Hungarian Grand Prix: Underlying Pace Analysis

Posted on August 5, 2012


I know this is a week late… I’ve been to the Olympics. Better late than never…

I suppose that the safer strategy employed by McLaren to run on two sets of the harder (medium) tyre and one set of the soft paid off in that Hamilton was able to control the race well enough, but it is clear that the life of the soft tyres was sufficient on nearly all the cars to suggest that the racier strategies of the Lotus cars (and Vettel’s Red Bull) was the better way to go. Track position was all in Hungary, and as in Monaco, the real pace of the leader was difficult to gauge as it was never certain that Hamilton was at full tilt, and the evidence suggests that he was quite comfortable for most of his time on the harder tyres.

Although the Lotus seemed at first glance to be the faster car, the real difference came from the tyre strategy. Had Hamilton done what Lotus did, he would have been far more comfortable. But McLaren played safe, and they won anyway. From the data, it is clear that Lewis had a fair amount in hand in the last stint, and was not really in significant danger from Raikkonen.

For the Hungarian Grand Prix, I thought I’d do a run through of the race of each car. The underlying pace is relative to the fastest car on soft tyres (Raikkonen). The medium tyre is around 1s slower than the soft on average. So here goes:

Sebastian Vettel (4th): (+0.1s on softs, +1.2s on mediums). Lost out to Button on the first lap, and was marginally slower than Hamilton in underlying pace. Got the strategy right (two stints on softs), but needed to undercut Button to make the most of it. Otherwise he needed to go as long as Raikkonen in the first two stints – he could have done it, but there was no way to predict that it could work.

Mark Webber (8th): (+0.9s on softs, +1.1s on mediums). Slow on the softs. Stuck behind Alonso for most of the race. Got past, but it wasn’t an undercut, it was an extra stop due to a problem with the differential. Needed to go much longer in the first stint to make this work on two stops, but would probably have got stuck behind Senna. May have needed to make a pass to get a better result than the eighth place he actually got.

Jenson Button (6th): (+0.7s on softs, +0.8s on mediums). Much more competitive on the medium tyre than the soft. Lost touch in the first stint, but the second stop was a couple of laps too early, dropping him behind Senna. Had he managed this, he would have been in the thick of the battle for second, and would probably have kept Vettel behind. The third stop was a mistake – he would have been a place higher had he stayed out.

Lewis Hamilton (1st): (+0.1s on softs, +1.1s on mediums). Took it easy once in the lead after each stop. Once Raikkonen caught him, he upped his pace to match the Lotus. The data suggests that he had more in hand. This was much more convincing than it looked.

Fernando Alonso (5th): (+0.7s on softs, +1.1s on mediums). Again better on the harder tyre, and again slow to get the tyres working at the beginning of stints. By all rights should have been beaten by Webber and Button, but made no mistakes and allowed the others to beat themselves.

Felipe Massa (9th): (traffic on softs, +0.9s on mediums). Competitive in pace with Alonso, and didn’t get much wrong apart from the start. A better performance than it looked.

Michael Schumacher (ret): (+0.3s on softs, +1.4s on mediums). Not bad on the soft tyres, but not fast on the mediums. Nothing went his way, but Mercedes were not competitive here.

Nico Rosberg (10th): (traffic on softs, +1.3s on mediums). Had a lonely race once he passed Di Resta at the first stops. Faster than those behind, slower than those ahead. Had the edge on Schumacher in terms of pace.

Kimi Raikkonen (2nd): (+0.0s on softs, +1.6s on mediums). Was slightly fortunate that going long worked out so well, but credit is due for keeping the soft tyres in such good condition. Was able to catch Hamilton, but then the McLaren matched his pace (he was not held up according to the data). Not fast enough on the medium tyres to challenge.

Romain Grosjean (3rd): (+0.1 on softs, +1.5s on mediums). Got the strategy right in running softs in the middle stint, but this may have been forced by the car not being quick on the medium tyres. A little unlucky to be jumped by Raikkonen (really due to Hamilton running mediums in the middle stint), but gained a podium.

Paul Di Resta (12th): (+1.4s on softs, +1.3s on mediums). Force India were competitive on the medium tyres, but surprisingly slow on the softs. About the same in pace as the disappointing Maldonado.

Nico Hulkenburg (11th): (+1.3s on softs, +1.5s on mediums). Qualified ahead of his team mate, and was marginally slower for the bulk of the race. Jumped by Rosberg at the first stops, and had a similar race with the faster cars ahead and the slower cars behind.

Kamui Kobayashi (18th/ret): (+1.2 on softs, +1.9s on mediums). Back to earth after the Hockenheim performance. Never recovered from poor opening laps, but was slow enough that it didn’t really make much difference.

Sergio Perez (14th): (traffic on softs, +1.1s on mediums). The pace for Perez was competitive on the medium tyre – but the Sauber was slow on the soft tyre, although it is not clear how slow. Needed to get off the soft tyre earlier (which might have got him out of Riccardo where he lost more than 10s) and then could have challenged the Force Indias. Unlikely to have caught Rosberg for the last point.

Daniel Ricciardo (15th): (+1.7s on softs, +2.4s on mediums). Toro Rosso seem to be inhabiting a space between the midfield and Caterham. Ricciardo is not quite as quick in underlying pace as Vergne, but is much more consistent through the race. An interesting contest.

Jean-Eric Vergne (16th): (+1.5s on softs, +2.2s on mediums). Made four stops, to his team mate’s three. Not impressive from Toro Rosso.

Heikki Kovalainen (17th): (+2.0s on softs, +2.5s on mediums). Getting close to being competitive with Toro Rosso, but in the end another lonely race.

Vitaly Petrov (19th): (+2.2s on softs, +2.5s on mediums). Not quite as quick as Kovalainen, and lost huge amounts of time being lapped.

Pedro De La Rosa (22nd): (+4.1s on softs, +4.5s on mediums). Battled with Glock, but beaten by faster car.

Narain Karthikeyan (ret): (+4.5s on softs, +4.9s on mediums). Back to being slower than De La Rosa. Passed in the track for position by Glock – about the only competitive pass in the race after lap one.

Timo Glock (21st): (+3.2s on softs, +4.2s on mediums). Much faster than HRT on softs, but not on mediums. Recovered from his spin to beat both HRTs, passing one on track and one in the pits. Just.

Charles Pic (20th): (+2.2s on softs, +3.2s on mediums). Was close to the Caterhams, especially with his two stop race in comparison with their three-stopper. Being 20s from Petrov and 90s ahead of Glock says it all. Quite possibly the best performance of all.