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.
Race analysis for Round 3 of the 2010 FIA World Championship, the Malaysian Grand Prix, was run for for the following entries:
- Jenson Button : Vodafone McLaren Mercedes : 8th Place
- Lewis Hamilton : Vodafone McLaren Mercedes : 6th Place
- Nico Rosberg : Mercedes GP Petronas : 3rd Place
- Sebastian Vettel : Red Bull Racing : 1st Place
- Mark Webber : Red Bull Racing : 2nd Place
- Felipe Massa : Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro : 7th Place
- Fernando Alonso : Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro : 13th Place
- Rubens Barrichello : AT&T Williams : 12th Place
- Robert Kubica : Renault F1 Team : 4th Place
- Adrian Sutil : Force India F1 Team : 5th Place
- Sebastien Buemi : Scuderia Toro Rosso : 11th Place
- Jaime Alguersuari : Scuderia Toro Rosso : 9th Place
- Jarno Trulli : Lotus Racing : 17th Place
- Karun Chandhok : HRT F1 Team : 15th Place
- Lucas di Grassi : Virgin Racing : 14th Place
- The first line plot displays the basic composition of the top six finishers of the Malaysian Grand Prix. All driver/entries displayed on the plot elected a one-stop, option-to-prime race strategy and therefore the lap-time spreads and trends are largely uniform.
- Of particular note is the relative performances of Robert Kubica in the Renault and Adrian Sutil in the Force India as compared to the “Big Four” driver/entries of race-winner Sebastian Vettel in the Red Bull and Nico Rosberg in the Mercedes. It would appear that at this point in the pre-development, fly-away portion of the 2010 F1 season, the Renault and Force India packages are every bit the match of the Mercedes. An interesting storyline to monitor once the F1 circus reaches Barcelona will be how the performance of the ‘smaller’ Renault and Force India teams compares to the Big Four as the pace of in-season car development quickens.
- Although the Red Bull package wasn’t head-and-shoulders above the others in Malaysia, the superior performance of the RB6 is evident in Vettel’s line plot for the duration of the race distance. Vettel was especially quick in the pre-pitstop portion of the race, extending the life of his option tires by an extra 1-2 laps while consistently setting times around .5 seconds quicker than the following pack of driver/entries. Therefore, it would appear that the RB6 is able to manage its tires much more efficiently than it’s predecessor last year.
- The second line plot shows the chasing pack of Ferrari and McLaren driver/entries who were forced to make their way through the field after being caught out in Saturday’s wet qualifying session.
- While Jenson Button earned a victory in the previous round by stopping early in the race, a similar move, albeit to prime tires in dry weather conditions, didn’t pay off in Malaysia. Button claimed after the race that the decision to pit early was primarily due to degradation of his soft option Bridgestones, but McLaren team principle Martin Whitmarsh stated that the decision to pit was based more on strategy reasons. Button was losing considerable time to teammate Lewis Hamilton as he sat behind the Ferraris of Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso, who were unable to pass the wounded Toro Rosso of Sebastien Buemi. Due to their early fitting, Button’s prime tires were clearly past their shelf-life by the end of the race as evidenced by the line plot.
- Another Button-related note is the remarkable consistency of the reigning World Champion’s lap-times. Clearly, Button’s driving style and approach to a grand prix is something quite different than that of his contemporaries.
- As will be discussed again later, the strategy of Hamilton and both Ferrari driver/entries to start the race on prime tires before switching to options seemed to be the best strategy in Malaysia; however, the Ferrari F10 was clearly faster on the option tire than its McLaren counterpart.
- Fernando Alonso’s spectacular clutch-less drive in Malaysia looks even more impressive after reviewing the line plot. If one knew nothing about the race and only examined the plot above, it would be nearly impossible to identify that Alonso was struggling with a significant reliability issue.
- As requested, I will post specific teammate comparisons when a grand prix’s data set provides a suitable opportunity to do so. The Malaysian Grand Prix provided such an opportunity to compare the Red Bull driver/entries of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber.
- Pit stop miscues aside, the line plot confirms the contention that the Malaysian Grand Prix was won on the first lap. While Vettel gets the lion’s share of praise from the F1 community, Webber proves he can be every bit as quick as his German teammate over the duration of a race distance.
- As Sebastian Buemi and Rubens Barrichello were the only drivers to employ a true two-stop strategy in Malaysia, I thought it worthwhile to compare Buemi’s progress to that of his teammate, as Alguersuari went with the convention one-stop route on his way to a 9th place finish.
- Unfortunately, Buemi’s first and second stints were compromised by a badly damaged front wing, so a true ultimate-pace comparison between the two strategies wasn’t possible. That being said, Buemi’s times following his second stop, which included a front wing change, were around 1 second quicker per lap than Alguersuari’s. Is that enough of an advantage for someone of note to try a two-stopper in China?
- As we are now 3 races into the 2010 Formula 1 season, the final line plot is intended to monitor the progress of the new teams in F1 by comparing them to the lowest-finishing ‘established’ driver/entry. In Malaysia, that dubious honor went to Rubens Barrichello in the Williams Cosworth.
- The plot reveals that the new teams still have some way to go before they can nip at the heals of the established F1 teams. It’s important to note that while Barrichello finished the race a lap down, he was still significantly quicker and more consistent than any of the driver/entries from Lotus, HRT, or Virgin.
- The first plot above displays the power trend lines of the four ‘chasing’ driver/entries from Ferrari and McLaren during the Malaysian Grand Prix, while the second plot displays the trend lines of 3 of the same driver/entries from the Bahrain Grand Prix edition of Inside the Race. The inclusion of the Bahrain plot is intended to show the development of race tire strategies since the first round of the 2010 season; namely, the substantial increase in tire performance extraction. You’ll notice that the slope of the power trend lines from Malaysia are substantially steeper than those from Bahrain, as teams have pushed the Bridgestone tires’ balance of durability and performance. Look for trend line slopes to further steepen in upcoming rounds.
- While not substantial, you’ll notice the trend line’s display of performance differentiation between Hamilton/Massa/Alonso, who started on prime tires before switching to the option, and Button, who started on options and switched early to primes.
- Fernando Alonso’s particularly impressive performance in Malaysia, despite racing without a clutch, is further evidenced by the first plot. The trend in Alonso’s lap times were comparatively unaffected by the Ferrari F10’s mechanical woes; an achievement that is befitting of his self-proclaimed ‘best career race’ award.
- The second line plot from Malaysia displays the one vs. two-stop performance trend as evidenced by the Toro Rosso driver/entries of Buemi (two stops) and Alguersuari (one stop). Even accounting for the substantial performance limitation of a damaged front wing during his first two stints, Buemi’s switch to a two-stop strategy was good for around a 1 second advantage by the end of the race.
- As a reminder, the upper and lower ‘T’ lines on a box plot show 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 box plots from Malaysia are neatly divided into finishers 1-6 in the first plot, with finishers 7-12 in the second.
- The first plot shows how evenly matched the pace was at the front of the field in Malaysia, as mean lap times were differentiated amongst the six driver/entries by just over .250 s.
- In particular, the quartile spreads of the first plot point to Sebastian Vettel’s superior performance despite Mark Webber taking fastest lap honors. However, with nearly identical mean lap times, either Red Bull Racing driver was worthy of the top step on the podium.
- The second plot once again displays Jenson Button’s extraordinary consistency over a race distance with a tightly-packed quartile range. However, consistency doesn’t always bring home results as Button’s fastest lap was barely quicker than Felipe Massa’s first quartile.
posted by Trey Blincoe