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The mystery of Raikkonen’s missing pace
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Posted By: James Allen  |  20 Apr 2013   |  5:39 pm GMT  |  96 comments

One of the biggest surprises in Saturday’s qualifying session for the Bahrain Grand Prix was the performance of the Lotus cars, with Kimi Raikkonen 9th fastest and Romain Grosjean 11th.

They were the pace setters on Friday, set the fourth fastest time in Saturday morning practice and Raikkonen set a competitive Q2 time in 1m 33.146, the third fastest time in that session.

So what happened?

According to Lotus’ Trackside Operations Director, Alan Permane, the result is something of a mystery. They believed – and many other teams agreed with the view – that Raikkonen could win this race, based on the single lap and long run performances the showed on Friday.

“Kimi’s session was a bit more of a mystery. His second run in Q2 was pretty respectable but it just didn’t come together for him in Q3. He’s been strong all weekend up until that point, so we’ll need to trawl through the data this evening to understand what happened.”

Raikkonen himself says that the car balance wasn’t right, “We were not fast enough. This was our maximum,” he said. “Maybe we could’ve been a few places better, but like I said yesterday, it didn’t feel exactly like we want. It’s just one of the places where we don’t seem to have the speed. Hopefully tomorrow it will turn out different.”

Analysis of Raikkonen’s qualifying tells a story in itself.

First there is the Q2 time, which was competitive, in 1m 33.146s. The problem was that he didn’t move forward from there in Q3. Whereas Rosberg found 0.5s from Q2 to Q3, Vettel 0.2s, Alonso 0.7s and Hamilton 0.6s, Raikkonen actually went slower in Q3 by 2/10th of a second, recording a 1m 33.327s lap.

Had he simply repeated his Q2 time he would have split Webber and Massa in 6th, which would have become 4th with the penalties for Hamilton and Webber. From the second row of the grid, alongside Alonso, we would have had the thrilling battle, which had looked to be on the cards between the two all weekend.

So was the Lotus too slow? Well, not if you add together all of Raikkonen’s best sector times. Had he been able to put them all together in the same lap, as others did, then he would have done a 1m 32.983s instead of the 1m 33.327s.

And that would have put him next to Alonso on Row 2. So it’s not that the car wasn’t fast enough; it was capable of doing fast sector times. The problem was that he wasn’t able to put them all together in one lap.

This is an example of the very fine margins which divide success and failure in F1 at the moment. From 8th on the grid with two Force Indias ahead of him which will be hard to overtake, as they are the two fastest cars in the speed trap and Raikkonen is giving away 6km/h which is half the DRS effect.

On top of that, Massa will run a long first stint on hard tyres and then there is also Mark Webber to get past; it’s going to require a blistering start and some clever strategy to get Raikkonen into contention for a podium.

The Lotus has the best tyre life and a very strong race pace, so it’s possible. Only Raikkonen knows where that pace went when it mattered in Q3, but tomorrow he has a chance to redeem himself.

Last year Lotus qualified 7th with Grosjean and 11th with Raikkonen and finished second and third. But Raikkonen had the advantage of saving enough sets of tyres to do the whole race on new sets. He will have to work harder tomorrow, as he did in the Australian race this year, which he started in seventh place.

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1

It’s the tyres. They’ve lucked into it on a Sunday. They don’t understand them that’s why they can’t win races by solving the problem of qualifying.

If they knew the secret to their success quali would be better. But the reality is that Boullier is shouting from the hip when he says he designed the car for the tyres in mind.

It’s just luck, not engineering skill.

2

How about if we add other drivers best sector times together? I would say that its normal NOT to have all your best sector times on a one single lap.

Anyway, looking back at it now and seeing how Lotus performed in the race, how Mercedes performed in the race and what tyres were used more, the reason for losing the qualifying pace is obvious as it was for mercedes to gain it:

The car could be set up heavily to be optimal on either the harder tyre or the softer tyre. In qualifying Lotus was setup for the harder tyre, they lost pace but gained it in the race. The opposite happened to Mercedes (Rosberg), which was really good on the softer tyre and had amazing quali, but in the race Rosberg was almost driving on reverse.

3

Qualifying didn’t work out exactly. But it is revealing to hear the strategy today in hindsight. They based their setup on the hard tyres for long run pace, so in hindsight it wasn’t to surprising that they didn’t qualify as well. Sure Kimi could have been two tenths or so faster, but that is true for most drivers in qualifying, it seems like people are sometimes much harder on Kimi then what they are on other drivers. Kimi only missed out on two positions at most. Sometimes people make too much out of an issue over qualifying, you get points in the races. In general it is like Lotus is always competing for pole or something. In the last 24 races they have reached the front row only 3 times.

I can understand that the teams might use the technique of calculating together the best sector times. But this will not always work, sometimes the characteristics of the sectors are very different. One sector might be only straights and one sector could just be tight corners. If you have a setup with high downforce then your sector times with the tight corners would be better and if you have low downforce then your sectors with long straight would be better. Drivers often still make small changes in qualifying like their wings for example, so just counting the best sector times cant always be a conclusive method.

4

I’d add that Kimi has traditionally been a solid qualifier but not the very best. In 2008 I remember he set numerous fastest laps but kept losing out in traffic after Massa (and others) qualified higher with slightly less fuel and a faster lap anyway. Difference now is grid position is just an advantage and far less decisive

5

Given both Lotus drivers were off the track a bit when pushing I think the car was just a bit tough to drive at the maximum. Kimi should have been just ahead of the force indias if he’d got it all right but I don’t think Ferrari’s and Red Bull’s and Rosberg were a tough ask.

The other cars seemed able to get into Q3 without going to the limit whilst Lotus had already got close to that just to make it. Strange though given the race pace

6

Kimi 2nd after starting 8th yeeii o/

7

How much better laptimes would other drivers have had if their best segment times were counted? Just plain stupid to speculate as you do.

And still. Second in the race. Best driver, not even nearly the best car.

8

Even the team says that they should have qualified in first five.

I’m sorry if you don’t want to think of what ifs, but the reality is that Quali didn’t work out

9

Well as the race is now over Kimi’s pace has shown back up taking a second. Quite strong showing for Lotus while Vettel was dominate.

Ferrari as I predicted are just not organized and consistent enough, once again bad decisions regarding wings on both cars cost them dearly.

They might be the fastest car, but as the old saying goes…”to finish first, first you must finish”.

10

On Raceday the temperatures will change the situation of each driver. Then the Pirelli’s are too sensitive so let’s see what happens. And the fuel loads on practice is just a guide so let’s see what happens when there are points to be collected on Sunday.

11

Is there a hint of conflict in what Team Lotus are saying about quali as opposed to both their drivers’ reported statements?

There’s a touch of “don’t ask us, go and ask Kimi why he didn’t manage a good lap”. That is not giving support to your star driver, in my view. KR deserves better, even if the poor lap was down to him.

By contrast, Gros was slagging off his own engineers as soon as he got out of the car, and blaming them squarely for his Q2 exit.

Is all well at Lotus?

12

Wow James, i agree with your conclusions in this article completely, but looks like you have to be very careful when suggesting Kimi didn’t get the most out of the car, his fans don’t take too kindly to it. 🙂

13

I would like to add that despite the fact that i generally think Kimi’s “leave me alone” attitude to be great, It does seem to be going a little too far lately. His comments during the BBC interview such as “You better do this (the interview) quickly or i’m going back inside” are a little too arrogant and plain rude..

14

Can’t believe no one has wised up to this yet. Even Alonso has said qualifying is losing its importance. These guys are purposefully qualifying at 7 tenths or 8 tenths of their cars true pace so they can have a strong first stint. All they have to do is hang in there for the first couple laps then drs the guy in front. That single qualifying pole lap is quite taxing on the tires and brakes because they are on maximum attack.

15

Sorry dude but that’s a load of rubbish!! Those that are capable of putting their car on pole are going for it.

There appears to be a lot of extra wear when the car is stuck in traffic (see Massa and Grosjean in China) so it would more than cancel out any attempt to save the tyres by doing a slow Q3 time.

If a team opted to save the tyres, they would do what Button did in China and not run at all. Saves the tyres completely. I believe he is trying the same this weekend. Kimi now has 3 laps done on the mediums that he starts the race on.

P.S James, this article has got the Iceman’s fans annoyed by the looks of it. Kinda funny, I see you are having to back up your arguments.

Probably wasn’t Kimi’s best lap but when the car is good, Kimi is great. So I think its fair to assume that the car just wasnt there for him.

Lotus do need to get on top of it rapidly though. They have a very good chance of the championship if they can stay competitive. And there is no doubt that if they can provide the right car, Raikkonen can win this championship.

16

Pole is not very important now. But at the end of the season who knows. Remember last year we were having a similar situation until RB became very dominant starting in Singapore

17

In general the Lotus has just not been fast, in qualifying. In all of their qualifying sessions so far for the season they have been P7 and lower. The anomaly is China, where the conditions where hotter then expected. In this qualifying session it was very overcasted and the temperatures where lower then expected.

The E21 can be fast but it seems like a very difficult car to setup, and to drive. Just the smallest changes in track conditions, and the setup doesn’t work properly anymore.

18

James it you look at Lotus qualifying since 2012 their gains from Fridays to Quali have always been relatively small increments compared to their rivals. I don’t doubt Kimi should have been maybe 2tenths quicker – he believed so himself – but he was never going to be on pole ( despite my greatest wishes). Lotus and Kimi especially seem to reach maximum pace quickly and that always leaves us begging for more..

What we must reflect on was the fact he never once got into the 1.32 prior quali where Ferrari did.- despite his consistent FP form. Also I noticed toward the end of q3 a few cars locking up – including Alonso on his second run- so perhaps track conditions changed- temperature drop, dust and high wind Perhaps an early run would have been better!.

Im sure Kimi would be disappointed but I still believe that Lotus lacks much downforce and 1 lap pace. That hasn’t changed and clearly it’s a very fine line between quali pace and race pace that few have gotten right since Pirelli came on deck and only RBR being specialists – although this year looks like Ferrari have taken the advantage thus far.Still gotta hope he has a good race and manages to fight for a podium like he did last year- that would be very special for all the reasons you mentioned.

19

+1.

I think the fact that he never got into the 1:32s is telling.

However, I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if he had done two flying laps instead of one.

I’m still undecided as to whether Kimi’s qualifying woes in 2012 and 2013 are up to inconsistency on his part, or something innate to the car – i.e. tyre temps hard to boost up, brake temps hard to boost, lacking downforce without extra fuel weight, or similar.

Seems to be that the car works really well until it gets to really low fuel loads.

20

no effort is spared by the English media to ridicule Kimi. from what is regarded has his fluke 2007 title to his fluke win in Australia this year.

i hope kimi wins. and not just to rub it in.

21

I dont believe the english media are trying to ridicule Kimi at all, we do however have something called manners and respect still in some parts of the UK and at times Kimi’s attitude goes deyond being funny…

22

Are you kidding? The English media loves Kimi! He’s the greatest source of jokes because he doesn’t seem to care. When Kimi won in Australia every UK outlet declared him a real contender for the title this year.

How is that ridiculing the guy?

23

Same thing happened in malaysia. Raikkonen quickest when the grip levels are low on friday and then loses out when the track rubber. Seems to me like they are not accounting for track evolution while choosing setup.

24

Rosberg most likely cut his first stint by at least 5 laps with that lap 🙂

25

Thanks for articles that dare to actually say something, rather than just notify and hype.

26

Everyone hype the Lotus up.

Kimi been struggling on mid sector all weekend.

And in long run pace, ferrari looks better than Lotus. But again, the pundits keep hyping them up.

From what i heard, the car was extremly sensitive, which is why Romain keep struggling.

27

Ferrari looked better on Friday because it had less fuel on board. They are closely matched for race pace

That’s the view of all the engineers in F1, maybe you have another source of info to share?

28

I thinks it’s the car’s sensitivity on tire/track temp changes. Pirelli said that the track was “too cool” for the tires. Remember that the compunds were changed from Soft/Meds to Meds/Hards on the last minute. It really sums up the E21’s tire heating issues.

29

Had frustrated Di Resta insulted Räikkönen during Q2?

30

di resta does too much yap yap. If that car has any potential today it will be Sutil who will make strides.

But even disadvantaged as they seem to be with the softer tyres in Q3, because of a cooling track, or whatever, I still expect Vettel, Kimi and Alonso to share the podium.

31

Kimi’s quick but ultimately inconsistent. Reflected in 16 pole positions in his career — which dates back to 2001. Vettel’s had a full-time drive since 2008 and has 38 poles.

Nuff said.

32

Vettel has had the standout best car much more than 38 times.

Kimi hasn’t. When he won the championship Ferrari was broadly equal with Mclaren.

In 05 he had a fast car but not the kind of advantage that Red Bull generally have.

33

The Red Bull was only dominant in 2011 and the car’s speed was flattered a little bit simply by how good Vettel was.

Kimi got lucky in 2007. It’s almost inconceivable how Hamilton gave up that advantage over Kimi with two races remaining. That makes up for 2005 though, where Kimi was the better driver than Alonso.

Kimi had his chance at in a Newey-designed McLaren, then parachuted into a Ferrari team that Schumacher had rebuilt from the ashes. Had the 2007, 08, didn’t in 09, but if he stuck around he would have been competing for the championship in 2010, 2012 (2012 had solid race pace despite Alonso’s protestations).

The best drivers invariably find themselves in the best cars.

34

kimi only had a legit fast car in 2005 and in 2007, the 2008 car hampered him during qualifying because of developments that deviated away from his driving style giving him instability in the front wheels and cant switch the front to temperature during qualifying

35

Kimi parachuted into a Newey designed McLaren in his second season, then parachuted into Schumacher’s Ferrari, then got fired because Massa — who was on a quarter of Kimi’s salary — was matching him.

He’s had cars capable of race wins ever since 2002. He has 38 fastest laps, which demonstrates he’s always had a car with the speed. He’s just inconsistent.

36

Bad luck I must said, he should have won 2003, 2005 worldchampsionships if the car wasn’t so unreliable.

37

If he had done the perfect lap, he would have been 5th. What would have been the outcome if everyone else had done their perfect lap.

A flaw with Renault (Lotus) is that they are not consistent.

38
Tornillo Amarillo

Go Kimi go! He knows what to do!

39

…and you certainly don’t have to always remind him.

40

…and hes doing it all the time!

41

The problem is not Kimi “not being able to put together fastest sector times into a single lap”. The problem is these ridiculous Pirelli tires that shed layers when pushed and the disproportionate return on the investment in pole position for pushing in quali just to be DRS passed on lap 2. Kimi will still finish on the podium.

42

Congratulations to Kimi and Lotus! Two podium positions! Funny how the Lotus “pace” magically returns on Sundays.

43

Impossible.

You can’t use drs on lap 2

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