Hamilton in Spain vs Vettel in Abu Dhabi – Which was better?

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    Profile photo of Jake

    The title says it all. Both races saw a driver being thrown to the back of the grid for not having enough fuel n the car, and subsequently each driver had to cut through the field to get some points. Hamilton got up to 8th in Spain, with Vettel making it to 3rd last Sunday, but who’s performance was the most impressive?

    Profile photo of Kingshark

    Hamilton in Spain for several reasons.

    1.) Lewis did not start from the pits hence get a free set-up change to suit the race unlike Vettel.
    2.) IMO it’s harder to overtake at Barcelona than the two ridiculously long DRS zones at Abu Dhabi.
    3.) Lewis didn’t crash into other, much slower cars and break his nosecone/front wing.
    4.) Lewis didn’t benefit from Safety cars being deployed with perfect timing. He wasn’t nearly as lucky.
    5.) Lewis made a 2-stopped work in what looked to be at least a 3-4 stop race on the circuit with the worst tyre wear on the calendar.

    I don’t even think this can be argued.

    Profile photo of raymondu999

    I have to disagree with Point 1. Why blame Vettel for doing the smarter thing? Lewis could have done that too.

    Profile photo of sebsronnie

    @raymondu999 – the question is who of the two performed better. Not whose team performed smarter…

    Profile photo of Cronies


    Both had a fast car (both put it on pole)
    Vettel went from last (after the first saftey car) to fourth (before the second saftey car)
    Best result ever from starting 24th in F1 history
    Under much more pressure than Hamilton

    I don’t even think it can be argued

    Profile photo of David-A

    Both had a fast car (both put it on pole)

    @cronies – Hamilton took pole in both races, though you could say that just suggests that Mclaren had the fastest car in both races. I agree with your post though, especially about pressure- this is the so-called “squeaky-bum time” of the year, where the championship gets won or lost.

    Profile photo of Cronies

    Yes – I guess you could also argue that as McLaren set-up there car with a tremendous top speed there was no need for them to have to reset all the gear ratio’s and further hinder their man’s chances by making him start from the pit lane.

    Profile photo of Bob

    – Both drivers had fast, competitive cars.
    – Vettel optimized his car setup for the race, and so enjoyed a performance advantage, whereas Hamilton chose not to take up the option. This is more to do with team management and less about driver skill.
    – Vettel began the race with a not-inconsiderable deficit by starting from the pitlane, so most of his overtakes were when the cars were spread further apart. Hamilton made up most of his positions on the opening laps, when he could start cleaving through the bunched-up midfield as soon as the lights went out.
    – Vettel was set back by his front wing damage, although he was arguably to blame for it.
    – Vettel was aided by the safety car periods.
    – It’s easier to pass with the twin DRS zones at Abu Dhabi than with the single zone at Barcelona
    – Vettel pulled off a two-stopper and emerged ahead of one-stopping opponents. Hamilton pulled off a two-stopper when his opponents were doing three-stoppers. This would imply Vettel had the outright pace to make up for the extra stop, while Hamilton won the tyre preservation game.

    Which drive was better? Vettel was essentially driving angry, while Hamilton took the more measured route. It’s hard to compare these two different styles executed on two different tracks. However, I would think Hamilton’s Spanish GP was better, in that Hamilton had less conducive circumstances, and Vettel’s drive was more ragged (the illegal pass on Grosjean that he had to undo, the contentious run-in with Ricciardo).

    How impressive each drive was is another matter entirely. If you take “impressive” to mean “evoking admiration through quality or skill; awesome”, in other words, how entertaining it was, Vettel’s drive was definitely the more spectacular one.

    Profile photo of crr917

    – Vettel optimized his car setup for the race, and so enjoyed a performance advantage

    Was it performance advantage or performance disadvantage in exchange for the ability to overtake?

    – Vettel was set back by his front wing damage, although he was arguably to blame for it.

    Yes, but it is not like he put the DRS zone marker there. Not so much luck after all :D

    – Vettel pulled off a two-stopper and emerged ahead of one-stopping opponents. Hamilton pulled off a two-stopper when his opponents were doing three-stoppers. This would imply Vettel had the outright pace to make up for the extra stop, while Hamilton won the tyre preservation game.

    Hamilton had the fastest car around Barcelona, Vettel not quite so much. Partly explains why one started 24th and the other from pitlane.
    And Vettel did not collide with Ricciardo.

    Profile photo of mnmracer

    Answering this question, is first getting some misconceptions straightened out.
    * McLaren is a car whose best-lap set-up is one that allows for overtaking, not one that has a 12kph speed-deficit. I’m sorry, but claiming Vettel that had an advantage changing his set-up means you don’t understand; he had to sacrificy lap-time to be able to have any chance of driving a race. He was not faster because of it, it only enabled him to make overtakes.
    * Hamilton was 5th-fastest in the Barcelona speed-trap, Vettel 4th-fastest. Insignficant difference.
    * The DRS zone at Barcelona is actually about the same length (830m) as the first (1250m – 390m = 860m) DRS zone on Abu Dhabi and longer than the second (740m).
    * A lot has been said about ‘Vettel only overtook backmarkers’, but if you look at the 13 on-track overtakes (7 less than Vettel’s 20 on-track overtakes) Hamilton did in Spain, he actually overtook less non-backmarkers: Narain Karthikeyan, Pedro de la Rosa, Charles Pic, Timo Glock, Vitaly Petrov, Bruno Senna, Heikki Kovalainen, Daniel Ricciardo, Nico Hülkenberg, Nico Hülkenberg, Paul di Resta, Daniel Ricciardo, Jean-Éric Vergne.
    * Things have been said about Vettel’s luck with other people ‘crashing into eachother’, but if you take a moment to look at what actually happened, you’ll see that everything that would have seriously influenced his race, happened behind him. He only benefitted from Hamilton and Massa, but similarly, Hamilton benefitted from Schumacher, Senna and Webber. Again, insignificant difference.
    * The first safety car is what enabled Vettel’s coming-together with Riciardo. Without the first safety car, Vettel would be at the same point (12th, 24sec down) 5 laps earlier, but he would not have had his tire strategy compromised. At best, the first safety car cancelled out the bad effect it had in the first place, but it still cost him 5 laps in which he was significantly faster than everyone but Hamilton and Räikkönen.
    * The second safety car is the only that arguably helped him… gain one position. While there’s no saying he couldn’t have caught Button without, we would still be talking about 24th to 4th.
    * Vettel had his one-stop strategy compromised. Hamilton had a two-stop strategy in a 3-stop race. Insignificant difference.
    * Excluding Karthikeyan who qualified outside of 107% in Spain, the gap time between first and last on the grid was 106% in Barcelona. Excluding Karthikeyan (again dead last in Abu Dhabi), the gap time between first and last on the grid was 104% in Yas Marina. The backmarkers in Abu Dhabi were more competitive than in Barcelona (excluding the backmarkers, it’s pretty even with 102.5% to 102.9%).

    So, now that we have some facts straight, the question.

    As Bob correctly said, it seemed Hamilton was taking a more conservative approach, while Vettel was clearly fighting for the championship. How would Hamilton have faired if his goal was the podium? Would Vettel have made those three mistakes if he didn’t need to agressively overtake to get to the podium?

    It all comes down to risk versus pay-off. Hamilton took less risk, and the pay-off was a measely 4 points. Vettel took more risk, and the pay-off was 15 points. Hamilton may have had the cleaner drive, but it seemed more like a normale in a car that would have ended in the points anyway, then an inspiring drive to come back from what happened. At the end of the season, it’s not about who drove the cleanest races, but who collected the most points. Vettel showed a racing spirit and relentless determination to win that championship. Vettel bounced back and never once gave up.

    From my perspective, where I think the quality of the race is more determined by pushing to the limit AND getting the results, rather than by keeping your sidepots clean, Vettel had the better race. Had Vettel banzai’d himself out of the race at the end, it would have been debatable, but Vettel delivered both the performance and the results.

    Profile photo of the_sigman

    Hamilton for me. Certainly a most difficult track to overtake, not so many retirments and not lucky enough to gain places.

    Profile photo of Cristian

    Easy Vettel for me

    Profile photo of Bob

    @mnmracer – Thanks for clarifying, and I do agree with you on most counts.

    Profile photo of David-A

    Excellent analysis @mnmracer

    Profile photo of Michael

    What Vettel did in Abu Dhabi is only impressive in the sense that the car was reliable enough to get through the race. Other than that Vettel drove just like he normally does – nothing special. He made 2 real passes in the race – the pass from Button was a yield as he himself has stated. I don’t think we can elevate him to god-like status for passing Grosjean off-track;-)

    Like he said, the goal with that car was P1 so in reality he fell horribly short off the anticipated result.

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