October 13, 2013

(not-so-mini) F1 Update!: Japan 2013

It was a bright sunny day in Japan as the Thundering Herd took to the grid at Suzuka, led by Red Bull's Mark Webber.  How long would that last?  And would the Aussie, retiring at the end of the season, be able to stay up front?  Or would his teammate Hannibal Vettel, sitting next to him on the grid, manage to run away and hide as he's done so many times in the past?  This is your F1U! for the 2013 Japanese Grand Prix.

*THE RACE: The past two races have seen a grand total of one leader, total: Hannibal Vettel.  He's led every single lap run since the start of the Singapore Grand Prix.  But it became amazingly clear very quickly that this wasn't to be the same sort of race as we've seen of late: Vettel getting a good start, then running away and disappearing over the horizon.  No, instead both Red Bull drivers had less-than-stellar starts, the Lotus of Lettuce Grosjean jumped into the lead from fourth, and Mercedes' Shiv Hamilton managed to skewer himself on the front wing of Vettel.  It didn't do much damage to the Red Bull, despite Hannibal's squeals, but Hamilton had a ruined rear tire.  He was almost a lap down by the time he made it to the pits, and the team retired the car a few laps later.  Meanwhile, Lettuce slowly managed to inch away from the trailing Red Bulls, opening up a lead of a couple of seconds on Webber by Lap 10.  The Aussie was the first of the three drivers to pit, on Lap 11, followed a lap later by Grosjean in what was clearly a covering move by Lotus.  Vettel as usual made his tires last longer than his immediate competition and didn't stop until Lap 14.  After the pit stops, all three were on the hard tire, and the order was Grosjean, Webber and Vettel.  Until Red Bull decided to maximize their chances of a win, that is.  On Lap 22, after a remarkably short stint for hard tires, Webber was brought to the pits.  The team had switched him from a two-stop strategy to a three-stopper.  Amazingly, the Aussie came out in third place, as the top three cars had opened up a huge gap to the rest of the field.  In effect, there were two separate races going on today: the Podium Race, and Everybody Else.  This strategy shift turned the race from one taking place on the track to one taking place in the pits and the plotting tables... a type of  race that Red Bull has proven to be very good at.   As it turned out, staying on the two-stop strategy was the correct one, as Vettel wound up taking the lead after his second stop.  On tires eight laps newer than Grosjean's, Vettel passed the Lotus on Lap 40, functionally for the lead as Webber pitted on Lap 43 from first.  There was some possibility that Webber could have caught his teammate, but instead it took him some six laps to get past Grosjean; he could get close, but wasn't quite able to complete a move.  As it was, Vettel led Webber by seven seconds at the end, and Grosjean was two behind Webber.  The Ferrari of HWMNBN was nearly 37 seconds behind the Lotus.

*WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?: Vettel has now won five races in a row, something that's only happened a few times in the history of F1.  We didn't realize that Slappy Schumacher actually did it twice in 2004: a five-win streak followed by a seven-win streak.  That was the year we here at F1U! began watching Formula 1... we're amazed that we stuck with it.

*OH BY THE WAY...: The STBFTWC will probably have to wait one more race.  Vettel will go into the Grand Prix of India with a 90 point lead over HWMNBN.  If he finishes fifth or higher, he wins the driver's championship, no matter what HWMNBN does.  In effect, the Ferrari driver has to win out while STBFTWC has a historic string of breakdowns.

India in two weeks... break out the chapati, tikka masala and Kingfisher, everybody!  See you then.

Posted by: Wonderduck at 09:19 PM | Comments (5) | Add Comment
Post contains 704 words, total size 4 kb.

1 I got the distinct feeling that Red Bull didn't want Seb vs Web as the race finale. (And, to a degree, who can blame them? They've just about put the season away, they don't have to keep Webber happy, they look like idiots if they tell Vettel to do something and he ignores them...) By calling in Mark early, it made sure that they didn't have to scrap and that there wouldn't be any chance of a double DNF. Clearly the right decision for the team and it paid off well.

But for the fans, it sucks! The whole race was a drive-to-the-delta exhibition, an exercise in superior tire protection. Okay, I'm willing to admit that Vettel's certainly got great talents in that area, but if I wanted to watch an extended series of time trials I would tune in for rally racing, not F1. Last year we didn't have as many pit stops, to be sure, but we had racers who weren't so concerned about tire durability that they actually raced the guy in front of them...

I'm not precisely blaming Pirelli, since as you've mentioned before, they were asked for more degradation and boy, they delivered. I just feel like we had more good racing in 2012 when one-stoppers were the norm, and I certainly feel that in 2011 tire strategies were based more off the delta between the two tires and not "we must not do anything stupid like trying to pass someone or we'll run the tire into the ground"...

Is it just me?

Posted by: Avatar at October 14, 2013 03:15 AM (GJQTS)

2 *shrug*

You're not wrong, but I wasn't overly fond of last year's racing, either.  I'm not hating on Pirelli... I think they've been brilliant... but things might very well have been better with Bridgestone.  I don't think that's because of the tires, but because of the DRS/KERS combo, but I'm not sure.

I'm not in the right frame of mind to answer the question correctly... I'm not fond of F1(coughVettelcough) at the moment, after all.

Posted by: Wonderduck at October 15, 2013 06:26 AM (GE6XS)

3 Eh, that's a valid opinion too. I like the DRS setup because it means that there aren't any no-passing parades (y'know, like the Hungaroring), but it's true that passes made on the long straight with the wing open and the go-button pressed down aren't the hardest-fought ones. If it was an eight-race season on the eight best tracks, I'd probably feel differently...

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at October 15, 2013 06:59 PM (pWQz4)

Posted by: JP Gibb at October 15, 2013 07:16 PM (VSD03)

5 We know about that. There's another one that's even bigger, which was in Sydney harbor for a while, and then made an appearance in Hong Kong.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at October 15, 2013 11:45 PM (+rSRq)

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