10/09/2012

Italian GP - Sunday Analysis

Race Result: di Resta 8th (4 points), Karthikeyan 19th, Hulkenberg 21st (DNF).

Sahara Force India team principle & founder, Vijay Mallya, summed this race up perfectly for the Indian team on his twitter account:

"Bitter Sweet result 4 Sahara Force India @ Monza.Paul started 9th after qualifying 4th n finished 8th scoring 4 points.Nico retired".

It really was a bitter sweet result in terms of the constructors championship, but we'll go into that after we review the race.

Paul di Resta started 9th on the grid, but we knew he had the pace to be much higher. Unfortunately, he struggled on a heavy fuel load in comparison to those around him - he even made two or three mistakes in the opening stint, running wide occasionally. This is very unlike Paul who is normally so consistent during a race, but we all have bad days. What was impressive is the way Paul managed to find his pace again during the second stint - he was consistently catching the Red Bull of Mark Webber towards the end of the race. Although there probably were not enough laps for Paul to overtake, he got lucky with Webber spinning. The Scotsman also benefited from Button & Vettel retiring which gifted him 8th place. A good four points scored.

Nico Rosberg was the man who finished in 7th place, 7.5 seconds ahead of Paul. Although our driver had a poor first stint, he didn't lose as much as 7.5 seconds ... so 8th place was pretty much the maximum he could have hoped for.

If you remember qualifying though, Paul came 4th (before being demoted due to the gearbox penalty) - so where did the pace go? Actually, for the second time in two races, di Resta suffered a KERS failure! It was contained this time to only the middle of the race though. I'm not sure how many laps the KERS failure lasted before it started working again, but this could well have been the difference; KERS is such an important tool on the straights of Monza.

Onto Nico Hulkenberg, and he actually did a fantastic job, but had no luck this weekend at all. A fuel pump issue, associated with the electronics, put Nico P24 on the grid. He had a great opening lap, getting up to 17th straight away & jumping ahead of Maldonado at the start. The German got stuck behind Kovalainen & Jean-Eric Vergne for a few laps and this is the time when the rest of the field really pulled away from the cars near the back. The large field spread meant that it was an uphill struggle from then on in, and despite Hulkenberg's consistently quick pace, he was just too far back by that stage to make any impact. Not that it mattered, he had to retire towards the end with a brake issue.

Hulkenberg was running one place ahead of Maldonado for the majority of the GP. Maldonado finished 11th, 0.5 seconds behind Bruno Senna. The data shows that if Nico kept up his performance for the whole race (i.e no retirement) he would have gained that 0.5 seconds on Senna to finish P10; a point was possible.

So to sum up, Paul was slow at the start and got unlucky with his KERS issue whereas Nico had great pace but got unlucky with his brake problem. Given that both drivers had some sort of mechanical issue, four points isn't a bad return! This is how the constructors is affected:

Constructors championship (5th-8th)
5) Mercedes (126 pts) (+14)
6) Sauber (100) (+20)
7) Force India (63) (+4)
8) Williams (54) (+1)
Note: numbers in green represent the points scored this weekend.

Clearly this weekend has been very damaging to our chances of P5 & P6 due to good results for Mercedes & Sauber. Here's the breakdown of the points SFI require:

For P5:
Pre-Italy: an average of 6.625 points more than Mercedes needed each race.
Post-Italy: an average of 9 points more than Mercedes needed each race.

For P6:
Pre-Italy: an average of 2.625 points more than Sauber needed each race.
Post-Italy: an average of 5.29 points more than Sauber needed each race.

Both positions are still possible, but it is looking increasingly unlikely. For P5 we would need one great weekend with retirements for both Merecedes drivers. Honestly, i do not think P5 will be ours now. P6 is much more likely, but again i think we need a little luck.

I think it is pretty clear that the Force India VJM05 is quicker than the Sauber C31 as we can beat Kobayashi no problem when both teams have no problems. However the difference is Perez. He seems to have an amazing ability to pull out quick laptimes on worn tyres whereas other drivers start to struggle when the tyres start to wear down. I'm Rapidly beginning to think that Perez is one of the most talented drivers in the field. In all honesty, P6 is possible, but we need Perez to have a few retirements for it to happen. While Kamui is beatable, i don't think Sergio is when both teams have no problems, sadly.

Let's just do our best in the remaining races, and see where we end up. P6 or P7 is now my championship prediction; it all depends on if Sergio has problems in the remaining seven races.

Meanwhile in the drivers championship; di Resta is 13th on 32 points, Nico is 14th one point further back. That will be a fascinating battle for the rest of the season! My guess would be Nico on top at the end, but only just!

At the back of the grid, Narain Karthikeyan finished 19th, 14.8 seconds behind de la Rosa. This result doesn't really do justice to how well Narain performed this weekend. In fact, it was a brilliant weekend for Narain Karthkeyan. Not only did he out-qualify his teammate for the first time this season, he also stayed ahead of him in the early stages of the race, despite a damaged front wing caused by an opening lap collision with one of the Marussia drivers. The front wing change during Narain's pit stop is the only thing that allowed Pedro to get back past the Indian.

Narain really needs to use this promising pace at the next race in Singapore - can he out qualify Pedro again? I certainly hope so! :-)

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