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

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

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

  1. sumedh said on 14th March 2010, 18:35

    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?

    • 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.

  2. charles fox said on 14th March 2010, 18:41

    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.

  3. Mark said on 14th March 2010, 18:42

    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.

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

  5. Allie500 said on 14th March 2010, 18:48

    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…

  6. BasCB said on 14th March 2010, 18:51

    Great effort to analyse the race. A shame, there were not more interesting moments to analyse.

    The tyres are keeping up just way to good. Button sounded guttet, that he spared his so much and lost with that. Nobody had any problems with managing the tyres at all.

    I liked Hamilton commenting on Vettels engine not firing all valves. From the latest information (electrical problem with the engine) he was probably correct.

    • patrick(UK) said on 14th March 2010, 19:19

      YEAH…Hamilton may have been right.. the redbull have comfirmed that the engine suffered with electrical problems which implies that one or two cylinders were not firing properly after a cable or some other electrical component failed…hence the loss of power.This is somewhat like misfiring in an ormal street car when one or two spark plugs fails or the high tention spark cables burn out due to short ciruit or heat.NEVERtheless the main power plant in the car was not damaged.IT could be that duevtom limitations ofspace ADRIAN NEWY tried to parkege things too tightly as you can tell by the way he arranged the exhaust system which like the brawn mercedes is breathing hot gases onto the rear wishborne/suspention assembly systems.FINALY…i was monitering the race on tv and radio plus the mclaren live feed on laptop…and was amazed at one stage when the mclaren pit told Hamilton that his pace was laping fastwer than the three cars ahead of him just before he overtook VETTEL…the graph analisis does not seem to reflect this?

  7. F1Fan said on 14th March 2010, 18:52

    Alonso is toying w/ the rest of them, and most certainly Massa. I think only Vettel and perhaps Lewis might challenge FA on a few tracks, other than that it will be a run-away march to the WDC for the Spaniard.

  8. Salty said on 14th March 2010, 18:56

    Good analysis as always sir. One thing that stood out for me today though, once we got down to the last 5 laps, I was expecting lap times to be nudging a lot closer to the 1:55’s we were seeing in quali. Low fuel, tyres in good nick, yet only 4 drivers (from memory, don’t flame) got under 2 minutes per lap. Yes, they were all nursing cars/tyre/engines/gearboxes, but 5 seconds? What changed?

    • FlyGuy said on 14th March 2010, 19:12

      Maybe because modern aero makes it impossible to overtake a car in front of you unless its way more than 5 seconds off your own pace.

      So given the need to conserve fuel, engines, gearboxes, tires etc driving 5 seconds off is ‘good enough’ to defend your place.

      So we are going to see a season of ‘good enough’ where everyone is on the same fuel strategy and no one has the performance differential required to overtake.

      Have we just gone from overtaking in the pits to not overtaking at all ?

      • Salty said on 14th March 2010, 19:29

        Ah, a fellow cynic. Agree need 2-3 seconds per lap advantage to push for that overtake, but not 5 surely.

        And yes, believe we have gone to no overtaking at all. As do Alonso, Schumacher, Hamilton, Button and several team bosses.

    • WidowFactory said on 14th March 2010, 19:31

      The tyres weren’t in good nick, and the Ferrari’s (probably others too) were short shifting to conserve their engines.

      • Salty said on 14th March 2010, 20:08

        Ah, but the tyres were in good nick. They were expected to chunk, grain and go off, but they didn’t. Button was disappointed that he didn’t push his rubber harder and Whitmarsh confirmed that the Bridgestine Supersoft could have gone at least half race distance, the medium practically the whole race.

        Engines and short-shifting yes. But then if even a further 3 seconds a lap were possible with a ‘push’, then overtaking would have happened.

        What I really think is the teams en-masse went very skinny on fuel then turned down to conserve, killing the race. Maybe FiA needs to make all teams carry a full 160kg of fuel, thus taking that excuse away.

        • RandomChimp said on 14th March 2010, 20:41

          “Button was disappointed that he didn’t push his rubber harder and Whitmarsh confirmed that the Bridgestine Supersoft could have gone at least half race distance, the medium practically the whole race.”

          The Virgins unfortunately couldn’t have pushed their rubber any harder if they’d wanted to.
          Sorry I couldn’t resist :)

          • newnhamlea1 said on 14th March 2010, 22:52

            i personally think a tyre war is needed and very little regulation on tyres to spice up the racing, if the mandatory 2 pit stops is introduced the rubber will get very soft again.

          • Salty said on 14th March 2010, 23:23

            Naughty step for you Chimp :P

  9. Poor Vettel, but Ferrari is better than Red Bull all time.

  10. NickO said on 14th March 2010, 19:51

    Been following F1 for 35 years, and I’d been trying to bury my doubts about expectation for this season. Testing was opaque as far as any insight into form was concerned, and depressingly practice and, to some extent, qualifying are also hard to read. Race strategies seem tough to follow, and maybe Bahrain will be an exception but all the drivers seemed to spend the whole race ‘saving themselves’ for some flourish at the end.

    The drivers seem glum, and constrained by handlers and PR. Schumacher shouldn’t have come back, and already looks haunted, and uncharacteristically making all sorts of excuses to explain his performance.

    Early days perhaps, and there’s still scope for some interesting Vettel/Alonso/Hamilton action, but for me today the most joy was to be found at the back of the grid amongst the new teams.

    Hoping I’ll be persuaded otherwise.

  11. The key to all this is the tyres – we need two tyre manufacturers and a tyre war – why on earth would Bridgestone elect to supply a tyre that although very quick would wear out very quickly as well when they don’t need to – think about it…. the commentators would spend their time saying “blah blah’s tyres are shot” or “Blah Blah’s tyres are worn out” why would any tyre manufacturer want that broadcast to the tens of millions of people watching / listening World Wide when there main business is to try and sell road tyres to those same people ? The message the public watching would receive is that Bridgestone tyres wear out quickly ! – seems obvious to me but am happy to be corrected if some one has a different angle on it.

  12. So Keith, where are those 14 reasons that refueling ban is good?

  13. Agree, a poor race, ominous for all of us especially Massa who’s last tilt at a Championship is evaporating before his eyes.
    Hate to say it but come Vettel, don’t let the “F”-er get away with it this year!

    • RandomChimp said on 14th March 2010, 20:52

      I think it’s too early to pass judgment on Massa’s chances, he was within throwing distance of Alonso until near the end when he was slowed by overheating problems.

  14. BasCB said on 14th March 2010, 20:12

    Well at least Bridgestone is happy about tyre performance.
    http://www.f1technical.net/news/14408?sid=f7c6ada67d15e566b72a2401d418f920

  15. I’m sure Alonso would NOT of got pass Vettel if he’d not had a problem, he closed up with ease but there was not a big enough difference, if you are in front its just too easy to stay there.

    Look at Alonsos lap once he got within 1 second, he was a second slower the next lap, if it wasn’t for Vettels problem you would of seen him just follow 1 to 1.5 seconds behind every lap.

    Hamilton, Webber and Button all had the same problem, much faster no way past.

    Alonso did deserve to win IMO, but got some luck (a lot). Hamilton, Webber and Button could of finish higher or closer to the front but got badly pegged back for long periods. Button and Webber were the most effected by this.

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