BBC Sport - Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull are a perfect fit
24 September 2013
Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull are a perfect fit
By Gary Anderson
BBC F1 technical analyst
Sebastian Vettel has now won three grands prix in a row. He is dominating Formula 1 and it is not all down to his Red Bull. It is the driver and the car.
The Red Bull fits Vettel like a glove, much more so than team-mate Mark Webber, who is not able to get the same performance out of it.
It reminds me of Jenson Button's title-winning year with Brawn in 2009. Button had been in F1 for nine years before he got that car and had won only one race.
Suddenly, he found himself in the perfect car for him and he was away - winning six of the first seven races and subsequently the title.
Vettel is part of that team and he has worked with them to develop the car in the way he wants.
All drivers say they would like the car to behave in a certain way, but if you fix it for them, you rarely get that much lap time out of it.
With Vettel, if Red Bull build the car to suit what he wants, they do get lap time out of it. That gives a team so much confidence to go forward and continue with a development route because they know it will be worth the effort.
Vettel is getting stronger and you have to respect that. There is no luck involved.
In second practice on Friday, Vettel was one second-per-lap faster than the Mercedes. If you add up the leads Vettel built up during the race in a safety-car interrupted race in Singapore at various times, it adds up to 63 seconds. In a 61-lap race. A second a lap in other words.
So that one-second margin on Friday was real.
The summer break gave everyone had a bit of time to think about what to with their cars, and Red Bull have clearly exploited that opportunity best. Their performance since the season re-started in Belgium at the end of August has been phenomenal.
Unless Vettel slips on a banana skin, I think we all know where the championship is going.
FERRARI NEED TO FIX QUALIFYING WOES
Fernando Alonso drove another fantastic race to finish second after starting seventh on the grid.
His pure racecraft is second to none, but there is a bit of a theory developing in F1 at the moment that there is more time in the car in qualifying.
Some have concluded that means Alonso is not as quick in qualifying as he is in the race. I wouldn't go along with that, but I do think there must be a reason why the combination of him and Ferrari together is not doing better in qualifying.
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If you watched the BBC coverage over the weekend you may have seen the shots from an infra-red camera on the Ferrari showing the temperatures of the rear tyres, which were very high on the inside of the tread.
All the teams are trying to exploit the exhausts gases for aerodynamic effect by blowing them on downforce-producing surfaces at the back of the car.
But Ferrari don't seem to be getting as much out of that as they could do because they are losing a lot of the energy the exhausts create on the brake duct by making it hit the tyre.
The effect of that in qualifying will be to heat the rear tyres up, but that's not good because generally teams struggle to get the front tyres up to temperature in qualifying.
If you heat the rears up, then it makes it the problem of getting the front tyres up to temperature bigger.
Alonso started seventh and was third after the first-corner complex. If he could start third, he could be leading at that point.
He's exceptional in the race and there has to be something stopping him doing better in qualifying. If I was Ferrari I'd be focusing on the exhausts.
SHOULD ALONSO LEAVE FERRARI?
I would love to see Alonso in a Red Bull alongside Vettel. It would be a real dog fight. But I don't think that's ever going to happen.
Does Alonso have to go somewhere else to win the title again? McLaren are very keen on persuading him to rejoin them but I don't think that would be the right move for Alonso to make. They seem to be a bit lost in the wilderness at the moment.
Moving risks doing something stupid just because it's not quite come together at Ferrari yet.
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They are recruiting at the moment, and they are recruiting good people, including their highly rated new technical director James Allison, who worked with Alonso before at Renault.
Next year there is a big regulation change, in the power train and the car design, although there are carry-overs in philosophy on the chassis.
If I was Alonso, I would stick with Ferrari and give Allison a chance to exert his authority.
The most important thing Ferrari can do is give Allison the chance to make a difference, not make him work the Ferrari way. Because the Ferrari way isn't working. They have to give him carte blanche.
MCLAREN NEED AN ALONSO
While I believe it would be wrong for Alonso to go to McLaren, I can see why McLaren want Alonso.
Button can be exceptional in the right circumstances, but he is not always at that level. Last year, he went on holiday for the middle third of the season when he just could not get the car to do what he wanted. Meanwhile, Hamilton, then his team-mate, was wringing its neck and getting results.
Button found the car balance he needed by the end of the season and was back on form. He needs a car that suits him to perform at his best.
And Sergio Perez is not going as quickly as Button. In the Sauber in 2011 and 2012, Perez wrung its neck when the car was good.
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I don't think he knows how to make the car good, but when it's quick, he drives it fast. That doesn't seem to be happening for him consistently this season.
So McLaren must have a question mark over how good their car is.
McLaren do need to develop their car, and I have been harping on about their front wing philosophy all season.
But they need a benchmark driver. Someone who can get in the car and have a wide performance band - an ability to cope with it however it is behaving.
They need someone like Alonso, in other words. Or Vettel, Hamilton or Kimi Raikkonen.
LOTUS BOUNCING BACK
Raikkonen took third in the race after qualifying only 13th because of a problem with his back. And his Lotus team-mate Romain Grosjean would almost certainly have been third, with Raikkonen fourth, had he not suffered a lack of engine air pressure and been forced to retire.
Lotus were, on balance, Vettel's closest challengers in Singapore, and they seem to have stepped up their game now F1 is back on high-downforce circuits after a couple of shaky races at high-speed Spa and Monza.
Can they maintain it? I think they probably can. So they are going to be painful for Alonso.
His points deficit to Vettel is obviously huge, but the last thing he needs is other cars ahead of him. So a strong Lotus would hurt Alonso more than anyone else.
Lotus might even get a couple of race wins, but Vettel wouldn't mind that so long as Alonso is behind him.
Vettel got pole, victory and fastest lap in Singapore. He likes to get a 'full house', but repeating that is not going to be easy in the last six races because he needs to be careful not to throw one away.
Doing that would give Alonso hope again, and he certainly needs some help.