"Since the start, we were fighting with a car that wasn't similar to last year's. I couldn't use my tricks or my style to make it work. I didn't have enough rear stability to get the car into the corners, to the apex, the way I like. We did a step that was big enough and in the right direction that allowed me to do more of what I like"
I see a correlation between the performance of the Red Bull, and Vettel's own performance vs Webber. The tendency has been that when the car is average/normal, they are quite closely matched, albeit with Vettel having a definite edge, but as soon as Red Bull get exploiting the exhausts, shifting the balance more rearwards with the car, Vettel is able to exploit it, and Webber struggles.
This article was written by Mark Hughes following the Chinese GP, after Webber outqualified Vettel on three successive attempts, hitherto almost unheard of. Here's the key bit:
What Vettel was exceptionally good at last year was using a little bit of oversteer in the initial part of a slow turn to help get the car pointed at the apex sooner - but the rear of the car needs to recover its grip quickly for that initial oversteer not to have too much momentum, building into a slide that costs time. The blown diffuser car was perfect for that, and as the car had that initial twitch of oversteer Seb would then stand on the throttle - giving the rear end even more exhaust-enhanced grip than when off-throttle - and the oversteer would vanish. In this way, Seb could get pointed early at the apex and be early on the power. It demanded a lot of sensitivity for the balancing point of the rear tyre.
Furthermore, in the way you had to use the engine revs to get the correct balance between on-throttle and off-throttle grip at the appropriate part of the corner, it was counter-intuitive. It was certainly something that Webber could never get his head properly around. It also felt very unnatural to be considering applying more throttle to reduce oversteer.
This year's car, although currently less competitive, is much more conventional in how it needs to be driven in the slow corners - and suddenly Webber can drive it better. There can occasionally be a disconnect between how a car feels to a driver and how quick it is - and last year's RB7 was that car for Webber. He didn't care for its feel - that slow corner pat head/rub tummy combination really didn't suit him - but it was fantastically fast, something that Vettel could show more convincingly than him. There is an echo of that disconnect this year in how Webber and Vettel respectively have reacted to the development of the RB8.
More insight from Mark Webber here:
The reason I find all this interesting is because Vettel's stunning speed in qualifying, often putting huge margins on Webber - a known qualifying specialist from his Jaguar/Williams days - is, I believe, as much a result of Webber underperforming a dominant car as anything else, often giving the illusion that Vettel has put stuck a merely competitive car on pole by dint of him being a driving God. I know this won't sit well with most Vettel fans, and i'll duly get flamed for it, (and that's fine, it's a sensitive topic for some) but things like telemetry data don't lie, and there have been numerous examples of how Red Bull is able to carry sometimes incomparable amounts of speed through fast corners than anyone else, or opening its DRS in places no one else can (according to James Allen something in the region of 15kph more through turns 10/11 at India, being just one example).
The fallacy I see in the logic of many is that the RB7/RB8 couldn't be a dominant car because it's only ever one guy on pole, and the other guy often doesn't make the front row - yet you don't need both drivers dominating to know when someone is in a dominant car. Just look at Mansell/Patrese in 1992 to know what i'm talking about. The RB8 obviously hasn't been as consistently brilliant as the RB7, but make no mistake, when it was dominant, it was dominant.
To conclude, my position is that Vettel is a quicker, cleverer, and simply better driver in almost all departments than Webber, but that the difference generally only becomes really pronounced when EBD/coanda exhausts are brought into the equation, and that this has exaggerated his level of performance, for many are taking Webber's level as a constant, which it is not. How much of it is Vettel's own genius, and how much of it is Webber's own failings is hard to determine. But what's key for me is that my view tallies with what Vettel and Webber have said themselves.
What are your views? Discuss...