Start, Melbourne, 2010

New rules unlikely to halt Vettel’s winning ways

Australian GP pre-race analysis

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Start, Melbourne, 2010
Start, Melbourne, 2010

Albert Park has a track record of producing unpredictable races.

And with the new Drag Reduction Systems, tyre compounds and the return of KERS, there is even more potential for surprises.

But with a performance advantage of almost a second, it’s hard to look beyond Sebastian Vettel as a likely race winner.

The start

We’ve seen many incidents at Melbourne’s first corner in the past – notably last year, when Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher came to grief.

The first corner could provide Lewis Hamilton with his best opportunity of getting in front of Sebastian Vettel. With Mark Webber poised to take advantage that sounds like a recipe for action.

Keep an eye on the occupants of row nine, Rubens Barrichello (17th) and Nick Heidfeld (18th), two drivers who hit trouble in qualifying and will be aiming to make up ground early on.

Another eye-catching cluster of drivers can be found in the middle of the pack: a trio of rookies, Sergio Perez, Paul di Resta and Pastor Maldonado, in 13th, 14th and 15th respectively


We haven’t seen a start with Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems since since 2009. At that time several teams didn’t have it, and we often saw cars with KERS passing several non-KERS cars at the start.

In theory all 18 cars with KERS on the grid are starting in front of non-KERS cars. But several drivers had problems with KERS during qualifying, and if their systems don’t work at the start they will be vulnerable.

Following Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber’s KERS-free qualifying laps it remains to be seen if they will use KERS in the race.

There has even been speculation the Red Bull’s system is designed to be used on the first lap only – something which the on-screen graphics should clear up very quickly once the race has begun.


DRS race restrictions - Melbourne
DRS race restrictions - Melbourne

During the race, drivers can only use their Drag Reduction System on the start/finish straight, and only if they’re within a second of a car in front when they cross the activation line at turn 14. You can see these areas in this FIA diagram, and it’s also painted on the circuit.

Remember, drivers can’t use DRS at all in the first two laps or in the two laps following a safety car period.

We will finally get our first insight into the question of whether the DRS will actually help increase overtaking. There was a half-four test of the system in second practice during which some drivers had the chance to activate their systems.

What will be crucial is how the teams have chosen to set their gear ratios. The DRS will be no help to them if their top gear isn’t long enough to get an advantage out of it.

It’s also worth keeping in mind the difference in top speeds between some of the cars. In qualifying the Saubers had the highest top speed (314.2kph), the McLarens were hitting 312kph, the Ferraris 309kph and the Red Bulls 308kph.


How the new Pirelli tyres might affect tyre strategy has been a big talking point of the off-season. We’ll get our first look at the consequences of it tomorrow.

Significantly, all the drivers in the top ten qualified on soft tyres – and therefore will start the race on them. Not even Sebastien Buemi in tenth place thought it worth starting the race on hard tyres.

This suggests we might not see much in the way of strategic variety. We should see more pit stops, but perhaps not in the region of three-to-four as was predicted before this race weekend.

Due to the length of the pit lane and the reduced speed limit of 60kph, drivers lose 28 seconds making a pit stop (according to Williams) so the penalty of making an extra pit stop here is very high.

Tyre degradation has been less severe than expected, and Sebastian Vettel’s long stint on Friday raised the prospect of two-stop strategies.

However there is potential for some interesting ‘reactive’ strategy choices. With the performance difference between the tyres being so great and DRS raising the prospect of easier overtaking, doing an early switch to soft tyres might be an attractive prospect for some drivers.

How do you expect the Australian Grand Prix to unfold? Can anyone beat Red Bull? Have your say in the comments.

2011 Australian Grand Prix

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Image ?? Red Bull/Getty images

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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90 comments on “New rules unlikely to halt Vettel’s winning ways”

  1. Does anyone has any more info on the Red Bull KERS?

    1. There an enormous amount of rumour and speculation out there and little to no hard information.

      Remembering the fuss over “adjustable ride height” this time last year, let’s wait and see on this one. The on-screen KERS meter during the race should give us a good idea.

      1. Total agree with that Keith, although its sometimes fun to speculate.

      2. In one of the Friday practice sessions Vettel was told ”Use KERS now, urgent!”, which I presume was on a multiple lap run(will try to check), so it cant be as simple as some people are making it out to be, that it is a design decision from the start. Anyway we know almost nothing at the moment, apart from the fact that RBR was not using KERS in qualy.

        1. He was told on his first lap of FP2 on a race simulation, so who knows?

      3. Exactly.
        While it is a fascinating idea for Red Bull to make a start only device, would it be worth it?
        For all we know, this uncertainty and speculation might have been just what RBR were aiming for to acheive!
        Or their system was just broken on one of the cars, or even better, it broke down altogether and they will not be able to use it from the start line.

        1. William Wilgus
          26th March 2011, 20:02

          Fascinating idea, yes. However, it seems to be ‘in violation’ of the spirit with which KERS was intended to be used. If it is a ‘start only’ system, I think it should be banned.

          1. As there’s no compulsion to fit KERS let alone use it once fitted, why on earth should it be banned? Presumably, if instead of fitting KERS they’d decided to fit a 20kg whoopee cushion, you’d want that banned too, as that wouldn’t be in the ‘spirit’ either.

          2. You can’t ban that, it would surely improve “the show”

          3. As much as we all speculate the advantage this may give Redbull, it could in some instances prove to be a disadvantage, you get a car like the McLaren that is much faster on the straitaway just one second behind, they can use their DRS and KERS and Redbull will have no KERS to respond to the challenge. I can see Hamilton pulling off a pass in such fashion during the race later.

          4. Agree with Adam here. It would be a significant loss of options in a season where the need to overtake, re-overtake or avoid being overtaken will be much higher because of the rear flap and quickly degrading tyres.

          5. I read somewhere that Red Bull will be able to use KERS on the first lap as they will be able to recharge it in the pits.
            Now it is very likely that Red Bull will charge the KERS for 60 seconds instead of 6 and thus use KERS for 10 laps instead of 1. Plus they can recharge the KERS in the pits everytime the driver pits (Just like refueling, Red BUll might be Re-KERSing). So, as such the Bulls can have KERS for 50% or more of the laps.
            They only need a larger battery storage to store more than 6 seconds worth of energy. They can easily have that as a major chunk of KERS is the system that gets energu from the brakes to the KERS battery, which the Red Bull have done away with.

        2. @daffid it should be banned because its not an energy recovery system.

          if what they are saying is true, big IF. its a pre one time charged system. only to be used once and not recharged through movement or breaking energy etc.

          i cant really see anything legal about it. but perhaps im missing the obvious.

          it should be removed instantly. it wont make red bull slow cos what they have shown as in 09 how you balance your weight is more important than a bit of extra power. not sure why anyone thought it would be any different than 09. cos ok min weight is more but that makes no difference to moving ballast. if anything it gives u more ballast to move if u dont have kers. so its even more critical perhaps. Im no technician tho but that seems to make sense to me

          so it wouldnt slow them down, other than off the line.

          1. If that’s the case it wouldn’t be KERS, just another brilliant innovation like the F-Duct and Double Diffuser, so unless there’s something specific in the rules to stop that I don’t see why it would be banned

          2. Well, we now see it all to have been a red herring anyway. But the outrage seemed to stem from an unsubstantiated misinterpretation of what Kravitz said. “Charged before the race” does not mean plugged in. It could mean charged during quali and morning warm up via a trickle feed energy recovery system – nobody said anything about a start only KERS not being a KERS. What a ridiculous fuss about nothing.

      4. Keith, please enlighten my ignorance.
        If RB’s have only “starting KERS” is it in line with regulations? I am thinking about weight and balance advantages and of course not only the wording but also “spirit of the rules” issue!

        1. Without knowing exactly what they’re running we can only speculate.

          1. Like you say above Keith, no ‘outsider’ knows about the RBR’s secrets that make it so fast – I just think it would be so funny if it was such a simple and obvious secret that came out and left Ferrari, and Mclaren on their faces!!

          2. Keith, Et all,

            I see a lot of speculation and conspiracy theories in the discussion. Why is that for a moment no one wants to accept the fact that the RBR guys had done a wonderful job during the snow storms.

            For a second why not think That the secret is that the current World champion who is talented driving a car designed by a the most talented designer who has won WCs with three different teams in a team which ofcourse has a very good funding from the owner…. oh yeah it is a drinks company still !!!

            I cant possibly imagine what would have happened if they had let RB use the Mercedes engine last year

          3. Why is that for a moment no one wants to accept the fact that the RBR guys had done a wonderful job during the snow storms.

            Because the new Pirelli tyres, the return of KERS and the DRS were all designed to create more exciting races. The last thing anyone wants is to see one driver walk away with the title with no challenge.

          4. Prisoner Monkeys I did not understand your rationale . Are you saying that it was wrong of RBR to have designed a good car? Or does it mean since RBR won the championship last year they should not do anything in the winter and come back with a lemon so that Ferrari and McLaren can beat them and make the races will be more exciting ?

            Beautiful Idea and Argument…. Maybe you should suggest it to FIA to make F1 races more EXCITING :)

        2. It has to recover energy, or it’s illegal. But it might be recovering only tiny amounts. If it exists.

          1. I spent time reading all the KERS technical and sporting regs (thats a proper entertainment for a F1 fanatic :D ) and I don’t see why wouldn’t it be possible. Technically there is only upper limits to all the parameters, no minimum requiermets to the system be classified as KERS. Sporting wise there is rule which allows teams to charge/discharge the KERS energy storage unit under parc fermé conditions, so this would mean going to the grid with a full charge.

            Of course if they have such system as is speculated than it obviously is legal, because otherwise it wouldn’t be on the car.

        3. No one is forced to use KERS, so if they use at the start only then no rules are being broken. They can chose never to press the button. No foul.

          1. William Wilgus
            27th March 2011, 5:21

            I’ll remind you—un-necessarily, I’m sure—that it’s a Kinetic Energy Recovery System. If Red Bull’s system only recovers minuscule amounts of energy, it does not meet the intended purpose of the system, and therefore brings the sport into dis-repute. That‘s against the rules!

    2. marc connell
      26th March 2011, 23:16

      I heard red bulls KERS is actually nitrous oxide. My proof is there laptime end off..

    3. i think it could be lite KERS, which stores energy only enuf to help to defend positions on starts & restarts after safety car…. and takes more laps to recharge compared to other KERS. this would mean that the car would have to make very little compromise on the weight & balance of the car. I was hoping more teams think about using KERS this way…

    4. Does anyone has any more info on the Red Bull KERS?

      Fat chance. When a team makes something they think will give them a major edge, the last thing they’re going to do is go around telling people exactly how it works …

  2. What do you guys think Schumacher is able to do tomorrow? First guy to not have to use softs in the early stages.

    1. That could well be an advantage over being say 8th, 9th or 10th.. should be interesting to see how he does but he wasn’t showing good pace.

      1. To be hoenst, I don’t think his pace is that bad, I think he just made a mess of qualifying.

        On his last qually run, I remember after the second sector he was about two and a half tenths up, and he did make a few errors later on the lap. So for me there is still hope.

  3. Red Bull and Vettel would have made last season a snoozefest if they hadn’t made so many mistakes and misjudgements.

    Neither party look like repeating that behaviour this year, so prepare to look down the field for something to watch. I’ll be interested in the Webber/Button/Rosberg battle, myself.

  4. Slightly off-topic but interesting; from the Abu-Dhabi 2010 starting grid, first 5/6 still the same drivers with VET, HAM, and BUT in the same positions tomorow!

  5. What will be crucial is how the teams have chosen to set their gear ratios. The DRS will be no help to them if their top gear isn’t long enough to get an advantage out of it.

    they set up the gear ratios with the DRS in mind for qualy. Why would it be a problem during the race?

    1. Because some teams might try to optimise their gear ratios for the race with the DRS disabled for 99% of the time and sacrifice qualifying this way. Going a few tenths faster in quali might not be worth the extra place on the grid if you’re slow in the race.

      However, from the onboard shots we’ve had no one has been near the limiter in 7th gear yet, so most likely it won’t be an issue.

      1. Ferrari was definitely hitting the rev limiter on the main straight, but they also did last year so I think its because they will had their engines turned up to the max.

  6. Way too early to start worrying about a runaway championship I know, but if Vettel and his RB perform as last year, minus a couple of his brain fades and mechanical woes, he’ll be hard to beat. I believe Hamilton to be the better driver however, and if McLaren can outpace the ‘drinks company’ in car development, hopefully he’ll have something to say about it.

    1. Remember how Red Bull’s huge qualifying advantage was significantly reduced in the races. Same could be true this year.

      Though I think winning the championship will have had a great effect on Vettel’s mental strength, so he might make fewer mistakes this year. That’s something that often happens with first-time champions.

  7. And if Petrov can pass Alonso, he’ll be frustrated for the 2nd race in a row :D

    1. Alonso being the frustrated one I presume?

      But he will have a try with the DRS in that case or just go for a relatively early or late pitstop to get past.

  8. Couple of things might go awry on this. We don’t know how good Redbull’s starts’ll be, though they picked up significantly towards the end of last year. There’s also a question as to the gap between their qualifying and race performance, something again that seemed to change between the end of last year. As many people attributed it to a different engine map for qualifying, it’s likley the other cars will be in a simular situation last year.

    McLaren have suprised everyone here but I wonder how much of their capped budget they’ve spent fixing the winters mess.

    1. Very true, and another good reason to look forward to getting some answers,but not all of them, in tomorrows race :-D

      1. Another interesting thing to consider, it did appear that cars were comming out of the pits rather gingerly, with a couple of unexplained offs under power. What goes on in the race will be facinaiting, an is this what Redbull put a set of tyres through a heat cycle for.

    2. Mclaren’s 2011 budget should be fine – they aved plenty on fuel during testing!

  9. If Renault’s starts are as good as they were last year, there’s a fair chance of Petrov getting in among the Red Bulls and Mclarens by turn one.

    1. Hasn’t he got to get passed someone in a Ferrari first?

      1. jsw11984 (@jarred-walmsley)
        26th March 2011, 19:12

        No, he’s along side a certain someone in a Ferrari.

        1. He is behind the Ferrari due to staggered grid slots. :)

        2. alongside and a car length behind…

  10. OmarR-Pepper (@)
    26th March 2011, 18:45

    The first thing I noticed in quali was Hamilton blocking agressively and flatting the right tyre. I know these very same tyres are to start right? so let’s hope Hamilton don’t start having vibration problems for that. His driving is 30 0r 40% of the spectacle so let’s hope he can push and fight Vettel, (who I hope wins tonight). Let’s see it!!!!

    1. Did he flat spot the tyre he qualified on or did he flat spot a tyre he may have to use later in the race? Either way, it’s not what you want.

      1. I notice he flat-spotted a hard tyre, which then seemed to vanish straight away. he then did the same to a set of softs, but in Q2. He should be alright.

      2. I think he flat spotted the one on his slower 24.5 run in Q3, but I guess for the race he’d do a stint on his 24.3 softs and then maybe two stints on harder tyres so he’ll probs be alright!

  11. Did I hear correctly that with the Pirellis not rubbering in the track like the Bridgestones used to, starting on the right of the grid will be less of a disadvantage than before?

    1. Lots of marbles though!

    2. That’s a tricky one to call which is why I didn’t get into it in the article. Yes, it’s possible, but by the same token the increased build-up of marbles could make it worse.

      1. Maybe some teams might accidentally point their cooling fans on the track ;-)

        1. “Accidentally” indeed! There is a regulation against that, somewhere – they’re not allowed to improve the surface on the grid or their pit box.

          1. The Renault front exit exaust blows air back beneath the car thus clearing marbles from the track and gives a clean contact point, and therefore the best grip for the rear wheels.


    3. Heard that too sir. My take on this though is, due to the track temperature and smooth nature, the tyres are getting enough energy pushed through them to shed but not getting sticky enough to layer the track.

      Quali was early evening in Melbourne with falling track temps. Race is held in similar conditions. Suspect what we see in Melbourne may not hold water elsewhere – the low tyre wear may also be attributible to the low temp.

      Who would this help? Well Vettel’s tyres had sizably lost chunks during one of the 10-15 lap runs earlier this weekend. Is the RB hungry for tyres? Well something has to hold it on the track better than the rest, so that something has more energy pushed through it.

      My guess is that RB are loving the low track temp, but may suffer from more tyre degradation.

      Inversely, Ferrari are not enjoying this track, despite what looked like almost performance parity. Ergo – no tyre temp – Massa underlined that with his box out spin yesterday.

      RB should do well, but suspect they might have a bigger tyre issue than MCL and FER. Still, early days…

  12. Wow, their DRS diagram is awful. Thanks for actually providing some useful information on when DRS can be activated and when it stops.

    Making useful diagrams shouldn’t be so darned difficult but it seems like it is for too many people.

  13. Webber to take Hamilton out at the first corner then?

  14. I’m a little confused by the DRS diagram. Does the detection point mean that if the car is within a second, then they can use it when they reach the activation point? If the car in front pits or leaves the track does the driver who has moved in front anyway get a free boost, despite having nobody to overtake?

    And this point has probably been covered elsewhere but what happens in the event of a safety car?

    1. You’re right, it’s that point. If you’re within one second, you may active the wing – regardless of what the driver in front is doing.

      During safety car you can’t use it, and in the first 2 laps after it (and after start) you can’t.

      1. Good for RB considering it is right after the two fast corners that they dominate on.

    2. vrbrillantes (@)
      26th March 2011, 23:26

      I have a few questions with it as well. Well let’s say car number 2 is behind car 1 and is inside the “allowable time to activate DRS” (I forgot if it was either 1 or 0.5 secs) but before the activation line, car 2 overtakes car 1. Is he still allowed to use DRS? What if let’s say there’s a car 3 ahead of cars 1 and 2, do the rules still apply? May be unlikely but turn 15 is the slowest part of the track.

      1. It’s 1 second. And it only matters whether you’re within 1 second or not. Regardless of what happens to the car in front.

  15. William Wilgus
    26th March 2011, 20:10

    DRS: What a bunch of ‘phony baloney’!

  16. Something tells me even if tomorrow is a walk-over for Seb, there’ll be plenty to keep us occupied elsewhere. There’s gotta be a bit of madness first few laps what with everything the drivers have got to handle. Can’t wait.

    1. Amen to that! More often than not the action really worth watching is beyond the top 3.

      1. The only hope is that the TV guys actually focus on this action. They have a bad record in missing most of the interesting bits.

        I want to know what’s happening across the field, not just what’s happening in first place and in the McLaren garage (Ted Kravitz…)

  17. so if Hamilton’s KERS broke down during Q3 in qualifying, surely it can’t be fixed before the race because of parc ferme?

  18. If anyone could take the fight to the Bulls and overcome them, i’d go for Hamilton

  19. Seeing massa spin while exiting the pits makes me wonder whether these tires have any grip before they’r up to temp. First few corners could be interesting ;)

  20. This RBR KERS situation is fascinating. Rumour is they have built a smaller version, therefore lighter, just for starts, which they did have trouble with last year, especially Webber.

    Im no KERS expert I’m just wondering with these KERS units, is the energy they store esentially ’empty’ when they car goes out onto the track and begins storing when the cars moves and brakes etc? If so does this mean the Red Bull only have the warm up lap to gain energy storage or is it full from previous qualifying?

  21. “There was a half-four test of the” not sure how to copy and paste on this phone but I’m sure it’s “half-hour”, but I think it’s half-four when we need to get up! See you all in the morning!

  22. intersting that Massa and Barrichello got caught out on their outlaps. I say Chandhok was smiling!

  23. The new rules might not halt Vettel’s winning ways, but if the new tyres means his position comes under threat a repeat of his 2009 Australia antics would be very likely.

    I guess we’ll finally know if the race will be completely determined by the tyres or not. So far its all the nr 1 drivers of the top teams (Vettel, Hamilton, Alonso, Rosberg) who seem to have gotten the most from the tyres. Question is if they wrecked their tyres in doing so or not.

  24. I really don’t expect any less than for Vettel to win. It’s his to lose. They don’t seem to have anything in the way of reliability issues (at the moment!) and Vettel admitted he might get more out of the tyres than originally planned.

    Personally I’m going to be looking out for Petrov and Kobayashi alot tomorrow. Interested to see how they will get on. Renault could do with a good weekend and i’m sure Heidfeld will crawl his way up no problem.

  25. Vettel said that his KERS “wasn’t fully charged”, yet the infographic showed a full bar?

    1. The graphic shows how much of the drivers 7 seconds usage per lap is left rather then how much actual charge he has in the battery. It goes instantly from empty to full when he crosses the start line and doesn’t go up during a lap.

  26. Referring to the track rubbering in, it appears to have very little grip from what i saw yesterday. The stewards were sweeping the track like crazy between sessions in an attempt to remove marbles.

  27. somerandomguy
    26th March 2011, 23:32

    Maybe it will be a Vettel vs Hamilton season

    1. I would love that. They will fight for their life for the next decade just like Prost Senna era in the 90’s.

  28. Have a great time tomorrow morning, everyone!

    Don’t forget:

    European Summer Time – clocks go forward by one hour tonight.

  29. Carlos Santos
    27th March 2011, 2:07

    which is awesome!!!

  30. Formula 1 is going to the unknown & what better place to start it. Everything to play for. I am thinking to 2 if not 3 stops today.My top 2 Vettel Hamilton & someone from Webber or Button.Can’t wait.

  31. The circuit is currenty very, very dirty outside turn ten. There was a massive accident in the V8 Supercars support race that took out five cars and dumped a lot of oil onto the circuit. Sand has been put down to absorb it and the V8s are sweeping it aside, but the whole area will likely still be very dirty by the time the race comes around.

  32. The safety car might, Keith. Cheers fans. Good year.

  33. “Hello, Leg Warehouse? Yes, my friend Sebastian needs something to stand on. Can you help?”

    With a KERS device that only gets used at the start, Sebastian Vettel has no grounds to complain about having too many buttons, paddles and levers to deal with.

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