Bahrain Grand Prix: Underlying Pace

Posted on April 27, 2013


So here is the performance chart of race pace in Bahrain 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 (Vettel on the hard tyres). It is interesting to note that the pace was significantly slower (about 0.8s) in this year’s race than in 2012. This was the same in Melbourne, another circuit which is rear-tyre limited.

  • Vettel (Red Bull): 1st: +0.5s on medium, fastest on hard: Massively fast in the race, no one was anywhere near him. Cut his pace by 0.5s in the second stint on hards, and by a further 0.5s in the final stint. Walked it.
  • Webber (Red Bull): 7th: +1.5s on medium (traffic), +0.8s on hard: Was slower than Vettel and struggled more with tyre wear. Couldn’t make use of the free air from the undercut at the first stops and gradually dropped back. Was passed on the last lap for third best three-stopper.
  • Alonso (Ferrari): 8th: +0.9s on medium, +0.8s on hard: The pre-race favourite’s race went wrong just as he got into second place, and looked to chase Vettel. But he wouldn’t have made it as far as his race pace shows. A very slow second stint (about 0.8s slower than he could go – maybe fuel saving) followed by stints at about the same pace as those ahead – only made ground due to the wheel-to-wheel action in front. No traffic problems, so degradation and no DRS didn’t hinder too much. Probably fast enough to split the Lotuses if he hadn’t had the technical problem, but nowhere near Vettel. We expected more.
  • Massa (Ferrari): 15th: +1.0s on medium, +0.9s on the hards: Fractionally slower than Alonso here – comfortably the closest on race pace for a while. Was in the mix for the lower end of the points had he not kept having punctures. A bad day for Ferrari given the pre-race expectation.
  • Button (McLaren): 10th: + 1.2 on medium, +0.9s on hard: Right in the middle of a huge battle for the bottom half of the points. Wasn’t as quick as Perez and probably didn’t help the team much by holding back the Mexican. Didn’t really lose much with the extra stop as was a touch slower than those around him.
  • Perez (McLaren): 6th: +1.0s on medium, +0.7s on hard: About the fastest car in the midfield battle, and looked after the tyres well too. Had McLaren stopped him first at the first stops, he would have been challenging the Di Resta/Grosjean battle. A bit scary wheel-to-wheel, but nice to see some strong underlying pace as he has been a consistently strong performer in the intelligentF1 analysis over the past two years.
  • Raikkonen (Lotus): 2nd: +1.1s on medium, +0.9s on hard: Just goes to show what good tyre wear does for you. Raikkonen was not quick on mediums, nor really on hards, but took advantage of being able to run the faster two-stop strategy. Made second look comfortable without ever really going quickly – and his second stint was even a little slower.
  • Grosjean (Lotus): 3rd: +1.0s on medium, +0.6s on hard: And he’s back again – fastest car in the race (except Vettel). And proof positive that two stops was the way to go as he was beaten by a slower team mate. Wouldn’t have challenged Vettel though… Could do with making it two good races in a row.
  • Rosberg (Mercedes): 9th: +0.5s on medium, +0.8s on hard: Struggled really badly in the first stint, but thereafter was faster than it looked – with his final stint on the mediums being really good. Actually faster than Hamilton overall, but needed that extra stop…
  • Hamilton (Mercedes): 5th: +1.0s on medium, +0.8s on hard: Two stints on the medium tyres was a mistake for Lewis. Struggled until he got onto the hards, but then was as fast as anyone bar Grosjean and Vettel. Made the tyres last, was very consistent, and was rewarded with a decent finish.
  • Hulkenburg (Sauber): 12th: +1.9s on medium, +1.9s on hard: Sauber were just not very fast around here. And one of the few teams not to find any extra race pace on the hard tyres. A quiet race, with a horrible second stint on the hard tyres where they seemed to degrade badly. One to forget.
  • Gutierrez (Sauber): 18th: +2.0s on medium, +2.2s on hard: Much closer to Hulkenburg on pace, especially on the mediums. Suffered as Hulkenburg early on, but was much more consistent on the mediums in the second half of the race. One of the few teams to prefer the medium tyre.
  • Di Resta (Force India): 4th: +1.5s on medium, +1.2s on hard: Not as quick as those around him, but much better on the tyres. Once away from the raging battle by going long in the first stint had a quite race – just the Lotuses for company. Consistent and unspectacular – a result Force India have deserved.
  • Sutil (Force India): 13th: +0.7s on medium, +0.6s on hard: A shame he clashed with Massa, because he had genuine pace. Another to struggle in the early laps – his first stint after the clash was slower than Di Resta (+1.4s on hard), but then he flew. As fast as anyone in the second half of the race. Looks to be a better driver after his year away.
  • Maldonado (Williams): 11th: +2.0s on medium, +1.7s on hard: Faster than Bottas for the first time this season. And Williams were faster than Toro Rosso and Sauber. Better.
  • Bottas (Williams): 14th: +2.1s on medium, +1.8s on hard: Probably expected a little more. Very consistent again, just not as quick as his team mate this time.
  • Vergne (Toro Rosso): Ret: no data on medium, +3.0s on hard: Guessing that the slow pace is due to damage – not surprised he stopped.
  • Ricciardo (Toro Rosso): 16th: +2.3s on medium, +2.0s on hard: From top ten to nowhere. Toro Rosso weren’t good in Bahrain, and were coming under threat from the upgraded Caterhams. Slowest of the established teams. Ricciardo was consistent – just slow.
  • Pic (Caterham): 17th: +2.3s on medium, +2.1s on hard: Can’t qualify with the midfield yet, but can almost race with them with the new upgrades. Was 6.5s down on Ricciardo after passing Bianchi on lap 5 – finished 9.8s down, with neither car having any issues. Almost…
  • Van der Garde (Caterham): 21st: +3.5s on the medium, +3.2s on hard: Didn’t have the upgrades – so didn’t have any pace. Will be looking forward to getting the new kit.
  • Bianchi (Marussia): 19th: +2.6s on medium, +2.6 on hard: Marussia not as good here – and Bianchi troubled by Chilton for the first time.
  • Chilton (Marussia): 20th: +2.6s on medium, +2.6s on hard: I was surprised to see Chilton doing so well in Malaysia, but this was pretty close to Bianchi. A really good performance.

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

  • 0.0s Vettel
  • +0.6s Grosjean/Sutil
  • +0.7s Perez
  • +0.8s Webber/Alonso/Rosberg/Hamilton
  • +0.9s Massa/Button/Raikkonen
  • +1.2s Di Resta
  • +1.7s Maldonado
  • +1.8s Bottas
  • +1.9s Hulkenburg
  • +2.0s Ricciardo
  • +2.1s Pic
  • +2.2s Gutierrez
  • +2.6s Bianchi/Chilton
  • +3.0s Vergne
  • +3.2s van der Garde

And on the mediums (again relative to the hard tyre pace of Vettel):

  • +0.5s Vettel/Rosberg
  • +0.7s Sutil
  • +0.9s Alonso
  • +1.0s Massa/Perez/Grosjean/Hamilton
  • +1.1s Raikkonen
  • +1.2s Button
  • +1.5s Webber/Di Resta
  • +1.9s Hulkenburg
  • +2.0s Gutierrez/Maldonado
  • +2.1s Bottas
  • +2.3s Ricciardo/Pic
  • +2.6s Bianchi/Chilton
  • +3.5s van der Garde

Bigger gaps in Bahrain than China – between Vettel and the rest, and between the top six teams and the rest. In fact the gap from Force India to Williams is about the gap from Williams to Marussia. Except that, somehow, Mercedes, McLaren, Ferrari, Webber and Lotus were very closely matched for pace. And that made for a great race.