Lap times don’t lie – so what can they tell us about the performances of the top three teams’ drivers in the European Grand Prix?
Here’s a comparison of their lap times at Valencia – Kimi Raikkonen vs Felipe Massa, Lewis Hamilton vs Heikki Kovalainen and Nick Heidfeld vs Robert Kubica.
NB. All drivers ran three stints using the soft tyres for the first two and the super softs for the final stint. The lap times graphs start on lap two.
Ferrari – Kimi Raikkonen vs Felipe Massa
Kimi Raikkonen stint durations (laps): 18, 25, 11 (retired)
Felipe Massa stint durations: 15, 22, 20
Ferrari, like McLaren, ran one of their cars with three laps more fuel than the other during qualifying. After the Hungarian race I wondered why, with Raikkonen clearly not able to match Massa’s pace in qualifying, they kept giving him the heavier fuel load. They must have some reason for it but it’s not clear what.
Raikkonen trailed Heikki Kovalainen to begin with but wasn’t really being held up by him until both were delayed by Robert Kubica’s problem on lap eight (see below).
Ferrari gave Raikkonen a long, 25-lap middle stint in an effort to leapfrog Kovalainen. It probably would have worked but for his problem in the pits which cost him more time, after which his engine failed and he retired.
Massa was consistently fast but his last two laps are interesting. Clearly Ferrari weren’t the least bit worried the FIA might give them a time penalty following his pit stop problem as he backed right off.
McLaren – Lewis Hamilton vs Heikki Kovalainen
Lewis Hamilton stint durations: 17, 22, 18
Heikki Kovalainen stint durations: 20, 23, 14
It’s very hard to judge from the outside but Hamilton, like Massa, seems to have done a very good job of lapping at the extent of his car’s abilities. Both drivers’ times in the first stint show consistent improvement with their times only significantly peaking once each – Hamilton on lap five and Massa on lap 12.
Both drivers had 22-lap long second stints on the harder compound tyres but Hamilton lost time to Massa in the first half of the stint and that was where Massa really won the race (see Hamilton and Massa’s laps side by side).
Hamilton and Kovalainen had second stints of similar durations, but Hamilton was comfortably quicker than his team mate despite both generally being in clear air at this time.
BMW – Nick Heidfeld vs Robert Kubica
Nick Heidfeld stint durations: 22, 19, 16
Robert Kubica stint durations: 18, 22, 17
Robert Kubica’s second stint was also similar in length to Kovalainen’s, but he was around half a second per lap quicker. You can see very clearly how his slow lap eight delayed Kovalainen and Raikkonen.
Oddly, Kubica had a very slow time on the eighth lap of each of his first two stints.
Among the three pairs of drivers here, Heidfeld was the one who got closest to his team mate’s race pace, although his starting position of eighth meant he spent the early part of the race in traffic.
In the final stint on super soft tyres Heidfeld was often quicker than Kubica although it seemed the Polish driver had backed off a bit. Look how consistent Kubica’s six laps before the final tour were:
Share your thoughts on the drivers’ lap times below. If there are any other teams’ stats you would like to see in this form, let me know in the comments.