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GP Week : Issue 111
Bullet with butterfly wings “In the heat we kept our heads cool,” said Sebastian Vettel over his radio as he wound the RB7 down and trundled home to accept his second first-place trophy in two races. Peter Windsor analyses a fascinating race F1 MALAYSIA >> save sets for Q3. It’s also about saving the number of laps on each set. The race, in 2011, starts in qualifying – with minimizing the usage of both prime and option tyre right from the start of Q1. The less you use them, the more you can race them. Seb did exactly that, cruising through Q1 on primes while thinking already of the Q3 lap. Both McLaren drivers, meanwhile, used two sets of primes. Seb was slower than both McLaren, Ferrari and Lotus Renault drivers, plus Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber) – but was through to Q2 with only three laps behind him. Only the Lotus Renault drivers matched that. Q2, on options, was another success: Seb was third quickest (behind Lewis and Jenson) and fractionally quicker than Mark. Jenson had only one run but Lewis went for two – a choice that would affect him exponentially on Sunday. Total laps at this point: Seb six, Lewis 13, Webber 10, Button nine, Fernando 11. So Seb was doing more with less. It is the heart of what his 2011 is all about. The pole, though, is the pole: you have to go for it. This year at Sepang, following discussions about the left (or ‘clean’) side of the road being so open to inside passes into Turns One and Two, it was decided that the pole would be on the right. That being so, McLaren’s hand was strengthened slightly: their engine and KERS hybrid performance is unsurpassed in F1 and a Lewis on the inside pole, even with a mediocre start, would still probably retain the lead into T1. A Lewis from the outside pole, again with a mediocre start, would not necessarily be able to lead the pack into T1 – or out of T2, let’s put it that way. Ergo, it was crucial to out-qualify Lewis – partly because it’s always better to be in front and partly because it would nullify the effect of the new pole side if things went wrong. Lewis was slightly quicker on his first run – 1min 35.0sec to 1min 35.1sec. He had done more laps. He knew the limit of the McLaren; he knew from where the option grip would come. Webber was 0.1sec slower again. And so to the final, dying minutes. Seb sat and waited, sat and waited, staring at the timing monitor but thinking still of the lap. McLaren were back out. Ferrari too. And Webber. Fans and flexi-ducts blew cool air into his face, through the helmet opening. Mechanics stood by, patting their brows with paper wipes. And now, finally, they lowered his car and peeled off the tyre warmers. He eased the hand clutch and drove hard right into the pit lane, shutting his visor as he did so. A slow out-lap – but not too slow. Start to lean on the tyres a little in the second half of the lap. Brake early for T15. Nice, clean exit. KERS! Go! As Seb crossed the timing line there were but four seconds of Q3 still to run. It was a classic Seb lap – of the type we saw in Melbourne and at many other tracks 23