Alonso fourth, Schumacher tenth in their battle from the back in Melbourne

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Alguersuari kept Schumacher behind for 36 laps
Alguersuari kept Schumacher behind for 36 laps

Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher fell to the back of the pack at the start of today’s Australian Grand Prix after colliding on the first lap.

But while Alonso climbed back through the field to finish fourth Schumacher was only able to grab tenth place and the final point on the penultimate lap.

How did Alonso managed to make such better progress than Schumacher?

Schumacher and Alonso's time gap to the race leader
Schumacher and Alonso's time gap to the race leader (click to enlarge)

The graph above shows how far Alonso and Schumacher were behind the leader on each lap of the race. The data for some other relevant drivers is included.

Alguersuari, take one

The one driver who made the biggest difference was Toro Rosso’s Jaime Alguersuari. Alonso and Schumacher both pitted to discard their intermediate tyres on lap eight, one lap before Alguersuari.

As Alguersuari came out of the pits Alonso was able to drive past him – but Schumacher got stuck behind the Toro Rosso driver.

Although Alonso continued to move up the field by passing other cars, and plenty of changes of positions were happening further up the field, Schumacher could do little about Alguersuari. It took him 14 laps to find a way by.

Two laps later Alguersuari pitted for fresh tyres and Mercedes decided to cover him by bringing in Schumacher on lap 27.

However, as we have seen already this year, the driver who pits first has the advantage in this situation. Sure enough, Alguersuari got the position back from Schumacher – partly because the Mercedes drivers was now stuck behind Pedro de la Rosa.

Alguersuari, take two

On the graph above, Nico Rosberg’s dashed line shows the kind of pace Schumacher might have had without Alguersuari in the way.

This time Alguersuari stayed ahead for 22 laps before making a mistake, allowing Schumacher to muscle his way around the outside of the Toro Rosso at turn 15. Alguersuari ran him out to the edge of the track, unwilling to give the place up, but Schumacher finally prevailed.

It wasn’t the first time in the race he’d been troubled by one of the cars further down the order. Timo Glock cheekily re-passed the world champion at turn 14 earlier in the race.

Happily for Schumacher, de la Rosa proved much easier to pass when he caught him the second time. Peter Sauber cannot have been very happy at the ease with which de la Rosa surrendered the final points-paying position on the 57th tour, one lap from home.

Alonso’s progress

Alonso, meanwhile, had made his way past de la Rosa 44 laps earlier and never looked back. He passed Rubens Barrichello on lap 15 and took seventh off Mark Webber when the Red Bull driver went off on his out-lap the next time around.

The Ferrari driver gained three more places thanks to Vettel’s retirement, and the extra pit stops for Webber (who had re-passed Alonso) and Lewis Hamilton.

Granted, Alonso has a quicker car than Schumacher does at the moment. But when you think back to Schumacher’s famous drives from the back at Spa in 1995 or Suzuka in 1998 and then consider he spent 36 laps behind a Toro Rosso today, you have to wonder if he’s still a little race-rusty.

2010 Australian Grand Prix

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