If Hamilton hadn’t pitted…

Adrian asked an interesting hypothetical question in the Brazilian Grand Prix analysis post:

Where would Hamilton have finished if he?d stayed on dry tyres? He?d have been further down the road from Glock so might not have struggled as much??

It’s impossible to know for sure but we can get a good idea by using the Toyotas’ lap times, as both their drivers stayed on dry tyres at the end of the race.

It’s not unreasonable to assume Hamilton’s lap times on dry tyres would have been at least as quick as Glock’s. The McLaren has been one of the best cars for keeping heat in its tyres, the Toyota has been one of the worst. And Hamilton was further ahead of Glock, and therefore the track would have been slightly dryer for him.

Here’s how the race progress would have been in the final laps if Hamilton hadn’t switched to wet tyres on lap 66, and instead posted identical lap times to Timo Glock:

The gap between the leading drivers in the final laps of the Brazilian Grand Prix, assuming Hamilton\'s times in the final six laps matched Timo Glock\'s (click to enlarge)

The gap between the leading drivers in the final laps of the Brazilian Grand Prix, assuming Hamilton's times in the final six laps matched Timo Glock's (click to enlarge)

By not pitting Hamilton would have moved up to second. Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen would then have overtaken him on the final lap leaving Hamilton fourth, and champion by two points instead of one.

Jarno Trulli was further behind Glock, on a wetter track, and therefore even slower. If Hamilton’s times had matched Trulli’s, he would have lost fifth place to Sebastian Vettel by 0.05s. He still would have been champion, of course.

Of course all this assumes that the pressure of tip-toeing home on dry weather tyres in pouring rain wouldn’t have gotten the better of Hamilton, and that Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso, and possibly Vettel would all have passed him without incident.

I think we got the most exciting of the three options, but it was going to be a thriller whatever McLaren did. Ironically it their ‘safety first’ approach might actually have exposed Hamilton to more risk.

More analysis of how the Brazilian Grand Prix actually unfolded here: 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix analysis

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30 comments on If Hamilton hadn’t pitted…

  1. Adrian said on 4th November 2008, 13:45

    Thanks for that Keith…

  2. John Spencer said on 4th November 2008, 13:53

    McLaren presumably thought it would rain harder over more of the circuit than it actually did. We’ve heard that their analysis suggested Timo would be slow enough for Lewis to pass, but if they had predicted Lewis not doing so until the last corner of the last lap, they would surely have hesitated over the change to wets, wouldn’t they?

  3. ajokay said on 4th November 2008, 13:56

    Hamilton did a stellar job on his dry tyres during the last 4 laps round Spa, I presume he would have been just as good around Interlagos on the dry tyres. Both tracks are bendy and full of gradient. It’s not hard to see why they went for the safe option though.

  4. Filipe said on 4th November 2008, 14:48

    Ajokay, Lewis did went off track in Spa (of course he and Kimi were two crazy men fighting on the wrong tyres so I mistake was easy). Anyway, It was too much of a risk to let Hamilton on dries, he might be great on the wet but a wet track is always a wet track, and a mistake can always happened.

    I also don’t know if Lewis would do his final laps as fast as Glock, because he was likely to drive those final laps very carefully. Still given that Glock was 13 seconds faster than Vettel in the final laps, I’m pretty sure Lewis would be in front of him.

  5. Phil B said on 4th November 2008, 14:52

    #2 From what I’ve read their analysis predicted he would overtake him before the end of the race. That’s not the same as on the last corner of the last lap etc….. Presumably if that was their prediction they’d have tried leaving him out.

  6. Matt C said on 4th November 2008, 15:10

    What would the result have been if Glock HAD pitted?

  7. @ Matt C
    He’d have dropped a few places, robbing everybody from what was surely one of the most exiting finishes to an F1 season ever…

  8. I agree with Lustigson and MattC:

    If Toyota had changed tires for the final laps there wouldn’t have been any of the last lap drama, though as it was unfolding I very honestly expected Glock to wreck into another car or be up against the wall in the home stretch.

  9. John H said on 4th November 2008, 18:26

    Can you imagine if Hamilton had stayed out, and then binned it somewhere on the last lap? It would have been China 2007 all over again and I’m not sure the guy would have recovered.

    Right decision to pit him… As Whitmarsh said, it was quite a suprise that Glock stayed out until the end of the race.

  10. Twister said on 4th November 2008, 18:47

    @Matt C

    Hamilton was ahead of Glock when he pitted so if Glock had pitted too he would have still been ahead and we wouldn’t have had the most exciting end to a world championship ever seen!

  11. John Spencer said on 4th November 2008, 20:17

    Looking at the lap times, Glock was remarkably consistent right up to lap 70, when he was suddenly 10 seconds slower than the previous three laps, and then on lap 71 he was another 16 seconds slower (ie 26 seconds slower than 2 laps previously). So when the leading cars were on wet tires, Glock was faster on his dry tyres on laps 67, 68 and 69.

    This means that if Lewis (presumably lapping at the same pace as Glock) had delayed his pit stop by one lap (or two or three), he would have finished fourth ahead of Vettel.

    Knowing in retrospect how the rain affected lap times over the last few laps, I calculate that had Lewis pitted 3 laps later at the end of lap 69, he would have finished about 30 seconds behind Felipe, or only 5 seconds adrift of where Keith suggests he would have finished if he hadn’t pitted at all.

    Or to put it another way, assuming that all drivers stayed on track and didn’t hit each other, it might not have mattered when or if McLaren pitted Lewis – he would still have been champ.

  12. Oliver said on 4th November 2008, 21:06

    The problem Lewis had in Brazil was that they went on to the intermediates too early, as a result the wear rate was much higher before the track had even soaked in.
    As we had suspected earlier and Lewis later confirmed, the Mclaren was set up for low-drag and high speed, thus the wear rates on the tyres would have been high, coupled with the fact that we know the Mclarens have never been too kind to their tyres as Ferrari or Toyota.

    Lets not also forget that, Lewis had been fueled to the end of the race or at worse 3 or 5 laps short from the end. So his dry tyres had already taken some beating.

    Which now brings us back to the hypothetical question, I believe, Lewis been further ahead, would have had enough dry track to keep the heat in his tyres longer, and would have set some lap times that were much faster than Glock was able to, say about 2 or 3 seconds, faster than the 1:28s Glock was able to set initialy.
    However, the fact he was running in low downforce configuration, he likely would have started experiencing low tyre temperatures much faster than Glock was, and if we recall China-2007, as the wear rate of the tyres increases, due to lack of grip and age, he loses performance much faster. His momentum might carry him much further when on level ground or going downhill.
    This is where it then gets interesting, from Bico del pato all the way to the start finish line is an up hill climb, he will thus suffer from a lack of grip mainly due to tyres worn to the canvas and low temperature, His sector times in that zone will be much worse than Glock, Vettel will over take him just before the paint line of the pits. I’m then not to sure if by this time, he would be running neck and neck with Glock, but with Glock having better performance than Lewis.

  13. ferrari fan said on 4th November 2008, 21:51

    And if Glock had not let hamilton past he would have been 6th.

  14. Mr Soap said on 4th November 2008, 22:26

    And do tell us quite how Glock was supposed to keep Hamilton behind him?

  15. Well he could have defended his place and not just pulled over to one side for a start! And, oh yeah, not slow down so hamilton could be right behind him to overtake anyway!

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