2019 Bahrain GP: The midfield battle

Straight to the point on this one, let’s take a look at who excelled in the midfield battle, and who did not live up to the expectation as well.

Key points about the following graphs:

  1. The graphs shows all lap times done by a driver during the entire race, minus laps where the safety car was deployed or laps where they went in or came out of the pits.
  2. The graphs are ordered by the mean or median, from lowest to highest, depending on the graph.
  3. The horizontal line represents the mean or median depending on the graph.
  4. The box represent the interquartile range, from 25% to 75%.
  5. The top labels show the mean or median for each driver for the entire race.

Midfield drivers sorted by median and mean

Before anyone asks, yes, I included Pierre Gasly with the midfield drivers. His lap times are not good enough at the moment to justify putting them next to the top 5. And yes, I had to leave the Williams here too. Their numbers are not good enough to justify putting them in the midfield battle, but where else would I put them? Grosjean had to retire early in the race too, so he was also removed from this graph.

The midfield battle was incredibly tight. The difference between the median of Hulkenberg, the 6th fastest driver compared to Lance Stroll, the 15th fastest driver, was of only slightly less than 1 second. If going by the mean, then the difference between Hulkenberg once again, and Magnussen, is of only slightly more of one second.

The strongest

Hulkenberg did a great job, and was on route to secure a good position for the French team Renault. Lack of reliability costed him what would have been a great result. However, Renault must feel encouraged after such a strong performance. Nico was decisively the fastest driver of the “best of the rest” and should keep his head up.

Norris was another winner at Bahrain. The British rookie had a fantastic quali session and a great race as well. His 6th position in the final standings almost matches his ranking when sorted by average lap time (7th). He drove consistently and deserved to celebrate with McLaren.

The Iceman, Kimi Raikkonen , secured a strong result for Alfa Romeo with a 7th position, which coincidentally is the same as his ranking when sorted by the median. Sorted by the mean, he was ranked as the 9th fastest driver of the race, but the difference between him and Gasly was of only 1 thousand of a second, and only 13 thousands of a second against Lando Norris.

The regular

Gasly ranked only as 11th when sorted by the median, and 8th when sorted by average lap time. The Frenchman has had a terrible start with Red Bull Racing, and must be feeling the pressure already. While it is true that in Australia the team made a mistake during the quali session, here it all came down to lack of pace.

Both Toro Rosso drivers showed strong pace during the race, as we expected from their FP2 race simulation stints.  As you can see, while both of them were very even, their distribution shows a different story. While Alex Albon drove a very consistent race, with most of his laps between 1:37.000 and 1:38.000, Daniil Kvyat had a race of two halves. The Russian posted some of the fastest laps of the race (see previous post), but also had a few laps above 1:39.000. If he can get more consistency, he has shown so far that he has the speed to challenge the top of the midfield.

Racing Point started slow, as they usually do, and ranked closer to the back of the pack when taking into consideration their lap times. Stroll had damage early and his race was over since the beginning, but Checo managed to get a 10th position and take a point home. They are very close in lap times to both the Toro Rossos, and if they develop at a fast rate, like they have done it during the past seasons, then there is no reason for them to panic. Never count Racing Point out.

Ricciardo could have secured some points in Bahrain, however as we all saw, he also suffered a power failure. His pace, ranked by mean or median, was closer to Stroll’s, who had damage since the beginning of the race, than to Nico’s, who showed what this R.S. 19 can do. His one stop strategy hampered his lap times, so we cannot accurately say that he was slow. The Aussie is a great driver and will be hoping to make some overtakes in the remaining races instead of conserving tires for a one stop strategy.

The worst

Unlike Daniel Ricciardo, Antonio Giovinazzi had a two stop strategy and still consistently ranked as one of the worse of the grid. His first stint with the soft tires was very poor, and he had an average time of 1:39.411. He had however a great third stint, with when he managed to switch on and do the 25th and 31st fastest laps of the race. Right now the benchmark for him must be matching his teammate, and if he manages to control the nerves at the beginning of the race, then he should be able to get better and better very soon.

KMag showed some poor race pace. We expected the Haas to do poorly during the race, as their FP2 simulation stints ranked close to the back of the pack, but nothing went right for KMag in Bahrain. The soft tires did not work. He changed to the mediums and they did not work either. Once again he went back to the softs, and same story, they did not work either. There was just no pace in the Haas in Bahrain. If it were not for the Williams, he would have ranked as the worst of the grid.

Talking about the Williams, oh boy oh boy. George Russell had an average time of more than a second than the previously mentioned KMag. Kubica was almost one second slower than his teammate, and over 2 second slower than KMag. If you consider only their median, then the two William drivers are closer together, separated only by 342 thousands of a second, but some very poor laps done by the Pole swing the balance in favour of the British man. Kubica managed to post an incredibly poor 1:43.989 at the end of the race, just right before the safety car, and 20 of his laps were above 1:40.000. They are in no man’s land at the moment and the shore seems far away from them.

Conclusion

The midfield seems to be closer than ever. Some great performances by Nico, Lando and Kimi, all from different teams, show that taking the desired 4th place will not be easy. Toro Rosso seems to have taken a couple of steps forward, and will attempt to improve their 9th place that they took in the previous constructor’s championship.

Haas had a great quali session, and then came crashing back to earth during the race. Having said that, they have shown that their car has the potential to challenge for 4th place as well. Their one lap pace is one of the best of the grid, but they must work on improving their race pace in order to get the maximum number of points possible.

Racing Point is in their usual position at the start of the season. They have taken home 3 points already and will be looking forward to the improvements that they usually get at Barcelona. Right now they do not have the pace to challenge the Renault or the McLaren cars, but we will see how they fare in the next few races.

Finally, the Williams. They are once again at the bottom of the standings, with no way at all to climb positions. They are consistently slower than any other team and lag back by an average of more than a second over KMag, the worst driver of any non-Williams team. Both drivers have said that the car feels good and that they are making improvement, but their lap times are abysmal and they seem to be in a different category than the rest of the teams.

The battle seems to be on for the midfield, and expect some of this positions to change during the next races. Right now, it is impossible to predict who will be the “best of the rest”. The development race will play a major role, and soon we will see who takes the bull by the horns and who gets knocked down. Well, who also gets knocked down, next to Williams who seems to be laying semi-dead on the ground for the last few years.

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