2019 Hungarian GP: Leclerc vs Vettel

We enjoyed the battle between Lewis and Max so much that we forgot about what was happening with the Ferrari drivers. Sebastian Vettel actually had an interesting battle with Leclerc, so maybe it is time to explore it. Let’s take a look at the numbers.

Overall race

Note: The solid lines show an average regression based on adjacent lap times. This means that a line that is higher on the chart, means that on average, that driver was slower than his counterpart.

We have to give credit to Seb and his strategic team for his third place in Hungary. The German driver did the second longest stint with the medium tires of the entire race (39 laps, second only to Kimi Raikkonen’s 40), and it paid off by the end of the race. Vettel stopped for a new set of soft tires in lap 39, and went to have a very fast last stint. Charles Leclerc, on the other hand, stopped for new tires in lap 27, and was forced to go onto the hard compound. The Monegasque just did not have the speed with the white-stripped tires, and had no way of defending against his teammate by the end of the race.

Delta per lap in common

From the beginning of the race, until lap 26, Charles Leclerc was faster than Sebastian on 14 laps, while the German beat his teammate on 12 laps. During this period, Charles averaged 1:22.707 seconds per lap, while Seb managed to do a slightly faster 1:22.671 seconds per lap.

After Charles stopped for new tires, he started to post much faster laps than his teammate. At that point, it was easy to think that Vettel and his team made an strategical error. Charles averaged 1:22.164 seconds per lap during that period, while Sebastian did 1:23.508 seconds per lap, a whooping 1.344 seconds difference between the pace of both drivers.

That trend was reversed after Vettel’s pit stop in lap 39. Seb went for the aggresive option, put on a set of soft tires, and started to reduce the gap between him and his teammate instantly. After lap 40, Charles Leclerc outpaced Sebastian only on 3 laps (44, 45 and 63), and was on average 0.798 seconds slower each lap.

Race pace per stint

It is easy to see that Vettel’s second stint was just that good. Yes, Sebastian lost time against Charles after lap 25, when his times started to get considerably slower, but his second stint was enough to overturn that time lost. During his last stint, he did 16 laps that were faster than Leclerc’s fastest lap of the race

Gap at the end of the race

After lap 50, the bap between both drivers started to come down quickly. In 17 laps, Sebastian managed to outpace Charles by an average of 0.936 seconds per lap, and during some instances, he was faster by over 1.5 seconds each lap. We have to give credit to Sebastian for keeping the tires alive while putting pressure on his teammate. By the time he catched Charles, he had already done 28 laps with his tires, and yet, he managed to get the job done quickly.

Final remarks

Ferrari had a terrible race compared to Mercedes and Max Verstappen, but Vettel had the right to be happy at the end of the race. Sure, their car just did not have the pace to challenge for the win, but his race pace should not be underestimated. Keeping the soft tires alive for that many laps, all while trying to reduce the gap against Charles, was not easy, but the German did a remarkable job.

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