It wasn’t just Button that cost Vettel second (Turkish Grand Prix analysis)

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Good pace on a heavier fuel load aided Webber's bid for second
Good pace on a heavier fuel load aided Webber's bid for second

Sebastian Vettel’s three-stop strategy at Istanbul left him vulnerable to team mate Mark Webber. Webber occasionally managed to match Vettel’s pace despite carrying a heavier fuel which, along with Vettel’s delay behind Button, helped Webber nab second off his team mate.

Here’s an analysis of the Turkish Grand Prix including how far McLaren are off the pace and Rubens Barrichello’s disastrous start.

Position change on lap one

Spanish Grand Prix position change on lap one (click to enlarge)
Spanish Grand Prix position change on lap one (click to enlarge)

Rubens Barrichello made a dreadful start, slipping nine places from third to 12th. It was even worse than his Australian Grand Prix getaway, where he fell back by five places.

Ironically, he had been widely expected to challenge team mate Jenson Button at the start, as Barrichello had the advantage of starting from the clean side.

Kimi Raikkonen lost three places despite having a KERS button to use. He started on the dirty side of the grid and had to take evasive action to avoid his team mate on the run to turn one.

This chart shows which drivers are making the best starts. Aside from the drivers most often found towards the back of the grid, some of the most frequent KERS users are also among the best starters:

Drivers' average position change (click to enlarge)
Drivers' average position change (click to enlarge)

Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber

Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber's lap times (click to enlarge)
Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber's lap times (click to enlarge)

Sebastian Vettel threw away a potential win on lap one. But where did he lose his grip on second place? Comparing his lap times with team mate Mark Webber two crucial moments jump out.

Clearly the time lost stuck behind Button’s car before Vettel’s second pit stop cost him badly. But there were also moments when he failed to use a lighter fuel load to extend his advantage over Webber – particularly late in Vettel’s first stint and also during his third stint.

Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen

Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen's races (click to enlarge)
Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen's races (click to enlarge)

The McLaren drivers were also in a race of their own which was decided by conflicting strategies. Lewis Hamilton started two places behind Heikki Kovalainen with 31.5kg more fuel on board.

Hamilton made one stop to Kovalainen’s two, and despite having to do his entire last stint on soft tyres – at a track where he has had tyre damage problems before – Hamilton prevailed.

But look at that yawning gap to the Brawns. Had Button not backed of considerably in his final stint Hamilton would have been lapped. Instead of finishing 80 seconds behind, a conservative estimate would put Hamilton at least 90 seconds adrift – a performance deficit of 1.55 seconds per lap.

Race charts

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

Nico Rosberg jumped Jarno Trulli at the first round of pit stops to take fifth – but by the end of the race Trulli was ahead again. The Toyota driver ran a middle stint five laps longer than Rosberg’s allowing him to jump ahead of the Williams driver.

During that stint Trulli also allowed team mate Timo Glock briefly past to challenge Rosberg before his pit stop.

Kazuki Nakajima’s final pit stop was at least 18 seconds slower than most of his rivals due to a problem with one of his wheels. Without that extra time loss there’s a good chance Nakajima would have been ahead of Robert Kubica after the BMW driver’s final pit stop. The problem probably cost Nakajima seventh place.

Nelson Piquet Jnr also had a long final pit stop, losing around 15 seconds, without which he probably would have split the McLarens.

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