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Minardi questions Vettel's Singapore superiority

NEWS STORY
28/09/2013

Almost a week after the Singapore Grand Prix, former team owner Gian Carlo Minardi has admitted to being mystified by certain aspects of Sebastian Vettel's dominance during the race.

"Waiting for the Korean GP, I would like to bring back all the wonderful memories linked to my experience at the Marina Bay Street Circuit and make some remarks about the Singapore GP, which I'd like to share and try to find some answers," writes the Italian.

"I was enthralled by Singapore," he continues. "It was a brand new experience, which was completely different from any other experience I was used to.

"I had the chance to monitor all drivers' on-track deeds from a suite located at the end of the pit straight (which leads to the first chicane). The monitor I used to watch the race displayed also all drivers' lap times. Since I left Singapore however, I've been keeping in my mind the 2.5 sec advantage of Vettel over his teammate Webber and the other drivers.

"It's not my intention to devalue Sebastian Vettel, who always manages his Red Bull the best way and I don't want even to jab at anyone, I just want to tell what I personally saw and heard during that three-day-event.

"According to my experience, I think that a 2.5 sec advantage each lap is really too much. It's like a three-generation development gap, it's a huge gap. Furthermore, the time gap between Vettel and Grosjean in FP3 and the Red Bull driver and Rosberg in qualifying was only few tenths. The German driver could have played cat and mouse on Saturday, anyway, something is still not clear for me.

"From my suite, I chose some mainstays as a reference point in order to monitor and compare the drivers' way of driving. My mainstays were the kerbstones located on the corner which leads to Republic Boulevard. Their function is to avoid passing on the kerb. I was impressed by Vettel's neat way of driving on that stretch of the track. He was able to drive all that stretch without making any corrections, unlike all his rivals (also his teammate). His lap time was also remarkable in T3, which is the track's sector with the highest concentration of corners.

"On the same stretch, Sebastian was able to speed up 50 m before any other driver, Webber included. Whilst all the other drivers speeded up on the same stretch, Vettel was able to speed up before them. The thing that surprised me the most was the engine's output sound. Besides speeding up 50 m before any other driver, the Renault engine of the German's car grinded like no other French engines on track, neither like Mark's. That sound was similar to the sound made by the engine when the traction control system got into action in the past seasons.

"Furthermore, that sound was only heard when Vettel chalked up his excellent performances. For example, after the safety car went off, he took a great re-start and chalked up many excellent laps, gaining a 32 sec. gap over Alonso, then he leveled off, taking precautions in the case he would have had to pit one more time. In those moments the Renault engine was more powerful than any other engines (Renault and other brands).

"There are some aspects, Vettel's very neat way of driving, Vettel's speedup 50 m before the other drivers, the abnormal sound of the Renault engine and Vetter's more than 2 sec. advantage over his rivals that make me think and I would like to have some answers.

"All those doubts are even more serious if we consider that Webber wasn't able to do that, since he's a common human being… I don't want to blame anyone , I just would like to get into the deep of the matter."

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1. Posted by inoffapost, 30/09/2013 18:44

"So most me good points by KevinW. The mechanical failures might tell a different story, but we would also need to factor in the countless startline clutch and power failures Webber has suffered unlike his partner. Even Newey and Horner have admitted they haven't done a good enough job often enough on Webber's car, so there is an underlying problem there. But don't waste anytime analysing it. it is probably just better that they have a number 2 'offically',so to speak, as someone like Webber who can, when it all falls into place be as quick as his teamate.
As to conspiracy theories, I do hope not. For me, Schumi's first 2 titles were invalid as Benetton at this time were, most probably, cheating, with an illegal traction control programme. No suprise then when years later Pat Symonds and the Renault, nee Benetton team were cheating with a planned accident!
Schumi's Ferrari domination is tarnished with the knowledge that Ferrari during this era had an FIA sanctioned veto on any new technology brought foward by other teams that they couldn't replicate or better. I guess the money involved makes it 'win at any cost'.
As regards Vettel, I think he is probably 'that good'. A 'Wunderkind', who finds himself in the best car and team for the last 5 seasons. He gets in front early and controls his pace and race to the others, although I must admit, 30+ seconds over first Rosberg/Alonsoo after the SCar was a bit much.
I really hope this is no fire to this smoke. I don't believe that cheating is in Newey's make up. That isn't his, or probably Red Bull's way. Mateschitz would not stand for it. He doesn't need success at THAT price. That being the cae, the rest of the sharp end of the grid have a LOT to do next year in what is a brand new unknown."

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2. Posted by KevinW, 30/09/2013 18:21

"For those who believe in the conspiracy against Mark Weber, take just a moment to dig into the history books. Vettel finished directly behind (0.45s) Weber while acting as a stand in driver for Kubica at the USGP for one race with Sauber against Weber in his RB3. This was Vettel's first ever F1 race, in which he took home his first point. He went on to replace Speed in the STR and finished the season only 2 places (14th) off Weber (12th) in the WDC - with only 9 races to Webers 17. The first time Vettel beat Weber outright was also in 2007, in China. In 2008, in an STR, Vettel (8th) beat Weber (11th) and his RB4 in the WDC, while suffering 6 DNFs (he blew up a lot of stuff that year) to Webers 2. He beat Weber that season 8 times out of the 10 times they both completed the same races, with Vettel in a known to be inferior car. That's also the best that STR has ever done, before and since. That means, even when the two were on different teams, with different cars, Vettel was beating Weber, which just continued when they were teamed together, staring with 2009, when Vettel landed 2nd in the WDC to Webers 4th. FWIW, other discussions and investigation of facts have rubbished the "Weber fails more than Vettel" theory as well, as the reality is the real world results are 7 mechanical DNFs for Weber to 10 for Vettel from 2009 to now. So the idea that Weber is somehow an equal, that the only reason he is beaten so regularly is that Vettel must be given some unfair advantage or secret tweak (or cheat) that is held back from Weber, that the team conspires to hobble Weber, is all unfounded rubbish - no matter who is shoveling it. There is absolutely a difference in the way Vettel drives the RB9 vs. Weber - the results prove that, and is factually backed by the proven disparity there has always been between the two in race results going back before they were team mates, and nothing more insidious than that. As far as the observations of someone sitting in a suite watching one corner becoming the basis for an FIA investigation? There is historic data that indicates the number of times that's happened as well - it's ZERO."

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3. Posted by Roope, 30/09/2013 14:23

"This is serious stuff and should be examined by FIA. I was sitting at turn 2 grandstand and also paid attention to the totally different engine sound, which could be clearly noted after the restart when Vettel was running miles ahead of anybody else building up his safety cushion over Alonso. I am very surprised that this has not alerted the attention of other teams. "

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4. Posted by F1tec, 30/09/2013 13:18

"Giancarlo has been sent by Montezimolo that is clear ! Pathetic Montezemolo tries anything to have an excuse for the failures of his team."

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5. Posted by Spindoctor, 30/09/2013 12:21

"Like K1w1 I'm not really convinced by Minardi's assertion that Red Bull are "cheating", though I'm sure they're exploiting every loophole in the Regs they possibly can, just like all the others.

I admit it. IO don't subscribe to the "Vettel is God" school (more like the 2nd coming of M. Schumacher!), but I'll freely acknowledge he's a very fast, competent driver. Unfortunately (for F1 fans) he's often benefitted from having the best car, and that superiority appears to extend to his team-mate's car too.

My problem with Red Bull, therefore, is that they seem incapable of preparing two decent cars for a race weekend. I've lost count of the number of times Mark Webber's car has had a problem which has either compromised Free Practice, Qualifying, or the Race. I'm sure more assiduous fans will supply the numbers, but my gut says it's been nearly every GP this season.

The consequence of this is that Sebastian Vettel has been unchallenged in many races where RB's car is clearly superior, very much to the detriment of the spectacle.
It will be interesting to see how long Daniel Ricciado has to go before he develops the same technical "bad luck" that has plagued MW recently."

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6. Posted by Podge, 30/09/2013 11:28

"I willingly and openly declare myself a sore loser in wanting very badly Red Bull and Vettel to be caught cheating. We're sort of overdue a sport-breaking controversy anyway.

I've tried telling myself "come on, Podge, enjoy it, you're watching a legend", much like I did back when Schuey was blitzing F1 - it was the only way to cope! But I just can't bring myself to do that with Goldenboy."

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7. Posted by K1w1, 30/09/2013 3:29

"While I am skeptical that there is some sort of RB secret cheating going on I do have to question why SV is so much faster than MW. There's no question (in my mind) that Seb is the better driver but 2.5 seconds??? Something smells, is it Sebs socks or something else? "

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8. Posted by nonickname, 29/09/2013 17:07

"AT LAST... someone who knows the sport and understands things.
It is totaly absured for 1 car/driver to pull out that kind of advantage. I think it is long overdue for the FIA to strip motors and call for hard drives. If Mark could do the same I would remain quiet, but sceptical.
Godfrey, Cape Town"

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9. Posted by JackTheCat, 29/09/2013 8:17

"While it seems ludicrous to suggest things like this I also remember how ludicrous it sounded when it was first suggested Nelson Piquet Jr had deliberately crashed his Renault in Singapore in 2008 to enable Renault to play out a carefully pre-planned strategy enabling Alonso to win the race!

Not saying there is any truth to it, but sometimes F1 can be stranger than even the wildest of Hollywood movie plots! "

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10. Posted by ape, 28/09/2013 21:11

"poppycock. Minardi is an old sad clown. LOL"

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11. Posted by KevinW, 28/09/2013 19:31

"Minardi- 20 years of failure that just keeps giving. First, perhaps Vettel's "neat way of driving" is exactly why he was quicker in the segments. Second, the 2.5s per lap pace difference has as much to do with tire management as anything. In the last stint, he was on new options, while Alonso was on old primes - the difference of 2-3s per lap was well know from practice sessions. Third, judging who has more or less power by exhaust note is the same malarky rooky street racers use when installing farty pipes on their 4 banger junk - it's meaningless and unfounded rubbish. Lastly, some drivers use a mix of brakes and throttle to speed exit reaction, load the suspension, as well as keep the diffuser active. Perhaps Vettel has used his extensive simulator hours to master that? This is driver controlled, and is a form of traction control that is allowed and legal, as there is no computer involved - but will definitely change the tone in the exhaust, speed at corner exit, etc... In fact, the real question for the traction control conspiracy theorists is, where is it in the car? All of the cars use the standard ECU unit, all of the programs are scrutinized, there are no electronics in the braking system allowed. Maybe Vettel uses an iPhone App iterface plugged into a secret USB port under the dash? This is just more noise to feed the Vettel/RB detractors fuel they need to keep on living. Perhaps if Minardi actually knew as much as he fantasizes he does, he'd have actually been successful in F1, in stead of on the sidelines taking shots at others."

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12. Posted by Sinnr, 28/09/2013 16:43

"For the last couple of years, I've been suspicious of the Red Bull , especially in the hands of Vettel. Even Martin Brundle commented some time ago about the sound of the engine in that Red Bull. Now, a very experience ex team owner has doubts and, his assessment brings more doubt that Newey and co are probably bending the rules quite substantially. Makes one wonder."

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13. Posted by rich, 28/09/2013 16:24

"Wow, this is an interesting observation coming from Gian Carlo. I watched the race and at one point Vettel was all alone approaching that specific point and I also noticed the very different and interesting engine notes. It was almost as if there was no deceleration, just a winding down of the throttle. Not to imply anything, but I was left thinking that there was certainly a difference in that engine as compared to the others."

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