While watching the onboard lap of Hamilton’s amazing pole position at Suzuka I stumbled upon the qualifying lap of Alonso. For the eagle eyed viewer the difference is quite striking.
High level observations are easy to pick out, pretty much everywhere the Honda is missing a minimum of 10kph and in general Alonso is suffering from a bit of understeer. But there’s more to it when we look closer.
A Deeper Dive
ALO holds DRS open much longer into turn 1 compared to HAM. This is because he is missing over 15kph on the straights which means his turn in is actually slower than HAM’s despite DRS still being open.
In turn 2 ALO is 4kph faster than HAM and nails his apex but once they get back to full throttle the Merc laughs its way to the Senna Esses.
ALO suffers from understeer through the Esses, suggesting his chassis is not as hooked up as they say. HAM is able to find each apex much easier, despite carrying more speed. In second from last “S” (the right hander) ALO goes in quicker but has to wait much longer for the front end hook up and loses time as a result.
HAM has invented a new racing line with these faster F1 cars. In slow corners he chooses to prioritise rolling speed above the need to hit an apex. I love this kind of stuff and to me it proves how intelligent he is as a driver. His pole laps at Barcelona, Canada and Malaysia illustrate this.
Heading towards Spoon corner HAM has a 10kph+ speed advantage over ALO and it shows in their commitment into the corner, again with ALO throwing his car in much more aggressively because he’s getting there slower.
Through 130R HAM scrubs off slightly more speed than ALO who is clearly searching for every ounce of top-end from his wilting Honda power unit.
Lastly at the chicane you’ll notice both drivers taking very different lines. HAM prioritizes rolling speed and intentionally misses the apex curb whereas ALO maximises the curb which you’d think would improve apex speed but in fact costs him 6kph mid-corner. To me this is the most interesting part of the lap as this has nothing to do with horsepower and indicates that HAM’s lines are a big reason for his dominance this year.