What ‘Lead Changes’ Mean For Montoya’s Triple Crown Campaign

Juan Pablo Montoya on course during the final practice for the 2014 MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway — Photo: John Cote
IndyCar’s Triple Crown campaign of Indianapolis, Fontana, and Pocono will reach its second leg on Saturday in California. Points leader Juan Pablo Montoya is the only driver in the field capable of winning the Triple Crown after drinking the milk at the Indy 500 in May. (Al Unser is the sole driver to have won all three 500 mile races in a single season.) 

But what makes Fontana different than Indy – and Pocono, too – is the number of lead changes in an average race. This number gives us a pretty good idea of how important it is to qualify well at any given track. The less lead changes there are, the more imperative it is for you to start up front because there is less passing going on (re: passing is harder at that track).

Averaging out lead changes.

At Indy, there were 37 lead changes this year, 34 in 2014, and 68 in 2013 (an outlier for sure). If we replace 2013’s 68 for 2012’s 34, we get a more accurate average number of lead changes of 35. 

Next up we’ll look at Pocono. A fairly new track on the calendar, we only have the last two years to go off of (and this year’s race hasn’t happened as of writing). If we average the 16 lead changes in both years, we get 16.

Now we have Fontana. With lead changes of 18, 28, and 29 over the last three years, the average number of lead changes per race is 25. Auto Club Speedway produces on average ten less lead changes per race than Indy and nine more than Pocono does.

So what does this mean for Saturday’s race?

It means if Montoya hopes to win the Triple Crown this year, he probably won’t be able to drop to the end of the field like he did in Indy. At his lowest point in the race, Montoya was 31st on the track. Of course, he won’t be able to physically do that being that there aren’t 33 cars running this race, but the premise is similar:

At races with traditionally more lead changes, passing is easier, meaning you can drop back and still fight your way back up the field. That’s a lot tougher to do at a track like Fontana, and doubly so for Pocono where starting up front is even more important. 

Montoya needs to put in a good qualifying performance Friday night for a chance to keep the Triple Crown dream alive. We’re saying that a grid start of anywhere lower than P12 for Montoya, and he’s in trouble.

Harvesting Blackbox Data in Formula One

Red Bull engineers eyeing computer screens during a Grand Prix. — Photo: V3

Here at Single Seater, we like to explore the data behind racing. So do Formula One teams. Most of the data teams use throughout a Formula One race weekend comes from the blackbox in the car. It provides valuable information about how the car and driver are performing. This data is sent back to not only the pitwall, but also to the team’s factory where it can be further analysed and used to make race decisions. 

In the video below, Marc Priestley checks out a 2014-spec Lotus blackbox and talks about how teams use the data recovered for race decisions.

Significant Numbers From The First Nine Races of the Inaugural Formula E Season

Race action from the 2015 Moscow e-Prix. — Photo: FIA

The inaugural Formula E season comes to a close next weekend with the doubleheader in London. The final e-Prix of the season will bring the race count up to eleven. With just two races left, I though it would be a good time to check out some significant numbers from the season so far.

20: For every race this year there have been 20 cars to start the race. That’s an impressive number for the first year of a new series. In fact, the same can’t even be said for the much larger Formula One series. The first two races of their 2015 season had just 17 and 19 cars, respectively.

8: The farthest back someone has started from and won a race. That honor goes to Antonio Felix de Costa at Buenos Aires. Most of the race winners have started in the No. 2 position on the grid. Only one race has been won from a driver starting on pole.

1: Only one race this year was run on a true road course. The rest have been on street courses in cities throughout the world. The final two races in London will also be run on a street course.

2.6: The average number of lead changes per race. Miami produced the season-high number of lead changes with five. Monte Carlo, unsurprisingly, produced the fewest lead changes with zero recorded.

17: Nelson Piquet holds a 17 point lead in the FIA Formula E points standings over Lucas di Grassi. The championship is still up for grabs with several drivers still able to overtake Piquet. Unlike Formula One, drivers earn points not only for race results, but also for pole position (3 points) and setting the fastest lap of the race (2 points).

2: There have been just two repeat winners this season. Piquet won at Long Beach and Moscow while Sebastien Buemi claimed wins at Monaco and Punta del Este. Perhaps one or both of these two will make it three wins in London.

The final races of the season take place June 27 and 28. If you can’t watch the races live, Formula E’s YouTube channel uploads full races after the event.