Sunday, April 18, 2010

F1 China 2010

Redbull locked out the front row of the grid for the second time in four races after some stunning qualifying laps, nets Vettel and Webber first and second respectively. Unfortunately, Redbull were unable to capitalize on their grid positions in the race where wet conditions made strategy more important than raw performance.

The race start was dry enough that everyone (except Virgin Racing, I think) started on slicks, but a first lap incident brought out the safety car. While behind the SC, the rain became worse and Button switched to the intermediate wet tires a full lap before everyone else. This crafty choice is what eventually won him the race. Button is really showing that he deserves to be world champion.

As usual, the rain brought plenty of close racing and some impressive driving under difficult circumstances. The latest generation of intermediate tires are apparently not as durable as they were in previous years, and by the end of the race, everyone was struggling with extremely worn tires. Unfortunately, there was was some very scruffy driving as well.

In one example, while making a pit stop, Hamilton passed and almost collided with Vettel in the pit entry lane. Then the teams released them from the pit boxes at almost the same time, and they almost collided again! They drove side by side down the pit lane with Vettel slightly in front, before Hamilton finally backed off. What was that all about?!

The FIA has banned automatic ride height adjustment a systems, which almost everyone suspected Redbull of using. Their qualifying pace seemed to support their claim that they were not. On the other hand it will require a similar performance in a dry race to fully refute the suspicion. This wet race doesn't do that yet. Apparently Ferrari are developing a manual ride height adjustment system, which can be changed during a pit stop.

Redbull's situation is very interesting. They clearly have the best car and yet they are only third in the constructors standings. Vettel is a potential world champion but is only fifth in the drivers standings, while Webber, who is no slouch either, is only eighth. I know it's early in the season but their race day performance will have to improve noticeably, if they hope to win some championship titles. Perhaps they've been holding back some upgrades for the return to Europe. Time will tell.

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