Chinese GP fuel weights and strategies

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

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54 comments on Chinese GP fuel weights and strategies

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  1. Alonso is 2nd.

  2. makakazo said on 18th April 2009, 11:32

    Hi, thank you for your efforts ;-)

    One thing that you should take into consideration for your calculations is that during that lap from the pitlane to the grid and the warm-up lap the cars consume less fuel than during a normal racing lap. In fact drivers are told to save up as much fuel as possible during those laps. I find your calculations a bit low because of this.

    I’d say that Alonso will go to lap 10, Vettel to lap 13 and Webber to lap 14.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 18th April 2009, 11:52

      Could well be. I get the impression the teams leave a bit of extra fuel to play around with to increase their chances of getting their car on track without traffic in front of them.

  3. Excellent. Thanks.

    The front three will doubtless start on Super Softs to get them out off the line but more crucially out of the way. I guess the likes of Kimi and Hamilton will still two stop and just have a short run at the end on the option tyres when the track is rubbered-in.

  4. schumi the greatest said on 18th April 2009, 11:41

    Hamiltion going for about 25 laps then?? Thats encouraging because he was looking good for a top 6 grid slot in q1 and 2. I think he’ll be running a average 2nd stint maybe 18 laps then have a short last stint on the super softs.

    Alonso’s doing the same albeit the other way round. be intresting to see the contrast in fortunes between alonso and hamilton. Hamilton may not stuggle so much on the super softs because of the extra rubber put down during the race.

    i still think brawn will win this 1 now having seen the fuel loads. Button and barrichello are 15 kgs heavier than the red bulls so that shows theyr still the quicker car.

    • Diesel Searle said on 19th April 2009, 7:57

      Well the strategy of lewis was looking good until this rain came down.
      Hope we wont have half a gp like last time,lewis would have moved up the grid if it wasnt stopped.
      I think guys at the back will probably start on intermediate tyres to make up some places, the full wets will be better though!
      I believe the rain master will be on the podium at the end of the race.
      Good luck to all and watch out for mr. hamilton!!!!!!!!
      Oh yes,brawn is not good at all in the rain.

  5. kurtosis said on 18th April 2009, 11:42

    Props to Buemi, he’s with RAI and HAM among the first set of heavier runners.

    I doubt RAI will be able to hold off HAM at the start, with McLaren still running the KERS and Ferrari without. But Ferrari look to be in a good position for a solid points finish with RAI being one of the first heavier runners and Massa fueled the second heaviest on the grid.

    Interesting strategy by McLaren, splitting the two with different strategies … possibly a rain and safety car hedge.

    Looks like the Renault is really harsh on its tyres, so ALO had to fuel light and get the SSs out of the way.

    Looking forward to a fun race – hope for rain.

  6. Oliver said on 18th April 2009, 11:43

    Hamilton had the heaviest car in Q3.

    Its almost pointless revealing the fuel load for the cars outside the top ten as it confuses issues. Their fuel is added after they’ve been eliminated, while the top ten drivers are carrying that much fuel during their Q3 run.

    On the whole, I still think qualifying with fuel on board is rubbish.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 18th April 2009, 11:49

      True, but it’s interesting to know Kubica and Glock will be light. Seems to be a tacit vote of confidence in the cars’ abilities to overtake each other – a few years ago a driver starting that far down would have filled to the brim and hoped for a safety car.

      And yes, no more race fuel qualifying in 2010 please.

  7. Mackers said on 18th April 2009, 11:49

    “Rubbered in” might not be happening,just had a look at the World weather map for tomorrow and it looks like rain….
    The boys who are carrying fuel will have the window if it’s a dry/wet affair…
    Can someone ask Lewis to stay out of the gravel trap in that case….

  8. I have been thinking about cars which were designed to carry KERS, but have now opted not to use it this time around. Their cars would have been designed to be lighter than the rest, so that they are not 35kg heavier than the non KERS cars, right?

    Now without KERS, they would be roughly 35kg lighter than they were, which means they could carry a lot more fuel compared to teams like Brawn, while still weighing roughly the same. Im not exactly sure how the minimum weight is done, but surely they could fuel it heavily (weighing the same as a brawn on a medium stint) and then on their last stint they simply make sure they have enough fuel to finish the race within the minimum weight requirement.

    Im probably completely wrong, or misunderstood.

  9. Bigbadderboom said on 18th April 2009, 12:10

    No surprises then really, it’s kind of how it looked during quali.

    McLaren and Ferrari obviousley running long to keep their options open and try to take a tactical advantage, I’m a bit suprised Rosberg wasn’t heavier. Lookjs like a good weekend for lewis.

    • Eduardo Colombi said on 18th April 2009, 21:19

      Thik the redbulls have the same tactic that made ferrari vary fats in the biggining of australia’s race. Low fuel, super-softs, a really quick first stint to make advantge over their rivals. I made my prediction on vettels vitory, but i hope alonso can win…

  10. Natalie said on 18th April 2009, 12:18

    I think Kimi did a brilliant job in qualifying t the Ferrari into the top was a feat in and of itself; the F60 hasnt looked at all this weekend. Well done to Kimi Raikkonen. No KERS and no interim diffuser…makes you think what the champ will do when he has them… Go Kimi Go!!!!!!

    • Achilles said on 18th April 2009, 18:42

      amazing what an ice cream break, mid race can do for you, lol.

    • John H said on 18th April 2009, 21:52

      Indeed, Kimi’s performance was one of the best and has been overlooked a bit.

      What is Massa doing by the way? He’s in a mess – I’m not sure his head is at the races.

  11. Kayleigh said on 18th April 2009, 12:18

    Great analysis – I just wondered where you get the info that the track uses approx 2.6kg fuel per lap?

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 18th April 2009, 13:05

      It was mentioned in the BBC’s coverage and James Allen quoted it as well. But it is an average – some engines will be thirstier than others.

    • John H said on 18th April 2009, 21:54

      Can we see how it faired with regards your predictions for Melbourne or Sepang… When did people actually pit in relation to the prediction?

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 18th April 2009, 21:57

      Last time I generally over-estimated by a couple of laps – I didn’t properly take into account how much fuel they used on the way to the grid etc…

  12. Thanks for clearing that up for me :)

  13. AndyD said on 18th April 2009, 12:37

    Was it not the case many years ago (can’t remember when) that McLarens were considered to be more fuel efficient, and could therefore go longer on a given amount of fuel? What is the situation now, have the other teams reached a parity? I would assume that Brawn would have similar fuel consumption.

  14. Patrickl said on 18th April 2009, 12:38

    I estimated that 10kg of fuel makes a 0.2s laptime difference (looking at the Q2 to Q3 time difference and the published weights)

    Fuel corrected I get the following list for “Q3″:
    Pos Driver Corrected
    1 R. Barrichello 1:35,433
    2 S. Vettel 1:35,464
    3 J. Button 1;35,512
    4 M. Webber 1:35,696
    5 J. Trulli 1:35,705
    6 F. Alonso 1:35,801
    7 N. Rosberg 1;36,547
    8 K. Räikkönen 1;36,779
    9 L. Hamilton 1:37,175
    10 S. Buemi 1:38,021

  15. Patrickl said on 18th April 2009, 12:40

    Do the drivers have to start on the same tyres they were using in qualifying?

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