A Great Piece of Fine China

Wow – that was quite a race! Strategy, overtaking, action all through the field… who knew that this year’s Chinese Grand Prix would be such a classic?

One of the main highlights was the battle for the lead between Vettel & Hamilton, which I will analyse here.  But  I also want to look at the brilliant drive from 18th to 3rd by Webber and also the great pace of Rosberg’s Mercedes.  These particular battles were all caused by the relative tyre strategies of each driver and how they managed the increased tyre wear of the Pirelli tyres over the course of the Grand Prix.

The Fight for Victory

Vet Ham

So first let’s look at the race between Vettel & Hamilton.  Both drivers planned to run two stop strategies for the race, but McLaren chose to switch both drivers to three stops as they had concerns over tyre degradation.

Looking at the first stints the drivers run almost identical lap times – save for Hamilton’s last lap of the first stint, which apparently he wasn’t supposed to do but had to – because Button had apparently stopped a lap later than he supposed to and therefore pushed Hamilton back a lap as well.

Hamilton’s second stint was a lot shorter than Vettel’s – it is in this stint where the team decided to switch strategies.  Hamilton’s second in lap is much quicker than Vettel’s and after his second stop is between half a second to a second per lap faster.  It was a great call that paid dividends for Hamilton, who made some great overtaking manoeuvres to keep up the pace without getting stuck behind traffic – finally catching and passing Vettel on lap 51.

Webber on a Charge

Red Bulls

Webber’s strategy couldn’t have been more different – he started 18th after trying to qualify with a KERS problem and a set of hard (prime) tyres that wouldn’t warm up.  But this meant that he had extra sets of unused soft (option) tyres for the race that others would have used in qualifying.

So he started the race on hard tyres and then used 3 sets of soft tyres for each of his pit stops.  This was a great strategy because by using up the hard set first and pitting him early it gave him a clear track to make up ground on his subsequent stints on softs.  Which if you look at his lap times in the next 3 stints you can see that he is faster than both his team mate and Hamilton.

It was still a big gamble and it required Webber to keep a clear head and stay out of trouble, but he did and overtook a lot of cars to make the strategy work.  He wasn’t convinced of himself and a lot of people believe that he could overtake too easy because of the DRS, but without a fast car, a decent strategy and a driver who can punch in fast and consistent lap times without being held up, Webber would not have made up so much ground.  Maybe if it was 2010 he could have got somewhere like 8th if he was lucky, but the new rules allowed him to really have a decent crack at the race.  It was a great drive from him and he was my driver of the day, definitely.

A Great Drive From Rosberg…

Rosberg

The final part of the race that I want to look at is Rosberg’s strategy.  He was leading the race for a while and managed to get a good result for Mercedes – fifth place.  So how come he was able to lead the race?

Upon closer inspection of his lap times, it’s all to do with his first stint.  He pitted a lap or two earlier than the leaders and had a faster in lap, allowing him to jump ahead of the other drivers – and he stayed there with comparable lap times in his next two stints.  His strategy falls apart in his last stint however – because his next two in laps were slower (implying that he pitted slightly too late) and when he changed to the hard tyres to finish his race, his lap times dropped off.  Perhaps the last set of tyres were not new, or he couldn’t get as much heat into them, or that the track didn’t rubber in as much as expected.  But the end result was that he slowly went back down the field to finish in fifth place.

It’s still a great result and I think with Ross Brawn on the pit wall, we could yet see Mercedes get a ‘dark horse’ victory this year.  Sadly in China this was not to be.

So that was the Chinese Grand Prix.  A very entertaining race with plenty of stories throughout the field.  The rule makers have got the mix just right in 2011 and I do hope that we see a lot more races like this – because it’s the shot in the arm F1 needs right now and I have had a lot of people come up to me and tell me how much they are enjoying F1 this year.

Roll on Turkey in 10 days!

Japanese Grand Prix – Did Rosberg Gain An Unfair Advantage?

As mentioned in my Driver Consistency post for Japan, there was an incident near the end of the race that caused considerable controversy and has sparked debate all over the internet, even on this blog!

The issue I am referring to is of course whether Rosberg gained an unfair advantage under the Safety Car or not – and this post will investigate the timing data and other available information to find out what really happened and see if we can settle the issue once and for all.

F1 Grand Prix of Japan - Race

Rosberg at the front of the train during the Japanese Grand Prix – PicApp.com Continue reading

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:

jpn09_race_laps_av

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

Fantasy Racers – Japan

So the Japanese Grand Prix is over, Button isn’t champion, Barrichello nibbles a little out of his lead and Vettel scored a dominant win from flag to flag.

Sadly, there was little action on track other than the pit stops – A couple of good overtaking moves but the racing was largely processional.  However, there was some controversy at the end of the race.  Alguersuari had a bad accident at the 130R (but is OK) which brought out the safety car.  Rosberg used this opportunity to make his planned pit stop and jump ahead of both the Brawns and Heidfeld.

However, after the race, Button suggested that Rosberg drove too fast before the safety car and gained an unfair advantage.  At the time of writing, Brawn have complained to the stewards as Williams have had to explain themselves.

Now, I only have the lap times and gap times from the FIA Media Centre – and I can tell you that on the lap where the safety car came out, these were the following lap times:

  • Rosberg: 1:39.697
  • Button: 1:45.382
  • Barrichello: 1:45.686

Rosberg’s lead was 24.559 seconds and his pit stop took 24.888 seconds – so he would not have made the positions up on the track without the safety car.  Rosberg is adamant that he kept the correct pace on the way to the pit lane, however the gaps suggest to me that he did gain an advantage and so I would not be surprised to see him penalised.  So that’s the second race in a row where he makes a fundamental and costly pit lane error.

Driver Scores

But how does that translate into the Fantasy Racers scores?  Let’s have a look at the driver scores from the Grand Prix today. By the way, for more information on my calculation methods, please visit my page on Fantasy Racers Explained

Jpn09_FR_race_points

(Note:  Once Danny has set the scores, they will not be changed if penalties are applied afterwards, in accordance with the Fantasy Racers rules…) Continue reading

Fantasy Racers – Singapore

Not the best of races as described in my Driver Consistency Post, but a good win for Hamilton and the Brawns managed to make the most of a bad weekend, while the Red Bulls didn’t!

Driver Scores

But how does that translate into the Fantasy Racers scores?  Let’s have a look at the driver scores from the Grand Prix today. By the way, for more information on my calculation methods, please visit my page on Fantasy Racers Explained

Sin09_FR_race_points

This pretty much mirrors the race order, except Alonso who got the fastest lap and so ends up in second instead of Glock (sorry RG!).  A bad day for you if you had ALG, BUE, WEB, SUT or GRO in your team (I have Sutil :( )…

Championship scores

How is the championship going?  Let’s have a look at the scores:

Sin09_FR_champ_points

Button has a big lead and it’s unlikely he’ll be caught now, but it is still possible… (Art imitating life or what ;) ).  Not much change from the last race, the same drivers are in the top 10 but some of the drivers swapped places.  Hamilton gained two places and the most points, Glock and Alonso gained the most ground, while Heidfeld and Webber were the biggest losers…

Average Points Per Race

Sin09_FR_av_points

Top two are the same as the last race, except Vettel is now third after Webber retired.  Rosberg drops a few places after his ‘silly mistake’ today, and Hamilton gains a few places after winning today.  Grosjean has had a rotten time of late – and so far is still 8 points behind Piquet on average.

Points Per Million

Sin09_FR_PPM

Fisichella-Rosberg-Barrichello are still your best value for money – with the three guys starting mid-season being the least value.  Alonso and Glock would have been good picks too!

Last 3 Grands Prix

Sin09_FR_race_points_Last3

Raikkonen is in first place again – but is level with Barrichello, Vettel jumps up to third and Kovalainen drops to fourth.  Hamilton and Button are seventh and eighth due to inconsistent results, while Webber drops right down the order after two retirements on the bounce.  No wonder his championship chances are over :(

My Team

Well, I have climbed another eight places to 46th in the Sidepodcast League and stayed in 4th in the Pitlane Fanatic League. My team lies 260th overall which means I have climbed another 21 places. Not a bad week then, but how did my drivers do?


Adrian Sutil
Force India F1 Team
5.80m – 26 points


Jenson Button
Brawn GP
11.50m – 131 points


Robert Kubica
BMW Sauber F1 Team
5.40m – 101 points


Rubens Barrichello
Brawn GP
10.50m – 121 points


Sebastian Vettel
Red Bull Racing
11.70m – 141 points


Timo Glock
Panasonic Toyota Racing
6.40m – 161 points

So basically instead of some drivers doing well and others doing badly, I have all my drivers except for ‘Silly Sutil’ doing all right for once.  To be honest, Sutil’s mistake was so bone-headed I’m surprised Danny from Fantasy Racers didn’t just take all of his points away.

Well that’s your lot for this race then.  Button is looking good for the championship, but it’s far from over yet as I seem to remember Hamilton losing under similar circumstances in 2007 :(  As mentioned in my Driver Consistency Post, all he has to do is score 5 more points than Barrichello to be champion – although I don’t think it will happen in Suzuka.

One thing is for sure – I will be glad to return to a proper racetrack like Suzuka after all these silly Mickey Mouse tracks we have now – honestly, Singapore was such a bore!  After the first lap there was hardly any passing and in my opinion, it’s just a prettier version of Valencia.  Next week in Japan, the men should be sorted from the boys!!! :D

How did you find the race?  What do you think of the circuit?  How did your driver do today?  Do you think Button will win the championship in Suzuka or will it go down to the wire?  Your comments are much appreciated :)

Driver Consistency – Singapore

Time to see who was a Singapore Flyer and who had too many Singapore Slings – yes, it’s Driver Consistency time!!!  If you need more info on my calculation methods then please refer to my post on Driver Consistency Explained.

Driver Consistency

So who was the most consistent?  Here is a graph showing the average lap times and standard deviation for the Singapore Grand Prix:

Sin09_race_laps_av

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

The graph is a little more mixed up than last time, due to a lot of drivers retiring which always jumbles up the results.  However, it does match the finishing order for the most part, so there is not much more to be said.  Instead, let us look at the ‘Racing Laps’ – that is, all the timed laps except for pit stops and those run under the Safety Car:

Sin09_race_laps_av_nopit

So Hamilton was still fastest, but Vettel jumps ahead of Glock and Alonso.  Rosberg (without his penalty for crossing the white line) would have been sixth, whereas after qualifying I predicted he would be fourth or fifth – almost RG-esque there ;)  I also managed to pick the correct winner and the Brawns scoring points, although I did get it wrong about Red Bull doing well :(

Button is only seventh quickest because of brake problems near the end of the race, Heidfeld would have been soundly beaten by Kubica anyway and Webber would have not finished in the points, even if he did make it to the end of the race.

Conclusions

Street circuits are often hard to judge because pace can often be determined by who a driver was stuck behind in the race, due to a lack of overtaking.  Today’s race was no different – after a bit of jostling on the first lap, there was not much action during the race.  Sadly, while Singapore may be pretty, it does not offer much more excitement than Valencia.

The race was only interesting to see which Brawn driver would affect the gap between them in the championship.  Rosberg showed again that he still has to prove that he has what it takes to win – in my eyes he is overrated and a better driver in that car would have won by now.

Yet again, he showed pace in a quick car, yet he fell off the pace and made a fundamental mistake leaving the pits (crossing over the white line), resulting in a drive-through penalty.  How many more excuses will people make before they realise that he just is not good enough, I wonder?

In contrast, Glock did brilliantly well to get the Hilux into second place – and had Toyota won, it would have surely have cemented their place in the sport next year…  I will award Mr. Glock my “Prime Number of the Race” award for a brilliant drive “:D

Red Bull all but ruled themselves out of contention for the championship – Webber crashed out after an apparent brake failure and Vettel speeding in the pitlane and then damaging the floor of his car, he did not score many points today, meaning that he only really has a mathematical chance of winning the championship..

The Brawn boys – well, they really made a silk purse out of a sow’s ear today.  Jenson could not get out of Q2, and Rubens had to start tenth after a gearbox penalty, but managed to finish fifth and sixth after good use of strategy and keeping consistent pace during the race.

If Button scores 5 more points than Barrichello next race (I.E. fourth place or above if Barrichello does not score), then he will be champion.  It is worth noting that it is becoming increasingly difficult for the Brawns to win now the other teams have caught up, and that Hamilton lost a 17-point lead with two races to go in 2007, to lose to Raikkonen by one point… so either we could have the whole thing sewn up by this time next week or it could be blown right open…

Did you enjoy the race?  Do you like the circuit?  Do you think Rosberg is the next big thing?  Who was your star of the race?  Will Button be champion or will Barrichello catch him up?  As always, I’d love to hear from you so let me know your thoughts in the comments… ;)