Sunday, March 29, 2009

Another "Learning Experience"

Well, if past history is anything to go by, Jenson Button has the best chance of being the World Champion. Hamilton won in Australia last year, Raikonnen the year before, and we all remember how those years turned out.

This event wasn't kind to Ferrari last year either, so we should not fall into the trap of trying to predict the whole season from one race. Last year Ferrari turned it around and won the day at the next race, so we can hope for a similar result next week.

In retrospect, using the option tire for the first stint was probably a smart move. There was always going to be an increased penalty for using the option tire, and it was surprising just how much of a penalty that turned out to be. By running the option tire first, you get the penalty out of the way early, and if (or, in Australia, when) there is a safety car, much of that penalty will be wiped out in one go. One strategy which now has to be investigated would be short-fueling the first stint, running the option tire, then running the rest of the race split in two stints. It would also put your fuel stops out of cycle with the rest of the field, which would be an advantage in that while you'd initially be unable to get on terms with the faster, lighter car ahead of you, you would then end up with the faster and lighter car yourself -- with, one hopes, clear track in front of you, once the car ahead stopped.

Raikkonen today:
"When I ended up in the wall it was my mistake. A shame as, given what happened later, I could have finished second. We lost valuable points but we will try and make up for it starting right away in Malaysia. There, we will get a clearer picture of the situation because this circuit is not very indicative of performance. The KERS worked well at the start, but there was not much room to go anywhere. If we did not think it gave an advantage, we would not use it. Definitely the main problem was in managing the tyres, but we also need to improve our overall performance."
Well good on him for accepting responsibility for the mistake; everyone is due one now and then. Hopefully it won't become a habit. Elsewhere he is described as thinking his failure cost him third place, I think this is somewhat optimistic even including the BMW/Red Bull collision in the closing staged. While he definitely was on course for points, I don't think that they would be a significant haul, and they would be enhanced by the collision ahead of him.

Massa's failure is described merely as "mechanical", and Massa does nothing to clear up the mystery in his comments. This will give the team something else to think about, as mechanical reliability was supposed to be the cornerstone of this year. Indeed, Massa's retirement is the only one which isn't at least indirectly a result of a collision, self-induced or otherwise.

It's a short hop to Malaysia next week, so there is not much time to make substantial changes. However you can be sure that even as the lawyers prepare for the FIA's Court Of Appeal, the engineers are working on a diffuser design that matches the Brawn's interpretation of the rules, to be quickly applied to the car should the lawyers fail. There is clearly enough to keep everyone usefully busy in the short term.