Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Monza, 2011

Vettel’s low straight-line speed may leave him vulnerable

2011 Italian GP pre-race analysis

Posted on

| Written by

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Monza, 2011
Vettel is 21kph down on the fastest car

With his tenth pole position of 2011, Sebastian Vettel is on course for victory at Monza.

But will his poor straight-line speed leave him vulnerable to attack from the likes of McLaren and Ferrari?

The start

The first place Vettel’s lack of straight-line speed could hurt him is at the start. The long-straight run to the first corner makes it difficult to defend a sluggish getaway.

Last year Jenson Button took the lead having started second on the grid alongside Fernando Alonso.

Quick opening laps have been key to Vettel’s advantage this year. If he can hold the lead at the start, his first priority will be to get more than a second clear of his pursuers so he is impervious to their DRS attacks.

The positioning of the two DRS activation zones may come to his aid here, as they are both after quick corners where his advantage should be at its greatest.

Keep an eye on Michael Schumacher at the start as well: he’s gained places in his last four starts.

As for Lewis Hamilton, if he makes it around Lesmo 1 he’ll already be doing better than he did last year.

Vettel’s straight-line speed disadvantage

A crucial element of this race is whether Vettel’s comparatively poor straight line speed will leave him vulnerable. Here are some of the top speeds from qualifying:

1. Sergio Perez 349.2
2. Bruno Senna 347.2
3. Vitaly Petrov 344.8
4. Felipe Massa 342.3
5. Fernando Alonso 342.2
11. Nico Rosberg 339.5
14. Michael Schumacher 338.7
18. Mark Webber 336.1
20. Jenson Button 333.1
21. Lewis Hamilton 332.7
24. Sebastian Vettel 327.7

In race conditions, with DRS closed most of the time, these figures will change considerably. But they give an insight into what speeds drivers can reach when they get the DRS open for overtaking.

Vettel may be over 21kph slower than Perez in a straight line, but the gap to his closest pursuers – the McLaren duo – is far less, around 5kph.

Last year Button went into the race with an 11.5kph speed deficit to Alonso, yet was able to keep the Ferrari behind until the pit stops.

Ferrari’s straight line speed looks very good, though possibly exaggerated slightly by slipstreaming in qualifying. Coupled with their race pace, which is reliably better than their qualifying pace, and warm track conditions, they could have a strong race.


The medium tyres were Ferrari’s weakness in Spa, while McLaren and Red Bull managed them well. They will all start on softs, as will Schumacher.

But, unusually, Nico Rosberg will start on medium tyres having used them in Q3.

This also means he has saved a set of fresh soft tyres to use during the race. This raises the prospect of Rosberg attacking on soft tyres late in the race when everyone else is getting their mandatory stint on mediums out of the way.

He will be vulnerable at the start of the race and will have to make sure he doesn’t lose too much time. But a safety car period could play into his hands later on.

Monza is not a particularly demanding circuit for tyres. And with teams now required not to exceed Pirelli’s maximum allowable camber limit the concerns over blistering seen in Spa are not likely to resurface.

Who’s your tip for success at Monza? Can anyone keep Vettel from his eighth win of the season? Have your say in the comments.

The qualifying analysis is delayed as the FIA has not published a full list of lap times from qualifying yet.

2011 Italian Grand Prix

Browse all 2011 Italian Grand Prix articles

Image ?? Red Bull/Getty images

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

90 comments on “Vettel’s low straight-line speed may leave him vulnerable”

  1. “As for Lewis Hamilton, if he makes it around Lesmo 1 he’ll already be doing better than he did last year.”

    that was brilliant!

    1. I agree, that was wonderful :)

  2. If Vettel is still in the lead at the end of lap 3, then I think he has it in the bag!

    1. Yes, but if someone overtakes him, then maybe they have a chance at winning…….
      The sun is round too, & at night it gets dark…

  3. It’s funny the top speeds are exactly the same as they were here in 1995. The Williams-Renault topped the charts back then with 345km/h as I can remember.

    1. You can say it’s either achievement of FIA or teams. FIA succeeded in reducing speed, teams have managed to maintain speed despite of regulations.

  4. I wish Ferrari’s straight line speed help them a lot. Well, actually I don’t care whether it’s Mclaren or Ferrari. Just I don’t want to see Vettel on the podium at least here!! :D

    1. Same here to be honest…

      1. totally agreed.

    2. Interestingly, Ferrari is about 12kph faster than FP1 while others are almost same. I guess they changed set up for the race.

      Actually, they have the fastest straight line speed among top 3 teams even faster than Mercedes! They could be the fastest on the track tomorrow. so my hope might be not so groundless :)

      1. If Vettel dominates tomorrow, I will have to say RBR is cheating…

        1. They’re not cheating. Red Bull simply has better aerodynamic efficiency than any other team. With the current rules in place, there’s really not too much you can change on the car through the year. You can improve the floor, front and rear wings, and engine cover. Anything else is considered a crash structure and can’t be changed. Any improvements made by the other teams can be more or less matched by RBR. They started the season with a car that was 1 second faster than the rest. This gives them huge flexibility on wing setup for each race. It’s a question of how much downforce you’ll need at each track, but any setup they go with, they still have better aerodynamic efficiency.

          1. My grasp of english is very poor, but sometimes I can recognize irony. Suka is only joking, I guess…

          2. Sarcasm is lost on rick, who believes Vettel’s success is due to the Red Bull he’s driving.

    3. I guess its one of the few things (together with a relatively warm afternoon) that will play into their hands.

      But they will have a fight on their hands to keep both cars ahead of Rosberg at the finish, at least I think so.

      The dream scenario would be for Hamilton, Button and Alonso to jump Vettel at the start and then have Vettel stuck behind an Alonso slow in the parts where Vettel would like to get by and fast on the one part of the track where DRS would help him.

  5. Ferrari can benefit from the tow and the high to speed in the openening laps to make up some positions. Vettel will have a hard time getting one second clear in two laps, and with two DRS zones his lead could be cut in one lap. The battle could be very interesting…

  6. I don’t think Vettel is at a disadvantage at the start, It’s the opposite. He has low top speed, beacuse he has lower gears, and not beacouse of the high downforce level. He is running a race setup (gearing for no DRS, that’s why he was on the limiter for a long time before the first corner), These circumstances should help him get a good enough getaway, and by the time the DRS will be enabled, UNFORTUNATELY he’ll be long gone :(

    1. Possibly. short gear ratio would help start acceleration either. Difference between Webber and Vettel should be interesting to watch…if Webber gets close to Vettel though!

    2. I completely agree. As long as the heavy fuel load doesn’t upset the balance in the first few laps, Seb will open enough of a gap that no one will be able to keep up.
      Mark should be able to stay with the others quite easily and when DRS is enabled he will probably make his way through the field.

    3. Depends on the getaway. If the McLarens and/or Alonso jump him before that first corner its going to be tough for him, as he will not have much chance to get past them with DRS either.

      And passing backmarkers or getting back to the front if a pitstop drops him down in between the Renaults, FI, Mercedes and Sauber will be a struggle to get past them. That might prove disastrous if Rosberg manages to get ahead of him.

  7. How many of the cars are running skinny wing,a nd which car is fastest when downforce is required?

  8. In today’s GP2 race 1, Luca Filippi, starting 2nd, overtook Pic in the run to turn 2, which was the key to winning his race, combined with his excellent pace.
    Maybe after all 2nd place is a better position to start in?

    1. last year button started in second place and quickly got past second place doesnt seem like such a bad place to start from.we’ll see.

      1. The mclarens have traditionally had great traction off the line, while the Red Bulls are normally slightly worse. I’d be very surprised if Button and Lewis dont get passed Vet by the first corner.

    2. and because he missed the first corner!

      1. He earned half a second per lap, that corner cutting, which was done slowly not to damage the car, gave him minimal if no advantage at all.

  9. Keep an eye on Michael Schumacher at the start as well: he’s gained places in his last four starts.

    I hoped he wouldn’t lose any at Spa! :)

    1. You are right :) Passing the KERS-less HRT, Lotus and Virgin cars on the first lap probably wasn’t too hard as well.

      That said, he has made some good starts from top 10 grid positions as well.

  10. Here’s the full Speed Trap data from the Official F1 Website:

    09 – 11 Sep 2011

    Pos No Driver……… Time of Day Speed
    1.. 17 Sergio Perez…… 14:19:24 349.2
    2… 9 Bruno Senna……. 14:19:25 347.2
    3.. 10 Vitaly Petrov….. 14:59:47 344.8
    4… 6 Felipe Massa…… 14:59:41 342.3
    5… 5 Fernando Alonso… 14:59:44 342.2
    6.. 18 Sebastien Buemi… 14:07:21 341.9
    7.. 19 Jaime Alguersuari. 14:07:26 341.8
    8.. 16 Kamui Kobayashi… 14:16:23 341.7
    9.. 11 Rubens Barrichello 14:19:48 340.4
    10. 12 Pastor Maldonado.. 14:19:07 340.2
    11.. 8 Nico Rosberg…… 14:59:12 339.5
    12. 15 Paul di Resta….. 14:04:31 339.3
    13. 14 Adrian Sutil…… 14:07:14 338.7
    14.. 7 Michael Schumacher 14:33:36 338.7
    15. 25 Jerome d’Ambrosio. 14:06:57 336.7
    16. 24 Timo Glock…….. 14:13:56 336.6
    17. 22 Daniel Ricciardo.. 14:02:22 336.2
    18.. 2 Mark Webber……. 14:15:11 336.1
    19. 23 Vitantonio Liuzzi. 14:03:51 335.7
    20.. 4 Jenson Button….. 14:07:03 333.1
    21.. 3 Lewis Hamilton…. 14:59:38 332.7
    22. 21 Jarno Trulli…… 14:03:20 331.8
    23. 20 Heikki Kovalainen. 14:06:56 331.8
    24.. 1 Sebastian Vettel.. 14:54:01 327.7

      1. Well, with those sector times if Vettel goes into the first corner as the leader the others won’t get close enough to activate DRS. Especially with the DRS detection in between the lesmo’s and after Parabolica.

    1. It’s fascinating that the top of the grid are all at the bottom of the top speed chart. Webber was even hitting the limiter when slip streaming with DRS.

    2. The sector times were interesting as well. The McLarens slightly faster than Vettel in S1, Vettel slightly faster than them in S2. The big gap was in S3 where Vettel was 0.447s faster than Lewis whose Lap Time was 0.450s slower.

      1. What’s strange is whatever Vettel is gaining at either Ascari or Parabolica, surely he would also gain at the Lesmos?

        Perhaps we he’s just pushing the car through Ascari (note his power sliding earlier in qually!) and driving better than Lewis, Jenson and Mark… maybe he deserves some more credit.

        1. He was .182 up on Lewis and .201 up on Jenson in S2 which runs from the entry to della Roggia to the start of braking for Ascari. The time he gains in the corners would be clawed back a bit on the long straight to Ascari (a DRS zone in the race). His exit speed off Ascari probably gives him a great launch on the run down to the Parabolica.

      2. We have to remember that until Vettel’s very last lap, the gap was much smaller. (If I remember correctly, his time was 1:22.662.) Then he went over 3/10ths faster in the last, all, or most of it, in S3. (You can tell I’m doing this without looking at timing sheets!) The real question is, where did that come from? Button was flabbergasted by the gap after qualifying, and Vettel himself said he thought it would be much closer. If the huge gap in S3 on the last lap was due to somekind of “11/10ths” move that paid off, he won’t be repeating it regularly in the race.

    3. i doubt he will take the win tomorrow.He justcan’t win them all.
      Schumacher won’t win the gp either, but he is capturing myimagination again. something is building up there. It’s my gut feeling.

      1. He justcan’t win them all.

        Particularly as he’s only won seven out of 12 so far!

        1. haha brilliant.

    4. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Why doesn’t show us the time to 1/1000s in Live Timing, rather than the ridiculous and often useless restriction to 1/10s?

  11. I expect Vettel to win the race but I believe we will see a close fight between the top three teams. If Schumacher manages to avoid hitting his competitors, he could be ‘the best of the rest’. I guess Senna has saved an extra set of fresh tyres as well so it will be interesting to see what he can make of it tomorrow. This is also the fourth time Jaime Alguersuari has qualified in 18th position this season. He managed to convert this starting position into a points finish the previous three times.

  12. It seems as if Vettel is using a very short gear-ratio.

    In any case, I like how the teams are gambling on their set ups.

    1. he can pretty much afford to do it though really. Even if he crashes out of the race, he’s got ample space in the WDC standings.

  13. It’s curious that Senna and Petrov were 2nd and 3rd fastest at the speed trap, so it seems Vettel’s problem is not related to Renault engines…

    1. energyturnaround
      10th September 2011, 21:15

      I don’t think its a problem!
      It’s simply a calculation. When everybody has some 100 kg of fuel in his car at the beginning of the race, we won’t see the qualifying topspeeds, since acceleration is not so fast and the corner-exit-speed is much lower, so the gear ratio will only be important at the second half of the race.
      Also higher downforce normally helps extending tire-lifespan. In a race, in which a pit stop is extremely “expensive” (not too short pit length, but very high passing speed on the straight) less pit stops can be a 20 second advantage.

      1. Good observation.

  14. when they were doing there high fuel race-sims on friday the red bulls were nearly 1 second faster than anyone else & i dont expect that to change much tomorrow.

    having less top speed in qualifying isnt necisarily an indication of where they will be in the race because some have more effective drs systems than others and some have gear ratios set differently because of drs etc…

    i gather that vettel has gone purely for a race/non constant drs setup & has the thing geared optimuly to work without drs active.

    i just hope drs isnt as effective this weekend as i fear its going to be, ive no intrest in once again watching cars simply driving past one another in the middle of the straghts because of it. could be even worse with these stupid 2 drs zones.

  15. Surely Vettel’s short gears will be somewhat offset by the more powerful KERS in the 2 McLarens??

  16. “… and warm track conditions…”

    Maybe, but BBC F1 weatherman Ian Ferguson said on Twitter that there is a possibility of showers into the race window. And have you seen the forecast for tomorrow in Monza. A wet race is a very distinct possibility.

    I’m probably wrong, but Vettel might have been gambling on a wet race tomorrow with his higher downforce. If so he might just look really clever this time tomorrow, or thick for that matter!

    1. I had a look at the forecasts for tomorrow and I think the chance of rain is being overblown by some.

      But, famous last words…

  17. The way I see it is if Vettal is able to pull a big enough lead by lap 3 he will almost certainly win it. Likewise the other way around if his is unable to pull a lead McLaren will most likely win it (A McLaren 1-2 is very possible since Vettel will be a sitting duck to the 2 McLarens and the Ferrari of Alonso)

  18. I dont think the McLarens being 5 KPH faster than Seb on the Straights is enough to overtake him on the First Lap,Its gonna take several laps(3-5 Laps) before an Overtaking Opportunity is presented for them and by then,Vettel probably would eeked out a Gap of 1.2-1.5Secs

    1. Its more along the lines of 10 KPH but this will probably be one track where having a bad star will be more costly than others. Both McLaren drivers will have to get just as good starts or better starts than Vettel so he won’t have the opportunity to pull away like wise with Vettel he needs to get one of his cracker starts he is known for otherwise McLaren will definitely be with him in lap 3 enough for their DRS and KRS to destroy him.

      1. How will they do that. They loose time in the corners, the DRS detection zones are placed after the corners.

        1. Good point but its only really the Parabolica and Ascari they are losing time on which is after the 2nd DRS activation zone but crucially before the first. It may depend more if McLaren can catch and pass Vettel before they hit the Ascari and Lesmo. Got me thinking this may be more like a Spain repeat. McLaren mighty on the strights but they may be unable to overtake on the downforce corners which means they are going to need a mighty drive before going into the corners to get Vettel.

          Vettel will probably have no hope of winning if he falls behind a McLaren because Im quite sure Alonso would love to have a challenge at him. Since he seems even stronger than the McLarens on the straights.

          1. I meant Lesmo in the first sentence instead of Ascari*

  19. I just don’t understand how the red bull is that fast through corners with no wing…

    There is something very clever on that car producing downforce from the shell… I mean they could probably remove both wings and still be fastest over 1 lap.

    1. I dunno, maybe time is made up through the corners (e.g. Parabolica) and under braking?

    2. While they are running a low drag configuration they are obviously running enough drag to restrict their optimum top speed more than the others, so what wing they have is very effective but also you are right in that Newey has designed a very aero-efficient body.

  20. Couple of notes:

    * DRS is only enabled from lap 3 on, so while it’s of course benevolent to open a gap on lap 1 and so on, particularly in the slipstreams of Monza and with the low straight line speed of his car, Vettel could be rest assured his lead won’t be taken away by a DRS move.

    * And this is a cheeky one: if Lewis manages to get past Lesmo 1 than he has not only done better than the last lap he was there in a race, but the last two laps…


    1. Are you sure you mean benevolent?

      1. No… Not really. ^^ English is not my native language so sometimes I mess things up.

        A simple ‘useful’ would fit better.


        1. Probably you were thinking of “Beneficial”

  21. themagicofspeed (@)
    10th September 2011, 22:13

    Together, Vettel and Red Bull’s strategy engineers will find some way of making idiots out of everyone else, like they’ve done so flawlessly (much to my dissapointment) all season. Vettel will still win, either because his car becomes magically quicker, or because Red Bull devise a genius strategy on the fly.

    This year, i make no apologies for saying McLaren and Ferrari should be ashamed of themselves when you look at how rarely Red Bull make strategy errors. Theres something to be learnt, especially for Ferrari, whose strategy is at the best of times, ridiculous.

    1. Its easy to make a strategy work when you have the fastest car, so easy that you can actually be alot MORE flexible on strategy that others that are doing everything they can just to try & keep up…

      A good car makes the pit strategy people look good, but it all comes down to the package they have to work with in the 1st place.

      1. But the problem is their car is NOT the fastest in the races, and when it is, it is not by much. RB have been under a lot more pressure from behind then lets say McLaren. They have nearly always been hunting the RB’s to the end of the races and RB have had to get it 100% right to keep their lead because as soon as a McLaren gets ahead they are virtually impossible to catch.

  22. Webber in for a win tomorrow if he had a good start as he saved a set of soft tyres in Q3.
    but i hope Massa wins somehow he need a win.

    1. Not sure it’s going to make that much of a difference – tyre wear is low here…

      1. That may actually work in Webber’s favour, as he’s not that good at saving the soft tyres. If he can make them last long, he’ll be able to go faster for more of the race than others, say if he does a two stopper.

    2. “if he had a good start” and how likely is that? one in a million chance? This year so far his starts have been average at best.

    3. Webber practically never has good starts, and his tyres won’t be worth all that much time. Massa has even less chance of winning than Webber. I think if he was leading the race with five laps to go and Fernando Alonso was in eleventh, Ferrari would tell him to slow down and let everyone overtake him so Alonso could get a point! ;)

  23. It’s good to see a circuit where, as in days of yore, we have the juxtaposition of cornering speed versus top-speed, almost like, but totally different from, the era before wings.

  24. “Last year Button went into the race with an 11.5kph speed deficit to Alonso, yet was able to keep the Ferrari behind until the pit stops.”

    That says it all doesn’t it. Only thing off course is the fact they didn’t have DRS but the Ferrari was the faster package last year.

    Now you have Vettel/Red Bull as the fastest package over a single lap and with a clear advantage through the corners.
    The McLarens need to pass him before the first corner if they want to win this race.

    1. Don’t be too sure yet. The bulls are often slower during the race as long as they don’t scurry away in the first few laps

  25. When you really think about it, Vettel has done something very bold here – even bolder than Jenson Button’s high-downforce setup last year. By shortening his gear ratios, Vettel has deliberately limited his top speed at a circuit where top speed rules over everything else, which is like putting pineapple on a pizza: on paper, it just doesn’t make sense. His entire race strategy hinges on his ability to clear the chicanes faster than anyone else. He’s going to have to put in a handful of qualifying laps at the start of the race to get out of range of the DRS, and he’s probably going to have to produce a few more when the pit windows begin. If he pulls it off, it’s going to be hard to fault him.

    1. I think the qualifying analysis indicates that even at Monza top speed does not rule over everything else…

    2. According to quali top speed doesn’t rule at this track after all, the fastest 6 odd cars weren’t the ones at the top of the speed traps….

    3. You’re right. Pineapple on pizza on paper doesn’t make sense, but take away the paper and you’re in for a tasty meal :)

      I agree that if Vettel can pull off a victory today, we should give him, and not the car, the lion’s share of the credit.

      1. It’s it sweet and salty… like prosciutto and cantaloupe, ricotta and water melon and a million other confounding mouth watering delights.

  26. Vettel generally has good starts so I have no concerns about him getting off the line. The way he used to pull out so convincingly in the first two laps was majestic, I miss that about him.

    I’d like to think that Rosberg has a chance of a great points finish but it just never seems to work out, they get bogged down and usually end up being pretty quiet. A shame we won’t get a chance to see the likes of his Spa start this weekend.

    I’d like Alonso to take the win, just so I can experience the jubilant Tifosi in full swing. Of course Massa would also provide that but, well, you know…

  27. Analysis Paralysis !! Vettel’s got the championship in his pocket.

  28. best strategy from Webber all year. RB can’t have him mapped to go backwards off the start from P5, new tyres, higher top speed. Webber for the win.

    1. Yeah, I seriously hope so! I’m kinda sick of defending him for his rubbish starts!

      As long as it doesn’t rain!

  29. My top 3 Hamilton Alonso with Button will be a great race.Roseberg will be the dark horse of the race.

  30. With less than six hrs to go the BBC and Keiths French weather predictors indicate there could be rain even heavy thundery showers.
    So maybe all plans and predictions for the race can be thrown away.

    1. In my experience the BBC’s weather website should be entirely disregarded.

  31. energyturnaround
    11th September 2011, 10:38

    unlinke some others here, I can see no evidence that there will a single drop of rain in Monza today.
    Three german and one Italian weatherforecast tell all the same: dry, warm, less the 0.1mm of rain by a 10% chance.

  32. If Vettel’s gear ratios really are significantly lower than the rest and he has a decent start then he’ll probably lead into lap 3 with more than a 1 second advantage. This won’t be the end of the story though.

    Past results show just how hard it is to lose and gain time here, even with clean/worn tyres. I expect the top 6 to dive into the pits with a ~5 second time difference between them. Will they change position? Probably not, again it’s just so hard to gain any time on in/out laps.

    If there’s an early safety car then Rosberg will be put onto the same strategy as the rest, if not then he’s at a potential disadvantage starting on hards. You could argue he’ll have better tyres towards the end, but who cares when he’s lost so much time at the start. DRS could make him a sitting duck to the lesser (but faster straight-line-speed teams).

    The only interest later in the race may be if Vettel’s low-fuel, short-ratio RB has a tyre wear issue. If a McLaren or Ferrari can get within 1 second then they could get past. However, with a race ending like this – should it be celebrated?

    Sorry but I predict another dull Monza race.

    1. I’d say that Vet is gambling that he can gain over a second on his pursuers by lap 3 to clear the DRS zones to prevent being passed. If he doesn’t, he will be swallowed alive by pursing mob, chewed up by the toppermost and spat out to the middlemost…

  33. also yesterday people thought Vettel would have been vulnerable due to his kers problems, and he got the pole anyway. So I would not rely on his gear issues today

Comments are closed.