Why Kubica probably wouldn’t have won (Australian Grand Prix analysis)

Robert Kubica got his super soft stint out of the way early

Robert Kubica got his super soft stint out of the way early

After Robert Kubica and Sebastian Vettel’s controversial crash in the dying stages of the Australian Grand Prix, Mario Theissen claimed Robert Kubica would have won had he got past Vettel cleanly and been able to chase after leader Jenson Button.

But the lap times don’t seem to support what Mario Theissen says. Here’s a look at the data from the Australian Grand Prix.

Kubica and Vettel

Sebastian Vettel versus Robert Kubica, Australia 2009 (click to enlarge)

Sebastian Vettel versus Robert Kubica, Australia 2009 (click to enlarge)

In the final phase of the race leaders Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel were nursing their cars home on the unfavourable super soft tyres. Meanwhile Robert Kubica, on medium compound tyres, was catching them.

But he was catching Vettel more quickly than he was catching Button. Vettel’s tyres seem to have past their best on lap 51, and three laps later his times suddenly got a lot worse, allowing Kubica to close to within 0.4s at the line. It was then that the BMW driver launched the attack that ended with both of them in the barriers.

Had the two not collided, and Kubica had got by cleanly, would he have been able to catch and pass Button before the end of the race?

We don’t know what would have happened to Button’s tyres, because the safety car came out after the crash. But he made his final pit stop three laps later than Vettel. So even if he was going to suffer the same sudden drop-off in performance Vettel did, it wouldn’t have been for a few more laps.

It isn’t necessarily the case that would have happened – as we saw all weekend long the Brawn was the most superior car out there. Plus, Button already had four seconds in hand over Kubica.

It might have been close, but it was by no means a foregone conclusion that Kubica had the race won.

Race and lap charts

2009 Australian Grand Prix race history chart (click to enlarge)

2009 Australian Grand Prix race history chart (click to enlarge)

This chart shows each driver’s time difference to the leader during the Australian Grand Prix.

The first thing that jumps out is how Felipe Massa’s struggle with deteriorating super soft tyres bunched up the field earlier in the race – a Massa train!

The safety car eventually wiped out the huge advantage Button and Vettel had over the rest of the field, which is worth keeping in mind when looking back at the different decisions teams made about whether to use the super soft tyres first or last.

Some drivers have been quoted saying how difficult it was to pass KERS-equipped cars, as they could use thier power boosts defensively. The Ferraris ran with KERS but they discovered that using it too much caused tyre wear problems, no doubt making their predicament even worse.

But these new complexities certainly added up to give us an entertaining race.

2009 Australian Grand Prix lap chart (click to enlarge)

2009 Australian Grand Prix lap chart (click to enlarge)

More F1 statistics

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54 comments on Why Kubica probably wouldn’t have won (Australian Grand Prix analysis)

  1. gazzap said on 31st March 2009, 14:20

    Button had more in his locker. at no point in the race was he on the edge. every time he needed to pull out a 4-5 second gap he did it with ease.

    a lot of people around F1 dont like to see English people doing well. maybe its because there are a lot of English teams or whatever but I felt there was a witch-hunt to ‘get’ Hamilton last season. Ironic that his replacement at the top is also an Englishman!

  2. I disagree that these data settle the matter. The drop off for the soft tires was on the order of several seconds a lap for the Ferraris and others. So Button’s 4-5 seconds was no real buffer in the circumstances. Also, I doubt that he had so much speed in reserve. Pegging the margin at 4.5 seconds with such supposed superiority would have been was foolish. And he almost lost the lead and maybe the race due to a few seconds of fumbling in the last pit stop. The fruits of real dominance, and a prudent lead, if we recall the bad old days of Schumacher, is 25-35 seconds, i.e., a pit stop for a flat.

  3. theo said on 31st March 2009, 15:21

    I know with the data its probable button would of fended of Kubica, i was worried though, when Kubica puts them laps him, he looks to be the fastest of anyone, we’ll never know i just had the feeling Kubica might catch Button. Boy got style!

  4. Heckie said on 31st March 2009, 15:28

    I was watching the f1.com timing screens and Kubica was only catching button at 0.2 secs per lap max. He was catching Vettel at 0.6/0.8 per lap at the end.

    It was NEVER 2 secs per lap – total BS by Thiessen.

  5. F1madness said on 31st March 2009, 15:56

    Hajnr how do you know which light means breaking and which one not-breaking? i doubt that there is any indication of breaking, what you talking about is I guess engine revs. indicator

  6. ILoveVettel said on 31st March 2009, 16:29

    I have a question quite of the track here. Vettel was given a ten grid place penalty. So, will he be able to load the tanker after qualifying? If that is the case, he might be able to participate in Q3 with almost empty tanker? Could you please clarify on this?

    • chaostheory said on 31st March 2009, 18:49

      No, fuel rule in Q3 applies to him too, he will just start 10 places lower than he qualify.

  7. theRoswellite said on 31st March 2009, 16:46

    As everyone seems to agree……not to agree..

    Seems impossible to tell what was going to happen, too many variables enter the equation; even Dr. Thiessen’s remarks aren’t perfectly clear. Is he paraphrasing RK? Is he just tossing out a possibility? Doesn’t seem from the data he has much of a case, but if we ask him about it now, he might claim it was a bit of the immediate post-race “red mist” speaking. Certainly no big deal either way.

    What is a big deal is racing “into the sunset”.

    Nico, as quoted today in Autosport:

    “I think twilight racing is not the way to go. In Melbourne it was obvious that it just increases the danger so much.

    “The visibility is so difficult, you can’t even see the edges of the track in some corners. I was driving into the sun and that’s not what racing is about. So I really hope they reconsider that.

    “Even moving it forward by one hour or something will help us massively. It was just the last part of the race that was the really problematic time.”

    If this policy is continued and someone is killed or seriously injured both BE and MM, our old Two-Headed-Monster, are going to come under some well deserved, and withering, criticism. I hope it doesn’t require a human sacrifice to see some democracy returned to the FIA, and equity finally instated in the commercial side of F1.

    Where is the GPDA on this matter?

  8. Yes but softs gets worst with every meter of ride
    Look at the Kubica, Massa and Rosberg stints on softs.
    First couple of laps- pretty normal, then blast- you have to pit or you gonna lose control over the car
    You don’t know how those tires would work on last 3 laps but hey, it is sure they gonna be slower-proportional to time of using!
    Plus the faster guy is coming closer- You got to push hard, what means even faster tires degradation, less grip and control.
    That’s how We got to look at this me think.

  9. Dougie said on 31st March 2009, 16:51

    I agree with dmw that in previous years dominant displays have a gap maintained at around 30secs. However it may be that Brawn did not wish to show their hand and their potential superiority too soon, especially before the Appeal hearing… if the diffuser is declared legal it will be interesting to see the Brawn performance post appeal.

    I doubt Kubica would have caught Button never mind passing him. A combination of Buttons smooth style and not stressing the tyres will have delayed the performance drop-off enough to finish 1st well ahead.

    • Owen said on 31st March 2009, 21:01

      It could be not wanting to show their hand. Also, as mentioned in the comments earlier, they might have wanted to save the car and run it as efficiently as possible. They should in qualy that they were massively quicker when they needed to be but the lack of testing puts a cloud over their reliability.

      It will be interesting to see how the tyres affect performance this weekend with them being soft/hard.

    • Patrickl said on 31st March 2009, 22:54

      1) The BrawnGP wasn’t properly tested for endurance yet. Before the race they expressed worries about reliability
      2) Melbourne is a safety car prone track. It’s useless to pull out a big gap.

      Makes sense Ross Brawn told Button to take it safe and only keep a 4 to 5 second margin.

      Why else would the gap be 4 to 5 seconds for just about the whole race while button showed that he could easily go 10 rounds doing 4 tenths a lap faster?

  10. he will never ever get position 1 in any race

  11. Nick said on 31st March 2009, 21:04

    Kubica can’t pass…all he can do is block.

    • Patrickl said on 31st March 2009, 22:55

      Yeah I was wondering about that too. Did Kubica ever make an impressive pass during a race? Without touching the other car.

  12. Obster said on 31st March 2009, 21:46

    I read the release from BMW about Kubica and the end of the race…
    and thought perhaps Button was taking it a little easy in the last few laps.
    The engines are required to last longer this season, correct? Knowing how Brawn has all the angles covered, it would not suprise me if they were thinking ahead…

  13. stassix said on 31st March 2009, 22:10

    Kubica can’t pass…all he can do is block.

    oh boyyy…
    Because some kid caused big bang and get punished?
    I realy would like to see slow of pace nick or hami smashed out by VET “thu shall not pass” next time

    I think he would have pass Buton with ease….

    • Patrickl said on 1st April 2009, 8:35

      But then he couldn’t properly pass Vettel even though he claimed to be 2 seconds a lap faster.

  14. ziggy said on 31st March 2009, 22:56

    There is a question what would have happend to Button tires if he had to drive agressive last 3 laps- softs tires gets worst with every meter of ride.

  15. Paul said on 2nd April 2009, 9:17

    The supersoft tyres are slow and dangerous. Ban them.

    Rubica should have known that and given Vettel a wider berth. The relegation of Vettel is unfortunate and ill considered.

    • Patrickl said on 2nd April 2009, 12:55

      The super softs are actually the fastest they have. They should be swapped after 10 or 11 laps though. Vettel should have stopped 3 laps later to get these tyres.

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