Chinese Grand Prix: Underlying Pace

Posted on April 17, 2013

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So here is the performance chart of race pace in China constructed using the curve fits from the intelligentF1 model.

I have put the drivers and cars in number order – as it’s most helpful for team mate comparisons. The quoted pace is underlying laptime pace relative to the fastest pace (Alonso on the medium tyres). I haven’t assessed the pace of the soft tyres as the stints are so short so the uncertainty is huge.

  • Vettel (Red Bull): 4th: +0.4s on medium: Fourth fastest car, but without getting stuck behind Hulkenburg, would most likely have come second. Definitely on the faster race strategy with use of new softs. Although stopping a lap earlier would have most likely not gained anything from extrapolation of his soft tyre trace.
  • Webber (Red Bull): Ret: +0.3s on medium: A touch faster than Vettel. Without crashing into Vergne, he was looking at getting in the thick of the second place battle, and could have been ahead of Raikkonen had the traffic worked for him. The lap one stop may have looked odd, but again I think Red Bull called it well. But he did crash…
  • Alonso (Ferrari): 1st: fastest on medium: Got past Hamilton on the softs where the Ferrari looked to be comfortably fastest, and was 0.3s faster than anyone on the mediums. The gap gave him the luxury to go longer, and the pace in the last stint was all about having newer tyres – he wasn’t pushing any more than before.
  • Massa (Ferrari): 6th: +0.9s on medium: Looked OK on the softs, and lost out by being among the last to stop. But never recovered, and not just because of traffic. Was nearly a second from Alonso’s pace in clear air. For all the qualifying prowess, has been nowhere near Alonso on pace in any of the races so far. Suggests that Alonso would have been competitive in Malaysia.
  • Button (McLaren): 5th: + 1.0 on medium: Not as competitive as in Malaysia, but choosing the right strategy (starting on mediums) and a copybook drive netted him fifth place. Both team and driver maximised this one.
  • Perez (McLaren): 11th: +1.3s on medium: Outpaced by Button this weekend. The decision to run him on the softs mid-race looks like a test to ensure that his team-mate scored points. They left him out too long, which may have cost him a point.
  • Raikkonen (Lotus): 2nd: +0.3s on medium: With an earlier first stop, might have challenged Alonso. There is no evidence that he lost pace from the clash with Perez. This makes him no faster than Hamilton on underlying pace, but was able to beat the Mercedes by undercutting due to having more confidence in tyre life.
  • Grosjean (Lotus): 9th: +1.3s on medium: Last race I wrote that he was back. Well, he’s gone again. A second slower than his team mate as in Melbourne, and his second stint was horrible. Mysterious. I expected big things this year.
  • Rosberg (Mercedes): Ret: +1.1s on medium: A broken anti-roll bar put paid to his race, and it is likely that his pace was poor due to this.
  • Hamilton (Mercedes): 3rd: +0.3s on medium: Not at the pace of Alonso, not as good on the tyres as Raikkonen. Should have changed off the softs sooner, but this may have been driven by a lack of confidence in the life of the medium tyres on the Mercedes. Made the mistake of trying to chase Alonso in the second stint, and suffered from tyre degradation. There is evidence of a bit of fuel saving in that stint too. Was as quick as Raikkonen, but was undercut.
  • Hulkenburg (Sauber): 10th: +1.2s on medium: Bit of an odd one this. Was fast in the first stint, leading (and delaying) Vettel. But got progressively slower stint by stint, and was not quick at all at the end. Best guess is that he was seriously underfuelled as it looks like his fuel effect was much smaller than the other cars.
  • Gutierrez (Sauber): Ret: no data: Crashed into the back of Sutil. Nothing to add.
  • Di Resta (Force India): 8th: +0.8s on medium: Another hard luck story. Delayed by an incident with his team mate on the first lap and dropped into traffic. Once free was faster than Massa, Button and Grosjean. Had the pace for fifth.
  • Sutil (Force India): Ret: no data: Hit Di Resta, was hit by Gutierrez. Force India deserved better.
  • Maldonado (Williams): 14th: +1.8s on medium: Well, he finished. But was still slower than Bottas. Not really racing anyone else.
  • Bottas (Williams): 13th: +1.6s on medium: Williams were not as good here, Lost much more time than Maldonado in traffic, but still beat him.
  • Vergne (Toro Rosso): 12th: +1.1s on medium: I don’t know what Toro Rosso are doing in their long runs on Fridays, but they had good pace when it mattered here. Vergne, for the first time in a long time, was slower than Ricciardo on race pace. Without the assault from Webber, was in the mix for the final point.
  • Ricciardo (Toro Rosso): 7th: +0.9s on medium: Genuinely faster than Vergne – all race. Backed up his qualifying performance well. Delayed by Grosjean in the second stint, but even without that would have had to pass Massa on track in the last stint to finish higher.
  • Pic (Caterham): 16th: +2.2s on medium: Another really good drive. Eventually undercut by Bianchi, but was almost on the same pace. Way ahead of van der Garde.
  • Van der Garde (Caterham): 18th: +2.9s on the medium: Lonely race to last. 30s down.
  • Bianchi (Marussia): 15th: +2.0s on the medium: Good fight with Pic, but the superior pace of the Marussia (at least in Bianchi’s hands) was enough. The battle at the back is really about the Frenchmen.
  • Chilton (Marussia): 17th: +2.3s on medium: Not outclassed, but 0.3s off the pace of Bianchi.

And so the underlying pace league table looks like this in China:

  • 0.0s Alonso
  • +0.3s Raikkonen/Hamilton/Webber
  • +0.4s Vettel
  • +0.8s Di Resta
  • +0.9s Massa/Ricciardo
  • +1.0s Button
  • +1.1s Vergne/Rosberg
  • +1.2s Hulkenburg
  • +1.3s Perez/Grosjean
  • +1.6s Bottas
  • +1.8s Maldonado
  • +2.0s Bianchi
  • +2.2s Pic
  • +2.3s Chilton
  • +2.9s van der Garde

So five cars ahead of the field – from four teams. There were big pace differences between team mates here – much bigger than normal. Di Resta best of the rest and Toro Rosso showing well. A closing thought: Button’s pace was half way between Alonso’s and Bianchi’s. Didn’t expect to be writing that about the fifth place finisher.

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