Here’s the Japanese Grand Prix progress chart showing how far apart each of the drivers were on each lap.
It shows how Renault strategically out-manoeuvred BMW to get Fernando Alonso ahead of Robert Kubica, and how Kubica fought a rearguard action to keep Raikkonen behind.
Japanese Grand Prix progress chart
One of the quotes that caught my eye after yesterday’s Grand Prix came from Ron Dennis, who clearly couldn’t resist taking a pop at Felipe Massa:
How long did it take Felipe to get past the Honda? Five laps? Six laps? And Lewis just blasted past him.
You can see that phase of the race quite clearly from laps 24-29 (Massa behind Jenson Button) and lap 33 (Lewis Hamilton passing Button).
Button was really only ever racing his team mate Rubens Barrichello – a battle he lost. Button was generally slower than Barrichello in their first stint, but was quicker in the second (they both used one-stop strategies).
Japanese Grand Prix progress chart – the leaders
This chart shows the same data – but restricted to just drivers within 30s of the leader, which allows us to see the detail more clearly.
Fernando Alonso only stayed out one lap longer than Robert Kubica – but Renault fuelled him shorter, so that he made his second stop three laps before the BMW did. Alonso built a gap of over 12 seconds during the middle stint, which put the race beyond Kubica’s grasp.
At any rate, the BMW driver had to devote his energies to keeping Raikkonen behind in the final stint. This he did admirably well given how poorly the BMW was doing in the hands of Nick Heidfeld.
During the race Kubica registered the second slowest maximum speed of any driver at the start/finish line: 304.6kph. That was 2kph slower than Heidfeld, 7kph slower than Massa (who blasted past Heidfeld with cruel ease on the main straight) and 8kph slower than Raikkonen. Translation: Kubica did a stunning job to keep Raikkonen at bay.
Nelson Piquet Jnr was also on Raikkonen’s tail in the later stages of the race – until he spun on lap 60. From one second behind Raikkonen he ended the race 14 seconds adrift. After the race Flavio Briatore denied that Piquet finishing second would guarantee him a seat in the team for 2009. These graph show why, although they hardly flatter the two championship leaders either…