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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