The Flying Lap – EP14 – Celebrating Jim Clark

“Peter and special guests – Sally and Ed Swart, Rob Wilson, plus a recorded interview by Frank Matich – discuss the shining light that was double World Champion, Jim Clark. The 43rd anniversary of his death will be this Thursday, April 7th and we hope, with the addition of dozens of photos, that you will thoroughly enjoy this walk down memory lane.”

Guests:

Sally and Ed Swart

Rob Wilson

Fank Matich (Pre-recorded Interview)

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The Flying Lap – EP13 – Qantas Australian Grand Prix Debrief

In a break from the tradition of posting only original content here on BPR F1, I plan on syndicating the weekly episodes of The Flying Lap with Peter Windsor  from Smibs.tv.  You’ll remember host Peter Windsor from his days at the SPEED network as well as his being the voice behind F1’s press conferences throughout much of the 2000’s.  Needless to say, Windsor’s pedigree speaks for itself, and the content he provides on The Flying Lap is truly unparalleled.  Windsor routinely gets the best Formula 1 analysts on the show, resulting in a breadth and depth of on-air F1 discussion that can’t be found anywhere else.  I am quite confident that BPR F1’s readers will find The Flying Lap a worthy addition to this site’s regularly-running content.

“The Australian Grand Prix had no shortage of topics that were looked into. The Flying Lap was pleased to have F1 tech analyst from the blog ScarbsF1, Craig Scarborough, as the in-studio guest. Craig has appeared before and is a wealth of knowledge in all things technical.”

Guests:

Craig Scarborough – Scarbs F1 Blog

Dominic Harlow – Force India, Chief Race & Test Engineer

Martin Whitmarsh – McLaren Team Principal (Pre-recorded Interview)

Pastor Maldonado – Williams driver (Pre-recorded Interview)

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Inside the Race – Round 1: Australian Grand Prix

(Updated 4-4-11)

THE DATA SET

“Inside the Race” features performance-based analysis of selected races during the Formula 1 season. The data sets utilized for the Inside the Race features are the official timing tables supplied by the FIA.  Typically, 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 generally not included.

QUALIFYING

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  • The table above represents the top 8 drivers on the starting grid from left-to-right, with the best sector times, fastest optimal lap, and fastest actual lap displayed from top to bottom for each entry. Bold numbers indicate fastest sector, fastest optimal lap, and fastest actual lap.
  • Sebastian Vettel’s dominance on Saturday is clearly evident from the fact that he recorded all 3 fastest sectors for the fastest optimal lap time, as well as the fastest actual qualifying lap.
  • Lewis Hamilton’s optimal lap time was actually quite closer to the pace set by Vettel than otherwise shown by his fastest actual qualifying lap, which should serve as further encouragement for McLaren following a lackluster showing in pre-season testing.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, Ferrari and Fernando Alonso’s qualifying performance was decidedly less impressive than predicted.  Of particular concern for Ferrari should be the fact that Alonso’s fastest actual qualifying lap was also his optimal lap time; signifying that the Spaniard left nothing on the track that could account for the gap to rivals Red Bull and McLaren.  In the near term, the Prancing Horse is hoping that their subdued performance in Australia was track and condition-specific.

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  • The table above represents the same top 8 qualifying drivers and the relative percentage each sector time contributed to their overall gap to the optimal lap time set by Sebastian Vettel.  To help aid the reader’s understanding of each sector’s layout differences, I’ve posted a track map of the Albert Park circuit below:

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  • Clearly, Vettel and the Red Bull RB7 held a massive comparative advantage in the final Sector; accounting for anywhere between 56-72% of Vettel’s full lap advantage over rivals from other teams.  While it may not be entirely obvious based on the track map above, many observers, including McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh, noted that Sector 3 at Albert Park is the most downforce-dependent sector of the three.  For the past two seasons its been clear that Adrian Newey’s designs have been the downforce leaders in the field, and as the 2011 season begins, it appears that nothing has changed in that department.  Look out for Red Bull at the next round in Malaysia, as aero grip is at an especially high premium there (when there’s not a monsoon to contend with).
  • A talking point in Australia was Mark Webber’s consistent lack of comparative pace to teammate Vettel in both qualifying and the race.  From the differential table above, Webber lost the vast majority of time over 2/3 of the lap; which is very atypical for past comparisons between the dueling Red Bull teammates.  As will be shown later, Webber also suffered from tire degradation in the race far and above the levels experienced by Vettel.  At the weekend’s conclusion, Webber informed the media that he pulled off the track immediately upon crossing the finish line as a precautionary measure because he felt something was just not right with his chassis.  Red Bull confirmed it would be conducting a full strip-down of Webber’s car, and there are unconfirmed reports that the team has already found a mechanical issue that was the culprit of Webber’s problems in Australia.  Point of all this being that its far too soon to write Webber off as a non-contender to Vettel.*
  • One last piece of insight to be gleaned from the differential table is the inference that can be drawn from the percentage gaps of Alonso, Felipe Massa, and Nico Rosberg in Sectors 1 and 3.  It was fairly evident to many observers and partially confirmed by both teams that Ferrari and Mercedes struggled with correctly setting-up the new Pirelli tires.  To be sure, many people, including Pirelli themselves, were surprised by the performance characteristics of the new Italian rubber in Melbourne.  However, it appeared that in the two Sectors requiring the best corner-exit traction, Ferrari and Mercedes were particularly slow.

THE RACE

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  • The top five finishers are represented in the first line plot, while finishers 6-10 are displayed in the second.  The line plots are fairly self-explanatory in terms of displaying lap time developments over the course of the race, but here are a few insights worthy of note:
    • Hamilton was able to match Vettel’s pace through the majority of the first two stints, and only began to fall back from Vettel after damaging his car’s undertray on lap 28.  One can understand McLaren’s post-race confidence that they can catch Red Bull in race conditions based on the fact that the ultimate gap between Hamilton and Vettel was the product of Hamilton losing periodic chunks of time in the second half of the race; presumably due to the British driver nursing a damaged car.  However, it remains to be seen just how hard Vettel was pushing during the race.
    • Lotus Renault’s Vitaly Petrov put in an impressive podium performance following a difficult rookie campaign, and it appears that the Renault package is on-pace with the offerings from Red Bull, McLaren, and Ferrari at the start of the 2011 season.  From the line plot, Petrov was clearly in cruise mode during the first half of the race after finding himself in an uncontested third position, and therefore his times were not that impressive.   However, as the three-stopping Alonso and Webber began to close in on Petrov during the final third of the race, the Russian driver, on older rubber none-the-less, was able to match the pace of those behind and even run faster than Vettel and Hamilton ahead.
    • The Jenson Button/Felipe Massa scrap during the first stint of the race, resulting in Button being assessed a drive-through penalty, masked Button’s true pace in comparison to the leaders ahead.  Button’s line plot shows that his times were also the most consistent, only adding to the theory that Button’s smooth and controlled driving style is especially easy on his tires.  With the premium placed on tire management in 2011, Button could be a man to watch as the season progresses.
    • Although it was clear the team had a relatively strong package in pre-season testing, Sauber’s performance in Australia was truly impressive; regardless of the team’s eventual disqualification from the race results for a rear-wing technical infringement.  Of particular note in the line plot is Sergio Perez’s outright pace following his one and only stop for the softer option tire.  Perez was able to match the pace of Button on two sets of tires, a fact that nobody, not even Sauber or Pirelli, can truly understand.
  • More importantly for upcoming races, both line plots show what will likely be the general pace progression of races and individual stints for the remainder of the 2011 season.  A graph depicting stint lengths and tire selections of the top finishing drivers, in order, is provided below with the lighter shade of blue denoting a stint with the softer ‘option’ tire and the darker blue denoting a stint with the harder ‘prime’ tire:

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  • Although the performance characteristics of the Pirelli control tire are bound to change from race-to-race as F1 visits different tracks and the Italian manufacturer develops its compounds and constructions, there is much to be gleaned from the stint chart when viewed in conjunction with the line plots above.
  • Unchanged from last season is the fact that fuel burn-off continues to dictate overall pace and tire compound selection in the no-refueling era.  During the 2010 season, teams learned that the effects of fuel weight destroyed either available compound of tire during the first 1/4 of every race.  As such, teams were in the general habit of starting races on the option tire before switching to the prime somewhere past the 1/4 distance, at which point the prime tire could effectively last the remaining distance.  It appears that the same general thought-process will win-out in 2011 with the Pirelli tire, although the actual execution will be somewhat different due to the addition of at least one more stop per race.  Most telling of the prime tire’s continued inability to withstand the effects of fuel weight was Mark Webber’s adoption of the prime tire at his first stop on lap 11, only to stop again for fresh rubber 15 laps later.  To further illustrate the point, below is a line plot comparing the two-stop, option-option-prime strategy of Vettel to the three stop, option-prime-option-option strategy of Webber.  Polynomial trend lines were also added to better show that the performance trend differences were ultimately a push between the two strategies, which put Webber at a substantial disadvantage due to the added time of an extra pit-stop:

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  • 2010 featured the odd-exception to the aforementioned general consensus on tire strategy, and such an exception was on display in 2011’s first race.  As previously mentioned, Sauber’s Sergio Perez was able to parlay a one-stop, prime-soft strategy into a remarkable 7th place finish in his debut F1 grand prix.  The line plot below compares Perez’s race to that of teammate Kamui Kobayashi, who employed the standard two-stop, option-option-prime strategy.  Once again, polynomial trend lines were added to show that the performance trends between the two strategies were essentially equal, despite Perez gaining significant track time from making one less pit-stop:

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  • Most surprising is Perez’s raw speed on his worn soft tires during the last 1/3 of the race distance.  While there was conjecture in the paddock after the race that the Sauber is particularly easy on its tires, that fact alone cannot fully explain the unexpected success of Perez’s one-stop strategy.   To further illustrate, the line plot below compares Perez’s 2011 race to the one-stop performance of Jenson Button on a drying track at last year’s Australian Grand Prix.  Remember again that Perez’s final stint is on the 2011 Pirelli option tire while Button’s times were set on the ultra-durable Bridgestone prime tire:

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  • In a final Perez-related note, the inferences to be drawn by comparing the two Sauber teammates’ races are surely tantalizing for mid-field teams that don’t make it to Q3 and can thereby elect to start on the prime tire.  It will be quite interesting to see whether others attempt to replicate Perez’s Australian Grand Prix strategy in the upcoming races.
  • The outright performance of the Pirelli tire also caught everyone off-guard in Australia, including Pirelli.  In qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix, the Pirelli tire produced times that were on par with those set on Bridgestones in 2010, despite the fact that the Pirellis had proven to be at least 1-2 seconds slower than the Bridgestones in pre-season testing.  That trend continued to the race, as shown below by comparing the line plots of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton’s 2010 races to those of Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso in 2011:

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  • One last analysis tool, box plots, are provided below.  The best way to think of a box plot is as a depiction of a driver’s effective operating range.  Each box plot displays several pieces of information: 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); and the center ‘+’ denotes mean lap-time:

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  • In the first box plot, the front-runners are displayed in finishing order from left to right, and the midfield is displayed in the same order in the second plot.  The information displayed should be fairly self-explanatory; however, keep in mind the effects of a third pit-stop for fresh tires when comparing Alonso and Webber’s times to the others in the front-running group.

posted by Trey Blincoe

* Update: In a news report posted by Autosport on April 4th, Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner confirmed that his team had conducted a strip-down of Mark Webber’s chassis following the Australian Grand Prix.  No outright mechanical defects were uncovered, but several “setup” issues were found which Horner believes could have contributed to Webber’s lack of comparative pace and excessive tire wear.

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BPR Update – Round 1: Australian Grand Prix

2011 FIA Formula 1 World Championship – BPR Through Results of Rd. 1: 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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Comment – They’re baaack…

What’s the best part of longer seasons if you’re a Formula 1 fan?  More races to watch, of course.  The second best part of longer seasons?  Shorter off-seasons.  Formula 1 is back for 2011.

posted by Trey Blincoe

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2007 BPR Correlation Analysis

For more on the BPR correlation analysis, see the 2010 BPR Correlation Analysis post.

BPR POWER RATING / RACE FINISH POSITION CORRELATION TABLE

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BPR RANKING / RACE FINISH POSITION CORRELATION TABLE

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COMBINED CORRELATION LINE PLOT

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BPR RATING / BPR RATING CORRELATION TABLE

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posted by Trey Blincoe

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Comment – Driver Changes at Force India

Force India announced its long-rumored 2011 driver line-up on Wednesday, and in doing so, has produced a considerable amount of debate in F1 circles over the last 48 hours.  Adrian Sutil will continue with the team for his 5th year, while reigning DTM champion Paul di Resta moves up from his reserve role last season to step into the seat previously held by Vitantonio Liuzzi.  Williams refugee and rising star Nico Hulkenberg moves into di Resta’s reserve role, and will be involved in the team’s pre-season testing program as well as participate in Friday practice sessions during Grand Prix weekends.  In this game of musical chairs, the music’s stopped and Liuzzi is now out of a drive at Force India despite his contract with the team for 2011.

With so much going on, Force India is surely the belle of the ball for the 2011 silly season as the team’s moves raise a number of issues for all involved.  The primary topic of debate relates to Liuzzi’s future and his existing contract with the team for 2011.  The first question raised is whether Liuzzi deserved to be axed by the team in favor of di Resta?  While some pundits and even Fernando Alonso believe that Liuzzi is a talent worthy of a spot on the F1 grid, his cumulative performance over the course of his career paints a different picture.  Liuzzi had a troubled campaign last year, suffering from the same kinds of problems with the Bridgestone control tire that also plagued Felipe Massa and Michael Schumacher.  The all-important teammate comparison to Adrian Sutil is particularly revealing; Sutil’s season average BPR score was 80.824, ranking him 11th.  That compares to Liuzzi’s 76.086, ranking him down in 17th.  The resulting comparison between the two teammates results in a TEAM COMP +/- of 2.369, which is significant over a 19 race season and historically high in relation to other teams and past seasons.  As BPR F1’s readers know, the AVG rating is computed without regard to reliability and therefore provides a true impression of how each driver performed when he did get to the finish un-delayed.  It’s important to note that we are making a comparison to Sutil, who has matured over the course of his F1 career but proved during the second half of the 2010 season that he remains a fairly inconsistent driver (more on that later).

The most glaring indicator that Liuzzi hasn’t earned his future at Force India is the fact that he’s failed to outperform his teammate over the course of a season, or in any single event, in a way he’s been outperformed on numerous occasions; including his previous stint at Scuderia Toro Rosso.  To illustrate, go back through the BPR Season Summaries for the 2010, 2009, and 2007 seasons and you’ll see what I’m referring to.  Remember, this isn’t the first time Liuzzi’s been out of a drive in Formula 1, as he was dropped by Toro Rosso following the 2007 season in favor of reigning CART champion Sebastien Bourdais.  The point is that there’s a reason why for the second time in his career, Liuzzi has been given the boot in favor of a driver who has yet to prove his F1 mettle.

The second Liuzzi-related issue pertains to his contract.  As previously mentioned, Liuzzi’s current contract extended to the 2011 season and estimates put the year’s compensation somewhere north of €2 million in total value.  Rumor has it that no contractual agreement was reached between Force India and Liuzzi before the team made its announcement yesterday, and both parties’ continued silence in regard to the situation only serves to confirm those rumors.  There has been talk that Liuzzi could be afforded a drive at HRT paid for by Force India, which is probably the best situation for all involved.  If that’s not the case, then the road ahead is considerably more bumpy dependent on whether Liuzzi’s contract is bought-out or flatly dishonored by Force India.  In either of those cases, Liuzzi will have the option to take the matter to the FIA’s Contract Recognition Board and thereby begin a long and drawn-out process of seeking compensation for Force India’s breach of contract.  The backdrop of this story is the continuing and pervasive nature of contract breaches in Formula 1, and what that means for the sport.  Liuzzi isn’t the first contracted F1 driver to be let go without just compensation, which fits a long-standing trend of teams failing to fully and timely pay support staff, contractors, suppliers, etc.  Of particular note is a recent article featured in the Daily Mail which highlights a study conducted by Dun & Bradstreet on the state of contractual fulfillment by all Formula 1 teams.  Is it any surprise that the study revealed Force India was the F1 team least likely to pay its bills or employees on time?  A quote at the end of the article is particularly illuminating:

One supplier, who did not wish to be named, said his company has had to pay its own staff late as a result. ‘If Vijay sold his yacht, it would keep the team going for a couple of years,’ he said.

For a man who wants to position himself as India’s leading business man, Vijay Mallya surely isn’t setting the foundation for his goals through his business dealings in Formula 1.

Beyond Liuzzi is the now-settled lineup at Force India.  At 24, Paul di Resta is certainly deserving of an F1 drive at this stage of his career despite being out of full-time single-seater racing for 5 years.  The young Scotsman has received strong support from Mercedes and motorsport head Norbert Haug, whom he’s raced for in the DTM for the last several years.  Reports suggest that di Resta’s drive is largely funded by Mercedes via an agreement to provide Force India with a KERS package at no cost; which has a total value approaching €10 million.  If true, the deal is particularly sweet for Force India considering the German manufacturer’s KERS technology proved to be the most effective on the grid during the 2009 season.

The Mercedes deal could go a long way towards explaining the untimely and potentially risky dismissal of Liuzzi.  Di Resta’s arrival at Force India further aligns the team with Mercedes following the McLaren/Mercedes technical partnership formed back in 2009.  The strengthening of that alliance comes at a precarious time for Force India following a 2010 season which saw the team hemorrhage  key technical personnel to Sauber and Team Lotus.  The former Jordan team has come a long way under Mallya’s guidance since its days as Midland/Spyker, with TEAM AVG ratings constantly improving each year since 2007: 60.888, 69.207, 76.281, and 78.455 in 2010.  However, it’s clear to see the negative performance effects of Force India’s personnel losses in the 2010 season-ending BPR charts and trend plots.  Force India finds itself at risk of undoing the progress the team has made in recent seasons if steps aren’t taken to rebuild the team’s technical package.  Mallya and company are under no illusions as to what their partnership with McLaren and Mercedes means to Force India’s on-track performance, and the no-cost acquisition of F1’s leading KERS system is but one example of the benefits to be had.  Pragmatically speaking, the Liuzzi situation and whatever consequences it may bring may very well be worth the price Force India is made to pay for bringing di Resta on-board.

Finally, the last topic of note is the arrival of Nico Hulkenberg at Force India as the team’s reserve driver.  Hulkenberg and manager Willi Weber have lofty ambitions for the young German’s F1 future, and many in the F1 paddock believe Hulkenberg’s talent matches those ambitions.  Williams dropping Hulkenberg in favor of Pastor Maldonado certainly didn’t help his planned ascent to the top, but Hulkenberg’s signing as a reserve driver at Force India is an indication of his plans to return to a race seat as soon as possible.  Weber stated publicly that he approached Mercedes and discussed Hulkenberg taking a similar reserve driver position with the German manufacturer, but left those talks feeling as though Force India was the better option in the short term.   Weber’s statement indicates that Mercedes has every intent of retaining its current pairing of Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher through the 2012 season.  Schumacher confirmed his intent to remain at Mercedes through 2012 just yesterday.  With the other top teams’ driver lineups projected to remain relatively stagnant through 2012, the implication is that Hulkenberg has positioned himself for a race seat at Force India next year.  A Hulkenberg/di Resta pairing at Force India in 2012 sets up a nice apples-to-apples comparison for what should be Michael Schumacher’s current drive at Mercedes in 2013.

Of course, that would leave Adrian Sutil needing to parlay his current 1-year contract with Force India into a drive further up the field in 2012; hopefully, he we will help us all forget the 2010 Korean Grand Prix by then.

posted by Trey Blincoe

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