Vettel’s frustrating race and Barrichello’s gamble (Bahrain Grand Prix analysis)

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Strategy FAIL: Three-stopper blew Barrichello's podium hopes
Strategy FAIL: Three-stopper blew Barrichello's podium hopes

Did Rubens Barrichello’s strategy switch cost him a top three finish? And would Sebastian Vettel have won if he’d got past Lewis Hamilton?

Here’s how the Bahrain Grand Prix unfolded.

Leaders’ lap times

Bahrain Grand Prix: Jenson Button vs Sebastian Vettel vs Jarno Trulli (click to enlarge)
Bahrain Grand Prix: Jenson Button vs Sebastian Vettel vs Jarno Trulli (click to enlarge)

This graph shows the lap times of Jenson Button, Sebastian Vettel and Jarno Trulli. In the first stint Button chased after Trulli and, after the Toyota driver pitted, had enough fuel left for two more quick laps ensuring he emerged in the lead.

Vettel, meanwhile, was stuck behind Lewis Hamilton and lapping 0.5-1s per lap slower. Although he had enough fuel to stay out four laps longer than Button, and lapped up to 1.8s quicker than Trulli at this time, it wasn’t enough to get him out of the pits ahead of the Toyota.

Throughout the second stint Vettel was locked to Trulli’s pace and unable to pass. Once Trulli had pitted Vettel was able to lap 0.6s quicker, indicating that although overtaking might be easier this year, making up a place is still a challenge.

Is it still too difficult, or have they got the balance right? So far I’m leaning towards the latter…

Barrichello’s strategy

Bahrain Grand Prix: Rubens Barrichello's race (click to enlarge)
Bahrain Grand Prix: Rubens Barrichello's race (click to enlarge)

This chart shows Rubens Barrichello’s race – his position is indicated by the zero line, so on each lap you can see how far the cars ahead of him (above the line) were, and how far the others were behind him (below the line).

The decisive moment in Barrichello’s race came on lap 25, when he and Brawn gambled on a three-stop strategy to get past the three-car cluster of Trulli, Button and Hamilton.

The gamble failed. From laps 27 to 36 he gained only 2.3s on second placed Trulli. It’s easy to say this with hindsight, but given he had been catching the trio at over a second per lap prior to lap 25, perhaps it would have been more productive to leave him on the track and try to make a pass the old-fashioned way.

He might at least have got fourth place off Hamilton. Of course, this assumes he had any fuel left in the tank, but the haste with which Brawn brought him in suggests this was a classic strategy switch.

Full race charts

Bahrain Grand Prix race history chart (click to enlarge)
Bahrain Grand Prix race history chart (click to enlarge)

Here’s the full data from the race. The chart above shows how early leader Timo Glock’s race was compromised by his inability to build up enough of a gap in the early laps to come out ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso and Nico Rosberg. He had 21.6s over Raikkonen when he came in on lap 11, when he needed more like 27.

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

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