Massa’s strong drive and Heidfeld’s bad luck (Chinese Grand Prix analysis)

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Felipe Massa was on course for a strong result until his retirement
Felipe Massa was on course for a strong result until his retirement

It might have been a bad day for Ferrari in Shanghai but Felipe Massa’s form gives them cause for optimism.

Find out why in the breakdown of the race statistics.

Chinese Grand Prix race history (click to enlarge)
Chinese Grand Prix race history (click to enlarge)

This graph makes it clear how unfortunate the timing of Fernando Alonso’s pit stop was on lap eight (look for the orange line). He came in just as the safety car was being called into the pits, and later admitted they’d expected it to stay out much longer.

Chinese Grand Prix race history - Felipe Massa (click to enlarge)
Chinese Grand Prix race history - Felipe Massa (click to enlarge)

This chart should bring some cheer to Ferrari fans – Felipe Massa was running very well before his retirement on lap 20, climing up to third place. It shows the differences between Massa and all the other drivers, with those above the zero line ahead of him and those below behind.

From a starting point of 20s behind race leader Sebastian Vettel at the beginning of the race, Massa lost little ground to the race leaders while moving ahead of many other cars – some he passed, others pitted or spun off.

Had his race been able to run its full course it’s very likely he’d have beaten the McLarens for fourth and probably would have split the Brawns too (see here for more).

Chinese Grand Prix lap chart (click to enlarge)
Chinese Grand Prix lap chart (click to enlarge)

On the lap chart, look at what happens on lap 51 to Adrian Sutil (sixth) and Nick Heidfeld (eighth). Sutil’s race ends with a crash and Heidfeld suddenly starts losing positions – he had run over debris from Sutil’s wreck, damaging his own car and losing a points finish in the process. That handed eighth place and the final point to Sebastien Buemi.

82 comments on “Massa’s strong drive and Heidfeld’s bad luck (Chinese Grand Prix analysis)”

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  1. Really?! Well, i’m not the tech type and neither do i depend on tech simulations – look what happened to the global economy having relied so much of tech’s & fancy biz models developed by quants!!
    What i’m saying here is:
    1. Yes, Ferrari is a dominant team,
    2. Yes, Ferrari has got some talented drivers,
    3. Yes, Ferrari has got the financial backing,
    4. Yes, Ferrari has got brillant mechanics.
    But they are just one team plagued with RELIABILITY ISSUES and one snow ball of BAD LUCK.
    Forget the graphs and team techs, i honestly dont see a ferrari up in the fore-front horizon until maybe the Hungarian GP.
    I stand to be corrected or just maybe when they finally decide if they want to run KERS or not!!

    1. I’d go along with that, and also point out that recent history has shown that Ferrari always manage to make a drama out of a crisis, whether its because of the Ferrari culture or pure mismanagement.
      So I don’t expect to see both cars running true to form until they are back in Europe – and maybe after more heads have rolled too.

  2. Ahhh I wondered what had happened to Heidfeld!!

    Seems good news for Ferrari though, Massa doing ok until the car stopped – especially going into Bahrain, which Massa has done rather darn well at over the past two years!

    1. The question should be : What happened to BMW!? They were looking for World Championship. Maybe in 2019.
      Kubica had few spins too.

  3. On lap 8 Massa wasn’t 20 seconds behind race leaders, but more like 10 seconds. He didn’t keep up, the gap went from 10 to 25-30 seconds. So he lost quite a lot on Vettel, Webber and Button. He did keep up with Barrichello though.

    If Massa actually had been able to continue and had had the same good race after the first 20 laps (which is completely uncertain of course) he would have beaten the McLaren for “fifth” not “forth”.

    Massa often has a good first stint to then never be seen again. For example, recently at Melbourne or last year at Monaco.

    Still it is indeed a big change to see Massa actually driving a car in the wet and getting some speed out of it. While oddly enough Raikkonen didn’t have much pace where he usually is reasonably quick in the rain.

    1. Kimi has never been quick in the wet.. If you can give me a time he was.. i’ll change my mind..

      but in my memory he has always struggled on a fully wet track.. but not so bad on a drying one.

    2. I said “reasonably quick”. But take just about every wet race in 2008 as an example. In those Raikkonen outpaced Massa by quite a margin. Or otherwise China 2007 or Fuji 2007?

      Let me turn the question around, is there any wet race where Massa outpaced Raikkonen?

    3. Terry Fabulous
      20th April 2009, 13:55

      Massa was very strong last year at Interlagos when it started to rain, a shed load faster then Kimi.

      Most of the time, Kimi is quicker, but Massa is not as much as a liability in the rain as he is made out to be.

    4. Sure, lets do that.. take every 08 wet race for example…

      Monaco 08, Interlagos 08 – Massa faster
      Silverstone: – both were rubbish but particularly Massa

      China 09 – Massa faster

      Kimi was faster on a drying track in China 07…

      So probably the only one would have been Fuji 07 where massa was slower than kimi in the wet.. but im taking ur word for it cause I didnt watch that race.

      Also remember Sepang 09 Massa was quick in the wet.. but can’t compare cause Kimi had that horror tire choice gamble.. so lets exclude that one!

    5. spa 05.
      brazil 03.
      hungaroring 06.
      nurburging 07.
      fuji 07
      china 07
      monza 08
      spa 08

    6. Oh come on, the only reasonably good drive in the wet that Massa had in 2008 was at Interlagos. Raikkonen was just as fast, but his race strategy was compromised to help Massa to the win and he ended up stuck behind Alonso.

      All the other races Massa was slow as a snail (Monaco, Monza) or even pathetic (Silverstone)

      Raikkonen was doing perfectly fine at Monaco, but he had to undergo a drive through penalty because the car wasn’t ready in time. Massa was struggling to keep up with Kubica and flew off twice, letting Kubica through twice!

      Silverstone 08, Raikkonen wasn’t doing too badly. Of course the whole field was put to shame by Hamilton’s drive, but Raikkonen was one of the “best of the rest”.

      As Nick shows, Raikkonen has a whole list of actually pretty good performances.

    7. Terry Fabulous
      20th April 2009, 21:59

      All the other races Massa was slow as a snail (Monaco, Monza) or even pathetic (Silverstone).

      Um, Massa was fast as hell in Monaco and would have beaten Hamilton is Lewis’s pitstop hadn’t been at great time to put on the inter tyres.

      And didn’t Raikkonen stuff it in the wall at both Spa and Monaco when it was raining?

      We could argue around this all day but the fact is, Both Massa and Kimi are great drivers. Kimi probably has more natural talent, but Felipe seems hungrier and more focused. And that is why he was better last year and seems to be the man more likely to get points right now.

    8. At Monaco Massa was fast for a few laps. After that he was beaten by Kubica and Lewis was going a second per lap faster.

      For now both Ferrari drivers seem to be struggling. Both with their car, the strategy and with themselves.

      We’ll see how they get on when their update comes.

  4. massa is the best

    1. Mussolini's Pet Cat
      20th April 2009, 13:34

      by any measurable way, he isn’t…

    2. He is at least one of the best.

  5. What the graph shows is that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the Ferrari, they just have to work on their reliability.
    By the way, was the first 9laps included in the graph? Because the race actually started from lap 9.

  6. The race started on lap 1, just it was behind the safety car. All those laps count. So the graph shows the cars holding station behind the safety car. Those that pit drop to the back. Like the big drop of Alonso on lap 8.

  7. I think that what is creating such great confusion is the KERS-NO KERS issue. Everyone is going crazy and spending a fortune.
    The Toyota Prius already has it, so what is the point ?

    FOTA should say to Bernie and Mo : we will all throw this piece of junk to the garbage and not run it anymore. Period.
    If all the teams do the same thing, Mo cant say anything.

    1. That’s never going to happen though, as some teams have already spent millions more than others developing it.

      We just have to wait and hope it’s a standard (flywheel) component in 2010

  8. Terry Fabulous
    20th April 2009, 13:58

    So Felipe spins 5 times at Silverstone and subsequently, is made out to be a massive laughing stock as a driver for his incompetence.

    Well Lewis spun 4 times yesterday….

    So does this mean that Lewis is rubbish in the rain as well, or does it mean that we all need to take a deep breath and admit they are both great drivers who have have had bad days in the rain (and who hasn’t!).

    1. great comment.. couldnt agree more

    2. It is funny how when Massa had that horrible race in Silverstone, it was because he’s bad in the rain. While Lewis spun 4 times in China, it’s because his car wasn’t set-up for the rain, or some other excuse.

      Massa has said many times that while growing up, he would pray for rain because his equipment wasn’t as good as the competition, and I think that if you look at his performance in Japan 07 against Kubica, Monaco 08, Brazil 08 in dreadful conditions and yesterday in China while it lastest, one can’t say he’s bad in the rain at all!

    3. diseased rat
      20th April 2009, 14:46

      So Felipe spins 5 times at Silverstone and subsequently, is made out to be a massive laughing stock as a driver for his incompetence.

      Well Lewis spun 4 times yesterday….

      Are you sure about that figure of 5 times? Regardless, Felipe was flat out last at Silverstone, miles behind anyone else. Hamilton managed to pull in 6th place despite his 4 spins.

      I’m no great Hamilton fan but attempts by those who would like to see him do badly to compare his race with Massa’s ’08 Silverstone race are silly.

    4. Was it 4 spins? i thought some were just him running wide

    5. ….guilty of that myself,I have come to respect Massa after last season.We all know Lewis is usually great in the wet,guess you just have to be in the cockpit of that car on a wet track to understand fully.It is easy to be an armchair racer.

    6. Difference is that Hamilton was actually putting in a pretty good performance while Massa was simply put to shame (being lapped twice!).

      The worst you can accuse Hamilton of is trying too hard. I have to agree it didn’t make much sense and it brought him nothing, but still. For some reason he was pushing.

      BTW Massa flew off behind the safety car …

  9. Guys, could we all stop this Hamilton, Massa arguments pls!!!! Here are my points:
    1. Massa spun 5 times in Silverstone last yr – YES – He didn’t only spin, he was very very slow as well.
    2. Hamilton spun 4 times in China – YES – He didn’t only spin, he was by far faster, loosing position to Kimi & taking it back 3 times over, starting behind on first grid & taking points at race end!
    Lets settle this fellas, even Massa acknowledges (i should think so)Hamilton is faster in the rain! PERIOD!!!
    WHAT SAY YOU??!!

    1. Wasn’t the case yesterday… Massa was ahead of Hamilton by time his car let him down!

    2. Also wasn’t the case in Brazil where Massa led from start to finish in changing conditions and Hamilton could hardly finish 5th.

      Then there’s Monaco where Massa got pole position to his own surprise, then a slight mistake cost him the lead. While Hamilton gets a punctured tire by hitting the barrier and is forced to pit because of it, gets lucky with the safety car and wins.

    3. @Kugitz

      You ask the rest to stop and started one yourself. Nevermind that, however, here are some arguments:

      1) How much do you know about set-ups?
      2) Did you have information on set-ups from all races?
      3) Massa did do some good races in wet conditions. Brazil ’09 comes to mind alright.
      4) Kimi’s engine (yesterday) was misfiring during the race and you understand the rest i hope.

    4. saying Hamilton’s win in Monaco was down to luck… then you didn’t watch the race with live timing next to you!

  10. Nobody is commenting on the fact that Massa retired on lap 20, a third of the way into the race, which I feel makes it easy to make predictions on the possible outcome, other drivers were, pretty cool, Sutil for instance….Buemi…, Massa being in a Ferrari you would expect to do well in the right circumstances, these guys are expected to be at the back…

    1. It really was a shame that Sutil couldn’t score his first points, yet again… I would’ve been nice to see.

      Buemi I can’t give my opinion on quite yet. He did good in Australia and lucked into a points finish yesterday with Sutil’s crash. But he was lackluster in Malaysia.

  11. OK…quick question?
    Same car, Same tires, Constant weather condition – Rain, 56 laps, Hamilton and Massa, who wins?!

    1. We’ll never know, will we?

  12. Place ur GBP on ur driver..

    1. GBP?

      I think you’ve missed the point though. Nobody has said that Hamilton is in the wet. He has proven otherwise a few times.

      The point is that Massa can be competitive in the wet just the same and despite having proved it time and again, he still gets a bad wrap for wet weather driving.

    2. *Nobody has said that Hamilton is bad in the wet

  13. My tabs on hamilton..

    1. My tabs on Massa… but I don’t see how that proves your point or not! it’s a stupid question.

  14. I Agree 100% with Patrickl, Massa was really good in the wet…

  15. I’m sensing some ardent hard-core ferrari fans here!
    But listen guys, i didn’t mean to be offensive..i’m just as passionate about this season as you all are!
    Regardless of whatever team we all support…we just all want to have a fantastic & competitive season!
    Bring the race on & let the F1 fever run down our spines!
    We are but only F1 Fanatics!!
    Bless u’all!!

  16. Massa wasn’t ‘competitive’ in the rain, he just didn’t fall off as many times as he usually does and more importantly, his car stopped while still on reasonably good tyers, unlike Kimi who had (((((((((…a problem with my engine))))))))) !? ;)

    Lewis for me was the driver of the day, he drove his socks off, going off and coming back to make more passes than all other drivers, on the limit all the way and he and Heikki, who drove beautifully, finally showing what a great driver he really is, have shown that the McLaren is heading in the right direction and now we wait and see what the maFIA will do next to McLaren/Lewis in order to reverse this progress, and to help their ‘golden boys’ towards the title ;)
    Bring it on

    1. Massa was very competitive in the rain.
      They all started the race on the same tyres.

      Vettel was the driver of the day, he didn’t put a foot wrong and was fast.

      Hamilton ruined his tyre’s as he didn’t pace himself.

      Massa did but also managed to pass people and not make errors and have to re pass them.

      Hamilton also got beaten by Heikki Kovalainen who didn’t have the updated parts that Hamilton did.

      If you think Lewis was driver of the day, that’s your own opinion, but I hope you realize that other people were in that race also.

  17. Andrew White
    20th April 2009, 16:24

    Although I agree that Massa was driving strongly in the wet, I would like to say that the only reason he was running third was because a few people ahead of him had already pitted and he hadn’t. I don’t think he would have come third in the race.

    1. Why not? When his car broke down he was running third and Lewis, who also hadn’t stopped was a few spots behind him and he finished 6th despite spinning. Massa was in a good position for a strong points finish and maybe a podium.

  18. btw here is a vid that might refresh Massa and Hamilton’s exploits in the rain :)

    1. Here’s Massa in the rain at his best:

    2. How on earth did Massa not get penalised for those stunts at Fuji? He basically just rams Kubica off track to get by.

  19. Thats right, Traction Control is really handy in the rain ;)

    1. @ Patrickl

      Kubica rammed Hamilton off in that race.

  20. I think it just took Massa a while to learn how to drive in the rain again with no TC. By the latter part of the season in 2008 he was excellent.

    There are no real excuses for Hamilton’s spins in this race, because Heikki stayed on the road fine – I guess he was just trying to push the car beyond what it’s limit in frustration.

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