Japanese Grand Prix: Underlying Pace Analysis

Posted on October 9, 2012


I’ve had a busy few weeks, so I apologise for the lack of an underlying pace article from Singapore and no Friday analysis from Japan. As there was a comment asking for the underlying pace from Singapore, I’ve done that first for Japan. As usual all the pace figures are based relative to the fastest car on the fastest tyre, which was Vettel on softs. So here goes:

1. Vettel (Red Bull): +0.0s on softs, +1.2s on hards. Miles faster than anyone else, probably had some in hand on the hards in the second stint as Webber had a smaller pace gap between the tyres. Last stint was 0.5s slower still. It was even easier than it looked.

2. Massa (Ferrari): +0.5s on softs, +1.6s on hards. Pace good, and had the best tyre life of the front runners. May have looked even more competitive without the safety car.

3. Kobayashi (Sauber): +0.6s on softs, +1.6s on hards. Scored a podium on merit. Button was only close because he overdid it on the tyres in the second stint and so he took it slightly easier in the final stint. Great job.

4. Button (McLaren): +0.8s on softs, +1.5s on hards. Had the pace of Kobayashi on the hards, but was never really a threat.

5. Hamilton (McLaren): +1.1s on softs, +1.6s on hards (final stint). The first half of his second stint was a full second slower, and after his ‘turn 14 thump’ the second half of that stint was actually 0.5s quicker than his final stint. Go figure.

6. Raikkonen (Lotus): +1.2 on softs, +1.9s on hards. Just not that fast.

7. Hulkenburg (Force India): +1.2s on softs, +1.9s on hards. Good pace, deserved the points he got.

8. Maldonado (Williams): +1.6s on softs, +2.3s on hards. Except for a brief flash of pace at the end of the second stint (+1.0s on softs) as he still had some tyres left, the Williams was not as quick as all that.

9. Webber (Red Bull): +0.9s on hards. That’s 0.3s faster than Vettel, even with two massive stints on the hards (effectively a one stop). The dark blue cars were very fast at Suzuka. It’s hard to imagine that it wouldn’t have been a one-two without Mr. Grosjean.

10. Ricciardo (Toro Rosso): +1.7s on softs, +2.3s on hards. Good pace, and consistent too. Scored a point on merit.

11.Schumacher (Mercedes): +1.6s on softs, +2.7s on hards. Benefitted from having a set of new softs to go hard-soft-soft which gave him a big advantage over the true pace of the Mercedes. Still not quite enough for a point.

12. Di Resta (Force India): +2.5s (in traffic) on softs, +2.1s on hards. Stuck behind Kovalainen in the first stint, which killed his race. Was then just 0.2s slower than Hulkenburg (but less consistent) for the rest of the race. Disappointing.

13. Vergne (Toro Rosso): +1.5s on softs, +2.0s on hards. I cannot figure Jean-Eric Vergne. Once again, his underlying pace is faster than Ricciardo, yet he finishes over 20s behind. Yes, 15s of that was stuck behind a Caterham in the first stint, which he passed on track in the second stint. The data suggests that this is a seriously fast racing driver who is just not quite making it happen. A bit like one Sergio Perez of 2011 vintage.

14. Senna (Williams): +1.3s on softs, +1.8s on hards. Hitting Rosberg at turn 2 was the story of his race. He had the pace to beat Maldonado, and surely missed out on a possible points finish. Much better underlying pace than usual, and one of the few to overtake cars in the first stint. Seems a bit weird to be suggesting that he did well!

15. Kovalainen (Caterham): +2.7s 0n softs, +3.5s on hards. Eleventh in the first stint, fifteenth at the end. 1s per lap slower than the cars in front. Not much else to say.

16. Glock (Marussia): +3.5s on softs, +3.8s on hards. Not quite as quick as the Caterhams, but much closer than they were. Interesting battle developing.

17. Petrov (Caterham): +3.3 on softs, +3.8s on hards. Lost the pair ahead as stuck behind an HRT for the first stint. Just about matched them thereafter.

18. De la Rosa (HRT): +3.8s on softs, +4.2s on hards. About 1s off the Caterhams – they’ve closed up significantly over the season.

19. Grosjean (Lotus): +1.3s on hards. OK, he thrashed the tyres as there was nothing to lose, and suffered a little at the end of the stints, but he was over 0.5s faster than Raikkonen. The pace is there for when he re-engages his brain.

Ret. Pic (Marussia): +3.4s on softs, +4.4s on hards. Competitive again on the soft tyres until they gave out on him, but slower on the hards than Glock. Not the form of a few races ago, but solid.

Ret. Karthikeyan (HRT): +3.7s on softs, +3.9s on hards. Faster than de la Rosa again. Becoming a habit.

Ret. Perez (Sauber): +0.6s on softs. As fast as Kobayashi. Surely would have been at least fifth.

No data for Alonso or Rosberg.

For 2012, that goes down as a pretty uneventful race…