The Chinese post-race summary by Martin Brundle is here:
3 weeks is a long gap, especially after the prolonged inter-season interval, but it’s nice to be back. We learnt from P1 that the Pirelli wets really do not last a long time, perhaps degrading after a mere 5 laps in wet but not torrential conditions. In addition, it was revealed that Turkey’s pit stop time penalty is very short, a mere 15 seconds, promoting the strategy of numerous stops. This, in turn, adds to the premium of saving softs during qualifying so there are more of them for the race.
My tip on a Vettel pole was not especially heroic at 1.66, but it did pay off.
Kobayashi’s car died during Q1, which means he starts 24th on the grid. Meanwhile, Red Bull slaughtered their puny rivals, getting P1 and P2 with a single flying lap. Vettel is a mile faster than his rivals and has another fresh set of softs waiting for him. Massa, weirdly, didn’t bother with Q3 despite reaching it and he starts 10th. Schumacher’s a slightly disappointing 8th but his monstrous starts means that those immediately ahead of him need to be very wary at the start.
Two tips, one came off, one didn’t, so the race result was slightly red but the weekend result was slightly green. I correctly predicted Rosberg would breeze past Webber who was hampered by the dirtier even side of the track but he just lacked the pace to properly challenge Vettel. After a bad weekend in China, it’s nice to finish green.
Hamilton had a decent start but buggered up a corner very early on, allowing El Grumpino (perhaps El Happino would be more appropriate today given his excellent result) and Button to pass him. There followed a lot of entertaining action between the McLaren drivers and elsewhere, with the comedy highlight being Petrov trying to shunt Heidfeld into the pit lane and the two Renault drivers gesturing at each other with all the friendliness of a Coalition Government.
For the first time, the DRS made things a bit too easy. It’s probably hard to decide precisely where to stick the activation and detection points but they seem to have got it wrong in Turkey.
Every frontrunner save Button went for 4 stops. For a time Vettel seemed content with 3, but had the luxury of electing for a 4th to ensure he wasn’t passed by Webber or Alonso, who had fresher tyres. The 73 pit stops complicated the race a lot, but despite that Vettel was always (in real terms) the comfortable leader. A combination of the best car and one of the very best drivers makes his title challenge utterly irresistible at this stage of the season. It also makes betting on poles, podiums and winners a pain, so let’s hope the other teams catch up sharpish.
The race saw a great leap forward for Ferrari, especially Alonso who narrowly missed out on 2nd but whose 3rd will greatly invigorate the prancing horse, who had been looking a little lame in the previous races. Massa did poorly, slipping back to 11th (this may be attributable to a poor pit stop he had).
On that point, both McLaren drivers had one bad pit stop each. Hard to say if the conditions made it a bit tricky or if the high number of pit stops just meant we saw more bad ones. They finished as they started, 4th and 6th, and that is just not good enough.
If Ferrari are poor at qualifying and hot in the race then Mercedes are the precise opposite. I think Rosberg’s finished worse than he’s qualified at every race, and slipped back to 5th. Schumacher is just not sharp enough in tight contests and fell back to 12th. Sadly, I think he ought to retire.
Kobayashi enjoyed another banzai performance, starting from 24th (his car broke in Q1) and ending up 10th, nabbing a point.
We’ve seen some patterns now emerge. Safety cars are rare, as are cars breaking down. Just a single retirement this time, I think (di Resta, with a Virgin failing to start). As well as checking the safety car market I’ll start looking at the number of classified cars.
There was some very good news in that Bernie Ecclestone clearly stated his intention to try and keep the Turkish GP. It’s amongst the best new circuits, a cut above the tedium of Bahrain and Abu Dhabi (although the latter has been redesigned this year to encourage overtaking) and I hope it remains on the calendar.
There are two types of tyre wear, due to mileage and driving style. You can’t do a damned thing about the first (unless you crash, in which case tyre degradation is not your biggest problem), but the second can be changed a bit. However, even Button today struggled with a 3 stop strategy, so it’s my view that driving style is a marginal difference whereas mileage is the major difference.
The next race is Spain in a fortnight, and Monaco follows just a week after that.