Thursday Thoughts: DRS

So Jackie from VivaF1 has resurrected Thursday Thoughts as there is very much a burning issue in F1 these days – the Drag Reduction System or DRS for short.  Jackie wants to ask:

What do you think of the Drag Reduction System?

Firstly, a little background.  It was designed to facilitate overtaking, because no matter what the rule makers have tried, it seems that once a car gets within a second of the car it is chasing then it is almost impossible to overtake them.  The fans have been crying out for more overtaking for years and last year’s dry races were not exactly thrilling to watch.

If you want to see the mechanism in action, anotherf1podcast have a great video on the subject (bear in mind the use of DRS is unrestricted in practice and qualifying, but can only be used in one part of a circuit by a chasing car less than one second behind in the race):

So what do I think of the DRS then?

Well, although I have been an F1 fan for a long time, I felt that F1 was getting a bit boring to watch last year – the dry ones at least.  And I really disliked that the championship came down to the wire and yet was effectively decided by a slower car being able to block a much faster one.

DRS, KERS and Pirelli tyres have transformed F1 this year into a sport with loads of strategy and overtaking – I blogged more about what I thought about the new rules after the Chinese Grand Prix, but needless to say that the sport has been transformed into something exciting and entertaining that people are really embracing – many of my friends have been coming up to me telling me how much they love F1 this year when they barely gave a stuff about it before.

The main criticism of DRS comes in multiple parts:

1. It’s Gimmicky and artificial

Yeah it is – but so were grooved tyres, KERS, wings, Turbocharging, frozen engines, in fact any rule over the last 50 years that restricts a car’s design could be referred to as artificial.  And besides, they look much better than the F-ducts they replace, which were monstrous :(

2. It’s unfair as it gives the defending driver little chance of success

A valid point.  But then the defending driver becomes the attacking driver the next time around, no?  Often the defending driver is slower anyway, so why should his race be ruined because of the way an F1 car is designed?

Which brings me to the next criticism:

3. Why not just ban wings? That would solve the ‘dirty air’ problem!

Great idea.  In fact, why not just make replicas of the Lotus 49 – after all, they had some great slipstreaming races in those days?  Except they weren’t all like that.  You have probably seen the Villeneuve vs. Arnoux video on YouTube (heck of an excuse to plug it anyway):

Guess what though?  That was 3 minutes out of a 90 minute race, which only came about because Villeneuve’s tyres were shot.  Yet nobody called that race artificial and gimmicky, did they?  Tyre management is a central part of a driver’s skill in most series.  It was only a tyre war between Michelin and Bridgestone anyway that made the tyres last so long.  In effect we ended up in a situation unlike any other F1 season last year.  So Pirelli have actually given us a specification of tyre that seems to be historically correct then?

We can’t unlearn technology – even shaped under body cars apparently may not solve that problem of dirty air anyway.  And F1 is supposed to be the pinnacle of the sport, the fastest a car can lap a circuit.  Wings are an integral part of a single seater “look” and more cynically, would never get banned as they are too good an advertising space ;)

4. It makes overtaking too easy

Not necessarily.  We have only had four races and in Australia the DRS didn’t work.  Malaysia and China seemed to work well, giving the cars a good boost, while in Turkey the DRS zone was too long and therefore the attacking driver gained a little too much.  But the drivers still had to make the moves stick, and apart from seeing some “3-wide” overtakes, we saw drivers using the DRS zone to catch up and plan an overtaking move in another part of the circuit which wasn’t really possible before either.

Conclusions

There are the purists (some quite high profile) who say that this is all bad for the sport and that F1 is pandering to the masses while ignoring the hard-core fans.  But how could they have enjoyed the races how they used to be?  I find it mystifying myself – as far as I am concerned, in 2011 we have great racing, proper strategy and interesting stories after each race.

We didn’t have this in dry races before.  Only wet races were exciting like this.  So the only other alternative was Bernie’s sprinkler idea.  Would you prefer that instead?

I feel strongly about this because in most fan surveys we all cried out for more overtaking and to fix the dirty air problem.  We now have a formula that works great and has fixed all this, yet there seems to be a lot of people that are still unhappy.  Maybe F1 has had so many drastic rule changes over the years that it now has an identity crisis – maybe people’s perception of F1 is governed by when they started watching it?

I personally think DRS and the other rule changes for this year are going to make for great racing and the best season in years.  I just hope the FIA continue to tweak it so that we get more races like China and none like the dreadful Abu Dhabi finale (amongst countless other races) that we had before this year…

Fantasy Racers – Turkey 2011

Another fantastic race, eh? I missed watching it live, but managed to watch it later without knowing the result.  And I must say that I am really loving F1 this year!

But how did you all do in Fantasy Racers?  Let’s see which drivers were the best value for money:

TUR_11 PPM

Not surprisingly, it’s Vettel who tops the list – but very surprisingly Kobayashi and Buemi are very close behind – remember these guys have the potential for a decent finish, but have been unlucky so far this season.  Great job if you picked those two!  The McLaren drivers seem to suffer a lot when they do badly – which suggests that their values either fluctuate too greatly or they are overvalued.  A bad race for you if you picked Schumacher, Massa or di Resta, along with Glock who all had bad results and therefore did not score as well as hoped.

Over the last three races, this is what the PPM average out to:

TUR_11 PPM LAST 3

I suppose one good or bad result can make a big difference, but it’s only to be used as a form guide anyway.  Interesting that the midfield drivers are mixing it up with the front running teams though!  The next race (Spain) is the fifth race of the season, so maybe I’ll start taking a look at the average for the last 5 races and see if that makes a difference?

So just a quick one from me – let me know how you did and if you plan on making any transfers.  Remember that the deadline is at 5pm GMT on the Friday of the Grand Prix!

Blunder on the Orient Express

So you’ve probably seen by now that a few drivers had a little scuffle during the Turkish Grand Prix a couple of weeks ago ;)

Now, a lot has been said and written, lines have been drawn, but really nobody has properly explained what happened between the Red Bull and McLaren drivers which led to their respective incidents.  So I thought it would be a perfect reason to extract the data and look at the lap times… Continue reading

Fantasy Racers – Turkey

So – My Fantasy Racers post was not made for Monaco because I simply ran out of time (as mentioned earlier).  But I have decided to write a ‘slimmer’ version of the stats, which I will try and do for each race.

The Turkish Grand Prix was one of the best races of the year, but I will discuss that in another post as I want to look into the Red Bull and McLaren incidents separately ;)

Continue reading

European GP: Was Barrichello Fast or Fortunate?

The European Grand Prix was certainly not a classic this year – the venue is unloved, unsupported and does not produce good racing.  Therefore getting the strategy right was of utmost importance today and it decided the outcome of the race.

European Grand Prix Recap

Hamilton and Kovalainen flew off the start line with the assistance of KERS and streaked off into the lead.  But Barrichello kept up with the pair of McLarens and managed to get past Kovalainen after the first round of pit stops.  Hamilton managed to build up a slight lead, but after a few laps the tyres started graining and all he could do was to try and hold off Barrichello who was running four laps more fuel.  So Hamilton made his way into the pits for his scheduled stop – but the team thought he could run an extra lap on his tank of fuel and tried to cancel it.

Hamilton was already committed to bringing the car into the pits and so he had to make his stop.  Unfortunately in all the confusion the team did not have all the tyres ready and so Hamilton was delayed in the pits by around six seconds (according to David Croft of Radio 5 Live).  This meant that Barrichello was almost certain to overtake Hamilton after his pit stop, and he did after setting some very quick lap times.  Barrichello stopped early because Nakajima suffered a puncture and the team feared that a safety car would come out and spoil the strategy.  However, this did not happen and from then on, Rubens controlled the final part of the race for a commanding and well-deserved victory.

But then questions started being asked.  Did McLaren throw away the race by making an error in the pits or did Barrichello make his strategy work for him and overtake him anyway?  Was Martin Whitmarsh right in saying they did not have the pace to keep up with Barrichello or did he get a lucky break for a change?  And how close would Hamilton have been to Barrichello had his team not made an error in the pit stop?

This seemed like the perfect chance for me to analyse the data and see if any of these questions could be answered.  Whilst I am a big fan of both drivers, I have been critical of Barrichello in the past, especially when he has not been able to make his strategy work for him like in my analysis of the Turkish Grand Prix…  So special attention was paid to this fact to see if Rubens had finally driven the race he should have and if it helped him win today.

Driver Consistency

Let us first look at the Driver Consistency for Barrichello and Hamilton.  For reference I have also included their team mates (Button and Kovalainen) for reference.  First, let us look at the average lap times for the whole race:

HAMvsBAR_av

Not surprisingly, Barrichello is slightly faster and more consistent than Hamilton.  It is very normal to see the average lap times increase in the same order as the drivers finished the race.

So it is also useful to take a look at the racing laps only.  Here is a graph of the average lap times without pit stops:

HAMvsBAR_av_nopit

Now things get interesting.  Hamilton is slightly faster on average when you remove his pit stops – including the one where all the time was lost!  However, this does not mean we can conclude that Hamilton would have beaten Barrichello, especially because we know that in the final part of the race Barrichello was not pushing 100% as he had a commanding lead of the race.

Lap Times

Therefore, we need to delve deeper into the race statistics to see where the race was won and lost.  A good place to start would be a chart containing all the lap times, so we can directly compare which driver was faster, and when.

The first graph plots all the laps in comparison and the second removes the pit stops so we can look closer at the differences:

HAMvsBAR_Lap_Times

HAMvsBAR_Lap_Times_Zoom

First Stint

We can see here that for the first stint Hamilton was faster, partly because he ran four laps shorter than Barrichello (he pits on lap 16).  As Barrichello pitted slightly later (lap 20), he managed to spend about a second less in the pits which is why he was able to move ahead of Kovalainen into second place.

Second Stint

Hamilton is unable to keep the same pace as the track is getting warmer and the rubber being laid down increases the grip level of the track, causing his tyres to overheat and start to grain.  The team advise him to conserve his tyres and you can see his lap times start to level off – however they are still very consistent.

Barrichello on the other hand has a great second stint, always matching or beating Hamilton and ultimately lapping nearly a second faster in the last four laps than his first stint and Hamilton’s race pace so far…

One final comment is that in the Turkish Grand Prix, this was the point where Barrichello slowed down and started driving inconsistently.  However, you can clearly see this is not the case today!

Final Pit stop and run to the Chequered Flag

It is plain to see on the first graph that Hamilton’s delayed stop (on lap 37) was a disastrous six seconds longer than Barrichello (who pitted on lap 40)!  After both drivers have finished their pit stops, Barrichello easily beats Hamilton’s lap times until both realise nothing can be done unless one of the drivers makes a mistake,  so they bring the cars home.

Pit Stop Times

We need to know how long each driver spent in the pits, so here are the pit stop times for each driver.  The times are from pit entry to pit exit:

HAMvsBAR_pitstop_times

We can see here that the Brawn team were clearly better at the pit stops than McLaren today – not only did McLaren make a mistake costing Hamilton 6.5 seconds but they also beat McLaren in the first stop by just over 1 second.

This is very important when also taken into consideration with the lap times around the pit stops.  You may recall from earlier that just before the first stop, Barrichello matched Hamilton’s times and easily beat them by half a second for three to four laps before the second pit stops…

Gap Between Drivers

So now we are starting to get an idea of what happened during the race, but it is still inconclusive whether Barrichello did enough to win the race on his own pace or whether McLaren’s pit lane mistake cost them the race.  However, I have one more set of graphs which I think will provide this proof – the gap in seconds between each driver.

Here are two graphs from each driver’s perspective – they are identical but I decided to post them both in the interest of fairness:

HAMvsBAR_BAR_gap_to_HAM

HAMvsBAR_HAM_gap_to_BAR

What they show is that Hamilton made full advantage of his lighter fuel load in his first stint, making a lead of around nine seconds.  As Barrichello ran a few laps longer before his first pit stop, he manages to take four seconds out of Hamilton’s lead, plus an extra second from the better pit stop, bringing the gap down to four seconds behind Hamilton.

In the second stint, Hamilton starts to have his tyre problems and Barrichello really gets into the groove – the gap starts to plateau off and it stays at around four seconds.  Now, we know that Hamilton’s second pit stop on lap 37took just over 25 seconds and Barrichello’s took 19 seconds – so this means that if Hamilton had a four second lead then all things being equal, he would have ended up about two seconds behind Barrichello.

However, if we look at the gap after Barrichello’s final stop on lap 40, it is actually six seconds! So how can we explain the unaccounted time?  In fact, we have already seen the answer – after Hamilton made his second stop, Barrichello ran a further four laps at a pace which was nearly a second a lap faster than him, further eroding Hamilton’s lead.

Conclusion

When taking all of the above into consideration, it is clear to see that after the first round of pit stops, Barrichello had the edge and the faster car, being able to easily match or beat Hamilton’s times.  Even if McLaren had not made an error and Hamilton had made a pit stop of equal length to Barrichello, I believe that Barrichello would have done just enough to get ahead of Hamilton and would have been able to keep him behind in the ‘dirty air’.

On a circuit like Valencia where it is almost impossible to overtake, then he would have been able to just pull away a bit while Hamilton would have ruined his tyres trying to keep up (as we all know he is a racer and never gives up).  James Allen agrees with me and thinks Barrichello would have done just enough to get ahead too, but one thing’s for sure – it would have been damn close and it’s a shame that a silly error robbed us all of an exciting finish to the Grand Prix.

What do you think?  Did I get it wrong?  Did I miss something?  Does it matter in the end?  As always, I’d love to hear what you think about it… ;)

Who Was Best at Turning Round Turn 8 at Turkey?

Apologies for posting out of order again … but I have been unable until now to find out the data required for this post – I searched the FIA stats, news sites and blogs but nobody had the information!  Finally, my friend Brian Lawrence from the F1NGers Newsgroup managed to find it by watching the race and taking a screen cap of the information.  So Big Thanks to you Brian, the effort was very much appreciated :-D

So what I wanted to do was analyse the speeds logged in the mighty Turn 8 of the Istanbul Circuit and see how they corresponded to a driver’s laptime.  Here is a map of the Istanbul Circuit and also a zoomed-in shot of Turn 8, courtesy of the FIA Media Centre:

Tur09_CircuitMap

Tur09_Turn8

Turn 8 is a mighty corner with 4 apexes and a load of up to 4.5G on the driver – It has to be taken almost flat out and defines a good lap time.  But don’t take my word for it, let Fernando Alonso tell you about it:

“Turn 8 is one of the quickest and longest left hand corners of the year. It’s really a series of corners with four apexes, although we treat it as one apex and try to be as smooth as possible with the steering inputs. We don’t touch the brake at any stage through the corner, and simply lift the throttle slightly to keep the car online. In the middle of the corner we’re doing about 260kmh and you can really feel the G-forces on your body. It’s easy to understeer wide in this corner, which will cost you a lot of time, but there’s plenty of run-off to save you.”

(Credit: ING Renault F1 Team via F1 Minute)

So who was the fastest through Turn 8?  Sadly the only information I have available are the top 8 speeds on lap 28, which were:

Tur09_Turn8_speeds

Naturlly, Button should be fastest as he was dominant all weekend.  Vettel was close behind, partly because the circuit suited the Red Bull cars (which seem to like circuits with fast, sweeping corners).  Vettel is probably much faster than Webber as his car would have been significantly lighter – Vettel was on a three-stop strategy while Webber was on a two-stopper.  Surprisingly the two Ferraris are next considering their fastest laps and driver consistency scores.  Barrichello also is in the top 8 fastest drivers – showing that he could have had a good race had he not lost his head and driven such an erratic race.  The Top 8 consists of both Brawns, both Red Bulls, both Ferraris, a Williams and a Toyota.

Here are the corresponding lap times for those drivers, set on the same lap as when the apex speeds were recorded (lap 28):

Tur09_Turn8_laps

The curious outliers here are the two Ferraris – curious because neither InfoRace nor BlogF1 make a note of any mistake or problem for them on this lap.  Indeed, all the drivers posted a time close to that of their average laptimes.  Therefore the only explanation has to be that the car was set up better to take this corner and had a deficiency somewhere else in the lap that slowed them down.  The opposite could be said for Rosberg and Trulli – perhaps they ran lower downforce setups to gain more top speed on the straights?

Here are the speeds and laptimes plotted on the same graph, fastest to slowest speed:

Tur09_Turn8_spdVSlaps_speeds

In general, the faster cars recorded a quicker laptime – thus highlighting the importance of getting this corner right to get a good laptime. Also, there seems to be quite a big difference between the teammates here.  Brawn can be explained by Barrichello having a bad race, Red Bull because of the different strategies, but there is no discernible reason why there should be a difference between the Ferrari drivers.  Having said that, the difference between the Ferrari team mates is the smallest of the three teams.

Here is the same graph, sorted by quickest to slowest laptime:

Tur09_Turn8_spdVSlaps_laptimes

Here the order changes round, with the Ferraris and Barrichello dropping back.  This is more reminiscent of the eventual finishing order of the race, with the outliers as pointed out above.

Unfortunately due to the lack of available data on Turn 8 speeds, more detailed analysis was not possible.  So it’s not concrete whether it is true that a higher apex speed in Turn 8 helps you get a faster lap time, but it does seem like that a driver/car combination that can get a good top speed in Turkey’s awesome Turn 8 will end up being fast over a whole lap.

Driver Consistencies – Turkey

So it’s time to find out who was the most consistent in Turkey and if anyone would have finished higher if they weren’t compromised by strategy or pit errors.  This has been calculated in the same way as previously done for the Spanish Grand Prix.

Firstly, let’s look at the mean and Standard Deviation for all drivers (except Fisichella, who retired on lap 4), over the whole race distance.

Turkey Average Lap Times, All Laps:

Tur09_race_laps_av

There are not too many surprises here – most drivers are in the same position as they finished, or were very close to the guy that pipped them to their position.  Nakajima has a very large spread in his standard deviation – as he had a problem during his final pit stop (the bin lid on the front left wheel would not attach itself properly) and he lost about half a minute.  Barrichello had a very erratic race, as he fell backwards early on, over drove the car to try and make up ground (resulting in a spin) and developing problems with his gearbox, leaving him without seventh gear and eventually leading to his retirement on lap 47 of the race.

However, if we look at this again, taking out the laps where pit stops were made, we get an average of all the racing laps for each driver.

Turkey Average Lap Times, Racing Laps:

Tur09_race_laps_av_NOPIT

Now we can see that Vettel was clearly the fastest driver on the day, due to the lighter fuel load in his car as he was on a three-stop strategy (most of the others, including Brawn, were on a two-stopper).  Nakajima was the eighth fastest driver on average, so he probably would have done enough to score a point had the bin lid attached itself properly (as this happened during a pit stop, this time has been removed from this graph).  Piquet also appears three places higher – this is also due to a slow final pit stop although nothing is mentioned in the ING Renault F1 press release about this.

Had Barrichello not retired and continued at his average pace, he would have finished just in front of ‘Eeyore’ Hamilton, who had another rotten weekend in his Mercedes Van.  Finally, Bourdais is so far off the pace that he must have been at the circuit until nightfall trying to reach the end of the race ;)

The gap between the front and the back of the field is about 2.3 seconds, or just under two seconds if we discount Bourdais.  This means that at Turkey there was approximately a 2.5% performance differential across the whole field.

Fantasy Racers – Turkey

So some of you may have heard of a little browser-based game called “Fantasy Racers” – but for those of you who haven’t, it’s a cool game where you start with a budget of $40 million and have to “buy” drivers who score points for your team.

Anyway, for more info please visit the website here.

As part of my participation in the Sidepodcast and Pitlane Fanatic Leagues I have decided to make a spreadsheet using all the driver values such as points scored, driver values and driver selections to see how well each driver is doing and who is worth picking or dropping…

Various people use various systems to pick their teams: some pick with their heart, some pick theirs based on Friday Practice, some pick on race results and some pick theirs using top secret super-complicated systems. Me? I picked 6 decent drivers at the start of the year and I always seem to get three who do well and three who do poorly – so my system is purely based on mediocrity!

Anyway, I did promise to include Fantasy Racers Stats on this blog and I will collate data on the following:

  • Points scored in the race
  • Championship points so far
  • Average points per race
  • Points per million

Where points per million is calculated as “Number of Points Scored” divided by “Average Cost over the course of the Season”.

Driver Scores for the Turkish GP:

tur09_FR_race_points

As we can see here, Jenson Button had a good points haul here – 150 Points for the win, 58 points for completing all the laps and 20 points for the fastest lap. Sebastian Vettel pips Mark Webber by virtue of getting 20 points for pole position. Everybody down to 13th place completed the race unlapped and therefore scored a maximum 58 points as well as points for their respective positions. Only Rubens Barrichello and Giancarlo Fisichella retired, so they were the only big losers in the points here (and guess who has Barrichello in his team ;) )

2009 Fantasy Racers Driver’s Championship:

tur09_FR_champ_points

Hardly surprising that Button is running away with the Fantasy Racers championship as he is doing so in real life too – the two Brawns are leading the two Red Bulls. Timo Glock and Lewis Hamilton are also decent additions to any team and it’s pretty close going from third place down. I plan to display the top eight drivers in the championship after every race – let’s see if we have the same eight drivers in the list at the end of the season!

Average Points Per Race:

tur09_FR_av_points The most consistent performers so far this season have been the Brawns, followed by the Red Bulls. Robert Kubica is well down the order – which is understandable considering how bad the BMW has performed this year, yet his team mate Nick Heidfeld is mid-table. For those like me who picked Kubica (probably on the strength of last year’s performances), this really hurts!

Finally note that Hamilton is much higher than Kovalainen due to the fact that his ‘podium’ in Australia was allowed to stand in terms of FR points – otherwise he would also be down at the back of the field too!

Points Per Million:

tur09_FR_PPM

Now this is the big one: how much is a driver worth in terms of how many points he scored versus how much he cost? In other words, which drivers are the best value for money?

(Note: Driver values are constantly changing due to previous success and amount of team picks – but the values for each driver are ‘set’ at the Friday deadline for driver changes to a team. Therefore the average of these values were taken in this calculation.)

Unsurprisingly, the Brawn Drivers have been excellent value for money due to their low value prior to Australia and subsequent success in all the races this season. Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg also feature highly due to their consistent scores. Fisichella and Sutil also are good value for money because the drivers have been low cost all season and they have had quite a few finishes too.

Similarly, the Ferrari, McLaren and BMW drivers have been poor value due to the fact the teams have all done unexpectedly badly in the races and were valued highly during the season. It is worth noting that Heidfeld was the exception to this statement and that Kubica’s value slid down to the level of Adrian Sutil, thus reflecting his poor performances this season.

So what does this all mean? Well, if you picked the Brawns and the Red Bulls at the start of the season you’re probably doing quite well in your league by now – conversely if you relied on McLaren, Ferrari or BMW you are probably not! I would say that if you are after a driver and you don’t have much cash to spare, try buying Sutil or Kubica as both are cheap and the BMW looks to be improving. Similarly, Kovalainen and Raikkonen are overpriced so ditch them for a Toyota or a Red Bull driver if you can, or Rosberg if you need a solid finisher. If you pinned your hopes on Toro Rosso being a bargain, forget it, they’re not going to score you many points.

I will let you know how my team goes and what changes I make but as it stands my team lies 269th overall, 50th in the Sidepodcast League and 3rd in the Pitlane Fanatic League. My team?


Adrian Sutil
Force India F1 Team
4.30m – 383pts


Jenson Button
Brawn GP
13.80m – 1514pts


Robert Kubica
BMW Sauber F1 Team
5.10m – 402pts


Rubens Barrichello
Brawn GP
11.10m – 955pts


Sebastian Vettel
Red Bull Racing
12.30m – 814pts


Timo Glock
Panasonic Toyota Racing
7.10m – 752pts

Above all, remember to have fun and let me know if these stats helped you or worse, if they made your team slide down the order!