Watching Sebastian Vettel at the start of the European Grand Prix was a tad surreal. The German champion was putting a second a lap or more on the rest of the field and I had convinced myself that Lewis Hamilton, running second, was pacing his race and letting Vettel run while conserving his tires for his race strategy.
That notion served me well until Vettel ran longer than anyone on his particular strategy and even after the restart, he began clawing serious time on the rest of the field. Had it not been for a failed alternator, the race was most likely in the bag for the young dual-champion.
Mark Hallam and I discussed the message this may have sent the rest of the paddock and Ferrari Stefano Domenicali seemed to have mentioned it telling the BBC:
“They did something very good this weekend; they improved the car.
“We are not at the level we should be in terms of performance. Red Bull was the quickest.”
Long-time Formula One fans know that each circuit is different and cars react differently to those conditions. Ambient and track temperatures, or lack of, can add to the equation and the very nature of the turns and aerodynamic requirements can make an otherwise slow car very fast at a particular circuit. I recall Force India a few years ago when they were running well but really shined at Spa Francorchamps etc.
To those ends the question that intrigues most fans, after watching the vettel performance in Valencia and being brought back to memories of 2011’s domination by the Red Bull driver, is whether or not the team have found the elusive pace and performance coupled with Vettel’s uncanny ability to manage tires and drive astoundingly quick.
Do you think Valencia was a case of a road course favoring the Red Bull RB8 chassis or has the team found a massive gain in performance? Vettel ran deep on his first stint so tire preservation was there as well as pace. Do you think the team will carry this new-found performance into Silverstone and beyond? Let us know in the comment section below.