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

Posted on Author Keith Collantine

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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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.

2010 European Grand Prix

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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. I’m rather amazed that Kobayashi could stay out on track on the mediums for 53 laps, even if he was creating a “Trulli train” effect which held up everyone else…

    1. He was holding people up? That’s news to me, his pace looked good…

      1. I agree with dragon, and if that rookie driver Schumacher had followed his example and stayed out he also might have had a good result.

      2. Well, relative to Hamilton and Vettel I suppose, Kobayashi got faster once his fuel went down and the track rubbered in, but once he went in for options, Button started posting fast laps…

  2. The question has to be asked why did the safety car not come out in front of Vettel.
    In situations like this the safety car needs to pick up the race leader asap. Maybe they need to think of deploying more safety cars at different locations. As we saw especially this week is they know exactly where each car is, so it shouldn’t be difficult.

    I do think the idea of using the pit lane limiter, good thinking there.

    About the drive through penalty, could they not make each pit lane the same length? Possibly modified with pit lane speed so that at each race the penalty is ~equal.

    1. There wasn’t enough time. The safety car was deployed just seconds after Webber’s accident. The replay makes it look like there was a lap or so between the accident and deployment.

      If you look at the replay of the accident, Webber flips & hits the barrier, as he comes to a stop the SC is deployed, and then the lap counter increments to lap 10 mearly seconds after that.

      The lap counter increases because Vettel crossed the start / finish line.

      1. That’s why I suggest there should be more than one safety car at different locations around the track. That way probably the second and most definitely the third safety car would pick up the leader, Seb Vettel in this instance.

        1. Exactly, we need more than one safety car, we don’t need a safety car star driver.

          1. And get results like with LeMans 24h, where the Peugeot and Audi cars were behind different Scars and this separated the field and took away part of the race?

            As far as i heard, Whiting let the SC and the medical car go out right at the moment Webber went airborne, even before he was full flight and coming down. It just takes a little while to get there.

  3. Just listened too Fernando Boolonso on the radio, you would think He had done a somersault and hit the barrier at 100mph, In the future I will watch him like a hawk, waiting for him to make the smallest of mistakes.

  4. Sorry Keith, it was not the short pit lane what helped Hamilton, it was the stewards decission (and the time they took them to apply it). You can´t set a penalty knowing it doesn´t penalyze at all the commited punishment.
    It’s as simple as that.

    1. As I wrote in the very first line “It wasn’t just slow stewards…”

      But I think you’ve missed the point. Even if the stewards had taken exactly the same amount of time to render their verdict, at a track with a longer/slower pit lane Hamilton would have lost more time and come out further down the field.

      To put it another way, in order for Hamilton to take his penalty and come out of the pits still in second he didn’t just need the stewards to be slow. He needed Kobayashi holding up his team mate and he needed to be racing at a track with a short pit lane. He got all three.

      1. He also needed the stewards to be lenient. A stop/go penalty would have put him 10 seconds further back.

  5. It’s a shame, and Hamilton is a never punished mischievous. F1 lost most of its credibility after this gp

  6. colin grayson
    28th June 2010, 9:32

    it says everything about alonso’s menatality that all he was interested in was getting hamilton punished
    he lost virtually nothing from hamilton’s mistake

    the real loser was….button ! if the safety car had come out in front of vettel as it really should have , jenson would have been sitting pretty !

    luckiest man of the day …vettel , if the safety car had picked him up , where would he and hamilton and alonso and maybe one or two others have come out ?

    1. Hamilton’s hesitation behind the SC prevented Alonso from overtaking it too. So Alonso did lose massively from Hamilton’s behaviour.

  7. Keith: “the only penalty available to them is one that varies in its severity from race to race.”

    A stop/go penalty was also available.

    40.14: Either of the penalties under Articles 16.3a) or b) will be imposed on any driver who, in the opinion of the
    Stewards, unnecessarily overtook another car during the first lap.

    16.3a) is the drive-through, 16.3b) is the stop/go.

    Of course, a stop-go penalty also varies in severity depending on the pit lane, but would have been a much more suitable punishment in the circumstances. It would have put Hamilton back where he would have been, had he obeyed the rules.

    1. If drivers in the past have got drive-throughs for overtaking the safety car then that was the penalty they should have given Hamilton.

      1. But in the circumstances, the drive-through did nothing to cancel out the advantage Hamilton gained.

        The punishment should be proportionate to the advantage gained. Isn’t that just common sense?

    2. It seems to me the only defintion of suitable working here is “worse.” All this banging on about common sense and justice is very short sighted. If people want the stewards calibrating the penalty to the potential effect on the track rather than the severity of the violation, you will have all the disrepute, manipulation, and scandal Keith can write about. This position is precisely but exactly like saying a penalty kick should be moved closer to the goal if the attack seemed more likely to succeed than typical.

      I this race the stewards correctly applied their discretion. They saw that the race to the SC line was very close, that Hamilton was not somehow trying to game the system, and gave a penalty appropriate to the level of intent and the aggravation of the act, as it were. They did not give a penalty in an attempt to rewrite ongoing events in the race to satisfy someone or anothers “common sense” as to what the appropriate outcome should be. The purpose of penalty is absolutely not to cancel out an advantage. Sometimes it is more, sometimes less, that’s how it worked out. And the stewards are not on hand to dole out equity.

      Keith, your comment that the precedent of some instances should mean that in every case going forward doesn’t really work in its own terms, and it ignores the mode of discretion the stewards have in the race.

      1. Edit: read “absolutely” and “not” in reverse order.

      2. What I’m saying is, punishments should be consistent. That means not just giving the same punishment for the same misdemeanour (which is where precedent comes in), but also having selection of punishments that don’t vary depending on what track you’re at. At Valencia a drive-through penalty costs you 12.7s, at Shanghai it costs you 21s. That’s hardly fair.

        1. I never realized that, but it surely is an issue to be taken in consideration!

          There is still much to be improved in judging about and handing out penalties as well as in the right balance of penalties and consistent, predictable, judgement.

        2. But Keith, a drive-through 10 or more laps late is not really “the same punishment” as a drive-through immediately after the offence.

          Because of the delay, which allowed Hamilton to gain a huge advantage from the offence, a stop/go would have been more appropriate.

      3. DaveW: “All this banging on about common sense and justice is very short sighted.”

        Think about how penalties work when drivers cut chicanes. Drivers are usually only penalized when an advantage is gained. The point of the penalty is to negate the advantage. A driver can avoid a penalty by giving up the place he gained.

        This is common sense justice in action. When a driver gains an unfair advantage, the penalty should only do what is necessary to cancel out the advantage.

        Hamilton’s penalty was extremely lenient, because it did nothing to cancel out the unfair advantage he gained. A stop/go would have been more proportionate.

  8. Matt Hubbert
    28th June 2010, 10:32

    If Hamilton did pass the SC on purpose or not or did hold Alonso up is difficult to tell. I do think he got away with it to a degree but it is upto the stewards to decide what punishment he gets but there does need to be some clarity on this. Alonso does seem to still have a grudge against Hamilton but at the end of the day its up to the powers that be to give out penalties

  9. FIA rules are confusing at best and thats the cause of much confusion by people making posts.

    While the safety car is running out of the pits and still withing the pit exit. It is however not yet deployed until after it has crossed the safety car line.
    So saying a driver saw the safety car or not is of no relevance.

  10. by the way, Alonso’s comment about being 1meter behind Hamilton is basically correct, even though physically incorrect. Its called Lenght Contraction. In relative physics, as you move at the speed of light or close to it, lengths become shorter. :-)

    Even though they were just a few handful of millions of km/hr below the speed of light they were still moving fast enough for him not to be able to tell the difference. :-)

  11. Then you will have arbitrary rules and match fixing.
    If the FIA didn’t enjoy reading verbose wordings of their rules and regulations, we would not have a safety car line, but instant deployment of a safety car.
    Why deploy a safety car then still have drivers having the option of being able race the safety car to a line or be looking for a line to decide if they are ahead or behind a safety car.

  12. WOW!!!! “You are posting comments too fast”

    Come on Keith, I only type at 45Mph. :-)

    1. Sorry, we’ve got an intermittent problem with the comments today, should be fixed later tonight:

  13. valentina46
    28th June 2010, 11:24

    Totally agree with you guys..The pit lane should be closed until all the cars are behind the SC. But I think Hamilton’s punishment should have been the black flag. He didn’t only overtake the SC but also the medical car. So he didn’t even care about the health of a fellow driver.
    Alonso was so right about what he said after the race: The one who respects the rules finishes 8th, while the one who violates them finishes 2nd. How fair can that be?

  14. Finally a bit of luck for Hamilton! Its about time too.

  15. Interesting stat on laps led but can anyone tell me how many laps the Safety Car has led?
    Is it more than Alonso?

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