The Decisive Moments – Melbourne
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The Decisive Moments – Melbourne
Strategy Briefing
Posted By: James Allen  |  31 Mar 2010   |  11:38 pm GMT  |  226 comments

Welcome to a new content strand on JA on F1, which will look at the decisive moments after each Grand Prix and the strategy behind them. The content is being sponsored by FX Pro.

The Strategy Briefing is produced after consultation with a number of leading F1 engineers and analysis of the data. The idea is to help fans get more understanding of why the race unfolded as it did and to get closer to the sport.

As F1 strategy is now less pre-planned and is more reactive, thanks to the no refueling rule, it will analyse the key decisions and the reasons behind them.

Button: Bold gamble (Darren Heath)


Jenson Button won the Australian Grand Prix by taking a bold gamble on lap 6 to pit for slick tyres. Some people have described his win as “lucky” but luck didn’t play much of a part in it.

The intermediate tyres used at the start were holding up reasonably well for most drivers at the time of the first pit stops. The safety car had been out for the first four laps, so there was only one flying lap before Button decided to pit for slicks. He has said that his intermediates were struggling.

There was some graining on the fronts which is inevitable in
the drier conditions, which would have been giving some drivers
understeer. The rears were wearing, again inevitable given the
conditions.

This would not have affected grip or traction much, most engineers agree that if the track is drying out then inters wearing down to slicks is fine. The problem comes when it then starts to drizzle again. There was an interesting spread of times from cars at this stage, with Felipe Massa in third place lapping two seconds slower than Adrian Sutil in 11th place!

Button’s performance was more akin to Massa’s than Sutil’s at this stage and decided to pit.


Button’s gamble was open to anyone to make and one would have expected a midfield runner to take it on the basis that he had nothing to lose. Button had set the fastest lap of the top seven cars on lap 5 but on lap 6 was passed by his team mate. He pitted on lap six and his stop was three seconds slower than the optimum. He also went off track briefly on his out lap.

This put one or two teams off the idea of copying him and so they waited a lap or two. But as soon as he started setting fastest sector times, it was clearly time to move. Massa, Kubica, Rosberg, Hamilton, Barrichello and Schumacher among others, went in. All fitted the softer tyre because it has better warm up in the damp conditions.


Red Bull who had the two leading cars, delayed their stops, playing it cautious. By missing the opportunity to pit Vettel, the lead car on lap 8, they forced Webber to come in too late on lap 10 and this lost him four places. Some engineers believe he would have lost less if he had queued behind Vettel in the pits on lap 9, rather than go around again.

The slick tyres went through various phases of graining on all cars, where they would drop off in performance by a second or two per lap and then come back again.

The teams were in unchartered territory here. The wet start had meant that they were no longer obliged to use both dry tyre compounds, so the choice from this point on was between doing a one stop and a no stop strategy. No-one had done 250 kilometres on a set of soft tyres in testing, so no-one knew what would happen.

It is now clear that tyre degradation is much smaller with this new generation of Bridgestone compounds, which have been made to cope with high loads imposed by the new rules banning refueling ban. Some engineers put the estimate at 20 times less tyre degradation compared to the option tyre last year in Melbourne.

Schumacher was the first fast car to pit for a second set of tyres on lap 29. Having damaged his car at the start he was, to some extent, used as a guinea pig for Mercedes to assess whether to stop Rosberg again for new tyres.

Barrichello, Webber Rosberg and Hamilton were the only leading cars to stop a second time. Although they were able to lap two seconds faster than before, they had lost track position. All they did then was create work to get back to the same position they were in before pitting. Rosberg from fourth to seventh, Hamilton dropped from third to fifth, but he had the advantage of the McLaren low drag rear wing for overtaking. Nevertheless he surrendered a podium to Robert Kubica with that move.

The lesson was that it was a mistake to take the second stop. They should have continued on the original tyres because they would have come back just as they did for everyone who stayed out. Button was lapping in the low 1m 31s at the time of the second stops. His next 14 laps were in the 1m 30s and then he dropped into the 1m 29s on lap 45, with 13 laps to go. Alonso said afterwards that the simulations clearly gave priority to staying out and keeping track position over the extra performance of the new tyres.

Barrichello opted for the harder prime tyres, which turned out to be an extra mistake as they didn’t have the grip of the softs.

So although we had an unforgettable Grand Prix that overturned the negative impressions of the new rules given by the first race in Bahrain, the take-home lesson of Melbourne is actually rather worrying.

The 50 lap stint on soft tyres was a step into the dark at the time, but its success for the top four cars means that it is very unlikely that anyone will try a multi-stop race as clearly the cars staying out will be able to hold track position.

It is now far more likely we will have one stop races like Bahrain, the
stop lap just decided by the size of the gaps between cars behind.

The only possibility for interesting races is if we have rain or if the softer tyre is so marginal that the front runners (who have to start on their qualifying tyres) are unable to build enough of a gap on the cars starting in 11th place and below

We should enjoy the memories of Melbourne while we can.

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226 Comments
  1. Martin P says:

    Bang on James.

    Australia was great but it convinced me of the need for urgent changes to make sure we get more races like this. Sadly I suspect the mass cry of “who said F1 was boring” will give Bernie et al all the ammo’ they need to defer tweaks until 2011.

    One intriguing point for me is the pit-stops though. None of the teams seem to deliver the much vaunted 3 second stop-time, but McLaren seem consistently 3 seconds slower than the best. Very un-McLaren like I would have thought.

    Is there some identifiable reason why they’re off the pit-stop pace?

    1. MZR says:

      You are actually right Martin. I noticed that McLaren is a bit slower than the others too. Would be interesting to know the reason. I guess it’s just not enough practice. Anyway, I agree with you on bringing changes back to F1 again. Definitely refuelling is very important. We must keep in mind that it’s not going to be raining in every race. That means Bahrain will be back

      1. Henry says:

        I think Hamilton was held up during his first stop because of traffic, I dont think they are a full 3 seconds off the pace regularly.

        I do agree that Melbourne could turn out to be a disaster if it gives Bernie and the FIA enough energy not to change the rules until 2011. hopefully with the single decked diffusers next year they might be more exciting but i’m sure they’ll make up the down force somehow…

        I think Melbourne showed, as I think James said a few posts ago that really the issue is mechanical grip rather than aero, from the point of view of overtaking, but it is a real shame that the strategies have been destroyed my no refueling.

      2. Martin P says:

        I mean the stationery time, not the full pit time.

        I only saw the graphic showing stationery times once on the BBC, but it was very noticeable that McLaren were way off the pace.

        Three seconds extra stationary could well add another five or six if it puts another car right in your “safety zone”.

        But regardless of the semantics, I just find it curious that McLaren aren’t the best at this. Even when they’re not winning, they’re usually clinical about these things and at the top of the game. I can’t work out why they’d not be all over this to improve.

      3. M__E says:

        I dont think any race (maybe Abu Dhabi) will be as bad as Bahrain was, it was exacerbated there as the dirty non racing line is so much more dirty than a ‘normal’ track, as it has sand all over the track, and makes overtaking and braking trickier for drivers, and it was the 1st race on new regs, testing the waters and timidity abounded.

        Thats not to say lots of races wont be dull though, they will be..just not quite AS dull..

      4. john g says:

        valencia… possibly singapore too.

    2. Patrickl says:

      How about Massa’s first stop? It was about the worst of them all.

      Besides, Hamiltons first stop was done poorly, but his second stop was just as fast as Webber’s and Rosbergs.

      1. MZR says:

        You are right Patrick Massa’s first stop was the worst of all the teams. Ted Kravitz reported from the pit that Massa lost more or less around 11 seconds. The reason behind that was he had to wait too long to give other cars away for safety regulations. Ferrari didn’t time that stop well. They were only 3/10ths short, otherwise he would’ve possibly be ahead of Button & certainly way ahead of Kubica.

      2. Jonathan says:

        This was because the pit crews were not permitted to release a car within 30m of another car (55m in Bahrain).

        Massa lost valuable seconds (and probably a victory, if you do the maths) because his pit crew obeyed the rule and held him back. Kubica gained a podium because his pit crew blatantly ignored the rule.

        It was a shambles.

    3. Nick S says:

      You may be right. I haven’t looked it up. I do know from watching the race a second time though that Hamilton was held in his pit box on his first stop because of traffic.

    4. F1Novice says:

      I would prefer to see the clock running as soon as the cars stop and display a “split time” as soon as they move off again – not wait until they’ve cleared the pit-lane before the stationary time shows on screen.

      1. Martin P says:

        I agree.

        I can’t get my head around what’s going on this year. Whoever does the graphics and data for the television feeds seems to have fumbled the ball and taken a backwards step in clarity.

        Even something as simple as not being able to fit all the track positions on the screen now they’ve got 24 cars, pit timings split out as you describe (and shown real time), the throttle/gear/brake graphics, sector times, etc. etc. All of it seems less clear and less timely than before.

        The data must be available because we’ve had it in previous years – but they seem to have forgotten what an important part of the viewer experience all this stuff is for those of us that don’t have separate screens with all the data on.

  2. Tom Power says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed the Oz GP, but I think it would have been better for F1 if it had been boring and processional. Am I mad? No. The excitement was produced by the weather and driver error. The ‘powers that be’ now have less incentive to change the rules to make passing easier. Yet it needs doing urgently.

    1. AlexD says:

      I agree with you 100% – it would have been better for F1 for OZ to be a boring race. It was rain and drivers mistakes that brought excitement. In normal conditions races will be like Bahrain. People should understand that.

    2. kowalsky says:

      don’t worry, we’ll have plenty of boring races coming. Enjoy the last one while you can.

    3. malcolm.strachan says:

      One key aspect that was overlooked is that suddenly there was no forced strategy. No mandatory stops to switch to other tires. It was up to the teams to try different strategies. They need to drop the two compound rule and let the teams have at it.

      This race proved the struggle that teams could face: stay out on old tires and gain track position, or jump in for a new set and hope you can pass those cars back?

      1. GP says:

        I completely agree with your comments. I would like them to drop all the rules that pertain to tyres. Bridgestone would still bring two different compounds, soft/hard, and the teams would use them in any way they want. And they would start on the tyre of their choice, regardless of what they used in qualy.

    4. David says:

      Rain is guaranteed spectacle – unless the organizers are dumb enough to combine near 100% guaranteed rain, as in Malaysia, and a late afternoon start time. But they’d never be that stupid!

      F1′s solution is obvious: ensure more driver errors by removing all forms of driver assistance – even radio transmission (apart from emergencies). Hand signals when they think they need to pit and to indicate what tyres they want! Manual everything. After all they’re the ones saying racing is boring now!

  3. Nazdakka says:

    Very interesting, thanks for that.

    Do you think it likely that Bridgestone might be persuaded to bring more marginal tyres to future races? As you say, from Melbourne and Bahrain, it’s pretty clear that Bridgestone’s harder compounds are too durable to provide interesting races.

    1. James Allen says:

      Not a chance. Bridgestone doesn’t do marginal. Especially not since Indy 2005 and Michelin’s discomfort there

      1. Josh says:

        Gosh I remember in the late 80′s/early 90′s when Pirelli’s were around for some of the less well funded teams.

        The soft Pirelli’s seemed almost as soft and flakey as boiled eggs!

      2. Thomas in Australia says:

        Perhaps they could dramatically reduce the tyre allocation for each race weekend?

      3. Nick S says:

        You don’t want the cars not to run or go slow in the practice sessions though. I like the new rule where they give back tyres after each practice session. I actually watch these sessions and its great to see the cars run in them.

      4. David Hamilton says:

        Hi James,

        While I agree that making a tyre more marginal is not an option, reducing the working life surely is.

        Indy 2005 is not really a good example, since it seems to have been due to sidewall failures caused by lateral loads outside of the working range of the tyres. That’s completely different from reducing the working life of the tread portion of the tyre, which is what I think Nazdakka meant.

        (Just re-read some excerpts of Mosley’s letters to Michelin at the time of Indy 2005 and need to take tranquillisers to calm down. Grrrr. They show brilliantly how lawyers just don’t understand that engineers only have models of reality, not a perfect understanding of reality itself – http://www.grandprix.com/ns/ns15129.html )

  4. Buck says:

    I like this new addition to the site a lot. To make an obvious metaphor, your site is leading the internet F1 championship James.

    With all that newfound power, can you get the powers that be to seed the clouds at every race venue from now until the end of the season? ;)

    1. James Allen says:

      Or go around wetting the track before every race – it’s the same for everyone.

      1. rpaco says:

        The odd handful of silicone powder mixed in with the water should liven things up too.

      2. kowalsky says:

        but the leading drivers and teams will try to block it on safety grounds, not to lose his advantage in the dry. Very good jordan’s idea..

  5. Roger says:

    James,

    Good report, Its much preferable to read facts than various others readers “interpretations”.

    I particularly liked the phrase –

    “He also went off track briefly on his out lap.
    This put one or two teams off the idea of copying him and so they waited a lap or two.”

    Was the off a suprise to Jenson or was it perhaps a clever tactical move knowing all eyes would be on him on the next couple of laps??

    Keep up the good work.

    1. swayze says:

      If you are sugesting Button was sandbagging. I think it would be far less risky for him to sandbag AND keep his car on track rather than risk going off track simply to hide his true pace.

    2. GP says:

      And risk damaging his front wing and/or the floor…?

  6. Frank says:

    James,
    Is it fair to say that maybe, and this is big maybe, LH is way too hard on his tyres to last him over 50 laps?
    If this is the case it was mandatory for him to stop anyway.
    Any comments from McLaren on this?

    1. James Allen says:

      Well his tyres went through quite a lot, following other cars, racing etc. But I think he is a little harder on them

      1. Phil Snell says:

        This is the bit that I think loads of people have missed. He may be a bit harder on his tyres compared to Button, but Button also had a fairly straight forward race.

        Button was never harrassing the back of Vettel, and was never fighting for position. Compare this to Hamilton who was attacking for most of the race, overtaking and generally racing. You would therefore expect Hamilton’s tyres to go off quicker.

      2. rpaco says:

        Also following closely/chasing reduces downforce and hence increases the likelihood of understeer which will increase the wear rate. Lewis drives much like Schumacher in karting style and much more aggressively than Jensen. Its the old Senna – Prost comparison again.

        We wait to see if Schumi has got his mojo back fully by race three, he can give a crap car a good half a second when he is on top form (or used to be able) He also has the analytical calculating mind to do the tyre tactics in his head whist driving, I would not be surprised to see him do a Jensen tyre stop at any point in the furure when least expected.
        Jensen’s stop was one of those scenarios which we debated here before the season opened, ie the stop after very few laps.
        However if a one stop stratagy is to become the norm and the “Both types” rule is still here then what will the top ten qualify on?
        Hards??

      3. Martin says:

        On your question on what tyres to choose, I think Alonso’s comment on track position makes it clear that most will go for softer tyre for qualifying. If the harder tyre is actually faster in race conditions after a few laps (high temperatures?) then the cars at the front can stop and get on the hard tyres. This neutralises the advantage of the drivers who started on the hard tyres. The field spread and the aerodynamic load will mean that the harder tyre starters will be many seconds behind, and then with the initial change of tyres there is an initial boost.

        The interesting situation will be if the soft tyres are capable of lasting the whole race and are quicker than the hard tyres. Then there will be a lot of thinking as to when to stop. If you stop earlier you get the new tyre boost and then fall back.

        To start on the hard tyres, to in effect replicate Jenson’s strategy, you’d be immediately at risk of a track position disadvantage in qualifying. You’d then be slower at the start of the race and get dropped. If the softs then go off, the leaders would stop first and neutralise the advantage of those starting on the hard tyres. This would need to be soon enough that the field is backed up and the former leads are stuck behind slower cars. The situation is similar to the Renault pioneered short-first stint in the qualifying with race fuel era.

        Either way, there is still the on-track overtaking problem.

        On Button and Hamilton, to expand on a comment Martin Whitmarsh made, both driving styles have the potential to wear out the tyres. Senna and Button have similar basic styles – relatively smooth, and potentially high loads all the way through the corner. Hamilton has a more V-shaped profile, with a lot happening near the apex to rotate the car. This often results in the car travelling less distances, but with lower total load levels.

        Cheers,

        Martin

      4. rpaco says:

        All reasonable Martin except I would equate Prost with button and Hamilton with Senna.

      5. Penfold says:

        This wasn’t really a problem for him in Bahrain he 1 stopped like everyone else and finished 3rd.

      6. Patrickl says:

        Also remember Interlagos 2009. Hamilton drove a brilliant race in essentially 1 stop.

        Another display of great tyre preservation coupled with great overtaking. He beat both Button and Vettel coming from behind.

      7. Marcello says:

        Lewis said his tires were fine, who are we to believe? a pundit or Lewis?

      8. Charlie B says:

        Lewis also said his tyres had gone in the last few laps even with the stop.

      9. Carl says:

        Lewis radioed in and said his tyres were gone!

        He said this when he eventually caught the Ferrari, so if the new tyres were gone, how could the old ones have been fine?

      10. Jamie T says:

        Use your brain.

        He had to push like a madman on his ‘extra’ set of tyres to catch the others up as the strategy was so bad.

        Had he continued on his original set of tyres, which were the ones Lewis maintains WERE fine, then he possibly owuld have passe dkubica, and harassed Jenson.

        The set he was on at the end were pushed far, far harder then the ones he had on before.

    2. Midnight Toper says:

      I still think it was the correct decision to pull Hamilton in early, as it nearly worked for him and I doubt he would have made one set last the race, given his agressive nature. His outburst on the radio was juvenille to say the least and what surprises me most is how Whitmarsh and Neale are bending over backward in public to appease him. Alonso too seems to be handled with kid gloves at Ferrari.

      It seems to me that a new generation of sychophantic and politically correct team bosses are at risk of damaging the sport further by allowing their drivers to behave like footballers and smearing facts in order to manage expectations.

      F1 is becoming too corporate and as a corporate employee that’s the last thing I want from my weekend.

    3. Frankie Allen says:

      Hamilton can get more heat into the tyres than Button, the reason why he could get the intermediates to work and Button could not. This can make Hamilton heavier on the softs, but he is adaptable and I would expect he could of got the softs to last. He would not have been able to make them last and keep a sustained challenge on Kubica, so he would have had to of made something stick in about 15 laps or content himself with 3rd.

  7. adrian says:

    I am pretty sure the Malasya GP is going to be a repeat of Bahrain if its a dry race. If its a wet race it will just be a lottery.

  8. Ben says:

    I don’t think it was a mistake to pit Hamilton, or that this proves that it should be totally discounted in the future.

    For a start, one myth being put about is that Hamilton couldn’t pass a car that was 2 seconds a lap slower than him (Alonso) – this is totally incorrect. Alonso was not two seconds slower than Hamilton, Kubica was. Alonso was faster than both Kubica and Massa and it is totally possible his raw pace would have been closer to Hamilton’s pace than to the two cars in front of him. That meant that he had the speed to defend his position against Hamilton, making the pass more tricky.

    Secondly, the conditions of Melbourne were fairly unique. It was uncharted territory and had the tyres of the four front runners totally fallen apart on the last few laps Hamilton would have been able to pick them off at ease. Had the race have taken place on a dry track (following a safety car at the start, so without the rain) the tyre degradation would have been much more significant.

    Thirdly, Hamilton looked like he was about to make a pass on Alonso – even it was not at the time he was Webbered off, it looked like it was about to happen. Once he had Alonso, Massa would have been a muich more straight forwards manoeuvre as he was not comfortable on the track and Alonso had not passed him due to team, erm, advice.

    That would have put him in the same position he had pitted at, a position it is not certain he would have retained as he had made far more use of his tyres at the time of pitting compared to the top four finishers.

    There were only 2 and a bit laps to go when Webber knocked him off, so he probably would have run out of laps to pass Kubica – however I suspect he would have had at least 1 lap to have had a go and would have been in much better shape to do so than when he was pitted.

    Certainly, Hamilton’s race was made difficult by the Ferrari’s and Kubica staying out – however we don’t know whether he would have lasted on his tyres OR what would have happened for the remaining two and a half laps. While, the events of Australia would favour a track position based strategy – I do not think it is as conclusive as everyone is making out.

    1. JoFarr says:

      Both Hamilton and Webber would have passed Alonso in that corner had they not collided. Alonso was in the wet part of the track, braked very late and was very slow coming out of it. Rosberg was allover him in the next corner and almost passed as well!

    2. GomerPile says:

      Agree with this – when he was punted, Hamilton had Alonso off-line and compromised for the next corner. Maybe 50/50 he would have got passed there.

      I think he’d then been likely to pick off Massa (who was passed more than once in the race), but I think he’d have run out off laps before passing Kubica (who – like Alonso – would be / had been strong in defending his position).

    3. timem1 says:

      Enough with the Hamilton defense already. Hamilton fans are the most insecure ppl on the planet it seems. One slight criticism, one off weekend, one mention of another driver in a positive light and it’s “Lewis could have done this” or “Lewis was faster in 2007 than Alonso.” Oy vey, give it up already. Alonso is leading the championship and your boy is 4th. He’s got a whole season to catch up.

      1. Ben says:

        I am not defending Hamilton. I am defending the decision to pit him. In my post I said I said I did not believe his tyres would last as well as the top four – that is a criticism of him. Please read what a post is actually saying before dismissing the content because it does not match with your own opinion.

      2. timem1 says:

        Sorry Ben. My bad.

    4. MZR says:

      I think timem meant about some other people’s comments. I agree with timeem that some people really defend Lewis more than he is worth. Everybody knows how hard he is on his tyres. Timem was funny though. But Ben mate your view on the race is quite good. I agree with McLaren’s decision.

      1. Ben says:

        It is true that there are a lot of Hamilton ‘fanboys’ out there. However there are a lot of fanboys for other drivers too – most notably Raikkonen and Kubica. These drivers also have their detractors – and whilst it may be true that Hamilton’s fanboys are the most vocal and sensitive, the same is true for his detractors.

        The reason these three drivers divide opinion so much, is because they are arguably the 3 most exciting drivers in the sport for the last 3 years. I am not saying they are the best – there is no ‘best’ driver – however the races in which they have put in the most memorable performances rank amongst some of the most classic moments of recent F1.

        The trouble is, those moments are still not regular occurrences and when a driver doesn’t put in the ‘drive through the field’ people were expecting, the ‘fanboys’ make excuses for it and the detractors highlight it.

        The situation with Hamilton is more pronounced due to the circumstances in which he entered F1. A lot of Hamilton’s biggest supporters are young boys/girls starting out in karting. Hamilton followed the dream path of excelling through his career and then landing a drive at a top team – this is something they would all like to emulate and consequentially he is an idol in their eyes.

        However, those circumstances – most notably the fact he started his career in a front running McLaren – is the main reason he gets so many detractors. People, rightly or wrongly, believe he had an unfair advantage over other drivers so hasn’t proven himself in the same way.

  9. neil murgatroyd says:

    Oh dear. So with no external force (rain etc.) to mix up the grid, it’s processional racing all the way.
    But we still have to play out the ride height adjuster scenario, (who’s got it, who can add it) I think it’s more likely that RB (+ Ferrari?) have suspension that settles to it’s ride height irrespective of load through some sort of system like the Nivomat suspension system.
    And it’s still not clear if that’s the only differentiator for Reb Bulls performance. It seems likely that they can maintain better ride height and also have more downforce than their rivals.
    So, overtaking still very difficult but still lots to play for in the development race, and for RB the reliability conundrum (looks like McLaren in 2003 – 5)

  10. ColinZeal says:

    as usual james thanks for the article. it is brilliant to read good articles on the tech and strategy side.

    have to agree that my own thoughts towards the end of the race were ‘so if even the soft tyre can do the best part of a race on a street circuit this can’t be a good thing’

    surely we need tyres to wear to give us potential for racing.

  11. BiggusJimmus says:

    I echo your fears, James. The lesson has been learned. Uh-oh… I suppose it’s up to Bridgestone now. Is change possible?

  12. jose arellano says:

    what if the one stoppers would fit the hard tyre instead of the soft… they would have more grip towards the end of the race.. and probably make a move ?

    thinking alonso on massa for example…

    1. James Allen says:

      Didn’t work for Barrichello

  13. Hyperion says:

    I’m afraid that I completely agree with the last sentence- “We should enjoy the memories of Melbourne while we can.”

    Many commentators have been saying that F1 is back etc. etc., but this article highlights the problems that are endemic with this year’s rules. One stop is clearly the norm, fastest cars at the front and extremely efficient aero means that Bahrain’s race is likely to be repeated in all dry races.

    It looks like the most exciting part of the F1 season will be this blog! Great to see LG and now FxPro on the site- an indication of the quality of the website.

  14. Michel S. says:

    One would think it would be even safer to pit *Webber* first to cover the rest of the teams, even if they think it would have been sub-optimal. Webbo would have preferred it to pitting way too late, I bet.

    1. James Allen says:

      Then he would have threatened Vettel

      1. KP says:

        So does that imply that Red Bull have made up their minds to back Vettel for the season irrespective…. The karma suggests that SB may have have too many DNFs cf to Webber though !!

      2. Rich M says:

        are you implying that red bull wouldnt want webber to have beaten vettel?

    2. Patrickl says:

      Yeah they seem completely focussed on Vettel to the detriment of Webber.

      Or maybe they simply still don’t know how to plan strategy at the front.

      Last year they made tons of strategic blunders. It lost them several of the 7 opening races which Button was happy to snap up.

      1. MZR says:

        They are still getting used to being a top team. Take Ross Brawn for example. He wasn’t born as a strategy king. It all built up over the years. RedBull needs more time in my reckoning to understand other teams as well as working out their own drivers. Horner is doing a good job, but not great I believe

  15. Adam Taylor says:

    I hope the Malaysian weather interupts preceedings again to entertain the viewing public

  16. Phil says:

    James, how can you say that “luck didn’t play much of a part in it.” when the very sentence that precedes it includes “taking a bold gamble”.

    He drove a good race, but principally what gave him the result was this “bold gamble”; it was not the result of for example any passing on track.

    You may even say this was a calculated gamble, but I can’t see how you can deny that luck played a part, particularly when you admit it was a gamble. The two are bordering on an oxymoron.

    1. James Allen says:

      Well they say you make your own luck and this was an example of that. It was his good fortune that Vettel retired.

      1. Bill Nuttall says:

        Something else that was actually good fortune was that he had a slow stop and then left the track briefly after changing tyres. Why? Well, had none of this happened and he had taken the lead from Vettel, there’s a half-decent chance that at the time Vettel’s brakes exploded he would have been right up behind Button hassling him for a pass. With no brakes he would have crashed into the back of Button and Kubica could have won the race.

      2. MZR says:

        Exactly right. It wasn’t just luck & strategies like that is just the part of a race. If there was any luck on Button’s side it would be him being able to keep the car on track after going off, plus Vettel’s retirement. Massa was unluckiest in my book because he had to wait for very long in the pits to give others away. Not sure he could’ve passed Button or not, but surely he would’ve been ahead of Kubica & much closer to Button if he didn’t have to wait extra 11 seconds in the pits. Wouldn’t you agree?

      3. Ed says:

        However, was Vettel not due in at the end of the lap in which he retired? Therefore JB would have been in 1st place on merit anyway?

      4. Phil says:

        Fair enough. I just personally think that his drive is being overblown by the media as a great drive. I’m not a particular fan of Jenson’s, but I think he himself has driven much better races that this.

        Although he did not end up with as good a result, I would instead characterize Lewis’s race as a great drive – he showed great pace, and made some great overtakes, including overtaking his teammate.

    2. Derek Lorimer says:

      Phil,

      I disagree. Jenson won the Australian Grand Prix because he was prepared to take a calculated risk to change his tyres early and thereby get an advantage on the other drivers who waited until the teams made the decision for them.

      He was fortunate that Sebastian retired and that the rain didn’t resume but if he hadn’t made the decision to pit early then he wouldn’t have been in the position to benefit from this “luck”.

      I think Jack Nicolas said the “harder I work the luckier I get” and this certainly applies to Jenson.

  17. Kevin says:

    You are exactly right, I thought the same thing when I saw Button do the entire race minus a few laps, one one set of the super soft tires.

    This is going to lead to some uber-processional races, betcha.

    1. neil murgatroyd says:

      they weren’t super soft, they were soft

      1. Kevin says:

        I stand corrected, thanx for that. I wish that news gave me more hope for the season, it doesn’t. Maybe if you said they were the super hards and they barely lasted the race.

  18. Edward Mackenzie says:

    I have to disagree. I don’t think Jenson would have won the race if Vettel hadn’t retired. Of course his tyre call got him the chance to win, but the win itself was down to luck.

    1. Kinkas says:

      Completely agree with Edward. Button’s win is completeley down to luck due to Vettel’s retirement. Tyre gamble just allowed him to be close to the leading car.

    2. kowalsky says:

      luck and good driving, and being smart, and good reliability, and other people mistakes, and… like always.

      1. Robert in San Diego says:

        And what did they always say in the ’70′s? In order to finish first, first you have to finish. Adrien N. is a brilliant designer but his cars have always had a habit of being fragile.

      2. MZR says:

        How come you & I are thinking the same thing mate!!!

  19. Nadeem Zreikat says:

    James spot on great work from yourself and your sources. The problem it seems is Bridgestone are not wanting to degrade their product in anyway by giving us better racing with the tyres.

    (Any news on the tyre front for the future and would they make the racign better?)

    I really thought going into the new year that super soft/soft tyres should only last a third of a race but be super quick compared to other compounds. The harder tyres should last no more than 50% hence a 2 stop strategy could work for some (using both compounds), would make for better racing.

  20. sinnae404 says:

    That’s a bleak picture you’re painting James.

    Do you think, if the ‘rpm boost’ idea is introduced, it would change that picture substantially? The biggest roadblock to seeing varied strategies is that the advantage of track position is so enormous it makes the ‘stay out’ option automatic.

    In some ways it’s self perpetuating – the boost will allow overtaking, which will promote varied strategies that will in itself create further overtaking.

    The rpm boost could be introduced by the start of the European season, and I would dearly love to see it. What is there to lose?

    1. Carl says:

      surely it will be no different to KERS and drivers will use it to keep the opposition behind, not to attack. E.G Kimi at Spa

      1. StefMeister says:

        Something else to consider is that McLaren have the F-Vent which was giving them 4-5Kph over the rest at Bahrain & Melbourne & that didn’t help Lewis once he got to Alonso.

        Dropping the limit to 17,000Rpm & having a boost to 18,000Rpm (Like has been suggested) would help but I don’t think it would be enough.

        What I think should be done is the removal of all mandatory Rev-Limits. At present there all limited to 18,000Rpm but are all capable of getting closer to 20,000Rpm based on what we saw when there was no forced limit in 2006.

        Something I noticed at melbourne was that in the tow down the main straght from the OnBoard shots you could hear them hitting the Limiter, This obviously costs them as your not going to be able to pass if you hit the limiter before you get at least half way alongside.

      2. Sinnae404 says:

        It would be different to KERS because everyone would have it. The problem in Spa 09 was that Kimi had KERS and Fisi did not. If they both had KERS, Fisi would have got past – it would have been a great race in fact.

  21. Ragerod says:

    Vey nice new feature. I’m still of opinion that Button’s stop was 50% good call and 50% luck. Be interesting if anyone takes an early gamble in wet conditions in Malaysia, but not as early as Kimi last year.

    Although it was mentioned more could have been done discussing the reasons behind Hamilton’s stop because of its high profile nature.

    I think Melbourne also showed that any driver can get the tyres to last a race even if they have an aggressive driving style, they’re just so good.

  22. Gary Thomas says:

    As usual spot on analysis in my opinion and exactly what I expressed to friends and family after the race.

    We all need to start preying for rain, snow and anything else that to give us exciting GPs as in truth all OZ did was confirm one early pit stop is the way to go so its back to the borefests of Bahrain.

    On a positive note at least the weather gods seem determined to help at the moment with rain currently likely again this weekend.

    With four world champs in the field all in competative cars it seems a shame our best hope of exiting GPS is the weather !!

  23. Dee says:

    As a spectator at Albert Park last weekend, I was expecting a tense last third of the race, with the leaders making a second stop for fresh soft rubber, but it never eventuated.

    I just wasn’t expecting anyone who pitted early (especially Button) to be able to run out the race on the same set of softs.

  24. MZR says:

    Good informative article James. I’m not a McLaren fan, still believe Button’s win was not just a lucky one. When he went to the pits the mechanics weren’t even prepared. So, it was his call to pit early. It was the strategy that earned him the result.

    When Schumacher pitted for the 2nd set of tyres and was considerably fast on the fresh set of tyres I believe McLaren looked the performance of the tyres very closely & decided to change Lewis’s tyres. I back McLaren’s decision because Lewis was extremely fast on the fresh tyres. However, passing Alonso is one of the hardest things to do in F1. So unfortunately it didn’t pay off for Lewis. Even if Lewis was still on the same old tyres it would’ve been hard for him to pass Alonso & Massa. It’s possible that his old tyres might not have even lasted for long enough to hold off Webber. Webber was unlucky not to win because he had to wait one extra lap to change tyres. I’m not sure that it would’ve been better off for him to go to the pits behind Vettel or not. In my calculation Webber lost around 7 seconds to Button for staying out one extra lap. On the other hand he would’ve had to wait only 4 seconds behind Vettel before changing his tyres in the pits. So, I think it was a wrong move by RedBull.

    Even though a lot of people believe that Ferrari should’ve asked Massa to let Alonso pass, I believe that would’ve caused a serious problem between the drives. It is too early in the season to make such a huge call like that by any team in reckoning. Plus Massa is the only driver to have scored in 8 consecutive races. So that was a great result for Ferrari. Ferraris are extremely reliable and fast enough to win the championship at this stage. RedBull cars might be faster in qualifying, but they are not reliable enough to compete against the Ferraris so far.

    My racer of the day is Kubica. Renault has certainly done a great job to increase the performance of the car. They are still long way off the leaders’ pace. It was the strategy and Kubica’s brilliance. I believe Kubica & Trulli are very similar drivers in a way that they are the two most difficult drivers to pass on the track. The racing lines that they take leave no or very little room for the cars behind to pass. So the biggest chance to pass Kubica is on the straight line. But Renault is pretty fast on the straight line to pass.

    My question is to you James, what was Renault’s decisive strategy for Kubica? It wasn’t luck I believe, was it? With Button’s win, Webber’s crash on Hamilton, Alonso’s defence against Hamilton & Alguersuari’s defence against Schumacher seem to have over shadowed Kubica’s stellar drive.

    1. James Allen says:

      The start was crucial – he went from 9th to 4th. Then they reacted to what others did and steered a course through

  25. Dan says:

    My idea is that Bridgestone should make just one control compound tyre for the whole season. That way they don’t have to make myriad compounds for every type of surface and track (a money saver). Therefore some tracks that are harder on tyres will require more stops than ones gentler on tyres. It should mix up the strategies for each race and reward different driving styles, which seems to be the key to the success of the Melbourne race.

    Dan

    1. rpaco says:

      Yes this way the cost would be lower and they may consider staying in the sport.

    2. Gareth says:

      Absolutely right.

  26. pb says:

    I like where you ended up on this article. I thought it was funny how the broadcasters were desperate to distance us from the sour taste of Bahrain but in reality the only reason Melbourne was a better spectacle was because of the rain (surprise!).

    When the FIA stops trying to “fix” F1 and leave it alone so it can become a competition again there may be some improvement but certainly the more the rules are morphed and prodded, the less of a sport and spectacle it has become.

    1. Tommy K. says:

      I agree on that! Formula 1 is about prototypes’ race! But in the last 5-6 years FIA don’t let them be prototypes!! they are just products which have to comply to TOO many rules….there’s only little room for invention and research. I would suggest to let everybody loose and see what happens!

  27. Gizmo says:

    Thanks for the new column James.

    Every time you add more content I realize just how glad I am that you’ve created this site.

    1. Bill Day says:

      Hear hear.

  28. Derek says:

    James Hunt in his commentary always used to say that the first driver to move from wet to dry tyres when conditions were improving would have an advantage.

    Interesting that Jenson made the call and not the team. Yes Mark Webber was delayed but he could have come in and told the team to change to dry tyres. I guess this is difference between a World Champion and a good driver

    1. James Allen says:

      Good point. At Red Bull they prioritise the lead driver, which was Vettel in this case. There would have been a debate going on on the radio about the timing of the stop and as the ones with most to lose, they were cautious. Webber is normally good at finding the grip level quickly, which is one of the reasons why he was good on single lap qualifying.

      1. Red5 says:

        Do you not get access to the team’s radio communication?

        As you say, there would be some very interesting discussions taking place with I guess all teams watching Button very, very closely after his change to slicks.

        You suggest there is a clear lead driver in Red Bulls case. So can both drivers talk to the team at the same time or does Vettel for example have priority? And would Webber know what strategy has been agreed with Vettel, I suspect not right?

    2. Robert McKay says:

      “James Hunt in his commentary always used to say that the first driver to move from wet to dry tyres when conditions were improving would have an advantage.”

      It’s true, but the problem is more determining that the track is indeed improving.

      I can think of plenty of examples where the first guy to make the move onto slicks saw the move explode in their face. Can’t remember the year but I think Scott Speed was the first to try it at a wet Chinese GP and I remember laughing extremely hard as he basically fell off at every corner.

      The problem was that, as Brundle likes to say, the tyres fall off the edge of a cliff in terms of temperature, so if you screw up the first corner sometimes the problems just massively and exponentially compound themselves and you lose more time tippy-toeing round the lap than if you’d waited and been a lap or two later than the first guy to make the move to dries works.

      It’s a fine line between genius and madness…although given that it was really only a bit damp and not massively wet, it was a reasonably calculated gamble.

  29. Vik says:

    I always thought that it would be more efficient if Webber queued up behind Vettel, because he would have finished his stop by the time Webbo would have had to come in, and there is no way he would have lost that many places.

    In relation to the graining, I’ve always thought that the graining phase is something that you have to drive through so that once the tyre stops graining it goes back to the way it was performing before it started graining.

    It looked like by the time the 2 stopper cars got in behind the Ferrari train, their tyres started graining again.

    Or am I completly wrong?

  30. Kyle H says:

    This site is an absolute gem. Just wish I had come across it sooner. Great insight James, and original content for a change! Eagerly anticipate reading more in this new series. Now for a barrage of questions:

    Given that Albert Park has a particularly smooth and non-abrasive track surface, isn’t it likely that other venues will stress tyres significantly more? Is the difference potentially enough to force earlier pit stops for some of the less conservative drivers, or even most drivers at some tracks?

    Can you provide any insight into which tracks typically stress tyres most/least?

    Given that a single stop strategy appears to be the optimum going forward, is there any driver or team in particular that you think may or will gain an advantage through lower tyre wear over the course of the season?

    Button’s silky driving style and race craft certainly appears to bode well for the future in this format if other tracks are more aggressive on tyre wear. It could potentially be very interesting to compare the performance of particular drivers against the level of tyre degradation at different tracks. e.g. if, over the course of the season, Button outperforms Hamilton at high degradation tracks and Hamilton does the opposite at low degradation tracks.

    Either way, it seems to me that Mclaren have the best driver combination from a constructors standpoint as both drivers have very contrasting styles.

    I’m particularly interested to find out whether or not Button has been/will be able to set comparable lap times to rivals on old but well conserved soft tyres when rivals have pitted for fresh rubber but are on the harder compound. E.g. Like he did in Monaco last year.

    It seems that rivals could be forced into a lose-lose situation if Button can post competitive times on the softer compound late into races: Pitting any time before the last few laps of the race would give Button the opportunity to leap-frog past rivals by setting fast times in clean air before his own stop, but staying out on worn rubber could be equally costly in terms of offering Button greater opportunity to simply overtake other drivers on track.

    1. James Allen says:

      Well they are all different as you say. Spain is tough on the left front due to that long turn 3 right hander. As for drivers the most adaptable ones will always be the ones who come out on top.

  31. Tyler says:

    Couldnt agree more that Melbourne did nothing but delay the obviousness of a most likely processional season….as Bahrain showed.

    Great article and insight.

  32. A.K. says:

    “The only possibility for interesting races is if we have rain or if the softer tyre is so marginal that the front runners (who have to start on their qualifying tyres) are unable to build enough of a gap on the cars starting in 11th place and below”

    Which is why it was a ‘mistake’ on Bridgestone’s part to bring the hard compounds to Melbourne this year.

    It would have been much better if the options were grippier but more easily shod and incapable of going the race distance.

    These damn tires are too bloody good. And they’re on too bloody good cars for these mickey mouse circuits. Look how Vettel was able to hold the car on that quali lap. We need more wearable rubber and more difficult tracks if we want more exciting racing. Otherwise be content for F1 to be what it has always aspired to be, a contest of best engineering.

  33. A.K. says:

    BTW James, I think RB really cocked the strategy up on this one. They could have brought Webber in with the pack and Vettel a lap later and still come out with a 1-2 at the front. No need for queuing.

    1. James Allen says:

      I argued that at the time on my live feed

      1. A.K. says:

        Btw James, it was great to see and hear you on ONE last weekend. I really enjoyed your input. Wish we could see such in depth coverage throughout the season.

      2. smellyden says:

        Your live feed? Do you mean through twitter James, or are you broadcasting?

  34. Frenchie says:

    Great report James. I very much like the direction your blog is taking.

    It is indeed worrying that there wasn’t any overtaking once the Albert Park got dry again. Only Webber made it an exciting second part of the race by daring (very) marginal moves.

    Bridgestone will probably not want to bring tyres that will disintegrate to quickly. That just wouldn’t sit well with their board when drivers tell the press how ribbish the supersoft tyres were.

    Introducing a spec rear wing might be the way to go as it would give the FIA the ability to reduce drag (and downforce) which are the main cause of the lack of overtaking.

    Unfortunately, such solution – and the double diffuser regulations – can only take place next year.

    Rain seems to be the only factor for placing the onus on mechanical grip at the moment. Let’s hope it rains more often than not; aside from the Malaysian GP: it’d be nice to watch a full race this year.

  35. f1jocker12 says:

    thanx to you James, the F1 fans dreams start to come true to reality….
    Good work but you missed few aspects…

    After Vettel’s bolt failure, Button drove in clean air, saving tires… There is now way to say the same think about Hamilton… I mean.. Come on… I’m not a Lewis fan, but he was right – he drove the race of his life. Kubica kept the distance, didn’t push it, wanted the points, he is a very smart guy… stood in clean air.

    I hope you are wrong regarding the immediate future with one stop and softs all the way to the finish…
    This was Albert Park, but all the tracks are different, and you can not compare Monza with Monaco or Hockenheim… The teams have a lot of work to do, a lot of chances to take and more damage to the cars to repair…

    My impression is that at this time, Schumacher is developing the car rather than racing. I don’t know… With his experience in the rain to be kept behind by a rookie, while Alonso and Hamilton where flying passing faster cars than Toro Rosso… “Something is rotten in Denmark!”… :)

    I totally love the level you bring your readers – smart, sharp, informed, wise and sometimes emotional. You decipher the secret codes of The Formula 1 for all the people that are willing to stop on this blog for a couple of minutes.
    You know who you are, so I’ll say keep doing what you’re doing! Thnx!

    1. f1jocker12 says:

      you bring your readers to

  36. Shane says:

    James,

    I hope you were joking when you said you think that we should expect more races like Bahrain. Do you think that the point difference between 1st and 2nd will cause teams and drivers to be more daring and aggressive as the season moves on?

  37. Jeroen says:

    Fascinating write-up. It gives one the opportunity to think on the level of the pit lane decision makers, which is what many readers (myself, at least) like to do.

  38. Stefan says:

    Going forward Melbourne proved your insider/engineer’s point…less mechanical grip will allow for much more passing. Too bad the point will likely be ignored when it comes to changes for next year. Then again with no FIA deal for tyres in 2011 maybe the cars will just slide around on their rims to keep the mechanical grip low.

    1. Patrickl says:

      There was still plenty passing going on till the end of the race. By then the track was perfectly dry.

      The only thing that this race proved is that overtaking IS possible and that random pit stop orders create mixed grids and thus overtaking.

      1. Stefan says:

        Yes, the track was dry but the tyres were far from their “default” grip level as they were several seconds a lap slower than their new brethren. The inability to break as late and accelerate as hard really opened the field up for passing situations. I also want to point out that the front-runners on well worn tyres were unable to pass each other (Kubika, Massa, Alonso). The disparity between grip levels (new tyres vs old) allowed for much of the late race passing. So mechanical grip was key.

      2. Patrickl says:

        So you are saying that on low grip the cars couldn’t overtake (KubiCa, Massa and Aonso) yet somehow the low grip was responsible for overtaking too?

        That doesn’t make much sense now does it?

        Sure cars on different worn vs non worn tyres will open up overtaking, but that’s hardly big news.

        In fact the reason that Hamilton could not overtake Alonso was aerodynamical. Even Webber claimed that his crash was caused by a complete loss of aero grip when Hamilton moved back to the line.

  39. Eric says:

    I’m glad that someone else shares the same fears as me after the Australian GP. The problem with the new rules is that if you have a faster car and can’t overtake on the track, there is NO pit stop strategy that can get you in front of the other guy. There’s nothing you can do. It is really very depressing.

    For example, with the Australian GP under refuelling, Button could still have made his inspired call and gained the lead, Massa and Alonso could have jumped Kubica. Alonso could have jumped Massa and Hamilton & Webber could be much closer to the front. Surely that would have been even MORE exciting than the race that we had. Refuelling needs to be brought back for next year. They also need to make two stops mandatory otherwise all the GPs will be settled by lap 12.

    Refuelling has the important influence of making finding the optimum strategy much more difficult. This is because a lighter car on fresh tyres is just so much faster than a car with a full tank of fuel that it is possible to overtake and gain an advantage. With the current rules, there’s a local equilibrium solution where it is ALWAYS better not to pit for new tyres after the first stop, unless everyone else does. Noone else will do it unless the tyres cannot physically last to the end of the race without exploding. This is not the case because Bridgestone rightly design tyres to be durable because they are in F1 to sell tyres!

    Additionally, refuelling made F1 unique. That is lost now.

    Another fact is that these guys are the best drivers in the world. They WILL make it very tough to be overtaken because they have the skill to do so. Improving the chances by reducing the wake and reducing the mechanical grip may be the answer, but overtaking a a slightly slower car will remain very difficult no matter what is done. Therefore, you need refuelling and the ability to jump another car in front through strategy to keep F1 interesting.

    I’d love to be proved wrong. I’m afraid I just don’t think I will be. :(

    1. James Allen says:

      Thanks for that well argued post

      1. Mr G says:

        What about the aero guru, they should try to gain an advantage with the adjustable front wing to make sure that it is possible to overtake the car in front.
        So far I don’t know if the adjustablw wing is so decisive in a situation like this, 6 degrees in pitch is quite a lot at high speed.
        Webber, while interviewed, said that the car was impossible to drive, and we are talking about the, accordingly to the expert, most aero efficient car in F1.
        I think we might see a lot of new rear wings like McLaren very soon to give an advantage in top speed, allowing drivers to overtake at the end of long straights.
        But long temr all cars will have the same and the effect will disappear.

        A very difficult matter to solve.

      2. Nick S says:

        If everyone can stall their rear wing to reduce drag, then no one has an advantage, and that leads to less overtaking, and not more I’m afraid.

    2. Glen says:

      I think fuel stops added artificial excitement to races. In the end the fastest car/driver combination won in the majority of cases.

      Overtaking has always been a problem really. It shouldn’t be easy.

      As for boring Formula One, this has always been the case. People used to moan when Schumacher dominated.

      Allowing teams to run what tires they wanted may induce teams to run one set of tires for the whole race, which could lead to races to those similar we had in 2005.

      People can always switch off on Sunday, if they don’t like it. I did for the most of 2009. The reason being; I didn’t enjoy the endless petty arguing and scandals. For me the 2010 season has already been more entertaining.

    3. Thalasa says:

      Do you thing F1 would benefit from having two tyres suppliers like before?
      I guess they would have to find an equilibrium between durability and speed, to edge one another.
      (I don’t know if “edge” is the right verb here, or if it needs “off” or “out” or something like that. Sorry).

      If there is only one supplier they could serve the tyres square shaped, I guess.

      1. Aibosde says:

        The multiple tyre suppliers led to some teams doing well and others not doing well at certain tracks even though they had good reliable cars. That is another artificial means of creating competition; I say artificial as you might have a good car aerodynamically at a certain track but it wouldn’t do well because the tyres didn’t suit that kind of track. A part of the reason why this happened was because the tyre companies had certain team-centric developments. If I’m not mistaken, the Bridgestones suited the Ferraris the best and other teams that used Bridgestone didn’t have as big a say in the development as Ferrari did. James, could you give us more insight into this? Do you think it is a good idea to go back to multiple tyre manufacturers?

    4. PaulL says:

      I’m all for cost saving but for teams with $40 million pound a year budgets, 300,000GBP a year doesn’t seem like much of a saving.

    5. Sinnae404 says:

      Wow – I so strongly disagree with this.
      I have no interest – NONE – in seeing overtaking in the pits. It adds nothing to F1 for me. I’d rather see cars circulate in a procession than kid myself that overtaking in the pits is something to get excited about.

      The reason? If the past decade has shown us anything, it’s that the optimum way to overtake is in the pits. It ruined the racing and the only way out is to force the rules in a direction that will promote overtaking ON THE TRACK. Reintroducing refuelling is absolutely the wrong way to go.

  40. arvi says:

    excellent thinking by button!!!

    Schumacher’s race was done in by alonso crash at first corner! otherwise we could have seen him finish strongly

  41. feynman says:

    50-odd fairly comfortable laps on a pair of “softs”, surely highlights once and for all exactly how much of a liberty Bridgestone have been taking with the Single-Supplier rules (cheers Max!).

    Yeah, we all understand the nature of tyre-marketing (wetted-down road, shot of baby sleeping in back seat of car), but there’s risk-averse and there’s pinnacle of motor-sport. They shouldn’t really be the same.

    Any rumbling about successors … would the financial inducements required to secure a Bridgestone u-turn or another mainstream vendor be better spent subsidizing a higher performance, more marginal specification, more strategically interesting tyre from one of the smaller, specialist manufacturers? One not so frightened to push the envelope a little.

    I appreciate that Bernard didn’t get rich by writing cheques, but look at it as an overdue investment in “The Show”, all that extra (much-needed) mechanical-grip and diversity of strategy options will put more bums on seats/keep existing bums. CVC can soak the broadcasters, sponsors, tracks and fans to get their money back later.

    1. Carl says:

      lets just let the teams find their own tyre supplier.

      Some might use bridgestone, other Michelin, others, Pirrelli, Metzler, Goodyear Avon, Dunlop, Continental.

      That would be interesting.

      1. feynman says:

        Carl, absolutely, that would be my ultimate preferred solution too, but I fear you and I are swimming well against the tide on this one … it’s all FIA standardization this and homologated lowest-common-denominator that nowadays.

        I suppose keep a “robust” limit on track-testing if costs are a concern (still a lot of blank looking cars out there), but with a legitimate and marketable opportunity to best their rivals, the tyre-manufacturers would be much more amenable to absorb a good slice of any new R&D costs.
        A bit of old-fashioned competition, then we’ll see the rubber fly.

      2. Sinnae404 says:

        I’m with you too – tyre wars produce unpredictable racing. Bridgestone are killing things in my opinion.

  42. George says:

    I said when the mandatory 2 stop rule was being considered pre-season that they should just make the tires so that they cant last the majority of a race distance.

    Hopefully whoever takes over from Bridgestone next year will bear this in mind.

  43. Syed Hasan says:

    Hi James, very good content today on your page. Made for very interesting reading. Just wanted to add, it’s surprising there is no, good analysis of Schumacher’s qualifying n race. I mean he was help up by Alonso and had conservative setup else he’d have beaten Nico by atleast 2 tenths. Moreover in the race, Haug said he had a compromised car after coming together with Alonso. So people are only saying he got stuck behind Jaime but no pundit has actually analyzed Michael’s weekend, which i do believe is required and made public, that way fans can actually come closer. Moreover I believe Massa had a pathetic weekend but no such analysis of him either. Surprising! If possible pls reply

    1. Kinkas says:

      Syed Hasan, I have to disagree with you regarding Massa’s weekend. Yes, he struggled a lot, and that was visible especially during qualy. However, in his poor weekend, he was able to bring home a podium finish. That’s what matter the most.

      I am a big fan of MSC, but I believe he still has to get back to grips with the car. The move on the Virgin is clear enough. He will get a lot better, that is a fact.

    2. Nick S says:

      I’m interested to know the extent of the damage to Schumacher’s car.

      James you wrote:

      “Having damaged his car at the start he was, to some extent, used as a guinea pig for Mercedes”

      Do you happen to know how much time he was losing as a result of the damage? I had decided that it would take him 3/4 races to get up to speed and not to worry about his form. Watching the race in Australia though I slightly changed my mind, and I’m now considering the possibility that his comeback will be a bit embarrassing for him. If his car had significant damage then obviously it’s not fair to read too much into his performance.

      …so James do you know how much he was affected by the crash and how do you assess his form so far?

      1. Carl says:

        Well her faster than Rosberg in the practice sessions. It was only Qualifying where he was allegedly held up and the race where his car was damaged, that saw him finish behind his teamate.

  44. Pierre says:

    Completetely agree James the most important fact of Melbourne is softer tires were able to last for 50 laps.
    I might be missing something, but I still do not think having a marginal soft tire would change anything as most of the winning contenders will usualy at nearly every race start from 1st to 10th position. So when no rain, no driving mistakes, puncture or accident which send a top car from the front to the rear, if all these 10 drivers start the race with the same tires, I do not see what it could change for them. As they are faster cars than the ones from 10th to 20th, they’ll have built enough gap.
    Let’s wait for next few races, but as I do not see any short term real solution (already discussed here!), I think, even if I do not agree with, we’ll have mandatory pitstops or a rule with tires:
    - at least 2 pitstops for the qualification soft users,
    - at least 1 pitstop for the qualification hard users,
    or even something like qualification soft users will have to qualify next race with the tire they used for the last stint of the previous race.

    1. Carl says:

      Adding more pit stops will not make any difference. Add 10, the teams will just cover each other off.

      Re-fuleling did make a difference as the teams did not know how heavy their competitors car was.

      1. Dave says:

        actually the teams did have a very good idea of what everyone else was doing based on various bits of data they have. you see all these simulation computers and stuff the teams have which gives a very good prediction of when everyone else would be stopping.

        that was part of the refueling problem, they planned there races based on what everyone else was doing, thats why you got those races where a faster car would sit behind a slower one not trying to pass because they knew that car was stopping before them & they could jump them in the stops.

        not been able to pass & overtaking in a pitstop amounts to the same thing, no overtaking on track and boring races.

  45. Steven Pritchard says:

    I reckon we could see more overtaking at Malaysia, as there some pretty wide straights and less punishing for overtaking.

    But Australia WAS all about rain and dubious weather conditions, and I reckon we will have a bit of that at Sepang anyway – if that is the case, then we will again hve to reserve judgement (until China and beyond).

  46. guy says:

    James, did the pit lane speed reduction effect matters much?

    1. Carl says:

      Massively. The teams lost a couple of seconds in while on the reduced limit.

      A two stop would have been much more viable if it wasn’t for this speed reduction.

  47. K2San says:

    I agree; fear and weep. I really hope we’ll be proven wrong but doubt it.
    By the way…excellent adition to the blog.

  48. alex m says:

    Great insight James, sad to see you come to the same conclusion I had, “We should enjoy the memories of Melbourne while we can”

    2010 is going to be as bad as we thought in Bahrain, just interspersed with the odd good race, probably down to rain.

    As you have suggested, hard tyres would make the racing far better, the really difficult bit being finding a tyre manufacturer who is happy for their brand to be associated with the very public performance drop off.

  49. Josh says:

    Look for the silver lining in all this – Gambling firms will take time to realise how predictable F1 will be this year.

    It makes F1 slightly easier to get a return, especially on e/w, podium finishes and points finishes. Look for the guy in 4th/5th to finish on the podium and you should get 3/1 or so. Better yet wait for a wet race and back someone in 12th.

    However if you really want to make money, one of the biggest (and clearly dumbest) gambling firms has a practise time market. Kubica was fastest on Friday in Melbourne at 65/1 odds!

  50. Dainius says:

    Hi James!
    Thank you for the great article. I would disagree regarding: “The only possibility for interesting races is if we have rain or if the softer tyre is so marginal … ” I think Melbourne race showed us that some really interesting tactics is possible for the future. Let’s imagine that we have a dry Bahrain type “boring” race, everyone did their only one pit stop at some 1/4 of the race and there is not much to happen after that. BUT if we have two, three or four front runners who have a significant advantage over the rest of the field so that they could pit in safely and come back without loosing a position. When for guy who follows it is very reasonable to go and get some fresh rubber after some 2/3 of the race. He would have nothing to loose. I do believe 2-3 seconds of the real advantage is already enough for the guys like Hamilton, Alonso or Vettel to be a real threat for anyone in front of them. And if someone will take this kind of gamble in the future and make a pass at the end of the race it will make a life of “position keepers” very hard. The only good way to defend will be going for the same strategy. But if you are one lap late it could enough to lose your position. And the stop is always a risk that something not predictable might happen.

  51. David Hamilton says:

    Good analysis, James, and I completely agree with your thoughts.

    It is clear that the current tyres are way too good, and this is going to prove to be a major issue for anyone expecting interesting races for the rest of this year.

    Bridgestone need to effectively halve the tyre life in some way if we are to have more than one race strategy being viable for any given circuit.

    I also concur with your reply, James, to the question as to whether Bridgestone might make the tyres more marginal – not if there’s any safety impact.

    So – is there a solution? How about layered compound option tyres that give great performance for, say, 20-25 laps and then wear away to lose 10 seconds a lap? (I note that the race pace in the last, low fuel, laps of Australia was some 6-7 seconds off pole time, so the gap needs to be greater than that.) The rubber underneath needs to be good enough to keep the car safe, of course.

    I have no idea whether this is feasible, and it may be the that transition between the layers might have to be quite thick, since differential wear rates at the front and back, say, might make the car completely undriveable.

    But surely the FIA needs to be having urgent conversations with Bridgestone about safe methods of bringing down the life of the both sets tyres, since they are just too good to create entertaining races.

  52. chris says:

    Melbourne gave me an extra spring in my step but this post finishes with a rather depressing proposition. Regarding weather; perhaps bernie could re-schedual the championship to run through the winter from September to May and then everybody can have a nice holiday in the summer with a little bit of testing.

  53. Richard says:

    One of the factors that made the Australian GP good was that the teams were freed from the constraints of using both tyre compounds due to the early rain. The simplest of tweeks to the current rules would be to take away the restrictions on tyres.
    1. Top 10 free to use what tyres they want to start, rather than those they qualified on.
    2. No need to use both compounds.

    I believe that this would allow the teams to try different things. In Oz, the first 4 cars made a set of softs last most of the race. It would not be stretching things too much to go a whole race on one set. Whilst this would suit some car/ driver combinations it would not suit others. This could result in those who look after their tyres going non-stop on softs, those who don’t either going non-stop on hards or a couple of sets of softs.

  54. swayze says:

    I maybe clutching at straws here but one POSSIBLE advantage to come out of Oz is that the softer tyres have a larger window now so we may have more pit stops spread rather than all the teams playing follow the leader into the pits at the same time

    Just a thought

    1. Kinkas says:

      Swayze, I am not quite sure that can work, as after a couple of laps (meaning fuel burn), fresh rubber will give a performance boost that will favour the guy pitting first, instead of the guy carrying on with the “old” rubber. Besides, the guys staying out for longer periods will tend to be conservative in their race pace to preserve the tyres. That is only my feeling.

    2. Patrickl says:

      These were the soft tyres and not the supersofts which they used in Bahrain though.

  55. Michael Carty says:

    Totally agree with this. The FIA need to make the difference in tyre compounds more extreme and/or reintroduce refueling

  56. Anthony says:

    Interesting that Haug said Schumachers car was damaged.

    That can be the only explanation that he was held up by the Torro Rosso.

    Although he is yet to best Nico.

    I am a Button (and Lewis) fan but if his gamble had not worked he would have looked incredibly stupid.

    It was a good call to take the gamble but that dosn’t make him a genius.

    As Napoleon asked of his generals, not is he any good, but is he lucky!!!

    Drivers need to be lucky.

    Look at Mansell with a little more luck he would have had at least one more WDC.

    1. Patrickl says:

      Schumacher had the fourth fastest fast lap. How damaged could his car have been?

  57. Ben G says:

    Fascinating, thanks James.

    If refuelling is gone forever (and I can still see the argument for that) then it should be a good thing that Bridgestone is pulling out at the end of this year.

    Because – the only way we’ll get good racing with the current aerodynamic set up of the modern era is if F1 manufactures its own tyres. The sport needs tryes that will, effectively, be dodgy enough to fix the mechanical grip situation that is wrecking overtaking. And since no tyre manufacturer will lend their name to the type of dodgy tyre that is required, then Bernie should sign a contract with someone to produce rubber that allows racing.

    It’ll cost him a few million, but it’ll fix the show.

  58. Well, the circunstances at Melbourne, the stupidness of adding the new section, the conservative teams displayed at the first race and other facts made for the differences in between the first and the second race. We can’t just argue that F1 2010 will be as bad as Bahrain or as good as Melbourne because of what we saw on those 2 races. We simply need more time around to get a more accurate picture.

    Do you guys remember seeing lots of overtaking in Melbourne? No, only when tires were shot like with Alonso in 2008 or Vettel/Rosberg in 2009. So with the rain, chaos was created and then we got the beautiful race we did. Imagine a day like that at a track that provides lots of racing like Interlagos, for instance? Wouldn’t it be even more amazing?

    Malaysia is a track where we’ve recently seen more racing than on the first two during the last few years, rainning it or not, due to the aggressive nature of track, being full of high speed bends that put a lot of energy on the cars. We can still say that Barcelona could have given as measure, as Hamilton wasn’t to pass Schumacher during testing being on a much lighter fuel load. But Barcelona is probably the toughest track to overtake. Moreover, we still do not know how those tiress are gonna work on the high speed corners with track temperatures above 50C. Might translate into some good racing, or into some situations that we haven’t imagined up until now.

    Finally, I’m sorry James, I don’t think that it’s a fair assessement to say that tires will always be able to last for 50+ laps. They went through a totally different warm up and heating process than they would have as the track was drying up and there was still some humidity and moisture on track which lead into a smoother process.

    Thanks a lot for providing us all this healthy discussion!

  59. PAD says:

    James, I think you have written an excellent article showing that processional races are even more likely now as the team tacticians have seen the soft tyres last forever. This should be coupled with the fact that Hamilton and Webber after their second stops were notably faster than the Ferraris they caught up with but then could not get close enough to attempt overtaking.

    Will the team managers/FOTA/Bernie use this information with more urgency to get some artificial change to F1 for this season? Not from the way they were talking they will not.

    I suspect that this season will have to be written off (as a spectator) and wait for a new tyre manufacturer next season (Kumho or whoever) to turn up with a super hard tyre.

  60. james walton says:

    amazing that no team had run a full 250 km on one set of tyres in pratcise, or better still run one set of each into the ground. a missing weapon in their arsenal?

  61. Stefanos says:

    James,

    Great idea to identify the key moments in the race from a race strategy point of view. Perhaps this might be better served by making it shorter, as it might otherwise end up similar to a race report. Just a thought, in case you find it useful.

    On another subject, this season seems to be a reversal of last year. The fast teams of last year are now on the back foot, while those that started badly last year are now winning. Perhaps the only way to win a championship is by putting one’s eggs in next year’s basket..

  62. smellyden says:

    “Schumacher was the first fast car to pit for a second set of tyres on lap 29. Having damaged his car at the start he was, to some extent, used as a guinea pig for Mercedes to assess whether to stop Rosberg again for new tyres.”

    Wow I never thought the words guninea pig and Schumacher would be used like that. Hopfully Niki Lauda will be correct and that Schumei will be up to speed by his third race! I bet you when Schu came back, he never thought someone would call him a guinea pig. Thats you off the Christmas card list James!

  63. Red5 says:

    There are some drivers on the grid who would not have been able to take advantage of slick tyres so early on.

    For example, can’t believe HRT or Virgin contemplated putting their drivers out on a damp track with slicks.

    Touching on Alonso’s comment that there was no perceivable advantage for 2 stops, are all the computer simulations run before the race or do teams have engineers crunching the numbers as the race progresses? Think a few fans would be interested to know how much information is available to the team when making strategic decisions and how much is down to experience (gut feel).

    There used to be a story going around Silverstone that a spectator with a wooden leg was able to predict the weather better than the radar and the weather boffins.

    1. Red5 says:

      Actually I think Johnny Herbert admitted he has the same talent.

  64. Alistair Blevins says:

    Those last few paragraphs are a sobering read.

    It’s not good to think that exciting races like Oz are the exception rather than the rule.

    Will be very interested to see how the season unfolds from a ‘racing’ point of view.

  65. Jonathan De Andrade says:

    James,
    would you have any thoughts on what happened to this FIA proposal, dated 2005, to improve overtaking?

    http://www.fia.com/resources/images/1782256506__CDG_graphic.jpg
    http://www.fia.com/resources/images/1306371943__CDG_Air_Flow_graphic.jpg

    here is the proposal:
    http://www.fia.com/mediacentre/Press_Releases/FIA_Sport/2005/October/241005-01.html

    it says that, at that time, a survey by AMD/FIA demonstrated 94% of F1 public wanted more audience. I cant see any change on that if not to a higher percentage.

    The idea seems pretty radical from an aesthetic point of view. The justification from Moxsley was: “This new research is important for the future of Formula One. By introducing the CDG wing we can give motor sport fans exactly what they have asked for, wheel-to-wheel racing with much more overtaking.”

    It seems to me that F1 establishment clearly knows what the public expect/wants. Bernie said once that ‘F1 now is a democracy, the teams must eat a little the cake they bake’, regarding quick changes to 2010 season.

    Would the teams be the ones to be blamed for, considering your predictions, not interesting races ahead?

    I kind of agree with Bernie to certain extent when he says he does not like democracy. For me it is a conundrum the teams voting for something that could move them from a ‘comfort zone’. Specially Ferrari, once their majority of titles on the last decade were gained under low overtaking conditions. Why would they be keen on change anything, if the environment, as it is now, is much less unpredictable for them? Alonso seems to agree with this thought when he said F1 is not circ du Soleil.

    By the way I found this FIA proposal in a Brazilian Blog from the journalist Fabio Seixas.

    very good analyses James. Im very pleased to read your texts.

    1. Dave says:

      when max proposed that cfg wing he said they would go with that unless the teams came up with something better.

      teams formed the overtaking working group, showed that the cfg wing wouldn’t have worked & came up with the 2009 aero regulations which the fia accepted.

      the overtaking working group didn’t factor in the double diffuser though so its unclear what difference that made to there initial proposals.

  66. Jake says:

    I reckon each track should just have an overhead sprinkler system, then once or twice each race they can be turned on at random.
    Would make every race great, and we wouldn’t have to worry about lack of overtaking and refuelling issues…

  67. Peter Casalis says:

    Sold correctly there is no risk for Bridgestone in fixing the problem with less durable tyres. We are not asking for tyres that become unsafe, just that performance falls of the cliff at around half-race distance on the soft option. Pair that with a hard option that might go the whole distance, and make stops voluntary rather than mandatory.

    We will be able to admire the skill of Bridgestone in making options so well designed that the soft 2-stop against the hard 1-top is a difficult and pivotal choice at every race. Tyres will be the central talking point of the 2010 season for the right reasons

    Surely better than now, where we might just think they are a lazy supplier, grudgingly seeing out their contract?

  68. DanielH says:

    Doesn’t this race prove that the implicit mandatory pit stop (since cars must run both types of tyre) is actually the problem? Because of the wet start that rule didn’t apply, and as a result we had two strategies: “don’t stop and nurse slower tyres” v “stop for faster new tyres”.

    As it turned out, the first strategy was the winner, but we didn’t know that at the time — the excitement came in seeing whether e.g. Hamilton with faster tyres could catch up with a slower-tyred Alonso. And I don’t think we can assume that keeping track position (the first strategy) will always win out.

    Except because we have a mandatory pit-stop we’ll never know unless there is a wet-dry race again. A great shame.

  69. George says:

    I think you are right on, that Bahrain will be rule and Melbourne was certainly the exception. This is the wrong set of regulations to have a control tire.

    A tire war sure would be nice right about now…

  70. Nicollers says:

    All my F1 hater friends, before the rule changes for 2010, always used to say, it’s not exciting and the only way people overtake each other is during a pit stop. What’s the point?

    So here we are now wanting more and longer pitstops, to bring the sport back up to it’s previous boring level!

    Although I love F1 and don’t agree with my friends, they do have a point. The 2009 rules didn’t make the Hungary Grand Prix exciting, and no rule changes will. It’s good we have 19 races this year, as this gives us more opportunity for exciting races, but some are going to be plain boring due to track design and nothing more.

    It’s not all doom and gloom however. How many of you out there can honestly say they know who will win the Constructors’ and Drivers’ World Championships??

    I can’t and the bookies can’t decide either!

    1. Patrickl says:

      Her hear! We’ve had this complaining about boring races for at least 15 years now. Yet still they all watch …

      Formula 1 isn’t all about crashes and overtaking. It’s about the best drivers of the worl driving on the edge of what is humanely possible in racing machines that beg believe.

  71. Andy3E says:

    Hi James

    I was wondering, is it possible to identify where F1 went astray? as in what year did we suddenly find that the cars were unable to pass?, watching the classic F1 on the BBC (oh and its a real shame they wont include your commentary) and i was watching the 2003 Malaysian Gp and watched JB, Truli and Schumacher fighting for position and saw car after car able to pick up a fantastic tow down the main straight and be in position to pass, could it be all the measures which were brought in to try and stop Ferrari dominating inadvertently damaged the formula?
    that said the past 2 years have been on reflection, pretty cracking, with some fantastically close races and championships.

    1. StefMeister says:

      According to the overtaking stats the level of overtaking decreased in 1994 when refueling came in & it never went back up.

      The total level of passing each year has pretty much remained about the same between 1994 & now with ups & down inbetween.

      All stats can be seen here:
      http://www.cliptheapex.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=51&t=822

      Thats one reason I was always so against refueling, the stats, everything I remember from watching the races live & having re-watched many older races since prove that the racing was better before they brought in refueling in 1994 & that we had more overtaking.

  72. Pete says:

    Hi James – brilliant article… Formula one is often held up as an example of engineering excellence, and its clear from this story that F1 is also an example of management excellence. I would be interested to know more about how on race day the teams deal with the massive volumes of data and race simulations, and the decision making / information management processes they use to make sense of it all. Clearly this is what Lewis relies on from his team – so how does it work behind the scenes? Could this be a topic for future articles, so the fans can see how the teams observe events on track and convert these so quickly into strategy calls?

    1. def says:

      Hear, hear.

    2. Kyle H says:

      +1 This would be very insightful.

  73. Andy C says:

    James

    thanks for yet another extra dimension (on top of the regular articles and the LG tech focuses as well).

    Getting some feedback from engineers and so on adds a lot of value of everyones understanding of what really goes on.

    Its very easy to comment sitting watching at home, but these articles really add to the debate.

    Have you heard any further information about whether bridgestone will stay in F1 next year.

    Personally I’d like to see Michelin and Goodyear back in, and have some competition/variation.

    Surely they could be incentivised by Bernie to come back in.

    What are the approx costs for a tyre manufacturer in F1 these days?

  74. Freespeech says:

    All this Button’s decision was genius etc is utter rubbish and to me it highlights the main difference between Hamilton and Button.
    Button is a very very good driver when the car is right, he’s able to get close to or very near the maximum out of the car, however unlike Hamilton Button is not able to get the maximum out of the car when something is not quiet 100%.
    The problems button had with his tyres were NO DIFFERENT to the problems Hamilton had yet Hamilton not only handled the conditions far better he also overtook his team mate in the same car with the same tyres with ease.
    Having watched the race 3 times I believe lady luck had far more to do with Button’s win than any credible insight he may have had.
    Seems to me that all the hacks (James included) involved within F1 have a liking for Button as a bloke in a way they don’t Hamilton as not one (from what I’ve read) homes in on Button not being able to handle his first set of tyres when his team-mate could (not forgetting he overtook him).
    McLaren need to tread carefully or they could end up being by far the biggest looser should Hamilton start to feel he’s not appreciated as he should be as to my eyes Hamilton is without doubt the fastest and most entertaining current F1 driver and given equal equipment he’d beat all the others drivers.
    As a McLaren fan I hope they get it right as drivers of Hamilton’s ilk do not come alone often :!:

    1. JSH says:

      I agree with the comments mentioned, and even though both a Button and Hamilton fan, will be very interested to see how the rest of the season pans out. As to Hamilton being appreciated at McLaren I think he is limited to which team he could move to in the future as Ferrari have Alonso, Redbull have Vettel, and both would not contemplate having Hamilton in the same team for obvious reasons.

    2. k9major says:

      I think that you’re on the wrong thread and this has been picked to death now. JA has illustrated the technical background to how the race unfolded, point to the subtle differences upon which success and failure in F1 hangs, and you seem to want to oversimplify the whole thing all over again. If all you want from a sport is simplicity, stick with football, maybe darts.

  75. Freespeech says:

    I don’t believe there’s a current team in F1 that wouldn’t jump at the chance of having Hamilton in one of their cars (Mercedes are waiting in the wings), can the same be said of Button :?:

  76. David Whitworth says:

    One compulsory tire stop is not working, why have any rule on it? If you want new tires go and pit. If you don’t you should not be forced to. That should then simulate the exciting racing we saw this weekend. Is this just too simple!

  77. Andrew says:

    Melbourne proved a few things very well.

    Firstly that the two compund rule is a big problem.

    Secondly that only bringing two compounds is too restrictive. If three compunds were brought, well perhaps Hamilton could have been four seconds quicker with softer rubber?

    Commercial interests, i.e. trying to make tyres part of the show to keep the manufacturer happy are killing F1.

  78. SteveB says:

    Thanks James – another great way to add real insight, like your LG Tech reports.

    I enjoyed reading your thoughts until the very end…

    “It is now far more likely we will have one stop races like Bahrain… The only possibility for interesting races is if we have rain or if the softer tyre is so marginal…”

    Doesn’t bode well does it?

    Oh well, at least I’m leading my Fantasy F1 competition for now

  79. Zippy says:

    Two mandatory stops wouldn’t help. Removing the one mandatory stop would help more…

    1. Patrickl says:

      Yeah, they should ban tyre changes all together and create tyres that allow drivers to drive the socks off the car.

      Tyres that go off quickly are the death of racing. You need to be extra careful on those not to damage them. it might work for one or two races, but after thet drivers get the hang of it they will go into tyre saving mode and nothing happens anymore at all!

  80. don knowles says:

    James:

    Seems like 2 things need to be considered when considering a tire change/pit stop. First is pace–if the slow down/pit stop/speed up time costs, say, 25 seconds, and the new tires are 1 sec a lap faster, then you need at least 25 laps to regain the time it cost to change. Second, is track position. Even if faster, if one can’t pass on the new tires, then one can’t effectively use the better pace.

    But I didn’t hear much talk about these 2 factors on the TV broadcast. Do I have it wrong?

    don

  81. malcolm.strachan says:

    Not sure if you’ll get this far…

    But I was wondering what you thought about how this race showed what a race would be like if there were no pitstop rules (ie. Having to stop at least once to allow you to run both compounds). The option then becomes a) a faster car, or b) track position. Do you think that would be the case, like Melbourne, where teams were making different decisions and trying different strategies, or do you think everyone would just follow the same route again?

  82. Robert McKay says:

    Seems to me the most sensible “knee-jerk” move to avoid the problems mentioned by James in his blog post is simply to remove the “must run both compounds” rule.

    The soft option could essentially do the entire race in Melbourne.

    So if you remove the need to run the hard anyway, then it seems three strategies appear, based on qualifying in the top 10.

    1 – Run the soft in quali to get track position. Run gently in the race, you’ll still be reasonably quick early on, but if you’re Jenson-careful you’ll get to the end with something that’s by no means quick but hasn’t fallen apart and is still fast enough to defend position with.

    2 – Run the soft in quali to get track position. Thrash the soft as hard as you can, make as much time as possible. Stop about half-way, take on another set of softs, thrash them. Depends, of course, on how much gap you initially build, how easy passing is on the second stint, and also on not spending too long on either stint on a shot set of the softer tyres.

    3 – Run the hard in quali and sacrifice track position in the knowledge that you really shouldn’t have to pit but also really shouldn’t have to drive conservatively and still should have pretty good pace at the end.

    Hopefully those three strategies would meet somewhere near the end, with variations in exactly how it pans out from circuit to circuit and from driver/car to driver/car.

    If you have to run both compounds in a normal dry race, you lose all these potential ways of tackling it.

  83. Darren says:

    If it rains in Malaysia .. we are guaranteed an exciting race :). I’m dreading the next quiet race, simply because of the way everyone over reacts!

    “Bernie, we need answers!”

    “The End of Formula One :o”

    There have been quiet races during even the best seasons. In 2003, the Canadian GP was like a procession!

  84. Malcom says:

    JSH…If you don’t believe that Dietrich Mateschitz the founder of Red Bull wouldn’t sign Lewis…..you maybe drinking too much of that stuff, because he would in a heartbeat. Webber’s contract with Red Bull I believe concludes at the end of this year, and I wouldn’t at all be suprised if they made a serious attempt to secure Hamilton’s services.
    Regarding Ferrari….I believe before Lewis retires and calls it a day…..some of those days will have been spent racing one of those beauties from Maranello.

  85. Patrickl says:

    Hamilton answered some questions on the subject in his Q&A with Autosport.

    Turns ou he didn’t come in because the team expected rain.

    Indeed I remember the commentary during the race that first they expected the rain to come back and then later they revised that to some slight drizzle for a few laps.

    That puts the decision of the first stop into quite a different light.

  86. AndyF says:

    James,

    A suggestion that I’ve not seen anywhere else: Reduce the amount of fuel that can be used in a race (or even the whole weekend).

    Bridgestone aren’t going to change their tyres; none of the engine suppliers are going to de-tune; aero changes would be too expensive and hard to agree on. Fuel quantity is an easy change.

    Might be a bit too late to save Wirth the cost of redesigning the tank and chassiz for Virgin though…

    1. Andy Thomlinson says:

      Andy, if you reduce the fuel would that not cause there to be less overtaking as drivers have to turn the engine down to make sure they make it to the chequered flag!

      1. AndyF says:

        I don’t think so. A driver could choose to turn the engine up (more fuel) to get towards the front, but this would mean that he would then have to back off later in the race to make sure he got to the finish. That would then leave him vulnerable to others who had conserved their fuel in the early stages and therefore have more to burn towards the finish.

        The idea is that this would produce a similar effect to the “push to pass” in indycars except that no-one would know how much (fuel) deficit a driver had until they reach (or don’t) the finish line.

      2. Andy Thomlinson says:

        Fair point but why not just go for the push to pass option then. I think there are enough restraining factors on the drivers like tyres without seeing them hold back to conserve fuel aswell.

  87. Roger Korn says:

    Fantastic new feature! I watch from the wilds of Arizona and keep notes about what I think is going on strategically. Now I can see how well I understood the reality!

  88. Pawel says:

    James – thank you for opportunity to be your student at F1 Academy!
    Unfortunately I have just learnt why we will have boring races for the rest of the season… (better Brdgestone tyres durability)

  89. HowardHughes says:

    On a side note James, congrats on the FX PRO briefing sponsorship – hope it’s the first of many!

  90. Maurice says:

    James. Great article. I was very frustrated when I saw that the tyre allocations for the next couple of races are the same as Melbourne – Prime = Hard Option = Soft. With these decisions by Bridgestone we are almost certainly guaranteed a rerun of Bahrain, if it stays dry. Given that Bridgestone have come up with new tyre constructions and compounds for 2010 surely they should have taken medium and super soft tyres as prime and option to give us a half chance of competitive racing with some variation in strategy. Surely the Bridgestone supersoft is capable of being run at Sepang and Shanghai without causing them any embarrassment? It’s not as if they’d end up in the sorry state Goodyear did 2 years ago at Indy when NASCAR had to run the race with “Competition Yellow” flag periods every 15 laps or so, because the tyres were not durable construction-wise to cope with the stresses of racing at the Brickyard. Come on Bridgestone take a punt and help be part of giving F1 its most exciting season ever.

  91. Eric Weinraub says:

    While Malaysia has what’s needed, except for those dumb twisty bits after the front straight, for overtaking the fact that that the tire compounds are are hard enough to avoid any trips to the pits except for the one mandatory stop, we can expect boredom. I have no doubt we’d have zero stops going forward if the teams had their say.

  92. Eric Weinraub says:

    My suggestion to fix F1 is simple… dole out test days based on standings. The further down the grid you are the more test time you get. That would certainly tighten up the grid.

  93. Torrent says:

    Great post James,

    This is the best post I’ve ever read on your blog or any other blog. Thank you for these precisions.

    Besides, I completely agree with you on the analysis and I’ve got an idea which might help things a little. Why not allowing drivers to spend the whole race on a unique set of tyres or a couple of different sets of tyres. In case they pit for tyres, they would have to use both option and prime.
    Hamilton situation brought me the idea as when he pitted for an extra set he went for it and the fact that he was chasing and trying to overtake contributed to the show. That situation didn’t arise from the rain but from the fact that mclaren doubted the durability of the soft on hamilton’s car. So what if drivers have the choice of gambling on a unique set of tyres or a couple of different sets. It will mix everyting up and we will end up with drivers nursing a dying set of tyres with someone charging behind.
    In some races, that would lead to overtaking, to accidents, etc….. without asking BRIDGESTONE to change their tyres allocations. And most importantly it is very simple to implement as a rule. It needs absolutely nothing but the new rule.

    1. James Allen says:

      Interesting idea, but still the problem that track position is king

      1. malcolm.strachan says:

        Track position is king, which is why some teams might be tempted to run hards until the end… but if a team knows they can sacrifice a little time to do a pitstop, but then make that up and have a faster car that might be able to overtake, we might see some tight battles at the end of a race.

        Certainly worth a shot, given that the current rules have clearly shown their flaws.

      2. Torrent says:

        This idea might work in a couple of cases :

        1st : if the qualifying performance difference between the soft and the hard isn’t huge (below 0,300s per lap) on certain circuits. You might gamble on the harder tyre easily once in the top 10 and get the rewards by overtaking most of them during their pit stops

        2nd : once in the top 10, if your qualifying spot is guaranteed to be 8th to 10th (Sutil), you’d better gamble on a unique set of hard tyres because you are hardly going to overtake anyone ahead of you during the race even if you are a bit quicker.

        But there’s a problem for people going on a unique set of hard tyres, the 1st couple of laps they are going to struggle to hold position and that itself will make their decision harder.

        As malcolm.strachan said, if we add this option, it might not help (or help exceptionally) but it won’t make it any worse, so why not go for it.

        Last solution, let’s pray “MIGHT SUNDAYS BE RAINY !” although it is useless in BAHRAIN & ABU DHABI.

  94. Mark Crooks says:

    I had a thought – instead of enforcing an extra pit stop to improve the racing why not go the other way and remove the enforced pit stop rule all together.

    Simply allow the teams to decide which compound to use and how many stops to take. This would increase the possibility of some teams taking a risk of going for a 0 stop with others going for a conservative 1 stop strategy.

    1. A.K. says:

      These tyres will last the whole race if they’re allowed to.

  95. tblincoe says:

    You summed it up nicely James. I’ve got a graphical analysis up that should further augment an understanding of the Australian Grand Prix:

    http://bprf1.com/2010/03/31/inside-the-race-round-2-australian-grand-prix/

    IMO, there’s something to be learned about the performance envelope of the Bridgestone control tires from the last two races…

  96. Mark Crooks says:

    James – what other forms of motorsport do you like to watch and what do you think F1 could learn from these other forms of motorsport.

    I am really enjoying the IRL races so far this season and have attended a race (Chicago) which I thouroughly enjoyed, there were certainly some elements that I thought F1 would do well to adapt.

  97. Frankie Allen says:

    In the words of Jenson Button, I had no feel with the intermediates, I was just going backwards, It was a no brainer to come in and go onto slicks.

    A move made made in desperation, but with enough experience and skill to make it stick, I tend to believe Jenson’s own words here. As for the extra tyre change strategy being wrong, yes eventually but even Ferrari were no where near sure along with the others. For Button and Kubica it made absolute sense, the others were left guessing. I heard Alonso checking whether they were sure the strategy was correct and when Rob Smedley gave Massa the hurry up, additional concerns there. But for Webber, I believe Hamilton would have completed that over take of Alonso, maybe even Massa.

    Although I believe Hamilton would have got past Kubica without the tyre change, the strategy for McLaren should not have cost them more than 2 places and virtually guaranteeing them the win as it was. They had all bases covered by pitting Hamilton (although not the intention) and with all the variables at the time, it stands out even more correct for the team should the tyres not last.

  98. Midnight Toper says:

    James,

    How about 24 races with 24 seats available. Each driver rotates seat on a race by race basis. The constructors and drivers championship would still be decided by car and driver alike. Salaries could be pro-rated on previous years points and current championship position.

    I’m sure it would spice things up and it would be a great measure of who is the complete driver.

  99. Chris says:

    Nice analysis James… I fear you are correct! The variability factor always makes for great racing and it keeps being legislated out. It’s good to hear some balanced comment when there are so many ‘knee jerk’ reactions around on blogs and official websites… C

  100. M__E says:

    you mentioned something about engineers wondering why teams didnt que while pitting?

    I could have sworn this was banned for this season no?
    Also did they not see the size of the pitlane, some cars were having trouble squeezing into an empty pit box between other teams, can you imagine the chaos (and literal gridlock) that there would have been if some one was ‘clever’ enough to cue at pit boxes!

    Sometimes these guys make me wonder.

  101. M__E says:

    Its not the refuelling that is causing the difficulty in F1 its primarily because the cars have such massive amounts of downforce that they rely on for grip primarily, and when the rules were changed to have smaller front tyres (thus less mechanical grip) it meant when the cars are behind each other that the wake of the car in front creates such turbulent air for the following car that their downforce grip gets severly compromised AND because they have smaller front tyres the slack cant be taken up by mechanical grip from the tyres so all you get is that you create a situation where its even harder for a following car to overtake, less downforce and less mechanical grip.

    the ‘overtaking group’ really blew both their feet off with that idea..idiots :rolleyes:

  102. Robert Powers says:

    The key differences between the series now and a quarter century ago are that the cars are ugly,less powerful and the circuits do not have the same appeal.Other changes have been made that I still question.That’s how racing develops over time,I understand that.

    I have been lucky to attend one Grand Prix and one Indianapolis 500 in my life.I used to enjoy the comparison,because both series had drivers adept at passing-they knew when and where.It is such a beautiful thing.

    Jense is a great guy,a deserving world champion with a cute girlfriend.He is not expected to outshine Lewis Hamilton this year,yet I would not be surprised if he did.He is very quick and experienced.

    But when I see a driver in any top series(let alone the current number one at the very first corner)attempt a pass as Button did I laugh.He wasn’t even within three feet of Alonso’s front wing,and I’m being generous.I would not accept his apology,I would tell him to learn how to drive.

    I only post this as others refer to a perfect drive for Jenson Button,and what a brilliant tactician.Alonso and Schumacher don’t think so,and didn’t before the start either.

    Sir Jackie Stewart believes a great driver never lets himself get caught up in these situations.All JB had to do was get out of the throttle,and onto the brakes.

    1. James Allen says:

      Another important difference is that the tyres are too good and the cars are too reliable.

      1. Robert Powers says:

        I find it interesting if you think it has gone too far.I live in NASCAR land,large fields at the end are expected.But this is Formula One,where it is a technical exercise as well as a sport.The cars and engines should degrade as the event goes on,some failing to make it.

        Now we don’t need to see one team going through six or seven engines(turbochargers) in practice for a GP,as Ferrari did in Mexico,1986.And safety certainly comes first as well.

        But part of open-wheel racing is not knowing whether a car can make the distance.

  103. Robert Powers says:

    I see about the mirror ban now.If that is a reason for the collision,ok.But I still think Button would be more circumspect at the start of a GP.You have so many laps to go,you will probably ruin your day in one corner.

    Of course Alonso didn’t see him!

    But if the technical judgment is at odds with me,well then my bad.

    Of course I have respect for the current world champion.He did a great job last year.

    1. rpaco says:

      Does this mean the extra vertical boards are also banned, which I believe were only there under the guise of being mirror mountings?

      1. Robert Powers says:

        The ban has been put off until Barcelona,and one of the teams it will affect of course is the Red Bulls.Safety is the reason for the ban,but any aero advantage will also go away.

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