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Turkish GP: A head-scratcher?

2011-05-09 09:35

RED BULL VICTORY: Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber celebrate a one-two victory at the 2011 Turkish Grand Prix.

Author: Natalie Le Clue

 
You wouldn’t have been blamed if you'd pinched yourself a few times during the 2011 Turkish Formula 1 GP. The fourth race of the 19 this year delivered a cacophony of enthralling action and supreme driving.

FOUR-STOP STRATEGIES


The drivers gleaned a lot of information from the successful strategies in China. Distinctly different from the last race, it was McLaren which got the strategy wrong, at least on the part of Jenson Button. His three-stop strategy would ultimately leave him defenceless against Nico Rosberg’s option tyre-shod Mercedes. The only reasoning behind Button not switching to a four-stopper was the possibility that he had no more viable tyres available (a four-stop strategy requires five sets of tyres).

Jenson Button’s three-stop also taught us something new about the Pirelli tyres - no matter how smooth your driving style, as we know Button’s to be, it will not stretch the life of these tyres.

Mark Webber was the first to blink and started the fourth round of stops. Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel responded with stops of their own. Admittedly, Vettel’s was made more as a precaution than out of necessity. 

MCLAREN PACE

Surprisingly, McLaren’s pace was decidedly slower than expected. Their pace may have been exaggerated after a brilliant call on strategy in China but their performance in Turkey was a bit of a head-scratcher. While a difficult pit stop put Lewis Hamilton’s chances of the podium out of reach they were still out-qualified by a Mercedes (Rosberg) and a Ferrari (Alonso).

Their pace during qualifying was also a bit of a puzzle. There is no great analytically correct reason for the kind of race that McLaren had in Turkey though as the saying goes - that’s racing. 

SCHUMACHER


It's been more than year since Michael Schumacher’s return to Formula 1. The initial excitement has well and truly worn off only to be replaced by dismay. Throughout the practice ession in Turkey he was well and truly ensconced in the top five but, come qualifying, a disappointing eighth - team mate Rosberg’s made an impressive third on the grid.

The race wasn’t much better either. In fact, it was poor.

To most he will always be Michael Schumacher. A supremely talented, seven-times World champion who dominated the sport year after year with performances that defined the essence of Formula 1 racing but the question is: Should he be back in Formula 1? It may sound harsh but surely it's time to give that car to a driver who can push it to its full potential

Is it time to call it a day, Schumi... again?

WEBBER STILL GOOD ENOUGH?

Ultimately, he recovered to second but questions are starting to swirl around Mark Webber. Some had already suggested that Webber’s peak came during his title challenge in 2010 and that he would be hard-pressed to muster that kind of form again.

It seemed a bit silly to suggest that a driver of his apparent talent, the same one that delivered those all dominating wins in Spain and Monte Carlo, could not carry on his form in the fastest car on the grid. But low and behold it seems to be true. Granted, the way he scythed through the field in China was spectacular and he took second place in Turkey. There is still something to be said for his pace relative to his teammate.

Throughout his earlier career Mark Webber was known as an ace qualifier. He memorably qualified on the front row on the 2003 Hungarian GP then not so memorably held up the entire field while then Renault driver Fernando Alonso scampered off towards his first Formula 1 victory.

But his mega performances in qualifying seem to have abandoned him this season. In 2010, he was rarely more than two-tenths slower than Sebastian Vettel and even then it was considered a substantial margin.

In 2011 the difference, in qualifying, between Webber and Vettel has hardly even been less than half a second. And to rub salt in the wounds – Vettel’s crash in Friday practice left him without the upgrades, notably a front wing upgrade, while Webber still carried the new parts on his car. What was that he said about a number two driver at Silverstone last year?

It is still terribly early on in the season but the question has to be asked – does Mark Webber still deserve to be in the Red Bull? With his contract running out at the end of the year it seems prudent to suggest that Mr. Webber starts re-discovering his 2010 form and quickly.

VETTEL INVINCIBLE

The only bit of work that Sebastian Vettel had to do in the Turkish GP was to safely negotiate some backmarkers and stop on the marks in his pit box. Everything else seemed a breeze. Pole position by four-tenths over his team mate and a race fully under his control made it all look decidedly easy for the reigning world champion.

At the moment it seems that he has an answer for whatever gets thrown at him. In qualifying he remains untouchable and in the race simply peerless. This may very well by the performance of a multiple world champion.

Sebastian Vettel has now scored 93 of the 100 points available. In many European countries they refer to drivers as pilots. It does seem more like low flying than racing doesn’t it?

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