Italian Grand Prix: Friday Practice

Posted on September 6, 2013

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Now I’m hoping that Monza will see a return to business as usual for intelligentF1. Which means a race report as well as the Friday analysis. But first things first. A quick glance at the headline times suggests that this is a walkover for Red Bull, and analysis of Vettel’s second long run (on the medium tyres) would suggest that he will disappear into the distance. I don’t think it’s quite as stark as that made it look, but I’m not about to provide hope for those hoping that the story here will be any different.

A quick look at those who ran both the hard tyres and the medium tyres revealed a couple of interesting points. Firstly, there were a number of cars (Vettel, the Lotuses for example) who were much quicker on the mediums – by way more than a second. But there were others, notably Webber (in the other Red Bull, note) that were more or less the same pace. In general, the pattern was that the slower stint (if there was a clearly slower stint) came first, almost independently of the tyre choice. Indeed, the number of cars with equal pace on both tyres was such that the dominant factor is most likely to be fuel, and the pace difference between the tyres can’t really be picked in race conditions from this data. Therefore, I have selected the slower stint from each car as the most likely to be representative of a first stint fuel load on the (reasonable) assumption that the race pace of the tyres is approximately equal. Incidentally, this suggests that the race is most likely to be one stop – there is no large penalty from the harder tyres, the mediums are still gaining pace at 15 laps and the pit lane penalty is large at Monza.  It may depend on the temperature, but I reckon that the teams will be hoping to do one stop.

I digress. A first stint pace from 2012 was about 90.2s – the pace this year is much hotter – Vettel is 1.5s faster than that – and the midfield are also quicker than the fast guys from last year. Partly this is the softer compounds of tyre – but it also says something about the switch to the 2012 constructions as the race pace was generally slower than 2012 in the first half of the season. The teams are certainly more comfortable on the 2012 construction tyres, and they are going quicker, which suggests they are able to use more of their pace in race conditions. Which has resulted in dark blue cars at the front. I’d guess that Red Bull are also compromising their qualifying setup less – which gives an advantage on a Saturday too.

To the race history chart. The slowest representative stint of each car (yes – data for everyone here!) has been plotted against a mythical car travelling at constant speed. If a car’s trace goes up then it is ‘catching this car’ – down and it’s dropping back. The curves have been fitted using the intelligentF1 model to get to an estimate of the underlying pace of each car.

2013_italy_1

So even excluding Vettel’s very fast stint as it was likely on lower fuel, he is still in a race of his own. With Webber next up. Alonso’s pace picks up well in his stint, and then it is Lotus, Mercedes and – McLaren. This bodes well for McLaren as they have been performing better on Sunday than on Friday recently – and clearly so at Spa. With Mercedes also generally quicker on Sundays, this leaves questions about the performance of the Lotus cars. They did run faster stints, which means that they were lower fuel, or they are quick on the medium tyre. Maybe – but I’m inclined to think that they will not be in podium contention here.

Behind the top five teams, Force India, Sauber and Toro Rosso are almost inseperable – some scrap for the last points could be in store. Williams look to be a little adrift again, although Maldonado was very inconsistent in his stint and did put in a few laps which would get him on the back of the battle ahead.

Once more, Caterham and Marussia are adrift, and the gap is steadily increasing from the opening races. If anything, Marussia were slightly faster, and Chilton looked good.

The intelligentF1 fits give the following pace table:

  • Vettel fastest
  • +0.4s Webber
  • +0.6s Alonso
  • +0.8s Raikkonen
  • +0.9s Rosberg/Hamilton
  • +1.1s Button/Perez
  • +1.2s Massa/Grosjean/Di Resta
  • +1.4s Hulkenburg/Gutierrez/Ricciardo
  • +1.5s Vergne/Sutil
  • +1.6s Maldonado (in the fast bit)
  • +2.2s Bottas
  • +2.7s Bianchi/Chilton
  • +2.8s Pic
  • +3.2s van der Garde

Unless all the evidence is really misleading, it really is Red Bull’s to lose…

 

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