Monday, April 18, 2011

F1 China 2011

What a thrilling race! Hamilton became the first driver of the season to beat Vettel. Even Webber seemed relieved. ^_^ But the best part was Hamilton did it as a true racer would want to, by passing people on track, including his team mate. However, while Hamilton's win was brilliant, Webber's drive was absolutely stunning. Starting eighteenth after a shocking qualifying session, and yet still finishing third was a fantastic achievement.

Tires and strategy created one of the most unpredictable dry races ever. Look at Hamilton. He started third but was in second before the first corner. He led the race briefly until his first stop, after which I actually lost track of him! After his third stop, he popped up in fifth position again! And yet, he still won the race, even after moving up and down the running order like a yo-yo.

The difference was that Hamilton's tires were a few laps newer than the cars ahead of him after his third stop. Webber had a similar advantage at the end of the race and was over two seconds per lap faster than the front runners. The drivers on a three stop strategy were basically mugging those who did two stops. The conventional wisdom was that the fewer stops, the better. Whether this was a peculiarity of this circuit or a new trend, is anybody's guess.

Even though Webber had a great finish, he had a torrid weekend. His problems started when his KERS started smoking during the Saturday morning practice. The team scrambled to find the problem, but could not fix it before qualifying. Then the team over estimated the car's performance on the harder prime tire, which left Webber unable to graduate from session three. Thankfully, even an ailing Redbull is much faster than either Lotus, Virgin, or Hispania, which avoided the embarrassment of being out qualified by them.

So who had the best car in China? Despite Hamilton's impressive win for McLaren, there is little doubt that the Rebull is still faster. On equal tires, Hamilton's job would have been much more difficult. Look at it this way: which team had two drivers on the podium? Which team had a car start eighteenth and finish third?

On the other hand, what this race clearly demonstrated is that, this year, having the best car is not the only way to win a race. Strategy can make up the difference.

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