Saturday, 4 July 2009

A matter of hot and cold

While I was at Silverstone, I remember overhearing on the circuit radio that all weekend the Brawns of Button and Barrichello had been struggling in the colder conditions, while it seemed the Red Bulls were relishing it. Not to mention those new parts having something to do with it. During the race, Button could only manage 6th while Rubens scored a podium behind the RBRs.

Afterwards, it got me thinking - maybe both drivers suit different conditions. We know Jenson to be the smoothest driver on the grid. He never turns the wheel more than he has to and is very precise in his cornering technique, whereas Rubens is just that little bit more aggressive. Looking at the season so far, all of Button's victories (not counting Malaysia) have come when it's been dry and more importantly, sunny and hot. His more dominant ones have been in Bahrain, Spain and Monaco when the skies were blue and the temperatures fairly warm.

So here's my theory: Jenson prefers it when it's warmer because the heat helps him get his tyres up to temperature as quickly as everyone else while still maintaining his smoothness and precision, therefore being able to manage them better, make them last longer and run at the front at a stronger pace. Meanwhile, Rubens's aggression means the higher temperatures don't do his rubber any good which means they go off quicker and he drops off the pace of his seemingly more dominant teammate.

But look at Silverstone as a prime example of how the tables turned. Button's inability to perform as well as he could have done was probably due to the fact that it was overcast and colder than it had been earlier in the season. Without being aggressive, his tyres wouldn't have been able to come to him as quickly as he would have liked. Rubens, on the other hand, probably relished the lower temperatures as it meant he could still drive as hard as he normally would, but get help from the colder track to keep his tyres at a good temperature meaning he could stay on the pace of Vettel and Webber that little bit better.

It was also evident back in China that the Brawns didn't like it when the sun was hidden by clouds and it got cold and wet, as Der Seb and Mark ran away with a 1-2. Malaysia's really a 50/50 since even though it did get to monsoon levels of rain, the race is known for it's unbearable humidity, which might have been the reason why Jenson was able to drive back to the front as he did as the heavens opened. Mind you, Webber was really on a charge in the rain and had the race continued for a few more laps, it's very likely that considering the pace he was on, it could have been him on the top step instead.

Going into the German GP at the Nurburgring, the early weather forecasts predict it to be partly cloudy but with around 70% humidity, which should suit Button more than Barrichello. Personally, I feel Rubens should win at least one race this season, but as long as it stays warm, it looks like it might just be Jenson's championship to win or lose. Well, unless the Red Bulls have anything to say about that, which undoubtedly I'm sure they will.


Rich Knight said...

Your analysis is much what I have observed. I have also noticed that Nick (another smooth precise driver like Jenson) tends to be better than his team mate when either wet or warmer. I think there are few drivers better than Jenson when conditions are working for him. Personally I do not really like comparing team mates and saying one is better than the other as circumstances will often favour one driver over the other.