2008 Chinese Grand Prix analysis

Mark Webber\'s charge through the field was spoiled

Mark Webber's charge through the field was spoiled

How did Ferrari manage the position switch between Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa? Why did Mark Webber’s charge to the front go wrong?

A look at the lap times from the Chinese Grand Prix explains how it all unfolded.

Chinese Grand Prix race history chart

Chinese Grand Prix race history chart - click to enlarge

Chinese Grand Prix race history chart - click to enlarge

The Red Bull pair – David Coulthard and Mark Webber – make an interesting case as they started side-by-side on different fuel strategies. Coulthard pitted once, Webber twice, as he made it into Q3 but knew he would take a ten-place drop on the grid for changing his engine.

Webber used his light ful load to excellent effect in the early stages, picking off several rivals to run ninth while Coulthard was back in 14th. But when Webber came out of the pits he emerbed behind Kazuki Nakajima and was stuck behind the Williams driver. Worse, Nakajima made his sole pit stop on the same lap Webber came in from his second, leaving the Red Bull driver stuck. Coulthard, meanwhile, re-passed his team mate via the pit stops.

Ahead of Coulthard was Rubens Barrichello who finished an excellent 11th.

Chinese Grand Prix race history chart – leaders

Chinese Grand Prix race history chart - leaders

Chinese Grand Prix race history chart - leaders

The same chart, zoomed in to show just the cars within 30 seconds of the race leader.

The first thing that strikes you about this chart is how the gap between Raikkonen and Hamilton ballooned in the second half of the race when he switched to being a dutiful team mate.

But what I hadn’t realised was how quickly Fernando Alonso was catching the pair of them – clearly he was very happy with his final set of tyres.

The graph below shows the Ferrari drivers lap times in more detail. The spike in Raikkonen’s second stint was the time lost lapping Giancarlo Fisichella. Then in the third sector his times went haywire.

Chinese Grand Prix  - Raikkonen vs Massa - click to enlarge

Chinese Grand Prix - Raikkonen vs Massa - click to enlarge

Chinese Grand Prix race history chart – average time

Chinese Grand Prix race history chart (average times) - click to enlarge

Chinese Grand Prix race history chart (average times) - click to enlarge

By special request of Andrew last week, this graph shows each driver’s race position relative to the winner’s average lap time, which smooths out the peaks and troughs caused by the leader pitting.

Chinese Grand Prix lap chart

Chinese Grand Prix lap chart - click to enlarge

Chinese Grand Prix lap chart - click to enlarge

Each driver’s position on each lap. The lack of overtaking moves outside of pit stops speaks for how processional the race was.

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13 comments on 2008 Chinese Grand Prix analysis

  1. subhash said on 20th October 2008, 16:16

    Massa was just not quick enough which slowed kimi who had to sit behind his team-mate, which allowed FA to catch up.

  2. Andrew said on 20th October 2008, 16:20

    Thanks for the new graph. I think it makes clear that Alonso’s rapid catch of the Ferraris was down to the red cars giving up on their pursuit of Hamilton and Hamilton saving his engine for Brazil. Alonso’s third stint doesn’t appear any different to the other two, those final tyres weren’t magic.

  3. Patrickl said on 20th October 2008, 16:35

    Yeah the new graph is easier to read. Also cool to see how the fuel load going down is translating into faster laptimes.

    Indeed it seems that Hamilton and Massa slowing down at the end is what makes Alonso to appear to be flying at the end (in the first and second chart). The chart based on the average laptime shows Alonso to have a pretty typical last stint.

  4. I don’t see what is different in the last chart. It is the same as the first chart only with the X-axis pulled down a little, The spikes (although smaller; remain).

    BTW, what the hell is wrong with the Force India? 40 seconds behind the next driver ! !

  5. F1Fan said on 20th October 2008, 17:44

    All throughout the weekend I thought Massa had a lot more pace than the timesheets showed. We know now this was not the case. Additionally, Kimi has been the faster of the two for at least 2 and maybe 3 races now. What strikes me most is Massa’s performance in Q. He is supposed to be the Q specialist and Kimi the race-pace master. Kimi out-qualified him in the last 2 races, and w/ a heavier car in China. Just doesn’t make sense, unless the pressure is getting to Felipe and he made mistakes. His recent results re-affirm the opinion of many of us, which is that Felipe is only good in the race when he starts from pole. No pole, no win.

    Lewis completely dominated this weekend and fully deserves to be leading the championship, which I actually think he now can’t lose (barring an engine or other failure). And I would advise McLaren to not bring their new package to Interlagos. They only need a 5th-place finish for Lewis and the current package is pretty darn good. I can’t see how he will will finish lower than 4th.

  6. Macademianut said on 20th October 2008, 18:08

    @Post #5.

    If you can’t see how he will finish lower than 4th, there are plenty that nature can do! He was in the same position last year (7 point lead) and it did not work.

    I am hoping that McLaren and HAM will keep their head straight to get the WDC at least.

  7. Graphs give me a headache :-S

  8. F1Fan said on 21st October 2008, 1:09

    Macademianut,

    what really happened in F1 at the end of last year was that McLaren had to give up the driver’s title to Ferrari. They were caught stealing, for which they paid dearly (to the tune of 100M Euro), and for the sake of the hundreds of millions of sponsorship money, the FIA had not choice but to only penalize the team, but not the drivers. They were allowed to race but they had to give up the title. McLaren had not one, but two drivers in excellent position to win the title and neither did. The accumulation of “errors” and “accidents” in the last 3 races is stunning. Lewis misses the entry turn to the pits (if you see the video you can clearly see that he parked the car), then magically in the next race his engine stalls for almost half a minute, then magically re-starts again, etc, etc.

    So instead of Lewis or Alonso, Kimi wins the title from 17 points behind ! I am not that naive.

    So please spare me the talk about how things can go wrong, I have been following F1 for nearly 30 years and have seen it all.

  9. MacademiaNut said on 21st October 2008, 3:48

    @Post #9

    So, you are saying that McLaren staged those Chinese and Brazilian fiasco just so that they can relinquish the WDC to Ferrari?

    That’s a nice conspiracy to start.

    [Please argue to the point. With all due respect, no one gives a damn if you have watched F1 for 30 years. The attitude of "seen it all" is so over the top; have some humility.]

  10. MacademiaNut said on 21st October 2008, 3:59

    @ Post #9

    Even if one were to say that McLaren had to give up on the drivers championship, it is much easier for them to screwup the setup and make the car slower than to play around with engine failure problems; or making Lewis park the car on the gravel. Don’t you think it is a bit extreme to make a driver qualify on pole and beach the car?

    So, did Lewis know that he has to beach his car in the Chinese grand prix? or was it a plot by McLaren team to purposefully bring him in late so that they “knew” the car will not have the traction to turn into the pits?

    If what you are saying is what really happened, that’s one heck a lot of a screenplay by McLaren!

    [On a side note, have you ever watched a tennis match where a player lost the match after leading by 2 sets to none; and even seeing a match point?]

  11. Mel Hutchinson said on 21st October 2008, 7:16

    The 2008 Chinese Grand Prix was kind of boring. I hate the first corner. I always expect a crash and this year didn’t disappoint. We only have 20 cars in the race and I hate to see that number reduced on the first lap. With all of the penalties this season Ferrari should at the very least be fined. A more appropriate action would be a 3 to 5 grid position penalty levied against Kimi Raikkonen. He did admit in the post race interview that he let Masa by, thus a violation of the sporting regulations. The FIM could regain some creditability while not effecting the two drivers competing for the world championship. People who believe that the FIM is bias in Ferrari’s favor would at least have one less thing to argue.
    I love Lewis but he, rather McLaren blew it in 2007. The only thing that they should have been concentrating on in the 2007 Chinese Grand Prix was to score points! When Kimi ran Lewis down because he wore out his tires and McLaren left him out was an inexcusable mistake. Even if Hamilton didn’t feel like he could call in and say “I’m coming in for tires right now and I don’t care what you say” Ron Dennis should have managed the situation and brought him in before the steel belts were visible. The kid was a rookie for crying out loud! If he had some rubber left on his tires he might not have slid into the sand trap. He might have scored and he probably would have scored more than one point. Alonso’s crash at Japan cost him the championship. It was too late in the season for that to happen. I still don’t know why it happened because Fernando Alonso typically doesn’t just lose his concentration and crash. I don’t believe there was a conspiracy. Kimi deserved to win period. Let’s give credit where credit is due.
    I absolutely love the graphs. It makes it so much easier to understand the dynamics of the race that are not visible on television. In my opinion, the graphs are a visual aid that allow me to explain intricacies like fuel load, brake fade, and tire wear to my novice friends. Please continue to post them. A link to an archive of race graphs permanently on the site would an excellent addition. It sure would help solve some heated debates with my friends. I hope the graphs will become a permanent fixture starting in 2009.

  12. Marko said on 21st October 2008, 11:05

    Hi can anyone please post link to official FIA race lap times I’m unable to find them. Thanks!

  13. F1Fan said on 21st October 2008, 19:35

    MacademiaNut,

    wake up and smell the coffee.

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