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Friday, December 14, 2012

Bruno Senna's Free Practice excuse contrary to Statistics

Friday Practice in Melbourne
Senna consistently stated that lack of Friday Practice hurt his race weekends.
Copyright Williams F1/LAT Photographic
The problem with the off-season is that all of last years statistics are now available for scrutiny and there are any number of stories which I have half-completed because I found myself mired in the statistics which were telling a story all of their own.

This one though seemed relatively straightforward: Bruno Senna said that his lack of Friday running at all but 5 GP weekends hurt his race weekend.  This was easy to check out because he did run on 5 Friday Practice sessions at Melbourne, Monaco, Canada, Singapore, and Austin.  Therefore the statistics should tell us whether he's right.

If we take Australia where he participated in all of the weekend sessions he qualified 14th and was taken out in the race by Felipe Massa (for which Felipe received no penalty).

Obviously the first two or three races of the year can be dismissed to a certain degree as all of the drivers and teams are getting used to the cars, and if you wanted to follow the media position, nothing starts until the circus comes back to Europe.  This would suit Senna's interpretation in that Valtteri Bottas had the Friday car in Malaysia, China and Bahrain.

For the stats:
  • Malaysia:    Qualified 13th and finished 6th
  • China:         Qualified 14th and finished 7th
  • Bahrain:      Qualified 15th and retired from the race.

Bruno scored a point in Monaco when he had the car over the full weekend
Copyright: Williams F1/LAT Photographic
Over the course of the season, for the 16 races from Spain onwards Bruno had an average qualifying position of 14.8 on the grid: His average qualifying position for the 4 races where he had Friday practice was 14.25 and his average when Bottas had the car was 14.9.

On his full weekend race-days he came 10th in Monaco, 17th in Canada, 18th in Singapore and 10th in Austin; an average position of 14th (13.75), but on the Bottas Weekends his average race position is 10.18.

Senna was nowhere in Canada after Friday Free Practice sessions which began with a faulty DRS and ended with a crash that damaged three corners of the car and the gearbox
Now all of that is Statistics and as we know there are two schools of thought when it comes to statistics:
  1. they never lie, and
  2. You can make them say whatever you like

There is no question in my mind but that Bruno Senna is a good race driver.  The 2012 season has shown, statistically, that when his races are trouble free he invariably tends to make up places from his grid position and can fight for and defend points positions.

Bruno scored points in 10 Grand Prix last season, his highest finishing position being 7th in Hungary.  His problem would appear to be the same as Mark Webber's, Jenson Button's, etc.  He is a consistently good racer but is not a good qualifier.

Williams and Bruno were running well in Singapore and Bruno was in line to score points before losing KERS with 16 laps to go.
Copyright: Williams F1/LAT photographic
Both Button and Webber have worked hard on the Qualification aspect of their racecraft and are stronger now than they have been, are able now to put a perfect lap together on occasion but these guys are not natural qualifiers.  They are as strong as their team-mate in the race and are more consistent, but they are not as quick over one qualifying lap.  Jenson and Mark have the experience and practice gained over many seasons in F1 but Bruno is a relative newcomer and tacking his qualifying problems would go a long way to making him a strong candidate for a midfield team.

He was more consistent than Pastor Maldonado last year but it is clear that he doesn't have the raw pace of his ex-team-mate.  If he could have qualified last years Williams where it should have been, in 6-10 place at 75% of the races, I think that his consistency in the race itself would have seen him score regularly and perhaps seen him on one podium.

To summarise, his ability to gain places is a prime asset but it will only benefit him when he improves his qualifying to the extent that he can regularly put his car through to Q3 on a Saturday.

Bruno came in 10th in Austin, qualifying in 11th.  Hungary was the only race where he reached Q3, qualifying 9th and finishing in 7th.  Copyright Williams F1/LAT Photographic