Malaysian Grand Prix analysis

So, Vettel and Red Bull finally get their first win of the season. But there’s much more to the Malaysian Grand Prix than that. Here is my analysis of the Malaysian Grand prix:

Advantage of the F-duct

Driver Speed (kph)
1 Lewis Hamilton 300.6
2 Jenson Button 298.7
3 Fernando Alonso 297.2
4 Felipe Massa 296.7
5 Timo Glock 296.1
6 Rubens Barrichello 295.3
7 Jaime Alguersuari 295.1
8 Vitantonio Liuzzi 293.3
9 Sebastien Buemi 292.6
10 Adrian Sutil 292
11 Robert Kubica 291.4
12 Vitaly Petrov 291.2
13 Lucas di Grassi 291.1
14 Sebastian Vettel 291
15 Nico Hulkenberg 290.9
16 Karun Chandhok 290.4
17 Mark Webber 290.4
18 Michael Schumacher 290
19 Nico Rosberg 289
20 Bruno Senna 283.7
21 Kamui Kobayashi 283.6
22 Heikki Kovalainen 282.8
23 Jarno Trulli 280.4

These are the top speeds per driver for the entire race, taken at the speed trap. Obviously, there is no surprise in seeing the McLarens being top of the chart, with the F-duct system giving them 6kph on the straights, with no disadvantage in the corners.

Before I go any further, I’ll quickly explain the F-duct. It is a slot, positioned wherever suited (on the nosecone, before the driver, in McLaren’s case). Normally, it takes air through the duct and aims it at the rear wing. The increase in downforce and drag here is offset by lower wing angles at the rear. However, when the car goes onto the straight, the driver moves their knee to the side, and closes the duct. This means that the rear wing is stalled, and there is less downforce and therefore higher top speed. The driver then takes his knee away from the activation of the duct, to increase downforce going into the next corner.

Sauber's F-duct system

Sauber's F-duct system

This innovation has already been copied by the Sauber team, but it apparently hasn’t helped their top speed, as you can see by the chart. To be 17kph slower than the fastest top speed is pretty awful, which must mean McLaren’s F-duct system is more efficient. This is because of two main differences between the systems. First of all, the Sauber F-duct is positioned above the sidepods, not ahead of the driver. Secondly, the Sauber F-duct aims air at the centre of the rear wing, and not the side flaps.

Anyway, back to the speed trap figures. It’s very surprising to see the Mercedes and Red Bulls near the bottom of this list. In Mercedes’ case, they have the most powerful engine in the field, as we found out last year. But, this year, they are even slower than the HRT of Karun Chandhok and the Virgin of Lucas di Grassi. Red Bull’s car is more set up towards grip than speed, which may explain a lot in their case.

Clearly, Cosworth power is very useful this year, as we can see Timo Glock and Rubens Barrichello near the top of the chart. It’s great to see that, despite an absense in F1 since 2006, Cosworth haven’t lost their skill. How they fare when it comes to fuel consumption, we don’t know yet.

Crawling to the finish

Jarno Trulli's lap times

Jarno Trulli's lap times

Note: Trulli pitted on lap 15.

Here, we can look at Jarno Trulli’s pace across the race in the Lotus. Near the end, he had a problem with the car, which has not yet been revealed. The car began to drop massively in terms of pace, and in the last 3 laps he was slowing down by an extra 7 seconds per lap. He eventually finished 5 laps down, but was still classified, unlike Heikki Kovalainen, who ended 10 laps down, as he fixed a problem in the pits.

The good new for Lotus is that they are showing consistent pace. One interesting feature of that graph, though, is the fact that he wasn’t getting any quicker as the race went along. Now this may have been a problem with the car, but raw pace is still something the team needs to work on. Still, Lotus are easily the best new team this year so far, and they should be able to improve well with time.

More analysis will be added soon. Sorry for the delay and all.

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