Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso became the first man this season to win three Grands Prix after another assured drive saw him take victory at the German Grand Prix .Although Jenson Button caught Alonso fairly quickly after passing Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull in the second series of pit stops, he was unable to close the gap significantly to mount a challenge to pass. Indeed, it was Button who was passed himself by Vettel on the penultimate lap, albeit illegally as he gained an unfair advantage in going off the track to complete the maneuver and found himself demoted to fifth after receiving a 20-second penalty.The race win means Alonso now has a significant 34-point lead in the championship. His victory was set up by a great start off the line, out-dragging Sebastian Vettel into the first corner and maintaining his advantage from pole position. He was not the only driver to benefit from a good getaway off the lights. Sergio Perez came from 17th on the grid to take sixth, and teammate Kamui Kobayashi was fifth from 12th on the grid. Nico Rosberg came from 21st to finish 10th.Because overtaking at many of today’s circuits is so difficult and made Vettel in particular resort to extreme measures to gain an advantage, getting a good race start is almost as important as qualifying itself. Keen observers of Grand Prix free practice will often notice cars practicing race starts in the pit lane on the Friday, calibrating the setup of the engine and clutch for specific circuit and tire conditions. After qualifying, other considerations need to be factored in by the race engineers, such as grid position, fuel load and whether the car has the advantage of starting on the clean side of the track that is on the racing line or the dirtier side of the track that is off the racing line and hence has slightly less grip and traction.
The driver will work closely with his race engineer and control engineer to analyze data from practice starts, particularly those taking place at the beginning of the formation lap where conditions are as close to the actual race start as they can be. Based on the data he receives from the tire and engine temperatures, he will ask the driver to make adjustments to his clutch or revs and also ask the driver how many tire burnouts to perform to get them up to the optimum working temperatures.Even if you have only followed Formula 1 for one race, you will notice cars weaving left and right on the track on the formation lap and accelerating hard before braking. As tires cool quickly, this is done to get temperature into the tires as fast as possible. If all has gone according to plan and the driver now has his tires at an optimum temperature, he has adjusted his clutch settings to match the track conditions and will know what to limit his pre-start revs to. It’s now all down to his driver skill
As the lights come on, the driver will set his pre-start revs to around 13,000 rpm and is ready to drop the clutch when the final light goes out. Before 2004, race starts were controlled by automatic launch control, thereby eliminating driver skill. Now, admit it, readers with manual gear shift cars. You’ve stalled your own car at the lights before, haven’t you? Well, imagine you’re holding 13,000 rmp with not one but two clutch paddles. The F1 driver must now play a very tricky balancing act between tire grip and torque. To stop excessive wheel spin by dropping the clutch too quickly or, conversely, prevent the engine bogging down, he holds down one clutch paddle and keeps the other on the biting point, just as you would in holding your car stationary on a hill before pulling away. As the lights go out, he releases the first paddle and once the car has traction, he releases the second and rockets towards the first corner, reaching 100 mph in around 4.2 seconds. But if he is late in reacting to the lights by as little as a tenth of a second, his rivals will accelerate past him as if he is standing still.
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