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@Don, use live timing from the F1 site and monitor air and track temperatures and you will see a pattern where sometimes a 4 degree tack temperature change makes or breaks a top 5 result. I used to see this alot with Toyota. Also, in the race the cars actually have in more than a thimble's worth of gas, and that has the greatest impact, always has. Think back to when refuelling was allowed, the quickest laps came not when tyres were fresh, but just before the pitstop when fuel was low.
More recently when the tyre specs change from year to year, some drivers more than others take longer to adapt, especially with no seat time other than GP weekends now, that's why I think there is the discrepancy in relative performance when at the end of the previous season they were neck and neck(except Massa, he is still looking for springs flying at his head each time out). It seems rare that drivers in a given team ever have the same driving style, so one guy looks like a hero, the other a zero.