CHINESE GP: race analysis

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Written by @spontonc e @SmilexTech – Translated by Federico Marchi
Hamilton-Mercedes
1 vs Vettel-Ferrari 1.
 In a football context this would be the result
after two intriguing Grand Prix of a season that seems to promise a great show mainly
thanks to a competitive Ferrari.
A Chinese GP that turned out
to be very interesting
without however giving
us the pleasure to watch the duel between Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel that
many fans wished to see
 on a track, the
Chinese one
, that
is very undervalued by many experts
.
The final result is partially
untruthful: Lewis Hamilton in fact, has obtained a too easy win for what we saw
during the race
; we say
this because no one has been able to put under pressure the triple world
champion (even if Sebastain Vettel proved once again to have a great feeling
with his SF70H)
.
CHINESE GP: correct decision
the one
of not sanctioning Vettel for
his position on the grid
The first fact we want to analyze is the positioning on the starting grid of
Sebastian Vettel.
For those who did not watch the
race
, the
German driver positioned his car slightly to the left, with two wheels completely
outside the grid slot.


Vettel
made this smart choice to start in an area of the
track that was less wet.
Before the warm up lap we clearly
noticed that the Ferrari’s driver, together with the engineer Adami, checked carefully
the asphalt
. The
decision was taken together with Adami and the sporting director of Ferrari
(Diego Ioverno) that knows perfectly the rules imposed by FIA.
Vettel’s action was then put under investigation after some laps, without
however leading to further actions.
There is
also a precedent, that of Daniel Ricciardo in Japanese GP of 2016. Even in that
case, there were no sanctions since it does not yet exist a rule that bans the
positioning beyond the grid slot.
The race direction has
however asked Vettel to avoid such a behavior in the future.
Also
Cristian Horner, RedBull’s
Team Principal, asked
FIA to go more in depth. This will probably result in a technical note that is
going to be issued in the next weeks, aimed at clarifying what happened in this
situation.
CHINESE GP: only Sainz risked the SuperSofts, a gamble that in the end paid off!
Every driver but Sainz
decided to start the race on Intermediate tyres.
Hamilton and other fellow
drivers
, during
the installation laps tried the slick tyres realizing that for those of them
fighting for the win the risk was perhaps too big.
For the
drivers that were starting in the back positions, as for instance Sainz,
instead the choice could have paid off using extra care during the earliest
laps in particular in the 1st sector and in the braking point after
the long straight (where Lewis Hamilton, during one of the installation laps,
made the mistake that probably persuaded him to start with wet tyres).


The crash of Stroll in the
first lap
, rear-ended
by
Perez, forced
Charlie Whiting
to deploy for the first time
this season the Virtual Safety Car
. Ferrari’s box, in our
opinion very intelligently
, opted thus for an early pit stop on the car of Vettel to
install Soft tyres
. This move could have turned out to be decisive in the evolution of the
race if Giovinazzi would not have crashed in the main straight during the 3rd
lap.
This accident obliged the Race Director to deploy the
Safety Car and to make the cars go through the Fast Lane. The undercut of
Ferrari on Lewis Hamilton

had some downsides, among which the chance that a
driver
using slick tyres crashed (which in fact happened). In general,
taking the Pole Position
allows also to manage this kind of situations in the best way possible and to
avoid aggressive strategies.
 

Ferrari’s move became so, within one lap, an unlucky failure. Looking at
the times
, during
lap 3 the gap of Hamilton on Vettel was slightly below
18 seconds; this
gap was not sufficient to pit and maintain the lead of the race. To be precise
, even
without the Safety Car
Mercedes were sure that in the
following laps
,
Vettel
on Soft with
respect to
Hamilton
on Intermediate, on a partially wet track, would have lose some seconds per lap so to
allow an easy pit stop for the German team.
However, we do not have the counter
check of this. Luckily
,
and this is important to point out, during the SC Vettel gained one
position thanks to a huge error of Bottas.
The Finn driver had an about-turn while he was
trying to warm up his new tyres.
This turned out to be
fundamental for Vettel, since overtaking on track a Mercedes W08 would have
been quite tough.
 
After the SC, Hamilton, having
a completely clear track ahead of him
, has been able to
impose his own pace
while Vettel, although
quicker than the drivers ahead
, has been forced to slow down
From the graph below it is
possible to notice the time lost by the German driver on the race leader. He in
fact, from lap 10 to lap 20 (when he overtook Raikkonen), lost on average about
0.5 seconds per lap on Hamilton

Once he passed Ricciardo (lap
22)
from lap 23 to lap 27 the pace of Vettel has been very
similar to the one of Hamilton.
In this part of the race
the gap between the two drivers increased by only 1 tenth.
Gap that started again to grow
when
,
Hamilton,
getting closer to his second pit stop, pushed
hard
.  Thing that Vettel has not been
able to do, due to a greater decline of tyres on his SF70H, probably because of
the laps behind his teammate. 
On the graph below, it is
possible to see the tendency lines of Vettel and Hamilton in their first stint
of the race
. The one of
Hamilton tends to the bottom
; in fact, the English driver, in the
laps before the pit stop
,
recorded his best times. The one of Vettel, instead, tends to
the top and proves that his tyres were completely “used up” even because, as
already said above, he always raced stuck in the traffic.

CHINESE GP: in the 1st stint a good performance by
Hamilton
, and a bad one by Ricciardo on a RB13 set for a dry race
In the next graph we present the average pace of the
six Top Drivers:
very good the pace of Hamilton, favored by
being the race leader and so by racing with a clear track
, while quite disappointing performance by Daniel Ricciardo that,
unlike other drivers, had set his car for a completely dry race (Ferrari and
Mercedes
opted for a mixed setup for both drivers). The
Australian driver suffered of understeer in the first part of race, improving
instead in the second part thanks to a change in the front wing made during the
2nd pit stop.

In the end, we definitely have to focus our attention
on the discussion about the so wanted (from Ferrari’s fans) Team Order in the
moment in which Sebastian Vettel was stuck behind Kimi Raikkonen.
In hindsight, it was for sure better to ask
the Finn driver to step aside,
but
we cannot criticize the Italian team that in our opinion (since it is only the
second race) took a correct decision
demonstrating
the important role played by Kimi Raikkonen inside the Team.
And certainly we can say that if Vettel was really
quicker
, he
should have tried the overtake as did by Max Verstappen on Kimi and Ricciardo.
Are
we sure that at the beginning of the stint Vettel was really quicker than his
teammate?
Or only after some laps, when the car became lighter and the tyres reached an optimal grip, the
pace of the German driver started to be competitive (at the level of Hamilton)
allowing him to pass Raikkonen and then Ricciardo with an amazing overtake?
CHINESE GP: in the 2nd stint great performance by
Vettel. Hamilton was controlling the race
In the 2nd part of
the race
,
the pace of Vettel with clear track like Lewis
Hamilton, has been the best.
This should not have to mislead us
and think that Vettel was quicker than Hamilton since the leader normally has
only to control the race matching the lap times of those who follow.
It
is the same as saying that in Australia, Mercedes were quicker than Ferrari
because Bottas has been the fastest driver in the 2nd part of the
race.
With clear track and a light
car
, the decline of the tyres on the SF70H was similar to the one of the W08 and
this is for sure a great signal
. On this track the W08 has been “helped” by the cold
temperatures but
also by the changes on the flat bottom (click here for more details), showing
less troubles in the management of tyres and consequently on the race pace with
respect to what we noticed in Australia.

Talking about Red Bull, and ending
the analysis of the second seasonal race
, the Team from Milton Keynes
scored two good results,
for sure the most at which
Ricciardo and Verstappen could aspire.
The Dutch driver chose a “wet
setup” that caused him some difficulties in the last part of the race
where
the understeer
, due
to tyres outside their ideal window of functioning
, forced him
to slow down
.
The RB13 revealed to be more competitive in
the first part of the race where the car was made heavier by the great quantity
of fuel. In this phase
the RB13 managed to exploit the SuperSoft
tyres in their proper window of functioning.
It is
mainly this factor that obliged RedBull to choose this type of tyres, Low
Working Range and more similar to 2016 compounds, on both cars. They were in
fact afraid of the possibility of not properly exploiting the Soft tyres, typically
a High Working Range compound.
Now teams move to Bahrain
where they will find different weather conditions
, even if it
has to be considered that the race starts at 6 P.M. local hour
, when the
sun is already set below the horizon
. They do not have to expect a boiling
asphalt as in Malaysia
(for instance) but rather similar conditions (during
Quali and race
) to
those already encountered in Melbourne
. Will it be sufficient to undermine
Mercedes’ performance
and enhance the
easiness in the management of tyres of the SF70H?
Let’s
wait few days to have the answer
; in the meanwhile, you can read our
usual preview of the Bahrain GP.

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