Monday, 18 November 2013

America: post-race analysis

I only realised after the pre-qualifying piece that the race would finish about 20 minutes or so before Homeland, so instead of trying to rush the post-race analysis I decided to delay it until today. The early discussion for Brazil (next weekend) will be put up tomorrow.

The bet didn’t come off, alas. Whilst Rosberg did have a poor performance in a car that’s second or third in pace terms, he managed to climb up to 9th. It’ll be useful, however, to remember this driver-circuit weakness for next year.

The race started according to the script. Vettel retained the lead, and Webber had a bad start and went backwards, being passed by both Grosjean and Hamilton. Interestingly, as per last year, the even numbered cars appear to have had relatively bad starts (Webber, Hulkenberg, Alonso all lost places at the start, I think). That’s worth recalling for 2014 as well.

One thing not in the script was Sutil going off almost immediately. This prompted an immediate safety car, and whilst it was exciting to see someone who wasn’t Vettel in the lead it didn’t change anything really, because the appearance was so early there was no reason for anyone (save the heavily penalised Gutierrez) to pit early for tyres.

There was far less overtaking than last year. However, I should’ve seen this coming (I sort-of did, hence my Rosberg bet). The reasoning is this: the tyres this year either crumble like cheese or last forever. The tyres in America were the hardest varieties. So, no tyre degradation means no wild speed differences, means it’s harder to overtake. The Suzuka/Silverstone-style twisty bit after turn 1 makes it hard to follow another car, and the DRS zone is immediately after that, meaning that you’ll lose speed and then almost certainly be outside the DRS zone, decreasing the utility of the gimmick for overtaking.

The race was pretty exciting, so much so I had to stop listening halfway through and play Mass Effect 2 instead.

Grosjean did well to get 2nd. I really hope he has a worthy team mate next year. Hamilton’s 4th might sound par for the course, but for a long while he was staving off Hulkenberg, who continues to impress in the Sauber and got a solid 6th. Alonso finished just ahead of the German.

Perez had a good 7th, and Bottas had perhaps the most impressive result, getting 8th and the first points (4) in his career. Rosberg and Button rounded out the top 10.

So, what did we learn? Pirelli have slightly screwed up the tyres, as I mentioned above. This isn’t entirely their fault, as practically no testing doesn’t make their job easy. However, they’ve gone too conservative at the end of the season. This doesn’t alter the title races, but seems now to be a habit. Next year, the cars that are fast but hard on tyres may enjoy a better end to the season because of this.

Vettel’s dominance remains boring. The rule changes next year will either improve this, or the F1 audience will fall off a cliff. I wouldn’t quite describe myself as a die-hard fan (I didn’t watch much of Schumacher’s dominance either), but if I’m struggling to maintain interest in a race then it’s not a good sign.

Kovalainen went backwards to 15th. He finished a minute and a half off the pace of his team mate. He isn’t a bad driver, albeit a bit cocky (he claimed whilst a Caterham driver he could beat anyone if his car was competitive enough, which his 2008 season with Hamilton proved false), but being shoved into a new car with minimal notice is clearly very difficult.

Sadly, Massa also failed to make progress and the bets on him didn’t come off.

Mercedes 348
Ferrari 333
Lotus 315

I think none of the above teams will change places now. To do so would likely require one of the above teams to actually win a race. The only other way it could happen would be for two cars in one team to have a strong result whilst the team above them had minor points or two DNFs.

On a side note, it’s nice that Bottas is now ahead of the generally unpleasant Maldonado.

Incidentally, the races in Korea, New Jersey and Mexico have reportedly been axed from the 2014 calendar. This is not surprising news, but does have the effect of cutting the number of races down to about 19.

Mr. Cotton (from the previous comments), I thought Maldonado only had the Gutierrez impediment. That said, even with two he should have had enough time to do more flying laps. His comments were, as well as being paranoid, even more stupid than I initially thought. He said something along the lines of the car turning differently one way to the other. Yes, Maldonado. It’s almost as if there was a crosswind…

Let’s cheer up, though. Interlagos is next. It’s a bloody good circuit and it rains half the time. It’s even on TV.

Morris Dancer


  1. Hi MD,

    Chilton was the other driver who impeded Maldonado.

    Missing two flying laps is a valid excuse, IMHO. Plenty of better drivers have missed Q2 due to a problem on just one flying lap. Maldonado was unfortunate, but it does not excuse his words afterwards.

    As for the race: I listened to it on the radio whilst doing some work. It in no way encouraged me to watch the replay on BBC later. That's happening too often for my liking. F1 may be having problems, although I'm hopeful next year's rule changes might spice things up a little...

  2. Mr. Cotton, I'll take your word for it (you'll understand why I might be less keen to extend that courtesy to Maldonado).

    I also didn't bother with the 'highlights'.

    Next year's rule changes are, reportedly, almost as large as the 2009 one. I read a piece in which Newey said the major difference would be the engines rather than anything else. That bodes well. I don't care if Vettel wins again, so long as the season is competitive.