10 May 2009

What the cars are capable of

Formula1.com provide a ranking of each driver's fastest lap. Taking the faster team-mate in each case we have:

1. Barrichello - Brawn - 1:22.762
3. Massa - Ferrari - 1:23.089 - + 0.327
4. Vettel - Red Bull - 1:23.089 - + 0.328 (yes 0.001 behind)
6. Alonso - Renault - 1:23.420 - + 0.658
7. Rosberg -Williams- 1:23.621 +0.879
8. Fisichella-Force India-1:23.796 +1.034
9. Hamilton - McLaren - 1:23.839 +1.077
10. Heidfeld - BMW - 1:23.878 - + 1.116
12. Glock - Toyota - 1:24.134 - + 1.372
No Toro Rosso finished a lap.

Rubens was quicker due to 3 stop strategy (meaning he was on less-worn softs when he was on low fuel) and Fisichella was on softs right at the end setting a string of laps quicker than anyone else over the last 10 laps.

This demonstrates the superiority of Brawn, Red Bull and Ferrari this weekend. It also shows how bad the Toyota was (I assume it was damaged) and how very close the entire field is. Also, BMW haven't moved up yet, despite getting 2 points.


A driver who is more than 2 points per remaining race behind has the championship "out of their hands" since, even if they win every race, if the leader comes second each time, they wouldn't win. The equivalent figure for constructors is 7 per race, since that's the difference between a 1-2 and a 3-4.

With 12 races left only 2 drivers are within 24 points of Button (Barrichello 14 behind, Vettel 18 behind). For the constructors it is still entirely open, since Brawn only have 68 points, and 84 would be the margin required to take it out of someone's hands. Logically, if Brawn take 9 points more than Force India in Monaco (as is likely) then we can start applying the metric to constructors, too.

However, for the drivers championship, when is it too early for teams to give a driver priority? The top 6 in the drivers standings go in pairs: the Brawns, the Red Bulls, the Toyotas. Toyota have shown how easy it is to slip back this year, so Brawn might be justified in promoting Button, but surely not until at least Silverstone, in mid-season.

However, if McLaren (Hamilton 9, Kovaleinen 4) or Renault (Alonso 9, Piquet 0) suddenly had a great car, then surely they'd feel it worthwhile.

For reference sake, as it stands, Barrichello has 40% of Brawn's points, as does Webber for Red Bull. Who gets pulled aside first?

Drivers in trouble

The main metric of performance for a driver in F1 is how you match up with your teammate. Some battles (BMW, Toyota) are closer than others, but here are the drivers you might hear rumours about.

Kovaleinen: Simply didn't have the pace to get out of Q1, which should ring alarm bells. As with his countryman Raikkonen, car problems brought him to an early halt, but at the time he was ahead of his teammate. Reputation: no harm done.

Raikkonen: Clearly not the man he was. Claimed responsibility for Q1 error, although realistically that was a team decision. Had a good first lap today, but car troubles brought him to a halt early on. Reputation: unharmed, but unimproved.

Piquet jnr: Outqualified again (but his best performance yet in 12th) . Survived first lap, unlike some, and ended up ahead of Hamilton. Couldn't keep that up, which on a track like this is a black mark. Stopped earlier than pre-race weight would indicate, probably because Alonso had come out just behind him. Reputation: unimproved, which will soon be a problem.

Bourdais: out on lap 1, like his teammate. Not much to say, really.

Webber: outqualified by his teammate, again (used to be his speciality) but with a better strategy, managed to be best of the rest behind the Brawns. Reputation: restored, still adrift of Vettel though.

Nakajima: Broke his front wing on lap one, but had already lost out in qualifying to his teammate. Got stuck behind Fisichella (but if Hamilton can overtake Piquet, surely Nakajima could overtake a Force India). Lost time when Heidfeld came out in front of him after a stop, but was nowhere near Rosberg's pace again. Reputation: sinking, needs to do something soon to justify his place.

Fisichella: Qualified last, and much slower than Sutil (19th). Survived first lap incident, which is a plus. Had some problems mid-race, making 4 put stops, but on his final stint was the fastest car on the track, 8th on the overall fastest laps ranking (why not for the rest of the race).

Barrichello: Outdone in qualifying, recovered on lap one. Blamed the tyres in stints 2 and 3 for his failure to capitalise on 3 stop strategy. Should have been fuelled longer for penultimate stint, but at least he came second. Will have to tow the line behind Button, if he can't win before Ferrari et al catch up.

How the race was lost

This time the 3 quickest cars were the Brawn, Red Bull and Ferrari. 6 drivers therefore had a good chance of winning. Here's how they went, and went wrong.

Button: Qualified on pole, but lost out on first straight. Despite slightly lighter car, he slipped to 1.5s behind Rubens. Switched to 2 stop strategy at first stop, which proved the right thing to do.

Barrichello: Poor qualifying, but recovered on first lap to lead. Stayed on 3-stop strategy but foolishly left a full length final stint on the slower tyres. Had he put, say, 4 laps more fuel on board, the fuel might have slowed him a second, but he would have recovered about 8 a the end of the stint. Emerged 7 seconds behind Jenson, which became 13 by the end.

Vettel: Qualified 2nd whilst heavier than the Brawn cars. Slipped behind Massa at the start. Stuck to same strategy as Massa, which was pure folly, as he could have been as quick as the Brawns. Ended up 5th, promoted to 4th only by Massa's problems.

Webber: Poor qualifying, left him 5th on grid. Good fight with Alonso as safety car came in. If he'd slipped behind, it would have been curtains. Went longer on 2nd stint, putting twice as much fuel in as Rubens (who stopped on same lap) which meant he was on the soft tyre longer than any other leading 2 stopper. This enabled him to leapfrog Massa and Vettel, but Jenson was long gone. Couldn't pass Rubens, but kept him in sight at the end.

Massa: Qualified really well, but only gained one spot off the grid, using his KERS. Had he managed to get in front, the race would have looked very different, and it would have taken quite some Brawn or Red Bull ingenuity to get passed him. Screwed up final stop, leaving him short fuelled, which cost him 4th and 5th places, he ended up 6th, joining Kimi on 3pts in the standings.

Raikkonen: Had the same car as Massa, but a spectacular Q1 misjudgement left him 16th on the grid. Jumped to 10th on lap 1, but problems first with his KERS and then with his throttle gave him a DNF. Never even ran in the points.