F12 continues Ferrari's high-revving tradition - Autoweek

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F12 continues Ferrari's high-revving tradition - Autoweek

COMP\\ FORMULA ONE SEASON REVIEW

INTRIGUING

RUNAWAY

78 AUTOWEEK DECEMBER 26, 2011

Sebastian Vettel’s domination

didn’t spoil the Formula One season

BY ADAM COOPER

Ecclestone

on 2011

� THE BATTLE FOR

the 2011 Formula One

World Championship

might not have gone down

to the final race, but the in-

dividual races were exciting.

That’s a common

opinion of many in the

paddock, including F1

boss Bernie Ecclestone,

the man ultimately responsible

for creating the show.

“Obviously, I would

�THE BATTLE FOR THE 2011

Formula One World Championship

was very different from the previous

year’s contest, which saw four drivers

still in contention at the final round

in Abu Dhabi.

When Sebastian Vettel crossed the

line to win the last Grand Prix of 2010,

it marked the first time all year that the

mercurial German had led the championship.

In contrast, Vettel’s 11 wins in

19 races this year made it look easy.

It was not, but he logged such an impressive

run of early wins (six in the first

eight events) and podium places (he finished

outside of the top three just twice

all year and was first or second 16 times)

that the opposition by midseason essentially

conceded that it was over. Vettel

officially clinched his second crown in

Japan, where so many titles have been

won in the past, with four races still to

run. He finished the year with a haul of

392 points, 122 clear of championship

runner-up Jenson Button.

Vettel made virtually no mistakes in

races all season and demonstrated total

mastery of the complex rules, making

the most of systems such as DRS and

rather the championship

was like it was before: the

last corner of the last lap

of the last race,” he said.

“But I think the racing

has been good this year.

People like to watch each

race, and when they’re

watching the race, they

don’t say, ‘This is the

championship position,’

and calculate the points.

At the end of the race,

maybe they do, but during

the race, they just watch

the race.

KERS, as well as tire strategy. His form

in qualifying was extraordinary as he

earned a record 15 poles. Only in the

final two races did his luck finally run

out, with a tire puncture stopping him

in Abu Dhabi and a gearbox problem

slowing him in Brazil.

The latter allowed teammate Mark

Webber to score his only win of the

season. The Aussie, a title contender

in 2010, was thoroughly outclassed by

his younger teammate all year.

Perhaps surprisingly, Vettel’s domination

did not mean that the season was

boring. McLaren-Mercedes and, to a

lesser degree, Ferrari, kept Red Bull

Racing on its toes and ensured that

fans and the media never went to a

race weekend knowing for certain that

the dark blue cars were unbeatable—at

least, not on race days.

Button boosted his reputation with a

superb season that saw him score three

wins and log a string of podiums. In his

second year with McLaren, the 2009

world champion forged an increasingly

close relationship with the team, and he

rarely put a foot wrong.

His teammate Lewis Hamilton

retained the upper hand over one lap

in qualifying but had a disappointing

year. He made a string of mistakes and

lost out to Button often in a straight

fight during races, and at times he

seemed ill at ease with himself. His

three wins were rare highs in a season

that Hamilton will want to forget.

The only other man to win a race

was Fernando Alonso, who never gave

less than his best in an inferior Ferrari

and flattered the car with victory in the

“The DRS has obviously

been a big improvement,

but as for KERS, it costs a

lot of money, and all the

public knows is that it

doesn’t work sometimes.

“Pirelli have done what

we asked them to do. It’s

just as difficult doing what

they’re doing as making a

tire that lasts. If we said

make a tire that will go a

whole race, they could do

it, obviously, but it isn’t

what we want.”

Ecclestone has been

British Grand Prix and a total of 10 podium

finishes. On the other hand, teammate

Felipe Massa had a dire season that

saw him never finish better than fifth.

Of the rest, Nico

Rosberg and Michael

Schumacher usually

led the chase of the

top three teams for

Mercedes GP, though

Lotus Renault GP and

Force India-Mercedes

were also in the fight for

the minor placings. Top

rookies Paul Di Resta

and Sergio Pérez showed

signs of promise.

The big story was

the return of Pirelli after

an absence of 20 years.

The Italian company

was charged with enlivening

the racing by

building tires that had a limited life,

and it succeeded in its task. Hamilton’s

chase of Vettel in China—where the

McLaren man made an extra stop and

gained the advantage of fresh rubber,

while the leader had pushed his tires

too far—was a highlight of the season.

Red Bull and others learned from that

race, and as the year went on, tires arguably

played less of a role. Some drivers

also complained that Pirelli had become

too conservative, and a less dramatic

dropoff in tire performance reduced the

chances of using strategy to gain ground

on rivals.

The other big novelty was the dragreduction

system, which was intended

to help drivers get into a position where

close to many drivers over

the years, and he has a

soft spot for Sebastian

Vettel. “Sebastian is definitely

the best guy that

there is at the moment,”

he told Autoweek. “He reminds

me a lot of Jochen

Pirelli, back

in F1 after

20 years, was

charged with

enlivening

the racing

by building

tires that had

a limited life,

and it

succeeded.

they could make a pass, rather than the

system actually doing it for them. The

FIA trod a fine line as it experimented

with the length and location of the DRS

zones, and it didn’t al-

ways get it right. In some

races, it seemed to have

little value, and in others—notably

Turkey—

passing was far too easy.

Technical directors

had predicted during

the winter that exhaust

development would be

critical in 2011, and so it

proved. Adrian Newey

and Red Bull were masters

of the complex

blown-diffuser technology,

and the rest

had to catch up.

There was much

debate over the legality

of the systems, and matters reached a

head at the British Grand Prix, when for

that one race, the FIA restricted exhaust

blowing.

However, the governing body was

forced thereafter to allow teams to

revert to their full-blown exhausts after

several engine manufacturers argued

that they needed special adjustments

for the sake of reliability and drivability.

Thus, the FIA allowed teams to carry on

as they had prior to the British race.

However, next season, exhausts can

have no aerodynamic influence.

It’s a big change, and it makes us

wonder, can anyone outthink design

genius Newey as the rules evolve once

again? c

Rindt; as everyone knows,

I was very close with

Jochen. And he’s a very

relaxed guy and a good

character. He has a good

sense of humor, so he’s

easy to get on with.”

So what does the

Grand Prix czar think

about 2012? “The people

who have to get their act

together are Ferrari. If they

manage to do that, and I’m

sure and I hope they will,

we’re going to have some

good racing.” —AC

DECEMBER 26, 2011 AUTOWEEK 79

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