Let’s now take a look at how consistent the drivers were in the Italian Grand Prix. From looking at the drivers’ races through their average lap times and spread, we can see who punched above their weight and who was lucky to finish in the points.
if you need more info on my calculation methods then please refer to my post on Driver Consistency Explained. As an added bonus, after this analysis I will do a laptime comparison, and finally have a look at the championship situationand see if the medals system would have been better than points…
Here is a graph showing the average lap times and standard deviation for the Italian Grand Prix at Monza:
This graph always mirrors the finishing order, so not much to say here. However note that Liuzzi and Alguersuari’s standard deviation is a lot smaller because they suddenly stopped running before they made their pitstops. Conversely, Rosberg and Kubica had to make a few pitstops to change a flat tyre and a damaged front wing respectively, which increases their spread of laptimes.
Finally note that I have removed the last lap which was run under the safety car and that Webber is not listed because he did not complete any timed laps.
Here are the average lap times with pit stops and retirement laps removed:
Monza has few corners and most drivers did a one-stop strategy today so the field is mostly unchanged. Strangely though, even though the qualifying times were closer than on most tracks, there is a 4% difference in laptimes between the fastest and slowest car – but this is probably skewed because Kubica basically had a race that was one big mechanical problem!
Because only racing laps are left over, all penalties from pitstops are removed and so the fastest two drivers are those that were on two-stop strategies. However, note that the next three drivers are the podium finishers (in 1-3-2 order) and that they are not far off the pace of the two stoppers.
If we take a closer look, Hamilton is only about 3 tenths faster than the one-stoppers. This means over the course of 53 laps, he would have only gained 15.9 seconds over the one stoppers (on pure pace). As an average pitstop was around 28 seconds, you can see already that if you had a reasonably quick car on a one stop strategy you could beat a faster car on a two-stopper.
Alonso and Kovalainen were also one-stopping but they did not make their strategies work so well for them. In fact, considering Kovalainen had a car almost as fast as Barrichello, on an identical fuel and tyre strategy and with KERS, he had a poor race and faded away.
When we compare Barrichello and Kovalainen’s lap times, we can see how they performed over a race distance:
So even though Kovalainen had a great chance to win today, he was almost a second a lap slower on average. Part of this can be attributed to running in dirty air following other cars, but this was because he had a bad start and was overtaken by a few drivers. Sadly, this is another wasted opportunity for the Finn and I think when McLaren look at the data, they will have to ask why he could not convert his awesome qualifying pace into a good result…
My personal opinion on the man is that he does not suit the team – he needs a change to see if he has what it takes to be an F1 driver. Because when your team mate does well and you don’t, you are the one that looks bad. He has had a lot of chances at McLaren and never seems to convert them, and there will come a point where there can be no more excuses. I just hope he turns it around before then
The Home Stretch
With the end of the European season and with four races to go, the championship battle is looking very tight :) I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at the championship points and see what each of contenders has to do to take the championship.
Let’s start with the Constructors Championship:
Red Bull are exactly 40 points behind Brawn with a maximum 72 left to score (4×18). Ferrari are mathematically still capable of catching, but it is very unlikely to happen.
For Red Bull to win the constructors championship, they must score 10 points more (a whole race win) than Brawn. While this is possible, it is also unlikely to happen as both Red Bull drivers are having a bad run of form, with bad qualifying pace, mechanical issues, Vettel using up all of his allocated engines (and therefore taking a 10-place grid penalty next time he needs a new engine) and Brawn running quite strongly at the moment.
Add to this that the Red Bull only does better on cold or fast sweeping tracks, and it looks even more difficult – Singapore is a street circuit (where Red Bull have been weak this year), Japan should suit them, Brazil is usually random and Abu Dhabi will be hot, which suits the Brawns. Also, McLaren and Ferrari have good cars now, so they will be taking even more points away from the two teams trying to win the championship. I would probably say that Brawn have done enough to be the constructor’s champions for 2009.
But what about the Driver’s Championship? Let us have a look:
Button has a fourteen-point lead over Barrichello which means that Barrichello needs to score an average of 3.5 points more than Button to be champion. This is not that much when you consider that Hamilton had a 12 point lead over Alonso and 17 point lead over Raikkonen with two races to go – and he lost the championship to Raikkonen by 1 point. In 2008 Hamilton had a seven point lead over Massa in the last round and only won by one point, so the championship is far from over.
For example, suppose in the next race Barrichello wins and Button does not score – then the lead is only four points. So my point is that we are going to have a championship battle that goes right down to the wire
But are the Red Bulls still capable of catching Button? Well, Vettel is 26 points behind which means he needs to outscore Button by 6.5 points per race to catch him. Considering at some point Vettel will have to change his engine and take a 10-place grid penalty, this is starting to look like a tall order. So Vettel needs to win a race and hope the Brawns do not score to take a big chunk out of their lead, and it needs to happen in the next two races or he is out.
What about Webber? 28 points behind, which means 7 points per race more than Button to win. This is basically only a mathematical chance as this requires the Brawns to hardly score any points and Webber has not been having a good run of form and his car will not suit all the circuits, so he is effectively out.
Going For Gold
Just for fun, let’s have a look at how the championship would look like if Bernie had been successful in implementing his medals system, an idea mooted at the end of 2008/start of 2009 (and quickly dropped).
The idea of the system was to reward race wins by awarding Gold, Silver and Bronze medals, as in the Olympics. The driver with the most Gold medals at the end of the year would be champion. If the situation arose that there was more than one driver with the same amount of Gold medals, Silver medals would be used as a tie-breaker.
So how many Gold medals has each driver won? Let’s take a look, first over the course of the season:
(Apologies if the graph is difficult to see – click on it to open in a new window…)
We can see from this that Button built up an early cushion of six wins and that the others have not been able to catch up, fighting amongst themselves with six winners in the seven races since Turkey (Button’s last win).
The total number of Gold medals for each driver is as follows:
So with four races to go, Barrichello and Vettel could catch up to Button, forcing a tie-breaker.
So who has the most Silver medals?
Here is the kicker – if Barrichello won the next four races, Button would have to finish second at least twice to tie with him, and once to tie with Vettel. Then, if the scores were still tied, we would need to use Bronze medals to break the tie:
So now it would come down to who finished third the most times – and as it’s pretty even, it might be best to list the permutations:
Needs to win once to become champion.
However, if Barrichello wins the next four races, needs to finish second in three of the races, or second in two races and third in two races.
If he only manages one third place, then the championship would presumably be decided on points, meaning that Barrichello would win if Button did not score higher than fifth in the other race.
This means that we could have ended up with a scenario like Brazil last year – Ironically not what Bernie wanted as he wanted to see drivers win races to win the championship and not decided by a guy who finishes down the order
Needs to win all four races and hope that Button does not achieve any of the above
Also needs to win all four races.
As he has one less second place to his name, he has to hope Button does not finish second at least twice; or
Button does not finish second at least once and third at least once as he is further back in the championship, as that alone would be enough for Button to tie on points meaning he would only need one more point from two races to become champion.
Conclusions and Final Thoughts
Bernie Ecclestone had an idea to make a system where a driver who wins races wins the championship, but after listing all the permutations, I think it would have been an awful idea as it is so much more confusing than a good old fashioned points system
Besides, the championship decider could have been the race where all Button needs to do is finish in the low points – which is ironically the exact scenario Bernie hoped to avoid with this system!
Who do you think will be champion? How will they do it? Do you still like the idea of medals? Is Kovalainen finished as an F1 driver? Let me know your thoughts as always as I’d love to hear from you