German Grand Prix: Underlying Pace Analysis; Sauber Surprise

Posted on July 24, 2012


The German Grand Prix was a curious race. It was interesting without being exciting, and for a 2012 event, not an awful lot happened. And there is not much in the data to surprise as far as the race for the win is concerned. The Ferrari looks after its tyres best, was marginally slower than the Red Bull and McLaren, and no-one was faster than McLaren on the harder tyres.

We also know that the Lotus was quick, and so was the Sauber. And this is where the data analysis does show up something surprising. Much as there was talk after the race from Raikkonen that qualifying higher up would have given him a chance at the win, it wasn’t quite true. Kimi was 0.2s off the pace of the front three – not much I know, but enough not to have won even if he started from the front. The data shows that the talk after the race should have been about Kobayashi. He genuinely was as fast as the front three on the harder tyres, and faster than Raikkonen on the softs. Had qualifying stayed dry, we could well be talking about another stunning Sauber podium. Unusually, Kobayashi was faster than Perez in the race and more consistent too – he didn’t just finish ahead beacuse Perez lost time behind Hulkenburg, but on merit. He really could have won.

Let’s illustrate this by playing with the race history chart. Below is the race history chart with only the key players plotted.

There are a couple of things of note. Raikkonen decided to pit early to avoid time lost in traffic, but didn’t undercut Schumacher and so lost time (about 3s) early in the second stint. Kobayashi was quite fortunate with traffic late in the first stint, but stayed out too long, losing about 6 seconds in the two laps before his stop. Like-for-like, Kobayashi is about 0.2s quicker than Raikkonen, which puts him as fast as the leaders. We can show this by adjusting Kobayashi’s trace to sit with Alonso at the end of the first stint. What we get is below:

If Kobayashi had qualified well, and was with the leaders at the end the first stint, he would have been there at the end of the race. He genuinely had the pace to win – he was matching Alonso in the first stint, was about as fast as the leaders in the second stint, and faster than all of them at the end. I guess the hard luck stories don’t matter, and it was Alonso who won. But it shouldn’t just be McLaren who take heart from the pace of their cars in the race at Hockenheim…