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. casebury said on 20th April 2009, 23:37

    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.

  2. varun said on 21st April 2009, 0:03

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

  3. Jay Menon said on 21st April 2009, 2:46

    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 Lewis..in fact, he’s even been mentioned for drive of the day!

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

    • SYM said on 21st April 2009, 8:25

      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 ;)

  5. Polak said on 21st April 2009, 8:01

    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.

    • Patrickl said on 21st April 2009, 9:33

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

  6. roser said on 21st April 2009, 9:56

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

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

    http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/74672

    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.

  8. Damon said on 21st April 2009, 10:55

    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 :]

  9. m0tion said on 21st April 2009, 11:27

    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!).

  10. Oliver said on 21st April 2009, 21:10

    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 :-)

  11. Polak said on 22nd April 2009, 16:56

    Damon, Yes that was Senna’s mentality, but I’m under the impression that he delivered more amazing wet weather performance. I didn’t follow F1 closely during those years so I may be just looking at Senna’s highlights. I’m sure he had his share of spins.

    Patrickl, Thats why I put “mediocre” in quotes. STR was not considered a top car and neither was Red-Bull. Thats why STR’s first win was a wet race in Monza and Red Bulls is a wet race in China. They have not yet proven to be top cars.

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