British GP: The Decisive Moments
British GP: The Decisive Moments
Strategy Briefing
Posted By: James Allen  |  15 Jul 2010   |  6:57 pm GMT  |  20 comments

The British Grand Prix at Silverstone was the first race on the new circuit layout and we had some great racing. There were some interesting tactical calls, made both before and during the race, which affected the outcome.

As far as race tactics are concerned, the strategy was decided for the top ten teams by the qualifying rules, so having all opted to qualify on the faster soft tyre, they were obliged to start the race on it.

All the other runners outside the top ten, who had a choice, did the same, with the exception of the Force India cars of Adrian Sutil and Tonio Liuzzi.

Sutil gambled on hard tyre (Darren Heath)

They decided to take the hard tyre for the opening stint, because they knew that the soft would be the better tyre and they wanted to spend most of the race on it. They wanted to us the hard at the start to get them far enough into the race to make the soft viable to the finish.

However from their experience we learned something about the way races are unfolding tactically, which means that it is unlikely we will see anyone repeat their experiment in a hurry.

They believed that they had a fast car out of its natural position, in other words, Sutil should have been several places ahead of where it was, in front of the likes of De La Rosa and even Barrichello. So by running longer than their rivals, the theory was that they would be able to undercut them and pass at the pit stops and then in the second part of the race, be on the faster tyre when their rivals were on the slower one.

However because the opening stint of the race is done on the maximum fuel load, we have seen several times this season that the tyres get disproportionately damaged in the opening stint, regardless of whether they are soft or hard. Canada was an extreme example, where the hard was lasting not longer than the soft, as Red Bull’s drivers and Kubica found to their horror.

In Silverstone the left front tyre was taking a lot of damage on both types of tyre, but the hard wasn’t working well generally. So by looking at the lap times of the competitors in front of them, Force India could see that Sutil would not have the performance to build a margin by staying out and extra five or ten laps.

Instead, the cars on the soft tyre who pitted early would be in a position to jump Sutil. So reluctantly they had to abandon the plan and pit Sutil on lap 15, at the same sort of time as his rivals.

However doing the tyres this way around did have some advantages; it meant that they were on the better tyre for longer and it meant that when the safety car was deployed on Lap 29, the superior warm-up on the soft tyre, meant that they had an advantage over the cars in front, including Schumacher.

Sure enough a lap after the restart, Sutil was able to pass Schumacher for seventh place.

If using the hard tyre at the start didn’t work, the tactic of staying out longer than the opposition to make up places was successfully carried out by others on the soft tyre, which shows how well it was working. Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg in particular, gained.

Rosberg was fighting Kubica for third place. He was also mindful of the fact that with the Renault restricting the pace, Alonso was a threat from behind. Alonso pitted on lap 12 trying to undercut the pair of them but fortunately for Rosberg, Kubica pitted a lap later. Rosberg stayed out two laps longer and jumped him, thanks to a very quick in-lap. That left Kubica in front of Alonso and a battle which ultimately led to a penalty for Alonso.

Button had another strong race tactically (Darren Heath)

A more extreme example was Button, who had had a poor qualifying performance and was down in 14th place on the grid. He moved up to eighth with a brilliant start and then stayed out until lap 21. By doing so he was able to jump Schumacher and Barrichello.

An even more extreme example, which backfired, was Nico Hulkenberg in the Williams. He started 13th on the grid and stayed out on the soft tyre until lap 27. It was too long and the tyres had gone away by the time he pitted. There was no gain at all.

As a sidenote, Hulkenberg was very unlucky he did not pit two laps later, as the safety car came out on lap 29 and he would have made up quite a few places!

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  1. Connor McKinley says:

    Hi James, do you agree with me that Vettel should have pitted under the SC. I reckon he would have lost 1 position to Liuzzi but with fresh rubber he could have come through the field quicker and maybe got up to 5th?

  2. Nick H says:

    Jenson again showed his race craft at Silverstone, if he and the team can get better qualifying performances in the second half of the season he will be chasing victories along with Hamilton, Vettel and Webber.

  3. Ted Kravitz did share the secret of Button’s superior performance on 1st lap, which was essentially short fueling the car.

    While McLaren thought that they would still beat Nico to Podium by aggressive strategy in early part of the race, the rich fuel mixture used earlier mean, Jenson had to give up his chase for final place on the podium and had to be content on fourth place.

    Hearing his radio conversation to save fuel was my main rationale of not giving drive of the day to Button on the poll on this site.

    1. Jakub says:

      So what is ‘short-fueling’? 1L, or 20? And how do fuel mixtures affect performance?

      This short fueling indicates that most cars are running with unfilled tanks, perhaps its only a matter of time before the Virgin cars reintroduce the ‘smaller’ tank ;O)

      1. Williams4ever says:

        Short fueling = The fuel tank was not topped up consciously that made Button’s car lighter as compared to other cars around him.
        This itself should have helped him to overtake the heavier cars in front of him in the early laps.
        This he did, but apparently he also combined that with using rich fuel mixture, whereby engine was using more fuel to generate more speed. The combination was that Button was running on margin and was forced to give up chase in the race end. This was not good race management IMO.

      2. iceman says:

        Not good race management? Surely it’s hard to argue against a strategy that got him from 14th to 4th.

  4. Mario says:

    It was a disaster for Kubica and Renault.

    Renault is muttering about wanting two drivers to score points. Pressure might be building up on Petrov it seems, as the team certainly wants to beat Mercedes. They just realised that no matter how well Kubica is doing, he on his own stands no chance against Rosberg and Schumi.

  5. thomas_b says:

    Hello James,

    Did you know that Jenson Button started the race with much less fuel than the rest of the field? He did it because with a lighter car he would overtake the heavy cars around him in the first stint. That was quite a risky strategy because he had to save fuel for most of the race – and with his engine turned down this is why he couldn’t attack Rosberg towards the end of the race.

  6. Peter Jones says:

    What do you make of Schumachers disasterous Q3 decision to go for 1 flying lap? I know the Mercedes is bad on low fuel and new tyres, but that doesn’t seem to stop Nico.


    Peter Jones

    1. Flakey says:

      Watching the BBC F1 program they said it was because Schumacher had already gone through the rest of his soft tires in qualy 1 and 2.

  7. LeighJW says:

    As the race was unfolding and it became clear that the softs were fast (and more durable than expected) I wondered if anyone would gamble on two stops and go soft, soft, hard. Perhaps the safety car period would have played into their hands? I assume the number crunchers at the teams would have considered it and used it if the idea was any good though.

  8. Flintster says:

    James, completely off topic – but what do you make of the very funny story of Eddie Jordan wanting criminal charges against Ron Dennis???? Its reported that the wires from the control box on his EJ’s belt to his ear-piece were cut while talking to Horner and Ron Dennis was spotted standing behind Jordan only to disappear – genius if its true….

    Does anyone get on with EJ in the paddock?

    1. James Allen says:

      He’s had a sense of humour failure, clearly. That said, the BBC are right to be unhappy about it.

      1. caveman says:

        this has got to be the funniest story for a while, i cant believe EJ would get truly arsy about it tho???. definatly genius move by ron

  9. N. Machiavelli says:

    Another decisive moment was when Red Bull took Mark Webber’s new wing and gave it to Vettel. It appears
    that an angry Webber can be most effective on the track.

    I think that in the “mind games” end of things, Webber
    has the measure of Vettel now, by a wide margin. I expect Webber will defeat Vettel in the German round, barring some sort of further sabotage by Red Bull to Webber’s car.

  10. Brace says:

    So Helmut couldn’t keep it quiet and he gave one more of his interviews to auto motor und sport.
    what do you make of it james?
    wasn’t that subject supposed to be dealt with?
    yesterday we heard that all is clear (although it can’t be really), but now helmut felt compelled to give his opinion and i don’t really rate it much on the subject of vettel and mark.

  11. N. Machiavelli says:

    ” …helmut felt compelled to give his opinion and i don’t really rate it much on the subject of vettel and mark.”

    I agree with your opinion above.

    Marko doesn’t seem to grasp how most of the English-speaking F1 fan base views him and his pronouncements. Maybe in Germany and Austria they
    love Marko, but I’ve not seen any English-speakers
    say they thought Marko was correct, not even once.

    Marko’s remark that if any Red Bull driver should feel like Red Bull has sabotaged him it should be Vettel is an insult both to Webber and the fans. Apparently Marko thinks we fans are stupid.

    I think we aren’t, and there’s plenty of proof this is true
    in the posts on James Allen’s blog.

    By the way, I can report there are many energy
    drinks which I find acceptable as substitutes for
    Red Bull. And they don’t have the unpleasant aftertaste
    which occurs when one’s intelligence has been
    insulted ;-)

    1. Steve Rogers says:

      “By the way, I can report there are many energy
      drinks which I find acceptable as substitutes for
      Red Bull. And they don’t have the unpleasant aftertaste
      which occurs when one’s intelligence has been

      Genius. :-)

  12. tblincoe says:

    I’m not so sure Hulkenberg’s strategy “backfired” James – he didn’t lose any ‘actual’ places and even jumped Petrov by running long on the softs. In terms of lap times, he was running effectively the same times as Barrichello was from laps 15-26.


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