How did Kamui Kobayashi gain half-a-dozen places and get ahead of his team mate to finish sixth in his second race?
And was Romain Grosjean’s race really as bad as it looked? The analysis of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will take a look at the answers to these questions.
Heikki Kovalainen used his KERS to make up the places he lost with a five-place grid demotion due to having his gearbox replaced, arriving in 13th behind Raikkonen. Giancarlo Fisichella, too, made up four places at the start thanks to his KERS. But this will be a thing of the past in 2010.
Kobayashi and Trulli
In earlier races this year we’re seen drivers who qualified just outside the top ten make the most of their heavier fuel loads to get into the points. Felipe Massa did this at Silverstone, starting 11th and finishing fourth.
But while Raikkonen slipped from 11th to 12th at Abu Dhabi, Kobayashi went from 12th to sixth with a performance impressive in its maturity for a driver making only his second F1 appearance.
Having beaten Raikkonen away at the start the turning point of Kobayashi’s race was his pass on Jenson Button. On the graph above you can see his lap time spike on lap 18 when Button came out of the pits in front of him.
Had Kobayashi remained stuck behind Button he would have lost crucial seconds and likely ended up behind team mate Jarno Trulli. His well-judged pass on Button was exactly the kind of opportunitic move the world champion pulled in races earlier this year to put himself in a position to win.
The drive has helped alleviate doubts over Kobayashi after two disappointing seasons in GP2. He is now expected to keep his seat with Toyota if the team decide to stay in F1 in 2010.
Neither made it into Q2 – Grosjean’s qualifying lap was 0.283s slower than the two-time world champion’s. In the opening lap scramble Grosjean got ahead of Alonso, but the positions were swiftly reversed (probably on the coded instructions of the team).
From that point on until lap 29 Alonso eked out a 10 second lead over his team mate – a performance gap of around 0.34s/lap. Grosjean had started with 2.5kg more fuel but made his first pit stop three laps before Alonso – probably because Raikkonen had emerged from the pits in front of him.
That meant Grosjean was among the first to be fuelled to the end of the race on the soft tyres. He struggled for pace at times and was passed by Fisichella and Adrian Sutil with two laps to go, leaving him last.
With little testing, a poor car, a beleaguered team and one of the best drivers in the world (at least) for a team mate, Grosjean has faced arguably the most difficult introduction to F1 of any of this year’s rookies. It’s easy to take a glance at his finishing position of last and lapped, and miss his consistent pace early in the race and the small misfortune that made his performance look worse than it was.
Whether that’s enough to give him a stay of execution for 2010 is another matter.
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix