Alonso’s speed and Rosberg’s smart strategy (German Grand Prix analysis)

Trulli and Alonso set eight of the race's nine fastest laps

Trulli and Alonso set eight of the race's nine fastest laps

Where did Fernando Alonso’s stunning turn of pace come from? How did Nico Rosberg get from 15th to fourth?

Let’s take a close look at how the German Grand Prix unfolded to find out.

Lap one

German Grand Prix lap one (click to enlarge)

German Grand Prix lap one (click to enlarge)

It was a particularly exciting start and amid all the drama of Lewis Hamilton flying off the track and Mark Webber and Rubens Barrichello clashing it was easy to overlook some significant moves.

Nico Rosberg and Robert Kubica both profited from the chaos to the tune of six places. That was partly due to Jarno Trulli and Kazuki Nakajima tangling in front of them, and of course Hamilton falling to the back of the field.

Nelson Piquet Jnr might have out-qualified Fernando Alonso for the first time ever, but it counted for little as Alonso had passed him by the end of the first lap.

All the KERS cars bar Hamilton gained places: Kimi Raikkonen two, Heikki Kovalainen three and Felipe Massa four. Hamilton very nearly went from fifth place into the lead with his. KERS could play a decisive role at the Hungaroring in two weeks’ time.

How the race was won

German Grand Prix leaders (click to enlarge)

German Grand Prix leaders (click to enlarge)

Rubens Barrichello was seriously unhappy after the race, which he thought he could have won. But as Ross Brawn patiently explained afterwards this wasn’t the case – and the graph above makes it clear.

Look in particular at laps 25-31, when both Barrichello and Webber were in clear air. Webber took up to a second per lap off Barrichello despite carrying more fuel.

Taking every lap time set by every driver into consideration, Barrichello only managed the 39th best of the race. Team mate Button managed the 14th. Brawn simply didn’t have the pace this weekend.

The biggest surprise, in terms of fastest laps, was Fernando Alonso:

Top 10 fastest laps at the Nurburgring

1. Fernando Alonso – 1’33.365 (49)
2. Fernando Alonso – 1’33.526 (50)
3. Jarno Trulli – 1’33.654 (52)
4. Fernando Alonso – 1’33.744 (48)
5. Fernando Alonso – 1’33.749 (51)
6. Fernando Alonso – 1’33.777 (52)
7. Mark Webber – 1’34.003 (37)
8. Jarno Trulli – 1’33.058 (51)
9. Jarno Trulli – 1’33.078 (54)
10. Jarno Trulli – 1’33.086 (53)

Part of the reason Alonso set the fastest lap of the race was that the Red Bulls weren’t pushing in the last stint – indeed Webber had probably backed off before then.

But Alonso’s pace emphasises how variable each team’s performance has been this year on different tyres in different conditions. As Michael Counsell pointed out in the comments yesterday, seven different drivers and six different teams have set fastest laps this year.

Webber backed off so much in his final stint, it allowed team mate Vettel within ten seconds of him by the final lap. Webber had begun the stint 16 seconds ahead which, added to the ten seconds he lost taking his drive-through penalty, hints at the size of Webber’s advantage over his team mate.

Much of that, of course, was down to Vettel’s failure to get the extra lap he wanted in qualifying yesterday, which left him stuck in traffic at the start of the race. In this way the race was a repeat of Silverstone – but with the other Red Bull driver not getting the result he wanted in qualifying.

Race and lap charts

German Grand Prix race chart (click to enlarge)

German Grand Prix race chart (click to enlarge)

It would have been interesting to get an idea where Lewis Hamilton might have finished had he not picked up a puncture on the first lap. Unfortunately as he spent much of his first stint being lapped and losing more time it’s difficult to get any meaningful conclusions from the data.

Although Vettel spent much of his first stint stuck behind other cars, when he hit clear air in his second stint he wasn’t able to make an impression on Webber.

Having made his great start Rosberg again demonstrated the benefits of a long first stint, using it to leapfrog both Brawns. It’s no more than he deserves, though, having lost points due to questionable Williams strategy earlier this year (notably at Monaco).

We can only assume that Brawn expected to suffer tyre problems on a two-stop strategy, because the three-stopper left them very vulnerable.

German Grand Prix lap chart (click to enlarge)

German Grand Prix lap chart (click to enlarge)

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53 comments on Alonso’s speed and Rosberg’s smart strategy (German Grand Prix analysis)

  1. Achilles said on 14th July 2009, 8:04

    Out of all these stats the quiet way the Williams of Rosberg made its way to 4th showed that a poor grid position, and a strong strategy can place you in a position to snatch a podium, it was a good job, and the interview with Frank by the BBC, was very positive, they have a good car, and the rules stability, for next year, could prove decisive for next years campaign…

  2. mastakink said on 14th July 2009, 8:56

    Alonso gained one position at the end of lap one, but he passed turn one 17th…

    Next year could be a great comeback for Williams if they can keep Rosberg with them, but a think both of them (Nico and Frank) need a better driver than Nakajima.

    Achiles, I agree with you, all we need is stability for next campaign…. I hate FOTA-FIA-Fwhatever war, it’s only an ego-crush…

    • gabal said on 14th July 2009, 9:55

      True, if they can keep Nico and bring an experienced driver instead of Nakajima (Heidlfeld could be a good choice) they could make a good result next season.

      • Ronman said on 14th July 2009, 10:22

        although the car is great, I don’t think Williams have got the engine that delivers. and as long as they are with Toyota they will need to keep Nakajima, which is a bummer as he is one of the weaker links in the whole team package. they need Renault or Mercedes Power and they will be contending next year. imagine the return of the Willams Renault with Bruno Senna at the wheel, that would be the epitome of nostalgia…

        • LewisC said on 14th July 2009, 12:49

          I’m in the group that believes strongly that Toyota will not be in F1 next year: so Frank’n’Pat will have to do a hell of a convincing job to get them to stay as engine-supplier only.
          Apart from that, Senna only started 3 races for Williams, so not much nostalgia there. Bruno Senna at McLaren, however…

          • Paddy said on 14th July 2009, 15:41

            Is cosworth not set to make a return as engine supplier and Williams have a history with them?

  3. mastakink said on 14th July 2009, 9:05

    Impressive race for Webber, well done Aussie!!
    The only two Australian F1 drivers who won races before, became F1 World Champions….

  4. @Keith: How painstaking for you is it to find in which race did the slowest driver (in terms of fastest laps) win the race.
    Like, so-n-so won inspite of having only the 11th fastest lap.

    Ross Brawn said that “you can’t win races by having the 11th fastest lap”, so i ask this.

  5. TommyB said on 14th July 2009, 10:01

    I hope the Red Bull being rubbish in dirty air doesn’t cost them a championship. If they keep getting stuck in a train of cars it will not be good news :(

  6. Ronman said on 14th July 2009, 10:02

    Although I’m not a Hamilton fan, his move into turn 1 was gutsy as hell, and heroic, even though a tad foolish. but i understand his desire to just get back at the front. too bad he got that puncture, as I’m sure he would have at least been somewhere in the top 5. who knows he would have possibly upset Mark’s chances for a win if he was to split him and Barrichelo.

    • Hakka said on 14th July 2009, 14:51

      Yeah, if that move had stuck – and he came within a hair’s breath of making it stick – it would easily have been one of the best starts in modern F1. The race would have been significantly more interesting as well.

      Kudos to him for trying and not pussyfooting around T1. It’ll be exciting to see Hamilton back in the sharp end.

    • Hallard said on 14th July 2009, 16:21

      Hear hear. Its great to see that in spite of having an underwhelming car this year his is still as eager as ever to win.

      • pSynrg said on 15th July 2009, 11:55

        Totally with you on this. The merest sniff of getting in front of everyone and that’s what Lewis has a go at, of course is the only suitable response.
        A few more centimetres millimetres and the lead or 2nd at worse was his…

  7. mani said on 14th July 2009, 10:21

    Keith in the fastest laps list for 8 9 and 10, I think you mean 34 secs and not 33.

    8. Jarno Trulli – 1′33.058 (51)
    9. Jarno Trulli – 1′33.078 (54)
    10. Jarno Trulli – 1′33.086 (53)

  8. ceedas said on 14th July 2009, 10:41

    The Nurburgring is the second longest start-to-T1 braking point of the year (after Barcelona), which is where the large KERS advantage comes from. The Hungaroring is quite short in comparison, so the benefit should be less obvious off the start there.

    • Rabi said on 14th July 2009, 13:26

      not only that but the fact the hungaroring is a tight and twisty circuit may lead many teams to in fact dump KERS so that they arent compromised for the remainder of the lap after the back straight!

  9. PJA said on 14th July 2009, 10:45

    I agree that if Williams didn’t have to keep Nakajima for the Toyota engine they would be looking to partner Rosberg with someone else next season and although I would love Williams to be challenging for wins regularly, sadly I don’t see it happening soon even with the relative stability of regulations next year. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Williams had a fight to keep hold of Rosberg for next year either.

    If Hamilton had not clipped Webber’s front wing, and had managed to pull off his first corner move, I think it is likely he could have finished as high as second as Kovalainen would still have been holding up people behind him so he could have pulled a decent gap out before the first stops but I don’t think he would have been a match for Webber.

    Hamilton said the collision had damaged the rear floor so that it was like driving on ice, so as well as there being no point to push as he had to save the engine and gearbox he never put in a lap time which would have been representative of what his true pace would have been.

    • persempre said on 14th July 2009, 13:38

      so as well as there being no point to push as he had to save the engine and gearbox he never put in a lap time which would have been representative of what his true pace would have been.

      Hamilton radioed in himself to suggest that the engine & gearbox be saved. For that read, “I want to park it.” That’s the only way to save the gearbox.
      Even in post-race interviews he was bemoaning the fact that he had to stay out there.
      Hamilton was the only McLaren given the complete new aero package & I would think that the team would want data on how it was working even if the car was damaged. I think they could still learn something from putting in the laps. If Heikki had been the one with the new aero then it may not have been so necessary but he wasn’t.
      With no testing it’s criminal to waste track opportunities unless you really have to.

      • Patrickl said on 14th July 2009, 21:06

        What use is having data about a damaged car?

        • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 14th July 2009, 21:20

          Yeah before I wrote this I hadn’t seen Hamilton’s comments bout how bad the damage to the floor of the car was. Apparently one of the guys who built it did a 36-hour shift to get the part done. What a shame.

        • persempre said on 14th July 2009, 21:41

          That I couldn’t tell you but it must be of some value or the team would have called him in themselves.

          • Oliver said on 14th July 2009, 23:16

            More like Mclaren wanted to avoid another confrontation with the FIA as they surely would have overheard the conversation. But the car was damaged, except they are testing engine reliability or some other mechanical part which is unlikely, a damaged car would give inconsistent data which is useless to the engineers.

          • persempre said on 15th July 2009, 11:42

            Not being in the team we don’t know what they may have wanted data on. As you say it could be something mechanical. I had thought it may have been more to do with tyres. They would still want to get some idea of tyre performance with the new aero package. They had the data from the undamaged car on the 2 previous days but they may have wanted to collect data on a long run.
            IMO a team like McLaren has more experience to be able to judge what they need than a driver – & particularly one who is only in his second season.

          • Patrickl said on 15th July 2009, 22:26

            In the radio transmission that was aired on TV, they said they wanted Hamilton to stay out for the event if the rain might fall.

            Besides, these cars are mobile commercial signs. I don’t think the sponsors would be too happy if Hamilton had parked it after doing just one lap (with a car that could still do laps).

          • PJA said on 16th July 2009, 9:18

            If it had started to rain and say the safety car had come out for a few laps Hamilton would have been allowed to un-lap himself during the safety car period. He would still have been last on track but with cars going off in the rain and the increased chance of overtaking those conditions bring it would have been the only chance he could have scored points after what happened on the first lap.

    • pSynrg said on 15th July 2009, 11:59

      I understand Lewis wanting to park it for reasons other than saving engine/gearbox. He was forced to yield to every car throughout the whole race.
      I know when I’m racing any yield is painful – quadruple fold when you had a very promising opportunity.
      But he diligently followed team orders and took the car to the end. Can’t see a problem there…

      • persempre said on 15th July 2009, 12:10

        The problem came when he was still moaning about having to continue running in interviews after the race, pSynrg.

  10. gaz said on 14th July 2009, 14:46

    rosberg keeps popping up in the top 4 or 5 whilst nakajima does very little.

    rosberg to brawn GP???? not a bad call one thinks….
    only downside is i think he will not sit happy as a no2 driver and end up like heikki.

  11. Leaf said on 14th July 2009, 15:05

    I like Alonso. However, would’nt it be ironic if he gets the chance to go to Ferrari next year, )I have believed this for some time), only to watch Ferrari have another dismal year and Renault continue to improve and start to produce a podium/win capable car?!
    Also, regarding Williams, they don’t do well with two top line drivers. They need Rosberg, but I don’t think it would work out too well if they got rid of Naka and got someone like Heidfeld. Then again, if Toyota pulls the plug and Williams wind up with BMW you might see a Rosberg, Heidfeld combo. Knowing Williams though, they would go for someone a little lower on the pay scale.:-)

    • persempre said on 14th July 2009, 15:14

      “Another dismal year”?
      Constructors Champions in 2008 & for 8 of the last 10 years? That’s not my idea of dismal, Leaf :)

      • Paddy said on 14th July 2009, 15:49

        Ferrari say they are switching focus to 2010. The first thing they’ll do is ignore KERS and focus on gettn the grip right I assume.

        • persempre said on 14th July 2009, 15:55

          Downforce has to be a priority, yes, Paddy.
          The removal of KERS should make designing a car with a better overall weight distribution easier, I think.

      • Leaf said on 14th July 2009, 22:58

        OK I agree with that…but. Prior to Ross Brawn and Michael Shumacher Ferrari would have a good year and then at least 2-3 years of ho-hum seasons. Now that both Brawn and Shuey are gone, Todt too, and the Italians are back in charge are they headed for the same? I would hate to se Alonso get into that mix as I believe him to be the fastest driver in the business. I like Ferrari but when things start to go wrong now it begins to look a little like the Chinese fire drill.

        • persempre said on 15th July 2009, 11:49

          Yes, I remember too well the problems across the years, Leaf, but this years’ have been for lots of reasons not really to do with the people involved.
          Also as you probably know, if Todt was still at Ferrari then the likelihood of Alonso joining would have been next to nothing. In Todt’s view Alonso had his chance in 2001(?).

      • Achilles said on 15th July 2009, 17:46

        Been nice if they had managed all that success without a veto, eh, perse?

    • Bartholomew said on 14th July 2009, 22:33

      Its remarcable how the new rules have upset the traditional pecking order !
      Who knows what the hot car next year will be.

      At least without KERS the teams have a little peace and order in their lives.
      When BMW promotes hybrid systems for their road cars, I bet they wont mention the exact word ” KERS” in their brochures ……

      Lets hope that next year the cars are closer and the racing tighter

      • Paddy said on 15th July 2009, 10:38

        I know that Ferrari might not have the same dream team anymore but their experiance, finacial clout and the best all round driver on the grid makes it a pretty good bet. Plus Alonso can promote his new cycling team in italy!

  12. F1Fan said on 14th July 2009, 16:59

    Alonso remains the best of them all. I can’t even begin to imagine the extent of his domination next year, if Ferrari give him a good car. This will be scary. I think he will go after Michael’s season record in race wins.

  13. Dorian said on 14th July 2009, 18:45

    @ F1Fan: Totally agree with you there mate! If Alonso (far and away the best driver on the grid!) moves to Ferrari (arguably the best team on the grid, this year notwithstanding) and they supply him with a championship winning car. Well……….it should be a cakewalk. And I’d be all for that ;-)

    • Jay Menon said on 15th July 2009, 9:29

      I guess it was a bad idea to schedule my wedding on a F1 weekend, but such things happen. I did make it back to catch the start though, but was too tired to pull through.

      I was quite shocked to see Alonso topping the fastest lap sheet, amazing. The man is the best, hands down. He’s been consistently bringing the car home in the points albeit it being a truck. With this new found pace, I hope that he has a shot a challenging for the podium come Budapest.

      My tip for the Hungarian GP is Button or Brrichello to win with Lewis or Kovi pulling a surprise.

  14. GeoCucc said on 14th July 2009, 18:52

    Hi all F1 fans. It’s not about this topic:
    I’m a blog writer too, but on hungarian language, so I think it isn’t interesting for most of you. :(
    But now I need your help. I want to make a statistic about national anthems played on the F1 podiums but I don’t know the exact year and race when they started to play anthems during the podium ceremonies. Does anyone know this?
    Sorry for my bad english, I hope you understand what I tried to say.

  15. persempre said on 14th July 2009, 19:53

    Tradition has it that when Nuvolari won at the Nurburgring in 1935 the Germans had been so sure one of their fellow countrymen would win that they didn’t have a copy of the Italian National Anthem. Apparently Nuvolari did :)
    So, presumably, the tradition goes back well beyond the start of F1.

    I’d just take your stats from 1950, the year that the F1 World Championship started.

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