Monthly Archives: March 2010

Inside the Race – Round 2: Australian Grand Prix

THE DATA SET

“Inside the Race” features performance-based analysis of selected races during the Formula 1 season. The data set utilized for the features are the lap charts supplied by the FIA’s official timing and scoring reports. Only representative race laps are included in the analysis as the focus is primarily on evaluating on-track performance; therefore, laps skewed by pit stops, safety car periods, or significant on-track incidents are not included.

DRIVER/ENTRIES ANALYZED

Race analysis for Round 2 of the 2010 FIA World Championship, the Australian Grand Prix, was run for a total of seven driver/entries, including the top six finishers of the race  as well as Mark Webber who finished the race in 9th place:

  • Jenson Button : Vodafone McLaren Mercedes : 1st Place
  • Lewis Hamilton : Vodafone McLaren Mercedes: 6th Place
  • Nico Rosberg : Mercedes GP Petronas : 5th Place
  • Mark Webber : Red Bull Racing : 9th Place
  • Felipe Massa : Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro : 3rd Place
  • Fernando Alonso : Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro : 4th Place
  • Robert Kubica : Renault F1 Team : 2nd Place

LINE PLOTS

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Notables:

  • The first line plot is intended to address two primary issues which emerged during the Australian Grand Prix, as evidenced through the performance of the two McLaren teammates: (1) the differences between the ‘optimal’ one-stop strategy of Jenson Button and the ‘optimal’ two-stop strategy of Lewis Hamilton; and (2) Lewis Hamilton’s criticism of McLaren’s decision to place him on a two-stop strategy.
  • The conditions in Melbourne on race day provided a reasonable opportunity for teams to try and split strategy between drivers and opt for a one or two-stop strategy. However, with the first round of pitstops occurring within the first 10 laps of the race, it might be better to characterize the two options as a one or no-stop strategy.
  • It’s hard to fault McLaren’s decision to pit Hamilton on lap 32 after Mark Webber forced Mclaren’s hand by stopping on lap 31. Hamilton was losing considerable time behind Robert Kubica and the times set by Michael Schumacher on fresh rubber pointed to a significant pace improvement that would pay for the pit stop in less than 15 laps. In fact, McLaren waited too long to make the decision as Webber was able to temporarily leap-frog Hamilton. Even though the decision didn’t work out in the end, going with the same strategy as guys like Ross Brawn and Patrick Head doesn’t exactly qualify for “bonehead” status. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
  • The second and third line plots show the battle behind Jenson Button, with the second plot displaying the full race distance and the third giving a more detailed look at the second half of the race. A couple of interesting trends pop out from the plots, especially after Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton both pitted for their second stops and the results of the one vs. two stop strategy decisions became evident. Two distinct time brackets emerged: the one-stoppers lapping between 1:30 and 1:31, with the two-stoppers running between 1:28.5 and 1:29.5. Notice that 1:28.5 seems to be the absolute floor that the two-stoppers could run to. The decision by McLaren and Mercedes GP to pit their drivers had paid for itself in around 13 laps, but catching the drivers ahead and passing them turned out to be two distinct tasks.
  • Perhaps the most intriguing bit of information gleaned from the line plots is the gradual slow-down of Hamilton’s times as he completed lap 49; suggesting that his tires going off, and not an inherent inability to pass, resulted in him eventually spending several laps behind Fernando Alonso without finding a way past the Ferrari driver. The implication is that what was first theorized in the Inside the Race edition for the Bahrain Grand Prix is true: the Bridgestone tires, if coaxed along, can run for an extraordinarily long distance with relative consistency. On the flip-side, if a driver pushes the tires to their performance limit, it appears that the performance life of the tires is quite short. Bridgestone officials stated after the race that the drying conditions allowed for exceptional tire life above and beyond what would be possible in a dry race; but after two rounds, a pattern is emerging regarding tire operating envelopes. Stay tuned.

TREND LINES

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Notables:

  • Power trend lines were set against the post first stop data set for Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton, as well as against the second-half of the race for the split of one and two-stop runners in the second plot. What is clear from both line plots is that lap time trends were remarkably uniform dependent on which strategy the driver chose.
  • Possibly confirming the tire performance envelope theory is the fact that lap time trends for drivers utilizing their second set of Bridgestone tires mirrored the trend of those who didn’t stop; albeit quicker by about a second. Accounting for identical fuel burn-off rates, the trend line for Rosberg and Hamilton should have dipped much steeper if their tires could be pushed to the limit for a reasonable number of laps without deteriorating.

BOX PLOTS

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Notables:

  • For those unfamiliar with box plots, the upper and lower ‘T’ lines show the minimum and maximum lap-times. The upper and lower reaches of the bars show the first and third quartiles of the lap-time data set (or in other words a 25-75% range), while the center ‘+’ denotes mean lap-time.
  • The first graph displays the performance of the top six finishers for the duration of the race, while the second plot focuses on the one vs. two-stoppers during the second half of the race.
  • Jenson Button’s remarkable consistency is evident in the line plots is also on display in the box plot, as the box representing his quartiles is especially compact and the least skewed away from his mean lap time.
  • The true extent of the pace provided by the two-stop strategy is evident in the box plots of Rosberg and Hamilton, as both drivers’ first quartiles dip down to the fastest laps set by the one-stoppers. The second graph further shows the significant difference in lap times between the two sets of drivers during the second-half of the race.
  • In closing, two driver/entry-specific notes: (1) Robert Kubica’s pace from Bahrain and now Australia seem to indicate that Renault have a very capable package that sees them nipping at the heels of the “Big Four”; (2) even though Mark Webber and the rest of the Red Bull Racing team had a race to forget, the impressive pace of the RB6 Renault is clearly evident in the second graph.

posted by Trey Blincoe

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BPR Update – Round 2: Australian Grand Prix

2010 FIA Formula 1 World Championship – BPR Through Results of Rd. 2 : Australian Grand Prix

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Don’t understand what’s going on here? The Blincoe Performance Rating (“BPR”) is a statistical motorsport performance rating system that monitors driver/entry performance during each Formula 1 season. For more information: see this explanation.

posted by Trey Blincoe

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Inside the Race – Round 1: Bahrain Grand Prix

THE DATA SET

“Inside the Race” features performance-based analysis of selected races during the Formula 1 season. The data set utilized for the features are the lap charts supplied by the FIA’s official timing and scoring reports. Only representative race laps are included in the analysis as the focus is primarily on evaluating on-track performance; therefore, laps skewed by pit stops, safety car periods, or significant on-track incidents are not included.

DRIVER/ENTRIES ANALYZED

Race analysis for Round 1 of the 2010 FIA World Championship, the Bahrain Grand Prix, was run for eight entries split into two performance-differentiated groups.

Group A:

  1. Lewis Hamilton : Vodafone McLaren Mercedes : 3rd Place
  2. Nico Rosberg : Mercedes GP : 5th Place
  3. Sebastian Vettel : Red Bull Racing : 4th Place
  4. Fernando Alonso : Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro : 1st Place

Group B:

  1. Rubens Barrichello : AT&T Williams : 10th Place
  2. Robert Kubica : Renault F1 Team : 11th Place
  3. Vitantonio Liuzzi : Force India F1 Team : 9th Place
  4. Jaime Alguersuari : Scuderia Toro Rosso : 13th Place

LINE PLOTS

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Notables:

  • There were substantial lap-time improvements in each Group immediately following the first and only round of pit-stops. Following a brief flurry of then fastest laps, lap-times largely flat-lined as drivers focused on nursing their tires.
  • Fernando Alonso’s late blast of fastest laps is interesting considering the relatively pedestrian pace of all other entries during the latter stages of the race.
  • Lewis Hamilton’s post-race contention that he could have maintained contact with the Vettel/Alonso/Massa train appears to be well-founded. Note Hamilton’s lap-times mirroring Rosberg’s slower pace until Hamilton was able to get passed the Mercedes driver during the round of pit-stops. Once passed Rosberg, Hamilton’s lap-times look very comparable to the leading three.
  • The effect of Sebastian Vettel’s engine woes on his lap-times is quite interesting. From the time the spark plug malfunction initially manifested itself until the end of the race, the problem seemed to either improve, or Vettel managed the effects of power-loss with increasing success. By the last two laps, Vettel was able to claw back some 5 seconds per lap and match the times set by the rapidly gaining Rosberg. What could Vettel have done at the end of the race with a healthy car?
  • Group B’s spread of lap-times is far more uniform than that of Group A. There could by several explanations for this phenomena, including drivers pushing harder in Group A or the effect of the slowing Vettel on Alonso and Hamilton’s lap-times.
  • Possibly the most important story going forward is the line plots’ revelation of tire performance envelopes. McLaren team principle Martin Whitmarsh, among others, claimed that both compounds were too durable to allow for substantially differentiated strategies amongst teams. Looking at Group B, it would appear Whitmarsh was absolutely spot-on. During the second half of the race, Barrichello and Liuzzi were running the soft option tires while Kubica and Alguersuari were running on the harder prime tires. As each driver settled on conserving his tires, times were remarkably consistent across the four driver/entries irregardless of tire choice. In their current state, it would appear that the Bridgestone tires do not offer the kind of variety between compounds to produce meaningful differences between strategy choices.

TREND LINES

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Notables:

  • Two sets of trend lines were run for Group A to address the wave of criticism regarding the new rules and the decidedly lackluster on-track action they produced in Bahrain, despite the opposite intent.
  • The dashed lines for each driver/entry denote a linear trend line which, theoretically, should show the general trend in performance related to the effects of fuel burn-off. However, the linear trend lines are still slightly skewed by the strategy decisions to nurse tires instead of pushing for ultimate performance.
  • The solid lines show a power trend line which display the actual performance trends which occurred during the race.
  • The point? Fuel burn-off should have accounted for far greater lap-time improvements as the race went forward. Remember, the fastest lap set in qualifying was a 1:53.883 by Sebastian Vettel.
  • The question that begs to be asked is why didn’t a single driver/entry attempt a two-stop tire strategy so as to maximize the performance benefits of fuel burn-off? With total pit-stop times being somewhere in the 25 second range, the numbers add up to a significant benefit to be had from the two-stop route. Possible explanations for not going down that road are: the tight and twisty section of the Sakhir circuit added in 2010 which made overtaking more difficult over a single lap; the generally cautious approach to strategy taken by teams during opening round races; and a non-linear performance envelope of the Bridgestone tires which drop-off significantly if pushed, but can consistently run for days if nursed.

BOX PLOTS

(click to enlarge)

(click to enlarge)

Notables:

  • For those wondering what a box plot displays, the upper and lower ‘T’ lines show the minimum and maximum lap-times. The upper and lower reaches of the bars show the first and third quartiles of the lap-time data set (or in other words a 25-75% range), while the center ‘+’ denotes mean lap-time.
  • Rosberg and Mercedes GP did not have the ultimate or consistent pace to challenge the Red Bull, Ferrari, or McLaren entries in Bahrain. Notice the third quartile of Hamilton’s lap-times are evenly matched to Rosberg’s due to the first third of the race.
  • The box plot clearly shows the dominant pace of Alonso and Ferrari in Bahrain, but stay tuned until we get a true apples-to-apples comparison with an un-delayed Red Bull or McLaren.
  • Robert Kubica in the Renault could have been quite competitive with the driver/entries in Group A if not for his first lap incident with Adrian Sutil. Kubica’s performance is even more impressive when one factors in that his lap-times were affected by the overtaking required during his charge through the field.
  • It would appear that the driver/entries from Williams, Force India, and Toro Rosso are quite evenly matched in the ‘best of the rest’ category, with Renault somewhere between that group and the leading four teams of Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren, and Mercedes.

posted by Trey Blincoe

Sebastian Vettel

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BPR Update – Round 1: Bahrain Grand Prix

2010 FIA Formula 1 World Championship – BPR Through Results of Rd. 1 : Bahrain Grand Prix

(click to enlarge)

Don’t understand what’s going on here? The Blincoe Performance Rating (“BPR”) is a statistical motorsport performance rating system that monitors driver/entry performance during each Formula 1 season. For more information: see this explanation.

posted by Trey Blincoe

1 Comment

Filed under 2010 Season, BPR