It wasn’t just Button that cost Vettel second (Turkish Grand Prix analysis)

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Good pace on a heavier fuel load aided Webber's bid for second

Sebastian Vettel’s three-stop strategy at Istanbul left him vulnerable to team mate Mark Webber. Webber occasionally managed to match Vettel’s pace despite carrying a heavier fuel which, along with Vettel’s delay behind Button, helped Webber nab second off his team mate.

Here’s an analysis of the Turkish Grand Prix including how far McLaren are off the pace and Rubens Barrichello’s disastrous start.

Position change on lap one

Spanish Grand Prix position change on lap one (click to enlarge)

Rubens Barrichello made a dreadful start, slipping nine places from third to 12th. It was even worse than his Australian Grand Prix getaway, where he fell back by five places.

Ironically, he had been widely expected to challenge team mate Jenson Button at the start, as Barrichello had the advantage of starting from the clean side.

Kimi Raikkonen lost three places despite having a KERS button to use. He started on the dirty side of the grid and had to take evasive action to avoid his team mate on the run to turn one.

This chart shows which drivers are making the best starts. Aside from the drivers most often found towards the back of the grid, some of the most frequent KERS users are also among the best starters:

Drivers' average position change (click to enlarge)

Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber

Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber's lap times (click to enlarge)

Sebastian Vettel threw away a potential win on lap one. But where did he lose his grip on second place? Comparing his lap times with team mate Mark Webber two crucial moments jump out.

Clearly the time lost stuck behind Button’s car before Vettel’s second pit stop cost him badly. But there were also moments when he failed to use a lighter fuel load to extend his advantage over Webber – particularly late in Vettel’s first stint and also during his third stint.

Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen

Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen's races (click to enlarge)

The McLaren drivers were also in a race of their own which was decided by conflicting strategies. Lewis Hamilton started two places behind Heikki Kovalainen with 31.5kg more fuel on board.

Hamilton made one stop to Kovalainen’s two, and despite having to do his entire last stint on soft tyres – at a track where he has had tyre damage problems before – Hamilton prevailed.

But look at that yawning gap to the Brawns. Had Button not backed of considerably in his final stint Hamilton would have been lapped. Instead of finishing 80 seconds behind, a conservative estimate would put Hamilton at least 90 seconds adrift – a performance deficit of 1.55 seconds per lap.

Race charts

Spanish Grand Prix race history (click to enlarge)

Nico Rosberg jumped Jarno Trulli at the first round of pit stops to take fifth – but by the end of the race Trulli was ahead again. The Toyota driver ran a middle stint five laps longer than Rosberg’s allowing him to jump ahead of the Williams driver.

During that stint Trulli also allowed team mate Timo Glock briefly past to challenge Rosberg before his pit stop.

Kazuki Nakajima’s final pit stop was at least 18 seconds slower than most of his rivals due to a problem with one of his wheels. Without that extra time loss there’s a good chance Nakajima would have been ahead of Robert Kubica after the BMW driver’s final pit stop. The problem probably cost Nakajima seventh place.

Nelson Piquet Jnr also had a long final pit stop, losing around 15 seconds, without which he probably would have split the McLarens.

Spanish Grand Prix lap chart (click to enlarge)

Author information

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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33 comments on “It wasn’t just Button that cost Vettel second (Turkish Grand Prix analysis)”

  1. Texas F1 Fan
    8th June 2009, 22:08

    Why did Barrichelo have such a bad start? Was he asleep at the wheel? Did he start in the wrong gear? Anybody know?

    1. Ross Brawn said “We had a problem with his clutch off the start line which was similar to that which we experienced at the opening race in Melbourne. In attempting to recover and get off the grid, the transmission was over-torqued. As his race progressed, it became increasingly evident that this had caused a serious problem with the gearbox and we retired the car whilst the damage was contained.”

      1. Mark Hitchcock
        8th June 2009, 22:36

        The onboard of his start sounded horrible when he was searching for a gear. You could basically hear the gearbox being destroyed.

      2. Read as:

        “Barrichello over cooked it and caused a problem with his clutch off the start line which he also did in Melbourne. In attempting to recover and get off the grid he made it even worse. As his race progressed, it became increasingly evident that he had caused a serious problem with the gearbox and since he was just charging around like a spoiled child driving people of the road we retired the car before he destroyed it”

        1. lol

          yep.. that literally what happened.

  2. everyone keeps saying how boring F1 is now with the Brawn dominance but they must admit without Rubens efforts today that race would have been so boring lol. We need enjoy this season… at this rate we will only have 4 cars racing next year!

    1. yeh, i’m really enjoying the acing. i don’t find it boring that button keeps winning. i must say 2004 was a bit annoying only because michael had won so much efore that season as well. maybe i just like this season cause webber finally has a competitive car. godd on button though.

  3. Looks like Vettel had an incident of bad pit stop strategy,like Barrichello had a couple of races ago.I didn’t agree with the “team orders” Vettel received,I think he could have challenged Webber towards the end of the race for second place.I understand that would have meant taking a chance of a shunt and of course that would mean no points for Red Bull but,I hate it when they don’t let race car drivers RACE.That said…It was Vettel’s race to lose…and he lost it.

  4. Why would Vettel risk destroying his car/engine/team mate?
    The ‘orders’ made complete sense to me. If not both redbulls off. No points all round. F1 is a team sport. or so I like to think. its not all about the driver.

    1. i agree completely. vettel’s chance was dashed at the start so he should be happy with 3rd

  5. To help me stay awake during the The Turkish GP i wrote this:

    Once there were brave racers, scarlet and silver arrows, in the once glorious sport of formula 1,

    Grabbing eternal glory form the jaws of death: Fangio, Moss, Stewart and later Schumacher, Hakkinen , Villeneuve and Son.

    But today there is something amiss with this ‘sport’ of ours that I can’t quite put my finger on,

    A feeling tells me its not driver and machine that got the race won.

    This is the Bernie&Max show, money flooding in from all sources,

    So now if you want to see racing you should “go to the horses”.

    Welcome to the club, on your TV, online or mingle with the stars and pay for your glamorous ticket,

    Just you remember, this is the Bernie&Max’s show; it most certainly is not cricket.

    Today driver and engineer watch their cars slow to a stop and start during the race,

    Where wins are decided by the old FIA and code written by nasty nerds without a face.

    On their way out the once mighty teams can see the fix to the season,

    As Brawn and Williams Toyota will tell you: ‘Its secret hand shakes that is the reason…

    …to spend millions on engineering and play by the rules now makes little sense,

    Since in Bernie&Max’s F1, the object is “to cheat better than anyone else”


  6. How would people feel about a rolling start for the races?

    1. Agamemnon Smith
      9th June 2009, 1:07

      And jet packs too? How about monkeys with leotards.

      1. Monkeys with Leotards! I love that lol.

        1. Martin Bell
          9th June 2009, 7:40

          Some people have suggested that a monkey in a leotard could win races in the Brawn car!!

          1. Well, Barrichello don’t.

          2. maybe thats just cos he isnt allowed to wear a leotard.

      2. Can qualifying be decided by monkey knife fights? In leotards of course lol

  7. Agamemnon Smith
    9th June 2009, 1:06

    Anyone who thinks the start of this season boring should count their lucky stars that the medal system isn’t in place. Another two wins for Jenson and that would be season over!!!

    1. David@Geelong
      9th June 2009, 2:46

      Well it would only be 1 if Vettel doesn’t win the next one.

  8. Piquet and Nakajima have both realy jumped up in perfromance to look like genuine F1 drivers recently. You can’t blame Piquet for going off in qualifying when he had no break duct and you could see Alonso struggling in the same corner. I think both are now very close to their teammates if the last few races are the measure.

    1. Alonso was 6 tenths faster than Piquet in Monaco qualifying. I hardly call that “close”.

      Similarly, Nakajima was 8 tenths slower than Rosberg on Monaco and he finished 2 laps down.

      I guess you could call them closer on Istanbul (they finished 30 seconds down, but some of that was caused by poor pitstops), but that’s just one race.

      1. I think with the recent R29 evolution differences in favour of Alonso that Piquet Sr was complaining about included Piquet has recently been far closer than 0.6 and virtually the same pace now. Istanbul is the closest the R29’s have been between teammates. I don’t think it was that way all season, just the last 3 or so races. Nakajima crashed toward the end of Monaco but his running was pretty good in a car just set up for a lap.

  9. We need a test weekend for the sake of competition .
    sell tickets , meet the drivers or make friday a test session for the test driver to be allowed to learn the cars characteristics and add input ,fair enough for jenson and the brawn outfit they had limited testing but for all the rule changes this was not the season to start a limit to testing .
    nice graphs by the way.

  10. I have always thought that a three-stop strategy was better than a two-stop, or a one-stop as you can turn the race into a series of sprints and splash-and-dashes.
    How did Red Bull manage to ruin Vettel’s race?
    Also, although Hammy did quite well with his one-stop, was it a lack of power or grip that meant that he didn’t plough through the field as you would have expected him to?

  11. I must say, very good analysis by Mr.Keith. You are doing very good job, keep it up……….

  12. Its only KERS keeping the Mclaren ahead of the ForceIndias. This car has reached an evolutionary dead end. The new aerodynamic rules are highlighting a deficiency Mclaren cars have had for many years.

    1. Bigbadderboom
      9th June 2009, 17:59

      The McLaren problem is bizzare, I can’t understand how the car is so fast through the speed traps (Lewis had the top speed in all sectors through the race) so why do they not give the car more wing. Maybe I am wrong but the trade between wing settings is a compromise of top speed, so how come Lewis opted for top speed. The speed he had was not down to KERS as Kovy was 4-5 mph of Lewis’s top end in sector 1 and 2, the only conclusion is it was a choice made in set up, very strange, this must cause problems with tyre wear as well. McLarens struggle this year are baffling, can a car design be that bad that it cannot be developed???

  13. oliver? eh? they’re not living things, cars. its fairly straightforward, mclaren went conservative, they underdeveloped this years car relative to others and they lost their team principal. that along with honda sorry brawn having ross in charge of a decent car means they look miles ahead. strip out buttons brawn and anyone credible could still win the championship

  14. @Antonyob
    Mclaren have evolved the same concept for several years now just the same way Renault has. Despite winning the drivers championship last season, Mclaren probably had the 3rd fastest car by the middle of the season.

  15. It says spanish grand prix on the graph

  16. The Turkish Grand Prix, didn’t make for spectacular racing. Most of the action was packed into the first lap and that was where Jenson Button won the race. The famous turn eight, which include four apexes continued to fascinate drivers; this being the entire calendar’s longest corner. Read more about the race here.

  17. It’s very frustrating and sometimes I think Williams are shooting themselves in the foot when they get their strategies and pit stops wrong.

    McLaren clearly need to go back to the drawing board. Lewis is doing a great job concidering how terrible the car is…

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