It wasn’t close, was it? In fact, it looked like it was even more dominant than Friday had suggested – indeed the general suggestion is that Vettel had between two and three seconds in hand. But things are rarely what they seem. Usually, to claim that a car is about a second and a half per lap clear of the field is a bad thing, but in this case it could be seen as bringing of good news. I’m not going to shy away from the fact that this was a crushing victory, but when you dig down, it was not quite as crushing as it first appeared.
The story is all about the laps straight after the safety car. Vettel shows his real pace – essentially he is 1.1s faster in underlying pace in comparison with before the safety car. Rosberg, on the other hand is 1s slower for the first few laps. Only for the last few laps before his stop does Rosberg reach his pre-safety car pace. Admittedly, had Alonso been able to follow this pace, and the evidence is that (on his newer tyres) he could, then he could have come out ahead of Vettel, and at least made a fight of it. But the pace advantage for Vettel on new supersofts would have been 3.5s per lap (0.9s Vettel advantage on supersofts + 1.0s Alonso pace gap supersoft to medium + 1.6s Alonso tyre age) and it is hard to imagine that the winner would have changed.
So how fast was Vettel?
Vettel’s pace is not easy to judge, because it was not consistent from stint to stint. His first stint was quick – only Alonso could claim faster, and then only in the later laps of the stint. And everyone else took three laps to get up to pace. His second stint was 0.5s slower, which is about right for the medium tyres in comparison with the supersofts. Then, after the safety car, he shows what he can really do, and ups the pace by 1.1s. His final stint? 1s slower than his opening stint, and so (at a best guess) 2.1s off what he could do. And he still pulled away at about 1.3s per lap.
In comparison with the opening stint, Webber was only about 0.3s from Vettel, but adding 1.1s of hidden pace doesn’t make for good reading. And he was also disproportinately slow when in clear air in the last stint.
Vettel: fastest on supersoft, +0.5s on medium (at best guess from patching it all together)
Webber: +1.4s on supersoft, +1.9s on medium
Could Mercedes have done better?
What I can’t figure is why Rosberg did not push after the safety car – even though the team were asking him to. Admittedly, the cars behind on newer tyres would (just) have been able to keep up, so it may have made little difference, although it is likely (but not certain) they would have reached phase 2 degradation earlier. I also think that a later stop (ignoring Webber) and going on to supersofts would have been beneficial to Mercedes, as they were significantly better on the softer tyre. I don’t think that they would have beaten Raikkonen. Interestingly, I get that Rosberg was faster than Hamilton – which hasn’t happened for a while.
Rosberg: +1.2s on supersoft, +2.0s on medium
Hamilton: +1.4s on supersoft, +2.1s on medium
Alonso overperforms again
This was not good for Felipe Massa’s hopes of a new job, although he probably didn’t do that badly. Alonso’s first stint contained the fastest supersoft underlying pace in the race, and he made the mediums (which the Ferraris, like the Mercedes, struggled on) last to the end. Massa did OK, but was a lot slower.
Alonso: +0.9s on supersoft, +1.9s on medium
Massa: +1.9s on supersoft, +2.4s on medium
Raikkonen: podium from nowhere
Lotus made Raikkonen’s race with its early first stop. The fact that he jumped Hulkenburg and Perez put him behind only Alonso, Grosjean and Button of those who stopped at the safety car. His overtake of Gutierrez helped too… As he spent so much time in traffic, there are only a few clues to his real pace – the laps to undercut Hulkenburg, and the lap after passing Button. Best guess from this is that he was faster than Grosjean. Lotus, though, were surely right that Grosjean would have been on the podium.
Raikkonen: +1.2s on supersoft, +1.8s on medium
Grosjean: +1.4s on supersoft, no data on medium
‘We didn’t think we could do 35 laps on these tyres’
The words of Jenson Button. Strictly, they didn’t manage 35 laps on the tyres. They did about 27, and then fell off a cliff. In fact, the McLarens show clearly the difference between the cars that made the tyres last (Raikkonen, Alonso) and those who did not (everyone else). As a demonstration, Button’s last lap was about 7s from the lap time he should have achieved on those tyres. In fact, such is the power of track position, that from lap 49-61, Button lost more than 50s in tyre degradation (OK – five cars passed him, so maybe 40-45s in real pace), which is close to two pitstops than one. And I think that being at the front of the queue on spent tyres got them a better result than joining the back of the same queue on new tyres. Worth a picture – check out the difference in the pace loss of the McLarens in comparison with Alonso/Raikkonen. I’ve included the model fit of Button with no phase 2 degradation as the dashed line:
Also, Perez second stint was really good – and he was about as fast as Button here. He needs to sort out Saturdays.
Button: +2.0s on supersoft, +2.6s on medium
Perez: +1.7s on supersoft, +2.8s on medium
Hulkenburg fast again
Once again genuinely racing the McLarens, and in the race had a nice gap to Gutierrez. Personally, I always thought he was going to have to give the place to Massa, after Hamilton did the same on lap 1.
Hulkenburg: +1.9s on supersoft, +2.9s on medium
Gutierrez: +2.3s on supersoft, +3.3s on medium
Force India better
Once a race has an element of caring for the tyres in it, the Force Indias reappear. This was their strongest race for a while, and although Di Resta starred, the faster driver in clear air was Sutil. He just lost a lot of time stuck behind the Toro Rossos in the first stint. The team were worthy of the run to sixth place that could have been – and had Sutil not tried to cover Vergne and delayed his last stop, he would probably have had the pace to get past the McLarens rather than running out of tyres. A point was scant reward.
Di Resta: +2.3s on supersoft, +2.7s on medium
Sutil: +2.1s on supersoft, +2.3s on medium
Not this weekend
The only memory of Toro Rosso I have from this weekend is the picture of Ricciardo in the tyres. And it mirrors the performance. Their first stint was horrible for both cars – much slower than their other stints in underlying pace. After the first stint, they went much better and Vergne was the quicker. He made an early stop to try to get into the battle for the last point, but paid the price as his supersoft tyres did not last. His demise was more dramatic than the McLarens.
Vergne: +2.1s supersoft, +2.6s medium
Ricciardo: +3.3s supersoft (slow first stint), +2.8s medium
The unseen performance of the weekend
For a guy who spent the first stint trapped behind a Caterham and finished 15s behind his team mate, to suggest that this was one of the performances of the weekend seems a little odd. However, the laps spent in clear air tell a very different story. Bottas is a clear 0.5s quicker than Maldonado in underlying pace on both tyres. This is clearest in the second stint when Bottas, on used supersofts (about 0.3s slower than new) which were 3 laps older (about 0.25s worth) was lapping within 0.1s of his team mate.
Maldonado: +2.8s supersoft, +3.6s medium
Bottas: +2.3s supersoft, +3.1s medium
And at the back
The same story really. Caterham faster than Marussia, and slower than everyone else. Caterham were very slow in the first stint relative to the rest of the race (like Toro Rosso). No idea why. Pic lost time behind Bianchi, and Bianchi lost time in a pit stop, so like Williams, the slower driver finished ahead…
Pic: +3.1s supersoft, 4.2s medium
van der Garde: +4.6s supersoft (slow first stint), +4.6s medium
Bianchi: +4.3s supersoft, +5.3s medium
Chilton: +4.6s supersoft, +5.4s medium
So there you are. Vettel was not really more than 2s faster than the field. I reckon on about 1s on supersofts and 1.5s on mediums. Which is still enough to win all the rest of the races. But it is better than it might have been. Sort of.