Chinese GP fuel weights and strategies

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

The top three qualifiers have all fuelled very lightly for tomorrow’s Chinese Grand Prix – with Fernando Alonso potentially making his first stop for fuel after just nine laps.

It’s likely a ploy to get a stint on the unfavourable super-soft tyre out of the way as quickly as possible – but it could backfire on the drivers if there’s an early safety car period tomorrow.

To put it into perspective, Alonso’s starting weight of 637kg is 10kg less than the lightest start at Malaysia, where Vettel started at 647kg and no-one else was lighter than 655kg.

The FIA has published the official starting weights of each car, which means we can predict the lap one which each driver will make their first pit stops.

Here’s how I worked out the stint lengths:
1. Deduct the minimum car weight (605kg) from the total weight of the car.
2. Divide that by the approximate weight of fuel used per lap (2.6kg at Shanghai)
3. Deduct three laps’ worth of fuel to account for driving from the pit lane to the grid, the formation lap, and extra fuel left in the tank as a safety net when the driver makes his first stop
4. Round down to the nearest whole lap

That gives us the following predictions:

Grid Qualifying Name Weight Fuel First stint (laps)
1 1 Sebastian Vettel 644 39 12
2 2 Fernando Alonso 637 32 9
3 3 Mark Webber 646.5 41.5 12
4 4 Rubens Barrichello 661 56 18
5 5 Jenson Button 659 54 17
6 6 Jarno Trulli 664.5 59.5 19
7 7 Nico Rosberg 650.5 45.5 14
8 8 Kimi Raikkonen 673.5 68.5 23
9 9 Lewis Hamilton 679 74 25
10 10 Sebastien Buemi 673 68 23
11 11 Nick Heidfeld 679 74 25
12 12 Heikki Kovalainen 697 92 32
13 13 Felipe Massa 690 85 29
14 15 Kazuki Nakajima 682.7 77.7 26
15 16 Sebastien Bourdais 690 85 29
16 17 Nelson Piquet Jnr 697.9 92.9 32
17 18 Robert Kubica 659 54 17
18 19 Adrian Sutil 648 43 13
19 14 Timo Glock 652 47 15
20 20 Giancarlo Fisichella 679.5 74.5 25

(Car and fuel weights in kilograms).

Although this puts Webber and Vettel down as stopping on the same lap, realistically Webber is probably able to go one lap further than his team mate (this is a quirk of the ’rounding down’ part of the calculation).

Other interesting points include:

  • Rubens Barrichello out-qualifying Jenson Button with more fuel on board
  • Robert Kubica, Adrian Sutil and Timo Glock are fuelled lightly in a bid to make up positions early on