Why Red Bull is strong in qualifying but McLaren is close in the race
Why Red Bull is strong in qualifying but McLaren is close in the race
Posted By: James Allen  |  21 Apr 2011   |  8:03 am GMT  |  176 comments

The first three races have given us much to reflect on in terms of the new style of racing F1 now provides, but there are some fascinating details emerging too about the relative performance of the cars.

One of the things to catch the eye has been the relative pace of the Red Bull and the McLaren in qualifying and in the race. And it’s not just about who has the newest tyres. When you look at it closely you see that there is reason to feel very excited about the competition between the two cars this season.

At the first and third races Sebastian Vettel had a margin of 7/10ths of a second over the closest McLaren, while in Malaysia it was much closer, just 1/10th.

But in the races, particularly the last two which have longer straights and more high speed corners, the McLaren has generally been very close.

Part of the reason for this, of course, is the efficiency of the Mercedes KERS on the McLaren, while the Red Bull has been struggling to make its system work and has been using it for starts and not much else. Webber’s KERS packed in after 24 laps in China, while Vettel’s was only giving him a 30hp boost instead of the normal 80hp and as he and the team explained, he didn’t use it throughout the race.

It’s been pointed out to me by a senior engineer from another team that McLaren go into the races in good shape relative to Red Bull due to the differences between their adjustable DRS rear wings.

The Red Bull wing has a steep upper plane design, which gets a bigger drag reduction than the McLaren when the DRS is enabled. That gives Webber and Vettel an advantage in qualifying, because the DRS can be enabled everywhere, as we have seen on the TV pictures of qualifying.

In the race, when the DRS can only be used in one particular situation, McLaren have an advantage because their softer rear wing gives them a straightline speed advantage everywhere except for the DRS zone.

In Shanghai, for example, in the race Hamilton’s top speed in Sector 1 was 291km/h compared to Vettel’s 273 km/h. In sector 2 it was 269km/h compared to 267 km/h and in Sector 3 it was 258 km/h to 256 km/h.

Obviously the reason Hamilton was able to catch and pass Vettel was because he was on newer tyres due to the different strategies they were on, but the principal was the same in Malaysia where Vettel and Button did the same strategy. Although there again we saw that the McLaren had better rear tyre wear than the Red Bull.

It’s one of the reasons to feel pretty encouraged about the competition in the races ahead of us in the coming months. Now Ferrari have to work hard on their car to get themselves into the fight, because Red Bull and McLaren are in good shape.

Writing on his own website this week, Hamilton said, “China was great because we made it work out on the track – it’s always sweeter to win a race when you’ve overtaken the cars ahead. And in my final stint I got past Nico, Felipe and Sebastian for the win, which hopefully was great for all the fans watching.”

Incidentally the Mercedes problems with the DRS wing, which hit Michael Schumacher in qualifying in China, are believed to be aerodynamic in the sense that the air flow is not reattaching after the DRS wing is closed.

This was a problem many teams experienced with the F Duct wing last year. Mercedes has been very aggressive with its design this year and appear to have the biggest gain when the DRS in enabled of all the teams, at around 20km/h.

They will no doubt be using the three week break before Turkey to address their problems in this area, which may result in a less dramatic speed gain but a more efficient rear wing.

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You wrote, “The Red Bull wing has a steep upper plane design, which gets a bigger drag reduction than the McLaren when the DRS is enabled. That gives Webber and Vettel an advantage in qualifying, because the DRS can be enabled everywhere, as we have seen on the TV pictures of qualifying.”

I don’t think the RBR upper rear wing is any steeper than the McLaren’s. It certainly has a shorter chord width, than the McLaren.

Do we actually know that the RBR gets better drag reduction with a short chord with upper plane?

And, isn’t this a bit like giving with one hand, while taking from the other?

One needs to look at both planes that make up the rear wing. While the narrow chord width upper plane on the RBR may have less drag than the longer chord upper plane on the McLaren when activated, the RBR bottom plane will have more drag than the McLaren bottom plane, which has less relative chord length.

As for Schumi’s issue with airflow not reattaching, that seems like something that should be easily fixable, though it seems odd. Their rear wing planes are virtually identical to the RBR’s in chord width and apparent angle of attack.


They’ve got a Gurney flap, which should help with flow attachment. Maybe it’s just a rumor.

While I was looking at images, here’s a good droopy one:


As far as Horner’s rake explanation, that’s utter nonsense. Sure, the RBR is slightly more raked than the other cars, but one only need look at sideshots of the RBR under aero load to see he’s talking rubbish. The floor of the sidepods should exhibit the same rake angle as the front wings. The wings show more rake under load than the floor, ergo, Horner is full of it.


Having read the entire thread above, several point come to mind.

Having followed F1 since the 70’s and having been a marshal at numerous F1 races, I clearly remember the reason that ground effect was banned by the FIA – namely on the grounds of safety. The major component which gave rise o the ground effect was the skirts – primarily on the sides of the cars. The FIA view was that this provided for better traction (obviously) and that it also enabled significantly increased cornering speeds. If there was a component failure at a critical moment then a driver could find himself taking a corner at a speed which, due to the absence of the ground effect, impossible to stay on the track at. Their view was that such a dramatic and sudden change in the performance of the car would give rise to an uncontrollable situation which could far too easily result in a heavy impact with other cars of the barrier and cause significant injury.

Given the above position, it is hard to fathom why it is now perceive to be safe to have DRS on cars as there are two sides to the effect it causes. The first is that when (if) activated it reduces drag. If this were to fail to operate then there would be no reduction in drag and the otherwise increased speed would not be obtained – it fails safe. The other effect is that which occurs when DRS is deactivated – either by FIA control of the use of the brakes. In this case the drag increases and reduces speed – typically as the cars approach a bend. In the event that the DRS fails to cancel (or in the case of Ferrari operates spontaneously (allegedly) in an incorrect part of the track) then the result is a higher than anticipated speed as the car attempts to corner. It is hard to see how this situation differs from the skirt / ground effect situation.

On the subject of F1 being a technology proving ground one only has to look at the banning of turbos (due to speeds becoming unsafe for the tracks that existed), free development of engine management system such as launch control) in the past together with the artificial limits placed on the use of KERS (just how much charge do the batteries hold – and do all teams charge hold the same amount?) to realise that KERs is not being used to it’s full potential.

The fundamental philosophy being DRS is sound – namely that of enabling overtaking to be achieved more easily. DRS seems to have been developed in response to the situation that had come about – namely the “dirty” air coming off the car in front disrupted the following car’s air management and resulted in an inability to close due to the fall off in performance that resulted. However it seems that rather than fix the cause DRS is a system to mitigate it’s effects. The implementation of DRS – particularly it’s use in qualifying as compared to the race – is entirely understandable from the perspective of safety and entertainment however one should not lose sight of the reason for qualifying.

Fundamentally qualifying is there for 2 reasons (apart from the financial money spinning opportunity): Firstly to ensure that the supposedly fastest cars are on the front of the grid and (recently – then not and now once again) to ensure that significantly uncompetitive cars do not obstruct the race in an unsafe fashion. The advantage of the faster cars at the front of the grid is not only an advantage for the race but has its roots in safety as well – in as much as were if not the case (which occasionally it isn’t even today) then there is the potential for significantly faster cars hammering through the field. All of this is predicated on the performance in qualifying being representative of the performance in the race which, given the wide variation in the permitted use of DRS, is patently not the case. As such this variation potentially renders the whole qualification procedure invalid from the perspective of safety. Also, theoretically, the following situation would occur between 2 roughly matched cars: Lap 3, B follows A and therefore can deploy DRS and overtake; Lap 4 A now follows B and so can deploy DRS and overtake; Lap 5, B follows A & overtakes; Lap 6 etc etc etc.

If DRS is to exist then it should be used in practice / qualifying in exactly the same manner as in the race. If DRS is safe on approaching corners then now permit full ground effect, and skirts. Then reduce the engine size but permit turbos and finally allow teams to make full use of whatever power they can harvest to their KERs – let them decide how big a battery they want to carry – the bigger the battery the more weight – but think how much less fuel you might need and the weight of the fuel….

Any then there’s the idea of sprinklers ….

Want to make overtaking easier without DRS and KERs? simply have the longest straight on the track (if there is one) split in 2 – each being a mirror of the other – leader goes left, follower goes right. Then see who gets to the next corner first …


I would just like to say that whatever the technical ins and outs are, the racing this year has breathed new life into F1. Most of the tech stuff is hard to follow and I thank JA et al for explaining it in laymans terms, but what I do know is that the Chinese GP was fantastic to watch and there was more overtaking than in the whole of 2009 and 2010 seasons put together. Well done FIA and the teams!


I’ll keep it short and simple… The tyres – fabulous, really mixes up both the strategy, and accentuates the drvier skill application. KERS – ok, nice strategic ability for the driver when / where he wants it. DRS – totally artifial gimmick… utterly needless what with KERS and Pirellis…. DRS is not racing.


Ok you all need to understand this is a sport to attract viewers fans and in turn generate revenue for it to survive. The F1 gurus needed to up the action. KERS and the rear wing play are simple turbo boost buttons you press to get that advantage like when we play Daytona at the arcades. All 24 drivers we see are champions. To handle An F1 car takes skill they all have it but what makes one driver better than the next is the mind. When do you press these boost bonuses or do you preserve it go the next corner or use half now half later or use it before I make my move or during the overtaking move. This is how they are making F1 exciting with overtaking like F1 of the 60s and 70s similar cars but individuals at the helm. Technology has stopped this raw driving thought and craft to outwit your opponent. It adds another element of individual thought. They all have 4 wheels, a chasis and engines. F1 is trying to move away from my car better than your car to who is the driver with the instinct and the thinking mind. As for rear wing play and KERS during qualifying it is free play cause its easier to monitor like that and sometimes a driver will have no one in front to deploy the rear wing. So make it free for all. Could you imagine the protests after each qualifying session.


i forgot to mention pit stops . The enforcement of tyre changes was to add randomness. But the pit crew have perfected this with modern tools to eliminate error every car enters the pits and all take the same time its all perfect now. The excitement is gone no frantic moments apart from button’s moment. Now didn’t that give you a reaction. The F1 gurus have thought long and hard to make racing racing. One driver up another. Not the one who makes a mistake or the car fails allows the other driver to capitalise. This way its the driver who uses his available arsenal to fox and outwit the opponent to pass by



“[MGP] will no doubt be using the three week break before Turkey to address their problems in this area, which may result in a less dramatic speed gain but a more efficient rear wing.”

Am I right assuming you meant predictable rather than efficient in that last sentence?

As you note in the paragraph leading into this, the MGP wing is already quite efficient at stalling the air flow, but rather ‘on the edge’ and not behaving as intentioned

Anyways, I wonder about the premise of the McLaren DRS being the cause for McLaren’s relative gains. Are you saying that the RBR’s DRS is so efficient that the team run the car with relatively too much rear downforce during FP and Q, only to suffer for it in the race?


The mercedes issue is that the air is stalling at points it’s not meant to. And it isn’t as stable as a result under deactivation.

I seem to recall they had similar issues with f-duct.


Is there something wrong about a system where it appears an advantage not to qualify on pole if you want to win the race – eg Webber comments post race, and Hamilton’s strategy not to go out again in Q3, but accept third and preserve tyres, though he had to take the disadvantage of being on soft tyres at the start? In fact had Webber started from 11/12th on harder tyres he would have won easily – see his fastest lap time in the race which I think was the only one below 1:40 at 1:38.

Aside from the comments re “fake” overtakes ( and Webber post race seemed to agree that this situation wasn’t very satisfying from his perspective as a driver – ie the overtake wasn’t a demonstration of his driving ability)

If its a disadvantage to be on pole, then maybe consider awarding championship points for qualifying? Alternatively let the teams start on their choice of tyre, not the end of Q3 tyre. Bit difficult to generalise by extrapolating from one race but it does seem inherently wrong that qualifying on pole should result in a disadvantage.


Intresting article James, on the subject of the Red Bulls KERS system i heard Tony Jardine on Talksport earlier in the week saying the problem with the Red Bull KERS system is overheating due the tight areodynamic packaging of the car.

Would solving the cooling issue of the Red Bull KERS invovle Adrian Newey having to make some areodynamic compromises to solve the problem?


Is there not something fundamentally flawed with F1 when it relies on a vital component (the tyres) wearing out artificially quickly in order to make the race ‘interesting’?

The flappy rear wing is an accident-in-waiting, and a big one at that. It’s another symptom of F1’s fundamental problem, too much aero grip. Reduce this and you increase braking distances, the key to real, rather than Playstation-style overtaking.

Going off topic a bit, it’s interesting to hear the replies given by both the team and race officials when asked about the legality of the Red Bull front wing. “It passes the test”. Which isn’t quite the same as “It’s completely legal”. Bear in mind the relevant rule forbids any movement, it’s F1 that have come up with the limited deflection test.


Great writing again James, I love this site, I’m a Planetf1 fan and F1 fanatic reader too, but your site takes the biscuit, better written, more in the know and for the F1 geek like me, essential reading. Fantastic analysis always fascinates me so thanks for all your work.


Thanks for appreciating it


Great article. Sorry to nitpick, but I think you mean “principle” rather than “principal”.


As a new F1 fan, I think Hamilton is far better than Vettel. It is the performance of that Red Bull that’s given Vettel the performance and speed that people see. Other than that, he’s not much better than either Hamilton or Alonso.


I can see where you are coming from but the truth is no one can tell. The guy won a race with Torro Rosso, a back marker team. No legendary F1 driver has done it before.

Mike from Medellin, Colombia

Senna almost did it in a Toleman at Monaco (race cut short by biased French FISA official)

Damon Hill almost did it at Hungary 1997 (mechanical failure 2 laps from the end).

Torro Rosso were midfield, not backmarkers.


oh finally someone who agrees, Hamilton is far better than Vettel.


James,first of all thanks for not only producing great articles but also attracting knowledgeable contributors.

I wander if F1 drivers of the past and the present post on this site.

I got one question.

Nico said “I saw a Red Bull in my mirrors and it wasn’t coming closer. It was staying the same size, and I thought, ‘what is going on?'”

The funny thing about that was that not only fans got confused even the f1 drivers themselves. I don’t understand why Redbull wasn’t faster than Mercedes at that point? It doesn’t make sense.


Thanks. Glad you appreciate it.

Answer is because SV was driving to a pace to protect the tyres, not wanting to make the second stop earlier than necessary. In the end the third stint on hards turned out to be too long even as it was.


Thanks for replying James.

I had a discussion with my friend who wasn’t an F1 fan. He raised very important question:”if the cars aren’t equal whats the point of having driver title” . I think its a valid question. When we had Senna/Schumacher, it was kinda obvious that the best driver wins the title. But these days, we have a few guys who can win multiple championships. In other sports like Boxing for eg, we know you can’t have a slightest weight adavantage and in F1, its all about find away to get advantage. To me its almost as if world driver championship is like world footballer championship. I wander what do you make of that.

Anand Jayaraman

Great article. Such articles infuse a better sense of understanding amongst us fans, of what is happening in the races. Keep it coming James. We love to read them.

That aside…DRS is too artifical overtaking. Racing this year would have still been exciting, with just the Pirelli Tires



I feel at the moment that Ferrari are not going to get into the fight at the front any time soon. Even if they make up the ground by mid-season, it will be all too late to challenge for a World Championship.


I don’t agree. McLaren in 09 came out with a car that was miles worse than the f150 % 🙂

They are not too far behind and did a very solid job mid season last year. There will be 3 teams fighting for the championship in my view.


i think, that this “mess”, with almost to much overtaking, kers, dsr is FIA’s fault because of overreacting.

couple of years ago the “overtaking” task force developed those beautiful looking (harvesterlike) frontwings with tiny wings at the back.

Those ideas maybe really worked – nobody knows because Ross brought us that nice doublediffusor that destroyed overtakingtaskforces ideas. We all know how the story ended.

but still FIA was not happy – so 2011 we got wide frontwings, small backwings, KERS, DSR and most important no DD.

but now we know – a new tire would have been all it needed (how much money could have been spared)

i still belive that the teams need MORE tires for qual and race (!!!!!!!)



I think you are fundamentally wrong about the double diffuser. There is no evidence that it made following harder, and theoretically it should make it easier. The diffusers work in a different way to wings and the aim is to return the air to as close to atmospheric pressure as possible, and that means minimal velocity and turbulence. The non-DD Renault was regarded as the worst car to follow at close distance in 2009 according to a journalist who surveyed the drivers.

It is not like we saw a lot of overtaking in early 2009 when only six cars on the grid had the double diffuser.


I have not looked at any figures since Australia, but qualifying was a distinct DRS disadvantage for RBR because of being able to deploy the DRS throughout. The difference in top speed gain was less for RBR than all major competitors. This is why Vettal and Webber were complaining about unrestricted use of the DRS during qualification. Maybe things have changed with RBR, but it was not the case in Australia.

Edward Valentine


Surely the best driver/car combination on the grid would be Jenson in a RedBull? The best tyre manager and most consistent driver (arguably) combined with the fastest single lap racecraft.

What do people think?


I’d love to see jenson in the current redbull. I believe he’d walk the wdc.

In terms of single lap racecraft, I’ve always thought that is in the hands of a few natural talents. Vettel, Hamilton, senna just have something. Other very good drivers get near, but guys like that will edge it more times than not.

Senna was the best qualifier I’ve ever seen. Some of his pole laps were so much quicker than his team mates (even Prost who is in my top two drivers ever with senna).


Alonso is generally pretty good at getting his tyres to work, able to generate heat when needed and make them last when required too. Most experts that I’ve read seem to pick him as the best race driver out there. This year he could do with getting better starts.

We don’t have a lot of evidence that the Red Bull drivers are hard on their tyres. Melbourne seems to be primary evidence for Webber, but we don’t know the true impact of the suspension problems. Malaysia could have been a pure strategy call.

Jenson did better on the first set of tyres than Lewis when they both had used softs, but Lewis was a lot better on hard tyres at the end and that was with a one lap difference between the two of them.

Edward Valentine


Thanks a million for that! I was really only expecting one or two lines of a response. But it was so detailed.

I’ve often thought about specific corners creating increased tyre wear and perhaps this year we might see Turn 8 at Istanbul causing some real problems just like the banking on the exit of the final turn at Indianapolis. Imagine the tyre deg this season if there were to be a GP at the brickyard!

Cheers, Thanks again!

Edward Valentine


Would it be possible to say that because the RedBulls carry greater speed through the corners than the other top teams that there is a greater strain on their tyres?


Hi Edward

Most definitely. If two cars are both well balanced then the one with more downforce will wear out the tyre faster even if the cars are going around the corner at the same speed.

When a car turning the contact patches are being twisted as the tyre rolls. The greater the force on the tyre, the more it is going to wear.

If a car is sliding at one or both ends then that will increase the wear level. Regardless of the downforce level, if the limit is exceeded then wear will go up. A low downforce car might encourage a driver to push harder in the corners to keep up, but it is myth that comes up that low downforce eats tyres. Taking downforce and unbalancing a car will eat tyres.

As the load is greatest in high speed corners, this is where wear is greatest. Turn three at Barcelona, turn eight at Istanbul and Phouhon at Spa are corners where a well balanced car across the fuel load will be extremely valuable for the race.

Other factors that can increase tyre wear include toe-in for increased stability and camber. Camber and toe-in will increase the heat in the tyre even when going in a straight line as the tyre has to distort to keep going straight ahead. I’d be speculating, but this could be a key the difference between the McLaren and Ferrari tyre wear variations since 2007.

I hope that makes sense. I don’t think you’ll be able to reply to this, but if you have any queries please reply to the earlier comment.




Maybe he’ll make another trip to the Red Bull garage in Turkey and we’ll find out… Sorry, couldn’t resist!


Lewis told him he could get a drink there.


So funny, had me and my wife in stitches reading that comment.


could the teams not gear the cars for just 6 gears in the race and leave a very long top gear just for the drs in the race and quailying rather than bouncing on the limiter. or wud that cause your car to be slower in acceleration and cause damage to the engine and higher fuel consumption. i have wondered about this from the start of testing.


actually it won’t harm the engine and it will result in lower fuel consumption

Rosalind Boycott (PR for Mobil 1)

Hi James –

Thought you might be interested to watch NASCAR Champion Tony Stewart and Formula 1 Champion Lewis Hamilton as they ponder the idea of swapping cars…..


This video is also available as a .wmv or .MP4 file if you would like to host it on the James Allen on F1 blog.

Hope you enjoy it!


Kers not working, slow straight line speed, wrong strategy and Vettel still took second. Kers not working, slow straight line speed, started from 18th and Webber still took third.

No one is anywhere near Red Bull if they get everything right. The others have to work 10 times as hard just to get similar results.

Mike from Medellin, Colombia

While we’re on Red Bull, anyone here read the article this morning on Vettel being quoted as the best driver since Senna by Ascanelli?!!


Berger also says that Vettel is the most complete driver in F1….more so than Alonso.

Take away that flexible front wing and I think we’d get a proper picture.


Psssh…I’d just like to note that both of these guys have a connection with Vettel, and naturally would gain something from comparing him to Senna. Why does every new guy who is any good get compared to Senna? My opinion is there really is no comparison because Senna had a fight and eloquence that made him a star above driving. Sebastian Vettel certainly doesn’t have those traits. And he isn’t partnered with Prost…he’s got a team fully backing him against Webber. No offense Webbo!

I’d almost bet everything that Alonso is a more complete driver than Vettel. We just haven’t seen him in the fastest car in 6 years. The ban on testing compared to previous years has also reduced Alonso’s strength in improving a car with a team (apparently I’m one of the few who thinks that). I’d actually put Hamilton and Kubica as up there with Vettel…I’m rooting for any of these top guys to get equal equipment before making the final call 🙂


I see a lot of people talking Vettel up and down, but of the recent driver it is very obvious that Lewis Hamilton is the better driver in a struggling car. just look at what he was upto last year in catching and overtaking. Anyone who says that we need KERS, DRS etc should watch this video and see real overtaking in exciting races.

For your enjoyment Lewis Hamilton pushing the limits.


Mike from Medellin, Colombia

Just look at Vettel’s superb overtaking “skill” in a very much superior car:



Given that James has shown in this article that the difference between the Red Bull and the McLaren where it MATTERS, i.e. not winter testing, free practice, etc. but (to a lesser extent) qualifying -and more importantly the RACE is very small – I wonder if the following posters bothered to read the article?

Mario, ‘Anyone, including me and you would be the best driver in the world in that Red Bull.’

>> Why? McLaren is on level terms with it / has the better of it in certain aspects of race – i.e. tyre wear. The Red Bull advantage in qualifying doesn’t amount to much if race strategy is compromised. This year qualifying won’t matter as much – like the golf idiom – ‘Drive for show, putt for dough’

Mike from Medellin ‘Take away that flexible front wing and I think we’d get a proper picture.’

>> JA’s analysis goes through where the relative performance advantages of the Red Bull and McLaren in the race/qualifying come from. This front wing-gate is a red herring. It’s not the be-all and end-all of RB.

Tom in Adelaide ‘I think there is a tendency to downplay Vettel’s performance due to the obvious superiority of the red bull car’

>> Obvious superiority? Do you mean in qualifying? Race? Agree that Vettel’s performance is downplayed – but because of a FALSE perception of superiority, not because the car is somehow streets ahead.

I’m glad that James has explained in plain terms that this year is not about a ‘dominant’ Red Bull and an ‘underdog’ McLaren but two evenly-matched cars promising some exciting racing. I imagine we’ll see more wins from Vettel and Hamilton, but also by their team-mates too. Wins by Ferrari and/or Mercedes might come later in the year if development is rapid.

The idea, for example, that the average fan/family pet/grandmother would win in the Red Bull is so laughable it’s almost worth humouring.

The main gulf in performance this year, and what has been noticable in its absence from analysis and commentary, is that between Red Bull/McLaren and the rest – Ferrari mainly, Mercedes/Renault also. Why aren’t we hearing more about this? It matters not if McLaren are 1 tenth or 5 tenths behind Red Bull if Ferrari + the others are still further behind.

I know we British like underdogs, but McLaren aren’t underdogs!

Mike from Medellin, Colombia

I feel that if you

a) put Hamilton and Alonso in the Red Bulls

b) put Vettel and Webber in a McLaren and/or Ferrari

it is doubtful that gap to the Red Bulls would be as narrow as it is right now

Vettel has performed well, but these comparisons with Senna just seem to be OTT. Apart from Monza 2008, where have the Senna-esque performances been?


i agree. To tell you the truth i think hamilton is the one with most talent at the moment. Comparing any of today drivers with senna is nonesense. Today’s cars are much easier to drive with better tyres and less power. The top five is a done deal Senna schumacher clark fangio prost. You can put them any way you want, but in my opinion that’s never going to change.


How about Ascari?

I’d go

Prost – not as fast as senna but more complete

Senna – speed, poetry in motion, but also crazy and took many risks that backfired and couldn’t work the team for him

CLarke – much forgotten



(6) Schumacher



If I’m correct, in Monza, Torro Rosso went with a wet set up, while most other teams were betting on a dry race. Sebastian Bourdais put the other Torro Rosso on the front row.

So while Vettel’s performance was impressive, it was in anything but an inferior car.

Vettel has had phenomenal results the last 1 1/2 years to be sure, but in a phenomenal car.

I’m not saying he won’t prove to be a truly great driver, just that we can’t really say yet, how good he is, given the car he’s had.


people always think that monza was vettels only good drive before he joined red bull seniors. he had a very impressive 2nd half of season in 2008 finishing up passing lewis after lewis done his usual late season turd himself. i think the rate of maturity vettel is showing at the minute is very good. compare his defence of kubica in oz 2009 till china the other day with hamilton. parking himself on the apex of turn 14 was class to see. think he will end up as most succesfull driver of all the current field apart from michael. i think he is under rated technically and is also very hard with his engineers and team. we are actually pretty lucky with the class of the field we have at the minute. all time best.


Correction. I meant Bourdais was on the second row.

Michael Prestia

I agree 100%. Remember what Schumacher did with the Jordan in his first race? or what he accomplished in 1996 with the inferior Ferrari. Those types of drives define a driver. To mean Jenson is an average of the mill driver… but he is a world chmapion cause of the car not cause he beat a competitive field. He will always come second to Hamilton when you total up the points at the end of the year. I think Vettel is a great driver but he needs to prove more before he is compared to Senna.


Anyone, including me and you would be the best driver in the world in that Red Bull. Take away this car from him and he is not better than your P. di Resta for example.


Not so fast. Laura told me in Melbourne that he thinks Vettel is the best in F1 at the moment


I can’t buy into seb being the best in f1 at the moment.

He clearly has pace, and a very good car. And it has to be said he’s developing still but not the finished article.

I’m still to be convinced he has the talent of alonso or Lewis for passing. Or handling the pressure.


Lauda typo? Either way I think Vettel has the potential to be a great of the sport.


do u mean lauda or who is laura

Tom in adelaide

I think there is a tendency to downplay Vettel’s performance due to the obvious superiority of the red bull car. That’s natural, but we have to remember that he won in a torro rosso. Has anyone achieved a comparable feat in the past 5 years. The kid has mastered the machine given to him – what more can he do to win people over I wonder?


If you actually recall the race and quali you will remember that he only qualified higher up becasue other teams got their stratergies wrong.

Bourdais (his temmmate) in the sister car qualified 4th. Bourdais has since been dropped from the jr team.

I think that says it all. Sure it sounds impreesive saying he won in a torro rosso.

Added to that the Torro Rosso with Ferrari engines was recieving the full aspec engine support to help stick another 2 drivers up higher into points to slow down Hamilton from scoring points and catching/beating Massa.

So Vettel, while on pole, was only a bit ahead of his teammate who we know as fact wasn’t fast enough for F1 and then he won from pole in a car set for teh conditions.

I don’t call it that big of a deal. Hulkenberg sitting on pole during the wet quali at Brazil last year similiar. His car was more set for the conditions and it was shown in the dry race were he came 10th or so.

The reaosn why people doubt his ability is because

1) He makes lots of mistakes… sure sure ‘he is only young’.. but he is an F1 driver. And that is like putting a baby into an F1 seat and when the baby crashes because he can’t stand the g force at the age of 1 you then say he was so good, but babies can only take a certain amount. Vettel crashed and made heaps of mistakes, Webber, Button, sutil, liuzzi etc…

2) He is barely beating Webber, who until 2009 was pretty underrated, and most don’t think Webber is exactly tier 1 and some wouldn’t call him tier 2. And so Webber is used as a board for marking Vettel then Vettel is beating a long time averagely successful driver.

I personally think WEbber is a bit underrated and Vettel is still lacking a bit and hence why they are similiar, but most people can’t stand the thought of being wrong about WEbber or don’t believe WEbber is good enough to beat Vettel on pace many times each year and run him close in teh championship. Only solution for some is Webber isn’t fast, Vettel is just slow.


Berger, Lauda? and the red bull sister team director fairly unbiased sample!


The fact remains, the way the rules are at present the man on pole (or first into the first corner) has a massive advantage.

Had Vettel led into the first corner in China he’d have won no matter how brilliant Hamilton was as he’d able to use the full pace of his Bull & stretch a lead and hence put him into a position where the team could react to others as needs be.

To me the move of the race in China was equal the pass on Vettel at the start and Hamilton’s overtake of Button,. that’s what won it, I don’t be.leive any other current F1 driver would have passed so quickly as Hamilton did and completely unexpected by Button.

Hats off to Hamilton for being Sennaesk.


Hi Dale,

noting your Hamilton favouritism, your last line is still interesting. Hamilton makes it clear that Senna is his hero, so trying to make parallels is an obvious thing to do.

The situations are different, but it is hard to imagine Senna going for Lewis’ qualifying strategy. Senna much preferred to be first – lead from the front and then manage the gap.

Lewis’ first stint on the used softs was pretty ordinary, but you couldn’t fault the rest without staring at telemetry (and there might not be anything to see). Just as a reminder, Lewis was dropped by Button and Vettel and passed by a Ferrari in the first stint.

You can believe what you like about Hamilton’s pass on Button. Button defended more than he needed to into the last corner and any driver with better tyres could use that to get a run. Lewis might have used more KERS than normal for that part of the to get ahead from there. The pass wasn’t an example of Lewis’s excellent skill under braking as basically none was involve being a such as fast entry.

The other thing is that Lewis and Senna have quite different driving styles. In my view Lewis would have an advantage in slow corners and Senna in the quick ones. I think Lewis’s race pace is more remarkable than his qualifying speed. The tyre strategy in China shows how big a difference the Pirellis are making to the thinking as in 2007-2009, Lewis generally went for an aggressive fuel strategy to get track position.

So rather than Sennaesque, I would just go with a demonstration of continuing development of Lewis Hamilton – the polishing of a diamond (you can pick the colour).




Hi Martin

Nice considered reply – respect.

Having been an F1 fan & supported since the late 60’s in my opinion Hamilton is as close to Senna I’ve seen with his attacking attitude, daring overtakes supreme late braking control and total inner belief in himself.

Of course he’s some way to go to matching him as he’s still learning and true it’s impossible to make like for like comparisdons as todays cars are way more easy toi drive, changing gear alone has changed F1 beyound anything the old days knew.

On qualifying, Senna was the master for sure in the days when records meant something, To see him grab pole so many times, I’d swap todays qualifying any day for a return to the Senna/Prost/Mansell qualifying days with qually tyres all on track at the same time, brilliant, todays’ F1 watchers don’t know what they missed.

Anyhow don’t you just love how passionate true F1 fans get become?


Hi Dale,

You predate my following F1 by nearly 20 years. I came across it in an Australian car magazine. The January 1985 issue of Modern Motor had the last two races of the 1984 season. Prost won both giving him seven wins to Lauda’s five, but he missed out by 0.5 points. As a seven year old he seemed to be the guy to follow. In the last race of 1984, Lauda was second and Senna was third in the Toleman, and that was noted as a great result.

As kid I didn’t see many races until to the 1990s as the timezones put the races on too late, so I read much more about the drivers than seeing examples of it. McLaren was a team I followed at the time – the link antipodean link to Jack Brabham didn’t hurt. The whole Senna-Prost fued, the winning everything for four years and games Honda would play to favour certain drivers, put me off them a bit.

While I wouldn’t claim to have your history of watching the sport and Senna in particular, I will make a few points. The comment about the current cars being easy to drive comes down to two things: the gear change and the traction. A modern F1 car with KERS has more power than Senna raced with since 1987 when the boost limits came in. The nature of the engines is that the torque comes from gearing and that makes the throttle management a bit easier.

The thing that Senna never had was the total downforce of the current cars. Power steering is basically mandatory due to the shear forces involved. The g-loading beat up the drivers to a totally new level. You may recall the banning of ground effects was in part based on what FISA thought the drives could handle. Today’s cars are well beyond that with the aerodynamic development and the tyres. The current seating position doesn’t help – lying flat in a car with basically no springs except for the tyres these days.

The fitness demands are at an entirely different level. Senna built on what Prost learnt from Lauda, but Schumacher took it to an entirely new level. The parallel great increase in reliability, particularly with the brakes, meant that cars could be driven at the limit all the time. (James Hunt’s commentary on the end of the 1982 Austrian GP “Rosberg took that corner on the limit” was relevant as De Angelis didn’t and it was a bit rarer then).

With refuelling, the cars ran at a completely different level of pace, much closer to qualifying. This has elevated the standard of the entire grid. The high grip levels mean that some drivers just don’t have the “brain speed” to cope. Sebatien Bourdais is an example. I believe that he would have been quite good in an 1980s F1 car given his results in other series. Where he might have been shown up could have been in situations such as qualifying where picking where to go without lifting or losing time.

I just laugh at comments on this site where someone says “I could win in a Red Bull”. The idea that computer games give the visual cortex the same work out as the real thing is an interesting one.

Back on Senna and Hamilton, Senna largely did what he needed to for the era in terms of training, but I don’t think he would match the current guys over a race distance. The demands will fade without fuelling, but I think we are at current all-time in terms of drivers who can do 90 minutes flat out without notable errors.

I worked out at one point (bored teenager) that Senna was involved in car contact or an off-track excursion in more than 25 per cent of his races. An that is just what was reported in the magazines. Minor blips probably weren’t mentioned. I haven’t done the sums on Hamilton, but it would be less than this, and this is running at closer to the limit for longer and without a boost button or significant power advantage to make passing a common event.

My memory of qualifying in 1980s is that cars had two sets of tyres for the session of an hour’s length. The results showed there was a wide variation between those drivers who could handle the extra grip and may be 300 kW extra power with little prior practice and those who couldn’t. The grid variations were huge. The correlation between qualifying and race results was not very strong. Senna made it a psychological point to say he was the fastest, but I’m not sure the others cared that much until they were his teammate.

In the races it was usually Mansell who pushed the limits more consistently than anyone else. This led to him having quite high tyre wear as he kept going for it in fast corners.

So, in today’s era I would Alonso or Hamilton to be my race driver over Senna. With 1000 kW in qualifying it might be a different call. I think for many this would be sacrilegious (or whatever the atheist equivalent is).




Hamilton wasn’t on pole and hasn’t led after lap 1

Michael Prestia

I read an article where Hamilton said McLaren’s turnaround is a “miracle” considering where they were in winter testing. I agree… I am amazed at how they went from mid field to top team in a span of 2 weeks.

My guess is they are using a different photocopy supplier then then one used by Mike Coughlan.


Let me break out my small violin for you.

Did you have a similar view when everyone else copied the f-duct last year?

F1 is about an arms race. If someone has something that works, why wouldn’t you investigate and use it.


Jaded Ferrari fan by any chance?!

Don’t worry, they’ll win races this season. Im sure. Ish.


You’ll find yourself in news of the world very soon mate


Thanks James, for the explanation about the different wings. I had a feeling that Red Bull had ‘geared’ their whole race strategy this year to being on pole – since in most recent seasons, the pole sitter has won the race.

I guess they just didn’t factor in enough the significance of the Pirellis and KERS in particular. The last two races have proved that you’re not safe at the front even though Vettel defended superbly for a number of laps. It will be interesting to see if they shift their strategy around – particularly after seein what Mark did, in China.

On the ‘fake’ overtaking debate, IMO some viewers are comparing DRS and KERS to the buttons they push on video games. These have an instant effect – usually successful. But racing a real car on a real track is something completely different.

The talent, teamwork and technology it takes to allow a driver to be in the right place at the right time and then successfully pull off an overtaking move is being severely undervalued every time someone says an overtake is fake. Just think of how a superb driver like Alonso mucked it up in Malaysia.

I could add Temperment to my list of requirements. Not getting frustrated when the driver in front is defending well or when you are stymied by a back marker etc is not exactly easy. I really wish viewers would give these guys some credit for how they use the ‘tools’ they are given.



This is exactly what I’ve been trying to say but, as English is not my first language, I couldn’t put it into words. They all have KERS and DRS but don’t all use them as effectively.

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