Abu Dhabi GP Review: Red Bull exploit the rules again, McLaren questioning Perez signing, Prost: French GP unlikely, Webber woeful

After a race that left most of us breathless, I’m struggling a bit to know exactly what to say. The pictures said it all. The desert races of Bahrain and Abu Dhabi are not renown for their previous excitement – maybe 2010 because it was a title decider, yet even that was rather processional. Anyway, here’s some thoughts on the proceedings and other F1 news.

Just one point I’d like to make as we had an unprecidented number of views yesterday and today reading thejudge13 scoop on fuel being the RB issue 90 minutes before it was announced. Some people who are new to the site may not realise I am not partisan to any driver team or individual in F1. I know a number of them.

The judge13 has a skeptical eye towards all things F1 – nothing is sacred and everyone is a target for comment good and bad. I don’t hate anyone or any team as has been suggested 😀 I just love F1 whether it be the intrigue, destructive self obsession or just the racing in general. I thank you…

State of title races: Red Bull need just 5 points for constructors title and Vettel needs just 15 more than Alonso in Austin. McLaren 22 points behind Ferrari and would have closed this nicely had Lewis’ car not failed. I still think they will overhaul Ferrari as the car looks very fast – but time will tell.

Red Bull exploit rules again: Last night when asked why they had removed Vettel’s car from parc ferme Horner told us it was to find out why they were not able to produce the 1 litre sample as they believed it was in the car somewhere.

It is now clear that by doing so and changing the gearbox, they were able to change the gear ratio’s they declared Friday evening to the FIA. In all other circumstances these cannot be changed from that point.

By doing so they managed to gain an extra 10kph through the speed trap on Vettel’s car over the highest speed they had recorded all weekend. Further, they changed the aero setup, reducing the amount of wing so that the car was now an overtaking machine.

Let me say, they did nothing illegal, but it mitigated the penalty awarded by the FIA – that of starting 24th on the grid. There is no way at all had they not done this Vettel could have overtaken the all the cars he did. He may have made it into the lower points, particularly with the higher than usual  attrition rate of DNF’s.

It was of course exciting to watch, but I for one think this rule needs to be looked at. Red Bull had no gearbox problems and it doesn’t seem quite right they can completely change the car after being thrown out of qualifying for infringing the rules.

Even though Lewis and McLaren had been dominant all weekend, Vettel’s ‘new car’ was as quick as the previously faster McLaren and all through a rule loophole.

Ferrari: Stefano Dominicali didn’t look his usual amiable self, he appeared agitated and brusque following the race. He claimed Vettel was very fortunate and that the gods couldn’t have put all the elements together better for the Red Bull driver.

You have to think Ferrari were expecting Fernando would make serious in roads into the German’s 13 point lead following the fuel debacle with Vettel’s car yesterday. Luca de Montezemolo has been banging on about the bad luck in Japan and Korea, well this was an opportunity to reverse that with Vettel starting in the pit lane.

Christian Horner even concede the best he expected for Vettel was 8 or 9th and therefore 4 points. Had Hamilton not had the car failure, he would probably have romped the race with Kimi second and Alonso 3rd. So it was realistic that the German’s lead in the WDC would be cut to around 2 points.

Yet the 8 points ‘lost’ today are not that significant in the grand scheme of things. Ferrari’s huge problem is qualifying and unless they can up their game in Austin, it may well be that 5th is the best Alonso will manage on Saturday.

The hard truth of the matter is, Alonso could easily have been 5th today in the race today had Lewis not DNF’d and had Red Bull not been penalised. Vettel may even have won. If this happens in Austin – it’s over for another season for the Spanish 2 times world champion.

Alonso looked relaxed at the end of the race and had a glint in his eye when he said about Red Bull, “they have the fastest car, we have the best team – Alonso. Yet for me, Eddie Jordan summed up the day for the Italian team saying, “this will be a dagger in the heart of Ferrari”

Red Bull’s fuel problem: The matter rumbled on into today and it was fascinating to discover that the Milton Keynes team use a fueling procedure no other team employs. Renault crunch the numbers on the engine efficiency and give the team the amount of fuel required by each car for every track session.

Apparently Renault gave the team the numbers for Vettel’s car which turned out to be was 750mg (150ml) under what should have been put in the car. This is quite staggering as it represents about 1/3rd of a lap in the qualifying programme Sebastian was running.

Even more galling, the cars required to give a 1 litre sample are prescribed before the qualifying session begins and Vettel’s was not on the list. He had enough fuel to return to the pits and no one would have been the wiser. But Renault being in charge of fuel issued the instruction to stop the car which the team then did.

I suspect having spoken to someone in Milton Keynes today, the fueling procedures will now be altered as had Red Bull been in possession of the information Renault had yesterday, having learned from Lewis’ in Barcelona they would have known they had nothing to lose and instructed Vettel to return slowly to the pits.

Again the FIA should change the rule forcing all teams to provide a routine sample of 1 litre following qualifying

Tooned: The McLaren commissioned animation series about the team continues this week with a guest appearance from Mika Hakkinen. The mischievous Jenson and Lewis lure him into a kart race – when the prof wanted them to do publicity over the new crash tested doors on the machine. Blink and you miss the joke at the end when the prof irritated by the racing antics he concludes, “You were only supposed to show the bloody doors off” – a covert reference Michael Caine’s comments in The Italian job – “You were only supposed to BLOW the bloody doors off. (Video)

The start: I am continually amazed by Webber’s inability to get off the line well. he had pole in Korea and blew it and again today was slower than almost anyone else getting away. yet this problem has not just been in the 2 races I mentioned, it has been happening all year.

The issue as I see it could be down to 3 things. Firstly Webber cannot operate the launch mechanism effectively. Secondly his reaction times are not so good and finally he is simply not warming up the tyres well enough.

I’ll discount No.2 straight away, simply because his starts are so visibly slow that if it was reaction time he wouldn’t be able to complete a lap without crashing. Number 3 is also hard to believe to be true because his team mate is in the same technology and doesn’t have the same problem – further it’s not that hard to do enough weaving on the parade lap.

All I’m left with (and I’m sure you educated lot will tell me otherwise) is his handling of the actual launch controls. Even this I find highly surprising as surely Red Bull can create a simulation of this for him and make him practice until he’s perfect.

Conversely, it was Kimi’s fantastic start that set up the chance to win the race once Lewis retired. Kimi has been starting well all season. For him it has been worth a lot of points this year and Webber is probably 20 points short from poor starts alone.

Webber: A pretty woeful outing for Mark. I think he could easily have been penalised for his move on Maldonado which was clearly a bad decision. Vettel said after the race that Jenson (same corner) had been very fair and there are other drivers he would not have dreamed of trying to go around the outside of  – Maldonado presumably being one – even though Maldonado was not to blame.

Perez: In the battle between Di Resta, Grosjean and Perez this incident for me was clearly Perez’s fault and Maldonado was an innocent bystander. Perez was returning to the track and the regulations say you must to this in a safe manner – that means he had to concede ground to Maldonado and didn’t.

Webber behind the trio said after the race maybe should have kept his distance as he knew something was going to happen. An honest assessment from Webber of what to be fair was a less than average race performance from him overall.

Since signing for McLaren we have had:-

1. Japan – He tried to go around the outside of Lewis and failed
2. Japan – Tried the impossible move on Kimi round the outside at turn 1
3. Korea – Went for a harakiri at the start of the race which nearly ended in tears for him
4. India – Stupid incident with Ricciardo
5. Abu Dhabi – Returned to the track in an unsafe manner.

We’ve poked fun at Luca, il padrino of Ferrari, but I wonder whether McLaren are wishing they’d listened to him when he stated pre-Perez signing that he was too inexperienced for a top team drive yet. “He is becoming more unimpressive with every race and there are more questions asked as to whether McLaren made the right choice”. (@younger-hamii – f1fanatic.co.uk).

McLaren: Martin Whitmarsh looked particularly disconsolate. The problem was a Mercedes built fuel pump he told us has not failed for 5 years. Yet Monza, Singapore and now here reliability issues have stricken a front running McLaren driver and this is not good enough.

Jenson too was philosophical the end of the race. He said, “I was lacking in straight line speed and traction to pass Alonso” and further conceded it was his problem as “Lewis has been super quick all weekend”. Is the realisation of the pressure of his role of lead driver for 2013 starting to weigh on him?

Mercedes: This is the 4th race in a row where they’ve failed to score a single point. Lewis has to be hoping the 2013 car is as different from this one as chalk is from cheese.

Rosberg appeared to me to have some fault in the crash with the HRT. Slow motion replays show him turning inside the HRT very late and of course as the slower car failed and decelerated quickly the German had nowhere to go.

Kimi: We all heard the radio messages, but what people may not realise is that in the Lotus team it is not Kimi’s race engineer, Mark Slade, that we hear on the radio. Mark goes back a long way with Kimi and was his engineer at McLaren. He apparently warned Lotus pit wall radio man Simon Rene when Kimi took the lead he would not appreciate being radioed and liked to concentrate.

Of course Simon told Kimi the gap to Alonso and he responded, “just leave me alone I know what I’m doing”. The when leading behind the safety car, Simon again reminded him about keeping the tyres warm. Exasperated Kimi barked back, “yes yes yes yes I’m doing all the time you don’t have to remind me”.

During the podium interviews, David Coultard asked Kimi about this and he told us, “”I’m not a big fan of being told many things – I know what to do.” Known for his ‘good times’ the Fin added “Of course we will have a big party tonight and tomorrow when we are feeling bad we will remember why”.

What I find ironic is that as I suggested Kimi likes a drink, and he has to win 1 of the 2 races on the season long calendar where the podium drinks is not alcoholic. According to Coultard, Kimi is very talkative when he’s had a few beers – so much so you can’t shut him up.

Lotus may have a tougher job on their hands next year as today we learned Mike Elliot their aero guru is leaving for Mercedes.

Abu Dhabi decency laws: Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikonen may consider themselves fortunate for not attracting the attention of the local authorities after swearing on the podium through the microphone. “Acting aggressively, cursing, spitting or using offensive language can result in imprisonment.” (link) Now that would cheer Fernando up.

Sebastian Vettel has issued a statement on the Red Bull racing site that says: “I’m terribly sorry for using the wrong word on the podium today and I’m sorry if I have offended anyone who was watching. In the heat of the moment, I didn’t use the right words and I apologise. I’ll do it better next time.”

Prost and French GP: Sorry people – yet another racing calendar story. Prost has agreed to join Paul Ricard’s race bid as an advisor, but was scheduled to be in Abu Dhabi this weekend in his ambassadorial role for Renault and agreed to have discussions on the matter.

While hopeful, Prost is realistic about Paul Ricard’s chances. “The weak point is the lack of funds, even though they are in talks with several potential partners,” he said. “The budget is far from being completed,” said Prost. “It will not be resolved in the meeting today, but it can be done in a couple of days, or not at all.”

Good. At least we know if this is not resolved this week we can forget about it. I don’t see it due to the french governments absolute opposition for any public money to be used.

Caterham: Today was a missed opportunity for the team. When so many driver’s DNF it is the chance for the 3 smallest teams to stake a claim for their seasons best result. This can make a difference of $20m in prize money. Kovaleinen needed to finish 12th to retake 10th spot from Marrusia.

However, I find the way the teams who score no points are ranked quite stupid. Caterham have now 3 x 13th place finishes – Marrusia none, but the Russian team have 1 valuable 12th place finish that will mean regardless of the average race finishing positions, they are top dog among the 3 new teams.

(This page will be updated today as more news develops – check back later)

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23 responses to “Abu Dhabi GP Review: Red Bull exploit the rules again, McLaren questioning Perez signing, Prost: French GP unlikely, Webber woeful

  1. Re: Renault and fueling numbers.

    DC pointed out that something similar had happened to him, when Renault didn’t specify enough fuel, and he lost the race. That would be 17-18 years ago, so I guess that this has always been normal operating proceedure for Renault to do this, and not the teams to decide the amount of fuel ?

    And on your point above, about the FIA having a prescribed list of those cars whose fuel is to be tested being issued prior to qualifying.

    Do you think the FIA will introduce a similar scheme with regard to drivers drug tests ?

    See – http://thejudge13.com/2012/11/02/fia-drugs-tests-a-joke-webber/

    I believe the UCI had a similar system in place during the Lance Armstrong years …..

    • I dispair at the FIA. Jean Todt is clearly a beaurocrat and appears so overwhelmed b y the detail of Concorde, he has no time for anything else. This of course may be a perception and not true. However, you can’t run the FIA and not tell people what you are up to and have some kind of vision and plans that are shared. Old men – stuck in their ways – not ready for the 21st century IMHO.

  2. “Perez was returning to the track and the regulations say you must to this in a safe manner – that means he had to concede ground to Maldonado and didn’t.” So why didn’t Mark get the same penalty when he made Massa spin by rejoining in an unsafe manner? Mark, even with 21 cars between him and Seb at the start was soundly beaten.

  3. You say: ” … the cars required to give a 1 litre sample are prescribed before the qualifying session begins … “.

    Absolutely scandalous if true. it negates any purpose the rule might have had, if teams know in advance which car they can underfuel for the final Q3 stint.

    • the teams do not know…but someone in scrutineering does..most importantly the teams know there is some chance they will not be required to give the sample

  4. …and the irony with Perez is, he gets rewarded with a top drive next season whereas Kobayashi almost certainly loses his seat even though he finished a respectable 6th yesterday and is only a few points behind Perez in the drivers’ championship.

    • It could go horiibly wrong for McLaren next year. Jenson can be a sensitive soul on setup and Perez will think he’s in a rocket ship.

      Could be ironic McLaren have 0 reliability issues in 2013 but their drivers are no where

    • Not the first time Macca reward a driver with a top drive although outscored by his team mate (see Kimi!) if Perez is outscored by Kamui at the end of the season. Not that Perez will ever be in the same calibre as Kimi, although I hope to be proven wrong.

      • i was kinda making two points, one of which you rightly picked up on. The other point was that a decent driver like Kamui is probably gonna lose his seat because he doesn’t bring corporate sponsorship money with him.

        As a McLaren fan, I hope you’re proven wrong as well, although I’m as sceptical as you on that matter.

        • I think I have to say even though I’m circumspect about the choice of Perez, I can understand McLaren not going for Kobayashi – I know this might sound strange but isn’t he bit steady when you look at the big picture?

      • Wasn’t implying that at all. I don’t think Kamui’s good enough to drive for McLaren, but he is good enough to drive for Sauber (or Force India etc).

        If I was McLaren I wouldn’t have gone for Perez or Kobayashi, I’d have gone for Kimi (although whether Kimi would want to go to McLaren is another matter entirely).

        • Lotus had an option on Kimi for a second year if the car scored a certain number of points. It was they not Kimi who enforced this.

          I was reading last week that in a Finnish paper Kimi was suggesting he would like to return to either Ferrari or McLaren one day…sorry didn’t have time that day to include it and then forgot. 🙂

      • That’s really interesting, I didn’t know that. I’d have loved to have seen Kimi back in a top team. I mean, look how good he’s done this year in a Lotus!

        But McLaren’s corporatism probably wouldn’t gel with Kimi’s “say it like it is” style.

      • I guess Macca didn’t have any better options than Perez. If you combine talent + sponsors he was the best available at this time. The only other kind of similar option would have been Maldonado, but I guess Williams have him tied up.

  5. I see what you mean in the very last paragaph, but it’s the same as when 2 teams have the same (non-zero) amount of points – the ones with the most wins, then 2nd places etc are declared ahead. So really, it is fair in this respect

    • The ideal would be to have some imaginary point system so that the best non-point finisher is rewarded. But if they were doing this then they would be asked why not award points for all teams. And then it gets complicated. So it to avoid all that they decided to have the silly rule they have.

      • They could change the point system so that even if you came 24th you get one point, and maybe the winner gets 50 points or something. Don’t think it would be a good idea though…

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