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F1 Spanish GP: Car Weights and Race Prediction

Fuel weights

1.  Jenson Button         Brawn Mercedes        646.0
 2.  Sebastian Vettel      RBR Renault           651.5
 3.  Rubens Barrichello    Brawn Mercedes        649.5
 4.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari               655.0
 5.  Mark Webber           RBR Renault           651.5
 6.  Timo Glock            Toyota                646.5
 7.  Jarno Trulli          Toyota                655.5
 8.  Fernando Alonso       Renault               645.0
 9.  Nico Rosberg          Williams Toyota       668.0
10.  Robert Kubica         BMW Sauber            660.0
11.  Kazuki Nakajima       Williams Toyota       676.6*
12.  Nelson Piquet         Renault               677.4*
13.  Nick Heidfeld         BMW Sauber            676.3*
14.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren Mercedes      683.0*
15.  Sébastien Buemi       STR Ferrari           678.0*
16.  Kimi Räikkönen        Ferrari               673.0*
17.  Sébastien Bourdais    STR Ferrari           669.0*
18.  Heikki Kovalainen     McLaren Mercedes      657.0*
19.  Adrian Sutil          Force India Mercedes  675.0*
20.  Giancarlo Fisichella  Force India Mercedes  656.0*

* declared weight

Jenson Button did brilliantly to get pole position in the dying seconds of qualifying. He hadn’t been happy with the balance of the car so far this weekend. Despite this he put the lap together when it really mattered.

Rubens Barrichello will perhaps be disappointed that it wasn’t him on pole, as he was looking stronger than Jenson up to Q3. Sebastien Vettel continued his top 3 record in qualifying in 2009, which is very impressive.

The fuel weights have now been declared and are listed above

Overall the front runners are pretty much doing the same thing.

Jenson Button will be the first of those at the sharp end to pit and he will be in on lap 15/16.  Sebastien Vettel has a couple more laps of fuel onboard, and he will visit the pits for the first time on lap 17/18.

Rubens Barrichello is in between this pair, and he will be in a lap after Jenson, but a lap before Vettel on lap 16/17.

Felipe Massa is the heaviest of the top 5, and he will run till lap 19/20. Mark Webber has exactly the same amount of fuel as Vettel. Obviously they won’t pit at the same time if they are close together on the track. Red Bull will decide who comes in first depending on how the first stint is unfolding.

Furthur back Alonso is the lightest of the top 10 and he will be on lap 14/15.

Lewis Hamilton is the heaviest of everyone and looks like he will be running a 1 stop race. He will be going beyond 30 laps in his first stint. Mclaren have been disappointing, and appear to have dropped back this weekend

From these weights Felipe Massa has to be my star of qualifying. He qualified 4th amongst quicker cars, which had less fuel than him. Massa has four more laps of fuel on board than Jenson, and was only around 0.4 seconds slower than him. Fuel corrected it would have been quite close between the pair. This shows how good Massa is over a single lap, and how far Ferrari has come with these new upgrades.

Credit must be given to Jenson too who pulled off a stunning lap under immense pressure. He almost didn’t make it past the start line in time, after a mis-calculation during his out-lap. He was able to get his head straight again after that immediately.

Vettel did another brilliant job, and fuel corrected was right up there with Jenson too.

My prediction for tomorrow

Button has to be made favourite for this race. In Barcelona the driver on pole has won for the last eight seasons (which is a record). The Brawn GP has looked to have re-established its advantage over the long runs here. This circuit is very hard on the tyres and this plays into Brawn’s favour, as this car is easy on its tyres. Over the race distance here Brawn GP are up to 0.5 seconds quicker per lap.

Brawn GP don’t enjoy this same advantage in qualifying, so all the more reason why a 1-3 on the grid was a fantastic result for them.

As long as Button gets away well he ought to be able to cruise to a comfortable race victory. Vettel does have a couple more laps of fuel onboard, but I don’t think Red Bull quite has enough race pace this weekend Once they have the new diffuser sorted I am sure they will have. However we all know that Vettel can produce something special, so he will push Button very hard.

For me Massa is the joker in the pack for this race. He is starting 4th and has KERs up his sleeve. It’s a very long run down to turn 1 so he has a great chance of having a go at Button at the start.

If Massa could get into the lead he has a genuine chance of winning the race. In Spain it’s impossible to overtake, and he can use KERs to defend down the pit straight. He would also have the tactical advantage with 4 laps more fuel than Jenson, so he could continue to stay in front after the pit stops.

It’s actually feasible that Massa could pull off a similar style of victory to Gilles Villeneuve’s Spanish GP win in 1981, where he held a train of cars behind him race long. Just like Massa now, Villeneuve was driving a Ferrari which wasn’t the quickest in the field. Maybe history really could repeat itself?

Barrichello is another potential threat to Button. We have seen in the long runs that Barrichello’s race pace is very strong. If he can get past Vettel early on, and move into 2nd behind Jenson, we could see a straight fight between the Brawns. That would be very interesting indeed.

Furthur back I expect a very tight and entertaining battle between Webber, the Toyotas, Alonso and Kubica for the lower points paying positions.

Kimi Raikkonen could also join in this tight scrap if he has a strong first couple of laps. That will be crucial if he is to have any chance of salvaging something from this weekend. It’s shocking to see that Ferrari made exactly the same error again!

In conclusion Jenson Button should win this race. As usual an awful lot depends on what happens at the start. Jenson’s dream ticket would be a clean start and Massa moving into 2nd and blocking the others.

Massa making an electric start and moving into 1st would be difficult even with KERs onboard, but it can be done. Lets rememeber Rosberg managed that in Sepang without the KERs system. If this happened, Jenson’s life would be made much trickier in this race.

Spain doesn’t normally provide thrilling GPs, and I doubt this will change even with the new aero regulations.

It should still quite an intriguing race though. With all the big upgrades put on the cars for this race, we will learn the likely pecking order for the next quarter of the season.

If Brawn GP can triumph again tomorrow (regardless of everyone else’s efforts to usurp them with upgrades) then you would have to say, that they are starting to look very good for a fairytale championship win.

Of course in F1 anything can happen.

My top 8 prediction

1.   Jenson Button

2.   Felipe Massa

3.   Sebastien Vettel

4.   Rubens Barrichello

5.   Timo Glock

6.   Nico Rosberg

7.   Mark Webber

8.   Kimi Raikkonen

May 9, 2009 Posted by | Previews | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Talking Points from Bahrain PART 1

The Bahrain GP weekend was another intriguing F1 race weekend with plenty more thinking points. Let’s look at the main talking points of this weekend’s action.

Button’s pass on Hamilton sets him up to win against the odds. Was it his best performance of the season so far?

Going into the race it wasn’t looking brilliant for Jenson. He had qualified 4th and was surrounded by KERs cars. To make matters worse the Brawn GP was struggling badly with overheating. The temperature was three or four degrees higher than they could realistically cope with. The Brawn GP car wouldn’t be able to cope with staying in another car’s turbulent air.

The first couple of laps were going to be crucial if Jenson was going to have any chance to challenge for this victory. Button got a decent start and was able to get ahead of Sebastien Vettel. Unfortunately Hamilton pressed his KERs button halfway down the straight and was able to get ahead. Button was also heavily challenged by the Ferraris but he managed to hold them off. That was critical.

Button was currently 4th behind Hamilton, and the two Toyotas running away ahead. Button had to pass Hamilton. At the end of the first lap Hamilton made an error at turn 14. This allowed Button to get up right close. Button then nailed Hamilton in a very brave out-braking move into turn 1. Had Button not made this move, he would have been stuck behind Hamilton for a long time. He would have then had to hang back so his car didn’t overheat.

However now he had some clear track, and importantly clean air. He managed to keep the gap to the Toyotas stable. He was running longer and was able to leapfrog the pair of them at the pit stops.

As the Trulli train formed Button was able to get away and build a gap of around thirteen seconds, which he then maintained for the rest of the race.

It was a fantastic performance by Jenson Button. This was his best drive of the season. The car didn’t have the advantage it had at previous events. There was the overheating issue too, which Ross Brawn described before the race as “trouble”. He had a lot of work to do at the start to make a victory challenge even possible. He pulled it off brilliantly.

He has now extended his championship lead to 12 points, and is looking in brilliant shape.

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April 27, 2009 Posted by | Race reviews | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment