Sunday, April 10, 2011

F1 Malaysia 2011

Well, we are still looking for someone to beat Vettel who took both the pole and the win again. Hamilton looked like a contender when he missed pole by only 0.1s after he made small mistake on his qualifying lap. Unfortunately, while his pace was good in the early part of the race, he was not able to maintain it throughout the race. However, McLaren have clearly drawn closer to the Redbull, which is encouraging.

Redbull's weakness is KERS which completely failed on Webber's car, and had to be disabled during the race on Vettel's. Without KERS, Webber was a sitting duck on the start where he lost six places and on the long straights the lack of KERS boost was very obvious. Redbull still has an overall performance advantage which is what enabled Vettel to score the win, but Mclaren is improving quickly so Redbull's advantage may not last long. They need to get KERS sorted out soon, like by next week end! Lack of reliable KERS will hurt in China, as the Shanghai circuit has the longest straight in F1.

Despite the loss of of KERS on his Redbull, Webber drove an excellent race and recovered from the poor start to finish a respectable fourth. With a few more laps and fresher tires he might even have passed Heidfeld for third. While it was only a modest success, he was clearly miffed in the post race interviews, instead of focusing on the fact that he scored the most points that he could have given the condition of his car. It's an important skill and it's a shame that he brushed it aside to easily.

Renault had the most incredible start, with both Heidfeld and Petrov hurtling through the pack from sixth and eighth respectively. With a longer run to turn one, it's entirely possible one of them could have taken the lead, which would have been very entertaining. It was actually one of the cleanest starts when consider how tightly packed everyone was through the first few corner ones. One the other hand, Petrov's exit from the race on lap 52 was spectacular (and a little scary).

Unlike Australia where tire wear was not very high, in Malaysia we got to see the true impact of Pirelli's high-wear tires. Each set of tires only has an around 15 laps of useful life before the performance "falls off a cliff", so there were lots of pit stops and strategy was very important. Of all the changes introduced this year, there is no doubt that the tires are going have the greatest effect on the racing.

This is good because it makes the racing less predictable. The bad side is the high number of the pit stops also makes it a little harder to follow the race. Martin Brundle mentioned that there is talk of adding the tire compound that a car is using to the timing feed. This is actually useful information now as it might explain relative performance differences a little bit better.

Does DRS work? Absolutely! It created many more passing opportunities than we usually see in a race. What most of the nay sayers don't seem to realize is that DRS only creates the opportunity for a pass. Getting along side is one thing, but actually make the pass stick is a totally different matter that depends on many more factors, such as driver's skill, aerodynamics, and tires.

DRS is new, though, and some teams are having problems getting to work right, which means that the benefits are not evenly distributed yet. There is also a loop hole. If a car passes another between the DRS available and enable lines, the passing car still gets to use the DRS, which allows it to pull away easier. This is unfair and hopefully will be disallowed later.

After only two races, I'm going go out on a limb and predict that this season will be better than the 2010 season was.

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