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Posted By:   |  04 Apr 2009   |  2:38 am GMT  |  18 comments

In all the excitement of the McLaren and Hamilton apologies, we are forgetting that the cars have been running and that today they will go out and qualify for the Grand Prix. So what is the state of play here in Sepang.

Well yesterday the Brawns were not dominant, even though every one expects them to be later today and tomorrow. The feeling is that they have between three tenths and half a second on the field, depending on which tyre they are on and set up.

Yesterday Jenson Button wasn’t too happy with the balance of his car in the high speed corners, the front tyres were not biting and he felt understeer. They will dial that out for today, I’m sure. Still the teams has done very little low fuel running to optimise the set up for qualifying 1 and 2.

Toyota look quite quick here and I think it will be between them, Red Bull (Webber, as Vettel has a 10 place penalty), Williams and Ferrari for the top ten spots on the grid. BMW looked slow yesterday, especially Heidfeld, who was not running KERS, but I think at least one of them will get in the top ten today.

These teams are all very close on pace so it will come down to the individual driver’s performance on the day. Alonso may well get himself in there, because he’s Alonso and he knows all the tricks and because one of the front runners may drop the ball, as Nakajima did in Melbourne.

As for Vettel, watch out for him being very fast in Q3, with a view to an aggressive first stint in the race. he cannot do the same things as everyone else because it won’t get him anywhere. He has to use a strategy option called ‘game theory’ which is all about setting expected outcomes and then seeing what other possible outcomes there are if your change variables, like what lap you stop on and what tyres you start with. If you want to know more about this, there is an article elsewhere on this site where Renault’s Pat Symonds explains it.

Symonds used it for Nelson Piquet last year in Germany, where he got a podium and almost won the race, from deep in the second half of the grid.

http://www.jamesallenonf1.com/features/strategy.htm

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18 Comments
  1. Colin says:

    And DO we need a change of scene!

    We’ve had the Prologue, now for Act I.

    Here’s the Game Theory article:

    http://www.jamesallenonf1.com/features/strategy.htm

    Terrific final paragraph Sir:

    “Renault sometimes sends its executives to the F1 factory to pick up new ideas and Symonds has taught a lot of people from the road car side of Renault the Formula 1 attitude, which he sums up as, “I don’t know how to do it, but I’ll find out and I’ll do it by next weekend.””

    While the “Bomohs” are mixing bat’s blood with garlic to ward off the monsoon with their incantations, I suspect F1′s two most powerful personalities are revelling in the publicity, controversy and anguish.

    Even now, scheming to bring ON the rain, at least to mix up the order in practice…

    “In our deep vaulted cell the charm we’ll prepare,
    Too dreadful a practice for this open air.”
    The Sorceress’ Cave, Act II, Dido and Aenas by Henry Purcell

  2. What’s your feeling about the McLarens this weekend? Sure, they don’t seem to be in contention to win, but Hamilton was 7th in FP1, and he and Kovalainen were 11th and 9th in FP2, respectively. According to the FP report on the F1 website, McLaren were trying new parts, with Hamilton said that the car was better than he expected but still lacked grip in high-speed corners.

    If the McLarens maintain this form, it appears one of them may be able to make it to Q3. I’m sure Hamilton is going to be driving with a little extra determination, on top of it. And if it rains, then it’s a whole new race.

    But then again, the BMWs didn’t look very staggering in FP last week, and yet Kubica qualified P4 (with light fuel, albeit) and made a battle of it.

  3. Colin says:

    Any tid-bits from the Mercedes dinner last night Sir?

  4. George says:

    What do you think will happen if it rains James? General consensus seems to be that it wont make a lot of difference pace-wise, just wondering if some teams having tested in the rain quite a bit over winter will have an advantage.

  5. Nik Black says:

    “He has to use a strategy option called ‘game theory’ which is all about setting expected outcomes and then seeing what other possible outcomes there are if your change variables, like what lap you stop on and what tyres you start with.”

    Game theory isn’t really an option or a strategy card, it happens all the time. I don’t think your explanation is very good. IT would be like saying ‘they have decided to use something called ‘strategy”

    Thats how it sounds to people who know what game theory is, anyway.

  6. rpaco says:

    Colin
    Phi (1.618) occurs in all sorts of unexpected places in engineering science and nature. It is also known as the golden ratio and is the aspect ratio used for credit cards paintings etc. It just looks right. It also happens to be the ratio of limbs on a body ie arm or leg length to elbow/knee distance. (for most people)
    You will see it in greek architecture and the pyramids. It is also formed in plants in particular flowers, pine cones etc. And having said all that it is quite likely to pop up in fluid dynamics, power transmission etc. Phi cubed must come in somewhere.

    Unfortunately being incredibly old, my engineering diploma course covered Elect 1 and 2, mechanics, statics, dynamics hydro statics and lots and lots and even more lots of steam, (which I have never had occasion to use since however show me a BThU (or ChU) and I’m away with my log-log slide rule and British Callendar steam tables) gas and other engines etc. However Fluid dynamics and FEA (Finite element analysis) was not invented then so I missed out. Geeks in my college days used to wax our slide rule sliders. We also all seemed to ride motor bikes with full knowledge of our indestructibility.

    Oh yes, I agree never trust a hedge fund manager or a Forex dealer, particularly with your money, or anything else much.

  7. rpaco says:

    Of course 42 is another prominent number, it bein the answer to life, the universe, everything!

    Amazingly when it is combined with Phi it has great relevance in Elliot waves.

  8. Colin says:

    They are bound to be mightily distracted by the flak and absence of poor Mr. Ryan.

    I wouldn’t expect fireworks from a humbled Mr. Hamilton either. He’s suffered a crushing blow to his ego, and reputation.

    A good opportunity for Mr. Kovalianen to put one over his team mate.

  9. Colin says:

    The race will be stopped, there’s no half-measures with the monsoon.

  10. George says:

    Well there could be a wet track to begin with, or a wet finish. It also applies to other races too, assuming we dont get a wet practice session beforehand. Obviously you’re the expert on the local weather systems Colin, if it does rain on track would you expect it to move on quickly or would it linger?

  11. Colin says:

    @George: Monsoon isn’t like rain at other tracks, it’s full on torrential downpour in the late afternoons, and it lasts for over an hour. It doesn’t normally “shower” first. Racing will have to stop, no question about it. Wet tyres will be useless, and visibility nil.

    If it comes today, around Qualifying time, it is LESS likely to come during the race itself tomorrow.

  12. Colin says:

    @Mr. Black: As a fellow Anorak, I found it a fascinating point Mr. Allen made, having never heard of it myself before. I’ve just discovered it developed from the “Monte Carlo Method” of analysis, which was first used by the “Manhattan Project” team.

    Since, as Mr Symonds describes, most F1 teams use it, this may explain why Formula One appears to be so self-destructive, with regular cataclysmic explosions.

  13. Nik,

    I’ve studied game theory pretty extensively, and I think James’ explanation was pretty adequate although not quite full.

    In a game theory model, you are indeed listing out tactics and outcomes. For each tactic, you list possible moves by your opponents and associated probabilities of those moves, which yield expected outcomes from each strategy choice (or variable manipulation).

    He could have done a better job, but I’m guessing James isn’t an economist.

  14. rpaco says:

    This looks interesting, do any of you guys actually use it, (The Monte Carlo Method) ? If so can you say if the perfect ratio comes into it? (1.618.or 0.618..etc) or any of the Fibonacci numbers/ratios, I am interested because I occasionally trade forex and as far as I know there is only one system which can accurately determine pivots.
    The Wikipedia pages give an intriguing glance into it. Worth more reading!

    As Colin says, used on the Manhattan project with an impressive list of names as it’s originators. Kimmi’s car was not one of the explosions apparently in practice, although you must be affected if as a driver you half suspect you may be gassed or the extinguisher system may fire off again so I cant see Kimmi regaining full confidence.

  15. Colin says:

    Blimey Mr. O’rpaco,
    You’re taking to Anoraks, not slippery hedge-fund dealers. Perfect ratios to us refers to gears or feminine graces.

    However, Mr. Symonds confirms all the current Teams DO indeed use the Monte Carlo analysis:

    From Mr. Allen’s excellent article:

    “In the mid 1990s when refuelling was introduced, people started looking at it mathematically, to calculate the shortest time you could do a race in, “ he says. “Then we moved on to a well known statistical technique known as Monte Carlo analysis, which puts certain constraints on variables. We run tens of thousands of races and in each race we allow one variable to move around. So then it looks at all the races and says that the most likely outcome is such and such a result, therefore you should choose this strategy.

    “Unfortunately it’s too accurate. Now everyone is using the same technique and everyone tends towards the ultimate answer. So it’s all rather predictable now.””

  16. Nik Black says:

    It is interesting, but there just aren’t enough variables in F1 any more for it to be all that useful. ie. prior to a race, your options come down to 1/2/3 stops, fuel loads and time spent on certain tyres.

    Forcing the two different compounds to be used during a race adds more variables, but there still isn’t a whole lot to it in a normal, dry race.

    Developing a model for F1 is not difficult (not when compared to how these methods are used in the world of finance). A team would use testing and practice time to work out their tyre degradation and fuel load performance, amongst other variables (which btw, is why I dont like it when bloggers speculate about overall performance based on practice). These variables are then input into the model which will tell them based on their qualifying position what the optimal initial fuel load and race strategy is.

    With everybody in F1 using the same model, it makes the overall race more efficient but it doesn’t give any particular team an outright advantage simply because so much of the outcome is based on factors that are outside of their control.

    That being said, I am surprised that teams are not doing more analysis and more modeling around a factor that is worth 2-3 seconds a lap or more and that is traffic. Countless times you see teams bring drivers in at a time that would place them back out in traffic, and over the course of a few laps the results are a loss of 10-15 seconds or more. Ferrari did a poor job of this in Melbourne in the last race. This indicates to me that they don’t run live models during the race that plot the position of ever car in the field – if they did then they would be able to adjust and alter early fuel loads so that even after a second or third stop they would send their drivers out into clear space. I might be wrong and it could be that they just bought the drivers in at a time when they had no choice and just had a bad draw – but I see it happen all the time in F1 races.

    @rpaco As for Forex, you would be using the Monte Carlo method even if you do something simple such as analyzing the macro-economic market and predicting on a daily, weekly or monthly basis what the probability is of a currency moving in an up or down direction. I do this and base my trading on it, and I can tell you that nothing can completely accurately determine pivot points. That being said, I dabbled in high-leverage short-term trading based on charting – a field where a lot of the pro’s swear by sequences and their methods, and found a lot of it to be unfounded. I trade more long-term (and less leverage) and use more simple models that are based on macro data.

  17. You’re talking about someone who has been ridiculed in the press more often than any driver in F1 history, aside from Michael Schumacher.

    You’re talking about a driver who was probably even more humiliated after the pit lane incident at Montreal last year, and then came back two weeks later to post a win in extremely wet conditions at Silverstone by more than a minute while lapping all but the podium finishers.

    You’re talking about a driver who was crucified after the incident in the 1st corner at Fuji last year, leaving many to question whether or not he would blow the championship, and then came back the next race at Shanghai and blew away the rest of the field in a bout of sheer domination.

    If there’s any driver on the circuit who epitomizes the concept of mental toughness, it’s Lewis Hamilton.

  18. Nik Black says:

    Oh I am not doubting his understanding, its more an issue of grammar in how you refer to game theory :)

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