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

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.

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

  1. 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

    • Ben Grimes said on 20th April 2009, 20:27

      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.

  2. Andrew White said on 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.

    • Jonatas said on 20th April 2009, 16:44

      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.

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

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zLVDKIcGigo

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

  5. John H said on 20th April 2009, 17:30

    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.

  6. Oliver said on 20th April 2009, 17:36

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

    • Filipe said on 20th April 2009, 22:21

      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.

  7. Oliver said on 20th April 2009, 17:43

    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.

  8. rahim said on 20th April 2009, 18:19

    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 ?

  9. Oliver said on 20th April 2009, 19:10

    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 :-)

    • @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 ;)

    • mp4-19 said on 21st April 2009, 7:49

      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!!

  10. Jian said on 20th April 2009, 19:22

    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.

    • steve said on 20th April 2009, 19:47

      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.

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

  12. sean said on 20th April 2009, 21:06

    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.

  13. Polak said on 20th April 2009, 21:07

    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.

  14. theo said on 20th April 2009, 22:38

    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?

    • Patrickl said on 20th April 2009, 23:45

      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.

  15. Dane said on 20th April 2009, 23:33

    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) :)

    • Patrickl said on 20th April 2009, 23:39

      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.

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