The trouble with races like the Korean Grand Prix, apart from the lack of entertainment at the time, is that there is no real motivation to analyse them. Maybe it wasn’t the most dull race for ages, but I have to admit to doing a fair amount of (real) work during it as there wasn’t much to hold my attention. Analysis of the race hasn’t served to change my view much. There are a few interesting snippets – Maldonado, Sutil and Ricciardo were quick, and Grosjean and Hulkenburg were as fast as they looked. Vettel, however, was almost certainly faster.
The most interesting part of the race, from a data analysis point of view, was the second stint. Very few of the cars were running as fast as they could, until towards the end of the stint. There was clearly quite a lot of concern about the life of the tyres, and track position was important enough that an extra stop (which was much faster) was not worth it. Lewis Hamilton showed that the concerns were right. This was made worse for most by the fact that the teams were slower on the supersoft – by more than a second for all bar the top teams. In fact, the real performance differentiator was the softer tyre. It seems that more downforce resulted in the tyre being scrubbed less and lasting better. Only Red Bull, Mercedes, Lotus and Hulkenburg had any pace on it. Worth noting that Ferrari did not.
Easy as you like
Vettel made it look easy. And the evidence is that it was – there were concerns over the tyres in the second stint – he did a few fast laps suggesting there was plenty in hand, but they were only intermittent. Still had 0.3s on all bar Webber, at a best guess there was another 0.3s to come, if needed. As long as the tyres lasted. Webber was reasonably quick here – about 0.2s down.
Vettel: +0.5s on supersoft, fastest on medium
Webber: +0.7s on supersoft, +0.1s on medium
Lotus were genuinely second fastest here, and Grosjean should be grumpy with himself. He was quicker than Kimi, and blew it. For the first time, he was the only realistic challenger to Vettel. Lotus did a great job stopping Raikkonen early – the safety car (and Mercedes) helped – but the drive was great. A team who maximised their return, even if one of their drivers was disappointed.
Raikkonen: +1.0s on supersoft, +0.5s on medium
Grosjean: +0.8s on supersoft, +0.3s on medium
Getting it all wrong
Mercedes should have had a better result in Korea. In fact, Hamilton should have been the one to profit from Grosjean’s mistake at the restart. Or, if his wing hadn’t fallen off, Rosberg. But they went from being a very comfortable third and fourth to fifth and seventh. First, Hamilton killed the tyres. As the only real competition was Rosberg, I can see why they left him out – but they were dropping time massively and realistically should have brought him in the lap before Rosberg passed him. Even if they left him out, as soon as Rosberg’s wing broke, they should have moved Rosberg over, and got Hamilton in first. Rosberg would have lost maybe a couple of extra seconds, but Hamilton lost a huge heap of time, lost out to Raikkonen and was a sitting duck to the straightline speed of Hulkenburg’s Sauber. In some ways Rosberg’s wing breakage cost them a third/fourth finish. A mess.
Rosberg: +1.0s on supersoft, +0.6s on medium
Hamilton: +0.9s on supersoft, +0.5s on medium
Not prancing in Korea
The bare facts state that Alonso was sixth. But add in Rosberg and Webber who were clearly faster, and it could have been worse. On pace, the Ferraris were racing with Hulkenburg and Button. They were a second down on the supersofts (on Lotus/Mercedes – not Red Bull) and not that much better on the mediums. OK – Alonso spent most of the race behind Hulkenburg, but there is enough around the stops to suggest that he had a little more pace, but only a little. Sixth? Reflective of Ferrari’s true position. Massa was actually very close to Alonso on pace.
Alonso: +2.0s on supersoft, +1.2s on medium
Massa: +2.0s on supersoft, +1.4s on medium
Straightline speed counts
The Ferraris may have been quick in a straight line, but even they couldn’t pass Hulkenburg. The speed on the straights made him impassable, even with Hamilton about 1s quicker as his tyres were slightly newer. He had to make no mistakes, and he didn’t – in fact he spent most of the stint driving a little off his pace to make sure Lewis stayed behind. No mug, this guy. It is strange, however, that Gutierrez wasn’t able to make progress in the first stint as he was in a train going nearly 2.5s slower than his team mate. In clear air, he was only a few tenths down, but wasn’t in the same race.
Hulkenburg: +1.3s on supersoft, +1.3s on medium
Gutierrez: +3.7s on supersoft (traffic), +1.5s on medium
In the gap
McLaren in habit a nomansland between the top four and the rest. In the opening races, they were joined by Force India. Now it is Sauber who have come up to join them, and in Korea Ferrari were within range. The McLaren really struggled on th supersofts, Button did just three laps – Perez pace (more than 2s from Vettel) showed why. The brave strategy was helped by the safety cars, but Button was as fast as Alonso on the medium tyres. Perez was not as fast as Button here – in fact this was probably his worst race for relative pace.
Button: no data on supersoft, +1.2s on medium
Perez: +2.7s on supersoft, +1.6s on medium
Better – but not better enough
This was a decent race for Williams. They were in the battle with Force India and Toro Rosso on pace. It wouldn’t have been good enough for points, but it was better. And for the first time, Maldonado really was quite a lot quicker than Bottas – even if he did fade towards the end. Must admit that I was expecting a little more from Bottas by now – actually about 0.5s more.
Maldonado: +3.2s on supersoft, +2.1s on medium
Bottas: +3.5s on supersoft, +2.5s on medium
Spoiled by the safety car
Now Toro Rosso were not quick here. But they were the only team to start on the mediums, and Ricciardo made the most of it. Unfortunately for him, the safety car meant that he had to stop far to early for supersofts – so he was always going to struggle in the final stint. His straightline speed kept him out-of-position, and it was a shame he didn’t finish. I’m more impressed by this race than by many others. Recently, he has matched Vergne in the races, but here he was much quicker. The timing is good.
Vergne: +3.2s on supersoft, +2.4s on medium
Ricciardo: +2.7s on supersoft, +1.9s on medium
All the wrong reasons
What I remember of Force India’s race is Di Resta having another weird crash and Sutil hitting Webber. Which is not really what you would want. Another team who were horrible on the supersofts, Sutil ran a similar strategy to Button and did well in the second stint – taking care and then running a strong pace. Outshone Di Resta on the strength of that.
Di Resta: +3.7s on supersoft, +2.2s on medium
Sutil: +4.0s on supersoft, +2.0s on medium
And at the back
Not a lot to say, really, Van der Garde matched Pic well, and both Marussia and Caterham struggled badly on the supersofts. Those tyres clearly accentuated the performance differences between the cars.
Pic: +5.5s on supersoft, +3.5 on medium
van der Garde: +5.5s on supersoft, +3.5s on medium
Bianchi: +5.9s on supersoft, +3.6s on medium
Chilton: +6.0s on supersoft, +4.0s on medium
Anyone to beat Vettel in Japan? It is not easy to see it. There were suggestions that he might win all the remaining races after Singapore, and there is no evidence from Korea to say any different. But the race has to be better than Korea…