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The Pressure Gauge: Chinese Grand Prix

Recent controversy elevates pressure on Vettel, while McLaren woes alleviate expectations on Button. Ricciardo and Bottas also in review...
Thursday, April 11, 2013

April 11th, 2013 (F1plus).-The long break of three weeks has, along with the double-orders episode in Malaysia, generated a tense ambiance ahead of the Chinese GP weekend, where emotions that might run high in some.

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The Pressure Gauge is a segment conducted before every race weekend of 2013. It is designed to predominately assess the big name drivers in F1 and how their pressure mounts or diffuses, depending on their situation.

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Sebastian Vettel: Extreme

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Since the conclusion of the Malaysian Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel has assumed the status of public enemy no. 1. I’m sure very few people need a reminder of the controversial stoush between the world champion and his team mate, Mark Webber, at Sepang.

There is little doubt that Vettel is the favourite to win the world championship in 2013. Considering the last three titles have been won by the German, and the fact he is piloting another competitive Red Bull, there is little reason to expect otherwise. Copious amounts of pressure would sit on Vettel’s shoulders considering the great sense of expectation for him to continue his reign of supremacy.

He certainly better if he is to justify cheating his team-mate.

One thing is for sure, Vettel isn’t making things easy for himself. To compliment the large amount of pressure that derives from expectation, pressure is loading on Vettel from a media perspective. Phony apologies and contradictions seem to be closely associated with the German in recent weeks. Most recently, Vettel made the baffling statement, suggesting he doesn’t “apologise for winning.” This was a direct contradiction to his statement directly after the race, saying; “if I could undo it (defying team orders), I would but I can’t so it is not a great feeling right now...”

The spotlight is on Vettel more than ever at the Chinese Grand Prix. This lack of media savvy, since Malaysia, exhibits a man under pressure.

Daniel Ricciardo: Extreme

2013 marks round two of the battle between Toro Rosso drivers, Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne. Similar to last year, this showdown has been considered as the fight for Mark Webber’s seat. Perhaps more crucially; it is a fight where the reward is gaining a realistic chance at a world title.

It is hard to gauge how content Helmut Marko, Red Bull Racing’s advisor, is with the progress of Ricciardo (and Vergne for that matter). It is arguable that he is indeed content, considering he didn’t brutally swing the axe like he did to Sebastian Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari at the end of 2011.

It is the polarised consequences of Ricciardo’s performance which mounts an epic amount of pressure. Should he succeed, then as mentioned, a future shot at the world championship is entirely a possibility. Should he fail, then it is believable that he will completely fall by the wayside. Alguersuari has resorted to a season of karting, while Buemi has been replaced as Red Bull’s reserve driver for China, as he competes in endurance racing.

These should serve as brutal reminders for the Australian, that it is pivotal for him to show swift progress, and to out-perform his French team-mate in 2013.

Jenson Button – Medium

McLaren have suffered a dreadful start to the 2013 season, scoring just 4 points in 2 races. 2 of these points belong to Jenson Button and the other 2 to Sergio Perez. The British outfit have two more than capable drivers, with one of them being a world champion, thus it is almost impossible to point the fingers at the drivers. McLaren’s woes are clearly down to the engineers, which is why the drivers would not be feeling a significant amount of pressure.

Jenson Button claimed that he could have finished fifth in Malaysia; however, a pit-stop mishap forced him to retire the car. Nevertheless, the Briton is a very important component of McLaren and the team wins as a team and loses as a team, as the old saying goes. This is why Button would be feeling some pressure to help the team point in the right direction again.

However, McLaren’s managing director, Jonathan Neale, claims that the team is making progress.

“We know where the problems are and we are on the right track now.”

Perhaps China could be the turning point for Jenson Button and the team.

Valtteri Bottas – Low

Valtteri Bottas is in a similar situation to Jenson Button, as his car performance is also the determinant of their poor start to the season. It seems as if Bottas has gotten everything he can out of the car. He has finished ahead of his qualifying position in the first two races of the season, whereas his teammate ended both races in retirement. Maldonado in Australia, labelled the Williams FW35 as ‘un-driveable,’ however Bottas was still able to finish the race, two positions ahead of his qualifying place. Considering Bottas’ performances in the given conditions, it is easy to say that he has completed more than a job well done.

The Finn is an extremely valuable asset to the Williams team, and they will need to vastly improve their car if they are to squeeze the full potential out of the Finnish driver.

Previous Pressure Gauge Readings:

  • Pastor Maldonado: Extreme
  • Felipe Massa: Medium
  • Lewis Hamilton: Low
  • Romain Grosjean: High
  • Mark Webber: Low
  • Sergio Perez: High
  • Fernando Alonso: Medium
  • Nico Rosberg: High

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5 Sebastian Vettel 124
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3 Williams F1 187
4 Ferrari 176
5 McLaren 117
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