Valencia’s short pit lane helps Hamilton hold onto second (European GP analysis)

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Valencia, 2010

It wasn’t just slow stewards which inadvertently helped Lewis Hamilton hold onto second place after his drive-through penalty.

Valencia’s short pit lane was the difference between him finishing second instead of sixth.

See below for more data on the European Grand Prix including the race progress and lap time interactive charts.

Lap 1

Lap 1 position change

Lap 1 position change (click to enlarge)

Mark Webber didn’t get off the line too poorly, but after Lewis Hamilton got alongside him he was punished to the tune of seven places by the end of the first lap.

First the Ferraris set upon Webber, then Jenson Button and Robert Kubica went either side of him as they rounded turn eight, both making it past.

By the end of the lap Webber had slumped from second to ninth.

Vitaly Petrov blamed his poor start on wheelspin as the lights changed, dropping him from tenth to 15th.

Pit stops

Pit stops

Pit stops (click to enlarge)

The normal routine of pit stops was just getting started when Webber’s crash brought the safety car out.

Most of those who could pit on lap nine did, several others pitted on lap ten, and the ones who lost out were the ones who had to follow the safety car around before coming in – Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa.

Hamilton spared himself that delay by illegally overtaking the safety car – unwittingly or otherwise. But as things worked out, the penalty he got for doing that was less than the time he ultimately saved by not following the safety car around.

Race progress

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Tick/untick drivers? names to show their laps, click and drag to zoom

Hamilton came very close to not making it out in front of Kobayashi. Drivers have up to three laps to serve drive-through penalties and McLaren kept him out as late as they could to maximise his chance of getting ahead.

At the point Hamilton was informed of the penalty he was 2.2s behind Sebastian Vettel and McLaren’s radio broadcasts revealed he was saving fuel to attack Vettel later on. But once they knew they were getting a penalty Hamilton speeded up, increasing his gap over Kobayashi from 11.2s to 13.2s.

This was crucial, as typical pit lane time loss at Valencia is 12.7s. It’s the shortest pit lane F1 has used so far this year. Had the same situation happened at Shanghai, where pit lane time loss is 21s, Hamilton would have come out in sixth place behind Robert Kubica.

It’s worth reflecting that, not only did the stewards take rather too long to give Hamilton a penalty, but the only penalty available to them is one that varies in its severity from race to race. Hardly an ideal situation.

Drivers’ lap times

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Tick/untick drivers? names to show their laps, click and drag to zoom

Jenson Button grabbed the fastest lap late in the race with a 1’38.766. That was just 0.083s slower than the lap record, set by Timo Glock last year.

Lap chart

Lap chart

Lap chart (click to enlarge)

Adrian Sutil pulled off one of the race’s few overtaking moves and it paid off three times over.

As well as taking a place from Sebastian Buemi he was able to pull ahead and inherit another place from Kamui Kobayashi when the Sauber driver pitted.

It also meant he was far enough of ahead of Fernando Alonso that, when Sutil got his post-race five second penalty, he stayed ahead of Alonso.

NB. charts do not reflect time penalties added after the race.

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94 comments on Valencia’s short pit lane helps Hamilton hold onto second (European GP analysis)

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  1. Venom02 said on 27th June 2010, 21:48

    Valencia pitlane is still short but the speed limit is fixed to 60km/h

    • miguelF1O (@) said on 28th June 2010, 2:05

      this race shouldnt count for the champ but for several reason fia couldnt just do the right thing and penalise fairly all the drivers if fia dsq 10 drivers it would be very bad for f1 image and it would set an war inside f1

    • sato113 said on 28th June 2010, 2:17

      the FIA should adjust the pit speed limit according to the length of the pitlane itself. therefore a drive thru penalty would be of the same severity at all tracks.

      • disjunto said on 28th June 2010, 6:44

        yeah, because the speed limit is there to penalise drivers and not for the safety of everyone who works in the pits

      • Mike said on 28th June 2010, 7:29

        Sato does have a good point, but I think his idea, though not bad, is rather unworkable.

        Different tracks are just that, different.
        One day Hamilton will get a penalty where there is a really long pit lane, so it will all balance out eventually.

  2. SoLiDG (@solidg) said on 27th June 2010, 21:51

    great strategie by Sauber. Congrats to them.
    If the sc came in front of vettel, Button would have been first.. that would have been one lucky Jenson there

    • Japaf1 said on 27th June 2010, 21:54

      And another one of Button’s standard lucky wins.

      • BeenDun said on 28th June 2010, 5:10

        It’s luck if it happens once in a blue moon. When it happens regularly it’s called skill. For all Hamilton’s dramatic racing, Jenson consistently finishes right up with him. So much for Hamilton’s “dominance.”

        • kbdavies said on 28th June 2010, 10:37

          What a silly comment. It is the teams responsibility to get their drivers up the ranking as high as possible – especially if the driver qualifies low – a la Jenson. Jenson has been “up there” with Lewis a few times due to the teams strategy; and rightly so.
          This does not take away from Lewis’s dominant drives. He has won ALL his placing due to his driving abilities, not due to his team making up for his shortcomings.
          In fact, his team has cost him positions twice this year!

      • Christian said on 28th June 2010, 9:49

        Ah, these things happen. It’s not like Alonso or Hamilton haven’t benefited from safety cars in previous races like China.

        Swings and round-a-bouts. They even themselves out in the end.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 27th June 2010, 21:55

      I don’t think so – if the safety car had come out in front of Vettel, Button would have had to queue behind Hamilton.

      • Racer (@racer) said on 27th June 2010, 21:57

        No he wouldn’t Button would have pitted the lap before Hamilton, just as he did in the actual race, because he hadn’t passed the pitlane exit, unlike Hamilton. No queueing…

      • sumedh said on 27th June 2010, 22:14

        Agree with Racer above.

        If the safety car came out correctly, then Button would have been the winner.

        And the top 4 would have been badly compromised.

        I think the SC rules need to be changed ASAP. I won’t mind the 2007 rule of “pit lane closure”, the only problem with that rule was people running out of fuel on the track, in 2010, that problem is gone anyways :).

        • Jagged (@jagged) said on 27th June 2010, 23:06

          By coincidence, I scanned and posted an article that gives a detailed description of the first use of a safety car at the Canadian Grand Prix at Mosport in 1973 and the tremendous controversy that surrounded it.

          Sorry for the delay but this has prompted me to try out the scanner I’ve recently purchased. A few weeks after this race I was walking through the paddock at Watkins Glen and picked up a copy of a racing newspaper that Marlboro was giving out. I was quite surprised to find a picture of the winner’s circle at Canada which had me in it. I’ve scanned the article which has great information about this race. That’s me in the 1st picture in the sunglasses at the left upper edge.

          http://www.flickr.com/photos/51463807@N03/4731981852/sizes/l/

          http://www.flickr.com/photos/51463807@N03/4731983240/sizes/l/in/photostream/

          Seems as if we haven’t progressed very far in 37 years.

          • Mike said on 28th June 2010, 7:30

            That is a really good article.
            Thanks a lot!

          • BasCB said on 28th June 2010, 20:24

            I read it just now, nice find. It goes to show, Safety car is a complicated thing always hurting someone and handing others advantages, now and 37 year ago!

        • Red Andy (@red-andy) said on 27th June 2010, 23:59

          I thought the “pit lane closure” rule was fine even with refuelling. Just a few teams could never understand the principle of building the possibility of a safety car into your strategy.

        • dragon said on 28th June 2010, 1:25

          That’s actually a great point. I always felt terrible for those drivers who HAD to pit or run out of fuel, and were subsequently punished; but now, that rule would work perfectly, and stop those who actually deserve to be on the podium from being compromised!

  3. David B said on 27th June 2010, 22:12

    It should be: when safety car is deployed everybody slow and not overtake. Then the safety car is reached by the first positioned and everybody queues. Only when the line is complete the pit is open and the drivers can change tyres (if they want, I’d prefer the rule of mandatory tyres change to be dropped).
    If one driver overtakes when SC is deployed or is too fast while SC is out, he immediately is forced to step down to last position, as a consistent penalty.

    No strange rules on pit lane opened or closed, no dangerous massive pit entries, no late decisions by the stewards.

    • Joey-Poey said on 28th June 2010, 5:47

      This seems like common sense to me. I never remember this sort of controversy or confusion about the pace car coming out in Indy car races when I was growing up.

      Only thing I wouldn’t agree with on this is the harshness of the punishment. I would say drop 5 positions or something. But yes, handed out immediately.

      • Evan said on 28th June 2010, 7:33

        I don’t mean to be pedantic or anything but the 1995 indy 500 springs to mind as something similar. Jacques Villenueve didn’t know he was the leader when the caution came out so he passed the pace car, as was normal procedure. Subsequently he was given a 2 lap penalty which he made up and then won the race because Scott Goodyear overtook the slow moving pace car on a restart. Anyway the real point is that the stewards screwed this one up badly and even as a Hamilton fan i can see he wasn’t punished enough, perhaps a stop and go would have been more appropriate.

        • Oliver said on 28th June 2010, 10:23

          There already exists punishments from different transgressions, so the stewards just cant pick on out of their hat. The stewards cant try to over compensate because of the prevailing situation, that would be race manipulation.

  4. David B said on 27th June 2010, 22:13

    And no races decided by stewards “awareness” or pit lane lenght!!!

  5. sumedh said on 27th June 2010, 22:27

    I wonder why no one has asked this before.

    Considering the hypothetical situation where, Vettel and Hamilton pass the safety car and pit at end of lap 10, but Felipe and Fernando instead of pitting under the safety car just continue as they were.

    Then, we would have had at the restart 1.Vettel, 2.Hamilton, 3.Alonso, 4.Massa, 5.Kobayashi, 6.Button and so on…

    Now, at the race-restart, assuming no crash happens, Vettel and Hamilton should pull away from Alonso and Massa (since they have older tyres) and Alonso and Massa should pull away from Kobayashi (since, it is the faster car). Then, Hamilton serves his penalty on lap 28. He will most likely come out 4th behind Vettel and the 2 Ferraris.

    Now, the 2 Ferraris, will obviously look to pit whenever they have a 20-odd second gap to Kobayashi, which would be close to around lap 50 (A Ferrari can be assumed to be 0.5 seconds quicker than Sauber for 40 laps in-a-row).

    So, the Ferraris pit now and rejoin 3rd and 4th still ahead of Kobayashi and Button and start catching up to Hamilton in the closing stages.

    Thuhe worst case scenario, they could have finished 3rd and 4th, best-case: 2nd and 3rd.

    So they are indeed responsible for part of their dismal performance.

    • sumedh said on 27th June 2010, 22:28

      It should be “Thus, in the” not “Thuhe”

    • F1iLike said on 27th June 2010, 22:41

      Hey, that’s a sane catch! :D Actually, they should’ve been savy enough to realise that.. Oh well.. The safety car rule piting blablabla is still pretty dodgy

    • charles fox said on 28th June 2010, 0:27

      Slight problem wwith the above mentioned strategy, is that Alonso and Massa were on the super softs being front runners forced to use their qually tyres, and we all saw how badly the hard gamble went for mercedes. so even the F10(“b”) which seems to be one of the kinder cars on its tyres couldn’t got 50 laps into the race, 20 would probably be asking too much. in which case they’d probably have ended up a little better than they did, but not on the podium.

    • MacademiaNut said on 28th June 2010, 3:10

      This is the reason the pit lane should be closed immediately after the deployment of safety car. Then, after a lap of safety car – after getting the order behind the safety car right – open the pit lane.

  6. F1iLike said on 27th June 2010, 22:38

    Yeah that actually makes sense, to make the SC pick up the field first, and then they can pit, if they want. Seems a lot more fair. Now it’s just a matter of good luck where you are on track.. that sucks! And only favours drivers like incognito Button.

    But hey, next year we have mario kart wings and probably banana peels and turtle shells you can shoot at each other so, I guess good racing and fairness isn’t one of FIAs goals?

    • nelly said on 27th June 2010, 22:56

      “Now it’s just a matter of good luck where you are on track”
      Yeah that’s not right and the ferraris lost out badly (but as Sumedh said they could really have avoided it). It would probably help if the SC came out directly in front of the leader too although i suppose thats not always possible

  7. BasCB (@bascb) said on 27th June 2010, 22:39

    Interesting thought about the short pitlane. I wonder weather the Stewards were aware of that. It might have been more appropriate to give a stop and go here.

    Also i would like to get some information on the 5 second penalties given after the race. I must say i am happy the FIA is starting to use other than thos “standard issue” 20 or 30 seconds explicitly stated in the sporting regulations.

    But why did a different Penalty got used when in the last few years the FIA gave the impression those standard 3 options were the only ones available?

    Might this be a (undisclosed) clarification to the Stewards after Monaco?

  8. Alexi said on 27th June 2010, 22:49

    Schumacher may be not as good as Rosberg on qualifyings, but the man still knows how to pull a great start :D

  9. I’ve been thinking this for a while but why does F1 need a safety car? Surely the technology is there now to neutralise having a speed limiter similar to the one used in the pit lane. It would mean all the gaps would remain as they were, and as the cars would be reduced to a slow speed any debries could be cleared as easy as would happen with a safety car.

    Ok safety cars are entertaining but for years they’ve been creating huge injustices like those seen today. We should get rid of safety cars in the interest of the integrity of the sport.

  10. Ned Flanders (@ned-flanders) said on 27th June 2010, 23:32

    Today’s Grand Prix reminded me of Nico Rosberg’s race at Singapore 2008. After *that* crash he dived into the pits rather than waiting two laps like everyone else, and after a long delay he was penalised. But, like Kamui Kobayashi did today, Giancarlo Fisichella was backing the pack up so that he was able to emerge from his stop and go in 2nd place.

    Perhaps the rules need changing a bit so that the stewards aren’t limited to fixed penalties in so many cases. It doesn’t seem right that the impact of drivers’ penalties depends on the length of the pit lane rather than the severity of their wrongdoing.

    • Oh yer I was thinking about Rosberg’s one as well, but thing is he would have run out of fuel and that rule in itself was a joke. But there was no reason why Rosberg shouldn’t have been given his penalty instantaniously.

    • MacademiaNut said on 28th June 2010, 3:21

      Yet, Alonso did not complain then as he finished first!

    • JSC said on 28th June 2010, 9:47

      Interesting point Ned..
      My only problem with the removal of the standard penalties is that it puts the entire weight of the penalty on the decision of the stewards, who change every weekend, and who we’ve complained about in every season I can remember.

      Perhaps a standard set of penalties per track? :) Or we could just leave the system as it is knowing that the ‘chance’ results of penalties eventually even themselves out.

      • Mike said on 28th June 2010, 11:45

        5 second penalty doesn’t appear in the rule book as far as I remember, They can make it up as they go along.

  11. Tombong said on 27th June 2010, 23:34

    Probably mclaren and hamilton already evaluating the cost-benefit analysis when webber’s accident happened. hamilton took the decision tho cheat (passing the safety car on yellow )because he already know that if he caught cheating and penalized by the fia but still, the benefit of cheating will outweigh the penalty. Lets say the punishment doesn’t fit the crime.

    • Ady said on 27th June 2010, 23:53

      Considering Lewis slowed down before the safty car hit the line, I don’t beleive any of what happened was intentional.

      • Oliver said on 28th June 2010, 10:29

        Hamilton probably thought the safety car was already deployed when in actual fact its only deployed after the safety car line. Hamilton was then looking for that line and accelerated towards it.

        Safety car line at hundreds of km/hr? :-) well at least we got a photo finish between Lewis and Bert at the safety car line.

  12. ExPatBrit said on 27th June 2010, 23:45

    Massa paid the price for Ferrari stacking their pit-stops. Not sure what other teams did that.

    Fernando could have been a lot higher though, the Hamilton penalty should have been at least a stop and go.

    I believe there’s a light for safety car on the steering wheel so no way he didn’t know.

    Valencia is always a crap race. What a difference between this and Canada.

    • F1iLike said on 27th June 2010, 23:53

      Haha and also the fact that it came out right in front of him. You can clearly see that on pics from the race that no way he could not seen it!

    • BasCB said on 28th June 2010, 20:27

      I wonder where Massa would have stopped if he would not have made a stop. He would have been in front of Kobayashi and might have made enough of a gap to end in front of him, or at least close behind Button, maybe coining in on the 5 second penalty there.

  13. Mark Webber had a very bad first Lap… 9th starting 2nd is not really what the expectations of RBR-Renault are…

  14. ameer said on 28th June 2010, 0:05

    it’s very unfair race but that is racing and ferrari will hit back is Silverstone with one two.

  15. Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 28th June 2010, 0:10

    Of course, if the rules are changed so that everyone can pass the safety car until the leader has caught up, nobody would lose out in a repeat scenario.

    Let’s face it, if it had been Alonso instead of Hamilton then the argument would be the same, but probably not if it had been Alonso and Hamilton. Seems once again it’s a question of who, not what.

    • BasCB said on 28th June 2010, 20:29

      Hm, seems the thing losing out is safety, as in drivers, marshalls, doctors. Those cars would be going high speed through a track just being cleared, seems to nullify the need of a safetycar altogether, doesn’t it?

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