Safety car spares Hamilton and Alonso’s blushes (Chinese Grand Prix analysis)

The second safety car period gave Hamilton the opportunity to attack Kubica

The second safety car period gave Hamilton the opportunity to attack Kubica

Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso owed their large points hauls in Shanghai at least partly thanks to the second appearance of the safety car.

The erased the huge amount of time they had lost with extra pit stops at the start of the race and, in Alonso’s case, a penalty for jumping the start.

But Robert Kubica was left to rue the second safety car period which ultimately cost him a podium finish.

The start

Chinese Grand Prix - lap 1 position change

Chinese Grand Prix - lap 1 position change (click to enlarge)

As mentioned in the pre-race analysis, the Shanghai layout tends to keep the cars in grid order at the start. Sure enough, the major changes on the first lap came because of Fernando Alonso’s jumped start and the crash which eliminated Vitantonio Liuzzi, Sebastien Buemi and Kamui Kobayashi.

However Mark Webber did manage to get his revenge on team mate Sebastian Vettel by passing him at the start, as Vettel did to him at Sepang two weeks ago.

Top three drivers’ lap times

Chinese Grand Prix- top three drivers' lap times

Chinese Grand Prix- top three drivers' lap times (click to enlarge)

Hamilton’s off-the-chart spike on laps six and seven show where he lost a huge amount of time to leaders Nico Rosberg and Jenson Button because of his early switch to intermediate tyres.

Once back on slicks he was able to lap much quicker than them whenever he found clear air. He set the fastest lap of the race very early, on lap 13, when the track was at its driest.

Lap 19 was Rosberg’s undoing as he ran off the track and was subsequently passed by Button. The five seconds he lost on that lap are obscured on the chart because of the pit stop he made immediately afterwards.

The McLaren drivers made their final pit stops on laps 37 (Hamilton) and 38 (Button). From that point on it was a straight race to the flag between them. Button pulled away initially, pulling a ten second lead over his team mate.

But he went off the track on lap 51 at the hairpin and from that point on Hamilton was quicker. It’s likely he spent the first part of this stint preserving his tyres knowing how long they’d have to last – look at the wear Webber suffered having made his final stop for intermediates two laps before Hamilton.

On the final lap Hamilton took a second out of his team mate’s lead to finish within 1.5 seconds of Button. What we don’t know is whether the team were telling them to cool it while Hamilton pressed on, hoping his team mate would slip up again.

Pit stops

2010 Chinese Grand Prix pit stops

2010 Chinese Grand Prix pit stops (click to enlarge)

The unpredictable weather made a mockery of several teams’ strategists, particularly those who made early stops for intermediate tyres and then returned to the pits only a couple of laps later to go back to slicks.

By the end of the race Jaime Alguersuari and Nico H???lkenberg took the record with six visits to the pits each. Alonso finished fourth despite pitting three times in the first six laps.

As the chart above shows Renault were the only team to get the call right for both their cars. Button, Rosberg, Pedro de la Rosa and Heikki Kovalainen also stayed out – the Lotus driver was rewarded with a short-lived elevation to the dizzy heights of sixth place on lap eight.

Lap chart

Chinese Grand Prix lap chart

Chinese Grand Prix lap chart (click to enlarge)

The different fortunes of the two Ferrari drivers is striking. Their strategies were similar but despite the added advantage of a drive-through penalty Alonso battled through the field much more effectively than his team mate.

Felipe Massa ended the race with the Red Bulls and Renaults separating him from his team mate.

After reaching sixth Kovalainen’s tumble back down the running order was inevitable. But the much-delayed H???lkenberg never caught the Lotus driver, ending the race nine seconds behind the Finn.

Interactive race chart

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The interactive race chart makes it easy to see the state of play before that crucial second safety car period. Hover over lap 21 to see just how far ahead Button and Rosberg were before the safety car was summoned so the marshals could recover debris from Jaime Alguersuari’s car.

At this point Hamilton, seventh, was 54 seconds behind and Alonso, tenth, was 76 seconds adrift. Without the safety car, Rosberg and Kubica would have remained out of Hamilton’s reach and Alonso might not even have got past Vitaly Petrov.

It takes nothing away from the quality of their drives which were distinguished by few mistakes and some excellent passes. But you can see why Renault are regretting Kubica’s lost podium.

2010 Chinese Grand Prix

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94 comments on Safety car spares Hamilton and Alonso’s blushes (Chinese Grand Prix analysis)

  1. Was boring from the start for me since most of the focus was on Alonso jumping the gun. Got better when Jenson, Rosberg and the Renault boys kept going while the rest changed tyres and messed that up.

    Second safety car spoiled a great race in my opinion, but nearly made up for it when Jenson slowed down to a standstill. I have never seen so many cars bunched up that close, unless being on the M20 ofc.

    Vettel vs Lewis was an interesting tussle glad they both didn’t get punished for that. I also feel Alonso got away from a decent punishment, which he should of had since the drive through (I think) wasn’t enough to hurt his point collecting.

    Congratulations to Button, Lewis and Rosberg getting on the podium and keeping the season “STILL” interesting.

    • James_mc said on 18th April 2010, 22:02

      I felt that the drive-through was adequate, it demoted him back down the field to negate any advantage gained by accidentally jumping the gun and then punished him a little for doing so.

      Couldn’t have been intentional because as was shown it only has a negative impact on your race.

      • true, true you would have to be some piece of work to do it on purpose.

        I guess it does feel all different with past drivers giving their view of things to the stewards.

        Maybe all the fans like me should try to change with the new rules and just take it on the chin when it doesn’t go their way.

        • James_mc said on 18th April 2010, 23:30

          You would also have to be exceedingly dim to think you could get away with it in today’s sensor-infested, camera-laden F1! :-D

          • ha ha very true.

          • gpfan said on 19th April 2010, 0:05

            “You would also have to be exceedingly dim to think you could get away with it in today’s sensor-infested, camera-laden F1″

            Or, with those meddle-some teenagers.

            andy wants a Scooby-snack!
            ;)

  2. sato113 said on 19th April 2010, 0:25

    that is one messy lap chart!!!
    how come the lap 1 positions change chart shows KOB as remaining in the same position? he crashed and surely lost loads of places?….

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 19th April 2010, 8:22

      how come the lap 1 positions change chart shows KOB as remaining in the same position? he crashed and surely lost loads of places?….

      He didn’t have a position at the end of lap one because he was out of the race, so there’s no difference to plot.

  3. sato113 said on 19th April 2010, 0:40

    poor old PdLR and KOB. especially KOB who is probably a great driver but hasn’t had the chance to show it yet! all of his retirements have been beyond his control.

  4. disappointed at the stewards inconsistency with the hamilton/vettel pit incident given webber’s penalty for an unsafe release at spa last year..

    • DaveW said on 19th April 2010, 3:20

      Brilliant work Keith. But I am spending more time on the site and less on my work so all of these terrific analyses are costing me.

      I think the pit-entry debris theory is correct. And the emergency of lead-killing events is part of the risk you assume when you expend the car to build a lead.

      Anyway, I think its a bit unfair to say all Hamilton and Alonso needed to catch the lead cars was the safety car. They both still had to pass several cars to gain their positions, and Hamilton came from several positions back on the restart to the point of bearing down on Button in the last laps. Those two guys, it is clear, have uncommon skills.

      I for one was desperate to see the duel between the McLarens, in the wet, on simiarly busted intermediates. I wanted to see Whitmarsh wringing his hands because I’m certain that Hamilton would have become profoundly deaf in both ears if the hold-station radio call had come over the radio.

  5. Johnny86 said on 19th April 2010, 2:30

    Exciting race this weekend….even though its good for the sport it has taken the public expectation to new high…something which barceleno,i doubt ,will be able to fulfull…so expect the ‘f1 being boring’-gate to make its grand entrance in three weeks…

    • Barcelona isn’t famous for its great racing and it’s the only track on the calendar that most teams have some 2010 setup data for. Yawn..

  6. Johnny86 said on 19th April 2010, 2:31

    I meant barcelona

  7. BNK Racing said on 19th April 2010, 3:02

    a bit off topic….but did any one watch the race via SPEED? i felt their coverage is way below par compared to BBC. when the second safety car was out i had no idea why, because they had gone to a commercial break….although i assumed it was because of buemi eventually. also the fact that they seem to go to commercials every 5mins missing key position changes etc makes the race more confusing. and while i have them under a microscope, the commentators have to correct themselves continuously during a race with the wrong facts which becomes really annoying!!

    • Dan M said on 19th April 2010, 4:51

      Ah, I see this is your first experience watching SPEED…

      Its been this way for years, wait until FOX broadcasts the British GP 5hrs after it happens cutting the interviews to show NASCAR practice.

  8. “but did any one watch the race via SPEED? i felt their coverage is way below par compared to BBC.”

    SpeedTV is absolutely horrible compared to other coverage.

    I saw one writer here mention that the coverage he watched was dominated by talk of the Alonso drive-thru. Not so with Speed. The barely mentioned it when it happened. They ignored it the rest of the race. They played only one camera angle which showed no jumping then didn’t wuestion the stewards’ decision when it happened only a few laps later.

    I hate Steve Matchett and wish he would at least talk less if not die (okay maybe that’s too harsh … no, he really needs to go).

    Bob Varsha is okay, he’s more the all-around Speed anchor and is always deferential and humble. He knows what he doesn’t know and that he lacks any particular expertise.

    I like the new pit-guy and the the British guy that filled in for Varsha last week, I think it is “Leigh Diffey”?

    But the pit-guy isn’t a choice of SpeedTV. He got the job when that complete sap, Peter Windsor left to try to start F1USA. Oh! Thank The Lord in Heaven for that.

    And David Hobbs. David Hobbs is good and funny and has a wealth of experience as a driver and commentator, but I fear last year was the end of the line. He increasingly shows signs of early-onset Alzheimer’s.

    He can’t tell the difference between Alonso and Massa when the numbers and readouts on on the screen in front of him and the two are 7 places apart. He has this problem with all the drivers and teams. This is bizarre to me because this is HIS job. Not mine. I’m the spectator.

    I mean Jesus. Massa and Hamilton wear yellow helmets. Schu wears a red one. This isn’t that hard. Yesterday he couldn’t tell the difference between Aglasueri (spelling) and Buemi. Okay, maybe I’m making too big a deal of it. But it is annoying.

    SpeedTV sucks, but I have no other choice, unless I actually wanted to fly to Shanghai and sit in the rain.

    • US_Peter said on 19th April 2010, 5:14

      Lol. I’m not that bothered by it, but I know exactly what you mean about David Hobbs, I’m constantly pointing out to my girlfriend during races that he’s in fact talking about the opposite team member in most cases when he refers to a driver. It’s gotten to the point where I just find it funny, and am genuinely surprised if he gets a driver right. Once in a while he even notices his mistake and corrects himself, or Matchett will correct him.

    • However, Steve Matchett’s books about his own F1 experiences as a mechanic are very entertaining.

      Maybe you would consider subscribing for a UK proxy address so you can watch the F1 races on your laptop? The beauty of it is that it is location-independent and you get all the BBC pre-race, race and post-race from their website. Worth it at £5 per month. (There may be cheaper ones, or free ones, I don’t know.)

  9. K. Chandra Shekhar said on 19th April 2010, 4:27

    Just before the last lap Lewis was told on the radio that heavy rain was expected and to drive carefully. Is this a coded one NOT to race Button?

  10. JohnBt said on 19th April 2010, 7:59

    So looks like there’s no need to ammend the rules for 2010. Fantastic China GP race.
    There are more than enough comments from this race. All I want to say is, I vote Alonso as driver of the China GP, a repeat from Malaysia. I shan’t say the IFFY things.

  11. Prisoner Monkeys said on 19th April 2010, 8:27

    Who’d have thought that Shanghai could hae given us one of the best races of the modern era?

    We’ve been a bit spoiled of late: three Grands Prix, two great – and one good – races.

  12. John H said on 19th April 2010, 11:53

    No mention of Schumacher in the analysis – that speaks volumes.

    The guy is too old to drive without TC. It’s even clearer in the wet.

  13. Bren said on 19th April 2010, 11:59

    Massa was the poor one again. as fernando caught him before the SC despite his penalty

    yet again fernando has had troubles(this time his own fault) but still fernando has been able to catch massa very quickly. in oz alonso was last and yet 20 laps later he was massa tail. not good performances from massa so far

  14. I suspect Ferrari is going to replace Massa with either Kubica, Vettel, or Ferrari’s academic drivers (Mirko Bortolotti or Jules Bianchi.)

  15. rashid hasan said on 19th April 2010, 15:55

    go hamilton go. there is no such thing as hamilton disease. it’s hamilton phenomenon. tifosi tifosa? who cares who they are…only themselves

    • David A said on 19th April 2010, 16:41

      See, comments like these targeted at other F1 fans like that are why everyone else likes to call it “hamilton disease”.

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