F1 Forensics: Chinese GP Race Pace Analysis

Brought to you in partnership with Dr James Beck of IntelligentF1.

We have been privileged this weekend to enjoy the work of Dr. James Beck and his mathematical analysis of the teams underlying pace and 1 lap performance. I am though aware from 1 or 2 comments that his model is not fully understood. Click the above link to his site and you will find the background to the analysis he has been bringing to us.

The shortish version to help the more impatient among us is that when you see James’ graphs, the pace of each car is determined by the gradient of the line, the faster the car, the steeper the gradient. The intelligentF1 model matches the gradient of the line in a stint where the car is in clear air (not always available) and can then predict the pace of the cars at other stages of the race. (I do recommend you follow the link for a much more complete explanation).

Anyway, James has analysed the data from the race lap times and here are his notes on the Chinese GP 2013.

Alonso out front

An intriguing Chinese Grand Prix, then – with some things matching the Friday/Saturday analysis here, and some surprises. That Ferrari were able to maintain the pace on the medium tyre was a surprise – the Friday data matched the performance of Massa, but Alonso’s practice run was too short to know that he was in control of the tyre degradation, even at the fast pace of the first few laps. Alonso was dominant – the model shows he had 0.3s underlying pace advantage over the field in the race. Indeed in the last stint, when he stated “I’m not pushing”, it was true. His underlying pace on new tyres and lower fuel matched exactly his underlying pace in the previous stint. This was a win for pace, and not strategy.

Raikkonen’s nose and Hamilton’s fuel

The next fastest cars in the race were Hamilton and Raikkonen – and it’s difficult to split them on pace. What is interesting is that Kimi lost more time in traffic, but was able to catch it up for two reasons. Firstly, Lewis chased Alonso in the second stint, and paid a tyre wear penalty causing him to struggle for the second half of the stint bringing Raikkonen up to his tail, even after his nose-altering moment. This made Mercedes wary, and they did not have the luxury of undercutting for the final stint as they were worried about wear. Lewis has also pulled a gap after Raikkonen got stuck behind Button, but this time it was lost to a period of consistent lower pace in the third stint from the Mercedes – generally typical of fuel saving. My guess is that they underfuelled again – most likely for preservation of the softs in the first stint.

And there is no sign of any effect on pace of the damage to Raikkonen’s nose. In fact, if anything, he is marginally quicker in the final stint than in the rest of the race. Apparently Lotus have stated 0.15s, but I should be able to see anything bigger than 0.1s, and I can’t. Looks to me like they called it right not to change it.

Strategy call: Vettel/Button do get it right (in my opinion)

I’m amazed how many times I’ve read that Vettel’s strategy didn’t work, but that Button’s did. Vettel, as the fourth fastest car, with a 0.1s per lap pace disadvantage to Raikkonen and Hamilton was within one small mistake (the slide just before the DRS checkpoint) of finishing on the podium. Which is a success. In fact, contrary to expectation, Vettel lost much more time in traffic that the cars which started on the softs – and this is purely due to getting passed by Hulkenburg in the first stint. At a best guess, based on his underlying pace, this cost him 13s – I’m sure he saved a bit of fuel, so let’s say 10s. For the rest of the race, I reckon he lost a further 6s in traffic, which matches Alonso’s loss – Hamilton lost a little more, and Raikkonen a little less.

If, as we would have expected, Vettel had not been passed by Hulkenburg, he would have been just failing to catch Alonso at the end for the win. I agree that being passed – or making a bad start – was a possibility of starting ninth, but I still think that Red Bull lost nothing on a bad weekend for them, and a slightly different falling of the cards would have given them a big gain.

As for Button, his underlying pace was slower than Massa, Di Resta and Ricciardo. And he beat all of them. Oh, and by my reckoning doing two stops was no gain over doing three – it would have come out about the same. And three could have been better if he were able to push a bit more…

Sergio takes one for the team

With Button in position to take good points, and the unknown of the soft tyre life, McLaren decided to test the soft tyre on Perez. And they tested it to destruction. He lost about 5s running slowly and being passed in the final two of his 7 laps. His final stint was poor, but it was clear that he would be 11th with the faster cars bearing down on him. He was genuinely 0.3s slower than Button, but those 5s would have given him a very good chance of being in the mix for 8th.

Ricciardo finally does it

There has been much talk of the Ricciardo turning a qualifying performance into a good race performance. The intelligentF1 model invariably has Vergne as the faster Toro Rosso driver in race trim. But not this time – Ricciardo was 0.2s faster. Let’s see if he can consolidate this. And I need to figure out what Toro Rosso are doing in the Friday Practice long runs, because they have been very slow this year…

What might have been for Force India

The incident between Di Resta and Sutil was blamed by the Scot for their failing to get more points. Is it true? Well, the underlying pace I get for Di Resta is about 0.8s from Alonso – so 0.3s from Raikkonen and faster than Massa, Button and Ricciardo who finished ahead. I can offset his trace, and use his underlying pace to see what he lost stuck behind cars he would have been ahead of. I have him in a fight with Button for fifth, which would be decided on whether the three-stopping Force India could pass the two-stopping McLaren on track. If held up badly by Button, he could have lost out to Massa, but he had the pace to be fifth.

I can see a big result for the orange cars coming.

Edit: I note that Force India have claimed “We targeted seventh, and without the first lap incident we could have got Jenson [Button] as well.”

10 responses to “F1 Forensics: Chinese GP Race Pace Analysis

  1. F1 Forensics: 2013 UBS Chinese Grand Prix – Strategy Options
    •April 14, 2013

    “I think that the silver cars are still favourites as long as they make a good start.”

    Hamilton led the first 5 laps. That was a good start

    “I don’t think Lotus have the pace based on Friday,”

    Raikkonen was second. That was pretty good race pace.

    “Obviously, if the pace of the Ferrari (say) is only 0.3s off the Red Bull,”

    Actually the Ferrari pace was 0.3s better than the Red Bull

    Next week write the names of the drivers on a piece of paper, tape it to the wall and throw darts at it and see if it is any more accurate.

    • “Next week write the names of the drivers on a piece of paper, tape it to the wall and throw darts at it and see if it is any more accurate”.

      I thought that was what we did already in the castrol GP Predictor Cav….

      • Maybe that’s what you do Judge, and that might be why your are (sadly) towards the bottom :). Joking aside, Scherzingers Rejects did amazingly well this time round, Well done to him.

        • I listen too much to people who are supposed to actually be ‘in the know’.

          I’ve seen some of these models being set up and run and they are very impressive.

          Given the correct variable inputs – I can state confidently they are almost invariably correct…

          • Well, looking at the experts:

            Chandhok – Yes, doing decent. If he was in our league, he would be 3rd.
            Prilaux – Not bad, but nothing exceptional.
            Glock – NOT doing that well at all, and neither are the AUTOSPORT team, “The world’s foremost motorsport authority” (their words). All of TH13 league are beating the autosport team, nearly all are beating Glock.

        • The annoying thing for me is that a broken internet connected prevented me logging in and updating my selections. The carry-over from the last race got me 34 points, what I was intending to pick would have got probably twice that…

          • Aha – that happened to me at a wedding last year when I relied on 3G and my phone.

            Now I always place a provisional selection after FP2 – still you got 20 points more than I did this week… last time I back a Massa revival 🙁

          • Trouble is that I went a bit out on a limb for Malaysia and put Perez on the podium and the Bulls and Mercedes down at the bottom end of the top 10… Had Alonso and Raikkonen not pulled off the 1-2 I’d have been nowhere…

            Yes, I’ve been internet-less for that long, aside from the odd chance to get on at work when the boss isn’t looking… One of the perils of moving house. Still, up and running now, just to try and make some sensible guesses for Bahrain!

  2. Ferrari had very good race pace and the F138 was gentle on the tyres, could it be that former Bridgestone Motorsport boss Hirohide Hamashima, who joined Ferrari beginning of 2012, with one goal only, and that is to improve the interaction of the Ferrari car and the tyres, is working his magic?

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