April 10, 2011

F1 Update!: Malaysia 2011

The skies overhead were dark gray, heavy and humid, the ambient temperatures around 90 F... thoroughly unpleasant conditions for man and machine both.  But would the rain come and throw the race into a tizzy?  Or would tires, short-lived and prone to failure, prove to be defining aspect of the race?  You're about to find out, because THIS is your F1U! for the 2011 Grand Prix of Malaysia.

*THE WEATHER:  Surprisingly, the leaden skies never opened up.  Other than a brief sprinkle right around the first pitstops, the race was run entirely in the dry.  Of course, the timing of the sprinkles made for some tense moments up and down the pit lane.  If a car came in for Inters and it stayed dry, that would be a wasted stop and a few laps run on slow slow tires.  However, if a car stayed on slick tires and it began to rain, you're going to be turning laps 45 seconds slower than everybody else... if you can keep it on the track in the first place.  Lots of crossed fingers, dice rolling, and coin flipping later, everybody made the right guess.

*THE TIRES:  The combination of high temperatures and abrasive track surface made life hell on the Pirelli tires.  Three stops were the norm today, four stops were not unheard of... though Gandalf Kobayashi managed to do the race on a two-stopper. 

That's what the track looked like around Lap 40.  That black stuff is known in the business as "clag," and it's what comes off the tires as they wear.  You can see there's a clean line, but get off that you're taking your life in your own hands... literally.  Your traction goes away fast when you're driving on little balls of rolled-up rubber.  Unfortunately, it only took a few laps for the clag to build up to problem levels.  While passing did occur today, it was mostly at the end of the back straight where there was no clag to speak of.

*THE RACE:  Once the lights went out, Seb Vettel ran away and hid.  Again.  By the end of a very busy first lap that saw Grizzly Nick Heidfeld jump into second place, Mark Webber drop to 10th, and everybody else jumbled up, Vettel had a two second lead.  However, he never got farther ahead than nine seconds during his cruise to victory, and spent most of it about five seconds in front of second place.  That's good... except some of that might have been because neither Red Bull had a working KERS system; Vettel had overheating batteries and couldn't use his after Lap 25, while Webber's went into shutdown mode on the recon lap.  Explains his horrid start.  Behind Vettel, the race was one of the more confusing things we here at F1U! had ever seen.  The multitude of pitstops made keeping accurate track of what was going on nigh impossible. 

*AFTER THE RACE:  McLaren's Lewis Hamilton had a bad day.  Starting in second position, he got stuck behind Grizzly Nick Heidfeld for some 14 laps, ran out of soft tires at the halfway point, spent half of the contest on the slower hard tires and stumbled all the way down to seventh.  At one point though, he was in third, being harried by Ferrari's HWMNBN, who was faster at that point in the race.  Hamilton made two defensive moves to protect his position against a passing attempt by the Spaniard, who then clipped the McLaren coming out of the next turn.  This sent the Ferrari to the pits for a new nose.  Both drivers were brought before the Stewards post-race and handed 20sec. time penalties... HWMNBN for hitting Hamilton, Hamilton for his swerves.  This penalty kicked Hamilton from seventh to eighth, while HWMNBN did not lose a position.  F1U! thinks the penalties, while awfully ticky-tack, were both legit.  We have yet to see Hamilton's swerving, though we've looked at the video a number of times, and the contact between the two sure looked like a racing incident to us.  So it goes.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  Grizzly Nick Heidfeld had a heck of a start, jumping from sixth to second by the second turn.  He then grimly held off all comers for most of the race while Seb Vettel could never quite get away from him.  In the end, he wound up on the third step of the podium after holding back a hard-charging Mark Webber for four laps at the end of the race.  Good job, Griz!

*TEAM OF THE RACE:  Red Bull.  The death of their KERS unit made Webber's start understandable.  His fight back up the order to finish fourth was impressive, and Vettel's runaway victory despite the lack of KERS had to have cold chills running down the back of every team in the pit lane.  Honorable mention to Renault for their second podium in two races. 

*MOVE OF THE RACE:  After Lewis Hamilton pitted on Lap 14, he returned to the race in 7th position, right behind Seb Buemi's Toro Rosso in 6th and the Mercedes of Slappy Schumacher.  With fresh tires, he was surely faster than either, but approaching the long final straight, he had a decision to make.  Would he hang back, protect his tires, and get past them when they pitted?  Or did he risk burning his last set of soft tires off the rims by asking them to help him pass both cars?  Since this is Lewis Hamilton we're talking about, the answer should be obvious.

Using the aerodynamic tow of the two cars ahead, he slingshotted past Buemi, pulling even with Slappy.  However, neither driver really wanted to give up their positions without a fight.

Slappy moved to the right to push Hamilton onto the dusty side of the circuit.  This let Buemi, also slipsteaming, attack to the other side of the Silver Arrow.  Three abreast they came down to the final turn... who would blink first?

As it turned out, the seven-time World Champion, pinched between two drivers young enough to be his sons, backed out, then dove into the pits.  Hamilton gained two positions, Buemi one, and all three impressed by not turning their cars into smoking piles of carbon fiber.  Hamilton gets the MotR, but all three could share it.

*MOOOOOOOOO-OOOVE OF THE RACE:   Here's something you don't see every day...

That's right, the steering column of The Red Menace's Renault is completely disconnected from the car.  Fortunately his brakes still worked so he could bring his car to a relatively safe halt off-track.  But what caused his steering to break?

Yeah, that'll do it.  Petrov ran wide into a turn and wound up going agricultural.  He thought he could keep going at full speed across the grass... he was wrong.  Remember, F1 cars are totally unsprung, and the driver doesn't have a seat; they sit on the floor of the cockpit.  The landing must have really, really hurt... maybe the Mooooooo-ooootR will ease the pain.


"C'mon guys, gimme a challenge will ya?" - Seb Vettel

"I dunno, I kinda liked the hard tires, unlike my teammate." - Jenson Button

"It was a great start, but even I have no idea how it happened.  Just lucky, I guess." - Grizzly Nick Heidfeld

"Isn't it funny that Vettel's KERS unit worked and mine didn't?  In fact, isn't it funny that I always end up with the problems and Vettel doesn't?" - Mark Webber

"Yeah, like I care anymore.  Surprised they didn't make me change my own tires." - Felipe Massa

"Thanks for the 'penalty', guys.  'Preciate it!" - HWMNBN

"Shadowfax is light on its tires." - Gandalf Kobayashi

"I knew I was going to get a penalty.  I'm not surprised.  I was in with the stewards, so I anticipated it.  It's only one spot, and it's not really made me feel any worse than how the weekend has gone anyway.  As for Fernando, he hit me, he got a 20-second penalty, but it didn't really do anything to him. It doesn't exactly work out as a penalty, but again, that's racing." - Lewis Hamilton (note: real quote)

"I should have hit them both.  In the old days, neither would have dared to pass me." - Slappy Schumacher

"Adrian who?" - Paul di Resta

"Yeah, yeah, yuck it up, laughin' boy." - Adrian F'n Sutil

"So, yeah, my season isn't exactly off to the roaring start everybody predicted..." - Nico Rosberg

"I got caught speeding in the pit lane, but it wasn't my fault.  The limiter button didn't seem to work when I pressed it, so I pressed it again, which turned off the limiter which was working perfectly.  See, totally not my fault.  I think this is the longest quote I've ever gotten in a F1U!..." - Seb Buemi

"To be honest, I don't really understand what happened." - NKOTT  (note: real quote)

"We're almost able to duel with the Toro Rossos.  Almost.  God help me, I used to drive for McLaren." - Heikki Kovaleinninninnie

"I have nothing to say that is either relevant or true." - Timo Glockenspiel


"Had a little issue with the rear wing.  It fell off." - Vitantonio Liuzzi (note: not really, but it was going to)

"Well, I did better than Australia at least.  Still didn't finish." - Custard d'Ambrosio

"I wanted to do better at our home Grand Prix.  Like 16th." - Jarno Trulli

"My fire extinguisher went off in the cockpit, burned out the electronics.  I hate my life." - Sergio Perez

"My hydraulics failed.  Not a big deal, I was two laps down by the end of Lap 1 anyway." - Rubens Barrichello

"AIEEEEEEEEEEEEE!  No, I wasn't in an accident, I'm driving a HRT.  AIEEEEEEEEEE!" - Narain Kittylitter

"Bad engine.  Bad, bad!" - Imam Maldonado

That's it for Malaysia, next week we're in China!  See you then.

Posted by: Wonderduck at 05:46 PM | Comments (7) | Add Comment
Post contains 1658 words, total size 11 kb.


The formatting all looks fine to me, including the pictures.

Force India was in the points. In the point. But that's still impressive.

On the other hand, Hamilton finished 70 seconds behind Vettel. When I saw that I wondered what in hell happened. A 20 second penalty sure didn't help, and he had four pit stops. Does an extra pit stop really cost you 50 seconds? That doesn't seem correct.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at April 10, 2011 11:52 PM (+rSRq)

2 Seems to be working okay now, yes... before, it was just one massive block of text.

That extra pitstop alone doesn't cost 50 seconds, no... only around 25 to 30 seconds, roughly.  However, the 15 laps (again, roughly. I haven't counted them) on the hard tires while Vettel was on softs cost one to two seconds per lap.  So, yeah, I could see a 50 second time loss for an extra stop in this case.  Usually it wouldn't be quite so bad.

Posted by: Wonderduck at April 11, 2011 12:01 AM (W8Men)


Great job on the F1 Update!  :-)

Not same old, same old this season.  It's really nice to see other teams stepping up. 



Posted by: Mallory at April 11, 2011 07:38 AM (WJ2qy)

4 I dunno. If Red Bull can mount a KERS system, have it crap out instantly, and (with the weight penalty and everything) still put a driver in 4th, that argues that their car's just head and shoulders better. Vettel, whose KERS malfunction didn't occur for 30 laps or so, just drove away from the field.

The DRS sure is working, though, huh? LOTTA action on turn 1. Definitely no processional here!

So obviously the Pirellis are clagging off the racing line instead of laying down a smooth layer ON the racing line. I wonder how much of a difference it's making? Both have the effect of making it progressively harder and harder to leave the racing line to pass - the clag by reducing your grip off the racing line, but the laid-down rubber did the same by increasing your grip on the racing line. Six of one, half a dozen of the other, maybe? Mind you, the clag doesn't LOOK pretty.

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at April 11, 2011 04:03 PM (pWQz4)

5 It's not really "six of one". The clag makes the track more dangerous.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at April 11, 2011 04:55 PM (+rSRq)

6 Av, you're quite right.  It IS frightening that the Red Bulls are still that good despite the weight penalties of lugging around 80lbs of dead weight.  It's also a weak point and one that, in theory, can be exploited. Also, a malfunctioning KERS unit is a drag on the drivetrain (as mentioned by the LAT) that makes everything more likely to fail.

Reliability is as important as raw pace in F1.  You can have the greatest car in the world, but if it continually breaks down two laps from the end of the race, it's worse than the HRT.

All tires in all forms of motorsport chunk and form clag offline.  It's a fact of life.  But these Pirellis were acting like the track was nothing more than a really long cheesegrater.

Posted by: Wonderduck at April 11, 2011 05:12 PM (W8Men)

7 Forgot to mention... one of the complaints from the teams regarding the Pirelli tires is that they aren't very good at laying rubber on the racing line!  Instead of working its way into the asphalt surface like the Bridgestones or Michelins used to, the teams are claiming that the rubber is just sort of smearing across the top of the track.  Take that as you will, but if so, I can see how that might be a problem, yes.

Posted by: Wonderduck at April 11, 2011 05:15 PM (W8Men)

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