Europe – The Final Countdown!

Do-do-doo-doo, doody-do-do-do… Hehehe :D Time for Qualifying Analysis of the European Grand Prix at Valencia.  An exciting qualifying session, with a few nice surprises and the first pole position since China last October for Hamilton.  I thought that Alonso would have gone for a glory pole on fumes, but it wasn’t to be ;)

If you want an explanation of the Calculation Methods used, please click the link above.  So, here are the Q3 times:

eur09_q3times

The top three are separated by less than a tenth of a second, with Vettel and Button half a second off pole position.  From Raikkonen through to Webber, the gap to pole is extended by another four tenths of a second, with Kubica another three tenths back.

It’s good to see BMW back in the top 10 too – especially considering recent events with the team pulling out of F1 at the end of the year.  It was a shame that a small mistake on the penultimate corner cost Kovalainen pole position – he is apparently under pressure from his team to get results and it would have been good for him.

The updates promised to some teams failed to produce expected results, except for the McLaren team.

As I was watching the Qualifying on Sidepodcast, Alex from SofaF1 gave me his fuel prediction for the race before the weights were published.  So I asked some other to give me their predictions and here they are:

  • Pad-Rock: Surely Hamilton doesn’t really need to try for pole, good if he gets it but might as well take more fuel and get on the 2nd row and the KERS should see him 1st by the 1st corner
  • Alex: Gavin – fuel prediction from me…. Lewis will be in the top three heaviest in the session – possibly heaviest.
  • Alex: Totally agree [Red Bull are heavy]. There’s an indication based on how many laps people did. Red Bull did hardly any. McLaren did tons
  • RG: Kubica, on race fuel, was still quicker than Badoer.
  • Alianora La Canta: Ferrari light. McLaren a bit light. Brawn average. Red Bull a bit heavy.
  • Journeyer: Red Bull a bit heavy? Given their pace so far, I think they’re a bit light…
  • Journeyer: I think Button is running heavy.  Maybe the heaviest?
  • Rowley: Rosberg will have the heaviest car in the top 10. My guess.
  • F1 Wolf:  I think Button is running heavy.  Maybe the heaviest? both Brawns kind of gave up at the end, so you may be right
  • Rich: Although they did a lot of laps and will be lighter than Jenson I do not think they will be that light. Red Bull seemed to be struggling somewhat today – especially Mark. I think Macca are now right back in the fight for wins and with the KERS could become unstoppable. This could help Jenson cling to some hope for the championship.
  • Nick: There is no reason for the McLaren to be light. But the Brawns might be heavier than normal as their was no point in them going for pole if they were going to get KERS’d.

So how did our budding Nostradamii do?  Well first, let’s look at the fuel weights:

eur09_fuelweights

What is interesting here is that the whole field is running very similar fuel weights with only a four-lap spread between the field.  If the race runs to the full length of 57 Laps, then we can predict that all the drivers are on a three-stop fuel strategy with the lightest five on a short first stint.

Rosberg and Webber are running very heavily which explains why they are near the back of the Top Ten.  The Brawns are running heavily too, and the McLarens and Vettel are running light – which will make for interesting analysis now that we will look at the fuel corrected times:

eur09_q3times_fuelcorrected

We can see here that Barrichello is a clear pole winner because he was running a heavy fuel load, however the McLarens are still quick when fuel corrected.  Kovalainen beats Hamilton, which is fantastic for him and for Amy ;) .  Vettel is four tenths faster than Webber and Kubica and Alonso are both well off the pace tomorrow – which is not what Bernie needs for a struggling event in a country that only really warms to F1 when it’s hero is winning!

As a final point on the fuel-corrected times, Maverick from Pitlane Fanatic noted that Hamilton set his pole-winning lap three laps earlier than the end of his Q3 session.  Taking this into account, we have the following fuel-corrected grid:

eur09_q3times_fuelcorrected_HAM

This graph makes me happy because it puts Hamilton on pole (Sorry Amy!) by quite a margin, showing how much the McLaren has improved this year – an unprecedented achievement in modern F1!

Here are a couple more graphs which put the whole thing together.  The first combines the fuel-corrected times with the Q3 times…

eur09_q3times corrected

…and the second is the controversial combination of Q3 Times, Fuel Weights, Stints and Fuel Corrected times:

eur09_q3times_fuelweights corrected


Race Predictions:

I think the fans will be disappointed with Alonso tomorrow – he did not qualify well and the car does not seem very quick around here.  The same might be true for Webber as overtaking is very difficult here and he admits that he finds the circuit uninspiring ;)

I would love to see Hamilton win – I know he and Kovalainen will both get a great start thanks to the extra boost from KERS.  James Allen thinks that Kovalainen is in a tough position and that Barrichello is in a good position to win based on Q2 and Q3 performance.

Quite frankly, after last year’s achingly boring race, as long as we get some action on track then I will be happy ;)

So who do you guys think is going to win?  Did today’s action surprise you and did you expect to see your driver run light or heavy?  Either way let me know what you think in the comments!

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8 thoughts on “Europe – The Final Countdown!

  1. If Maclaren play the team game to get one of their cars a decent lead by the first pit stops then I think they will have the race sown up.

    At the beginning of the season people were writing off KERS / KERS cars, it’s interesting to see a KERS car at the front. Will it make other teams (re)introduce their systems? As a Williams fan I keep an eye on their news and Sam Michael hints they might run the fly wheel at one point this season.

    Have you done any analysis of the best starts so far this season? E.g. starting position to position at the end of the first lap? I’ve heard Vettel is a bad starter and I get the impression Nico has made some good starts, but I don’t really know.

    • Hi Rich, thanks for the comment ;)

      Have you done any analysis of the best starts so far this season? E.g. starting position to position at the end of the first lap? I’ve heard Vettel is a bad starter and I get the impression Nico has made some good starts, but I don’t really know.

      Good idea, hadn’t thought of that one. I think I will do something like that in the off season!

  2. Two things to be seen: Can Vettel get ahead of Rubens (or even Jenson) who are starting on the clean side? Red Bull’s chances could be decided within the first seconds.

    Second, how much of an advantage will theMcLarens have in the first stint? It may seem odd, but we’ve seen the Brawn show heavy training in dirty air, so Rubens might not want to push for the overtake, but look after his tires and then string together two brilliant laps in clean air after the McLarens pull in. Still, I give the nod to Lewis.

    • Good to know – I thought for a moment that you had revealed exclusively on my blog that Brawn had broken the In-Season Testing Ban! ;)

  3. Great and interesting analysis! I was just wandering how you calculated Lewis’ weight for when he set his fast lap? And did you apply the same criteria for all the drivers in the top ten?

    • Hi Lukeaa.

      I did what Maverick did in his linked post and added 3 laps to his weight. Normally the drivers set their best laps right at the end but Hamilton’s lap today was the exception ;)

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