Tag Archives: analysis

Malaysian Grand Prix analysis: Victories for the underdogs

The Malaysian Grand Prix will go down as a thrilling and unforgettable race. Not just because of the shuffled order, or the heavy rain showers, but because of the fierce and spirited drives that put so many surprise faces on top. A brilliant drive from Sergio Perez, an unrelenting charge from Fernando Alonso, and a quiet ascent to 6th for Bruno Senna was what made this race special.

Perez – the man of the moment

Few will argue that Sergio Perez’s drive was anything but spectacular. A good strategy call at the start put him up to 3rd, and he held the position under treacherous conditions.

Once the track dried out, he demonstrated Button-like prowess on the damp track, eating into Alonso’s lead relentlessly. A poor final pit stop, as well as a slip near the end, cost him the victory, but he has still made his point.

It is the first time since 1971 that a Mexican driver has put a foot on the podium – the last time was for Pedro Rodriguez, 19 years before Sergio was even born.

With such a great performance, the top teams have surely taken a good look at the young Sauber driver. Which leads us to…

Massa bashing: Round 2

Another atrocious drive from Felipe Massa, another reason for Ferrari to ditch the beleaguered driver. And with Sergio Perez seemingly knocking on the door, the Brazilian surely won’t be around for too long.

As his teammate crossed the line to take the chequered flag, Massa was 5 seconds away from being lapped. He now sits 19th in the driver’s championship, behind the Marussias, while Alonso leads the title hunt. There’s no denying that the gap between the two is growing immeasurably long.

The Ferrari F2012 is a handful, but it deserves to be finishing higher than 15th place. I make no secret of my disliking of Massa, and his dismal performances only make this view worse.

Another side of Sebastian Vettel?

As the Red Bull team slip behind McLaren, we are now granted the opportunity to see how Vettel handles with not having the fastest car on the grid. Unfortunately, he hasn’t gotten off to the best start.

His clip into Narain Karthikeyan may seem insignificant, but it shows a very poor attitude from the German driver. He seemed to move across Narain’s path, then showed obscene gestures when his tyre blew as a result.

Afterwards, he referred to him as a “cucumber”, which is just about the oddest insult I’ve heard in a long time. It appears as if he hasn’t learned from Turkey 2010, when he refused to take responsibility for clashing with Mark Webber.

Granted, he’s not in the position he wants to be, but this is no excuse for his behaviour. A true driver’s colours are shown when he’s dealt a bad hand – just look at Fernando Alonso. Vettel appears rattled, and will need to cap his temper if he wants to claw his way back to the top.

Chinese Grand Prix analysis

After the statistics and photo slideshow, here is my analysis of the Chinese GP.

Straight line speeds

Driver Speed (kph)
1 Lewis Hamilton 318
2 Rubens Barrichello 313.2
3 Sebastian Vettel 310.9
4 Felipe Massa 310.3
5 Jaime Alguersuari 308.9
6 Fernando Alonso 307
7 Mark Webber 306.9
8 Karun Chandhok 306.6
9 Bruno Senna 306.2
10 Michael Schumacher 305.5
11 Adrian Sutil 305.4
12 Nico Hulkenberg 304.3
13 Vitaly Petrov 303.4
14 Jenson Button 303.3
15 Robert Kubica 300.9
16 Nico Rosberg 299.5
17 Heikki Kovalainen 298.5
18 Jarno Trulli 294.1
19 Lucas di Grassi 293.6
20 Pedro de la Rosa 287

The first obvious thing to note is that Lewis Hamilton is leading this list, while Jenson Button is a whole 15km/h behind. Clearly, Jenson had more of a grip-based setup than Lewis, which would explain his lack of speed. This would also explain why his last set of tyres desintigrated in the final few laps, when he usually has perfect tyre managment as his top skill.

It was interesting enough to see the Force India of Adrian Sutil be beaten by both of the HRT cars. Also, drivers like Barrichello, Vettel, Massa and Alguersuri were the fastest apart from Hamilton. These were some of the drivers who opted to use a dry weather setup for the race. This backfired for them all, mostly Alguersuari, who we saw sliding back down the field later in the race, and miss out on possible points.

The fact that Pedro de la Rosa was miles slower than anyone else can probably be attributed to the engine failure that took him out of the race soon after the start.

Button vs Hamilton

Button vs Hamilton in Shanghai

Button vs Hamilton in Shanghai

Yes, I know I do this chart far too much, but it really is too interesting to miss. Note that the two massive increases in lap times were caused by the safety car and their second pit stops respectively.

Again, this chart shows why Lewis Hamilton has the advantage of more raw speed than Button. The question is, why is Jenson beating Lewis? This is mainly because of Button’s superior strategy decicions and tyre managment. While Hamilton opted for intermidiate tyres on Lap 2, Button stayed out, and Lewis was forced to pit again on Lap 5 for dries.

Because of this, Lewis had a 40 second deficit to Button within a few laps. However, the second safety car completely ruined Button’s advantage, and gave Lewis a chance to fight back. While he did, he was unable to catch up to and overtake Button in time. So, from this, we can learn that while Lewis was faster for most of the race, he failed to be faster when it mattered most – at the end. This goes back to Button’s excellent tyre managment.

For most of Laps 45-50, Lewis was unable to catch up, as he was stuck behind Rosberg, and then his tyres desintigrated. While Button’s were completely gone as well, he was able to maintain a lead, despite a mistake on Lap 51, and win the race.

Since then, Hamilton has conceded that he may have to take “the easier route” as he calls it, and make the right decicions at the right time, rather than hard racing.

Fastest lap per driver

Driver Team Time Set on Lap #
1 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1.42.061 13
2 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1.42.358 14
3 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1.42.609 14
4 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1.42.886 14
5 Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP 1.43.245 14
6 Robert Kubica Renault 1.43.630 14
7 Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1.43.755 14
8 Vitaly Petrov Renault 1.43.801 14
9 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1.44.134 14
10 Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP 1.44.298 14
11 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1.44.364 14
12 Nico Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1.44.549 13
13 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1.44.594 14
14 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1.45.559 17
15 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 1.47.141 14
16 Pedro de la Rosa Sauber-Ferrari 1.47.739 6
17 Bruno Senna HRT-Cosworth 1.48.216 16
18 Karun Chandhok HRT-Cosworth 1.48.788 15
19 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1.49.675 14
20 Lucas di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 1.53.185 7

Again, this shows how Lewis has more raw pace than Jenson. Otherwise, we can see how the Red Bulls did have good pace this weekend, but their disastrous first pit stop for intermidiate tyres, when one of the wheel guns failed on Mark Webber, ruined their races.

Also, this chart proves how Pedro de la Rosa was in serious trouble from the start, as his best lap, set on Lap 7 when the track had dried out, was 11 seconds slower than Hamilton’s.

Australian Grand Prix analysis – a true drivers’ race

For all the complaining Formula 1 got for the race in Bahrain, the Australian race has firmly put F1 back in the good light. Thanks to the early rain, there was no messy tyre compound changes, no refuelling to worry about, so it was all down to the drivers. They didn’t dissappoint, and we got a brilliant race as a result. Here is the analysis of a great race.

Button’s consistency

Button vs Hamilton, from Lap 8 to Lap 58

Button vs Hamilton, from Lap 8 to Lap 58

Here we can see why Button stayed ahead, even though Hamilton was quicker after his pit stop. On the few laps before Hamilton pitted on Lap 34, his tyres had already degraded, since he was charging through the field. Meanwhile, Button had driven very cleanly and consistently, meaning his tyres were in a good enough state to be used for the rest of the race. Even after Hamilton’s stop, he was only 1 to 1.5 seconds behind, which was nowhere near enough to catch Button up again. The Ferraris were the final step to ensure that Hamilton would be well behind his team-mate. His collision with Webber was the end in a frustrating day for Lewis.

Jenson, meanwhile, showed the form that won him the championship last year. A perfect example is Monaco last year. All of the other drivers struggled with managing the softer tyres, and Button sailed away by managing tyre wear while still mantaining a healthy lead, and took the win easily. The same scenario happened today in Melbourne. By keeping his tyres in check, he could still keep up the pace throughout the race, while others struggled, or were forced to pit again.

Kubica’s different tyre strategy

Kubica on hard tyres as opposed to Massa on softs

Kubica on hard tyres as opposed to Massa on softs

While most of the field took on soft tyres after the track dried out on Lap 8, Robert Kubica decided to take the harder compound. From an analysis perspective, it makes little sense, seeing as the soft tyres were lasting most of the race distance. However, by the end, they would be in pieces, whereas the harder compound could keep performing well throughout.

Up to about Lap 42, Massa’s laps were faster than Kubica’s, save a few mistakes and being slowed down by others. However, tyre degradation quickly caught up with him, which meant that he could not catch up with Kubica at the end. Although Robert had an advantage at the start by having one position more, he stayed well ahead of him for the entire race. So, the call for hard tyres went well for Renault, although it is unclear how well the car would have performed with the softs.

Lotus well ahead

Drivers from all 3 of the new teams

Drivers from all 3 of the new teams

For this graph, I have omitted Jarno Trulli and Bruno Senna, since they did not last long enough to contribute to this analysis.

While it is slightly more clustered and harder to read (sorry about that) we can determine that Heikki Kovalainen was definitely the fastest of the new teams today, like I predicted yesterday. Better still, a reliable car meant he made it to the finish only 2 laps down. While he was well off the pace, with a best lap time of 1.33.639, he was consistent, so it was a good finish for them.

Neither Virgin finished, but they weren’t too bad in terms of pace. Timo Glock’s best time was 1.34.240, 6 tenths off Kovalainen’s time, but Lucas di Grassi was another 2.4 seconds behind. He retired on Lap 26 with a hydraulic problem, so that might have been affecting his pace. Timo Glock pulled out with 15 laps to go with a suspension failure at the back left of the car. It is believed that a piece came loose.

HRT did well when you consider they finished a race with 1 driver. While Bruno Senna lasted only 4 laps, Karun Chandhok clung on fot the rest of the race to finish, albeit 5 laps down. His best time of 1.35.045 may seem encouraging, but he constantly made mistakes, and destroyed the floor of the car by running onto the gravel traps repeatedly. Still, a race finish is a step in the right direction, so the next aim must be to get both of their drivers to finish a race.

Autralian Grand Prix pre-race analysis

The last time Sebastian Vettel took pole position, a spark plug failure cost him a probable victory. This time, he will be hoping for better luck in Australia. Before the race begins, let’s have a look at what might happen during the race.

The traditional first-corner Melbourne crash - expect another this year

The traditional first-corner Melbourne crash - expect another this year

First of all, with an extra 4 cars on the grid, and the notorious Turn 1, there will almost definitely be a first-lap crash. In 2009, Heikki Kovalainen, Mark Webber and Rubens Barrichello all collided. The year before, Felipe Massa spun, and Webber, Button, Vettel, Heidfeld and Fisichella all got involved at the first corner. Also, with the much heavier fuel loads at the start, I am sure that someone will be caught out and understeer into someone else.

Another factor to consider is that the pole sitter has a very high chance of keeping their lead. In the last 14 years in Melbourne, only 2 of the pole sitters did not win. They were both involved in accidents in the race. The driver in pole position generally can cut out a huge lead for himself, as Jenson Button did last year. Even better, they are on the clean side of the track, so a good start is very likely. With all of this in mind, Vettel has a good chance of keeping his lead.

But, what about his well-known reliability problems? Two-thirds of the lap in Melbourne is spent at full throttle, which could be a strain on the engines. However, this could be countered by the colder-than-normal conditions we have been having across the weekend. If it rains, for example, the Renault engine would hardly overheat.

Next up is strategy. If the conditions were dry, then it would be a simple 1-stop strategy for most of the field. But, theĀ  imminent first-lap crash will cause tyre problems if the safety car is deployed. If Bernd Maylander is called out, then drivers who started on the softer tyre will have less time to get the most out of them. Drivers who start on the harder compound can go much longer in the race, when added with the durability benefit. The one problem is that the harder compound takes about 3 laps to fully warm up, which would suit them well if the safety car came out on Lap 1, and they were heated then. For the front-runners, however, most will have to start on the soft tyre, since their fastest lap was set on them in Q3. Therefore, those in the top 10 who are starting on the hard tyre (unfortunately there doesn’t appear to be an official list of who is on what tyre, but I’m pretty sure that Sutil is one of the drivers on the harder tyre) will have a good chance in the race.

There will not be the tyre-wear issue that we had last year. A few days back, I incorrectly reported that the super-soft and medium tyres were being brought by Bridgestone. It is in fact the soft and hard tyres that are being used. This means that the super-soft tyre problem that we had last year will not be happening this year, which means that the soft compound can be used for about 15 or so laps this year, compared to the 10 laps last year.

Then of course there is the weather. Unlike many other years, showers are being forecast for tomorrow. If rain does fall, then the two compounds of tyres do not have to be used in the race. Depending on when it falls, it may give an advantage to the front runners who start on the soft tyre. The perfect time for it to rain, in the eyes of the leaders, is around Lap 14-16 or so. The BBC are predicting heavy rain at points tomorrow, with moderate visibility. Temperatures will be between 12 and 20 degrees. The colder-than-normal temperatures will hugely disadvantage the harder tyre, because it will be harder to warm them up when they are first put on.

Drivers to watch

Mark Webber – The local boy, woho has never finished higher here than his 5th in 2002 with Minardi. He is 2nd on the grid this year, with the best car on the grid. with the crowd behind him, expect him to push Vettel for the win until the last lap. Unless his terrible luck catches up with him…

Robert Kubica – an upgraded front wing and other aerodynamic updates have resulted in a much better R30 than in Bahrain. Kubica starts P9, and on the clean side of the grid as well, so he could make up 1 or 2 places at the start. The Renault seems to pick up speed very well as its fuel burns off, so if the weather stays dry then he could perform well. The one thing he needs to be careful of is the first corner, with several aggressive drivers ahead of (Schumacher) and behind (Sutil and Hamilton) him.

Lewis Hamilton – I’m not expecting a good result from the Briton, but I am expecting fireworks. He is overly aggressive at starts sometimes, and he is bunched up in the middle of the field, so expect him to cause a big pile-up on Lap1.

Heikki Kovalainen – This may seem like an odd choice, but he has the best chance out of the new teams. He lines up 19th on the clean side of the grid. He has the best new car, so he may possibly get a chance of keeping the pressure on the drivers in front. The only thing that would stop him is reliability.

Australian Friday practice analysis

Today in Australia we saw Robert Kubica and Lewis Hamilton top the two Friday Practice sessions. However, one of these was heavily hampered by rain, which makes the data more difficult to read. Here is what we have learned from today.

Mercedes vs McLaren

Mercedes vs McLaren - Friday Practice 1

Mercedes vs McLaren - Friday Practice 1

In Friday Practice 1, apart from two slips from Hamilton, both drivers from both teams had the same pattern of pace. All of these drivers started with lower fuel, filled up, then burned up the fuel as the session went on. Rosberg’s and Schumacher’s times do appear quicker than the McLaren’s on the first graph. Also, Jenson Button has hinted that they were running quite low on fuel, which may distort this chart, as we don’t know how much fuel the Mercedes cars were carrying.

Mercedes vs McLaren - Friday Practice 2

Mercedes vs McLaren - Friday Practice 2

In FP2, the rain obviously slowed the cars down considerably, especiallyin the middle of people’s stints. The fastest laps set in this session were much closer, so it can be assumed that the Mercedes drivers were running slightly heavier.


The 3 new teams

Lotus, Virgin and HRT - FP1

Lotus, Virgin and HRT - FP1

The Fp1 chart is a good indicator of how the cars get faster along the weekend, as the track rubbers in. Lotus appear to have got ahead of their rivals, as Kovalainen’s and Trulli’s stints were consistently faster than the drivers for Virgin and HRT. Timo Glock was out often in FP1, but only set one proper fast lap, so the analysis for Virgin was left to Lucas di Grassi, who was consistently slower than Senna or Chandhok throughout the session. From this, we can see that Lotus are clearly ahead, while HRT are beginning to catch up with Virgin.

Lotus, Virgin and HRT - FP2

Lotus, Virgin and HRT - FP2

Unfortunately, not as much can be learned in FP2. This is because Chandok, Senna and Di Grassi all failed to get a fast lap in. Also, the changeable conditions affected the runnings as well. Still, throughout this session, the Lotus drivers of Trulli and Kovalainen were quite a bit quicker than Timo Glock.

The Lotus is certainly ahead, but the main question is when will HRT catch up with and overtake Virgin. It is much easier to do in these practice sessions, but HRT need to transform these improvements into better race pace to have a chance of catching up to Virgin. Reliability will be key in the next few races.

More graphs and analysis will be added soon.

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