25 April 2009

Pre-race predictions

Weights have been announced, and my estimates are for earlier stops than predicted by the BBC (by about 1 lap each) and James Allen (about 2 laps). Hopefully this time we'll actually be able to compare.
Rubens made an interesting comment after qualifying. Apart from the fact that the car isn't as quick over a single lap as some of its rivals (Red Bull and Toyota, even McLaren now) he said that he lost time because he was held up on his out lap. This meant he couldn't heat his tyres properly. This reminded me of the tyre-war days, when any Michelin car would do an extra slow parade lap, to prevent Michael Schumacher from warming his tyres properly. Brawn's rivals, take note. ITV-F1s article is available here
James Allen also notes that the soft tyre is quicker than the medium, even on longer runs, so expect almost everyone (except the BMWs who are going past half-way) to start the race on them.

Anyway, time for my top 8:
Win: Trulli
2nd: Button
3rd: Vettel
4th: Barrichello
5th: Glock
6th: Hamilton
7th: Massa
8th: Alonso

Looking back, I see I've picked the same top 5, in a different order, every time this weekend. Let's see how that turns out tomorrow, then.

Grid and weights

Using a car minimum weight of 605kg, and fuel consumption of 2.88kg/lap (thanks to Williams) and allowing some excess weight for driver weight loss (heat leads to water loss) and fuel for the formation lap and the drive to the grid, I estimate that the cars will stop as follows (pole on left):

Front row: Trulli (12) Glock (10/11)
2nd row: Vettel (16) Button (14)
3rd row: Hamilton (14) Barrichello (12/13)
4th row: Alonso (13) Massa (18)
5th row: Rosberg (20) Raikkonen (20)
6th row: Kovaleinen (13) Nakajima (23/24)
7th row: Kubica (30) Heidfeld (29)
8th row: Piquet (22/23) Buemi (23)
9th row: Fisichella (13/14) Webber (15)
10th row: Sutil (23) Bourdais (19)

KERS cars in brackets, drivers I expect to start on softs in italics. It is a 57 lap race, and I'm working on the assumption that teams will choose a 2 stop strategy (except perhaps BMW). I also expect Massa and Bourdais to take long middle stints, to provide a short super-soft period.

Having said all that, the super-softs are designed to work in the conditions expected tomorrow, so shouldn't degrade as they did in Melbourne.


A full grid and weights post will follow, eventually (weights are published on the FIA website at some point after qualifying, hopefully I'll hve a post for you by 6pm).

Final practise - I didn't watch it, but the top 10 featured neither Brawn not Red Bull. Glock broke down after setting the fastest time, whilst Bourdais in the Toro Rosso only managed 7 laps (most managed 15-18). I assume (couldn't find mention of it on ITV or BBC sites) that he too had technical problems.

Q1 - Lap times so close that everyone had to run on super-softs, to ensure a top 15 space. Vettel, Trulli, Hamilton and the Brawns were the top 5, whilst Webber was dramtically blocked by Sutil and didn't get through. Back 5: Sutil, Buemi, Fisichella, Webber, Bourdais. Sutil was later penalised 3 places and will start 19th, behind Webber in 18th.

Q2 - Everyone ran on scrubbed softs to set a "banker" lap, and that dramatically improved on super softs. Vettel, Glock, Trulli, Raikkonen and Barrichello were top 5, whilst Kovaleinen, Nakajima, Kubica, Heifeld and Piquet missed out on the top 10 shootout.

Q3 - Again, most drivers took two runs, using any new sets of softs that they had at the end. I suspect the Toyotas are light, but the top 10 are listed below. Looking at sector times, Hamilton (sector 2) and Barrichello (sector 3) appear to have dropped time, but otherwise the times were consistent across the lap.

Pole - Trulli
2nd - Glock (0.281s)
3rd - Vettel (0.584s)
4th - Button (0.613s)
5th - Hamilton (0.765s)
6th - Barrichello (0.808s)
7th - Alonso (1.147s)
8th - Massa (1.387s)
9th - Rosberg (1.703s)
10th - Raikkonen (1.949s)

Expect Rosberg to be heavy, the other slower cars might have run out of fresh super-softs. Trulli's lap was only 0.760s slower than his Q2 time, so he can't have been very heavy.

24 April 2009

Practise makes perfect

Another Friday, another Rosberg fastest lap. One day I'll believe he's going to keep it going all weekend long. Actually, this is his last "best chance" as many teams are massively upgrading their cars for the next Grand Prix in Barcelona.

Morning session:
All cars ran between 15 and 24 laps, in a 90-minute session (which tells you how little traffic there was until the end). Hamilton put in a quick lap early on, which was never beaten (although it was on low fuel). The BMWs came in 2nd and 3rd, but on the softer tyres (and presumably also low-fuelled). Only 4 cars were more than 1.5 seconds outside Rosberg's time, with Glock, Alonso and the Toro Rosso's ending up in positions 17-20. Just over 6 tenths separated Button in 5th from Fisichella in 16th place.

Afternoon session:
Busier. Only 5 cars ran for less than 30 laps, with 3 drivers managing 37. Even closer spaced field, too, with Trulli in 3rd and Buemi in 13th 0.511s apart. Curiously, if the order were repeated in the first Qualifying session, then the back 5 would be the two BMWs, both Ferraris and Heikki Kovaleinen (all from last year's top 3 teams). How times change.

What we've learnt:
That the field is closer than ever, with Force India's improvements shunting them into the midfield (Sutil 7th in second practise). Tomorrow will be even higher pressure than usual, and anyone repeating Vettel's China strategy (1 run in each session) will find things very difficult, unless their car is much quicker.

My updated predictions for the race:
Win: Button
2nd: Barrichello
3rd: Vettel
4th: Trulli
5th: Glock
6th: Rosberg (I always fall for it slightly)
7th: Alonso
8th: Sutil (honestly, the field is so close, it could be ANYONE)

23 April 2009


Dry race, hot race. Should be easy for Brawn. Toyota, BMW and Ferrari tested here over the winter, so Toyota might be a threat.

My official Thursday picks:
Win: Rubens Barrichello (I fear I'll continue to pick him until he actually wins)
2nd: Jenson Button (the heat and dry conditions should make this easy)
3rd: Timo Glock
4th: Jarno Trulli (dry conditions and winter tests should bump them above Red Bull)
5th: Sebastian Vettel
6th: Nico Rosberg (has a good record here, by his standards)
7th: Kazuki Nakajima (due a good performance)
8th: Lewis Hamilton (best of the rest)

As ever, we'll know more tomorrow

Other news

British GP 2010 in trouble (BBC, ITV, James Allen)
Lola (Formula1.com, BBC and others) and ProDrive/Aston Martin (BBC, interview on BBC website (audio)) join US Grand Prix Engineering in considering entering F1 in 2010. Could there be 13 teams? More, even? Imagine having qualifying, where drivers are actually trying to qualify (for the first time since 1994, or 2002 through the 107% rule) rather than merely arranging the starting order.

Bahrain GP history

The BBC do a feature before every race, in which they showcase the highlights of 5 "classic" races at the venue, in the build up to each race. Like in China, there have only been 5 races at Sakhir, so they offer highlights of each (between 5 and a half and 7 minutes long).

2004 - Ferrari 1-2 on circuit's debut.
2005 - De La Rosa's most famous performance. Many drivers went off the track, including Pedro several times, but there was plenty of overtaking.
2006 - Massa nearly wipes out Alonso on his Ferrari debut, Raikkonen fights from last to third and Rosberg gets himself a Fastest Lap, on his F1 debut.
2007 - Massa wins as Hamilton gets his 3rd podium, in only his 3rd race.
2008 - Hamilton rear-ends Alonso, which left the way open for a Ferrari 1-2, Kubica third.

History shows this to be a Ferrari track, but you'd be brave/foolish to bet on them this weekend!

KERS/diffusors etc.

As far as I can ascertain, the following cars will have KERS this weekend.
Ferrari (just Massa on Friday, then possibly both or neither)
BMW (both drivers, at least on Friday, possibly just Heidfeld for the race)
Renault (assessing on Friday, but probably, see above link)
McLaren (definitely, see above link).

Piquet will join Alonso, in having the latest Renault aero-updates and fancies his chances. However, there are rumours that Bruno Senna is being lined up to replace him.

Meanwhile, only Force India have brought in any significant upgrades (more are expected for Barcelona in a fortnight's time).


Australia was affected by safety cars, Malaysia by a monsoon, China by constant rain (at least on Sunday) so welcome to the desert for a dry race, right?

Well, according to Auto Motor und Sport (in German) there's a fair chance of sandstorms come race day. When this happened during testing, no car was allowed on track, as the saftey helicopter could not fly. It'll be interesting to see what the race organisers can do about this.

This English article reports the same thing.

22 April 2009

New blog

Welcome to my new blog. Formula 1 related posts from my previous blog can be found here.

A Bahrain GP preview will appear here tomorrow, but to start us off here are a couple of links to current Formula 1 stories:

Lola consider returning to Formula 1 whilst Alonso still believes he has a chance of winning the 2009 drivers championship.