Driver Consistency – Japan

It’s Driver Consistency time for the Japanese Grand Prix – who was hot like Wasabi and who was soft like Tofu?  Let’s have a look at the lap times to find out!  If you need more info on my calculation methods then please refer to my post on Driver Consistency Explained.

Driver Consistency

Here is a graph showing the average lap times and standard deviation for the Japanese Grand Prix:


(Note: The laps where race was run under the Safety Car have been excluded as these are not considered ‘Racing Laps’)

I guess what is worth noting here is the strange wave effect of the standard deviations  – these must have been caused by drivers being stuck behind each other?

Also, note that Rosberg’s pace is quicker than Raikkonen, probably because he went too fast when the safety car came out and the drivers were told to slow down.  He claimed this was because the low fuel indicator blocked the pace indicator on his dashboard, and was excused of any penalty.  However, he used the opportunity to jump two places up the field.  Hardly fair and a gross violation of safety – in most other industries this would be severely punished, but we all know how inconsistent the stewards have been this year.  Also, they probably did not want to give the penalty knowing that it would have given Brawn the constructor’s championship – after all the off track controversy this year, F1 hardly needs any more! :(  Who knows…

Another point worth noting is that Alguersuari had the pace to finish ninth today – but as we know, he was the guy who crashed out and brought out the safety car after going off at the 130R.  Thankfully he’s OK though :)

Finally, Webber’s laps seem so erratic because he made about four pit stops – because he damaged his car in FP3 on Saturday morning, causing a complete car rebuild and the result of that meant that he started from the pit lane.  The first two stops were made very early on in the race due to problems with the car, and then the rest of the race was run as a test session – oddly enough he set the fastest lap at the end of the race!

How does the race look like if we only consider the ‘Racing Laps’ – that is, all the timed laps except for pit stops and those run under the Safety Car?


Here we can see something very interesting.  Note how Rosberg now drops to sixth after we take the pit stop laps out?  So Rosberg must have made the jump in positions because of his pit stops – implying he did gain an advantage under the run to the pits under the safety car!

Alonso drops back because he was only on a one-stop strategy – but strangely, Webber only moves up one place, because the team apparently used the opportunity to try some things for upcoming races…

Finally Button drops behind Barrichello, also implying that he made up some time over Barrichello in the pit stops.


Great things were expected from this race, yet unfortunately it failed to deliver.  In 20 years of watching F1 I am struggling to think of a bad Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka – in fact, even the last two at Fuji were much more entertaining than this!

It is a very clear failure of the Overtaking Working Group if we only get 3 overtaking moves in the whole race because the cars cannot follow each other or overtake in the dirty air.  Also, KERS has proved to be a big flop this year – most teams did not bother developing it and for those who do have it, they use it as a defensive tool rather than a ‘push to pass’ button.

Also, the way the penalties were handed out after qualifying, with four drivers receiving 5 place grid penalties and yet none of them actually being demoted 5 places because of the way they were applied looked really suspicious.  I mean, with Vettel on pole and Button penalised more than Barrichello, it appears that the stewards have become involved in another controversial decision that looks as though they are trying to keep the championship alive until the last race – because nobody has managed to explain the logic behind how the penalties were handed out, not least of all the FIA :(

Today’s race was spectacularly dull.  It really wasn’t worth getting up early for and sadly a common complaint this season.  It’s a shame really, as it’s taking the gloss on what could be an interesting end to the championship.

I will deal with the championship points in a separate post, but needless to say, with Vettel’s win today and the average race from the Brawns, the championship is wide open with only two races to go – in fact, Vettel is the same distance away in points as Raikkonen was to Hamilton in 2007 with two races to go.

And we all remember what happened that year :P

Do you think we are in for a close finish to the championship?  Who do you think will win?  Did you actually understand the grid penalties given out in qualifying?  If so, please leave me a comment because I’m stumped on that one! :D

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21 thoughts on “Driver Consistency – Japan

  1. The matter of the grid penalties is so stupid, it’s hardly worth explaining. But, basically, the stewards decided that the penalties should be applied in the order in which they were given. So, say the first penalised was driver A and he was in 5th spot, he drops to 10th. But then driver B in 7th (now 6th because of A’s penalty) is penalised and he drops to 11th. But this means that driver A moves up to 9th, B having disappeared behind him.

    A now has an effective penalty of four grid spots, not five. Keep applying the same system and you get the crazy and unfair result we had in reality, with Barrichello getting a two spot drop (I think it was) but Button ending with much more of a drop.

    Why did the stewards decide on this system? Well, your guess is as good as mine but I think we can agree that it is the most unfair idea they have come up with yet!

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  3. In response to the original post, in the Sporting Regulations, article 36.2 c) says “Once the grid has been established…, grid position penalties will be applied to the drivers in question in the order the offences were committed.” Therefore that’s how some drivers ended up being penalised ‘less’, as Clive has pointed out.

    As to whether that’s fair… well I don’t think the rules really imagined that 4 or 5 cars would go through and do the same thing within 10 seconds of each other – then the severity of the your penalty comes down to where you were on the track.

    In an ideal world of course, you’d work out the penalties after each session, not just “once the grid has been established”. That way, those that had been naughty wouldn’t have got through to Q3 and it would have been fairer for those that lost out. However, we all know that’s not practical – we would have been waiting hours for the final session to start!

    As for Rosberg’s offence – it’s hardly his fault if the standard ECU display is flashing “Low Fuel” instead of the delta time he needs to aim for. (Then again, it depends how long the flashes are – something hopefully a broadcaster can show?) I wouldn’t be surprised if that system is tweaked slightly for 2010, if not before.

    • Hello Tommy – and thanks for the comment!

      I’d just like to pick you up on the Rosberg thing:

      As for Rosberg’s offence – it’s hardly his fault if the standard ECU display is flashing “Low Fuel” instead of the delta time he needs to aim for.

      No, it’s not Rosberg’s fault – it is the team’s fault. However, Rosberg did benefit unfairly from it and neither the team nor himself were penalised in any way.

      In the industry I work in, any failure to display a safety/warning sign or keep it maintained is considered a serious violation and can be heavily punished – especially if it leads to more serious circumstances. So for the FIA to just let them off is surprising to say the least – and goes against Max’s mantra of making the sport safe.

      It does make me wonder why Rosberg wasn’t demoted when it is very clear he gained an unfair time advantage when he shouldn’t have – I suspect the FIA may have been thinking about causing more controversy by awarding a championship off the track – but I hope I am wrong.

      • If the ECU is standard, it’s hardly the team’s fault if it glitches? After Vettel’s incorrectly-given penalty at Singapore another one would have been silly.

        It wasn’t like he was doing full speed through the scene of the accident, he just didn’t slow down on the rest of the track as much as he should have. I don’t think it’s a safety issue.

        (And no, this comment isn’t motivated by my name!)

        • Hi Niko, Thanks for the great comment!

          It wasn’t like he was doing full speed through the scene of the accident, he just didn’t slow down on the rest of the track as much as he should have. I don’t think it’s a safety issue.

          He still gained an unfair advantage though. I am not sure if the issue is related to the standard ECU – Nico’s excuse was that the readout on his steering wheel showed that he had low fuel which he mistook for a signal to go faster. If it was the ECU then I agree with you, but if it is a fault of the steering wheel display then it is the team’s fault, isn’t it?

          • The ECU generates all its outputs all the time; it must be up to the team to decide how many different displays to put on the steering wheel, and whether to indicate particular alerts with text displays, lights, buzzers, electric shocks, whatever.

            I’d be surprised if it was the ECU, rather than the team, that decides which messages take precedence over which others. If the team is at fault, the stewards’ judgement should at least have mandated them to change their display routines and, as he gained advantage, Nico should be punished.

          • To be honest Nico’s excuse is so lame its laughable. I know from when I raced you have a fairly good estimate of what your lap times are, even without readouts. Sadly this was yet another case of cheating/lying in the sport. For those that do not think Williams would cheat – look into their history and you will see clever interpretations that were cheating. They gambled that the stewards would not want to push it due to handing out a championship based on a penalty as it does not go down well with fans.

  4. Great analysis – it seems such an obvious way to examine each race. Really enjoy reading each posting.

    It shows just how much better Vettel and Red Bull were than the rest of the field this weekend. They were staggeringly fast. Trulli really did deserve second place and the slight hiccup that Lewis suffered exiting the pits did not contribute any significance to the race results. You have also shown just how off the pace Kovy is compared to Lewis and I was surprise how well Jaime was doing compared to previous races (similar to Adrian) and he was faster than Alonso on average!

    The issue with Nico is actually outrageous and that he has claimed he gained no advantage even more so. I was most uncomfortable when he (Nico) said he was robbed of last year’s Singapore Victory and now this -he has been dropped from my good books.

    Finally the Brawns really were closely matched on pace – I actually thought Jenson was doing significantly better than Rubens.

    I felt sorry for Nick – he actually drove well (compared to Robert – who of course would probably have suffered being behind slower drivers – but he was till overtaken by Jenson). Were it not for the long pitstop with the problematic rear right wheel nut Nick might have held Kimi at bay – although Kimi was faster.

    I also did not understand the grid positions. Personally I think they should have re-run second and third qualifying events – the outcome was ridiculous. Since there was so few overtaking events in the race (Jenson on Kubica, Sutil with Kovy and Kovy taking Fisi out of the pits with use of his KERS) the grid postion was all important.

    It was not a great race – even though it clearly is a great track. Drivers need more time to come to terms with the conditions. Again Vettel was stellar on this point.

  5. another great post mate!

    After defending Rosberg in the last analysis, I don’t really feel that I can this time. As a Williams fan, and indeed a Rosberg fan, it seemed a bit of a low blow. I was watching Button – I reckon Button would have had Rosberg as they were matching lap times, with Button often quicker.

    In fact, I was mainly watching Buttons times for the race as I was interested to see how he performed. His pace was very consistent in clear air and I reckon that all things being equal he would have finished about 4th. His performance was actually a lot better than it seemed in my opinion. Barrichello was lucky I think too, his pace seemed erratic.

    vettel drove fantastically. hats off to Liuzzi and Sutil for attempting and actually making passes stick. Liuzzi needs a better car…!

  6. oh and also, correct me if i’m being stupid but why doesn’t the race consistency graph illustrate Webber’s fastest lap? Am I missing how it is calculated?

    • Hi Sam, cheers for the comment :)

      oh and also, correct me if i’m being stupid but why doesn’t the race consistency graph illustrate Webber’s fastest lap? Am I missing how it is calculated?

      Webber’s fastest lap is in there but it’s only one of 40-odd racing laps. As you can see, the variation in his standard deviation of his laptimes is very large – so one fast lap would not have lowered it too much. Check out the link above called “Driver Consistency Explained” if you want to find out more about how I make my calculations ;)

    • Hi Mav,

      Thanks for the comment – and thanks for clearing up the penalty situation!

      I guess I am implying that it looks suspicious because nobody bothered to explain it. If someone on the FIA had any common sense they would have put out a press release like your post which would have instantly dismissed any suspicion of grid fixing.

      Still though, the four drivers who got penalised for speeding should have all been docked 5 places – this is just another example of yet another badly written rule by the powers that be, I suppose :(

      • They messed up by getting it wrong the first time and then having to work on it overnight – it gave the impression that they were fiddling it to their own ends whereas in fact they were as confused as anybody. Which is worrying because at least they were in on the secret of how to work it out even if most fans weren’t. If you know the secret, it’s not that complicated, just seemingly unfair – especially if you’re Sutil.

    • Hmm I’m not sure why – I replied to Niko’s post and it seems to have put the comment at the bottom rather than underneath his. Odd – must be a bug in the theme!

      Apologies – I am still learning how to do all of this – both comments have appeared in the post, but thanks for your patience anyway ;)

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