European Grand Prix: Gary Anderson's technical review

By Gary AndersonBBC F1 technical analyst

The European Grand Prix should have been won by Sebastian Vettel and the next quickest car was Romain Grosjean's Lotus. But it was Fernando Alonso who recorded a superb victory for Ferrari.

One of the things that makes Alonso so good is that if he gets an opportunity to win, he will take it. That is exactly what happened in Valencia.

He had some luck, in that Vettel retired when he was in second place and Alonso gained a position when Lewis Hamilton had a pit-stop problem.

But the Spaniard had made his way up to be a contender from 11th on the grid. The way he drove and the determination he showed in passing people meant he was a worthy winner.

Alonso did not just win it because other people fell out - he was challenging pretty hard all the way through.

Lewis Hamilton lost some decent points in his collision with Pastor Maldonado, but McLaren have bigger problems than that.

Hamilton was just not fast enough. He lost a lot of ground very quickly to Vettel at the beginning of the race and the McLaren was also slower than the Lotus and probably the Ferrari.

McLaren have got to have a close look at that, and I do think that Jenson Button's performance is firing a warning shot across their bows.

They need to be looking at what is wrong with Jenson because if they make him better they will make Lewis better as well.

The problems show up a bit more on Button's car because Hamilton can adapt to problems and drive around them whereas Button cannot.

As far as Vettel is concerned, it was a very impressive performance before his retirement with alternator failure.

He produced what looked like a superb lap in qualifying to be more than 0.3 seconds clear of the field, but the margin was much more than that in the race - more like a second per lap.

There has been a lot of talk this year about the tyres limiting the performance of the cars and the drivers not being able to exploit the cars' ultimate pace in the race so as not to over-work the rubber.

But that does not tally with Vettel opening up a 20-second lead. That is him driving the car at its pace because there is no need to open such an advantage; you could open up a five-second lead and then keep it there, as he did for much of last year.

He was putting himself in a position where he could use his strategy, but also make another stop and still not lose the lead if he needed to. That's clever thinking.


Vettel's blistering pace came after the introduction of a major upgrade package which was the continuation of work Red Bull started in Montreal.

The key change for Valencia was new rear bodywork, including a duct that connects the exhaust gases and the airflow off the car with the diffuser to enhance downforce.

As part of the upgrade, Red Bull have also moved the radiator exit away from in front of the rear wheels - which can hurt downforce - so it is now much further back and towards the centre, right back against the driveshaft.

The end result is that there is a little more bodywork sticking out into the "coke-bottle" area between the rear wheels.

But although that will harm the airflow a little, it will be more than counterbalanced by the improvement in airflow caused by the relocation of the radiator exits.

Vettel and Red Bull have always been very quick in Valencia - they won in 2010 and 2011 and would have walked it again this year had it not been for the failure.

That means it is difficult to be absolutely sure how much of his performance was caused by the upgrade and how much by a natural affinity of the car and driver with the circuit.

But it seems pretty obvious that Red Bull believe the parts are a significant improvement. They came to Valencia completely committed to using the new specification on both cars, and they have not done that many times so far this season with any upgrades.

The acid test will be the British Grand Prix in two weeks' time.

Silverstone is a track that is very demanding of the cars aerodynamically. If Red Bull have an advantage, it is a track that will really demonstrate it.

It will be a defining race for McLaren. Listening to Button, the car is always on the knife-edge of going wrong one way or another and he is having trouble keeping the tyres in their operating window.

If that goes away around the fast, sweeping corners of Silverstone, Button might be up at the front again.

But I have a funny feeling that it might not and that the Red Bull modifications will be pretty good there, too.

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