Bahrain Qualifying Analysis – First GP of 2010!

The action finally begins!  After all the drama, talk and hype of the off-season, we finally got to see the cars turn a wheel in anger today … and while we saw some things we expected, by golly we got some surprises too!

Firstly, an apology for the lateness of the post, but I did not get to see qualifying until this afternoon due to other commitments.  As you may be aware, there is a ban on refuelling this year, which means that I cannot do a fuel-corrected analysis because all of the cars qualify on low fuel in all three sessions.  However, there still will not be a ‘straight fight’ for pole, because the drivers that make it into Q3 will have to start the race on the tyres they qualified on.

We will see later if this makes a difference, but let’s start with a graph showing the qualifying times for all of the sessions:


Let’s have a look at the individual session times separately:




From the graphs, we can see that the field spread is much wider than last year because of the new teams.  However, the midfield is going to be much tighter than last year and I think it is safe to say that McLaren, Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes will be the top teams this year.

If you want a full roundup of qualifying, you should listen to the Sidepodcast F1 Digest first.  My highlights of qualifying were that the new teams were very slow in comparison to the other teams – with HRT almost as slow as a GP2 car.   This is partly because they did not do any testing before turning up in Bahrain.  Virgin can claim first blood in the battle of the new teams thanks to Timo Glock.

The midfield provided some interesting results.  Going back to my testing summary post, I expected Williams and Sauber to qualify a lot better than they did today, which is a shame if you are a fan of these teams.

Rosberg also managed to beat Schumacher (which surprise me), Button struggled today in qualifying (blaming the car) and Hamilton also could only reach fourth.  With the Super Stall Snorkel Thingy McLaren are supposed to be running, the team was expected to be much faster.  However, there are stories floating around the internet that McLaren compromised their qualifying by raising the ride height so that the car will run better with a heavy fuel load tomorrow.  I can’t verify it, but I would not be surprised if McLaren and other teams were in fact doing this…

Sutil did a great job getting the Force India into the top 10 – and the same can be said for Kubica, especially after the apparently poor pace of the Renault in testing.

Sebastian Vettel surprised all but David Coulthard by getting pole position today with the Ferraris not far behind.  Christian Horner admitted that they had not run an honest low-fuel lap in testing and so the first time they had done so was in fact in qualifying today.  Has Adrian Newey produced another rocket ship?

One thing worth noting is that the Q3 times are generally slower than Q2 – implying that the drivers would not or could not drive to the limits of the cars.

Let us now look at the amount of laps run in each session to see how the drivers approached the different sessions:





Note: The drivers are listed in order of qualifying classification.

The first observation worth making is that the number of laps decreases in each session run – in fact, only half the amount of laps were run in Q3 than Q1.  This must be due to the drivers trying to use the tyres as little as possible because they have to start the race on them.  Also, it does not seem to matter if your car is at the front or the back of the field – all the drivers do about the same amount of laps in a particular session.

So even though we are supposed to have low fuel qualifying, the rule makers have effectively ruined it with the parc fermé rules and the tyre rules – as the drivers are not able to push the cars as fast as they could do.  A shame that this situation has arisen as there is nothing better than a full on battle to see who can get the absolute fastest lap time.  Still, at least this means there is some uncertainty over who is fastest and who will make the best of it in tomorrow’s race.

But questions remain.  Is what we saw in Q3 a true measure of the pace of the teams, or will things be different after the race tomorrow?  Will a car like the Red Bull be fast and consistent enough to recreate this pace over the whole race distance or did McLaren make the right moves?  Are Ferrari ready to pounce, or will Schumi surprise us all?

I know there are some that think that the changes to the circuit may make for a dull race tomorrow, but I am still optimistic and excited for a good race tomorrow.  I am hopeful that the rule changes, driver changes, new teams and the new circuit will throw up a good race.  I have a feeling that although the Red Bull is fast and that Vettel is great when leading from the front that they will fade away and the McLarens will come good.  I think that although Button struggled today that his smoothness and consistency will pay off for him in the long run.  Also I think that Ferrari look very strong and that Schumacher will surprise us.

The HRT will probably not finish, maybe the Virgins won’t either, but the Lotus have a better chance (I am relying on testing form again though).  Hopefully Force India and Williams will score points too…

Let me know your predictions and your comments on the post – as I’m always keen to hear from you.  Enjoy the race tomorrow and I’ll see you in my blog posts afterwards ;)

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11 thoughts on “Bahrain Qualifying Analysis – First GP of 2010!

  1. nice job, interesting to see how the number of laps dropped off and that they all did the same in Q2. I tend to agree with u about the redbulls and certainly hope ur right about Buyton’s style -that’s the thought I’m clinging too. However I think Ferrari probably have the best overall package at the moment although I thought I saw a pic of massa’s tires and they looked pretty messed up do I guess we’ll have to wait and see :)


  2. Good read, but:

    “The first observation worth making is that the number of laps decreases in each session run – in fact, only half the amount of laps were run in Q3 than Q1.”

    Q1 is twice as short as Q3, so this would be the obvious reason, surely?

    • Yeah that’s a fair comment. However, compare Q2 and Q3 – almost everyone ran 6-7 laps in Q2 and yet most ran 3 laps in Q3. Why? Probably to save the tyres.

      In the end we are denied a proper low fuel fight for pole just because of a quirky rule that will get changed in 2 or 3 years just to keep things ‘interesting’ :(

  3. This graphs don’t show anything interesting. Do you really need a graph to see that drivers made 6 laps in Q2?

    • To answer your question, no, you don’t really need to see a graph to show any of the data in the post. But it helps make a visual aid to easily see against other drivers how they did in a certain category.

      In this case, I graphed the amount of laps to show that the drivers were running less laps in Q3 to protect their tyres. When you take the graph by itself, yeah, it isn’t that interesting. However, within the context of the whole of qualifying, I think it is very important…

  4. Interesting analysis, I’m really excited for the race!

    At the end of the final test everyone was talking about how close the field was going to be (new teams excluded). I’m surprised at some of the gaps we saw today. I know Bahrain is a longer circuit which will exaggerate any differences, but the top 9 were spread by 2 seconds (exclude Sutil in 10 as he as on different tyres).

    It’s also interesting that the Q3 times were slower than Q2 for nearly every driver. You’d have thought the track would have been getting better / quicker. Were car adjustments made between the two sessions? Can “looking after the tyres” really have been the effect? Surely if you are worried about tyres you choose the harder compound?

  5. Hi mate, Interesting analysis, I know its F1 by the “numbers” but theres no mention of the tire compounds used, which is quite relevant to the final times in Q3 don’t you think? I believe the top 3 all used softs? Though I’m trying to find an official list.

    • Hi Tim,

      Unfortunately I cannot find a list either, but apparently the twitterverse is saying that Sutil was the only one who qualified on the softer tyre…

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  7. Pingback: Driver Consistency – Bahrain 2010 « Making Up The Numbers

  8. A number that’s been repeated a few times is 107% – reintroducing the rule that teams can only take part in the race if they’re within a certain distance of the fastest qualifier. The aim was to keep leaders from tripping over the tail-enders.

    I’ve calculated who would have been eliminated, and by how much, if this rule had been in place for the Bahrain Grand Prix. I think it’s fairest to do the calculation based on the conditions where both fastest and slowest were competing on the same track at the same time, i.e. on Alonso’s time in Q1. This was 1:54.612. 107% of that, and therefore the cut-off time, would be 2:02.634.

    Both Virgins and both Lotuses were well inside that time. The HRT cars were outside it, Senna by a shade over 6/10ths, Chandhok by 2.27 seconds. (Chandhok was nearly 9% slower than Alonso.)

    I’ve seen some people calling for 105%. That would be a cut-off time of 2:00.342, but this would only have eliminated one more car, Lucas di Grassi’s Virgin. Kovalainen was inside by about 0.03s.

    Given HRT had never tested the car at all before this weekend, and Senna had a marked improvement over the three pre-race sessions he set times in, I reckon they’ll get in under 107% in Australia.

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