This will be a short analysis. As we saw, Lewis Hamilton damaged his car after crashing into the Wall of Champions, and could not do a race pace simulation stint. Max Verstappen had a similar issue. He also ran into the Wall of Champions, damaged the front of his car, and had to sit out for the remainder of free practice 2. But what can we get from the remaining 4 drivers from the top 3 teams? Well, let’s take a look at the numbers.
Free practice 2 (FP2) race simulation pace
Valtteri Bottas was the fastest driver during his race simulation stint. The Finnish driver managed to do 17 laps with the hard compound, with a median time of 1:17.591 and a mean time of 1:17.849.
Pierre Gasly only did a race simulation stint of 8 laps. While also running the hard tires, the Frenchman managed a median time of 1:17.700 and a mean time of 1:18.012. Pierre was on average 0.162 seconds slower per lap than Valteri Bottas.
Charles Leclerc did the fastest time of the season, but his race simulation stint was slower than Bottas’. He had a median time of 1:17.786, a mean time of 1:18.379, and his average lap time was slower than Bottas’ by 0.366 seconds.
Sebastian Vettel was the only driver from the top 3 teams to run a simulation stint with the soft compound. He seemed to struggle with tire degradation, and while he was able to do a 12 lap stint, he only managed a median time of 1:19.205 and a mean time of 1:19.018. His average lap time was slower than Bottas’ by 0.639 seconds.
It is important to note that Valtteri did his stint at the end of the session, from lap 30 until lap 46, while both Ferrari drivers started their stints at lap 20. On the other hand, Valtteri ran the hardest compound available, which may balance out the fact that he did his stint when the track was at its fastest.
Free practice 2 (FP2) race simulation pace (detailed)
The most interesting take from this plot, at least from my personal point of view, is not the raw data points, but the solid colored lines that show the linear regression of the lap times. While they are indeed showing lap times, they intrinsically related to tire degradation.
Take Vettel’s regression line for example. His line has an upward trend, which means that his laps were slower at the end of the stint than at the beginning of the stint. Was the track getting slower? Not at all. The reality is that most likely he had to manage the tires in order to keep going. The track was quite hot, and the soft compound is the less durable of the lot, so his regression line makes sense.
For the remaining three drivers, the tire degradation was very similar. For Ferrari, the fact that Charles was able to keep the medium tires working without massive degradation, must be good news for the race on Sunday.
Just from these numbers, which, let’s be clear, do not tell the whole story, it seems that the medium compound may be better than the hard one for the race.
It seems like perhaps we may finally have a race on our hands. After total domination from Mercedes in Monaco and Spain, it looks like the race pace between the Silver Arrows and the Scuderia is not that different.
For Red Bull, Pierre Gasly showed good pace. The main issue is that we only got to see him do a short 8 lap stint. It seems unlikely that the Austrian team will be able to challenge Mercedes and Ferrari in one lap pace, so they will be hoping for a strong race pace, and perhaps the help of a safety car, to secure a strong finish during the race.
I hope you have enjoyed the article, let me know what you think in the comments below.