Tuesday, May 24, 2011

F1 Spain 2011

So Vettel won again but Hamilton mounted a credible challenge in the closing stages of the race. Both were on equally worn tires, but relative car performance and pit stops were very important. The Redbull still has KERS problems but it has more grip in the high speed corners, which allowed Vettel to open the gap to Hamilton, effectively negating his KERS and DRS advantage. The McLaren is better on a lighter fuel load which enabled Hamilton close in on Vettel in the slower corners. It was a classic see-saw battle where neither driver could afford a single mistake.

Qualifying is no longer as dramatic as it was in recent years. The nature of the Pirelli tires means that teams are saving new sets for the race by running as few qualifying laps as possible. DRS creates more opportunities for passing which diminishes the need for a good grid position. Consequently, it has become common for the leading teams such as Redbull and Mclaren to set a fast time early in each qualifying session and then only go out again if it is absolutely necessary. For the last couple of races, the poll sitter was out of his car long before the final session was over. I doubt they will be doing this in Monaco, though, where grid position is still important as passing is all but impossible.

I'm still hoping Webber can challenge Vettel but it's looking more difficult with each passing race as Vettel is driving superbly. Webber is third in the standings which is not too bad, until you realize he has a little over half the points that Vettel has. Webber is qualifying better than he did earlier in the season, but I wonder if he should be focusing on race strategy instead of getting poll position.

It is sad but the once mighty Williams team is looking like they will be the first be beaten by one of the new teams, probably Lotus. Williams is the only established team to have scored no points so far this year, a status they share with Lotus, Virgin, and Hispania. I wonder how much longer Williams can survive as team.

The DRS zone was poorly positioned again, but this time it rendered the system completely ineffective so we got very little passing using DRS. The activation line was positioned about a quarter of the way down the main straight. Unfortunately, the entry to the straight is a high speed corner which allowed the leading car to pull away as the following car struggled for grip in the dirty air behind the leading car. The DRS enabled the following car to close in again but not enough to make the pass. This seems like an obvious problem so I wonder how the race officials actually decide where to place the DRS zone. It seems a little haphazard to me.

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