Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull produce the perfect storm to blow away the rest
Sky Sports F1's Martin Brundle on how the World Champion and the Red Bull "have merged into one to become virtually unbeatable"
Last Updated: 04/11/13 3:33pm
They have the fastest car on the track, it goes without saying, along with the equal fastest and most consistent driver, and probably the most driveable engine package with Renault. But much more than that they have developed an aero and software package to which Vettel has adapted his driving style and technique. It's just one totally cohesive unit which is why he drives away at two seconds per lap on occasions, a pace he described as 'scary'.
Furthermore he has fine tuned his qualifying and starts which then give him clear air to keep his car cooler and tyres more intact. He has a fluidity and precision which means that he doesn't slide, spin or overheat the fragile Pirellis into a zone where they lose grip, further enhancing the pace, and meaning he can travel further and faster than any other driver which then opens up his strategy options. One over-anxious spin up of the tyres, or lurid slide, can thermally impair them for a few corners or even laps. He simply doesn't allow that to happen while carrying super high speed with incredibly accurate and deft inputs.
I saw this first hand when he drove me around a kart track in an Infiniti road car last week. He had completed just three laps when we jumped into a second available car. His fluid and confident command of the hitherto undriven car and grasp of the sinuous track was immediately apparent. He was in charge and totally unflustered. He has a style and confidence I would expect of any top level driver, but he's also been able to translate that at much higher speeds on race day. And in F1 2013 the payback is simply huge due to the tyres.
Back in the Bridgestone days he wouldn't have had such an advantage but the smart and hard working drivers with the believing and supportive designers and engineers always find an edge, just as Schumacher did with Ferrari a decade ago when he could win races with one pitstop, or four, just as he pleased.
I'm thinking about other examples where a driver's technique was so effective, and Senna's pumping of the throttle of his turbo engine during his amazing qualifying laps comes to mind. Along with Mansell's sheer brute strength and determination with the physical cars of the early 90s, and Alonso's dramatic use of the steering wheel in his rear weight biased 2005/6 Renault.
I checked out my views out about Vettel with Adrian Newey and he agrees. Driver and car have merged into one to become virtually unbeatable. Vettel told me after the race that he made only one mistake all race which was a premature gearshift, or short-shift as it's known. After 55 laps that's all he had to berate himself for and you really have to think he could have won that race by a minute had he not been held back.
Mark Webber did his best, not least with that stunning qualifying lap. But in the podium anti-room he was simply incredulous at Vettel's pace, as we all were. I've tasted this medicine with Senna as my F3 rival and Schumacher and Hakkinen as my team mates in F1. And it tastes horrible.
I'm pleased that the Stewards didn't penalise Alonso for the side-by-side action when he exited the pits alongside Vergne. It was a moment of circumstance handled by both drivers with skill and a racer's mentality. It's good to read JEV supporting Alonso on it too despite being passed off track.
Quite how Sutil didn't get penalised for passing off track I don't know but on reflection Hulkenberg's drive through for unsafe pitbox release was understandable. The drivers were still taking liberties with the track limits although it seems that the FIA are tightening up on this.
In the Vettel support race we saw some great action again, not least Massa's opportunistic double overtake at T13. Alonso pounced in the T7 hairpin too against Hulkenberg and there were some robust moves all around. Generally the DRS allowed faster cars to regain position after a stop but for some, like Hamilton and Perez, not being able to pass ruined their races. DRS felt about right here even if the second dose was a touch too effective. From what I'm hearing about the variable top speed of the 2014 engines and gear ratios DRS may not be necessary at all but let's see.
It was great to see Paul Di Resta get a great result at such a critical time too. The main topic of conversation in the paddock, though, was how the likes of Paul and especially Nico Hulkenberg may miss out as six of the eleven teams could be driven by budget requirements. It's written that the Lotus sponsorship deal is finally in place which should hopefully mean that their combination moving forward will be Grosjean and Hulkenberg which is a compulsive prospect.
This is a real bellwether moment for the future of F1 if such talent is overlooked for money in a serious front-running team.