How Hamilton and Massa raced to the front (Malaysian Grand Prix analysis)

The McLarens and Ferraris had to fight through the field

The McLarens and Ferraris had to fight through the field

Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa gained 14 positions during the race – but used very different tactics to do it.

While Hamilton made several passes on the track, Massa made the same progress with a well-timed pit stop.

Lap 1

Lap 1 position change, Malaysian Grand Prix

Lap 1 position change, Malaysian Grand Prix (click to enlarge)

As we saw on several occasions last year, Rubens Barrichello made a poor start, falling down the order.

Lewis Hamilton, on the other hand, got away cleanly and picked off seven cars, many of them at turn one. Felipe Massa followed him and gained the same number of places.

At the front of the field Sebastian Vettel made an excellent start and capitalised on Mark Webber’s failure to defend his place to rob him of the lead at turn one. That mistake cost Webber the win.

Hamilton and Massa fight through the field

Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button, Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso's progress

Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button, Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso's progress

Hamilton, Massa and Button finished sixth, seventh and eighth having started 20th, 21st and 17th. The chart above shows their progress compared to other relevant drivers, plus Fernando Alonso who made a similar ascent through the field before retiring.

Hamiltons and Massa’s races unfolded very differently after their starts. While Hamilton began picking off the cars in front of him Massa, also on hard tyres, couldn’t make the same progress. Unlike Hamilton, he didn’t have the advantage of an F-duct.

The upshot of this was that by the time Massa made his pit stop on lap 26, Hamilton was over 13 seconds ahead. This meant McLaren didn’t need to react to Massa’s pit stop immediately by bringing Hamilton in. At this point, Hamilton’s problem was Button.

Button had lost position to Hamilton and Massa at the start, then Alonso squeezed past him too. Although he managed to pass Alonso on the track, Button came in for an early change to hard tyres on lap nine.

By lap 29 Button was going quickly enough on his hard tyres to give Hamilton a headache as his rubber deteriorated. Hamilton pitted, getting out just ahead of Button but with five seconds in hand over Massa.

Hamilton caught Sutil at over two seconds per lap but this was a car he couldn’t pass – he got on the radio and told his team the Force India was just too quick in a straight line.

Interestingly, Michael Schumacher had been only two seconds behind Sutil when he dropped out, depriving us of a Hamilton-Schumacher battle for position.

Massa eventually passed Button has the McLaren drivers’ tyres dropped well off the pace. So much so that Fernando Alonso had a good chance of passing him even with his gearbox problem, though he eventually succumbed to a blown Ferrari engine.

Pit stops

Malaysian Grand Prix pit stops

Malaysian Grand Prix pit stops (click to enlarge)

After his poor start Rubens Barrichello was the first person to pit but couldn’t make it to the end of the race on his second set of tyres.

Button, on the other hand, pitted on lap nine and completed the remaining 47 laps without another stop – though his tyres were heavily worn by the end of the race. It was not unlike his long stint at Melbourne last week, and is further evidence of his skill in looking after tyres.

The order at the front of the field could easily have been reversed had Mark Webber pitted before Sebastian Vettel. In all likelihood Red Bull (and the other teams) give priority on pitting to whichever driver is leading when they’re racing each other, to prevent arguments.

But could we see a scenario where a driver in Webber’s position takes it upon himself to pit before his team mate does to gain the benefit of being the first to pit?

Race charts

The race charts below break down the major movement in the race:

Overall race chart

Drivers' positions relative to the race leader

Drivers' positions relative to the race leader (click to enlarge)

Overall race chart (zoomed to leaders)

Drivers' positions relative to the race leader (zoomed)

Drivers' positions relative to the race leader (zoomed) (click to enlarge)

Overall race chart (all times compared to leader’s average time)

Drivers' positions versus the leaders' average lap time

Drivers' positions versus the leaders' average lap time

Lap chart

Malaysian Grand Prix lap chart

Malaysian Grand Prix lap chart (click to enlarge)

2010 Malaysian Grand Prix

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109 comments on How Hamilton and Massa raced to the front (Malaysian Grand Prix analysis)

  1. Boys we are talk car racing…it doesn’t matter how good the driver is…you need rich uncle to even make it to this Level….just ask that kid driving the Torro rossi,he will replace that old fart at MB

  2. Palle said on 7th April 2010, 15:20

    dj: You need a rich “uncle”, yes, but if You’re not very very talented, you can’t find a rich “uncle”, or he isn’t rich enough. The driver is important, but when we discuss the best 8 to 12 drivers at this level, the technical package seems more decisive.

    • ya,I know,but just a Rfactor widget and we could be racing these babes…Jenson sure waited along time for a good car

  3. Palle said on 8th April 2010, 7:52

    dj: You can’t compare armchair racing with reality. It is so physical with all those G-forces. Look at Fisichellas pole lap of Spa last year: in a turn combination he has 3,4 g lateral to the left, which then almost instantly switches to 4 g lateral to the right… 1 and a half hour like that, anybody without a lot of physical training would be totally crushed. 30 min of carting is physically tough, even if You are generally fit, and F1 is so much more, You can’t compare.

  4. SennaRainho said on 9th April 2010, 18:25

    Palle, I very much agree that Button pretty much won due to the car only but I think we can both agree that the example is a bit extreme. The car was clearly not within regulations and should never have raced.

    When the cars raced are built within the same rules they are equal enough that the driver has to make up for the rest of the difference.

    Once the driver is established in the top it is sometimes hard to know the true potential and I also love to watch Kobayashi performing well in a weak car which used to be how careers were made. Vettel did it, Raikkonen, Alonso, Schumacher, Senna and the list goes on.

    Now though, as in the case of Hamilton, they come straight from McLaren’s “kindergarden” and we don’t know what they can do in an under-performing car. Or maybe we do after all as he was driving a quite poor car last year.

    Though I prefer to see the drivers prove themselves before entering top teams, it will be interesting to see if young Magnussen will make it straight to the permanent McLaren seat :-)

  5. Palle said on 9th April 2010, 18:46

    SennaRainho, I think it is perfectly OK that the Brawn car was allowed to race. After all F1 is also an engineering competition – who can design and build the best car. Otherwise we have GP2 where the cars are quite the same, like many other racing series. The possibility of outsmarting the competition is giving F1 a unique aura of hightech and it creates a development environment, where it is possible to bring forward new advanced technologies, (almost) otherwise not possible.
    Unless Young Magnussen is technically (re feedback to his engineer, etc.) more talented than his father, he will not make it to a McLaren seat in F1.

  6. SennaRainho said on 9th April 2010, 22:42

    I agree with your points but I just don’t think they apply to the Brawn case. FIA made a huge effort to try cut down force as well as cost in 2009. Both points were rare cases of sharp sight FIA but the double difuser was not only against the regulations according to most of the inspectors but it was downright contradiction to both points: Cars could barely follow each other at all and everybody had to spend huge sums to try to keep up.

    I don’t remember which team it was but someone actually inquired to the FIA about the possibility of a double difuser and was told it would be illegal. Brawn was more persistant but you basically end up with teams following different regulations which is first of all unfair but also hopelessly boring to watch.

    Kevin is already aware of his fathers shortcomings and I am sure that he will work hard not to make the same mistakes. Besides, he might be completely different person. I hope he’ll make it, now that we are about to witness the first start to a season in 20 years where no scandinavian has scored points within the first four races!!

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