The debate over how true to real life the next big F1 film will be is beginning to circulate the F1 fans forums. Will ‘Happy Days’ Ron Howard’s account of the life and times of Niki Lauda and James Hunt and their on track battle be believable or a work of fantasy?
Well, no one involved with ‘Rush’ needs to be concerned because in recent times the chroniclers writing the F1 script are weaving together strands of a tale that is more than surprising and is certainly unpredictable.
Those who criticise the quality of the F1 qualifying experience as a spectacle due to a ‘lack of running’ have an opinion, but give me 3 minutes of high drama and frenzied action rather than 10 minutes of cars going round and round getting slightly quicker with each revolution.
Webber. What can you say? I was debating with a Red Bull team member the likelihood of a ‘Webber failure’ during this weekend, and he grinned and said that it would be so ‘unbelievable’ no one would believe it.
Running out of fuel in qualifying is not in itself unbelievable as Hamilton and Vettel both pushing for pole suffered this fate last season, but for a top 3 team to make such a mistake in Q2??? Who knows? What is fair comment is that if this is not a conspiracy then the Red Bull race weekend team are in some disarray.
Red Bull have been the masters of planning and running the theoretical options that cover most if not all scenarios. It is clear from today, the team are now making reactive decisions that are unlikely to have been considered and the timing of those decisions is being forced in a matter of seconds.
I believe the big call that happened today has not been spotted yet. It was very surprising how fast the Red Bull ran in Q2 and Sebastian’s pace was third quickest only behind Hamilton and Alonso who of course were both in the top 3 by the end of qualifying.
There is no reason to believe if you look at the evolution of times from Q3 to Q2 of all the drivers who used the soft tyre in Q3 that Vettel could not have made the top 3, certainly the front 2 rows. This strategy to qualify well has been part of Red Bull’s DNA and one they have persistently employed as part of their 3 years of dominance and title winning seasons.
So why send out Sebastian on the medium tyre for his best attempt at a time in Q3 and not the soft?
Speaking between Q2 and Q3 to a Red Bull friend of mine following Webber’s demise, I suggested if I was Horner I would fit Seb with the mediums and either set the best time for those choosing this strategy or even sit out the session. The rationale was that were Vettel to go for a soft tyre sprint for the front of the grid, it would probably put him behind Webber after 6-7 laps in the race tomorrow.
Is this how Red Bull’s thinking is now dominated – to plan to keep their drivers as far apart as possible on track? Probably not. Yet it will be a factor they now have to consider when circumstances such as Webber qualifying outside the top 10 occur.
Vettel did try to set a time early in Q3 on a used set of soft tyres but when it was apparent this would be uncompetitive, the lap was aborted to keep open the options for the team.
We then saw Sebastian appear on the medium tyre and the strategy was to qualify the best of those drivers choosing this option in Q3. However, he made a mistake at the hairpin running wide and with seconds to make the call, the team decided that to complete the lap would mean his time would not necessarily be the best of those in Q3 on the medium compound. At least aborting the lap left them the option of fitting Seb with a brand new tyre for the race and this was indeed the optimum strategy given the situation.
However, Jenson Button has created a problem for the team, because should he be able to hold off Vettel at the start and for the first couple of laps, means that Sebastian is not the best placed driver who will adopt the strategy to start with the medium tyre. This means the team have completely lost control of Vettel’s destiny when the lights go green tomorrow.
Worthy of note, an excellent performance from Daniel Ricciardo, this could be exactly what he needs to get him back to where he was in 2012 – believing he can beat his team mate.
Nico Hulkenburg is also nicely placed and should he get the jump on Vettel at the start, there’s a realistic chance of Sauber’s first decent result of the season.
Fernando looked hugely relieved, not necessarily over qualifying third, but because it was ahead of his team mate Massa. Felipe was bullish too when interviewed as he pointed out he struggled to qualify 15th here in 2012 and this indeed is huge progress for him.
Congratulations to Lewis Hamilton. He may be racing in an era that will not deliver him the number of titles that being the quickest driver in F1 may have done so in yester year.
Yet having delivered pole positions for McLaren and now for Mercedes, his claim to being the best 1 lap specialist in the modern era must be taken more seriously than ever before.
Bring on the race. As in 2012, it is too difficult to call in these early season weekends who has the best chance of the win – even after the evidence of FP1,2,3 and qualifying.
It will be cooler tomorrow and this could play into the hands of Raikkonen, but as he noted, the car seems some way off the pace of the Mercedes and it doesn’t look to have the race pace of the Ferrari’s either.
Christian Horner is most definitely downbeat and the team look in some disarray? There may well have been struggles with the RB9 regardless of what happened in Sepang. However, it is likely the current state of Red Bull will be linked to the upheaval they are suffering and they appear to have a lot to do for a podium tomorrow, never mind the win.