Speed traces show Lotus getting too close for comfort
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Posted By: James Allen  |  14 Jul 2013   |  9:48 am GMT  |  83 comments

Red Bull’s preferred method of winning races is to do the damage to the opposition at the start, create a margin and then manage the race from there. But the lap time traces from the German Grand Prix show that Lotus got a bit too close for comfort, according to JA on F1 technical adviser Mark Gillan.

“Vettel tends not to push too hard in the second half of the race,” says Gillan. “But in Germany he had to push because Raikkonen was catching. If you study the traces you can see that Raikkonen took a bit too much out of the soft tyres in the final stint, so he didn’t have the pace in the last few laps. In my view it is not the case that if he had had a few more laps he might have won. Raikkonen’s tyres were not in good shape.”

The later stages of the race are to the right in the graph. You can see the curve rises as the lap times drop off. Despite falling just short in Germany, these fuel corrected traces show that the Lotus was as fast, if not a shade faster than the Red Bull. They are likely to contend for victory with Red Bull again in Hungary, although Mercedes looks a shoe-in for pole position in Budapest.

Lotus may be coming good at the right time. After the summer shutdown – a compulsory two week factory closure in August following the Hungarian Grand Prix, most teams will focus attention on the 2014 cars. So the state of play may not change as much during the second half of the season as in previous seasons.

So arguably the opportunity for Lotus is on the 2013 car; there is a very real possibility of finishing second in the Constructors’ Championship, which carries a significant financial benefit. It is likely that Romain Grosjean will have a stronger second half of the season as he went better on last year’s tyres than he has on this year’s and the new specification Pirellis, from Hungary onwards, will be similar to the 2012 models.

At the team’s factories there will be two design groups, battling for time in the wind tunnel and CFD departments. After the shutdown the 2013 group will lose the initiative to the 2014 group, as the rate of development on the 2014 project is very rapid and the management will be nervous about losing ground to rivals on 2014 development. There are quite a few areas of carry-over for 2013 to 2014 and these will continue.

Mercedes clearly has to keep working on its thermal management of tyres in races as this will be a carry-over weakness in 2014 if it does not address it. Force India will want to stay ahead of McLaren, but will be torn on splitting their limited resources.

It is a huge job to master the new 2014 hybrid powertrains and incorporate them into a new chassis design with significant aerodynamic changes. Lotus team principal Eric Boullier told this website last week that he is “very optimistic” about the 2014 car because Lotus started work on it a long time ago.

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  1. LewisTheBest says:

    kimi ‘s soft tyre was 6 laps old. (completed 2 timed lap on q1 and q2 or q2 and q3)

    He was also held up by his teammate that ignored team order for 3 laps.

    1. James Allen says:

      Take a closer look at the graph..

    2. C Lin says:

      I think so too.
      His teammate was given the order in lap 52 & he questioned the order & only let Kimi through on lap 55. That 3 laps delay cost the win for Lotus.

      1. justafan says:

        Surely we don’t want to see team orders, right?

      2. MelB says:

        No, but it is stupid, and has always been stupid to block a faster team mate. Admittably Romain would have fared better if the safety car period had been avoided, but in the closing stage of the race Lotus’ chance of a win stayed with Kimi. The three unnecessary laps behind Romain’s car wasted the best of Kimi’s softs.

      3. Justin says:

        If it means a better chance at a lead change we do.

      4. Adrian Newey Jnr says:

        But if Kimi had been let through, there might have been a closer battle at the front for the lead. If Grosjean hadn’t pulled over, we wouldn’t have had the exciting finish.

      5. C Lin says:

        TO is legal now & especially for a team like Lotus a win means alot if they want to progress as a top team.

        Also look at the points difference between the 2 drivers, TO may not be such a bad thing for Lotus.

      6. MelB says:

        That is to C Lin

      7. Purple says:

        Exactly! If you read the full transcripts you can also see that Kimi didn’t want to come for the last change of tyres but they took him in anway.

        Had Romain let Kimi through without all the drama, then Kimi wouldn’t had destroyed his tyres when driving within a second behind Romain. Being so close makes the wings lose air etc., besides Romain should had kept quiet about the team orders on the podium since he failed to mention how he ignored them for three laps.

        Bouillier has said earlier that he won’t tolerate his drivers disobey team orders, however he has not had anything to say about Romain after the race.

        This also raises the question why Malaysia GP was such a big deal for people since they are now keeping hush-hush over the ignored team orders by a driver who has no chances of winning the title.

        Hypocracy at the least.

      8. SteveS says:

        Most fans dislike team orders with a passion. But a lot of people dislike Vettel even more, hence the strange sight of all those people temporarily announcing that team orders are one of the Holy Sacraments of F1, and that Vettel should be excommunicated for ignoring them.

      9. Aaron Noronha says:

        Dont forget Rosberg too. He was clearly told not to hold Lewis up

  2. LewisTheBest says:

    Qualifying in Hungary is key.

    If Lotus can get into front row, they might stand a chance.

    1. Jake says:

      The car has decent race pace but to beat the Red Bulls and the Mercs on a flying lap is a big ask.

    2. Danny Almonte says:

      Mercedes still has the one lap pace to lock out the front row and finish in the top 5. Lotus will continue to wallow in traffic while Red Bull and others win from the front. Lotus haven’t proven that they can win from the front.

      1. MelB says:

        I think Lotus have proven that they can win from the front, but they haven’t proven that they can reach the front row.

    3. Adrian J says:

      Tell that to Jenson Button who has won it from 14th in 2006..!!

      1. Binoy says:

        Jenson’s win has more to do with the lead driver’s retirement than his own driving. Not taking anything away from Jenson,but thats how he won the race.

  3. michael says:

    Insightful as ever James. I cant get enough f1 data, love it! What are your thoughts on Hungary? Kimi for the win? Surely with softer compounds than last year, tyres will be more of a premium at this event?

  4. goferet says:

    Actually I think Red Bull do 90% of their damage on Saturday.

    With the car on the front row, this makes it very difficult for the lower qualifying cars to make ground especially on tracks that are difficult to overtake such as Hungary and in a lesser extent the Nurburgring.

    So until that moment the likes of Lotus get on top of their qualifying pace, they will always be the bride’s maid like what happened in Bahrain 2013/2012.

    As for Mercedes, Lewis was of the view they will be heading to Hungary blind because of the young driver’s test ban so pole will be difficult more so because Lewis poled it in 2013.

    Concerning Mercedes’ tyre heating issues, I believe the team are making progress for not only have they scored points at very hot tracks this time round but with the unbanning of in-season testing in 2014, the team will begin to see the trees from the woods.

    Now regards the 2014 season, Brawn is of the view that any team that didn’t begin work on the 2014 cars a year ago may have left it too late.

    P.s.

    It’s so weird but have been too many 3 week breaks this season.

    1. gudien says:

      Personally I believe Red Bull wins the races back in the design and construction of the race cars.

      1. Adrian Newey is very experienced in designing winning race cars.
      2. The men and women at the factory have the best equipment and morale from being successful.

      Additionally one must admit Sebastian Vettel is a talent rarely seen in F-1. Vettel is a large reason for Red Bull’s success as well,

      1. Binoy says:

        Its the other way around.. Vettel’s sucess has a lot to do with Redbull. He is a good racing driver,but not the best especially when you have the likes of KiMi and Alonso on the grid. He may have won 3 wdc’s but still is no match for KiMi or Alonso.

      2. SteveS says:

        No, you have it backwards, RB’s success has much to do with Vettel, who is clearly the best driver in F1 today.

      3. Binoy says:

        Hahaha… Now thats a good joke!!!
        Someone who has never won a race starting below P3 on the grid is the best driver in F1?? Lol….

    2. Quade says:

      Yeah, the 3 week breaks are a killer. :(

      You are right about Red Bull doing most of the destruction on Saturday. Aside the dominance of pole by the one lap hero Mercs, a Red Bull (usually Vettel’s) is always either on the first or 2nd row, with their better tyre consumption.

      They simply gobble up the Mercs off the start line and saunter off into the distance, while Lotus and Ferrari spend themselves to exhaustion in mortal battle for space with the Maldonado’s and Gutierrez’s. By the time their battles with the midfield are done, the Red Bulls are way too far up the road.

      1. VISI says:

        Spot on summation of the current situation.

  5. goferet says:

    Meanwhile the way the Red Bulls mugged Lewis at the start of the German Grand Prix took me back to Senna’s days when he used to get manhandled out of the way by two Williams cars with active suspensions that would go on to disappear into the distance in just a couple of corners.

    Yeah, thank God for the 2014 season.

    1. Matt H says:

      Don’t mind teams I don’t support winning but it is rediculous how fast the bulls are and can undo a stunning quali lap in 100m. Would prefer to see tense racing rather than the current format of vettel driving into lead and just cruising without any effort hate the tyre management delta style races should be all out on the edge rather than 5 secs off quali pace : (

      Grrrr

      1. goferet says:

        @ Matt H

        I think tyre management delta style races may have come to an end with the introduction of the durable rear tyres.

      2. Yak says:

        Vettel has won 4 of 9 races so far this year. Malaysia was of course a bit of a dodgy situation. In Germany he certainly didn’t just cruise away into the distance for an easy win. Three of the other race weekends he hasn’t even made it on to the podium, with one of those being the Silverstone DNF (i.e. he was only leading the race when he retired because Hamilton had suffered his own misfortune).

        So I’m not really sure what you’re complaining about. In 2011? Yeah it was a bit much. But the only races so far this year where Vettel has looked unstoppable, 2011-style, have been Bahrain and Canada. Two out of nine races is hardly ridiculous.

      3. Ronnie says:

        I suppose people are allergic to the disappearing act of Vettel, thus a small dose is sufficient for violent reactions.

      4. Kirk says:

        Hamilton said that he din’t do a good start, so it’s not that the RB had launching rockets, we have seen in other races that the Mercs can resist a couple of corners and even some laps.

    2. K says:

      The 2014 season with engines sounding like groaning mules and one brand engine dominating everything besides the tyres? Yeah, looking forward to it…

      1. gudien says:

        Mark Webber may be onto something.

        PS: I love driving my Porsche 911

    3. SteveS says:

      Ha ha, it takes ME back to the days when Senna and Prost used to manhandle the competition in their McLarens. Except that only one RB driver is doing any manhandling ….

    4. James M says:

      Seems like a very loose comparison seen as it’s Merc with the more advanced suspension this season…

    5. Bart says:

      @MattH @goferet

      Why would you say that? Rosberg has had as many poles as Hamilton, while Vettel is the only person to have won or taken pole (the only non Merc on pole, and three times). The only two races where Vettel won by a large distance were Bahrain and Canada, otherwise, Red Bull have barely been ahead in terms of speed and reliability. Vettel is just flattering the car.

    6. KRB says:

      Well, Lewis didn’t get the best start, but even with a good start, he would’ve been under immense pressure from both sides. It reminded me of how the Ferrari’s gobbled Vettel up at the start in Hockenheim 2010. That took some doing with the RB6.

  6. Jon says:

    I assume the 2014 cars will be lighter but is there going to be much change to the cars’ overall dimensions?

    1. justafan says:

      They will be heavier.

      1. KRB says:

        Yes, and all of the excess weight will be the batteries for the ERS systems. From what I’ve read, the minimum weight has gone up less than what the average battery weight will be. So unless the teams have been carrying around some excess weight now, it will all be coming out of any ballast used.

  7. Elie says:

    “Preferred method of winning “- a bit rich.

    I questioned that last Lotus pit stop at the Nurburgring -both timing and compound. I really believe Kimi should have come in at about lap 44 put on the mediums and attacked. I was never sure he would be able to overtake even with another 2 laps – because we all saw that his relative speed on the first stint on softs was not a s good as his relative speed on the mediums- and had he pitted sooner he would have had time to attack.

    I agree that it’s no wonder Romain went better on the 2012 construction tyres and this bodes really well for Lotus with both drivers now able to take the fight to the front.
    Its also good to see that Kimi was able to lift quali performance on the new structures. I really hope Lotus can keep pushing on because this will be a really interesting second half if RBR , Merc, Ferrari start switching greater development resources to 2014 specs. It will indeed come down to who keeps the balance right in this regard.

    1. Manos says:

      Now, with the result known of course, I think that Lotus made the worst decision from the three at hand. Going till the end without pit stop or bolting medium tires would gave them the win, or at least better chances to fight for it.

    2. SteveS says:

      Ferrari’s decision not to won on softs in Q3 flattered the pace of the Lotus – I don’t think Kimi’s quali performance was as good as you’re making it out to be.

      1. Elie says:

        My comment was
        “Its also good to see that Kimi was able to lift quali performance ”

        Which means he improved..(mostly from 5-8)..Meaning it was never great..Would you like me to clarify all my posts for you.

  8. Steve says:

    Excellent news for lotus, it’s about time they found some form again.

    James, how much can a team really design 2-3 years out? When would a team like lotus get final power unit dimensions etc to input into the design?

  9. Paige says:

    Hungary is going to be an interesting race. Personally, I think it’s just way too early for predictions because a brand new tire will be introduced there. And we all know the role that tires are playing in today’s F1 in shaking up races.

    Going based on what we know from this year and last year, which is about the most relevant information we have to judge how it will go on Sunday with 2012-compound tires, Lotus should come into Hungary as favorites to win. They have been really fast in the same conditions that they were really fast last year- high downforce circuits, high heat conditions- and that is Hungary. They came home 2nd and 3rd last year, and if they were higher on the grid in qualifying, they would have won. If Lotus can get in the top-2 rows in qualifying, they can certainly pull it off.

    1. dean cassady says:

      Remember last year, Red Bull stumbling, and then the remarkable Vettel drive at Budapest, then the remarkable resurgence of Red Bull after the summer break?
      Red Bull always have something in the bag!
      Lotus may have been the first team in contention to take their second-half-of-season tricks out of the bag, since we are going to the changed regulations next year.
      It could be we see Red Bull come with their second-half-of-season tricks, disquised at the test, but live in Hungary.
      Hoping for the best for an interesting championship, not blanded by another year of the Vettel-Red Bull dominance, but keeping expectations in check based on historical fact.
      Here’s a point to ponder, in the unlikely event of a Kimi-Lotus championship in 2013, would Vettel slam the door on a Kimi to Red Bull move, or would it be too late?
      Continuing on that line, if Kimi wins Budapest, with authority, so that he looks like he will be a strong challenger to the final race, will Vettel (likely successfully) protest a Kimi to Red Bull move?
      Hmm….

      1. Ahmed says:

        Dean Cassady,
        Vettel has nothing to do with protesting a Kimi move to Red Bull, if he did then why is Kimi even being linked to Red Bull???

        Red Bull have already made an offer to Kimi, it has been confirmed by Red Bull, and also by Kimi, so the decision remains with Kimi. He is clearly Red Bull’s number 1 priority to replace Webber. By all accounts, he is deciding between:
        1)Staying at Lotus in a relaxed environment (minimal media committments etc) and clear Number 1 status at Lotus
        2)Moving to Red Bull, who will undoubtedly expect more media/sponsor committments and taking on Vettel.

        I expect a decision/announcement before the Summer break…

      2. Chapor says:

        Yes, last year Red Bull emerged from the summer break very strong. BUT, this year they have teh added burden of different regulations for the next year. Last year it made sense to pour more resources into the 2012 car since the 2013 car would be more or less the same platform. This year, they do not have the same incentive to spend that much time on their 2013 car since they need to get the 2014 car ready as well.

      3. KRB says:

        I wouldn’t say it was right after the summer break. Yes they did well in Belgium, but that was because Alonso and Lewis were knocked out at the start, along with a few others that started ahead of the Red Bulls. Italy was a nightmare for them, with a double non-finish.

        Singapore is where they had a turn-up in fortune (Seb benefitting from Lewis’ DNF), and where they ran their DDRS for the first time. Then they were unstoppable in JAP, KOR, and IND.

        I take your point though, that they don’t have the same incentive to invest in this year. But they are comfortable leaders in both championships, so they just need to match the developments of their rivals, and they’ll snag another double.

      4. Ronnie says:

        Talking about RBR tricks. The aerodynamic video of a few spinets here a little reshaping there is hilarious http://www.formula1.com/news/technical/2013/0/1087.html

    2. gudien says:

      I expect Mercedes will lock-out the front row and it will be very difficult for anyone to pass both Rosberg and Hamilton on that track.

      A Mercedes win for Hamilton because he’s overdue.

  10. JTodt says:

    The weather had a lot to do with Lotus’s new found speed (me thinks).

    1. Sri says:

      Exactly. Let it be cool and Lotus will be in upper mid-range and RBR flying in the front. Unless some misfortunes befall Vettel, there is no way I can see anyone beating RBR-Vettel combo purely based on performance.

      1. NickH says:

        It will be very hot late July in Hungary

  11. Michael S says:

    If Kimi had a fresh set of softs like Alonso did at the end I think he wins no problem. However, it was reported the set he put on had 6 laps on them. That means he had to go 18 laps on soft tires and there was no way they would stand up to that.

  12. Sudha S says:

    Red Bull seem to be able to bring Vettel in at the right time and put him back on track behind cars on much older tyres , so he is not stuck behind traffic. Is this better pit stop management on RBRs part or can they control this better than other teams because Vettel is invariably leading the race at these times?
    Kimi Raikkonen for example after his 1st pit stop was stuck behind first Rosberg-Hamilton and then behind Hamilton until Lap 18 and his gap to Vettel increased by more than 10 seconds in this period. This was probably where he lost the race and Alan Permane also said so

    1. Hansb says:

      I guess you are right. The RB’s had no problem overtaking f.i. the Merc on older tyres. If Vettel can’t make it round the outside he cuts in and takes his opponent inside. It looks so simple and yes Vettel is very good but that RB has so much more mechanical grip.

      Kimi really struggled but got past Hamilton on older tyres and Alonso had a great fight against LH but had no chance to get by, simply had to wait for LH to pit.

    2. justafan says:

      He didn’t lose the race there because the safety car negated the time lost there.

      1. Buddy Benerba says:

        RB dominates race strategy. If they aren’t in front they pit at the best time. We have seen Lotus blow te strategy in back to back races. I’m not saying its easy to get it right but RB does and they continue to prosper.

      2. MelB says:

        Yes, but on the other hand all three stoppers got a free stop.

      3. Sudha S says:

        Take your point. Both Kimi and Alonso closed up big gaps under the SC. Grosjean on the other hand was only 11 laps on the Mediums and a gap of less than 3 seconds from Seb, when the SC came out. With the pace he had, if he could have done a 2-stopper compared to Vettel’s 3-stopper he could have won the race

      4. justafan says:

        True, but it remains a big if.

    3. Elie says:

      Yes !- Lotus must get smarter with strategy!

  13. Clear View says:

    Hi James, would you mind possibly explaining the meaning of ‘fuel adjusted’ lap times please as I know some cars are better on high fuel at the start of the race and others have better pace to those around them when some fuel us burned off. I don’t really understand how the fuel adjustment works but would like to know.
    Thanks as ever for the best F1 site on the web.

    1. James Allen says:

      It means allowing for the weight of fuel load at the time the laps were set

  14. Richard says:

    With regard to Mercedes they still have not got the car working properly with the tyres. In Germany the Bulls were all over Lewis off the start which means he did not have good traction or grip. – I fancy it was lack of grip.

  15. BreezyRacer says:

    I’m confused by a few things ..

    First, why use “fuel adjusted” lap times? Doesn’t that hide the true pace in that a car on full fuel maybe has a different max delta than the same car on light fuel?

    Second, why only look at Vettel and the Lotuses lap times? Were they setting the fastest laps in the race throughout? My thinking is that Vettel is only going to drive as hard as he has to to cover his position. Grosgean is only going to drive the last part (after Kimi passed him) the same way .. to hold his 3rd position. So basically we’re seeing race pace being determined by Kimi’s lap times at the end of the race.

    1. BreezyRacer says:

      BTW, maybe you link to a larger image of the graph too. This image is a bit fuzzy to me.

    2. krischar says:

      You Are right

      It was only a battle between vettel and the lotuses, other teams were simply not good enough with their pace or strategy.

      I expect to see the same pattern in hungary. Where higher temparatures will bring lotuses into play. Mercedes may lock out front row, yet vettel will win this one easily. Lotuses have to jump vettel in the first couple of laps notably Kimi otherwise game and WDC is over

  16. roberto marquez says:

    Excuse my ignorance Why use “fuel corrected” curves ? And
    I do not understand these curves ,because you say in the article :”You can see the curve rises as the lap times drop off” so could you let me know what do the X and Y axes represent ? “Drop off ” means fall ? so cars were going faster ? Please help, I want to understand.

    1. James Allen says:

      The laps of the race run from left to right across the bottom.

      The lap times in seconds rise from bottom to top. So an upward curve shows that the lap times are getting slower. This shows the tyre degradation

      The very steep sudden rises are pit stops.

      Fuel corrected so that it’s a consistent baseline, you can see the tyre performance “drop off”

      1. Adam says:

        James,

        do you think Lotus made a mistake in sending Kimi out on options for that last stint? Would not the mediums have lasted better in the closing laps or did he not have a new set of primes available?

      2. James Allen says:

        We addressed that in the Strategy Report.

        They didn’t have the pace on the mediums – look at Grosjean’s pace – and thought a blast on softs might work.

  17. Adrian Newey Jnr says:

    I think the key will be the temperature. The Lotus likes warmer temperatures than the RB or the Ferrari. If Hungary is hot, this might amplify other team’s tyre issues.

  18. JohnBt says:

    Lotus – runs well with high temperatures as its gentler with tyres.
    Red Bull and Merc – performs better on cooler tracks as getting temp to tyres works better.
    Ferrari – suppose to be better on hot tracks but didn’t do we’ll in Germany (42 degrees), which is strange. Aero updates became worse?
    Force India – also gentler with fragile tyres, so they’re not going to perform better with the updated tyres.

    Am wondering bout what’s the ad/disadvantage of the other teams?

    Hungary new compounds will surely be harder but they are using softs now.
    Is Pirelli manipulating the top teams so as to close the gaps from now?

  19. Grant says:

    Lotus will continue to show up in some races and disappear in others.

  20. Andrew Woodruff says:

    If Grosjean had got out of the way immediately, Kimi would have caught Seb a couple of laps earlier and had longer to try and overtake. Simple. Not saying he definitely would have been able to overtake for sure, but he’d have had longer to size him up on marginally fresher tyres.

    Lotus bosses must be fuming behind closed doors, doubt Grosjean will be there next year.

    1. Andrew Woodruff says:

      I’d like to see Di Resta and Bottas at Lotus next year, with Kimi to Red Bull and Grosjean banished to DTM or some other backwater.

      By the way – Vettel’s consistency in those last 6 laps, highly impressive. Looks like there may have been a back marker on the 7th lap before the end, and then after that – five laps all within a tenth of each other, and then the final lap only a tenth slower after Kimi caught him. The guy’s class. Look at Grosjean’s times in comparison – all over the place.

  21. Karthik says:

    True. Kimi may not have overtaken Vettel even if we had 2 or 3 more laps. I feel Lotus and Kimi actually lost their race in Q1 on saturday. If they knew that the strategy was to go for 2 stints on soft tyres they should have went for Mediums in Q1 and saved a fresh set, like RBR did.

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