Red Bull: In disarray

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.

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26 responses to “Red Bull: In disarray

  1. Seb had already aborted the lap and then had the problem at the hairpin, he said this was due to his brake problem.

  2. Drivers who impressed me the most in qualifying today were Hamilton for an excellent pole, Ricciardo getting 7th (although he’d probably be 10th under normal circumstances) and Bianchi yet again for a solid run in Q1.

  3. The choice of medium tyres for Vettel and Button will be interesting as a lot will depend on pit stop strategy. The track will have more rubber towards the end of the race so the medium tyres may be the best to be on at the end. So will Vettle and Button try and leave the softs until the last couple of laps? There was one race I remember where the tyre change was done on the last lap.
    There may be some tripping over each other in the pit lane too with most teams stopping on lap 6 or 8. But the Loutuses (Lotii?) may last for 15 or so laps on softs.
    Will Ricciardo be asked to move over by Red Bull in order to favour Vettel?

  4. “but for a top 3 team to make such a mistake in Q2???”…

    Once SB’s pet mentor Marko was reported as saying “team orders rescinded” (confirmed today by Lauda) I thought if racing to the line was now to be the order of the day then both RB’s will at least be fuelled to race to the end.

    The cynic in me wondered if other methods would be employed so as to favour SV, I postulated perhaps MW would be short fuelled to have to run lean so finish a race (as he may have had to in Malaysia) while SV might be fuelled more conservatively.

    What wasn’t on my radar was RB would fuel MB light during bloody qualifying, but not a lot would surprise me in F1. Have to say the body language of SV and Horner spoke volumes this weekend and only MW acquitted himself with any credit and how he kept it together I just don’t know.

    • you should be aware that MW’s fuel problems are caused by fuelpump issues and are addressed to FIA who is responsible for pumps. MW got less fuel than team ordered for him. TJ13 should be able to verify this quickly…

      • One needs to remember, that fuelpumps are owned and operated by FIA and thus FIA responsibilty:

        Team boss Christian Horner said, “Unfortunately in Q2 the amount of fuel that was required to be put into the car from the fuel rig was not fully delivered. This was due to an error with the fuel bowser that meant it under-delivered 3kg of fuel. Therefore on Mark’s in-lap we saw large drop outs in the fuel tank collector and the car unfortunately ran dry of fuel, which is obviously frustrating.”

        Team manager Jonathan Wheatley made a public radio message informing team principal Christian Horner that the fuel bowser had been quarantined.

        • If it was not the fault of the team, nor the driver, that insufficient fuel was put in Webber’s car, then it seems unfair he has a grid slot penalty. I said before that the team would try and keep Vettel and Webber as far apart as possible, but this is just so fortunate for Vettel. Seems a big coincedence. Makes you wonder if he has signed a contract with a guy with horns, or has got some big dirt on someone. LOL

      • Actually there was insufficient fuel for the run, simple.

        Horner admitted the same saying there was only 150ml aboard when there should have been sufficient (3L) to get back to the pit and supply the sample (1L) for FIA analysis. What he suggests is that the filling bowser was out of calibration, inconvenient for MW or what?

  5. I think we can set aside the conspiracy theory – though it does give us another potential new slogan.
    After ‘Red Bull, drink of narcissists’ we now have “Red Bull, leaves you thirsty”….

    I doubt Vettel’s choice of tyres is based on a fear of getting held up behind Webber. Rather, it seems to be a fear of getting held up behind the entire midfield (Webber included, I suppose).
    The starters on the options should have a pretty good shot at carving straight back through the field after their first stop, given the two DRS zones, the first of which is on a massive straight which makes overtaking pretty reasonable even without it. The Bulls, however, are significantly deficient on top straight line speed. A lap six stop would not help Vettel at all.

    One thing I can’t really account for is Vettel going out on the scrubbed options at the beginning of Q3. What was that about ?

    • Re. “One thing I can’t really account for is Vettel going out on the scrubbed options at the beginning of Q3. What was that about ?”

      That was just to fool the rest of the teams – Vettel had tried the scrubbed soft and abandoned the lap, and that would lead everyone to think he will do a new run on the new softs.

  6. Alonso didn’t seem to be pushing really hard, if Hamilton and Kimi did, he might have left a few more laps of life in the soft tyres.
    Will be interesting to see if the pace and tyre management of the Ferrari on the mediums will then be good enough to fight for a podium or win.

    • A few more laps probably won’t help him, as the fall off in pace of the options will give Hamilton etc. the benefit of the undercut.

      Might hold up the prime shod runners for a lap or two, though.

      • Mercedes definitely looked better on the mediums, but Ferrari might have better tyre management.
        Yesterday Lewis did 27 or 28 laps on a set of mediums, is Mercedes going for a 2 stop race maybe?

        • Maybe. But I think Lewis’ stint was 17 laps. The 27 laps appeared at the end of the stint on Autosport live, and my guess is it is a typo. Mercedes will have overtaking to do after an early stop – not good for tyre preservation…

  7. btw, I’m guessing Hamilton FTW.
    Three stops seems to be the optimum strategy anyway, and the durability of the primes means a short stint on the option ought not to be too costly.
    The Mercedes (unless the track changes significantly tomorrow) is comfortably quicker on the prime.
    Even better, a three stop ought to allow Hamilton to push fairly hard throughout the race. As long as the team fuels him….

  8. The rest of the podium is interesting.

    Vettel and the Ferraris ought to have similar overall race pace, while the slightly faster Rosberg is going to suffer by having to stay out for an extra lap after Hamilton’s first stop.

    It’s going to be close, as Alonso has track position, while Massa might have slightly better race pace. Whether Vettel gets held up by Button in the first stint may well decide if he gets a podium.

  9. I cannot subscribe to a conspiracy at Red Bull, there’s too much at stake and eventually someone would spill the beans and I can imagine the FIA taking a dim view and charging them with bringing the sport into disrepute. The qualifying in China goes to show what a lottery the Castrol Edge Prediction game is. If they allowed an adjustment of race finish predictions after qualifying it would be more like a prediction and less like a guessing game. Anybody make use of the Intelligent F1 simulations for their predictions?

    • Yes, absolutely. Very helpful as long as you read carefully. I’ve been following his site for the last 2 seasons and have to say that his info has been spot on. The biggest insight for me was how important (especially with the Pirelli’s) that race pace is to finishing position. If you have the fastest race pace and can qualify in the top 2 or 3 rows then a win/podium is yours barring retirement, accident or a bad start.

      The biggest drawback is you don’t always get useful data for every runner, but his model is by far the best I’ve seen at getting signal from an awful lot of noise. But it’s always a guessing game in any event, that’s why they run the races.

      • Yes and thank goodness they still run the race! An earlier tongue in cheek comment from me suggested a cost cutting exercise for the FIA would be to just run a televised simulation with ads!

        • Spot on is far too kind. I’ve been very wrong – take China last year… And I picked Maldonado’s pace in Barcelona and assumed that he was light…

          Also, simulations don’t account for mistakes or traffic or whether an overtake will happen. First and foremost I’m a fan of racing – if the races just matched the simulations I’d be disappointed.

          • You are always very clear about your assumptions when posting, which is fantastic, because then we get to decide for ourselves. As far as spot on, maybe slight hyperbole, but certainly more than once last season I recall the commentators being “surprised” well after your analysis tipped me off. So I shall stand by my previous comment. Plus, it is just plain fascinating for me to read, as it really illuminates the different levels at which these teams are playing a very expensive high stakes game of chess.

        • HaHa yes, and then Bernie could make it rain whenever he felt like the race needed spicing up. Win Win.

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