Korean Grand Prix: Friday Practice Analysis

Posted on October 13, 2012

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And so to Korea. It may be close between Alonso and Vettel in the championship, and the Red Bulls may have locked out the front row, but the Friday practice suggests that in race trim it is the Ferrari that is the fastest car. I’ve seen some reports which suggest that Jenson Button did the fastest race stint in FP2. I don’t agree – I have the red cars all the way. Which bodes well for an entertaining race.

As usual, although I have struggled to get this done on some recent race weekends, I’ve fitted the long run data using the intelligentF1 model to get out the underlying pace of each car as shown in Friday practice. This has usually been a very good indicator of the Sunday performance, although not always! For those who are used to reading the charts, I’ve put the laps (missing out slow laps) on the chart below. The steeper the upward gradient, the faster the car. And the red lines (Ferrari) are at the top.

It’s worth noting that there is no useful data for Hamilton, the Saubers, Maldonado the Marussias, the HRTs and Kovalainen. The rest of them stack up like this:

Alonso +0.0s

Button/Massa +0.3s

Di Resta +0.5s

Vettel/Raikkonen +0.7s

Grosjean/Hulkenburg +0.8s

Webber +1.0s

Senna +1.1s

Rosberg +1.5s

Ricciardo +1.6s

Schumacher +1.8s

Vergne +2.2s

Petrov +2.4s

So it looks good for Ferrari and (to some extent) McLaren, and it does seem that the Red Bulls are unlikely to run away with it. In fact, I don’t think that they are favourites unless they are holding something in hand. The pace of the Lotus and Force India cars are good – Di Resta will be very disappointed at being only 14th on the grid as points beckon again. Once again the Mercedes seem to be quite disappointing on Friday – they tend to do a little better in the races, but their tyre wear was poor in comparison with the others. I guess they’ll still be in the battle for the minor points places.

The tyre wear is light here – the stints are clearly increasing in pace unless you are Petrov or driving a Mercedes – and it is rarely as clear as this. Two stops were the norm last year, and I think we’ll see something similar, probably with the supersoft as the favoured race tyre. Pirelli have said that one-stoppers are possible. Quite something when we remember that the doomsayers were predicting five stops last year. How things change.

There is evidence to suggest that the Ferrari and the Williams are again good on their tyres – I can see the blue cars going for a single stop. I guess that we may expect something similar from Perez. What would be fun is if Ferrari went for it with Massa – it might just win him the race.

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