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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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)

  1. 17 points in two races said on 28th June 2010, 0:17

    Charlie Whiting helps LH much more!!

    Why didn´t he take 14 laps to penalty Alonso when he starts before time? He show his finger in an evident mistake of Alonso. He was penalized and anyone will do the same.

    Can you imaging that after begin before start you will have take some advantage if Charlie is going to take 14 laps to penalize you?

    Bruno Senna can try to start before next race (five seconds before or more) get the first place and after 14 laps and a drive through he will probably be on the points!!!!

    LETS BREAK THE RULES!!! The BBC are with us!!!

    • Ragerod said on 28th June 2010, 3:17

      Alonso’s false start was pretty easy to spot because he did it in fornt of the race director and with several cameras providing evidence.

      Race Control had to ensure the safety of Webber first and then get the race going again as soon as possible then they could investigate the Hamilton incident. Getting the evidence required to give Hamilton a penalty was difficult because all of the angles except the aerial footage were inconclusive. If the on-board shot had been clear then his penalty would undoubtedly come much sooner.

    • MacademiaNut said on 28th June 2010, 3:40

      If it is not for Alonso asking his team to talk to Charlie, this would not have been investigated at all. Alonso told his team only after realizing that they will not be scoring any points. The caption of “car #2 under investigation” came around lap 23-24 (probably a lap or so before the stewards were made aware of this rule infraction). In lap 25, the penalty was awarded.

  2. Robert C said on 28th June 2010, 0:19

    Schumacher was ahead of Kobayashi, and with the same plan
    would have followed Hamilton instead of pitting. Later when the Mercedes was faster he would have benefited from the lead he had and would have lost fewer places than Kobayashi and benefited from fresh tires the same way, with a podium finish a possiblility.

  3. Jake said on 28th June 2010, 1:32

    I’ve just watched the highlights on the bbc website and have noticed something. The problem for Hamilton was that he hesitated and this meant the safety car had just passed the SC line before he passed it. I think I know why he did this.

    It appears to me from both the helicopter view and Hamilton’s onboard, that as the safety car takes the first corner in the pitlane, it runs wide over the pit lane white line as if it’s just going to rejoin.

    Obviously I can’t be sure, but it seems to be just after this that Lewis backs of, so for me, this is quite likely to be the reason. Obviously it doesn’t change the fact that Lewis passed the safety car and therefore had to be punished, but it may explain what could be considered a slightly leniant punishment.

  4. DaveW said on 28th June 2010, 1:50

    The chart I want to see is Keith’s daily sleep totals. It can’t be healthy. But this productivity, the continual improvement of the product, is much appreciated.

  5. HenryL said on 28th June 2010, 3:37

    I’m really confused. So what actually happened when SC is not deployed in front of the lead car?

    Vettel is well ahead of SC, Hamilton got passed it, but Alonso, Massa, and the rest of the cars were stuck behind the SC.

    Then first wave of the cars pitted. who ever came out first is led by the SC. Then Vettel and Hamilton went around the track and pitted, and should have came out at the very back of all the cars, while SC leading the first car that came out in the first wave of the pitted cars…?

    Would anybody help me figure out how Vettel and Hamilton were still 1-2 when they pitted after everyone else? meaning they should have been in the back of the cars that pitted before Vettel and Hamilton…right? Why was the SC car still in front of Vettel??


    • Regarding HenryL qn, it is true that the SC shld be picking up vettel. But as there was a delay , meaning Vettel passed the sc way before it is out, hamilton just beside it and went past it based on the white line (also the pit exit line) (Controversy), the rest of the cars including alonso, have to be trapped and lead by the SC. this means that hamilton n vettel would be able to drive around the circuit at a much higher speed as compared to the rest…

      So , both of them pitted and had so much time that even Hamilton can change his nose of the car… And when they pit, they are still considered to be leaders of race as they r infront of the SC by a lap. So the SC has to wait for them both.

      It is also because of this, those cars that r before Kobayashi before the crash (button, kubica, and co), pitted, but kobayashi didnt, so he sudd became 3rd.

  6. KNF said on 28th June 2010, 3:47

    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…

    • dragon said on 28th June 2010, 4:01

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

      • W-K said on 28th June 2010, 6:51

        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.

      • KNF said on 28th June 2010, 9:36

        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…

  7. W-K said on 28th June 2010, 4:24

    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.

    • Ady (@ady) said on 28th June 2010, 7:41

      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.

      • W-K said on 28th June 2010, 8:13

        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.

        • Oliver said on 28th June 2010, 10:49

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

          • BasCB said on 28th June 2010, 20:33

            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.

  8. Gusto said on 28th June 2010, 4:46

    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.

  9. MrMcphisto said on 28th June 2010, 8:35

    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.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 28th June 2010, 9:18

      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.

      • Jonathan said on 28th June 2010, 10:14

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

  10. Andrew86 said on 28th June 2010, 9:31

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

  11. colin grayson said on 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 ?

    • Jonathan said on 28th June 2010, 10:12

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

  12. Jonathan said on 28th June 2010, 10:10

    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.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 28th June 2010, 10:13

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

      • Jonathan said on 28th June 2010, 10:18

        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?

    • DaveW said on 28th June 2010, 14:35

      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.

      • DaveW said on 28th June 2010, 14:37

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

      • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 28th June 2010, 14:45

        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.

        • BasCB said on 28th June 2010, 20:36

          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.

        • Jonathan said on 29th June 2010, 9:37

          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.

      • Jonathan said on 29th June 2010, 9:35

        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.

  13. Matt Hubbert said on 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

  14. Oliver said on 28th June 2010, 10:38

    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.

  15. Oliver said on 28th June 2010, 10:46

    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. :-)

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