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Vettel aiming for century in Barcelona
Vettel aiming for century in Barcelona
Posted By: James Allen  |  16 May 2011   |  11:57 am GMT  |  70 comments

I’m struck by the contrast in the start to the season of Sebastian Vettel has enjoyed compared to last year. He has reached 93 points already after 4 races, something it took him 9 races to achieve in 2010. A sixth place or better will take him past 100 points from five races.

Also interesting is the stat about him leading team mate Mark Webber in qualifying by 4-0, which is quite surprising, given how the pair matched up last season.

Catch me if you can - Vettel is 4-0 up against Webber in qualifying (Red Bull)

The difference this year is that Vettel has an edge over a single lap on these Pirelli tyres. He is able to get a little more out of them in qualifying conditions, which is why the gap between them is measured in tenths this year rather than hundredths as it was last year. As its a question of the way he switches the tyre on, based on driving style and as Webber and others will prioritise getting the race set up right, this is a trend that is likely to continue this season.

“Seb looks pretty happy on the tyres particularly on a Saturday afternoon,” Webber told me in Istanbul. “He’s had four poles in a row and he’s certainly on a roll when it comes to understanding the tyres.”

The odds on Vettel setting a new record for poles in the season (it’s at 14 currently) are a miserable 7-4.

Combine that with Red Bull’s ability to use the DRS wing in mid corner, which other cars aren’t able to do and you can see that Vettel’s got a firm downpayment on pole position at the moment. He’s four from four so far and with Barcelona being the ultimate track for rewarding cars with downforce and aerodynamic efficiency, he’s going to take some beating this weekend. Webber will be buoyed by memories of his dominant pole and win last year, however.

Interestingly the two other team mate comparisons which show a whitewash are also ones you wouldn’t expect to be so one sided; Alonso is also 4-0 up against Massa as is Kovalainen over Trulli at Lotus.

But as we’ve explained here before, Red Bull’s advantage over others in the race, where the DRS can only be used in one place, is less.

This weekend will see some significant upgrades on many cars. Several other teams have been trying to copy Red Bull’s original exhaust exit design and Red Bull need to keep one step ahead. They had a new floor with a modified version of the blown diffuser on Vettel’s car in Turkey, but we never really got to see what it could do as it was damaged in his Friday morning accident. For this race one would imagine that both cars will have it.

McLaren didn’t have the upgrades in Turkey, which is why Ferrari and Mercedes caught them up on pace that weekend. For Spain they will have some of the things which were originally planned for Istanbul. Williams will also debut its exhaust design this weekend.

Mercedes found a step in Turkey thanks to a new rear wing which worked better when switching in and out of DRS function and to some general set up work. With the package stabilised, they will push ahead with some aerodynamic upgrades this weekend in Spain. All eyes will be on the exhaust area, where they are still to make the move towards a Red Bull type of exhaust exit design.

Returning to the statistical analysis some other things are noteworthy; FORIX report that Istanbul featured 79 overtaking moves, tying the all-time record with the 1983 Long Beach GP (a race in which John Watson and Niki Lauda finished 1-2 from 22nd and 23rd on the grid). However, Sean Kelly, who does stats for many F1 broadcasters, suggests the actual number was as high as 82, “depending on how you define a proper overtaking move”. According to Sean, “The amount of overtaking is such that, on lap 12 and 13 combined, there were 16 (sixteen) passes on-track, and lap 17 was the first lap in the entire race that elapsed without a single pass.”

Everyone is agreed that Barcelona will be the acid test of the new adjustable DRS rear wing project as it is traditionally the hardest race of the year to overtake on and races there have habitually been very dull.

The last four Spanish Grands Prix there have seen 5, 2, 4 and 10 overtaking moves in the entire Grand Prix. The polesitter has won the last 10 Spanish Grands Prix (a worse record from a sporting point of view than Monaco).

“There’s not a lot of overtaking chances around the lap and we’ll see if the DRS plays the same role in Spain that it did in Turkey, ” said Jarno Trulli. “If it does then tracks like Barcelona will suddenly have overtaking chances and that’s got to be good for the fans.”

Tyres will again play their part in the overtaking, with Pirelli experiencing severe degradation during the winter tests there. Four stops were the norm in February and March, now with higher temperatures this could be dropped to three stops. Pirelli will race the new developmental hard tyre this weekend, which is has tested at recent events and which should last a little longer than the old hard tyre.

Sauber has a completely new front wing, updates to the front and rear brake ducts, new bodywork, new devices around the floor leading edge and under the chassis, and we’ll be testing the new exhaust system again.

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Vettel is 4-0 against Webber in quali this year. But he is also 5-0 over the last five races in 2010. I agree that the new tyres mean that there is a far bigger margin this year, but something seems to have clicked with Vettel towards the end of last season. If I remember correctly, you even predicted that he would go on a very strong run towards the end of the season. And he did!


DRS is a device meant for overtaking – why is it even allowed in Quali?? Surely it would be better to see the drivers go all out instead of having them pressing buttons on every corner of the track when they can’t do this in the race!

Overall happy with DRS, needs refining but happy. Tires could last a couple of laps longer though, Turkey was hard to keep up!


Just a theory but I suspect Webber’s performance so far this year is contract related. With him being off contract end of this year – he is being frozen out of the latest Red Bull technology/updates, so he won’t be able to take that knowledge with him(to Ferrari or Merc) if he doesn’t stay with the team for another season. Same thing possibly happened last year…webber’s results lifted after he re-signed for another year


That’s very cynical


We’ve seen a number of times in the past few years that the characteristics of certain tyres can suit or clash with a drivers style. And what a difference it makes to a drivers reputation.

It leaves you wondering about how different our perceptions might have been of certain drivers, had the tyres suited their style.

Was it always this way? Would Senna have been as good on Pirelli? Would Schumacher have 7 titles if the tyres had suited his team mate rather than him? Interesting to consider…


According to my calculations, it’s difficult to repeat a feat in F1 more so in these competitive times we live in.

So a driver that was on pole or won a race the previous year, there’s an 80% chance they won’t repeat the feat.

Also my theory held true for a driver that won or was on pole the previous race until Vettel distorted all that this year.

Anyway my calculations go like this …

2010 Jenson won Australia — 2011 Vettel won it

2010 Vettel won Malaysia — 2011 Vettel won

2010 Jenson won China — 2011 Hamilton won

2010 Hamilton won Turkey — 2011 Vettel won

2010 Webber won Spain — 2011 Vettel won

2010 Webber won Monaco — 2011 Hamilton won

And so on & so forth & since Vettel won a lot of races late last season, there’s a 80% chance he won’t repeat the feat when those races roll by.

P.s. Another reason why Webber won’t win, he’s already thinking of retirement after missing his big chance last year.


2 things…..

1) Webber isn’t going into retirement according to his statements… in fact he wants another year contract at RBR and thinks he has the pace for it he just needs to sit down later in the year to do it.

2) Your making stuff up. You can’t say ‘___ won’ if the race hasn’t taken place yet. As I have said befoe I think, that Monaco since 2005 has been won by the fastest car and Hamilton wont have the fastest car I don’t think. Webber to win atleast won of the next 2 I think.


BBC and RTL confirmed they both had those updates James, were they wrong?

On top of that, Webber had an extra update which Vettel didn’t have too (besides the exhaust thing) again confirmed by Kravitz, Brundle and DC (whom are close friends of Webber so they can’t be wrong?).

Meaning, Webber had 2 updates Vettel didn’t have on his car and still he couldn’t come close to Vettel.


According to the Formula 1 website, the upgrades were taken off of Webber’s car as well. The commentators often have errant information, which is to be expected when you’re covering something live and don’t have the time to double-check every little detail.


Only 82 passes? I suggest zou take a look at They’ve done a thorough analysis of each pass, and have come up with an astounding 126



Do you think there is any chance the FIA may ban the use of DRS in qualifying later in the season?

Especially if Vettel is running away with the title, it would certainly help the others.

The governing body do have a bit of previous when it comes to closing up a title race where they can!


Are you suggesting the FIA should manipulate the regulations, disadvantaging Vettel, advantaging the others, so that other drivers can have a chance at beating Vettel?

Wow, as if all these artificial gimmicks weren’t enough, now “fans” demand even more?


Indeed. I think the rules are what they are and we deal with them this year.


I for one certainly am not fussed if they are not changed, I see little point in DRS being allowed for the whole lap in qualy however I have nothing against Vettel, he deserves all the success that is coming his way at the moment.

Just things like Mclarens use of Berilyum materials in 2000 being banned and Renault’s mass damper in 2006 spring to mind.


I can definately tell you that I do not agree with you James, and fully expected Alonso to whitewash Massa. I expect Massa to probably only outqualify Alonso on probably only two races maximum throught the season and that is if Massa gets lucky. Look at last season when Alonso got into gear. Massa only outqualified Alonso at Spa at the from mideseason onwards.


I think some allowance has to be made for Massa (particularly last year), recovering from his terrible head injury – in my view, just being back in F1 is a great victory for him. He’s looked stronger a few times this season and I’m sure he can improve.


That still does not change the fact that Alonso is a much better driver then Massa. If Alonso is quicker then Massa at Turkey, habitually one of Massa’s strongest circuits, then the writing is on the wall. Last season Massa outqualified Alonso at Turkey. This season there is nothing to suggest that Massa will come close to Alonso. If anything I expect the gap between the drivers to get bigger as the season goes on. Once Alonso gets in the groove he will dominate Massa again just like last seaason when he was beating him by sometimes up to 7 tenths-8 tenths of second.


Possibly – Alonso is certainly a great driver.

Perhaps Massa isn’t quite the driver he was before his terrible accident though and/or maybe Ferrari are operating a more single driver centric team than back in the Raikkonen days…


“…Red Bull’s ability to use the DRS wing in mid corner…”

If the RB cars can use DRS on a corner then they’re surely receiving a big dollop of downforce from somewhere else. I don’t think that trick exhaust is enough to make such a big difference (though of course it will help) so it can only mean that damn bendy front wing creating ground effect, which none of the other teams — or the scrutineers — have yet fathomed. Methinks it’s time for further investigations.

I note your mention of the great John Watson, James, who was always a favourite of mine and, IMHO, seriously underrated by many people.


I don’t agree with you. If the downforce advantage comes only from the front wing the car will be heavily over-steering which not only doesn’t give good pace but helps destroy the tyres.

You need aero balance between the front and the rear to make the car quick.


True — but as we’ve heard many times, the front wing affects the airflow over the entire car.

Rich In Norway

Why are pirelli trying to make the tyres last longer? I thought that everyone was in aggrement that they have the balance right in regards to tyre wear. Am I missing something here?


In recent GPs the hard tyres were slower, but didn’t last significantly longer than the soft onces. So there was no point in running them save for the race-both-compounds rule. Pirelli are trying to make the hard last longer, so that teams have a real choice between running shorter and faster stints on softs, or longer and slower stints on hards.

Rich In Norway

Ah…That makes sense. Thanks for clearing that up for me!



Red Bull it’s a very organized team. Everything is under control, everything. From that point of view, this year RB are optimizing their “resources” to avoid 2010 mistakes. Sorry but not credible differences between 0,5 – 1 second in F1 after 2010 season. No magic Vettel, not at all.


82 overtakes in Turkey… but how many were real overtakes? I can’t remember any great overtakes and I doubt I will in the future.

I may be in the minority, but I would prefer 20 overtakes, 5 of them great that you will tlak about till next race and maybe 1 that you will remember as a highlight of the year.

I think 82 is way too many and stupid, it is taking away form the INTEGRITY of the the placing of the car if they can just jump around without trying.

It also places emphesis on tyres yse and STRATERGY over SKILL or ABILITY

You still can’t overtake ibn the middle of the race if you are runnning the same stratergies with similiar cars. The only difference is that the tyres have made it so you one driver can be on new softs while aonther is finishing some softs.

Watching that would be a bit more interesting than any of the DRS ‘overtakes’ which hsould probably be better known as ‘passes’.

Why can’t the FIA just limit the aero drag by each car or limit the amount of downforce produced by the front and rear wings? That way it would be more about effeciency and teams INNOVATION of how to get more on without braking the rules.

If cars had less drag they could overtake and if they overtake that way no one will ever be able to call it fake.


Did you not notice the rule changes in 2009?

That’s almost word for word what happened, the teams innovation was the double-diffuser, then the blown diffuser and hey presto, we’re back to heavy reliance on aero.

There is no perfect solution but the DRS is the best effort we’ve seen so far. The general consensus seems to be that it was a little too effective in Istanbul but it was pretty much spot-on in China and Malaysia.

In fact, I’ll think you’ll find that the over-taking moves that are decided before they’ve even started are due to a differential in tyres, not the DRS. Hence, a more logical approach would be for you to complain about that instead.

Happy moaning.


There is a fery simple solution. Irradicate the problem.

If the problem is big wing produce drag then get rid of the big wings. Don’t do it half arsed and kind sorta limit it. Reduce the winglets, reduce the size, reduec the effictiveness. Done.



I’ve just noticed you have already moaned about tyres.

I’m stumped… You’ll have to come up with some fresh material.


F1 is evolving but it appears that viewer’s attention spans are decreasing. Nevertheless, thanks to BBC and motoring journos (thanks James) for giving us more views and analysis to consume.

As I’ve said before, if there are 3-4 drivers fighting for the title in Brazil I’m sure the number of overtakes will take a backseat to a thrilling finale.


Another day passes without comment on the sutil/lux row from the major f1 journos. Weak.

Fans are left to gather what information there is from minor blogs & forums.

Fans always suspected f1 was a closed party. Now we know the motoring ‘journalists’ don’t want us in either.

Doubt this will be posted…


Something happened in a private club, witnessed by people who’s best interest is to maintain silence. I doubt we will ever hear more about this, at least not officially. Also, I am not sure that it is any of our business. It didn’t happen on a track, so I don’t care. Let people have lives, what happens in private is private.


Wrong – statement from Lux just released.


Wrong about that. What do you want me to say about it? Sounds like an ugly confrontation, but I don’t tend to do much on a story unless I can add value and insight. There are no restrictions, just a lack of clarity.

Michael Prestia

I read an apology of sorts from Sutil and he mentions cutting Lux by accident. So was it an accidental mishap or was it a fight?


Certainly Vettel has had more success pushing the car hard during his (one and only) Q3 qualifying lap.

The way I see it, Webber is able to extract 100% from the Red Bull package but then reaches his limit. Whereas Vettel can squeeze 102% and still keep 4 wheels on the track.

I think Alonso is the same. He’s able to dig deeper and pull something magic out of the bag. It’s just that the current Ferrari car doesn’t yet have the ultimate pace to challenge for wins.


I think attributing 102% to Sebastian Vettel is a over-egging it somewhat.

I don’t think Mark Webber can get 100% out of the car on a single qualifying lap and our best guess seems to be that he’s unable to switch the tyres on like Vettel can, which might explain the differential from last year.

I really like this idea of a comparison in percentages but when you do the maths it’s a lot closer than you think.

Vettel’s pole lap in Instanbul was 1m 25.049 (or 85.049 seconds). The gap to Mark Webber was 0.405 seconds. If Vettel’s lap time was 100% of what the car could achieve, then Mark’s time was 99.52% of the ultimate lap. **

I think this goes to show just how tight the margins are at the business end of F1. Sebastian Vettel is walking away with pole position, seemingly comfortably but in reality, his last pole time was just a half of 1 per cent faster than his team mate’s.

How this sport continues to boggle…

** It’s worth adding that Seb was faster than Mark in all 3 sectors, so his combination of sector times was the ultimate lap for Red Bull. The overall “ultimate lap” was just 0.013 quicker, which is the margin that Jenson Button was faster by in sector 3.


much more likely that Webber’s only getting 90-95% out of it and Vettel’s getting closer to 100%.


You can’t beat physics. It’s a popular myth, especially that Senna could get more out of the car thanwhat was blah blah…

Physics works like physics works. A driver can get more out because of his driving style, how much he can use all four tyres without braking the grip on the other etc… It has nothing to do with being able to brake the laws of physics or magic tricks.



I agree that you can’t beat physics, but you can exceed the limitations of our current understanding of physics.

Great drivers have long been able to drive a car faster than what should have been possible from a physics and mathematics point of view. I think this means that the math and physics were lacking, not that the driver was magic.

So, maybe some drivers are able to exceed 100% of the known maximum pace of a car, not because the driver is magic, but because the 100% number isn’t 100% accurate.


But the point exists overall, no matter how you measure any force or explain any theory, the fact is that you can only drive a car as fast as it is physically possible to do so.

NO amount of fingure waving, fist pumping or youbtube fan clips set to over the top music is going to make any driver be able to drive faster than it is physically possible regardless of whoever has a formula.

Back in the 1920’s there was even less knowledge, that doesn’t mean they were able to drive even faster (i.e. 120% of it), it just means there is a lack of knowledge.

Ferrari’s wind tunnels say the car should be faster than it is, that doesn’t mean Alonso and Massa are bad drivers, it just means that the wind tunnel is wrong and they are driving what hey are given regardless of what formulas say.


It’s rubbish that our understanding of physics as it relates to F1 cars may not be fully fulfilled yet? We know (and by we I mean people way smarter than I) all there is to know?

This may be nothing more than a semantics issue, but it is possible to exceed the limits of our known understanding of something.


Rubbish. As I see it, Vettel is pushing the car to 99.9% of its potential, and Webber’s only reaching something like 99.0%. If you try to push past 100% then you’re overdriving the car and you’ll probably run wide, spin the car, or crash.


[Like] +1

Thomas, Calgary

On a different subject for all the US & Canadian followers, “Senna” has been picked up by a film distributor and is set for a [limited, no doubt] cinematic release.

Great news.


Any idea when?


Sorry, I missed that bit in all the excitement! The release date is August 2011.


On the subject of updates – it would be good to acknowledge the contributions of Red Bulls Head of Aerodynamics Peter Prodromou and Chief Designer Rob Marshall. Adrian Newey seems to get all the plaudits but these 2 guys are unsung heroes.


James, I’m actually not sure what the Head of Aero, Chief Designer and Newey all do.

Could you please enlighten?

If the cheif designer designs..the overal mechs of the car then the aero does the aero and newey does the ???



Newey official position is Chief Technical Officer. Which I guess would mean he is the boss of Prodromou and Marshall.


Then what does he actually do to the car? Cars with newey on board tend to win, so he obviously does something very well, but what?


“They had a new floor with a modified version of the blown diffuser on Vettel’s car in Turkey, but we never really got to see what it could do as it was damaged in his Friday morning accident. For this race one would imagine that both cars will have it.”

Was that confirmed by RBR? Seems no one else picked up on this lack of equity at the “fairest team on the grid”… obviously Vettel smashed his upgraded car anyway.


Most teams do this now, one car runs a “control” setup and one car runs an experimental setup. With the lack of in-season testing this is the best way to ensure that your new parts are doing what your simulator and wind tunnel say they should.

This new floor, most likely, would not have been raced. Maybe if it provided massive benefit they would race it, maybe even on one car, but I doubt RBR would take that chance now. I could see McLaren, Ferrari or Mercedes doing this though.


Since SILVERSTONE LAST YEAR, it was agreed the driver leading in points will receive 1st the updates. So it is fair.


It was on ….. Yes Vettel binned his so they didn’t use it in Turkey.


The new parts where on Vettel’s car is what JA said, so not on Webber’s? That’s what interested me. And no, I’m not suggesting that’s what decided the result, clearly Vettel is just on top form.


Just like last year, I would say Hamilton will be the first non Red Bull driver to pole it (If that’s even humanly possible)

Aah now that’s dismal reading, the last 10 Spanish GPs have been won from pole – WHAAAT?! All this on a track were rain is a stranger so basically this race will be won on Saturday, swell.

Now Webber can’t pole or win this race because he poled & won it last year & neither can Hamilton for the Spanish fans have his voodoo doll & hence why 3rd place has been his best result at Barcelona & that leaves us – who else but … The Smiling Champ Vettel.

Maybe Vettel will get a tennis injury giving the others a shot – who knows.

Roll on the weekend


Why would Webber not do it this year because he did it last year!?!?


According to my calculations, it’s difficult for a driver to repeat a feat of a pole & a race win from a previous year more so in these competitive times we live in but this theory is not 100% accurate maybe 80% correct for instance,

2010 Jenson won the Australia — 2011 Vettel won

2010 Vettel won Malaysia — 2011 Vettel won

2010 Jenson won China — 2011 Hamilton won

2010 Hamilton won Turkey — 2011 Vettel won

2010 Webber won Spain — 2011 Vettel won

2010 Webber won Monaco — 2011 Hamilton won (Because Monaco is a driver’s track)

Also I think Webber can’t win the Spanish Grand Prix because he’s already thinking of retirement after his big chance past his by last year so basically there’s no more motivation.


You do realise you are predicting Monaoc and Spain and for Monaco to be an upset?

and btw the ‘driver’s track’ called Monaco has been won in the fastest car the last few years

2010 – Webber in a RBR (WCC)

2009 – Button in a Brawn (WCC)

2008 – Hamilton in a McLaren (all mclarens tech was put into hamilton)

2007 – Alonso in a McLaren (mclaren were faster, both drivers 1 point away from win in WDC.)

2006 – Alonso in a Reanult (WCC)

2005 – Raikkonen in a McLaren (Fastest but unreliable)

I hardly call it a drivers circuit. It’s more of a fastest driver at the time in the fastest car circuit.

I’m predicting Webber to win atleast one of the next two.

Michael Prestia

Why are you discounting Ferrari? I’m certain that Alonso finished more than a half minute infront of Hamilton last race!


And how much of that did Lewis lose when he had his slow pit stop?


Well this is my opinion.

I discount Ferrari & Alonso in particular from winning in Spain or anywhere else for that matter for if you look back at the 1991 season, Prost never won a single race & was on the podium a total of 5 times.

Also if you look back at the 1990 season (Prost’s first year at Ferrari) he won 5 races & lost the title at the last race – as did Alonso last year.

And since Alonso is the new Prost, I discount him from winning any race this season besides I think he’s a spent force.

As for Massa, the 2008 circus at Brazil broke his back & to make matters worse, his accident at Hungary took another couple of tenths off his game so I can’t see him finishing ahead of Alonso in many races let alone win any race.

P.s. Ferrari have never won the WDC while an Italian team principal was in charge.


I have said it before, and I will say it again – Wasn’t Enzo Ferrari Italian?


Last time someone went from 3rd to win the WDC in the last race was Raikkonen in 2007. By the end of 2009 he was gone.

So following your logic Vettel should be buggering off to DTM, WRC or NASCAR by the end of 2012. Lucky Red BUll has the money to pay him off

Michael Prestia

P.P.S. Prost is French and Alonso is Spanish so your arguement. Your theory is shot!


What a ridiculous set of statements.


I think your a bit hung on stats and trying to compare past seasons to the present, no two seasons are the same


@James Allen Montezemolo Lol. Never heard of him. Thanks, yes we learn something new everyday on your blog


Montezemolo in 1970s?

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