The Spanish Grand Prix on May 12th is the curtain raiser for the European leg of the 2013 Formula One season. With 90% of the last ten races won by the driver starting on pole, can we say qualifying is an accurate race performance indicator at the Spanish GP?
Circuit de Catalunya: Is familiarity a dampener?
The Circuit de Catalunya is a familiar circuit for the F1 teams. It has been part of the Grand Prix calendar every year since 1991 and the drivers and teams conduct the majority of their testing at this venue during the winter – eight of the 12 testing days were held in Barcelona this season.
Barcelona’s mix of high and low-speed corners, plus its abrasive and uneven track surface, makes for a physically and mechanically taxing race. The track poses problems for the teams because tyre wear is notoriously high and the varying winds that cut across the circuit mean an optimum set-up can be hard to find.
However, with teams spending more time at the Circuit de Catalunya than any other track, the unfortunate consequence is a familiarity, which means teams consistently arrive at the track with car set-ups already perfected – resulting in cars which are evenly matched.
A look at the statistics shows that on average there are only 17.55 (22 races) overtakes at the Circuit de Catalunya, while in1999 there was only one recorded overtaking move during the entire race.
The introduction of the DRS zone down the long main straight and the unpredictable durability of the tyres have both gone some way to adding the opportunity for overtaking to the mix.
The greater possibility for overtaking is highlighted by the statistics that show an average of 70.5 overtakes in last two years compared to an average of 12.25 in 20 previous races.
Extra set of tyres for Spanish Grand Prix
Pirelli will provide each team with an extra set of tyres for practice sessions for the Spanish Grand Prix. The idea is to ensure drivers run for the entire session rather than waiting for others to clean the track, therefore making it more suitable for effective running.
With Qualifying proving crucial at the Circuit de Catalunya, teams who put the extra set of tyres in free practice to good use to find an optimal set-up, could prosper.
The teams will have the medium and hard compounds at their disposal for the Spanish GP. After analyzing the data from the previous four races of the season Pirelli have announced they have made a tweak to the hard compound which will make the rubber slightly more durable and lower its operating temperature.
Being hot, fast and abrasive, the Barcelona track takes a lot from the tyres. Three pit stops are expected, as was the case last year. 12 months ago, the top five finishers selected a three-stop strategy all starting on the soft tyre – similar to this years medium compound – while the best-placed two-stopper came eighth, having started from last on the grid.
90% of last ten pole sitters win
After proving there was a good correlation between qualifying position and final race positions throughout the 2012 season (click to read here), we have used the same model to examine the last ten Spanish Grand Prix to indicate how much influence Formula One bettors can place on the relevance of qualifying at the Circuit de Catalunya as a race performance indicator.
The data shows a strong 0.66 correlation between qualifying and race position at the Spanish Grand Prix – which is only slightly behind Bahrain (0.68) as the strongest correlation for the previous tracks raced at this year.
Despite not having the strongest correlation, a near perfect 90% Spanish GP’s at the Circuit de Catalunya had a correlation above 0.5, which showcases that qualifying provided a significant predictor of a drivers’ race performance for nine of the last ten Grand Prix held at the track.
Looking at previous race winners backs up the strong correlation – the 2011 race was the only one not won by the polesitter in the past 12 years.
How will the teams shape-up after three-weeks off?
With three weeks off since the Bahrain Grand Prix it has been an opportunity for teams to enhance their current cars.
McLaren have made a disastrous start to the 2013 Formula One season. The team went from setting the pace at the end of the 2012 season to battling in the midfield for the opening races of the year – they have been on average more than 1.5% slower than the quickest car in the previous four races.
Jenson Button 26.140 was outraced by teammate Sergio Perez 51.260 in Bahrain and will look to reaffirm his authority in Spain. With a host of upgrades this weekend, the team will hope to see an improvement.
Sebastian Vettel will be hoping to carry the form he showed in Bahrain at the Spanish GP. The German can be backed at 3.160 to claim his second Spanish Grand Prix victory.
Despite Red Bull locking-out the grid in both 2010 and 2011, Vettel has never started on pole position while teammate Mark Webber 13.070 has done so on both occasions.
Ferrari have won 15% (7) of races at the Circuit de Catalunya – all of which came from pole position – while they have secured a podium place on 43% of the time.
Spanish driver Fernando Alonso 3.820 won in 2006 but has failed to win since despite leading the last two races at the Circuit de Catalunya. Teammate Felipe Massa has also won here in 2007 and can be backed at 21.110 to win this weekend.
Lotus have started well this year and in Kimi Räikkönen they have a two-time winner at this circuit. The ‘Ice Man’ is offered as 5.520 to win for a third time, while Romain Grosjean, who has struggled this year is available at 28.150.
Mercedes have had the fastest car over a single lap at the last three races but making it perform better over a full race distance has been their goal. Lewis Hamilton who is yet to win at the Circuit de Catalunya is at 17.090, while odds of 26.140 are waiting for you is you fancy a Nico Rosberg win.