui was under 107% of the pole sitting time.

  34. Chris Chong says:

    Here’s hoping the rain stays away tomorrow.

    I live in Kuala Lumpur and it was raining for over an hour here around qualifying time.

    Didn’t catch qualifying live so I was surprised to hear that it was bone dry in Sepang (which is a 40-minute drive from KL).

  35. Alan Dove says:

    Interesting to note that Liuzzi would have been very very very close to qualifying for the race even if the 107% rule was taken from the Q3 times. So well done to HRT.

  36. AlexD says:

    Here is the verdict:
    1. McLaren has a strong chance to win and I think that Hamilton is going to win.
    2. Stefano Domenicali is on the way out of Ferrari, I am 100% certain.

    1. frosty says:

      2. Who do you think they could get in to replace SD?
      That would be a big pressure job to take.
      I don’t know many of the team, but are there any strong internal candidates?

    2. Peter C says:

      Is it Domenicali’s fault that the car isn’t performing at the moment? Perhaps he designed it as well as manage the team at races.

      This is football thinking – because we haven’t scored a goal for a couple of games, the manager has to go!
      Sounds like disappointed fans.

      1. AlexD says:

        Peter – THE BOSS is a very specific role to play. You connect the dots, you find opportunities where others are down because of the crisis, you know how to turn thing around. Indeed, SD does not design cars, nor races cars…but neither was Jean Todt. It is a matter of making the team reaching sky high limits….
        That is a unique quality…..
        Ferrari lost it…and we are not talking lost races, we are talking lost championships and lack of innovative approach to become a point of reference again.

      2. Peter C says:

        Still sounds like disappointed fans.

  37. Keith says:

    What I don’t understand is that with other cars TV shows display with revs, km/h, KERS battery and DRS indicator. Yet, we don’t seem to get that with Red Bull. Would settle KERS questions instantly. Are Red Bull (or other teams) allowed to refuse this coverage?

  38. goferet says:

    Fernando Alonso after the 2010 Belgian Grand Prix qualifying:

    “This was the least important qualifying of the year because of the weather. Anything can happen so our goal is still the podium and victory,”

    Alonso is beginning to sound like a broken record

    P.s. He crashed out from the race

  39. Roni says:

    Let’s see what happens in the race!

    I think SV is very good, but definitely not in the same league of LH or FA!!!

    And his driving style is pretty similar to Mansell, very quick and with a quick car he is really good! But Mansell was capable of good overtakes and Vettel is less error-prone!!

    In case of doubts, ask Di Resta about them!!! hahahaha

  40. C Lin says:

    Hamilton is amazing & Vettel is just wow!
    I would like to see either one wins it in Sepang. They both deserve it!
    Thanks what a quali!

  41. Renault covered fewer laps during the qualifying session, could this be an advantage tomorrow?

    With the front runners now all using the KERs system the gap looks much closer than it did in Australia. Bodes well for another season of twists an turns.

    Will have to wait until race day to see whether the moveable wing will add overtaking opportunities down the long straight. James, of the current grid which drivers are later on the brakes?

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