Chinese GP fuel weights and strategies

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The top three qualifiers have all fuelled very lightly for tomorrow’s Chinese Grand Prix – with Fernando Alonso potentially making his first stop for fuel after just nine laps.

It’s likely a ploy to get a stint on the unfavourable super-soft tyre out of the way as quickly as possible – but it could backfire on the drivers if there’s an early safety car period tomorrow.

To put it into perspective, Alonso’s starting weight of 637kg is 10kg less than the lightest start at Malaysia, where Vettel started at 647kg and no-one else was lighter than 655kg.

The FIA has published the official starting weights of each car, which means we can predict the lap one which each driver will make their first pit stops.

Here’s how I worked out the stint lengths:
1. Deduct the minimum car weight (605kg) from the total weight of the car.
2. Divide that by the approximate weight of fuel used per lap (2.6kg at Shanghai)
3. Deduct three laps’ worth of fuel to account for driving from the pit lane to the grid, the formation lap, and extra fuel left in the tank as a safety net when the driver makes his first stop
4. Round down to the nearest whole lap

That gives us the following predictions:

GridQualifyingNameWeightFuelFirst stint (laps)
11Sebastian Vettel6443912
22Fernando Alonso637329
33Mark Webber646.541.512
44Rubens Barrichello6615618
55Jenson Button6595417
66Jarno Trulli664.559.519
77Nico Rosberg650.545.514
88Kimi Raikkonen673.568.523
99Lewis Hamilton6797425
1010Sebastien Buemi6736823
1111Nick Heidfeld6797425
1212Heikki Kovalainen6979232
1313Felipe Massa6908529
1415Kazuki Nakajima682.777.726
1516Sebastien Bourdais6908529
1617Nelson Piquet Jnr697.992.932
1718Robert Kubica6595417
1819Adrian Sutil6484313
1914Timo Glock6524715
2020Giancarlo Fisichella679.574.525

(Car and fuel weights in kilograms).

Although this puts Webber and Vettel down as stopping on the same lap, realistically Webber is probably able to go one lap further than his team mate (this is a quirk of the ’rounding down’ part of the calculation).

Other interesting points include:

  • Rubens Barrichello out-qualifying Jenson Button with more fuel on board
  • Robert Kubica, Adrian Sutil and Timo Glock are fuelled lightly in a bid to make up positions early on

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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54 comments on “Chinese GP fuel weights and strategies”

  1. Alonso is 2nd.

    1. Swapped him and Webber round haven’t I – fixed.

  2. Hi, thank you for your efforts ;-)

    One thing that you should take into consideration for your calculations is that during that lap from the pitlane to the grid and the warm-up lap the cars consume less fuel than during a normal racing lap. In fact drivers are told to save up as much fuel as possible during those laps. I find your calculations a bit low because of this.

    I’d say that Alonso will go to lap 10, Vettel to lap 13 and Webber to lap 14.

    1. Could well be. I get the impression the teams leave a bit of extra fuel to play around with to increase their chances of getting their car on track without traffic in front of them.

  3. Excellent. Thanks.

    The front three will doubtless start on Super Softs to get them out off the line but more crucially out of the way. I guess the likes of Kimi and Hamilton will still two stop and just have a short run at the end on the option tyres when the track is rubbered-in.

  4. schumi the greatest
    18th April 2009, 11:41

    Hamiltion going for about 25 laps then?? Thats encouraging because he was looking good for a top 6 grid slot in q1 and 2. I think he’ll be running a average 2nd stint maybe 18 laps then have a short last stint on the super softs.

    Alonso’s doing the same albeit the other way round. be intresting to see the contrast in fortunes between alonso and hamilton. Hamilton may not stuggle so much on the super softs because of the extra rubber put down during the race.

    i still think brawn will win this 1 now having seen the fuel loads. Button and barrichello are 15 kgs heavier than the red bulls so that shows theyr still the quicker car.

    1. Diesel Searle
      19th April 2009, 7:57

      Well the strategy of lewis was looking good until this rain came down.
      Hope we wont have half a gp like last time,lewis would have moved up the grid if it wasnt stopped.
      I think guys at the back will probably start on intermediate tyres to make up some places, the full wets will be better though!
      I believe the rain master will be on the podium at the end of the race.
      Good luck to all and watch out for mr. hamilton!!!!!!!!
      Oh yes,brawn is not good at all in the rain.

  5. Props to Buemi, he’s with RAI and HAM among the first set of heavier runners.

    I doubt RAI will be able to hold off HAM at the start, with McLaren still running the KERS and Ferrari without. But Ferrari look to be in a good position for a solid points finish with RAI being one of the first heavier runners and Massa fueled the second heaviest on the grid.

    Interesting strategy by McLaren, splitting the two with different strategies … possibly a rain and safety car hedge.

    Looks like the Renault is really harsh on its tyres, so ALO had to fuel light and get the SSs out of the way.

    Looking forward to a fun race – hope for rain.

  6. Hamilton had the heaviest car in Q3.

    Its almost pointless revealing the fuel load for the cars outside the top ten as it confuses issues. Their fuel is added after they’ve been eliminated, while the top ten drivers are carrying that much fuel during their Q3 run.

    On the whole, I still think qualifying with fuel on board is rubbish.

    1. True, but it’s interesting to know Kubica and Glock will be light. Seems to be a tacit vote of confidence in the cars’ abilities to overtake each other – a few years ago a driver starting that far down would have filled to the brim and hoped for a safety car.

      And yes, no more race fuel qualifying in 2010 please.

  7. “Rubbered in” might not be happening,just had a look at the World weather map for tomorrow and it looks like rain….
    The boys who are carrying fuel will have the window if it’s a dry/wet affair…
    Can someone ask Lewis to stay out of the gravel trap in that case….

  8. I have been thinking about cars which were designed to carry KERS, but have now opted not to use it this time around. Their cars would have been designed to be lighter than the rest, so that they are not 35kg heavier than the non KERS cars, right?

    Now without KERS, they would be roughly 35kg lighter than they were, which means they could carry a lot more fuel compared to teams like Brawn, while still weighing roughly the same. Im not exactly sure how the minimum weight is done, but surely they could fuel it heavily (weighing the same as a brawn on a medium stint) and then on their last stint they simply make sure they have enough fuel to finish the race within the minimum weight requirement.

    Im probably completely wrong, or misunderstood.

    1. I might be wrong but I thought the minimum weight was without fuel.

    2. Kayleigh’s right – the minimum weight is without fuel. So they will have replaced their KERS with ballast.

  9. Bigbadderboom
    18th April 2009, 12:10

    No surprises then really, it’s kind of how it looked during quali.

    McLaren and Ferrari obviousley running long to keep their options open and try to take a tactical advantage, I’m a bit suprised Rosberg wasn’t heavier. Lookjs like a good weekend for lewis.

    1. Eduardo Colombi
      18th April 2009, 21:19

      Thik the redbulls have the same tactic that made ferrari vary fats in the biggining of australia’s race. Low fuel, super-softs, a really quick first stint to make advantge over their rivals. I made my prediction on vettels vitory, but i hope alonso can win…

  10. I think Kimi did a brilliant job in qualifying t the Ferrari into the top was a feat in and of itself; the F60 hasnt looked at all this weekend. Well done to Kimi Raikkonen. No KERS and no interim diffuser…makes you think what the champ will do when he has them… Go Kimi Go!!!!!!

    1. amazing what an ice cream break, mid race can do for you, lol.

    2. Indeed, Kimi’s performance was one of the best and has been overlooked a bit.

      What is Massa doing by the way? He’s in a mess – I’m not sure his head is at the races.

  11. Great analysis – I just wondered where you get the info that the track uses approx 2.6kg fuel per lap?

    1. It was mentioned in the BBC’s coverage and James Allen quoted it as well. But it is an average – some engines will be thirstier than others.

    2. Can we see how it faired with regards your predictions for Melbourne or Sepang… When did people actually pit in relation to the prediction?

    3. Last time I generally over-estimated by a couple of laps – I didn’t properly take into account how much fuel they used on the way to the grid etc…

  12. Thanks for clearing that up for me :)

  13. Was it not the case many years ago (can’t remember when) that McLarens were considered to be more fuel efficient, and could therefore go longer on a given amount of fuel? What is the situation now, have the other teams reached a parity? I would assume that Brawn would have similar fuel consumption.

  14. I estimated that 10kg of fuel makes a 0.2s laptime difference (looking at the Q2 to Q3 time difference and the published weights)

    Fuel corrected I get the following list for “Q3”:
    Pos Driver Corrected
    1 R. Barrichello 1:35,433
    2 S. Vettel 1:35,464
    3 J. Button 1;35,512
    4 M. Webber 1:35,696
    5 J. Trulli 1:35,705
    6 F. Alonso 1:35,801
    7 N. Rosberg 1;36,547
    8 K. Räikkönen 1;36,779
    9 L. Hamilton 1:37,175
    10 S. Buemi 1:38,021

  15. Do the drivers have to start on the same tyres they were using in qualifying?

    1. No. Nor the tyres they drive to the grid on. They can change as they’re sat there waiting for the race to start.

    2. Arun.......India
      18th April 2009, 13:04

      No they can change it…

  16. Patrickl, I very much doubt that the correspondence between fuel weight and laptime is exactly linear. Also, there is a mismatch between the performances of the cars. Mclaren for instance might suffer degradation of as much as .3 or 0.35s per unit of fuel u indicated compared to the Brawns or Redbulls.

    1. I didn’t take Hamilton, Raikkonen, Rosberg or Buemi into account. Dunno what they did, but they were so wildly off the pace that they must have had a problem. For instance, Raikkonen stated that he ran out of tyres.

      The Red Bulls lost 3 tenths per 10kg extra. I attribute that to a poor qualifying for Vettel and Webber. Vettel’s problem seems obvious, he had only one stint to go and Webber probably messed up a corner somewhere.

      The Red Bulls were 4 tenths quicker in Q2 than the BrawnGPs. Makes sense that they should have been much more in front in Q3 seeing how they were lighter.

      Even more obvious, the Red Bulls were over 6 tenths faster than Alonso in Q2 and in Q3 they are on the same pace as Alonso with a similar fuel load. That doesn’t make sense other than that both Red Bull cars actually had a poor fast lap during qualifying in Q3.

      For the 4 remaining drivers (Barrichello, Button, Trulli and Alonso) it’s:

  17. Is there possibility for three stop strategy for some on the front or Timo and Kubica?
    How much faster are super soft tyres and how long thay can run on low fuel?

    1. Probably not, a little quicker but not for long, and until the tank goes hollow.

  18. Sorry for my bad English.I am meen how long super soft can last.Thay can’t more than ten laps?

  19. In free practice yesterday I am pretty sure both Ferraris did more than 10 laps on super softs…

    Massa was heavier on his tyres….

  20. Hi, just doing some calculations looking at the fastest time in Q2 and then looking at the effect of the fuel load – if we equalizes at 50kgs I calculate lap times as follows

    Sebastian Vettel 01:35.2
    Fernando Alonso 01:35.9
    Mark Webber 01:35.4
    Rubens Barrichello 01:35.6
    Jenson Button 01:35.7
    Jarno Trulli 01:36.1
    Nico Rosberg 01:36.0
    Kimi Raikkonen 01:36.0
    Lewis Hamilton 01:36.0
    Sebastien Buemi 01:36.2

    Would this point to a Red Bull / Brawn run-away?

  21. the brawns are so quick even with a heavy load. i was hoping it wouldnt be so one-sided!

  22. is there some kind of advantage for having KERS during the start? The battery or flying wheel should be fully charged (or get the kinetic energy?) after the warm up lap.

    I dont know whether it is it better to use KERS at low speed or high speed.

  23. Would it not be a huge mistake to leave super softs for the last stint? Assuming no rain of course. Not knowing how the race plays out (safety cars) it would leave a front runner on the softs in the last stint vulnerable to getting caught up rather quickly.

    It would seem getting the softs out of the way early on light fuel (Vettel, Alonso and Webber) would be the “smart” play. I would hope the Brawn’s do the same.

    Any thoughts by anyone??

  24. Regarding the super-soft tyres issues, in Australia the super-soft, or soft also lasted few laps only, and Ferrari decided to use them in a short 1st stint and they did not get the points, whilst Brawn’s used them in the last stint if I recall correctly and got 1st and 2nd!

    1. On Melbourne the first soft stint was quite obviously the better choice. Probably mostly because it’s a safety car prone track. if you stop earlier you have a gap to the guys who stop later. A safety car situation during that time means you lose the gap and make up for a pitstop (and hence potentially places)

      With the first short stint on super softs, Hamilton got to third/fourth in Melbourne and Raikkonen claimed he could have been on the podium (had he not hit the wall). Kubica would have gotten second with it. The BrawnGPs were simply in a league of their own. Easily 4 to 5 tenths a lap faster than any other car (when they wanted to be faster). So their win is hardly a comparison.

      I’m not so sure it’s the same this time, but I still think starting on softs might be the better choice though. On the other hand seeing how Raikkonen and Hamilton have chosen heavy cars, they must feel starting on the prime is better. Maybe they are trying to be prepared for rain though.

  25. The super softs were more problematic as the track got much cooler in early evening in Oz as the race was so late in the day..

    The race in China isn’t so late…

    If it stays dry… a big “if”… then the slightly cooler temps would easily be offset by the increased rubber on track which would make them last longer…

  26. Steve, what most teams have found out is that KERS is more effective when they use it after the exit of a corner into a straight. The extra horsepower it generates, aids in acceleration and helps them build their momentum.

    Well concerning charging of KERS, as far as I know, most teams have the the system coupled to the engine and thus actually use engine braking to charge up the system rather than any action on the brakes itself. So while on the parade lap there is technically plenty of power available to charge up KERS, which is the battery anyway, but during the race they cant just direct engine power to the charging of the batteries as there would be an impact on peak power.
    I don’t know for instance if they are allowed to put in fully charged up batteries before the leave the pit.

  27. Great breakdown Keith… should make for an epic start tomorrow. i suspect Alonso will get the jump on Vettel but then the top 3 will fall to the Brawn’s. i just hope For his sake, that Barrichello doesn’t botch it

  28. I preferred it when we had to guess on what lap they would pit. know everyone can guess each others strategies sort of takes some of fun out of it.

  29. I agree with Sean, it does sort of ruin the fun and if im hounest i cant see the point in publishing the fuel loads because I remember last year hearing martin brundle say that teams could figure everyones fuel loads before the race anyway with f1 technology being as advanced as it is. All that publishing the weights is doing is ruining the experiance for those watching

  30. Pique 1 stopping?? Im gonna put my head on the line and predict he gets a podium..

    1. One issue I see with that prediction is that it relies on him completing the full race without stuffing the car into a wall or gravel trap. Seriously, how long can he hold onto his drive – his dad must be disappointed; seems the driving genes run stronger in the the 2nd generation Rosbergs than Piquets…

  31. If it gets a little wet that is.. (Tyres)

  32. Great article, as always Keith. Am loving the extra dimension this gives to watching the first part of the race.

    Also loving the new order of grids this year.

    With full respect to those complaining about knowing fuel weights (and this isn’t meant to sound like I’m flaming anyone) there’s always the crazy option NOT to click on the the page entitled “Fuel weights and strategies”!

    1. I completely agree, I think it adds an interesting element. It makes you think about the prospects of more heavily loaded cars from outside the top ten – it makes you look further down the grid and gives you a sense of how many cars, if things fall their way, could potentially play a part in the outcome / points.

  33. Great analysis and comments. I’ve been following F1 for 25 years and this is definitely the most cogent, thoughtful website I’ve seen to date; and what a change to have comments from bloggers that can actually complete a sentence. A question for the group; looking at Kovy and Massa, they look like they are carrying enough fuel potentially for a one stopper, but, with the likelihood of rain, and with the need to do a short stint on the super softs, seems like a low percentage play. I guess if it stays dry, they might have a super short dash at the end on super softs. Thoughts?

  34. One issue I see with that prediction is that it relies on him completing the full race without stuffing the car into a wall or gravel trap. Seriously, how long can he hold onto his drive – his dad must be disappointed; seems the driving genes run stronger in the the 2nd generation Rosbergs than Piquets…
    Ooops, should have mentioned great post! Waiting on your next post!

  35. One other thought (sorry, getting excited about race time) – I think Alonso’s super light load is in part a Flavio ego play. What I mean is that given his comments about the Brawn’s, he’s obviously had his not insubstantial pride bruised and is feeling miffed at the world – when his cars probably don’t have a prospect of a win (though Alonso can wring the neck of any car…), what better way to grab the headlines than to send Alonso out on fumes with the hope of snagging a top three spot? I know they have the ‘interim diffuser’, so the car is a bit quicker, for sure, but I’ll bet Alonso ends up closer to the positions 5-10, rather than 1-5…

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