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BBC Sport's fuel-adjusted Italian GP grid

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F1 Mole | 18:09 UK time, Saturday, 12 September 2009

McLaren were always expected to be strong at the Italian Grand Prix and the fuel-corrected qualifying times emphasise just what good shape they are in for the race.

The drivers who are in the top-10 shoot-out are not allowed to refuel after qualifying, so once the weights of the cars are revealed it is possible to work out who was genuinely the fastest man in qualifying - as well as the lap on which they are likely to make their first pit stop.

At Monza, that honour went to McLaren's Heikki Kovalainen. Having qualified an impressive fourth with a heavy fuel load, the Finn is therefore in theoretically the strongest position to win the race. But the Brawn drivers also look to have a very strong chance - and if the Mole was to stick his neck out and make a prediction, it would be to make Button the favourite for victory. But we'll come back to that in a minute.

BBC Sport's full fuel-adjusted top 10, with predicted first pit stops, is as follows:

1 Kovalainen (lap 28)
2 Rubens Barrichello +0.016secs (lap 30)
3 Lewis Hamilton +0.047secs (lap 16)
4 Jenson Button +0.073 (lap 29)
5 Adrian Sutil +0.200 (lap 17)
6 Kimi Raikkonen +0.266 (lap 19)
7 Vitantonio Liuzzi +0.296 (lap 27)
8 Sebastian Vettel +0.363 (lap 27)
9 Fernando Alonso +0.381 (lap 26)
10 Mark Webber +0.469 (lap 28)

The first thing that strikes one about that list is just how close it is between the major contenders. Only 0.073 seconds separates the top four drivers on fuel-adjusted times. And that makes predicting a likely winner very difficult indeed.

On paper, a two-stop strategy (Hamilton, Sutil and Raikkonen) is marginally faster - but in practice stopping only once is often the best way to run a race at Monza.

kovalainenmainforfuelweight.jpgHeikki Kovalainen is on fuel-adjusted Monza pole but can he convert that into a win?

That is because to make a two-stop strategy work, a driver has to run at his optimum pace nearly all the time - and it is very difficult to ensure that happens because a team whose driver is stopping early will find it very difficult to ensure he comes out in a place where he is not going to get held up by a slower car.

Hamilton needs to make the most of what is likely to be a clear track in front of him by pressing on as hard as he can in the opening stages of the race.

He needs to make up enough time to ensure that when he emerges from his first stop anyone in front of him is going fast enough, on what by then should be a lighter fuel load, not to hold him up.

If anyone is going to make a two-stop strategy work, though, it is Hamilton.
Starting from pole, in a car fitted with the Kers power-boost system, the world champion is in the perfect place to capitalise on his team's planning.

Even so, Kovalainen is still in a very strong position. With Kers, he is likely to get ahead of Sutil's Force India at the start. And even though he may not pass Raikkonen, he should not be held up by the Ferrari in the first stage of the race.

The question mark over Kovalainen is whether he has the consistency of race pace to fulfil his potential - it has been his relatively poor performances in races so far this year that has put his position in the team under threat.

The Brawn drivers are also in a potentially very strong position to score some serious points and perhaps even win, as they made clear in their interviews on the BBC immediately after qualifying.

Barrichello and Button may only be fifth and sixth on the grid but they are both fuelled heavy - and it would be a surprise if both of them are not in contention once their single stops are out of the way.

So, why make Button the favourite? That is because of Kovalainen's inconsistent form in races and the fragile gearbox in Barrichello's car.

Certainly both Brawn drivers have a golden opportunity to effectively put some serious distance between them and their Red Bull rivals in the championship. For while Vettel and Webber are also fuelled long, they are starting far enough back that it will be difficult for them to make up the ground.

For the record, the calculated first pit stops for the rest of the field are as follows:

11 Jarno Trulli (lap 35)
12 Romain Grosjean (lap 33)
13 Robert Kubica (lap 31)
14 Giancarlo Fisichella (lap 28)
15 Nick Heidfeld (lap 31)
16 Timo Glock (lap 37)
17 Kazuki Nakajima (lap 33)
18 Nico Rosberg (lap 34)
19 Sebastien Buemi (lap 34)
20 Jaime Alguersuari (lap 34)

If team-mates are listed on the same lap, the one who is leading in the race when the stops approach tends to be given priority.


  • 1. At 6:40pm on 12 Sep 2009, Nadaliator wrote: the top three are on 2 stops.......that's great for the Brawns and Alonso. It should make for a very interesting race tomorrow, especially if Hamilton and Sutil fail to capitalise on their grid positions...........

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  • 2. At 6:43pm on 12 Sep 2009, James S wrote:

    Quite interesting how only top three drivers are two-stopping, the rest are one-stopping it seems.

    I think it's going to be a very close and interesting race, especially if it did rain. If what happened at 4pm (local time) happened during the race, it would be chaos.

    I think it will be:

    1. Lewis Hamilton
    2. Rubens Barrichello
    3. Jenson Button
    4. Kimi Raikkonen
    5. Heikki Kovalainen
    6. Adrian Sutil
    7. Mark Webber
    8. Fernando Alonso

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  • 3. At 6:49pm on 12 Sep 2009, Somerset Boy UK_Laye wrote:

    The most important part of the race for the Brawns is the start. Maintain 5 and 6 past the first lap and they should bring off at least 3 and 4 assuming no disasters.

    With Hamilton he is in my opinion in a potentially very fragile situation, throw in a safety car and there goes his hopes of a win. This is the same case for all of the two stoppers.

    The red bulls look not uncompetitive but unable to compete here with the Brawns raw pace. It should be a very good race and can't wait for it!!

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  • 4. At 6:50pm on 12 Sep 2009, nick_gp1 wrote:

    Very accurate and insightful blog as always... All we need to hope for is that Hamilton doesnt open up that gap at the start and we're in for a great race! :)

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  • 5. At 6:56pm on 12 Sep 2009, Jupiter wrote:

    If it rains, that will favour the 2 stoppers because there is doublr the probability of the rain happening neat one of their pitstops, so they wouldn't have to make another stop, whereas the one stoppers will almost certainly end up stopping twice, which will ruin their strategy.

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  • 6. At 7:00pm on 12 Sep 2009, Mancun Ian wrote:

    Kovi and Webber 0.5secs apart with a similar fuel load shows the 0.5 second qualifying lap advantage of KERs at Monza.

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  • 7. At 7:03pm on 12 Sep 2009, FastBBBB wrote:

    I completely agree with James S No.2. I think he's got it exact even though I'm not sure about the Brawn's as Button was only slower then RB in Q3 and P2 but I couldn't have a clue.

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  • 8. At 7:05pm on 12 Sep 2009, Niko wrote:

    Button is quite vulnerable to Alonso - but Rubens might get away with it. I think Rubens will have the pace anyway, but if that happens then he'll beat Button for sure.

    Kovalainen should put in a good performance and may further split the two Brawns, which would be good for the championship.

    And of course, it all depends on when any rain or Safety Car comes as to how it would effect the race. If it was around the first stops, the leaders could go onto one-stop strategies anyway.

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  • 9. At 7:13pm on 12 Sep 2009, me wrote:

    So Rubens out-qualifies Jenson again, and my bet will beat him in the race, and probably the championship too. Sitting back waiting to see Ross Brawn's face the day he realises he's sacked the world champ and kept the guy who bottled it - no disrespect to Jenson, he's a nice guy, but not enough 'will to win come what may' for me; whereas Rubens has it now, after being made to play Shooie's games for so long.

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  • 10. At 7:22pm on 12 Sep 2009, cordas wrote:

    Looks like it should be a cracker of a race... :)

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  • 11. At 7:22pm on 12 Sep 2009, lucabiason wrote:

    The start and the first lap will be more pivotal than anywhere else, unless it rains, of course.

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  • 12. At 7:32pm on 12 Sep 2009, dryfirewoodman wrote:

    Hamilton may be in a much better position than you think; do I dare mention team orders? if Kovi was to hold up hold up the Brawns during the first stint, the Hamilton could scamper away.

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  • 13. At 7:46pm on 12 Sep 2009, FreddyOfGreggs wrote:

    Could be some rain as well - we've seen the GP2 race today was chaotic with the wet conditions, only 30 minutes after the F1 qualifying happened.

    If there's rain it could really throw things into the air.

    Looking forward to it.

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  • 14. At 7:55pm on 12 Sep 2009, Estesark wrote:

    Wow, I'm surprised to see Kovalainen up top. That was a great qualifying performance from him. A lot of people are saying that he won't be at McLaren next year because of his recent poor performances, but we should remember that he hasn't had the same equipment as Hamilton on his car for a number of races this season. Now I'm guessing that he does.

    Here's hoping he pulls out a great race, finishes on the podium and makes a few people re-evaluate his ability!

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  • 15. At 8:19pm on 12 Sep 2009, Coxcurrygod wrote:

    What a load of completely speculative, infantile rubbish.

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  • 16. At 8:25pm on 12 Sep 2009, Coolcmsc wrote:

    There are several reasons for Rubens to loose his rag tomorrow...
    1. He keeps his gearbox and it blows
    2. He is forced to take a new box by the engineers - he is against that
    3. He's leading Jenson by a car length near the pit stop (Jenson is predicted to go in first) and somehow or other Jenson gets ahead of him.....
    4. He keeps his gearbox and it does not blow, but he's asked to slow (see 3)
    5. It rains - he'll find a reason to make that somebody's fault

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  • 17. At 8:28pm on 12 Sep 2009, domtv09 wrote:

    I think Raikkone will win, Hamilton (who should ahve got a penalty) will be second and i predict that we'll see Hamilton's dad five times during the race!

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  • 18. At 8:31pm on 12 Sep 2009, domtv09 wrote:


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  • 19. At 8:32pm on 12 Sep 2009, salti wrote:

    I can't believe how close together they're starting the race and when you see it laid out visually it's even more stunning as this graphic shows

    We are in for a real treat tomorrow and with rain forcast, I can't wait, it'll be superb!

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  • 20. At 8:55pm on 12 Sep 2009, lubongo wrote:

    'What a load of completely speculative, infantile rubbish.'

    Infantile rubbish? I can't think of a more inaccurate comment! This is pretty advanced, don't you think? Kind of a lot of complex calculations for something 'infantile'; not sure many kids I know could work this out. Sure it's speculative, as are most sports previews...

    Shame the Red Bulls aren't on the pace, I'm hoping for a Sutil win tomorrow now, unlikely though it may be.

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  • 21. At 9:11pm on 12 Sep 2009, paultheplug wrote:

    Kimi seems to have a good chance. He should get past Sutil on lap one, follow Hamilton until the MM stops and pull out a lead on his extra laps

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  • 22. At 9:19pm on 12 Sep 2009, eLookinglass wrote:

    If Hamilton pulls a nice first stint gap, he stands a good chance to win. The team needs to be accurate and precise in the pits and on the pitwall. If Lewis' strategy is obvious, then it's no strategy at all. Pit him earlier or later before someone else pulls off a clever pit manouver to steal the race.

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  • 23. At 10:03pm on 12 Sep 2009, Wot Kuyt 'e did wrote:

    I'm salivating already here! This is very unpredictable, as these brake-&-go corners are likely to filter out the real quality, in drivers as well as their machines. And I fear for the Brawns without the advantages they had at the beginning of the season. Button may well finish in the points but I don't see him on the podium, where I expect to see Hamilton on the middle step.

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  • 24. At 10:18pm on 12 Sep 2009, EdwardBraun wrote:

    Nobody seems to be giving Kovalainen a snow flake's chance in hell and has to be more than worth his money for a win given that he achieved the fasted fuel-adjusted time and is on a one-stop. Flakeyness aside he has the best chance of nursing his car home to a win unless the three drivers ahead of him have perfect races. On a different note it would be quite something to see a seventh winner in seven races even though personally I'm rooting for Button to have a good race as a sort of second half of the season 'come back'.

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  • 25. At 10:31pm on 12 Sep 2009, Ditchdiver wrote:

    We have seen that KERS cars have an advantage off the start line because they can charge up their KERS during the warm up lap. It seems unfair that they can gain an advantage through something that happens before the race has started. Maybe the KERS should not be used until after the first lap.

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  • 26. At 10:40pm on 12 Sep 2009, A HiFi wrote:

    coolcmsc - What are you on about? Barrichello moaning if it rains??? He'll be doing his little dance up on the podium if that happens...

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  • 27. At 11:07pm on 12 Sep 2009, FoxesofNuneaton wrote:

    Good News for Button.

    With Vettel perserving the engine from taking the penalty, it will make an interesting proposition and a rule that actually will work.

    Webber is Red Bull are good? Haha, struggling more like now....none of these tracks suit their cars like the fast flowing Silverstone or the tight flowing Nurburgring.
    Monza and the circuits could see them struggle and with Vettel perserving his engines...its Button's title.

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  • 28. At 00:21am on 13 Sep 2009, mclarenveal wrote:

    to ditchdiver.

    they said the reason KERS is allowed is because of the weight disadvantage to poses to the cars using them and it only works when they are going over 100mph.

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  • 29. At 03:56am on 13 Sep 2009, OneEaredWonder wrote:

    I would like to stand up and congratulate Vintantonio Luizzi on his perfomance today. No matter how well his car his going at the moment, qualifying in front of Vettel, Webber and Alonso on his first GP back is quite an accomplishement.

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  • 30. At 06:44am on 13 Sep 2009, TheIncredibleMrToad wrote:

    Greetings from Canada... Oooh this'll be a good one! Can't wait, I hope it rains a bit.
    I think those new raised curbs are going to throw a bit of a monkey wrench into things if the boys aren't watching closely, those things look like they really could send you flying... or wrangle a few front wings loose. Either way it should be a bit of fun. Backing the Brits all the way!

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  • 31. At 08:06am on 13 Sep 2009, becozisayso wrote:

    I think it's obviously looking very good fo MacLaren -

    It will be interesting in the extreme to see how Heikki - who can win in the best car gets on, hopefully having less pressure will help him and the guy who said Kimi just needs to stay somewhere near Lewis and take him in the pits, the same applies to Kovi - he just needs to stay in range of Kimi, which should theoretically be possible in the best car.

    Incidentally, for someone who called the Nelsinho "crash" at the time I think the start could have a strategic element. If Sutil tries to prevent Kimi going between him and Lewis and lewis slows a little once he knows he's got a safe start that leaves the possibility of Heikki going round the other side of Sutil. He might even get past Lewis, then give the place back and then MM can neutralise the risk that the Ferrari (or Force Imdia after last time) will turn out to have better race pace than the grid indictes, leaving them to run their twin strategy thing and see who's the best (probably lewis if things go perfect otherwise Heikki's got a great chnance, you'd think).

    Incidentally check Jonathan Legard's race prediction - he might well have 123

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  • 32. At 09:25am on 13 Sep 2009, lucabiason wrote:

    It's worth noting that Liuzzi has actually outqualified Sutil. Not too bad, is it?

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  • 33. At 10:12am on 13 Sep 2009, becozisayso wrote:

    Yes, Liuzzi has done fantastic -

    even better when you compare him with everyone else chnaging teams or getting in a new car

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  • 34. At 11:01am on 13 Sep 2009, RubberGoat wrote:


    What figures are you using for fuel consumption? Myself and other bloggers like to calculate fuel-corrected times to and it's very difficult to get accurate figures. On my blog post ( I used a figure from the F1 yearbook of 2.7kg per lap, which puts Barrichello on pole and Kovalainen second.

    When I saw your post, I asked around on the internet and someone pointed out that Renault use a figure of 2.53kg/lap, but that still puts Barrichello on pole.

    I think the discrepancy is such because the margins are so tight around here, but what figures did you use to calculate this, and how do you make sure they are accurate?

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  • 35. At 11:15am on 13 Sep 2009, Carlonso wrote:

    After all the huff and bluff about changing fortunes in the driver's championship, this is the race Barrichello HAS TO WIN to prove he's a real title contender.It doesn't matter where Jenson comes in - Rubens must stamp his authority, otherwise if Jenson (who's on it) comes in first then it's all over for everyone else - 7 wins to the other driver's one or two's is just too strong - and it's looking pretty bleak for the Red Bulls.
    I have been a huge critic of Hokie Kokie - although he did have a decent race in Spa.
    The Mole predicts that he's got the best car on the grid, so anything less than a podium and I think it's curtains for him at - out in the first corner, hands the car keys to Kimi, and heads for a sightseeing trip to Milan by lap 28, or is that his first refuelling stop?

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  • 36. At 11:55am on 13 Sep 2009, grandy-wheelsroll wrote:

    Go Jenson. Let's have you where you should have been years ago !

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