> F1 2011: Race 3, China

F1 2011: Race 3, China

Posted on Sunday, April 17, 2011 | No Comments

Race 4 3 was absolutely thrilling to watch – a real return to the strategic, high speed chess match that we used to see a few years ago.  The difference of course is that this time the chess-like positioning of the cars aren’t around pit stop and fuel, but around how the tyres are used and when.

 

Thankfully though, this wasn’t the Red Bull domination we’ve seen thus far this season, but it was a race of contrasts; Vettel on pole with his team mate Webber starting 16th, only in the race it seemed that Webber was the man on the move all the way up to 3rd place with 3 stops, whilst Vettel dropped a position on a 2 stop strategy.

 

Like-wise at McLaren, my driver of the day last time out, Button, started second and fell to fourth in comedic fashion, whilst Hamilton moved from third to first.  The comedy moment of the race of course was Button parking in the Red Bull pit garage at his first stop, before suddenly realising that his guys were the next garage along!  Unfortunately for Jensen, this mistake held only himself up, whilst Vettel was able to slow and then slide into his pit garage for his routine stop and jumping Jensen.  Make no bones about it, it was a HUGE mistake which no doubt left Button awfully red faced.

 

Continuing the race of contrasts, over at Ferrari the team seemed to look like strategic masterminds whilst also falling over themselves and losing the plot all at the same time.  Felipe Massa continued the trend of beating his team mate off the line for the third race in a row, then it all came down to strategy.  Alonso and Ferrari opted for a 2 stop strategy, the same as Felipe, but having been left fighting with Schumacher (who took an early stop and vaulted himself into the race for points), for much of the stint and left his tyres worse for wear than they should have been.  Ferrari, perhaps foolishly, sticking to their guns left Fernando out on track to struggle with his tyres (which left him battling with just about everyone around him), instead of switching him to a 3 stop strategy like most of the other teams around him.

 

Looking across at Massa however, who was able to make the 2 stop strategy work appeared to be a ‘return to form’ for the Brazilian.  He seemed very much like he was under control and racing extremely well – even once his second set of tyres faded with 10 laps to go, he defended really well and was able to hold onto his position for far more laps that he perhaps should have been able to, which highlights how well the Ferrari does look after its tyres.  To fall from 2nd to 6th was extremely harsh for Felipe today, but it was a refreshing change for him not to let his head drop today and continue on as best he could.

 

Also on form in this race, Mercedes seemed to gel everything together this time out and able to show the promise they did in pre-season testing, but was this a one-off performance or are they really starting to get things together.  Its difficult to remember that this is the same team that won the championship as ‘Brawn’ just a couple of years ago; clearly they should still have it.  Schumacher and Rosberg both pitted extremely early in order to make up a bunch of positions with Rosberg even, somehow, managing to make his way into P1 and lead the race.  Schumacher looked like the racer we all know he should be dicing around with a number of cars today.

 

Renault/Lotus dropped the ball massively after two successful races – it seemed that after a number of failures in Qualifying they were left out of position and never really able to recover.

 

My favourite rookie of the season – Perez – also had a bit of a shocker all in all.  He appeared to be feisty and in a racing mood early on, but as the race progressed it appeared that he tried to emulate his team make Kobashi a little too much attempting some ambitious overtaking moves, but never quite being able to finish them, earning himself a drive-through penalty and remaining under investigation after the race. Overall though, I believe he remains a promising driver for the future, as is Paul Di Resta who not only qualified well, but also seemed to maintain a decent race pace too.

 

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Race three:  The strategic use of tyres and importance of getting that strategy right has now been very much highlighted for the rest of the season.

 

Ferrari Result:

 

Alonso - 7th: Was left on the entirely wrong strategy, which Ferrari never seemed willing to correct, despite my yelling at the TV screen. Raced well against Schumacher, but not where he expected to be. Desperately needs to get his start procedure right.

 

Massa - 6th: Todays result wasn’t reflective of what Felipe brought to the race this weekend. His tyres let him down with only a handful of laps to-go - mirroring the strategy of Vettel, yet seemingly able to hold onto his car a lot, lot better. A return to form that I hope boosts him back into racing regularly like this and not letting his head drop.

 

Man of the Race: It came down to two for me; Webber or Massa. Webber undoubtedly drove a great race from the back, but for Felipe to beat his Ferrari team mate was far more significant overall in my opinion – which is why Felipe Massa is my driver of the day this weekend.

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