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Analysis of Singapore fuel loads
Analysis of Singapore fuel loads

Saturday, 26 September 2009 23:26

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

The car weights underline Lewis Hamilton’s superiority in Singapore qualifying, revealing that he took pole despite carrying more fuel than his five closest challengers.

Taking his 9.5kg weight disadvantage into account, Hamilton was not 0.3s but almost 0.7s faster than the light-fuelled Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel.

As far as the top seven are concerned, the fuel-adjusted grid is the same as the actual order with the notable exception that Nico Rosberg and Vettel swap places.

Rosberg’s Q3 lap time was only 0.14s slower than Vettel’s and he was carrying a weight penalty of 6.5kg (0.25s), so he was a net 0.1s quicker.

Make no mistake, Williams has the pace to vie with the Red Bulls for a podium here – but does anyone have the pace to keep up with Hamilton.

On the face of it, the answer appears to be no, since Hamilton was a thumping 0.6s quicker than anyone on fuel-corrected times.

There is one important caveat, however: Rubens Barrichello’s crash in the dying moments of Q3 meant drivers only completed one run.

Several of them – particularly those who used the harder ‘prime’ tyres for their first runs, like the BMW drivers – felt they didn’t show their true potential and were poised to make big improvements before the red flag intervened.

Certainly, Vettel and Rosberg were flying and may well have challenged Hamilton, although Lewis doubtless would have had a response.

Rosberg pulled comfortably the fastest lap of the weekend out of the bag in Q2, so the Williams clearly has plenty of raw pace.

So the race may not prove to be a Hungary-style Hamilton walkover, but the world champion clearly starts as the man to beat – not least because the extra fuel he is carrying will give him the advantages of a longer first stint and the ability to react to what his rivals do at their first pit stops.

Vettel is likely to be the first of the leading group to pit, around lap 15, with Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber stopping a lap later and Barrichello, Rosberg and Fernando Alonso all taking on service on lap 17 or 18.

Hamilton can go as far as lap 19, with only the likes of Kovalainen and Robert Kubica (who are unlikely to be major threats) fuelled longer.

What could throw a spanner into the works – as last year’s now-notorious Nelson Piquet Jr crash showed – is a safety car period, always a strong possibility on a wall-lined street track.

If one occurs in the first few laps, it will simply have the effect of extending the opening stint for everyone; but if it were to arise during the first pit stop window, the later stoppers could get caught out and lose track position.

For that reason McLaren may choose to bring Hamilton in slightly earlier than planned if he builds a big lead in the early laps.

The high likelihood of a safety car puts a premium on tactical flexibility and fleet-footedness rather than pre-planned strategy, and is just one of a number of factors that make Sunday’s race highly unpredictable.

After a disastrous qualifying session that left him 12th on the grid, Jenson Button has unsurprisingly gone for a heavier fuel load than those in front of him and is scheduled to pit around lap 27.

His hope will obviously be, first and foremost, to avoid getting caught up in a first-lap crash like the one that sidelined him at Spa; to make some rapid headway if he can; and then to use his longer first stint to do most of his overtaking while rivals are serviced in the pits.

All of that will depend, however, on a return of the confidence in his car that seeped away from him so graphically in Saturday’s practice and qualifying sessions.

All those starting outside the top 10 have opted for long first stints except for Tonio Liuzzi, who is fuelled to lap 17.

Force India may be hoping for a repeat of the 2008 scenario, with an early safety car catching out most of the field, or else it has simply reasoned that there is nothing to be lost from rolling the dice when you start at the back of the field.

Alex Sabine

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

1. HAMILTON McLaren 660.5
2. VETTEL Red Bull 651
3. ROSBERG Williams 657.5
4. WEBBER Red Bull 654.5
5. ALONSO Renault 658
6. GLOCK Toyota 660.5
9. KOVALAINEN McLaren 664.5
10. BARRICHELLO Brawn 655.5
11. NAKAJIMA Williams 680.7
12. BUTTON Brawn 683
13. RAIKKONEN Ferrari 680.5
14. BUEMI Toro Rosso 678
15. TRULLI Toyota 690.9
16. SUTIL Force India 693
17. ALGUERSUARI Toro Rosso 683.5
18. FISICHELLA Ferrari 678.5
19. GROSJEAN Renault 683
20. LIUZZI Force India 656
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