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post #1 of 3 (permalink) Old 05-12-2009, 02:48 PM Thread Starter
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Analysis of Barcelona fuel loads

Analysis of Barcelona fuel loads

Saturday, 09 May 2009 00:00

The FIA has revealed the fuel loads with which all 20 cars will start the Spanish Grand Prix. We analyse the data here.

The fuel weights shed an interesting retrospective light on Saturday’s qualifying session, in a number of respects.

The lap time penalty of carrying fuel (the ‘fuel effect’) is approximately 0.035s per kilo here so, ‘correcting’ the qualifying times accordingly, we find Sebastian Vettel on pole for Red Bull.

The young German lapped 0.13s slower than Jenson Button, but the extra 5.5kg of fuel he was carrying would have slowed him by just under 0.2s, giving him the fuel-adjusted fastest time.

That highlights the fact that the Red Bull is now at least a match for the Brawn in qualifying trim; as Bahrain showed however, race pace may be another story.

Given that single-lap pace seems to be the Brawn’s slight weakness, Button did an impressive job, particularly after struggling for car balance through free practice.

No wonder that team-mate Rubens Barrichello – who had been happier with his car in practice and topped the low-fuel Q2 session – was a bit shell-shocked to be beaten by Button again.

The Brazilian was carrying slightly more fuel, but that accounted for less than half of his 0.24s deficit.

More striking still was the performance of Felipe Massa and the Ferrari.

The Brazilian had more fuel on board than most of his Q3 rivals but still managed to qualify fourth, only 0.4s off pole.

Adjusting for the weight disadvantage brings his shortfall down to just 0.15s, putting him ahead of Barrichello in third place on the fuel-corrected grid.

Two weeks ago in Bahrain he was 0.8s off the pace, so Ferrari has clearly made big gains with the upgrades it has brought to Barcelona – more so, it would appear, than any other team.

Mark Webber admitted he had underperformed in Q3 and that is borne out by the car weights, which show he was carrying the same amount of fuel as team-mate Vettel, who outpaced him by 0.39s.

The headline times give a misleading picture of the relative performance of the Toyota drivers, with the pair separated by an infinitesimal 0.007s and Timo Glock marginally faster than Jarno Trulli.

In fact Trulli emphatically did the better job, since he was lugging an extra 9kg of fuel around, penalising him by more than 0.3s.

Fernando Alonso had a lighter car than any of the other Q3 runners, but it wasn’t as much of a showboating run as last year’s front-row effort, so eighth on the grid is probably a fair measure of Renault’s competitive position.

Nico Rosberg had used up all his new sets of tyres before Q3, so it’s difficult to know how much of his two-second gap to the pole time (trimmed to 1.3s when you adjust for the extra fuel he was carrying) is attributable to the underlying performance of the FW31.

For a different reason, Robert Kubica’s massive 2.2s deficit to Vettel (1.67s fuel-corrected) is not representative either, since BMW fitted the wrong tyres for his final Q3 run.

The Pole had been quick enough in Q2 to save a set of new softs but was not able to exploit them.

Fuel consumption is not particularly high at the Circuit de Catalunya due to the relatively flowing layout: 2.27kg per lap compared to 2.9kg in Bahrain.

On that basis, and deducting a few kilos for lubricants and the pace laps, we can expect the light-fuelled Alonso to kick off the first round of pit stops around lap 15.

Button has the least fuel of the leaders and is likely to pit on lap 15 or 16, while Barrichello should be able to stretch at least one and possibly two more laps out of his first tank.

Significantly, Vettel has two more laps’ worth than Button and will therefore have an opportunity to leapfrog him at the stops if he can stay in close range throughout the opening stint (assuming he doesn’t snatch the lead at the start).

As the only driver near the front of the grid with KERS on his car, Massa will be the man to watch at the start.

The extra horsepower should gain him 10 metres on the run to the first corner, giving him a chance to challenge for the lead.

The Ferrari is fuelled all the way to lap 20 so if he can get and then stay in front he should be in good shape for a podium and maybe more.

Trulli is another set for a fairly long first stint, but the range among the top eight is relatively narrow (from about lap 15 to lap 20) so it doesn’t appear that anyone is planning a particularly radical strategy.

As usual, many of the cars that didn’t make the top-10 qualifying shootout are fuelled for long opening stints.

Kazuki Nakajima, Nelson Piquet, Nick Heidfeld, Sebastien Buemi, Kimi Raikkonen and Adrian Sutil should all get to lap 28 or further, while Lewis Hamilton is carrying enough fuel to reach almost half-distance (lap 32 of 66).

Car weights including fuel (in kg, by grid order)

1. BUTTON Brawn 646
2. VETTEL Red Bull 651.5
3. BARRICHELLO Brawn 649.5
4. MASSA Ferrari 655
5. WEBBER Red Bull 651.5
6. GLOCK Toyota 646.5
7. TRULLI Toyota 655.5
8. ALONSO Renault 645
9. ROSBERG Williams 668
10. KUBICA BMW 660
11. NAKAJIMA Williams 676.6
12. PIQUET Renault 677.4
13. HEIDFELD BMW 676.3
14. HAMILTON McLaren 683
15. BUEMI Toro Rosso 678
16. RAIKKONEN Ferrari 673
17. BOURDAIS Toro Rosso 669
18. KOVALAINEN McLaren 657
19. SUTIL Force India 675
20. FISICHELLA Force India 656
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post #2 of 3 (permalink) Old 05-12-2009, 10:13 PM
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Interesting that Hamilton had the heaviest car on the grid and 26kg heavier than Kovalainen. Clearly had a one stopper in mind, but with a track temp of 41degC+ the tyres were probably never going to be durable enough to make that a real option. No surprise he struggled to get off the line..
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post #3 of 3 (permalink) Old 05-12-2009, 11:08 PM Thread Starter
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Even now, days after the race, it's still a very interesting comparison IMO.
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