F1 2011 Race Diary: Season 1, HRT, Spa (13th, Q5)

I wonder if Codemasters give the players a helping hand for the second half of the season as I got a far better result than expected last time out at Hungary and nearly repeated that here. However, high-speed Spa should be a circuit where the KERS-less HRT should really, really struggle.

For qualifying I went the Jenson Button 2012 route and eventually opted for a low downforce set-up (with my traditional camber alignment for the fronts set to -3.5). I settled on this after trying a slightly higher downforce setup and the cool thing was that there was a time difference between the two setups in each sector. Sectors 1 and 3 are largely full throttle while sector 2 is largely corners. With the lower downforce, I went faster in sectors 1 and 3 and slower in sector 2 than I did with the higher downforce setting. It is satisfying when something that is reported as happening in real life is repeated in the game but, of course, with you at the wheel.

Qualifying went really well and I ended up a surprise 5th. The qualifying results were a bit strange, though, as Jenson Button was one-and-a-half seconds ahead of everyone else in pole position.

Now here’s something spooky cool. The race start went jolly well and I was in third going down the hill toward Eau Rouge with Webber in close proximity to my left. Whereupon he only did the same maneuveur that he famously pulled on Alonso in 2011 and swept around the outside of me and shot off up the hill. Sweet. I overtook him again at the end of Kemmel Straight into Les Combes and accidentally gave him a little tap that put him into a spin. Well, he must have had his spinach this morning because just a lap later and he’s up the inside of me in Bruxelles after I outbrake myself slightly (I didn’t quite add enough distance to compensate for the full fuel load exacerbated by the downhill braking zone) and I’m in fourth.

If it had remained dry, I would have finished fourth. Sadly, it started raining a lap after my pitstop and rain only seems to really affect human players. This means that the AI drivers seem to have oodles more grip than me and as the weather worsens each lap, my lap time collapses. I would have missed the team objective whatever happened (they expected me to finish in the points) but coming around Blanchimont on the last lap in 11th I had my first unassisted accident for a while (the last must have been in Monaco, it always is) and span into the wall (like Raikkonnen did in 2008, that’s another real-life incident occurring in the race, cool). I crossed the line in 13th which is a good result but if it had been in the dry, it would have been better. Still, the higher placement than expected in the last two races may see me adjust an option or two to put me back where I should be. We’ll see.

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