Facts and statistics are normally quite stubborn. We mentioned in a feature last week that 16 of the 20 races held at Barcelona before 2011 had been won from pole position, and it is probably what a lot of people in the grandstands and in front of their TV were expecting. Well, like everything, facts are here to be proven wrong and it is exactly what happened on Sunday.
For a Grand Prix that’s normally quite calm and not so rich in nice moves, the 2011 edition happened to be quite a thrilling one. The weather certainly delivered, and the temperatures rose continuously across the weekend.
The race proved that the team is heading in the right direction, even if we’re still not fighting where we want to: at the front. Other teams’ updates worked well, and the team knows there is still some work to be done to be up there again.
Both of our drivers delivered a solid race, even allowing themselves what Nico later described as “a bit of fun” - meaning close but fair action on the track. It’s now time to review our performance last Sunday…
After having suffered a KERS issue on his car on Saturday and not completing a time lap in Q3 to save a set of tyres for the race, Michael started from the race from P10.
From there he knew that a good start would be key for the rest of this race, and that’s exactly what Michael delivered, gaining four places on the first lap: so far this year, Michael has gained on average over 2.5 positions on the first lap of every race.
He then stayed P6 for most of the race and stopped three times on laps 10, 26 & 41. Michael’s first three stints on options showed a very good and consistent pace, especially considering some problems with oversteer and balance, and it is safe to say that he delivered his best race performance of the year so far.
The team’s focus this weekend was on race pace and it is exactly why Nico wasn’t too disappointed with his seventh grid slot after qualifying on Saturday: indeed, it was his best ever starting position at the Circuit de Catalunya in six visits. Like Michael, Nico had a pretty good start and only lost a position when overtaken by his team-mate.
He followed the same strategy as Michael, stopping one lap later on laps 11, 27, 42.
However, the race didn’t run so smoothly because of technical glitches, as his car lost radio communication early in the race, and he was hampered by a DRS malfunction.
This malfunction made overtaking almost impossible for Nico, and apart from a couple of looks down the inside of Michael for P6, seventh was the best Nico could hope for from the race.
The team’s target for this weekend was set long before the first session even started – improving our race pace. This mean the team knew that our qualifying results would suffer from it and that we might have to be satisfied with “decent” starting positions.
As is always the case with Formula One, all the teams make progress, and the gap to the front is still quite clear. Sunday’s result was the best the team could achieve at this time, so obviously we have ground to make up on the cars in front and we will keep working hard.
When you race to protect position as much as to gain it, it’s important that every detail works perfectly. The pit crew continued to deliver exceptional pit stops, and keeping consistency when your drivers come back for a total of six pit stops says a lot: Nico had the fastest stop of the day on lap 27 (19.534) and the quickest total pit lane time of any of the three-stoppers (1:00.576). When you see that Heidfeld spent 3.5s longer in the pits on Sunday, and finished less than half a second behind Nico, it shows just how important that pit work was.
But there’s no magic in the world of Formula One and practice makes perfect. Next up is Monaco, a race known to be so unpredictable that the best strategists in the world rank it as a serious challenge. See you then…