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BBC Sport's fuel-adjusted Singapore GP grid

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F1 Mole | 20:07 UK time, Saturday, 26 September 2009

Lewis Hamilton was the fastest man in qualifying for the Singapore Grand Prix - whether that be on the grid, or once the weights of the cars are taken into account.

The top 10 drivers in qualifying are not allowed to refuel before the race, so their pace is dictated by the amount of fuel on board, which also defines when they will come in for their first pit stop.

Once the weight of fuel in the cars is published, it is therefore possible to calculate a fuel-adjusted grid, and work out who is theoretically in best shape for the race.

Taking that into account, BBC Sport's fuel-adjusted grid, with projected first pit stops, looks like this:

1 Lewis Hamilton (lap 17)
2 Nico Rosberg +0.553secs (lap 16)
3 Sebastian Vettel +0.617 (lap 14)
4 Mark Webber +1.023 (lap 15)
5 Rubens Barrichello +1.097 (lap 16)
6 Fernando Alonso +1.243 (lap 17)
7 Timo Glock +1.289 (lap 17)
8 Robert Kubica +1.511 (lap 19)
9 Nick Heidfeld +1.752 (lap 14)
10 Heikki Kovalainen +1.759 (lap 19)

Two things immediately stand out from that. The first is that the grid order has changed less after making this calculation for Singapore than it has at almost any race this year. The second is how big the gaps are between the drivers.

The lack of change in the order is a reflection of the fact that all the drivers in the top 10 have chosen remarkably similar strategies - with only five laps' difference between the drivers running longest (Glock and Kovalainen) and shortest (Vettel and Heidfeld).

hamilton595ap.jpgHamilton lit up the Marina Bay circuit despite his misgivings about the track

The big gaps between the drivers will at least partly be due to the length of the Singapore track, as well as the difficulty in putting together a perfect lap on such a bumpy, tricky circuit.

But they also emphasise what a superb performance Hamilton and McLaren have produced, and just what good shape they are in for the race. It's hard to see him losing from here, all things being equal.

The world champion is running quite long - lap 17 - to his first stop and yet he has a margin of more than 0.5secs on the next fastest driver, Rosberg, who jumps ahead of Vettel's Red Bull on fuel-adjusted times.

That is quite an achievement for Rosberg and Williams, and it underlines the pace they showed in the second qualifying, when the German put in a stonking lap to be fastest of all.

And the fuel-adjusted times do not make great reading for Vettel. He drops to third, will almost certainly lose places off the start because he is on the side of the grid that has less grip because it is off the racing line, and he is stopping early - lap 14.

Jenson Button, by contrast, will be encouraged. He has qualified only 12th, but his fuel load means he will be stopping on lap 26, so he may still have a shot at a strong points finish despite his lowly grid spot.

And a dark horse in the top 10? How about BMW's Kubica, who is ahead of team-mate Heidfeld on fuel-adjusted times, is starting on the clean side of the grid in ninth and has more fuel on board than anyone in front of him.

In a race when the safety car is expected to make an appearance at some point, these sorts of things can make a difference.


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