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. Did Hamilton actually spin 4 times guys or was it that he had a spin but ran wide 3 other times?

    1. He spun early when lost position to Kimi for the first time and spun and again late when Kovalainen and Sutil went ahead of him, TV also show him going off track once more and he certainly either spun or went off track once more when Kimi passed him for the second time.

  2. John, you may be wrong on that count. Heikki wasn’t pushing too hard, but Hamilton was trying extra hard. Besides we saw on Hamilton’s car during qualifying that his front left tyre was actually not making contact with the ground on some sections of the track which would lead to massive wear over a long duration.

    In hindsight Lewis would have just tried to maintain a steady pace after he got past Trulli instead of trying too hard to get to the next driver ahead.

  3. forget everything…i feel lewis,massa and kimi are all talented drivers in the rain massa had real chance on the podium, lewis is always desperate to move ahead while kimi had a really difficult time in his car due to sudden power loss it was a real mature drive by him as the team wanted atleast a driver to finish the race.we could see he really didnt have the pace. but having such a difficult car that can’t be on the track due to lack of grip and speed, he was awesome according to me.Kimi is just not having the right car under him. We’ve seen him in the past and he is a trustworthy driver. Remember belgian gp 07 and 08…..though he didnt win but it wasnt that lewis was better than him in the rain, he had a problem in the rain….he had some problems in the rain but still he fought till the end. there wouldnt be a loss if he had his car working in rain. Same was in china if he could have fought may be he would have not finished the race and then……again “can’t he keep the car on track he’s such a …..blah blah”.But we don’t know whats going on in his cockpit. I still believe him as even after struggling, massa is upset and frustrated but kimi is still positive and thats what i love about him never gives up. KIMI WILL COME BACK. HOPE FERRARI KEEPS FAITH IN HIM. AFETRALL HE IS A FERRARI’S WORLD CHAMPION OF 2007.COMEBACK KIMI….SPAIN ?

  4. Rahim all cars that were following other cars in the rain suffered from power loss. Kimi just seemed to have forgotten that its a normal thing to happen. His comments on the power loss was as such, ” It seems to happen when I’m following close behind another car then clears when I am not so close.”
    Perhaps the other cars were running powerful magnets that seemed to slow down his engine :-)

    1. @steve: I dont know, this restricted aspiration conspiracy sounds a bit far fetched. I think as Oliver suggests: ‘powerful magnets’ are the real culprits here ;)

    2. didn’t you know the fact that kimi hasn’t got through his university!! He’s never managed to pass his basic physics examination. hehehe!!

  5. Oliver: that is very interesting, could you explain why?

    I think out of the current crop, Alonso, Hamilton and Vettel stand out as qualified rainmeisters. Do remember that Alonso spun a few times yesterday as well. Barrichello and Button, perhaps Sutil are very good in the rain. The rest rank from average to good.

    1. The moisture in the air is intensified in the wake of a car. This moisture must be extracted before the air enters the engine, its filtered out by the air intakes which restricts the air into the engine……thats my guess.

  6. LH is really rainmaster, five times out from track without breaking his car

  7. interesting argument massa did have a very quick car for the first part of the race but they forget to seal it up and it broke so we have no way of knowing what would of happened later in the race as he didnt get there he has’nt seen a chequered flag yet.Kimi had no downforce or speed they should’ve strapped a plough to the f60 and he could of planted some corn up the back straight more productive than what he achieved on sunday.The reality is the cars with downforce are competitive those without aren’t.Torro rosa red bull aero package ferrari engine it’s not the power its the aero.The thing that that concerns me the most is they have been the most dominate team over the last ten years but for some reason they have got nothing. In preseason testing the drivers would have known there was no downforce yet they didnt rectify this it’s like she’l be right,make’s me wonder if there is more going on the background that we dont see.

  8. steve, I don’t think the air induction system attempts to dry the air. The air is just saturated with water and doesn’t provide as much oxygen… thats my guess

    In China Hamilton proved how good he could be in the wet. He always pushes too hard when behind, and especially when whet. He is very quick, but can’t sustain driving on the edge without a mistake. This is expected so he should tone it down a bit and minimize the spins. Its easier to loose time then to gain it.

  9. I think a lot of the performances in the rain are a lot to do with the car, which a lot of people dont seem to factor in. The ferrari was a pig in the wet last year, so you can forgive their drivers for that to some extent. Whereas the Mclaren was excellent in the wet, due the downforce it created, making Hamilton stand out. I think its really easy pin all this on the driver. I just think the equipment shouldn’t be overlooked?

    1. Indeed and how do you do that? You match the drivers with their team mate. Exceptional performance is measured not in an absolute sense but relative.

      Compare Massa and Raikkonen at Silverstone (Raikkonen 4th and Massa last 2 laps down) Or Hamilton and Kovalainen at the same race (Hamilton first with about a lap ahead of the whole field) Or the last race where Vettel and Webber are pretty closely matched.

  10. Massa’s spins are blamed on him, Hamiltons spins are blamed on the car. Hamilton would never spin due to his Senna-esq talent. He is The Rain Master, The Peoples Champion.
    It was all bc of the car (not Kovalinens, just Hamiltons) :)

    1. Massa being lapped twice and ending dead last is blamed on him. Hamilton bringing the car home in 6th with bad tyres is also his doing yes.

      One is a very poor performance, the other could be better, but still a reasonable performance.

  11. i believe both drivers can be good in the wet. Hamilton probaly the better when he is at his best, but to say he was great in china because he went off/spun 4 times is just wrong because if he was great he just wouldn’t of went off/spun. I think Vettel is the new rainmaster albeit he was in the right car he didn’t make any mistakes. I hope his wins a championship soon become youngest ever champion that mighgt upset hamilton fans.

  12. No body is slamming Hamilton like they did Massa at Silverstone. PLease look at everyone with the same pair of eyes

  13. Here we are calling a guy that spun off track 4 times the rain meister. Here we are, also defending a guy that hasn’t been convincing in wet conditions in the past.

    Guys, like I said on a thread yesterday, you can’t tag someone rainmeister based on 2 or 3 races, there are so many different variables to this. It has to be based on a solid track record. Based on this, the only person who has proven time and again, over so many years is Barrichello. Vettel, Hamilton, Sutil or whoever else may have the talent to be quick in the wet…but they ain’t meisters yet…they’d have to do it quite a few more times for me.

    Lewis was brilliant in Monaco and Silverstone last year, whilst Massa was utterly rubbished. In Shanghai, the tables were turned, but like Varun said…nobody’s rubbishing fact, he’s even been mentioned for drive of the day!

  14. Discussions involving Hamilton always seem to get extremely polarised. It’s actually getting a bit tiring :(

    1. What polarises the debate is the bipolar decision making by Bernie and Max’s maFIA of ‘ol’boys’, who are bringing their nasty out of politics into the sport.

      Well, some of us think that is getting tiresome and damaging to a great sport we all love and enjoy, as it is without merit. Ppl who are getting tired of this remind me of Kimi and his “not working very well” engine ;)
      So here is an idea, if the polarised behavior towards Lewis/McLaren stops, you’ll find that the tiresome polarised debate goes away; ‘There is no smoke without a fire’ and we are all tired of this but sometimes you have t confront what is wrong, so if THAT tires you…… well diddums

      Remember playing the perpetrator and the victim at the same time is a tiring act and not very easy to pull off, especially if you get found out ;)

  15. theo: look at Senna. He has proven over and over again that he can make look other drivers in superior machinery look pathetic in the rain.

    It would be nice if Vettel was the new rain master. He could possibly be. So far his accomplishments in “mediocre” cars and rain are good. I was hoping for Kubica to show his stuff in China but there was nothing there. I know he can drive well in the rain, but a rain master he is not.

    No matter what, the rain shows what kind of driver you have. Hamilton has superb talent and skill, but many times in the rain he thinks he is God/Senna.

    1. “Mediocre” cars? Webber was flying in that Red Bull too and Bourdais was on P4 right behind Vettel at start of the Monza race.

  16. I like Vettel. He could be the next WC, just if he manages to not to crash so often. But I like him.

  17. Even Hamilton has admitted that his performance in the Chinese GP wasn’t his best

    I agree the only real comparison is between teammates because the car form book is not always the same in the wet as the dry, just look at Ferrari last year best car in the dry but not in the wet. This season the best car in the dry seems to be the Brawn while the best car in the wet seems to be the Red Bull.

    In my opinion in the race Hamilton was driving closer to the limit and so went off the track and spun a few times, whereas Kovalainen was more conservative and so stayed on the track and finished ahead of Hamilton.

    Of course sometimes drivers have off days. During the race some people thought Barrichello didn’t have to stop again because of his pace but it turned out he did have to stop again and he was just not fast, yet I think it is generally accepted that he is good in wet conditions.

    While I wouldn’t say Massa is one of the best in the rain I don’t think he is as bad as his reputation seems to makes out, I think Silverstone 2008 was just a very bad day for him.

    Personally I don’t think any driver can currently claim the title of rain master, although there are a few candidates I don’t think anyone is far and away the outright best. But if the cars were setup to the drivers liking for a wet race and I had to pick who would perform best I would probably pick Hamilton at the moment.

  18. Hamilton has superb talent and skill, but many times in the rain he thinks he is God/Senna.

    But wasn’t Senna exactly the same in his younger years?
    He was :]

  19. Barrichello has the best wet record overall. There are four or five drivers all very strong in the wet. Hamilton has been classy when he could be aggressive in a superior car but we haven’t seen enough of him being defensive or points accumulating in an inferior car yet. Massa was rubbish at Silverstone but Webber also had his darkest day and he is acknowledged by most of the others as one of the best in the wet. And as for TC solving issues in the wet in the past look at Webbers 1st off at Silverstone 08 and you can see why relying on TC was a big no no at times. Massa gets a bit risky at times so this may translate worse in the wet when he isn’t settled. Overall Massa has been ultra cool for the past half year and everyone in Brazil is impressed (and they are hard to impress if you are Brazilian!).

  20. Note, Piquet didn’t have as much downforce as Alonso. Alonso even managed to spin. Not saying Piquet wouldn’t have had several spins even if he had the new diffusers :-)

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