#F1 Forensics: #ItalianGP Race Notes

Brought to you in partnership with Dr James Beck of IntelligentF1

I quite enjoyed the Italian Grand Prix. Races where key players get out-of-position are often fun. Add in a really good midfield battle, even without the Lewis and Kimi double act, and the Alonso pass on Webber and there was a lot to like. It’s just a shame that the race winner was never really in doubt.

There are a few questions that were thrown up by the race, and comments afterwards. Was Raikkonen really as fast as Vettel? How fast was the Mercedes? How did Hülkenberg stay in the top five? By using the intelligentF1 model we can account for the effects of fuel load, tyre degradation/age and type compound and get to the real, underlying pace of the car/driver combination. All pace is relative to Vettel on the medium tyre. Here’s what we find out.

Easy for Vettel

2013-Italian-GP-Friday-S-Vettel © PirelliIt looked easy.  And in reality, it was much easier than it looked. The tyre degradation is about half of the fuel effect here and so the lap times get faster as the stint progresses. Vettel shows this up to about lap nine, and then roughly maintains his pace.  The others get faster in the stint, so his lead was nowhere near what it could have been – part of this will have been nursing his flat-spotted tyre, but they were just making sure they reached the pit window. Most cars were around 0.5s slower (underlying) on the hard tyre , including Webber – Vettel was 0.9s slower so he had plenty in hand in the second half of the race too – before he slowed down further with about 10 to go. Webber should have been second, but was one of many to suffer from having a car which was too slow in a straight line.

Vettel: +0.0s medium, +0.9s hard

Webber: +0.3s medium (traffic), +0.8s hard

Ferrari not as fast as it looked

Felipe MassaIn terms of maximising a result, Ferrari did exceptionally well in Monza. They were quick on the medium tyre, but not on the hard – Alonso struggling especially. It seems that the team knew this – and kept Alonso on the mediums for as long as possible to give him a tyre advantage over Webber, whilst keeping him ahead. The relative straight line speed of the cars did the rest. Massa was not as quick on the medium, but faster than Alonso on the hard. The radio messages to Rosberg about a podium chance were genuine.

Alonso: +0.3s medium, +1.2s hard

Massa: +0.6s medium, +1.1s hard

McLaren miss out

Jenson ButtonMcLaren, on the other hand, should surely have done better. They certainly had the beating of Ricciardo, and so should have been 7th and 8th at worst. But they couldn’t get past – another example of the striaghtline speed having a big influence on the race. The biggest clue to their real pace came in the few laps after Perez dropped back having been passed by Raikkonen. There was 0.4s they couldn’t use…

Button: +0.7s medium, +1.5s hard (traffic)

Perez: +0.8s medium, +1.2s hard

So was Raikkonen as fast as Vettel?

Kimi RaikkonenNo, although a naive overlay of the traces would suggest that he was. The first counter is that Vettel had a huge amount in hand, and second Raikkonen did the race from lap 2 on the faster tyre. Given about 0.5s per lap gain from running mediums for 30 laps results in a 15s advantage, and that Vettel had at least 15s in hand in the second stint provides a better idea of the difference. Raikkonen was about as fast as the Mercedes, and about the same as the Ferrari on the soft tyre. Grosjean was about as fast as Massa on the hards. Had they started near the front, they would have been fighting with the Ferraris. But not Vettel.

Raikkonen: +0.4s medium, no data on hard

Grojean: +1.0s medium (traffic), +1.1s on hard

So how fast were Mercedes?

Lewis HamiltonThis is quite a hard question to answer. From the evidence, the best guess is that they were the second fastest team, but this was masked by two things – firstly the underperformance in qualifying, and second their relative lack of straightline speed. Hamilton was at least as fast as Vergne in the first stint, but couldn’t get by.  A good (and early) stop could have seen him ahead of the Ricciardo/Perez train and chasing Rosberg in the second half of the race. Must admit, I was thinking that they might see if he could finish with one stop (there was no sign of the tyres going off a cliff on any car), especially as Kimi did 30 laps, and he needed 40. Might have lost two points, might have gained 10. Rosberg had a bit in hand in the first stint, but not quite enough to jump Hülkenberg – and was quicker on the hard tyre, but got stuck (straightline speed again). Should have been in the battle ahead.

Rosberg: +0.5s medium (traffic), +0.8s hard (traffic)

Hamilton: +0.4s medium, +1.0s hard (traffic)

Hülkenberg shows his talent on Ferrari home ground

Nico Hulkenberg © SauberThis looked like a great drive from Hülkenberg, but looking at the data makes it seem even better. Whilst his pace at the end of the stints was up with Mercedes/Ferrari, he paced himself more at the start of the stints, using the gap to Rosberg at the start and after the stop. Once Rosberg got close, he upped the pace enough to keep the Mercedes behind. A very intelligent, mature drive deserving of more than 10 points. Gutierrez was 0.3s slower on the medium, and 0.5s slower on the hard, which accounts for the gap between them.

Hülkenberg: +0.5s medium, +0.8s hard

Gutierrez: +0.8s medium, +1.3s hard

Nothing to write home about

Adrian SutilForce India have nothing to take from Monza. Di Resta made it to turn four, and Sutil was not in the shout for points. In fact, they were eighth fastest team, although Sutil’s pace on the hard was OK – and shows how bad the Ferraris were. The best thing for them is that McLaren had a bad race as well.

Di Resta: no data

Sutil: +1.0s medium, +1.2 hard

Ninth fastest again

Pastor MaldonadoWilliams inhabit the space between the midfield and the tail. Maldonado beat Bottas. Nothing more to say, really.


Maldonado: +1.2s medium, +1.6s hard

Bottas: +1.3s medium, +1.7s hard


Daniel RicciardoLike Hülkenberg, Toro Rosso overperformed at Monza. They went for qualifying well on the medium tyres and straightline speed at the expense of the performance on the hard tyres. Like Ferrari, they were rewarded as the first half of their race was quick, and in the second half no-one could pass. Even Williams were faster than Ricciardo in the last 20 laps, but no-one got by. Vergne was as fast, but lost time fighting with Hamilton/Button before retiring.

Vergne: +0.8s medium, no data on hard.

Ricciardo: +0.8s on medium, +1.5s on hard

Doing something different

CaterhamCaterham were the only team who went for two stops. And curiously they did two stints on the hard tyres, on which they were slower. No idea why, but you have to be converned by their tyre use. Contrary to Friday practice there was a clear performance gap between Caterham and Marussia, and so they had a very lonely race.

Pic: +2.1 medium, +2.6s hard

van der Garde: +2.3 medium, +2.6s hard

Challenging Bianchi

MarussiaAt the start of the season, Bianchi was outperforming the Caterhams, and making Chilton look like he did not belong in Formula One. At Monza, the story was different. After a battle at the start which dropped them a long way back, Chilton sat on his team leader’s tail and was as fast for the whole race. Shame they were well behind everyone else.

Bianchi: +2.9s medium, +3.4s hard

Chilton: +2.9s medium, +3.4s hard

Final thought

Vettel did what was threatened on Friday, but the battle for second did not materialise as Mercedes and Lotus (and McLaren) underperformed. Ferrari, Hülkenberg and Toro Rosso showed the value of track position and straightline speed at Monza and brought home good points. The closest Vettel got to losing this one was locking up at turn one.

3 responses to “#F1 Forensics: #ItalianGP Race Notes

  1. OK, I’ll jump by pointing out re Hamilton’s hard tyre pace that he was also suffering from a slow puncture, at least according to the highly entertaining radio transmissions they played for us during the GP.

    But my real question is this, understanding that you would have to guess at Hamilton’s true pace given the puncture, if they had been able to pull off a proper one stop going to lap 25/30, would we have seen Lewis being able to chase down the top 3, or do you think that he would have lost too much time riding the hard tyre? And thanks again for all your great analysis.

  2. Interesting analysis.. Shows to me what I was thinking, which is that this race was a bit like a pre-Pirelli race, and only Ferrari, Hulk and Toro Rosso realised this and raced accordingly.

    With no degradation effect (as the fuel loss negates it), if you can’t be passed by DRS/KERS, then you aren’t going to be passed at all. DRS/KERS/Tyre Deg are merely fixes for the aerodynamic wake these cars generate – nullify them and you have pre-2009 racing once more.

    McLaren geared their cars only to 331, 9 kph slower than Ricciardo’s 340! They should have pitted Perez first to clear Ricciardo, but consolidated Jenson’s position over Grosjean (and couldn’t with Hamilton, who didn’t matter at that point of the race). They lost any chance of 7th there, and without Kimi’s problems at the end would have scored nil points.

    I thought Rosberg would pass Hulk, and thought he should have not fought so hard with Hamilton, fearing he would lose time and tyres – but that he then increased his pace was unreal! I am surprised Hamilton didn’t do a one stop – get ahead of Ricciardo before his stop, and then pace it to the end. From where he pitted again, he could have let Hulk catch up, hold him up for Rosberg to get a sniff, then pace it to the end and finished 7th – as shown, Ricciardo’s hard tyre pace was poor.

  3. I found this very informative and concise, thank you. Much prefer words and numbers to some of the crazy colored charts that are popular – they just don’t seem that intuitive to me.

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