April 09, 2011

F1 Quals: Malaysia 2011

In Australia, Seb Vettel and Red Bull blew the rest of the field away on his pole lap to the tune of 8/10ths of a second.  He then went on to run away and hide from everybody during the race.  But could he continue that dominance in Malaysia, or could McLaren, Ferrari or even the resurgent Renaults kick the World Champion in the shins?  Let's look at the provisional grid for Sunday's Grand Prix of Malaysia:

Pos Driver Team Q1Q2Q3
1 Sebastian Vettel RBR-Renault 1:37.468 1:35.934 1:34.870
2 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:36.861 1:35.852 1:34.974
3 Mark Webber RBR-Renault 1:37.924 1:36.080 1:35.179
4 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:37.033 1:35.569 1:35.200
5 HWMNBN Ferrari 1:36.897 1:36.320 1:35.802
6 Grizzly Nick Heidfeld Renault 1:37.224 1:36.811 1:36.124
7 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:36.744 1:36.557 1:36.251
8 Vitaly Petrov Renault 1:37.210 1:36.642 1:36.324
9 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:37.316 1:36.388 1:36.809
10 Gandalf Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1:36.994 1:36.691 1:36.820
11 Slappy Schumacher Mercedes 1:36.904 1:37.035
12 Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari 1:37.693 1:37.160
13 NKOTT STR-Ferrari 1:37.677 1:37.347
14 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:38.045 1:37.370
15 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1:38.163 1:37.496
16 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1:37.759 1:37.528
17 Adrian F'n Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:37.693 1:37.593
18 Friar Maldonado Williams-Cosworth 1:38.276

19 Heikki Kovalaineninnie Lotus-Renault 1:38.645

20 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Renault 1:38.791

21 Timo Glockenspiel Virgin-Cosworth 1:40.648

22 Custard d'Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1:41.001

23 Vitantonio Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth 1:41.549

24 Narain Kittylitter HRT-Cosworth 1:42.574

Q1 107% Time

All Skate, ladies and gentlemen, everybody All Skate!  Not only did HRT make the field, but even Kittylitter made it with nearly a second to spare.  Vitantonio Liuzzi was actually closer to the Virgins than he was to his own teammate.  A rousing round of applause to the tiny team from Murcia, everybody... HRT has officially joined the 2011 F1 season!  This bodes well for the rest of the season, at least as far as having a full grid goes.

Now for the important stuff.  Yes, Seb Vettel took pole position, but the difference has been much reduced.  .104 of a second is a much more manageable margin to deal with for the rest of the field to deal with in comparison to the sound thrashing handed out at Australia.  I think we're seeing a repeat of the Red Bull RB6 with this year's RB7: great in the corners, great under braking, but not quite as fast on the straights.  For you WWII buffs out there, the RB6 was the Mitsubishi A6M Zero of the F1 world: nimble, but not as fast as, say, the F6F Hellcat.  Australia isn't the fastest circuit in the world with no true high-speed zones to speak of, and so would play right into the RB7's strengths.  Malaysia, with its two gigantically long straights, would be more to the favor of the McLarens of the world. 

However, there is an ominous side to all of this for the rest of the field.  Vettel only put in 12 laps for the entirety of Quals.  In comparison, Hamilton did 19, Webber 17, Button 15, and HWMNBN 14.  On a circuit that's proving to be murder on the new Pirellis, those laps not turned on his tire allotment might make a small but crucial difference in the race.

Oddly, or perhaps not so oddly, the top five spots on the grid fall exactly the same way they did in Australia.  Heck, even the sixth spot is held by a Renault, just like in the first race of the year, though this time driven by Grizzly Nick Heidfeld rather than The Red Menace.

So there you have it, folks.  We might just have ourselves a race tomorrow, depending on who makes it to Turn 1 first, and how much of a lead he has.  F1 Update! will be here Sunday... see you then!

Posted by: Wonderduck at 11:07 AM | Comments (4) | Add Comment
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It's good to see that there are four teams which are competitive. It was awfully boring back when it was just Ferrari and McLaren every race followed distantly by a bunch of no-hopers.

And congratulations to Heidfeld. It isn't the way he would have wanted to have gotten a job, but since it happened it's nice to see him making the most of it.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at April 09, 2011 02:49 PM (+rSRq)

2 It is nice to say that there are four teams capable of doing well, but to my way of thinking there's not really any changes from last year.  There's still only five drivers with a legit chance to win at any particular race: Vettel, Webber, Hamilton, Button and HWMNBN. 

I do believe that the Renaults can challenge for a podium position, but it'd require something of a miracle for them to actually win... at least at the moment.  Things can change.

For Felipe Massa to win would require an flat-out act of god.  He no longer drives with the verve and panache required to do so, and I think that stems directly from the race that he was told to pull over and let HWMNBN past... chalk up another kill for the Spaniard.

Posted by: Wonderduck at April 09, 2011 07:55 PM (W8Men)

3 I just checked the race results, and I'm looking forward to your writeup, especially about one (probably controversial) judging decision.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at April 10, 2011 05:16 PM (+rSRq)

4 I'm having internet problems; it's taken a half-hour just to load the "Add Comment" box here.  The F1U! is coming, it's just... delayed.

Posted by: Wonderduck at April 10, 2011 06:30 PM (W8Men)

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