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GP Week : Issue 181
V ictory for Sebastian Vettel in Bahrain also provided a startling example of the importance of getting to the front early in the 2013 tyre-sensitive world of F1. While Vettel was able, just, to do that and thus control how much he took out of his tyres for the rest of the race, the sister Webber car illustrated the consequences of not getting that clear run. Early in his second stint, Webber looked a likely contender for second, or third, outright, but the early push on the second set of Pirellis brought with it a big price in terms of tyre degradation and pace. The second Red Bull was thus swallowed up by other car/driver combinations, which ultimately turned out to be better on their tyres over the full race distance. In the end, the final lap would see Webber have to bow to the notoriously tyre-heavy Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton. Case closed. The early pass on Alonso was crucial to Vettel’s race, the German able to effectively nurse his fresh tyres into each subsequent stint. “Certainly we had more pace than we expected today, which I think is related to the way that we worked with the tyres,” reported Vettel “We know that the car is quick, we saw that yesterday that we were able to pull a strong qualifying lap together. Sure, it was crucial because with another car in front and especially once you start to settle into a rhythm it’s difficult to overtake. At the beginning, I thought that if there was a small chance to get into the lead I have to take it because then I can take care of the tyres the way I like and hopefully divert the race the way that we planned beforehand.” Making the task even easier was Fernando Alonso’s disastrous DRS failure. Despite an extra stop to free up a jammed-open DRS rear wing (and then running the race without using the ‘push-to-pass’ boost), Alonso’s race pace illustrated that perhaps on this day the stars aligned for Vettel – certainly without the bizarre wing failure the Ferrari could well have made Vettel’s life at the front far less comfortable. In the end, though, Vettel was untroubled and pretty much ran his own race while, again, Kimi Raikkonen made the two-stop Mr Tyre Conservation strategy work for him. The subtle, and less-subtle, comments coming from drivers about the domination of races by tyre issues is telling. Drivers like to race, flat-out. F1 in 2013 is, even more so, about rubber preservation. Like it or not, the evidence is that the young triple-champion from Germany remains the man to beat. 16 GPWEEK.com // 16 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: F1 >>> BAHRAIN