OK – practice was on Thursday, and feels like a very long time ago. But life is busy, and this is the first chance I’ve had to go through the data. Better late than never…
I guess what we’re all expecting is that the Mercedes will stick it on the front row, and then either hold everyone up, or use one car to hold up the rest allowing an escape and the luxury of either a slower pace, or an extra stop. Like most of the last few years, it’s not likely that this one will be all about race pace. It may well be about whether you get to use your pace when it counts. Like Alonso and Vettel last year.
Interestingly, the heat up issue from last year does not appear to have completely gone with the softer tyres – this may be due to the greenness of the Thursday track, but there is definitely some increase in pace over the first laps. The undercut may not be clear cut here, which will add to the strategy dilemma. Not easy to call, and will probably need a bit of luck.
Last year was a one-stop race. And a bit dull, even with the top six covered by a tablecloth. The supersofts were changed about lap 25-30 for the front runners, and it seems that at least some of them stand a chance of achieving that this year. No-one ran that many proper laps – but I think that most will set out to do one stop.
From looking at the times, it seems that the cars who did occasional slow laps saw some recovery from the tyres. Their next three or four laps were faster – Rosberg especially saw this effect. As you can’t really do this in a race – unless no-one is brave on strategy and we’re follow my leader. Which we might be – we were last year.
So to some times. As usual, I’ve plotted the stints on a race history chart and done some fitting using the intelligentF1 model. There’s no data for Grosjean (stuck it in the wall) or Bianchi (two long stints, but was letting people by so much that there aren’t enough representative laps to go on). The rest are below.
And what we see is that Webber and Button are looking quite good later in the stint. Autosport report that Webber is on softs (most are on supersofts), and from the curves the best guess is that Button is on the same. It seems that it is not long before the soft tyre is quicker. Of those on supersofts, Raikkonen looks good and Vettel looks good although the faster laps at the end are after a pitstop where he didn’t change tyres, but they did get a beneficial rest.
It’s pretty close – Ferrari, Mercedes (certainly Rosberg, not sure about Hamilton with the tyres), Lotus, Red Bull and perhaps (in race trim) McLaren look to be reasonably similar in pace. And Force India are thereabouts again. Next up are Sauber and Toro Rosso (who are regularly faster in the race than in FP2), with Williams struggling. Pic is faster than the Williams cars.
The best guess at the pace order is then:
- 0.0s Webber/Button (on softs)
- +0.3s Vettel
- +0.4s Raikkonen
- +0.5s Perez/Rosberg
- +0.6s Sutil
- +0.7s Alonso/Massa
- +0.9s Gutierrez (softs?)
- +1.0s Di Resta
- +1.1s Ricciardo
- +1.2s Hamilton/Hulkenburg
- +1.3s Vergne
- +1.6s Bottas/Pic
- +2.0s Maldonado
- +2.4s van der Garde
- +3.2s Chilton
From this, it would suggest that Red Bull are in better shape than we might have expected, and that McLaren are looking much better (or running light). Sutil looks to be maintaining form, and Alonso is playing it cool in FP2 once more. Raikkonen was the fastest of those who weren’t giving their tyres breathers and you’d expect him to be in the mix as well. Gutierrez was comfortably faster than Hulkenburg, although he may have been on softs. Ricciardo also looking good. Pic may be light, given the gap to van der Garde, but Williams are in danger of being beaten (at least in the race) by one of the minnows.
I guess, at a push, I’d go for Alonso, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Red Bull are better here than they look. And I can see Sutil actually getting the big result at Monaco he should have had some years ago. He might get a little nervous if Kimi is just behind him in the closing laps, though.
But the most fun question is whether Hamilton is about to play the number two sacrificial role to get Rosberg a win? Can’t see it happening, although it may just be Mercedes best shot – and the team boss is a certain Mr. Brawn…