The Chinese tactical nightmare, rain keeps us entertained

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I am still working the numbers with my F1B Abacus attempting to figure out the tactical nightmare that was the 2010 Chinese Grand Prix. It was was the on/off rain that rendered most race strategies useless–even those that were supposed to accommodate the chance of rain.

VMR has done a terrific job of describing the race as it unfolded so I will refrain from the redundancy but there were a few highlights that struck me as noteworthy.

The first noteworthy event for me was the dual points finish for Renault. Some suggested that F1’s first Russian driver, Vitaly Petrov, was under some pressure to keep his ride should he not start producing result. The Russian finished his first race of the year in the points today.

While the team lost some ground to Mercedes GP for the “best of the rest” title due to a terrific podium finish by German driver Nico Rosberg, the French squad are still just 14 points adrift from the legacy that is Mercedes GP.

Robert Kubica, P5
Fastest lap: 1:43.630
Started race on option tyres
Pit stop 1: Lap 20, time in pits: 23.0s, (intermediates)
Pit stop 2: Lap 37, time in pits: 24.0s (intermediates)

Robert:

“It was an exciting race today and it’s good to have scored some more points. At the start of the race I made a bad start and lost a lot of positions, but we made the right decision to stay out on slicks when it started to rain and I was able to move up through the field into third place. However, the critical moment of my race was when the safety car came out, which ended my hopes of a podium because I lost the big lead I had to the cars behind me. So although I’m happy to finish fifth, I still feel a bit frustrated to have missed a podium.”


Vitaly Petrov, P7
Fastest lap: 1.43.801
Started race on option tyres
Pit stop 1: Lap 20, time in pits: 24.2s (intermediates)
Pit stop 2: Lap 38, time in pits: 27.3s (intermediates)

Vitaly:

“I’m happy to finish my first race in Formula 1 and to score my first points. It was a difficult race and it wasn’t easy to make the right decisions today. In the beginning, when it started to rain, some drivers came in for intermediates, but we decided to stay out on slicks, which was the right decision. Then I kept talking on the radio with the team to decide when we would change to intermediates, and again we got the timing right. When I changed to my second set of intermediates, I knew it would be important to look after the tyres, but we didn’t know if it would continue raining or if the track would dry out. But I kept pushing, the engineers told me that I had good pace, and in the final laps I had some good overtaking moves, especially with Schumacher and Webber, to gain some more places.”

Eric Boullier, Team Principal

“To get two cars in the points today is a great result for the team and I’m very pleased with our performance. To see Vitaly score his first points is fantastic, especially in such spectacular style with a fighting drive where he showed great pace. It’s good for him to have a race distance under his belt and I’m sure he will take a lot of confidence from this excellent result. Robert, too, had another brilliant race, and didn’t make a single mistake all weekend. I also want to pay tribute to the team who have worked so hard recently, both here at the track and back at the factory in Enstone. They have not made any mistakes all season and have made great calls with the strategy: today’s result is a great reward for all their efforts.”

Another interesting note was the intra-team rivalries heating up with Button taking the lead at McLaren over the incumbent Lewis Hamilton. Button’s victory today has him squarely in the lead of the Driver
s Championship but what has it done to his leadership at McLaren?

Also of note was the battle at pit entry between Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa. It has occurred to me that the latter has held up the former in the first three races and this was not to be repeated in China come hell or high water. How do the two view the move?

Fernando Alonso:

“In a race like this, anything can happen. We did five pit stops to change tyres, which is definitely unusual: all in all, I think we took the right decisions at the right time. In a race like this you only understand at the end what would have been the best thing to do, as neither on the pit wall nor in the car do we have a crystal ball! I made a serious mistake at the start as my reflexes let me down and I left early. It’s never happened to me before and I am very disappointed with myself. Luckily, despite the penalty, I managed to finish fourth. The passing move on Felipe? If he was not my team-mate, there wouldn’t be so much talk about it and for me it was a normal move and it definitely won’t compromise our relationship. We have a great potential and we must hope we get some normal races like the one in Bahrain. The start of the championship has gone well: we have shown we are competitive on all the tracks and we have what it takes to win the title. Clearly, we have to up our points tally and improve our qualifying performance. McLaren deserve the top spot, because even though they might not have the best car they have got the most out of it every time.”

Felipe Massa:

“This was a very complicated race and clearly I can’t be happy with the result. Of course, two points are better than nothing, but in the upcoming races we have to do better and that means working on the development of the car. Right from the start, it was difficult to make the right choice in terms of what tyres to use because of the changeable weather. As for the passing move Fernando made, I ended up on a puddle of water coming out of the hairpin and slightly lost control of the car: he managed to get inside me, passing me going into the pit lane. I lost some places because of it, as I had to wait for his stop to be finished. In the closing laps, I was struggling a lot with the tyres, but Michael was suffering worse than me and I managed to pass him. We have seen how the situation can change radically from one race to the next: we need to work as hard as possible to try and get the most out of the potential at our disposal.”

Both Virgin Racing cars failed to start the grand prix unfortunately leaving Lotus and HRT to hold the mantel for the new teams. HRT managed to bring both cars home while Lotus Racing’s Heikki Kovalainen was the highest placed new team.

Heikki Kovalainen (T127-01, car no. 19, fastest lap 1.47.141):

“This was a great way to round off our first four races. I think we had the correct strategy today in what were pretty tricky conditions. The pace was good – we were again ahead of the other new teams, and this time had a good battle with Williams. The decision to stay out early on dry tyres was made by me and the team together – it wasn’t wet enough to come in and as soon as the race started I could see the rain had calmed down so we agreed it was the right call to stick with the plan. The other cars on wet tyres were obviously struggling so that worked out very well. It might not always work out like this for us, but today it showed we’re a good team who make the right decisions, so I’m really pleased, for everyone in Lotus Racing, and all our fans.

Jarno Trulli (T127-03, car no.19, fastest lap 1.49.675):

“It was a tough day out there from the start, which is a shame because we’d had a trouble free weekend and I was able to push for quite a few laps. The conditions weren’t too bad and I was enjoying myself , but I had more hydraulics issues which brought me in on lap 18. The team did a good job to get me back out again but unfortunately the problems struck again and I had to retire. We’ve got a bit of time now before Spain to work on the new upgrades, so let’s see what happens when we reach Barcelona.”


Mike Gascoyne, Chief Technical Officer:

“Whilst I’m obviously pleased I want to say first how disappointed I am for Jarno. He’s had a lot of bad luck so far – it seems all our bad luck has been on his car, so apologies to him, but it was a fantastic race from Heikki. We judged all the calls correctly and were on the right tyres all the way through, so congratulations to the whole team for that. I’m also very pleased to see our race pace was very good, especially at the end on the wet conditions. These first four races were always going to be tough, but we’ve achieved what we set out to and now we’re looking ahead to Barcelona and seeing how the updates we’ve been working on help us move forward.”

Tony Fernandes, Team Principal:

“I’m really happy today as we’ve accomplished what we said we’d do. We wanted to see at least one car cross the line for the first four races, and we’ve done that, but it’s kind of bitter sweet today. It’s obviously a great result for Heikki but a real shame for Jarno as he seems to take the brunt of the issues – it’s a bit odd as it does seem to be just his car. The conditions today made it very tense out there and it’s very satisfying, and shows how we’re progressing, that today we were racing Williams, who we beat on track.”

“Another great thing for me was to see how the Lotus Racing dream is spreading, in China, Asia and across the world. We saw a load of Lotus Racing flags in the stands, and this time next year let’s hope we see even more fans out there cheering for us – we’ll do our best to give them something to be very proud of!”

Lewis Hamilton seems hard pressed to avoid controversy of late and the Chinese Grand Prix was no different. While exiting the pits, Hamilton tangled with Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel that saw the two side-by-side going down the pit leaving Hamilton dangerously close to team members.

After review of the video, both drivers were reprimanded by the Stewards and no penalty was given. While many believe penalties should ahve been given, it appears that F1 is trying to rid itself of the reputation of being a nanny state over the sport.

Speed TV debuted their new, hip, young pitlane reporter named Will Buxton. Many will recall Buxton from his blog and online magazine days and china was his debut due to a brief hiatus whilst he and his wife had their first child.

The race was a tactical nightmare for many with the rain elements and strategy. So who was the winner? Button. Who had the drive fo the race? You tell us–but one doesn’t have to think too hard as just about every driver put on a great display and my how the “show” is so much better for it.

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