Rosberg stymies Hamilton while Vettel saves fourth (Bahrain GP analysis)

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Vettel coped admirably with his exhaust problem to salvage fourth
Vettel coped admirably with his exhaust problem to salvage fourth

The ban on refuelling gave the race a very different structure to what we saw in 2009, with almost every car one-stopping.

For several drivers that meant a frustrating day stuck behind rivals, unable to get close enough to try a pass.

The start

Lap 1 position change (Click to enlarge)
Lap 1 position change (Click to enlarge)

The oil-belching Mark Webber initially lost places to Jenson Button and Michael Schumacher – but a canny pass around the outside of turn nine got Webber ahead of Button again.

Robert Kubica and Adrian Sutil collided while distracted by Webber’s smoke, and fell behind all the other cars except the HRT duo who started their race in the pit lane.

The biggest benefact was Kubica’s team mate Vitaly Petrov, who made up six places with a clean start.

Hamilton stuck behind Rosberg

2010 Bahrain Grand Prix - Hamilton's pace (click to enlarge)
2010 Bahrain Grand Prix - Hamilton's pace (click to enlarge)

Lewis Hamilton’s attempt to pass Felipe Massa at the start ended up with him losing a place to Nico Rosberg. That cost him dearly, as the lap times above show.

Despite being able to lap 0.5-1 seconds faster than Rosberg, the aerodynamic wake from the Mercedes prevent Hamilton from getting close enough to try to pass.

After his pit stop, where he’d got ahead of Rosberg, Hamilton was more or less able to keep pace with the Ferraris. Towards the end of the race Fernando Alonso let rip and set a series of fast lap that neither Hamilton nor Felipe Massa, who seemed to have some kind of problem, could keep up with.

Vettel’s problem

2010 Bahrain Grand Prix - Vettel's problem (click to enlarge)
2010 Bahrain Grand Prix - Vettel's problem (click to enlarge)

I’d only just Tweeted that the race was “coming to the boil nicely” when it all fell apart. Alonso and Massa had been slowly catching Sebastian Vettel but suddenly his lap times increased and it became clear he had a problem.

As the graph shows Vettel coped admirably well with his exhaust fault and brought his lap times back down again. So much so that while it looked at first like he might drop out of the points completely he was able to stay ahead of Nico Rosberg for fourth.

It’s a long season and the points Vettel salvaged today could prove highly valuable later on.

New teams

2010 Bahrain Grand Prix - New teams (click to enlarge)
2010 Bahrain Grand Prix - New teams (click to enlarge)

As expected, new teams Lotus and Virgin were very closely matched for pace and we saw some good racing between them. But they were a couple of seconds off the pace of the slowest of the established runners.

They were not a close match on reliability, however. Both Virgins were gone within 16 laps, both Lotuses were classified, although Trulli experienced some hydraulic problems which ended his race early. They were lapped a lot, which is what the spikes towards the end of Kovalainen’s line are.

HRT F1 were further off Lotus and Virgin’s pace than these two were off the rest of the field, but that is to be expected when they’ve had no testing.

Pit stops

Bahrain Grand Prix pit stops (click to enlarge)
Bahrain Grand Prix pit stops (click to enlarge)

The standard strategy at Bahrain was a single pit stop around the lap 15 mark followed by a long 30-plus lap stint to the flag.

Generally it was the drivers who made their pit stops earliest who gained places – Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher for example. The crucial calculation being made on the pit wall is how early a driver can make his pit stop and come out in clean air without a slower car in front.

Race and lap charts

2010 Bahrain Grand Prix race chart (click to enlarge)
2010 Bahrain Grand Prix race chart (click to enlarge)
Drivers' gap to leaders' average lap time (click to enlarge)
Drivers' gap to leaders' average lap time (click to enlarge)

The Bahrain Grand Prix was a processional affair – more on that later.

Most of the pit stops happened on laps 15 and 16 as the field spread out and the front runners found themselves able to pit and resume racing in clean air. Given how most of the front runners were able to get to the end of the race without any obvious tyre problems we could see even early first stops in future races.

Unless the ‘option’ tyre has a significant performance advantage, one-stopping could be the way to go at many races this year.

2010 Bahrain Grand Prix lap chart (click to enlarge)
2010 Bahrain Grand Prix lap chart (click to enlarge)

2010 Bahrain Grand Prix

121 comments on “Rosberg stymies Hamilton while Vettel saves fourth (Bahrain GP analysis)”

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  1. I think Vettel coped really well with his problem. Brundle criticised him for not having consistent lap times, but surely Seb had to learn how the car had started behaving differently once the problem arose. He did very well to salvage 4th.

    Really good to see Massa on the podium as well :) glad he got straight back into racing well again, you wouldn’t know he’d had any time out of racing at all.

    1. I think Brundle was criticising him for missing apexes when there was no reason to, rather than just his lap times.

      1. Agree. Vettel had to learn to manage the situation, but he lost his edge when the issue started. It took him too long to make the adjustment needed to hold off Rosberg, although I was very impressed that he did.

        Missing the apexes on corners was not helping his times. Rookie stuff we talking about here. When the sun is shining Vettel is brilliant, but toss in a couple of clouds and he loses focus. Brundle was right.

        1. Have in mind that the electronics has some clever engine breaking strategies that help with stability under breaking. Having a basically dead cylinder most certainly messes that up, affecting his breaking, hence missing the apex.

  2. Just 1 problem with the post – when you click the graphs they don’t enlarge :-)

    1. Sorry about that – fixed it now!

  3. Was a great day to be an Alonso fan, the way he cried havoc and let slip the dogs of war putting in brilliant laps in the tages makes me believe I’m going to quite enjoy the 2010 season.

    Brilliant job by Lotus to finish, although it was a bit desperate by Truli to stay out so they got a double finish the team has still done an amazing job.

    1. However much I’m gutted Vettel didn’t win Alonso did a fantastic job. He put a great move on Massa to put himself in a position to challenge Vettel and I think Alonso would have caught Vettel and tried something anyway. Once Alonso got into the lead he flew and showed why he is considered to be the best driver in F1.

      Also great analysis Vettel did a really good job despite his lack of power. Well done Seb.

  4. i just wondered why in a race with not a lot going on did we only see one replay of the force india collision and no re-play of hamilton running wide? weird. good opener though!

      1. yeah, still don’t know what he did… or even where Oo

        1. For me, TV race direction was pretty poor all weekend. Following the wrong cars at the climax of quali 3, missing every one of the nineteen overtake during the race (OK, so they were mostly at the back of the field), hardly saw Kubica or Sutil fighting their way back after their coming together (didn’t even see that properly!).
          I like the fact that they are giving a time for the entire pitstop, but it really should be ‘as well as’ rather than ‘instead of’ the stationary time. I really wanted to know how fast the teams were changing tyres.

  5. I bet if Vettel didn’t have a problem Alonso wouldn’t have overtook him even though he started to run faster times. The tyres hardly wore at all, which was something I though would be a big problem. So the drivers probably could’ve pushed more. Whitmarsh has already said the race was unexciting and Schumi said that overtaking anyone was pretty much impossible.

  6. Also, don’t think there will be much whining about the Mclaren’s wing-stalling-scoop-device after their performance in the race. The way Renault was making it out was like it was illegal but it ain’t Bob Bell was just acting like there was some sort of gentleman’s agreement about not stalling the rear wings. I give them credit it’s good to see new innovative aero components like that in f1.

    1. I think it will have quite an effect at Monza. But that’s quite a while off and I suspect the other teams will have their own snorkels, f-vents, stallers, etc anyway by then.

      1. why do some people call it the ‘F-vent’.
        Is it because its on the ‘F’ of Vodafone? It wouldn’t really be a f-vent on other teams then.

        1. maybe the shape of it in cross section looks like an f?

        2. People inside McLaren are supposed to call it an F-vent or F-duct, but I don’t know where the name came from originally.

      2. May not be that easy, the monocoque is now homoglated for the season and that will require a change (a hole) to it.

        1. There are plenty of access holes in a modern F1 chassis to route a duct through the car. I doubt a new monocoque would be needed.

  7. The graphics showing lap times, positions and the like on TV (I’m guessing supplied by FOM) are awful this year.

    1. yer quali was nearly impossible to follow as we couldn’t get live timing to work. Apparently though all the TV stations have had massive complaints so maybe they’ll improve it. I never knew what was wrong with the old Yellow blocks myself

    2. Oblique graphics look dated and are hard to read. Stick to a BBC like template and stop trying too hard FOM!

    3. Absolutely – qualifying was incomprehensible and the commentators were reduced to reading out lists of names.

      I think a lot of people wont bother next round if this isnt sorted

      1. I agree. SPEED only showed times as the cars went by the finish. At the end of each Quali session I didn’t feel the excitement of watching the times list and drivers getting bumped around. To be honest I didn’t even know the order or who was on the bubble until the full list was posted after the last car went by.

    4. yeah where were the pit stop times???!!! i wanted to see how quick the stops were.

    5. It seemed to me that they changed the graphics just for the sake of it to try to make them look new, there wasn’t anything wrong with the old format for me.

  8. I suspect Vettel’s falling laptimes towads the end were proportional to the size of hole he was burning though the car. Perhaps they should just leave the car like that now!

  9. same thing happened to kimi in france 2008, like today the true victor of the race didn’t make it to the top step, real shame for vettel, however he once again displayed he’s a world class talent.

    1. Vettel displayed that Adrian Newey is the best car designer in F1.

      1. Damon – Vettel showed why Newey is NOT the best car designer in F1, even if he can sometimes make the fastest.

        1. Out of interest, because I take your point, who would you say was the best?

  10. Click to enlarge doesn’t seem to be working for me.

  11. Does anyone know if the stewards are going to action against Mark Webber?

    1. it would have been mentioned during the race, and he would have served his penalty then, so the answer is no, they are not taking action aginst him.

  12. Keith – Could you download and use the Mclaren telemetry at the next race to compare Button/Hamilton’s racing style? I know you couldn’t reconstruct racing lines, but we could see entry/exit speeds of corners and where each driver’s style differs.

  13. Everyone seems to be getting bad vibes that the new regulations are going to lead to really boring races. The pattern of one early pit stop then a really long second stint spent looking after tyres certainly wasn’t thrilling in today’s race.

    Here’s hoping that the action really starts in Australia!

    1. Yea I thought the race was very boring. Even more processional than in previous years. I thought after Hamilton’s failed pass against Massa and getting stuck behind Rosberg, we’d see him lose his cool and torch his tires in the process of making a spectacular pass. Unfortunately he couldn’t get quite close enough…and maybe…just maybe he has matured a bit. Who knows…

      If today’s race is any indication of the rest of the season, get ready for boring processional racing. Only excitement and passing will be the one (or maybe two) pit stops per team and when the leaders come up on the new teams where there is actually a large enough difference in speed to facilitate a pass.

      1. All we have to do is compare today’s race with the last few seasons.

        In the opening lap of previous seasons we’ve become used to a hairy sprint to the first corner and very frequent pile-ups as they all jockey for position. Often mayhem, frequently exciting. Many drivers really going for it.

        And today’s prospect for the whole of the season ? A procession. Nobody wants to take any risks ( with the honourable exception of Snr Alonso ) Everybody ( at the front anyway ) driving like he was afraid something might break.

        Not a good preview of an exciting season IMO. Oh dear……..

        1. They have made a mess of f1 this year!

          Overtaking even harder, drivers just driving round to save tyres, boring!

          Why didn’t they just leave it as it finished last year then we would have had a better version of 2009!

  14. isn’t this the end of F1?
    Second year in a row where I feel cheated. Something felt wrong while I was watching, we’re used to little overtaking, but now we have to cope with drivers preserving their tires, their engine… Qualifying felt the same where they also have to preserve their tires (with Vettel going out once).
    Both Withmarsh and Schumacher told the press it was a rather dull spectacle.

    What’s left? The eventual shower at Monaco, and seven real F1 tracks with Spa, Suzuka, Monza, Silverstone, Brazil, Sepang and Turkey, but how will they look with drivers…. often going 6 to 7 seconds off their optimum pace. And with a even longer season when will they start racing their heart out… instead of playing the long term strategies. Thankfully moto gp will have started by Barcelona.

    dear Keith, please advise, as an “F1 Fanatic” myself, I feel rather sad today.

    1. “Thankfully moto gp will have started by Barcelona.”

      Agreed! Can’t wait for MotoGP to get started!

      1. I’d go along with that as well! Very disappointed today! :(

    2. Agreed vincent. And all down to the stupid ban on refuelling. I knew this would happen. Fat cars trundling around wondering how much rubber is on there tyres. I’m so gutted about it. I can’t see how it’s gonna get any different.

      1. “And all down to the stupid ban on refuelling.”

        At what point did the lack of overtaking prove it was down to the banning of refuelling?

        It was down the aerodynamics of the cars, and those flaming double diffusers.

        1. Before the ban cars were on different fuel strategies which meant they were different weights – An element in overtaking.

          Drivers could run the **** off their tyres in conjuction with their arranged pit stops.

          Seems its all about conservation rather than flat out racing. Watch the interview with Jenson and Shumi on the iplayer.

        2. The double diffs were there last year. But so were variable fuel loads. The drivers and team bosses are saying you can’t overtake with this format. Do I believe you or them?

          1. Lee. Watch the interview with JB and MS on bbcf1. They think the same.

          2. Yeah, the double diffusers were brought in fully around mid-season, in Australia when only 3 teams had double diffusers there was plenty of overtaking. Also, in Bahrain, Button was evne able to pass Hamilton who had KERS, Hamilton didn’t have a double diffuser then (I think, from memory).

          3. Presumably you remember in the off season the team bosses saying the real problem was the tracks? Saying today you can’t overtake with this format, does not mean the best solution lies in refuelling. Might it not just as easily lie in something else?
            And I wouldn’t simply swallow the first thing team bosses say after one race. Their track record of statements regarding refuelling and aero over the last 20 years has no consistency whatsoever, either over the years, or between teams. Just because they sing off one song sheet today, doesn’t mean they will tomorrow. I’m not saying they’re wrong, simply that I don’t easily except it until I see a lot more evidence. (Like more races, a tyre war and a change in aero regs…)

    3. The race was boring beyond belief.

      Alonso overtook Massa in the second corner.

      That was it.

      Upside is, I get my Sundays back.

  15. Great analysis.

    Very curious to see that Felipe and Fernando slowed down almost 2 laps during lap 35, when Vettel developed his problem.

    Although Vettel was close to 5 seconds slower, the times lost by Ferraris trying to vertake a slow Vettel was a penalty of almost 2 seconds. It just demonstrates how difficult it is to overtake.

    Keith, I am expecting an article on the new regulations as well. Many team principals are publicly admitting that there is something wrong with it. What is your take on it? Are you still as much in favor of the ban on refueling as before?

    1. Vettel’s problem probably didn’t cost him much time in the long twisty sector 2 – Alonso couldn’t pass until they got onto the back straight, and Massa did him on the main straight.

      Lewis lost a similar amount of time passing Vettel a few laps later.

  16. Remember that Bernie wants 20 races per year, and thats presumably stetching further still the 8 engines per season rule.

    Not sure i’d really like to see some issue with Ferarri/Renault engines costing ferarri/RBR the title if they deserve it – by late season penalty punishments. although to some extent, if it continues to be tight it could give Mclaren and Merc a better shout for a tight season.

  17. Thanks for the analysis…

    I can only assume that this season is going to show up the track differences… ie the difference between the circuits where nobody can overtake which will be boring processions, and the proper circuits (Spa, Monza) where there will be a lot of great action.

  18. Red Bull confirmed that it was not an exhaust failure, instead an engine failure.

    1. Do you have a Source?

  19. So is it to early to declare Button out of his league in the McLaren? ;) I’m sure Kovi was grinning under his helmet after Button’s lackluster finish…

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