The Ace in the Hole

First of all, apologies for posting out of order, but these stats were quite tricky and took some time to collate – and I wanted to get my Fantasy Racers stats finished quickly for you guys ;)

As the Monaco Grand Prix circuit is almost impossible to overtake other cars on, utmost importance is placed on the drivers putting in the best qualifying laps possible.  Therefore I shall analyse how well the drivers did in the ultimate pace required for Q1 and Q2, then look at how well the drivers performed in Q3 with the usual stint and fuel corrected times.  Finally I shall analyse the ‘hitrate’ of each driver to see who was the most consistent as well as fastest.

To figure out how well each driver did in Q1 and Q2, I shall count all lap times quicker than 107% of the session’s fastest time, because 107% of the pole time used to be the minimum benchmark time required to qualify for the race (this was introduced in the early 90’s when grids started to be smaller than 26 cars).  As the pole lap was around 1:15.000, the 107% benchmark is a lap time of roughly 1 minute 21 seconds.  This benchmark should easily cover all the ‘quick’ laps the drivers did as in general, the field was spread by about two seconds – this equates to about a 2.5% spread.

Any laps slower than this benchmark are considered either in-laps, out-laps, installation laps or other tomfoolery and weird tricks the teams play to ensure:

  1. the car is properly warmed up for that hotlap; and
  2. the driver has enough ‘clear air’ and so doesn’t get blocked or slowed down.

So, with that in mind, we can calculate a median value and then add the standard error to it to find out how consistent a driver was during that session.  Bear in mind that we are not too bothered about the median lap times themselves, more the size of the vertical error bars – the smaller the bars, the more consistent the driver.

Firstly, let us look at the median lap times for Q1:

mon09_q1_av

It is no surprise that the first two drivers are the Brawns – the cars were quick all weekend and we know that both drivers can put in some very consistent performances.  The next driver is a surprise though – Sebastian Buemi.  In his first Monaco Grand Prix in an F1 car, he was on average very quick and very consistent in a car that has not performed too well this year.

Other drivers of note are that Nakajima was a little slower on average but more consistent than Rosberg, Alonso completely outclasses Piquet in consistency and Hamilton’s data should probably be ignored – as he only completed two laps at the start of the session when the track was at it’s slowest and crashed out before completing the session. Therefore, his times are not directly comparable to the others.

What about Q2?

mon09_q2_av

Vettel really turned it on in this session – being the most consistent of the front runners.  Buemi, Nakajima and Sutil were incredibly consistent, alas only Nakajima was the only driver of the three fast enough to make it into Q3…  Alonso lives up to his reputation as ‘the metronome’ as well with a decent performance here, while Kovalainen and Rosberg had erratic runs through the session, probably requiring a Banzai lap to get into Q3.  On average, the track got quicker by about a second during this session.

If we take the top 15 drivers and add the hot laps from Q1 and Q2 we get this:

mon09_q1 q2_av

So over the proper part of qualifying, where raw pace and a mighty lap is required on fumes and not half a tank, Alonso, Nakajima and Buemi were the most consistent and Rosberg, Kovalainen and Webber were very erratic.  If we compare Webber and Rosberg to their teammates we see that they were a lot slower and more erratic on average and therefore must have put in a really quick lap at the end of the session to get ahead of their respective team mates.

So what does this all mean?  Remember, we are focusing on how consistent these guys are – so we can see who is the best at dialling in and getting used to their car and who requires a ‘Banzai lap’ at the end of the session in order to progress.

It appears as though Buemi and Nakajima can only drive at a certain speed as they are very consistent – but as these guys don’t normally qualify well we can assume they lack that special skill where they can wring the most out of the car to try and push themselves through.  On the contrary, we know that the top teams often save their very best for the last seconds of the session and we can see that here with Massa, Barrichello, Raikkonen and Rosberg.  Alonso and Button do not have as much variance in their times, but this is because they are known to be consistently fast and therefore their lap times will display a standard error that is lower than their team mates.

It may also be the case that those drivers with a larger standard error than their team mates cannot adjust to their cars as well and may have problems setting up the car or making it work for them.  A good example would be Buemi and Bourdais (Toro Rosso) or Alonso and Piquet (Renault).  Raikkonen, who had so  many problems with the handling of his Ferrari and was well off the pace of Massa, seems to be enjoying this’ year’s Ferrari a lot better as both his average time and standard error are similar to that of Massa.

I have also graphed as a percentage the amount of laps each driver logged that were under the 107% threshold.

Driver Hitrates (Q1+Q2):

Mon09_q1 q2_hitrate

It is interesting here that the hierarchy of who recorded the highest percentage of hot laps has nothing to do with the actual finishing order.  However, Piquet seems to have been quite consistent (which is surprising considering how poor his race performance is) and Bourdais really had trouble getting the car to work for him.

Unfortunately neither of the Toyotas, BMW’s or Hamilton feature here because it would be unfair to compare those who were knocked out in Q1 and therefore recorded fewer laps.

Now onto Q3 and the lovely fuel corrected stuff!

Q3 Final Lap times:

Mon09_Q3

The final race for pole was very tight – Button nicked it from Raikkonen at the very end with a lap that was just under 3 hundredths of a second faster! Barrichello was only a tenth behind and the others are relatively close, save for Alonso and Nakajima who are a second and almost two and a half seconds off the pace respectively.

Now for the fuel corrected times.  A lap of Monaco costs about 1.65kg and results in a penalty of about 0.025 seconds per kilo per lap.  Taking into account that the minimum possible fuel load at the end of Q3 could have been three laps (to allow for an installation lap, a formation lap and then a race lap into the pits to fuel up again, this means that the minimum practical weight of the car is about 610kg.

Therefore taking into account the published weights of the cars, the projected fuel loads would have been as follows:

Mon09_Q3_weights

We all know that Vettel was light but it is surprising how much lighter he was than the Brawns – the car was a bit off the pace in Q3 if he had to be light to get 4th and Webber 8th ‘normally fuelled’.  By the looks of things, Nakajima was given almost enough fuel to get to Turkey!

Q3 Fuel Corrected Times:

Mon09_Q3_corrected

Raikkonen managed to keep a good pace with the Brawns which will be encouraging to Ferrari – however Massa being half a second slower will not!  Kovalainen set a reasonably fast time, which brings up the big ‘what if’ Lewis didn’t crash in Q1?  I think he missed out on a decent points score here today…

The big loser here is Vettel who set an almost identical time to Webber.  Although I like Vettel, personally I think it’s great to see Webber doing well this year and that he is a good match for his team mate :)

In the race, the Brawns made a fantastic start using the Super soft ‘Prime’ tyres to their advantage – Vettel tried to keep up but his Primes went off and he crashed early in the race.  Once the Brawns got ahead, nobody could keep up with them and the result was another 1-2 for Brawn (with Button winning) and Raikkonen coming home third.

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About rubbergoat

Hi there! I’m a mad keen F1 fan who has been addicted to the sport for 20 years. I watch every race and follow the sport in every way I can. I have a keen interest in numbers and I would like to analyse the races from a statistical point of view to see if the data shows something we can't see on TV. As always, I’d love to hear what you think and especially if we can discuss my analyses that would be great – but please no nasty stuff!

5 thoughts on “The Ace in the Hole

  1. Excellent stuff Gavin. :D

    This must have taken you ages, love the consistency stats, that’s something new and perhaps gives an insight into why Nakajima still has a race seat.

    Poor Kovi’s not doing too well at all, I wonder if that’s peculiar to Monaco or in general. Maybe Lewis is doing a superhuman job and that car really is a lemon .. it’ll be interesting to see how this pans out over the season.

    • Thanks Jackie!

      It did take ages to find a way of making sense of the numbers and filtering out the good stuff … I hope you guys thought it was worth it in the end… ;)

      I think in Turkey qualifying we saw that Lewis had a badly set-up car but Kovalainen got through – maybe it’s a confidence thing and that Lewis can’t deal with mediocrity? I think Nakajima is doing a decent job – he’s neither good nor bad and I suspect even Piquet may be looking worse than he is because that Renault is an awful car! Bourdais is still a mystery to me, however…

      I plan to do consistencies for the race laps in Turkey – I just don’t see the point of doing them for Monaco because there’s no hope and therefore no attempts at overtaking.

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