German Grand Prix: Race Notes

Posted on July 9, 2013


I enjoyed the German Grand Prix. There was a lot of racing going on and the identity of the winner was in doubt until about two to go. On the face of it, it looked like the Lotus was the car to have, Vettel did well against the odds, Webber was unlucky again, Ferrari and Mercedes were a little adrfit in race pace, and McLaren and Williams had better races. I’ve delved into the data, and done the curve fits with the intelligentF1 model. Let’s see what we find… (All underlying pace is give relative to the fastest car on the faster tyre).

Vettel hangs on

The fastest car on the soft tyres may have been Grosjean and the mediums Raikkonen, but Vettel was the second fastest in both cases. Which is the story of the season really – we have different people competitive on different weekends, but the one constant is Vettel. Webber was a couple of tenths down this weekend and clearly would have been mixing it with the top four. Had the race lastest but two laps more, or had the safety car not been deployed, then the story may have been different…

Vettel +0.1s soft, +0.8s medium; Webber +0.1 soft, +1.0s medium

Thwarted by the safety car?

The way the race panned out, it looked like the fastest car was the Lotus – although the cars were fast in different ways, with Grosjean stronger on the softs and Raikkonen on the mediums. Had he had Grosjean’s pace on the softs at the end, it would probably have been enough… Indeed, this was a race of what might have been for Lotus – had Raikkonen stayed out and jumped Hamilton at the first stops (he had the pace – especially with the Rosberg effect) he would have been favourite in the race on hards. Had the safety car not come out, then Grosjean on a two-stop would have just eluded Vettel on a three stop by a couple of seconds (all things being equal). However, the final stop for Raikkonen didn’t cost him the win – had he been able to maintain the pace to the end, he would have been caught with a couple to go. So I think Lotus called that one right. Another that got away…

Raikkonen +0.3s soft, +0.5s medium; Grosjean +0.0s soft, +1.0s medium

Being left behind in the development battle?

Alonso stated on Sunday evening that Ferrari had overperformed in coming fourth. There is some truth in this, as Ferrari were slow on the soft tyre. In fact, it looks like they put all their eggs in the medium-tyre-basket as they were faster on the medium, at about the pace of Vettel. Alonso may have looked quick at the end on the softs, but he wasn’t – not really.  A bit anonymous from Ferrari.

Alonso +1.1s soft, +0.8s medium; Massa no data

Return of the tyre woes?

Now I agree that Mercedes were struggling with the rear tyres. But this was no Barcelona – they were the fourth fastest car quite comfortably. In fact, had Hamilton’s second stint been at the pace of his other stints on the mediums, he  would have been battling Alonso for fourth – and would have had a chance of holding it. It is interesting that he looked a lot faster than Rosberg when he exited the pits, but was not really any quicker once past – there is a suggestion that he might have killed the tyres trying to get past early in the stint. Either way, once off that set, he proceeded to be much faster than his team mate (three races in a row now). Rosberg’s big problem was that Mercedes were not set up for straightline speed and so he spend a long time stuck behind a slower Force India.

Rosberg +1.2s soft, +1.7s medium; Hamilton +0.3s soft, +1.1s medium

Much better for McLaren

For McLaren, this was more like China. The cars were reasonably quick in the race, nestling in the gap between the top four and the rest, clearly ahead of Force India, Sauber and Toro Rosso. Button was the quicker driver this weekend, and the two stop worked well for them. Like Ferrari, they sacrified soft tyre performance and were quicker on the mediums.

Button +1.7s soft, +1.4s medium; Perez +1.6s soft, +1.6s medium

Points for Sauber…

For a few races a certain Mr. Hulkenburg hasn’t looked that special. Here he did – racing well and scoring a point which the Sauber was only marginally quick enough for. Gutierrez was only a couple of tenths slower, but spend too much time in traffic – starting on the mediums worked better for the gaining of free air and Hulkenburg made the most of it. Sauber were much quicker here than they have been of late.

Hulkenburg +1.4s on soft, +1.7s on medium, Gutierrez +1.9s on medium

… but not for Force India

Not much to say here. The two drivers were extremely closely matched on pace, which was not quite enough for points. The two-stop plan beat the three-stop gamble.

Di Resta +1.9s on medium; Sutil +1.9s on medium

Return of Williams?

About two-thirds of the way through the race, I was beginning to think that Williams might get a point. Maldonado was having one of his good days, and the car was thereabouts. The pitstop meant that it was definitely not to be, but without that it would have been close. He would have been undercut by Hulkenburg, but was slightly faster on the soft tyre at the end. He might have done it, but it would have been 11th at worst. Much the best performance by Williams for some time. Bottas was faster than Maldonado, except in the second stint where he is inexplicably a full second slower – and lost touch. Are they now points contenders?

Maldonado +1.4s on soft, +2.1s on medium; Bottas +1.6s on soft, +1.9s on medium

Tumbling down the order

Ricciardo qualified well, hung on for a bit, then got swallowed up by the midfield. OK, the safety car didn’t help him, but to be honest it only sped up the inevitable drop out of the points. Vergne was another 0.4s slower.

Ricciardo +2.1s on medium, Vergne +2.5s on medium

Pic again the pick at the back

Having performed well against Timo Glock last year, Pic needed to beat the other guys at the back well this year. He is having a good battle with Bianchi, and they are leaving their team mates behind. Caterham and Marussia have dropped back with the Silverstone upgrades as there is now daylight in race pace between them and the other teams, which there certainly was not in the first half-dozen races. He might have dropped to the back of the race, but Pic overtook the others to again win the race at the back – and he was a clear 0.7s faster than any of them…

Pic +3.4s on medium, van der Garde +4.1s on medium

Bianchi +4.1s on medium, Chilton +3.9s on soft, +4.4s on medium

I didn’t see much impact from the different tyres, and I’m not really expecting much in Hungary either. You never know, though. In Germany, we saw that a hotter day meant Lotus were the challengers, and not Mercedes. But the one constant in it all is that man Vettel…