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Muchas di Grassi

By saltire | 28 Aug 2010 | No Comment | 827 views

The final part of my look at the performance of this years’ new drivers sees Virgin’s Lucas di Grassi take on ex-Toyota driver Timo Glock. Lucas joined Virgin after four seasons in GP2. In 2009 he finished third for the second time in a row having had one win and eight podiums to his credit. His highest place finish over the four seasons had been in 2007 where ironically, he finished second behind his current team-mate Timo Glock.


Qualifying

The young Brazilian has struggled to keep up with his more experienced team-mate and trails in qualifying by 1 session to Glock’s 11 (although di Grassi failed to set a time during qualifying for the German Grand Prix); their average starting grid positions being 22.3 and 19.9 respectively with all of di Grassi’s qualifying sessions having ended in Q1, an unsurprising result given the relative pace of the car. Glock hasn’t managed much better, having only made it through to Q2 in one session to date. In common with the other driver performance blog posts I’ve looked to see if di Grassi is qualifying better as the season progresses or if he is maintaining ground, this has been assessed by looking at the difference in their fastest lap time in the last session in which they both competed.

As a reminder, the method used to calculate these time differences is explained in an earlier post which looked at the top drivers by points scored. As before, the cumulative advantage (the sum of all the individual lap time gains) over a team-mate is indicated by a grey vertical bar nearest the time axis. In di Grassi’s case, the cumulative advantage Glock has achieved is so much higher than any individual lap data that I have had to truncate the graph at eight seconds instead of showing the full 13.534 seconds to aid clarity.

Whilst the 13 plus seconds cumulative lead indicates that di Grassi is on average over a second behind his team mate at every qualifying session it does not tell the full story. The large time difference between the team-mates at Malaysia (7.579 seconds) has skewed the data significantly towards Glock. If this outlier point (caused by di Grassi being caught out by rain) is removed, the cumulative advantage is reduced to 5.955 seconds, just short of six tenths of a second per session behind Glock’s pace. *Note the data point for the German Grand Prix is missing because Glock did not set a qualifying time.

Race

In race conditions, the situation is much better with Glock leading his colleague 6:5; their average finishing positions are 17.8 (Glock) and 17.7 (di Grassi) over the six races they have each been classified. The team have been plagued by reliability issues especially in the early part of the season and it was five races in (Spanish GP) before both drivers finished a race. The broad range of retirement reasons are shown in the graphic below, surprisingly only one of those non-finishes was caused by an accident.
Although di Grassi has started a race two grid places behind his team mate on average, he is the driver with the higher Championship standing, having taken 14th place in Malaysia. Glock’s highest place finish was 16th at the Hungarian Grand Prix. The two drivers seem to be relatively evenly matched during a race and I can’t quite decide if that’s because Glock has failed to live up to expectations or because di Grassi has actually done quite well, perhaps the true reason is a little of both.

Overall, Lucas does seem to have narrowed the gap to Timo in the last few races. Although his pace of improvement (in qualifying at least) seems slow, his race performance is much better. I believe he stands a good chance of retaining his drive for next season, especially if he can improve his qualifying performance in the short term. All that he needs now is for the team to sort out those reliability issues and give him a car capable of showing off his skills.

Portal Image © Virgin Racing

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