The McLarens may have grabbed the headlines with the fastest time in each session, but who is looking good for the race? As is becoming traditional on Friday afternoons, intelligentF1 assesses the Friday long run pace by fitting the data using the intelligentF1 model in order to get some more clues as to who will be fast on Sunday afternoon. On the BBC, Pirelli’s Paul Hembrey has said that it is likely to be a two stop race which is comforting as that tallies with the predictions made here yesterday.
So to the long runs. The first chart shows the pace of the leading four teams. Vettel and Alonso decided to test out the turn 1 barriers rather than do a long run, and Rosberg ran long, but not as consistently as would be useful. So we have five traces.
This chart shows that the Red Bull (Webber) is again fastest on the Friday afternoon – with Ferrari (Massa) at about 0.5s per lap down. This gap is consistent with previous races, so it is likely that the two teams are on similar programmes. The McLarens are 1.0s behind the Red Bull and very closely matched. The last time they were this far behind was in Japan, when they were about 0.8s faster relative to the Red Bulls in the race. It is worth noting that if we assume a two stop race, the first stop will be somewhere around lap 18, which is about a 2s fuel load, so the difference is not due to a full stint difference in fuel. As qualifying would be expected to be of the order of 8-9s faster than a full fuel load (6s for fuel + 2-3s for tyre preparation, tyre use and engine map), and the McLarens were about 6s slower on the high fuel runs, I would estimate that the McLarens would have a mid-first stint fuel load, and the Red Bulls an early second stint fuel load. This makes for a close race – in contrast to Mark Hughes of Autosport, I think McLaren might be the stronger. The Mercedes team seem to be running a heavier fuel load – it seems that they have run similarly to McLaren. Here they are 2.4s from Red Bull and 1.4s from McLaren which puts them as fourth fastest car once more.
The midfield cars are shown in the chart below
This makes for interesting reading – clearly the laptimes are close, but the teams so appear to be running different programmes. The pace (measured to Red Bull) for each car is:
Di Resta (+1.6s), Sutil (+1.7s), Kobayashi (+1.8s) all seem to be on low fuel loads – if they are on Red Bull fuel loads then they are fast (close to Mercedes) – it is likely to be a slightly lower load.
Maldonado (+2.8s), Alguersuari (+3.0s), Petrov (+3.4s), Senna (+3.7s) seem to be on heavier loads. Williams are a bit of a wild card – but they seemed quite quick in India, so they might be OK here – but I think they are running lighter than Renault and Toro Rosso. The gap between Alguersuari and the Renaults is about consistent with India, and the Toro Rosso is likely to be at the front of the midfield on current form. I would guess that the second group of cars are pretty close to the McLaren programme.
Lotus, who tend to run quite light on Friday are at 2.9s with Kovalainen, which is about 1s down on Force India – so about where they were in India. Trulli, interestingly is 1.5s slower, so this suggests our guess at the faster midfield cars fuel loads is about right. Ricciardo is at about 4.6s, and Glock at about 4.9s. I would guess that they are on about Force India fuel levels. We’ll get a better idea tomorrow.
The outcome from this analysis is that it will be close. McLaren and Red Bull look good to fill the podium, and it looks like a fight between Toro Rosso and Force India for the final points. Sauber and Williams could be thereabouts, but Renault don’t look good so far.