China GP 2013: Off Track post race review

Thankfully after the past couple of weeks, the ‘off the track’ post race report I write will be considerably shorter than some of my recent reviews.

Firstly, lets clear up the matter of 8 drivers under investigation for use of DRS under yellow flag conditions. All 8 escape sanction and the stewards note the following.

“There was a delay of one minute from the display of the yellow flags until the message appeared on the official message system”.

The electronic marshalling system DRS disable function was not operational, so the drivers were relying on communications and information conveyed to them in the “Note to Teams” which was issued prior to the Race, resulting in a degree of confusion.

The DRS use was on the main straight where a green light was displayed”.

I shall refrain from ranting over why our multi billion dollar sport still cannot operate its electronic marshalling electronic control systems more than a month since discovering it was defective.

This aside, if it doesn’t work then we should return to the yellow flag manual system. Should this state of affairs be likely to continue, I believe the drivers should have been penalised to make the teams pay better attention to this aspect of race control – which as we always hear from the health and safety brigade, is a matter of safety and protection from injury or death.

Moving on to the teams TJ13 will feature today.

Lewis HamiltonWe’ll start first up with Mercedes. Lauda has been up to his usual tricks of speaking first, thinking later – and making decisions without possible proper consultation. We heard on Saturday that there would be no more team orders within the Brackley based team, however this appeared to be something of a surprise to Ross Brawn.

It is clear that the confused state of affairs within the team continues, as Brawn was asked about Lauda cancelling team orders. Grinning he replied, “My reaction is that I am on the pit wall – that’s my reaction”.

Ross was then asked where Niki was today – with RTL or Mercedes? His response said it all, “well… both – that’s the reality”.

It was interesting that Mercedes brought both Hamilton and Rosberg in on lap 5 to change tyres. Whilst the commentary called it a double stack pit stop, the distance between the cars and the speed of the mechanics was such that it appeared Nico suffered no time loss as he didn’t have to stop and wait for Lewis to leave.

When asked about the first pit stop, Rosberg said that it was discussed and planned and he had no problem with it. The incremental exposure Nico is getting form being Hamilton’s team mate is raising his profile and I for one am liking what we’re seeing. He has an edge and a hunger I’m not sure I saw before but there is a fairness to Rosberg which means what he says is worth listening to.

He complained about the team orders in Sepang because they had not discussed the scenario, yet clearly Brawn and the team had identified the ‘double stack’ pit stop as a likely necessity and therefore both drivers knew what to expect.

There are those in the media who claim they sense a renewed optimism in the Brackley outfit since the arrival of Hamilton. Brawn’s take on this was to dodge the issue slightly but he did state that, “Its difficult for me to judge Lewis before [he joined Mercedes] because I didn’t work with him. Since then I have however found him very straight forward and fun to work with.”

During the race Lewis commented on the radio that he couldn’t live with Alonso’s pace after the first round of pit stops. He further suggested whilst in the ‘ready room’ for the podium ceremony that he was impressed with both the pace of the Ferrari and the damaged Lotus of Raikkonen.

It is normal for a driver’s race engineer during the slow down lap to congratulate them on their performance in the race across pit to car radio. Yet immediately following Lewis engineer’s praise we heard Ross Brawn add the following.

“Ok Lewis… vey good drive, very good drive. We’re not quite there yet but not so far away. So lets keep working hard, but very good drive, very good drive”.

Is this a small sign that Brawn and the team understand at times they will need to manage Lewis somewhat as he appeared a little subdued. This despite 2 podiums in 2 races for Lewis and Mercedes – and when we remember some of the comments made during testing – surely these results are beyond both Hamilton’s and the team’s wildest dreams.

On the podium Lewis had only this to say. “I’m really happy with today’s result, I mean great result for the team – very happy with the points – the team did a fantastic job all weekend. Unfortunatly we didn’t have quite the pace these 2 had – and were very fortunate to get on the podium”.

Red Bull:
Christian HornerPrior to the race we saw a rather serious and somewhat deflated Christian Horner speaking about the ‘under fueling’ of Mark Webber’s car yesterday. It was suggested to him that for a team so proud of it’s attention to detail that making the same mistake as they did in Abu Dhabi was poor.

Horner retorted, “It’s a totally different issue to Abu Dhabi… and the issue has come up – yesterday where there was an under delivery of fuel – the right requests were made – but that fuel didn’t make it to from the bowser to the car – the guys have quarantined that Bowser now”.

When it was suggested to Horner that the team now needed the firm hand of his management to restore unity and success, he responded in a rather tetchy manner. “I’ve got the best out of them for the last 4 years and I’ll do it again”.

May I point out, I did not say there was a team conspiracy to under-fuel Webber in the TJ13 piece yesterday, and the title of the article asked whether we are now looking at a team which has been so well drilled in the past – but for some reason at present all over the place.

The Red Bull team once famed for its work hard and party hard together culture is not one with too many smiles at the moment. The real problem is that suggestions of conspiracy or actual evidence of incompetence will eat away at those who have been carried along with the culture of self belief.

There is an element of a mantra becoming a self fulfilling prophecy. Yet the Red Bull mantra of success through incredible teamwork can quickly be replaced by one where repeated errors now become the norm. We heard Red Bull blather and blame Renault for the fuel issues in Abu Dhabi but no final result was ever announced of that ‘quarantined investigation’.

Who was actually at fault matters not because Renault and Red Bull win as a team and lose as a team. So here we go again, a car under fuelled… Horner inferring others are to blame… and then a poor pit stop with a wheel not fitted properly.

I guess Christian will be issuing statements accusing the wheel gun manufacturer of poor quality workmanship next. Maybe for now the party is over for Milton Keynes and some hard questions need to be asked and answered and some humility and responsibility accepted and taken.

Fernando AlonsoToday we saw the first Ferrari win since before the summer break in 2012 – at the German GP. It was good to see the joy and satisfaction on Dominicali’s face – someone who has experienced the most intense pressure that comes with being the Maranello team principal when Ferrari are not winning.

Stefano had this to say, “Today was a really good race and the pace was extremely strong. As always though – I say it’s just a win. If we want to fight for our target then this is not enough – so lets for sure be happy for today and focus on the race next Sunday.

To be honest from what we did Friday, we expected to have a good pace in the race. And that’s why I know there was a lot of discussion last night about why we had decided to start with the option tyres.

 But we felt it was the right thing to make sure we had a good jump on the start and then run well later on the medium”.

We still have those in F1 criticising the Pirelli 2013 compounds, Hamilton had suggested the soft tyre was like nothing he had ever seen in his racing experience. Yet I’m having de ja vu. This time last year I was debating on an F1 forum with those arguing that qualifying on pole was no longer important. Further, they maintained that not running in Q3 and saving tyres – starting 8,9, or 10 – was now the strategy to employ.

I’m sure some of you dilligent TJ13er’s will go and get the facts, but nothing has changed. Qualifying well in 2010, 2011, 2012 and now 2013 is still the right way to maximise the opportunity of a win and a podium as demonstrated by the teams who did set soft tyre times in Q3 yesterday.

Of course Vettel’s attempt at the reverse strategy was impressive, yet it did indeed fail – and as yesterday, I still question the Red Bull decision not to run Sebastian on the soft tyre and qualify in the top 4.

Whilst I read avidly James Beck’s Intelligent F1 model and to be fair he has it right more than wrong in my experience – the actual results prove that there is an inherent conservatism in many of the models used to predict pit stop strategy and Pirelli tyre wear that fails to account for the lesser conservative strategy.

Maybe it is worth having a ‘correction factor’ for these models. It may not be explicable or provable by extrapolation – but it accounts for the results that invariably deliver the message that tyre wear and performance is better in the race than most expect.

(I’ll sit back and watch with amusement the debate this should create, having launched that hand grenade – Enjoy and back tomorrow D) J

8 responses to “China GP 2013: Off Track post race review

  1. Another error from the “master strategist” Brawn. He left Hamilton out too long and allowed Raikkonen to take his position on the last pitstop. He misjudged the fuel requirements in Malaysia and also made an error in tyre strategy in Australia. Three races three big mistakes. Overrated like Hamilton.

    • I think they did the best they could. Raikkonen could always run a longer stint and was faster even with a damaged front wing/nose. Vettel could have passed perhaps if he came in a lap or two earlier (accounting for track evolution, and assuming he’d have gained time with 1 or 2 extra soft laps), while at the end of the race Lewis looked like he was hustling the Mercedes to stay in front of Vettel.

      Looks like Raikkonen should avenge last year and win in Bahrain, and Alonso is a sure bet for a title challenge, along with Vettel naturally. Lewis’ chances depend on how the Merc can develop and I hope we see Kimi & Alonso duke it out before the rules change and everything gets jumbled for 2014.

      On the race simulations – sky commentary mentioned the teams’ simulations showing Raikkonen as the victor – I imagine the teams’ simulations take into account track evolution, temperature drop, fuel depletion, and a range of probable strategies for others and hence cars encountered, time lost in traffic, etc. You could take it further and say the slower the top speed the longer it’d take to pass cars…

      • Lol. The ‘rampant horses’ may be the clue I suggest 🙂

        In England’s green and pleasant land, horses do not rampage and neither are they rampant.

  2. For those who were wondering what would happen if Ferrari gave Alonso a competitive car, now you know…

    • Many have said, give him a car within 2/10ths of the pace setter and he’ll do the rest.
      Many have said, Massa will threaten Alonso..

      As Alonso said himself, on BBC website,

      “The Spanish media quizzed him on the subject on Thursday, and he responded with humour: ” I haven’t slept since Australia. I’m only eating white rice. I’m losing my hair. A huge drama.” The drama, clearly, was in people’s imaginations. ”

      People will quote Button as having out-scored Hamilton in their 3 years together. This is simply forgetting all the retirements and incidents that Lewis had. Quite convenient. Then people who support Hamilton will say, you can only take it annually.

      How about these people, who generally don’t like Alonso or Ferrari, looking at this statistic and it’s measurement and saying , in 3 years Alonso has destroyed Massa. In every season he has been significantly ahead.

      Long may it continue, this guy is truly magical.
      Kudos to Kimi too, at last we have the 3 best at the front.

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