2014 Chinese GP analysis: Delving into the detail and strategies from Shanghai
Did Vettel cost Ricciardo a podium? Has Sebastian ever suffered a more emphatic defeat to a team-mate? And how bad were Kimi's troubles?
By Mike Wise and James Galloway
Last Updated: 22/04/14 6:15pm
Did Vettel cost Ricciardo a podium finish?
The main talking point after the Chinese GP was Sebastian Vettel's decision to ignore an order instructing him to let Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo past for several laps midway through the race.
The World Champion later explained that he'd only let Ricciardo by once he'd been told the Australian was on a different strategy - Vettel was scheduled to make three stops at that time, having taken more out of his tyres. He eventually stopped twice, but not before uttering "tough luck" over the radio after Red Bull had asked him to move over for the second time in as many races. At the time, the comment was interpreted as a sign of petulance from the four-time World Champion, unhappy at being manoeuvred out the way in favour of the new kid again.
But with Ricciardo closing right up to Fernando Alonso's Ferrari in the closing laps, might the confusion have cost the Aussie a podium? On fresher tyres than his team-mate, Ricciardo was lapping in the low-to-mid 1:43s after his first stop on lap 15. He came upon Vettel on lap 22 after he had been passed by Nico Rosberg's Mercedes. Ricciardo's time that lap was 1:43.605. Stuck behind the slower Red Bull, his subsequent laps were as follows:
Lap 23: 1:44.393.
Lap 24: 1:44.939.
Lap 25: 1:44.154.
Ricciardo finally got past at the start of lap 26 and his resulting time, 1:43.661, indicates the sort of median he'd probably have run to - with at least 2.5 seconds therefore lost behind Vettel. He was 1.2 seconds behind Alonso crossing the line, suggesting with hindsight that....
...but not so according to Christian Horner. "Catching was one thing but with the deficit we have on the kilometre-long straight here, I think passing was going to be something quite different," Red Bull's team boss said afterwards.
Not that the Ferrari was much quicker through the speed trap either, with Ricciardo enthusing afterwards: "I definitely would have had a sniff in another lap. I think we could potentially have got the DRS on the next lap but give it a couple I definitely would have had a crack."
Yet such "ifs and buts" were further rendered moot by the bungling which brought the chequered flag down a lap early, freezing the classification after 54 laps - when he was almost four seconds down on Alonso. But with Ricciardo's performances a highlight of the season so far, it's surely only a matter of time before we see him up on the podium again - and hopefully with points intact this time.
Was it Vettel's largest ever defeat to a team-mate?
How times - and Australian team-mates - change for Sebastian Vettel. After going through the whole of 2013 undefeated against Mark Webber on race day when both Red Bulls made the chequered flag, Shanghai represented the second successive race in which the quadruple World Champion had been beaten by Daniel Ricciardo.
The particularly eye-catching thing about the Chinese result was the gap between the two RB10s in fourth and fifth: 20 seconds in Ricciardo's favour, and this despite the Red Bull new boy initially dropping behind Vettel off the line. The history books show that Vettel has suffered only five heavier race-day defeats when both he and his team-mate have lasted the distance in his seven years in F1, but two of those to Webber in Malaysia 2012 (58 seconds) and Britain 2010 (37 seconds) owed more than a little to mitigating circumstances in the form of costly punctures for the German at both events.
If those two races are discounted from the analysis, then it's only Germany 2011 (38 seconds), when Vettel, off-colour all weekend, spun mid-race, Spain 2010 (51 seconds) and Turkey 2007 (35 seconds) against Tonio Liuzzi at Toro Rosso in only his third F1 start when Vettel has trailed a team-mate by a bigger margin than we saw on Sunday.
In that context, Ricciardo's performance becomes all the more impressive.
And how much slower was Raikkonen than Alonso?
If the 20-second gap between the Red Bulls raised a few eyebrows, then the difference between the two Ferraris in Shanghai was an F1 chasm. While Fernando Alonso ran the dominant Mercedes cars closest and delivered Ferrari's first podium of the season, his fellow ex-World Champion team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, hampered by tyre warm-up problems in the chilly conditions after a generally disjointed weekend, finished eighth - a whopping 52 seconds behind the Spaniard.
Their respective grid positions, fifth and 11th, always meant that any intra-team turnaround for Raikkonen on Sunday was always going to be difficult whatever happened and, although picking up two places on lap one, Kimi was already 11 seconds adrift of the fast-starting Alonso just five laps into the race. But that the gap grew to the best part of a minute over the next 50 laps despite Raikkonen not being particularly stuck in traffic, especially once past his old team-mate Romain Grosjean on lap 13, underlined the extent of his Shanghai struggle. During his 21-lap second stint Raikkonen didn't once lap quicker than 1:44.1 whereas Alonso only twice lapped as slow as that and that was when his medium rubber was 20 laps old and his second pitstop was imminent.
As noted by the Finn himself post-race, his pace did briefly pick up at the start of the final stint and some initial laps in the 1:42s - including his fastest of 1:42.300, the eighth quickest of the GP - started to slowly reel in the Williams of Valtteri Bottas. However, by lap 38 the grip had gone again and Raikkonen was back in the 1:43s. He eventually finished in a relative no man's land - 21 seconds behind Bottas but six seconds clear of Sergio Perez's Force India.
Kimi's assessment that "obviously there's a lot of work to do" reflected what has so far proved a disappointing return to Ferrari.