Daily Archives: July 5, 2010

2010 Mid-season review: Red Bull

There is absolutely no denying that Red Bull have the best car on the grid, in the form of the RB6. From the very beginning to right now, this car has been miles ahead of any other team in (nearly) every race so far. The team took pole positions in the first 7 races in a row, just to demonstrate their performance. Both drivers are highly skilled, and have both, at separate points this year, have been favourites for the championship. All of this happened without the F-duct, which so many other teams believed to be of utmost importance. So the question is: why are they 2nd in the championship?

Dire reliability and driver crashes have thrown away Red Bull's initial advantage

Dire reliability and driver crashes have thrown away Red Bull's initial advantage

You could have said the writing was on the wall from Race 1. Sebastian Vettel suffered reliability trouble, as his engine lost power, and he surrendered his lead to the Ferraris, and fell to 4th. Mark Webber, meanwhile, suffered his millionth event of bad luck before the race had even began, after being held up in qualifying. A 4th and 8th was horrible for what could have been a dominant 1-2 finish. Australia was an even more embarrassing result, with Vettel suffering another loss of a definite win, after a brake failure. Webber was involved in a race-long battle with Alonso, Massa and Hamilton, and topped off his troubles by crashing into Hamilton in the dying few laps, dropping him to 9th place.

Finally things took a turn-around in Malaysia, where a 1-2 finish was well deserved, after Vettel stole the lead from Webber at the first corner. A 1-2 qualifying performance looked excellent in China, right up to the point when the wrong tyre call was made in the race, and Vettel and Webber were forced to fight their way back up to 6th and 8th. Despite this, the team looked on course for a 1-2 finish in Spain, even after messing up one of Vettel’s pit stops. But, as it has done so often, Vettel’s car suffered a braking problem, and crawled to the finish in 3rd place. Monaco saw the return of the 1-2 Red Bull finish, but the next race came dangerously close to destroying their whole season.

With Webber leading Vettel, and the German closing in, the fans were expecting a close battle for the lead. What they saw was a little too close though, as the pair collided into each other on the back straight, shattering all hopes for Red Bull, and handed a 1-2 finish to McLaren on a silver plate. For the few days afterwards, the Red Bull bosses appeared to back Vettel after the incident, although replays suggested that he was at fault for the incident. Vettel and Webber finally made up after the crash (albeit in a Red Bull press release), and got back to racing.

However, when they returned, suddenly McLaren had the faster car, as shown in Canada, where the Red Bull’s speed in a straight line was magnified. A 4th and 5th, after severe tyre woes for Webber, was all they could manage, and the team suddenly realised that McLaren were in the lead of the championships after this race. Valencia was a slight return to form, with Sebastian winning the race, although it was a disaster for Mark. After losing a huge amount of places at the start, he smashed into Heikki Kovalainen, and flipped into the barriers.

By this stage, Red Bull should have completely dominated the championship standings. Vettel, for example, has lost 41 points after mechanical problems, and is therefore 12 points behind Lewis Hamilton. The worst part of it is that the second half of the calendar has races which mostly suit the McLaren. The next race is Silverstone, where Red Bull completely dominated last year. This could be their last chance to close the gap between them and McLaren. If they cannot, it will be completely their own fault for throwing away a huge initial advantage.

2010 Mid-season review: Ferrari

The season-opener in Bahrain was kind to Ferrari, in that a 1-2 finish was far beyond what the car actually deserved. Sebastian Vettel’s engine woes meant that both Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa were able to overtake and keep control of the race from there. However, since then, the season has not gone the way Ferrari would have wanted.

Lack of development has cost Ferrari 2nd in the championship to Ferrari

Lack of development has cost Ferrari 2nd in the championship to Ferrari

Pre-season testing showed Ferrari to have one of the fastest cars of the grid, and it later emerged that their tyre wear rates were much lower than their rivals, giving them an extra advantage. Their 1-2 finish, aided by the reliability issues of the Red Bull car, should have been an indicator of their pace for the entire season. In Melbourne, Massa was 3rd ahead of Alonso, although the Spaniard was unhappy after being held up by Felipe for most of the race. However, soon after this, Ferrari fell out of the development race.

Despite starting with the second fastest car, Ferrari were unable to keep up development at a fast enough pace. This is mainly due to the fact that they spent too much time trying to copy the F-duct system, which took several weeks of work, with only 0.3 seconds as a reward. By the time that they had finished, McLaren had soared away from them, and it shows in the race results. In Malaysia, neither Ferrari could indicate their pace, as a stupid strategy call in qualifying left them at the back of the grid. While they recovered to 7th and 9th, Alonso soon retired with an engine failure.

In the rain-affected China race, driver relationships were more hurt than anything else. As both Ferrari cars pitted on the same lap, Alonso overtook Massa, causing the Brazilian to drop down the grid, leaving Fernando to gain Felipe’s positions. Rumours of tension in the garage were swiftly swept away however. A home race podium was nice for Alonso in Spain, but he wasn’t able to challenge Mark Webber for the win. Since then, their pace has fallen away, as Massa hasn’t scored a point since Turkey. Aside from another podium in Canada, Alonso has only managed one 6th and two 8th places since Spain.

The reason for Ferrari’s drop in pace lies solely with the car. The time spent on the F-duct was a massive waste of time for the team, as marginal gains do not give a car raw pace. This shows in the fact that Ferrari have not got a pole position, the best way of indicating raw pace, since Brazil 2008. The drivers are well up to the task of getting wins for the team, but do not have the machinery to do so.

For the rest of the season, Ferrari have 2 difficulties to deal with: keeping Alonso and Massa happy, and developing the car to catch up to Red Bull and McLaren. While a few people have suggested that the team will soon turn their attention to 2011, although the fact that they are still in the championship race should be enough to keep them interested in this season.