Could Sebastien Bourdais have beaten Sebastian Vettel in the Italian GP?

Was Sebastien Bourdais quicker than team mate Sebastian Vettel at Monza?

Was Sebastien Bourdais quicker than team mate Sebastian Vettel at Monza?

A tale of two Toro Rossos: Sebastiaan Vettel started from pole position, led 49 of 53 laps, and won the race. Sebastien Bourdais started fourth on the grid, but his car stalled leaving him a lap behind, which ruined his race.

I read on another site that, ignoring his first lap problem, Bourdais’ race time was four seconds faster than Vettel’s. That got me wondering whether Bourdais might actually have been able to beat his team mate had it not been for his engine cutting out at the start.

But I’ve had a look at the data myself it seems that wasn’t actually the case. Here’s what I found.

Sebastian Vettel vs Sebastien Bourdais’ lap times

Here’s a graph showing Sebastian Vettel and Sebastien Bourdais’ lap times from laps 2-53:

Sebastien Bourdais and Sebastian Vettel lap times (click to enlarge)

Sebastien Bourdais and Sebastian Vettel lap times (click to enlarge)

It’s not obvious from looking at this graph exactly how well each either did but there’s a clear impression that Vettel was usually quicker, except at the end, when he had presumably backed off a bit.

Gap between Sebastian Vettel and Sebastien Bourdais

Sebastien Bourdais and Sebastian Vettel time difference (click to enlarge)

Sebastien Bourdais and Sebastian Vettel time difference (click to enlarge)

This graph shows the difference in seconds between the two drivers at the end of each lap. It’s created by adding together their lap times and calculating the difference between their cumulative time on each lap.

This gives us a much clearer impression of how the gap fluctuated – and where the mystery four seconds came from.

After his car was re-started Bourdais set off in pursuit of the pack. The misconception that he gained four seconds arose because he was able to lap quickly while the rest of the field was behind the safety car. Bourdais’ disadvantage at the start of the race was 117 seconds, not 164.

And from then on Bourdais generally lost time to Vettel, with a few exceptions. By the end of the race, he was almost as far behind as he had been before gaining all that time back thanks to the safety car.

Yes, he would have been delayed further as a result of his predicament in having to let other drivers lap him. But it seems Bourdais just couldn’t match Vettel’s pace. It’s not the kind of data he’d want to see when his race seat for 2009 is on the line.

This comparison was suggested by Kris on the Live Blog during the Italian Grand Prix. If you want to see any similar data comparisons, leave a suggestion in the Skribit box on the upper right of the page.

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