The refueling ban was last seen in Formula 1 back in 1993 at the Australian Grand Prix. Seventeen years later, the rule is back, reducing pit stop times to no more than four seconds. Pit stops are required, as the rules state that both tire compounds need to be used. 100 kilograms will be added to the weight of the cars this season due to the fully fueled tanks. Except fastest laps to appear towards the second half of each race. There are several points I would like to address, which I will continue to do after each race.
1. Racing on a Full Tank
I didn’t know what to expect when refueling was banned. I assumed – simply because a part of F1 was changing – that some excitement had been taken away. To my surprise, I found it quite good. No more car weight list on the fortnight of a race to study who will pit first and when. It took a little less team strategy and a little more raw driving talent in order to succeed. The fact that all tanks were full, the only contributing factor to a driver’s performance is his ability in conserving tires and remaining consistent.
2. Conserving Tires
“I was a bit sad we pitted when we did because I felt that I had looked after the tyres a little bit too much, because the last five laps of the stint I was able to push and catch Webber and Michael,” says Button. The majority of the drivers opted for a one-stop strategy, using the soft compound tire during their first stint and the hard compound tire for the second. What we, the viewer, have to take notice of is who can conserve their tires better than the next. A balance between conserving tires and remaining competitive needs to be found, which Button couldn’t do. He was preoccupied by the state of his tires rather than finding that balance. Because of that he finished in 7th.
3. Team Strategies
As I watched the front runners trade fastest laps, I realized that gaps were increasing and decreasing in an instant. At one point the gap between Vettel and Alonso went from 1.5 to 2.2 to 1.0 seconds within two laps. It was really down to the consistency of the driver that saw him succeed. The three sector times had to be spot on every time in order to maintain a gap and even think of gaining more. That was what I enjoyed watching the most.
4. Pit Stops
Depending on how long each tire compound lasts for at each circuit, taking into account how hard a driver has pushes, if any tires have been flat-spotted, and whether there have been any off track incidents, a pit lap can be decided.
Vettel: pit lap 18
Alonso: pit lap 17
Massa: pit lap 18
Rosberg: pit lap 17
Hamilton: pit lap 16
5. Fastest Laps
On lap 15, Vettel clocked a fastest lap time of 2:02:460 (just before his pit stop) and was almost a second and a half faster than Alonso’s time on that lap, a 2:03:875.
Just five laps on (after the pit stops), Massa responds with a 2:00:701, more than a second and a half quicker than the previous fastest lap.
Alguersuari was the first driver to lap under 2 minutes.
On lap 45, Alonso sets the fastest lap of the race at 1:58:287, breaking the lap record for Bahrain in 2010.
Sutil was second with time of 1:59:393 (lap 49) – Force India is quick.
Third fastest lap time went to Webber (lap 45) with a time of 1:59:487.
6. Ferrari’s ‘Abnormal Parameters’
Both Massa and Alonso had their engines replaced for today’s race. Ferrari took precautions after data showed some ‘abnoral parameters’ during the qualifying session. That’s fine due to the 2010 engine rule stating that each driver is welcome to use up to 8 engines per season. Good gamble I’d say – a well deserved 1-2.
7. Redbull’s Cracked Exhaust
I like to see exemplary racing from every competitor. It was a shame Vettel lost out to his faulty exhaust system. I am sure the race would have played out quite differently if he maintained his lead.
“I think it was 15-20 laps to the end I just lost power. I don’t know what it was but I think something mechanical broke. Luckily we could continue but we should have won really,” says Vettel.
Reliability has always played a large role in the success of a team and their drivers. This year is no different. Add lap consistency and engine and tire conserving, and you get your win.
Driver of the day: Fernando Alonso.
Moment of the day: Massa crossing the line in second place – he has been through one hell of a year and to see him in second, let alone competing, is quite an accomplishment.