Catalunya is a high speed track that is hard on tires and physically demanding to drive. Cars are prone to understeer and require a perfect setup in order to achieve a quick lap. The progression from turns 11 through 15 and ultimately exiting 16 (New Holland) onto the front stretch (where the DRS zone starts) is one of the most challenging sequences in all of racing to maintain top speed through, which is critical when running down into the prime overtaking spot on the entire circuit at turn one (Elf).
Prerace and Qualifying
My teammate Daniel Ricciardo is presently in 17th position and P1 on the team while I am leading the Drivers’ Championship but in P2. Hopefully this will change soon as I am beating my teammate in every conceivable category.
The Team Mate Challenge data displays the distance I have built up on my Ricciardo who needs me to put in a few poor outings in order to close the gap between us.
Three laps were run during practice where I would post a best time of 1:30.477 which was second best to my teammate by 0.031. The weather in the background of the image is very misleading in that it was not a torrential downpour during the first session, but somewhat sunny on most parts of the track.
In the first qualifying session I was not running as well as I could due to the weather and track conditions, turning in a three lap best time of 1:29.281 which was almost a full second off of the leader Pastor Maldonado.
In the second qualifying session I managed to slightly improve my time and squeak by with just enough to make the cutoff for the shootout session.
In the final qualifying session I would post a best lap of 1:27.853 which put me in sixth place overall, 0.339 off of the pole sitter Jenson Button.
With the wet weather conditions I doubt this strategy will hold, however I need to be on the track to get a feel for what the actual race conditions will offer the yellow option tires from the start.
With the rain forecast throughout the race weekend I am not confident how this will play out, especially considering the nightmare that transpired at the Shanghai International Circuit a few weeks ago.
100% chance of precipitation during the race, but what this doesn’t give me any indication of is the severity of the rain: will it call for blue or green, or can I risk it all with a very light rain running the yellows? What you start with, when others pit and how the strategy is adjusted on the fly is suddenly front and center in the game.
Research and Development
Presently I have a suspension arm improvement which increases mechanical grip by 10%. This bonus was achieved back during practice at the Chinese Grand Prix in week three.
I am going with the default settings here as I do not want to mess with anything given the variable track conditions.
I think I am going to be sick.
I would float the car into the first turn in the middle of a three wide pack moving up to P4 in an effort to challenge Jenson Button for the lead as early as possible.
On the long sweep at turn three running uphill I would pull alongside and then pass Lewis Hamilton for P3 then immediately move past Sebastian Vettel for P2.
On lap two I would employ KERS down the front stretch and use it to set myself up to stay alongside Button on the outside which allowed me the inside preferred line through turn two where I passed him for the lead.
Running slightly uphill to turn nine (Campsa) Button would stay on my tail as the mix of sun and rain was playing havoc on my thought process. Without direct crew chief feedback I largely felt on my own here as to what decision to make.
DRS was enabled at the start of lap three and here one circuit later Button uses it to blow past me on the outside heading into turn one (my preferred move). Although I was using KERS on the front straight by design, my lap times were already falling off and it was only a matter of time before a higher skilled driver could navigate the semi-wet track better than I could.
Things would get worse as the yellow tires were just not working for me any longer. I would lose the rear end and go into the grass, getting back into a respectable fifth position overall and avoiding a potential disaster.
Coming through turn 15 I would see three cars ahead of me enter the pits so I immediately jump in with them (now that I know how to issue a specific tire change command on my controller while racing).
During the pit stop I would change to the green intermediate tires and then be held in the stall for an unknown reason (I did not receive any visual or audible notice of an infraction that I could be penalized for).
I would be held for an agonizing 13.921 seconds by the time it was over (oddly enough it seemed like everyone else experienced this as well).
Lap Time Results
Lap 1: 1:35.907 (P2)
Lap 2: 1:36.508 (P1)
Lap 3: 1:39.104 (P1) DRS Enabled
Lap 4: 1:48.580 (P5) Pit Entrance Lap
Lap 5: 2:01.964 (P4) Pit Exit Lap
Race Laps 6-10
At the start of lap six I would move up from P4 to P2 due to some of the frontrunners who pitted to change from the green intermediate back to the yellow option tire. The track has been gradually drying, however yet again my crew chief lets me down by providing no feedback regarding what should be done about the weather change.
During lap seven I would move up into first place when passing Button who was coming out of the pits having changed back to the yellow option tires. My fate was pretty much sealed at this point trying to run intermediates on a drying track (which increases wear and causes overheating), as Jenson would blow past me here down the front straight at the beginning of lap nine (I held onto first as long as I could but in reality should have pitted).
At the end of the lap I would enter the pits and switch back to the yellow option tires in an effort to salvage something from the weekend, but little did I know at this point the light rain would persist and be right in that sweet spot where neither an option nor intermediate tire could help a relative amateur driver. I would exit the pits in P13 after a stop of 3.875.
Lap Time Results
Lap 6: 1:36.139 (P2)
Lap 7: 1:36.907 (P1)
Lap 8: 1:37.476 (P1)
Lap 9: 1:43.393 (P6) Pit Entrance Lap
Lap 10: 1:47.273 (P13) Pit Exit Lap
Race Laps 11-14
On lap 15 while I was putting in the fifth consecutive personal best lap of the race (to my amazement) Jenson Button posts the fastest lap of the entire race at 1:28.874.
Lap Time Results
Lap 11: 1:31.816 (P13)
Lap 12: 1:30.379 (P13)
Lap 13: 1:30.299 (P13)
Lap 14: 1:29.441 (P13)
Lap 15: 1:29.085 (P13) Personal Best Lap
Toward the end I was having some success keeping Alonso behind me and catching Michael Schumacher and the pack he was at the tail end of, however this was while running in P13 and was senseless pushing which resulted in a complete disaster.
The loss of control caused me to veer from one side of the track to the other where I hit a retainer barrier and tore up my front wing assembly, parts of which are now lying against the wall in front of me.
Heading into the final turn of the last lap, I experience my first wreck of the Formula One season.
My terrible run and disastrous finish allows my teammate to finish ahead of me (by 10 places) for the first time this season.
Lap Time Results
Lap 16: 1:29.897 (P13)
Lap 17: N/A (End of Race)
P18, 56.799 back from the race winner Jenson Button.
I am absolutely disgusted with this effort.
The atrocious result reduces my lead on Lewis Hamilton from 27 to just nine Championship Points.
I missed both the qualifying objective, the race objective, and finished well below my teammate during the weekend. Overall just a miserable result for what I felt would be a solid finish.
Team Mate Challenge Data
Ricciardo scores one in the out-raced category.
Spain is not one of the many cookie cutter tracks in Formula One. It is a demanding circuit that I was looking forward to having run several practice stints under another profile (so as to not mess up my overall stats). Those runs however were in good weather, and the rain experienced at Montmeló was so variable that it was hard to pick a tire and run well with it. By the time I managed to settle in on the yellow option tires after the last stop, it was way too little too late.
The wreck on the last lap just does not sit well with me. Oh well, I have the Monaco Grand Prix to look forward to next…joy.