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. 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.

    1. 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?

      1. please purdon my typographical errors in the above reply….i have not had much sleep as i left work and stayed awake to watch the start …and am still awake monnitering varoius blogs on todays race….

        1. sorry I wanted to include this link:

          (the other one is about Bridgestone being satisfied with their tyres)

  2. 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.

  3. 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?

    1. 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 ?

      1. 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.

    2. WidowFactory
      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.

      1. 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.

        1. “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 :)

          1. 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.

          2. Naughty step for you Chimp :P

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

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

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

      1. Great article, spot on and really fast.
        A must read for the discussions on this season and the ban on refuelling.

  8. 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!

    1. 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.

  9. Well at least Bridgestone is happy about tyre performance.

  10. 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.

  11. Nick Someone
    14th March 2010, 20:19


    This is a re-post of a message I left for you on the “Bahrain Grand Prix FP2 analysis” page. I had suggested some ways to improve the graphs, and you had written back saying the ideas were good, but you didn’t know how to do them. I apologise for reposting if you have already seen the message.


    I spent a little time looking into this for you. I have found a website which you can use to generate charts with several useful features. The website is:

    with it you can:

    -enter CSV data (which you can get out of any spreadsheet prog).
    -create a graph of any dimensions.
    -check and uncheck tick boxes to hide the line graph of a driver(s) times.
    -zoom in and out to sections of the graph.
    -enter times in seconds and have the graph display them in the HH:mm:ss format.

    It’s basically an online Flash application that gives you an XML/HTML file. You’ll be able to embed the charts in this site, and it’s free although there is a link to the site in the top left corner of the charts it generates.

    Here’s a direct link to the bit of the site you’ll want to use:

    Click on the CSV “Data tab” and enter your session data. If the driver is pitted, don’t enter a value and it will make a gap in the graph line.

    When you have finished click on the “HTML” tab, click “Copy to clipboard”. You can then paste in the code to this site or wherever you want.

    I hope you find this helpful. I found a lit of other similar sites here:

    1. Thanks for the tip – will try to have a play around with them before the next race.

  12. Where the hell was the overtaking?? All they were were saving there tyres!!! I dnt like the ban of re fueling.. jst wasnt the same :(

    1. Actually, there was more overtaking than last year. TV feed was pretty bad – they kept showing the front not battles at the back.

      There’s a great overtaking analysis:

  13. Yep. The ‘soft’ and ‘super soft’ tyres should have been brought to Barhain. That way holding on for 60% race distance on either compound is no option, and we get to see drivers ragging the snot out of cars to make 2-or 3-stops work.

    1. As per Whitmarsh – the supersoft could have gone 25 laps. The medium had no signicant wear at all. So a one stopper with any combo.

  14. Keith
    it was quite interesting to hear lewis telling dc today that the mclarens he has driven have really never had a great back end. I’m assuming he’s talking mechanical grip, but surprising he was so open.

  15. I expected the ban on refueling to dull the races, but I did not expect it to absolutely demolish the spirit of racing. Throughout the race the drivers weren’t going flat out and were more concerned about how long the soft tyres would last, and how they should be preserving the tires, turning down engine revs, blah .. blah.. blah.

    Bernie Ecclestone needs to scrape the rust and cobwebs of his brains..and realise how he managed to screw up such a potentially brilliant season with stupid and unnecessary regulations.

  16. Very nice race, good drive by Alonso, shame about Massa, a little bit too cautious under braking on the first corner, it cost him a race victory. New teams, really did what was expected, very happy that Lotus made it to the end though. I was watching the race and thinking that the new teams should be allowed testing. If its your first season in F1, and your team is starting from zero, you are allowed testing for the first season. At least it helps to bring them up to speed.

  17. Yes a boring race. Easy fix, Ban front wings.Make tham run a mini front wing instead for stability then the cars would follow each other. Also just bring super soft tires to each event, some drivers might make them last ,others will go faster but wear them out and have to change.

  18. Im with Todfod. Seriosuly, that was the most boring race I have ever watched, in my life. I cant believe just how much race spirit was lost.

    The new regs are useless for improving the excitment in Formula 1. Im sorry, but no refueling has made it even worse. One tyre change too – BORING.

    These guys arent going to push that hard if they are going to wear out tyres. They would rather the place. We saw that last night.

    Im not even that excite to go to the Melbourne GP now because its quiet clear, whoever gets pole, will win unless they have a mechanical failure.

    Again – Boring.

  19. Well if that is a sign of things to come we have a very boring season ahead. This was the sports one chance to impress who don’t follow the sport given the attention that was on this race and it did disappoint. After that race to say I’m an F1 fan is a tad embarrassing.

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