A deep dive into the race strategies from Monaco: how the race was won
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A deep dive into the race strategies from Monaco: how the race was won
Strategy Report
Posted By: James Allen  |  31 May 2011   |  7:36 am GMT  |  130 comments

Each race we look in depth at the strategies and analyse the decisions taken in the heat of battle and sometimes we see teams and drivers taking big risks. We also see the part that luck can play in the outcome.

Both are particularly true when you are trying to get a good result in Monaco. All the strategists know that there is a 71% chance of a safety car here and if it falls at the right time it can make your race – as it did this year for Sutil and Kobayashi. But if it falls at the wrong time, your victory plans fall apart -as they did for Jenson Button.

The 2011 Monaco Grand Prix was shaping up to be a classic until the race was suspended by a red flag for an accident six laps from the end.

The three leading drivers were converging. They had all started the race on the same tyre (Pirelli supersoft) and were all ending on the same tyre (Pirelli soft) but in between had done three completely different strategies.

Once again we saw a race in which pre-race expectations on strategy were proved wide of the mark as the tyres performed far better than expected. So once again the strategists and drivers had to really think on their feet.

Vettel: One stop and a little luck (Photo: Red Bull)

Vettel – forced into a one stop
Vettel is on top of the world at the moment and sometimes when things are going for you, you get a bit of luck. Vettel was forced into gambling on a one-stop strategy on Sunday. If the race had not been red flagged it’s likely that Alonso would have launched an attack at the end, as Vettel’s tyres were 60 laps old, 20 laps more than Alonso’s. But the red flag gave Vettel breathing space and he was able to change tyres before the race restarted and take the victory.

Red Bull were caught out by Jenson Button making an early pit stop on lap 15 and taking the lead when Vettel stopped a lap later and lost three seconds with a slow tyre change.

Christian Horner has suggested that they put on the soft tyre by mistake, but whether by luck or judgement they did the right thing in taking the soft tyre at this point. This gave them flexibility to go either way – take the tyres to the finish in a one stop, or come in again later. From lap 16 onwards they were playing it by ear.

On lap 34 when the safety car came out, they saw Ferrari pit Alonso and knew that he would go to the finish on those tyres. From that point on Vettel was committed to staying out.

It seems that the Pirellis fall apart quickly on tracks with medium to high speed corners, like Istanbul and Barcelona. But on low speed tracks like Monaco they are better than Bridgestones because the surface of the tyre does not grain.

By race day many strategists felt that it was possible to do 40-45 laps on a set of soft tyres, but to do 53, as Vettel did and still maintain competitive lap times, was universally regarded as being very impressive.

Alonso: Best result of the season so far (Photo:Ferrari)


McLaren gamble with Button, Ferrari play it safe with Alonso

From second on the grid, Jenson Button and McLaren took a big gamble in making a three stop strategy as it relies on being able to exploit new tyres on a clear track and any safety car will ruin it.

They were aggressively going for the win by doing something different from Vettel, believing it was the only way to beat him.

But McLaren also made a tactical mistake when Button made his second stop on lap 33, just before the safety car. He pitted just as a Virgin car was stopped on the track. Perhaps McLaren anticipated a safety car, perhaps not, but the mistake was to put on a set of supersoft tyres at that point. This forced them into having to stop again as Button hadn’t used the soft yet.

They had taken all the flexibility out of their strategy, something they didn’t need to do and which cost Button second place and maybe the win.

A few laps later the safety car did come out (for the Massa crash) and Alonso pitted immediately, switching to soft tyres. He took these through to the finish. Stopping during a safety car meant it was almost a free pit stop for Alonso. He was three seconds behind Vettel before he stopped and at the restart after the safety car, was only seven seconds behind on new rubber.

Ferrari had plenty of confidence going into the race that the tyres were capable of long stints. Their Friday practice long runs had shown that. They even managed to get 26 laps out of a set of super softs on Friday, showing that their tyre wear was very light.

So tactically they gave themselves plenty of options and unlike Red Bull and McLaren they didn’t take any risks with Alonso. Pitting under the safety car was the smart thing to do and when Button had to stop a third time, Alonso passed him and went up into second place.

On tyres that were 20 laps younger than Vettel’s, Alonso was waiting for the moment when Vettel’s tyre performance started to “fall of the cliff”, which may or may not have come in the last six laps. But the red flag prevented him – and us – from finding out whether he would have won.

For the record, Ferrari had split the strategies with Massa planning to do only one stop. He was in the category of cars which were not quick enough to pull away from the midfield cars and create a gap you can come back out into at your pit stop. So you have to wait longer for your stop and that pushes you towards stopping just the once.

Safety car is the game changer
After the controversy at Valencia last year the safety car rules were changed and this had a big effect on Sunday’s race.

The rules are complicated, but in a nutshell, now the safety car has to pick up the leader and anyone ahead of him is able to go around faster than the safety car, make a stop and carry on to the tail of the queue, thus gaining hugely. This happened to Kobayashi and Sutil who climbed to fourth and fifth places and were able to do their only stop of the race under the safety car. With a big window to the next car, they both got out of the pits still in that position, having started 13th and 15th.

Sutil got ahead of Kobayashi in the pits, but the Japanese forced his way back through on lap 65.

The UBS Strategy Report is prepared with input and data from strategists from the F1 teams

Graph of Monaco Race History

The zero line is the winners’ average lap speed, taking his entire race time and dividing it by the number of laps. Because of the safety car period many drivers set laps faster than the winners’ average, but this shows how the gaps grew to the other drivers and the crossover points as one passed the other, on the track or in the pits. The red flag period has been reduced to fit the data better.

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130 Comments
  1. goferet says:

    Call me crazy but despite the Red Flag, am pretty confident Vettel would have still held on for the win for that Red Bull really has good traction out of the corners & unless Alonso was planning to take out Vettel in a Hail Mary move, I don’t see how Alonso could have got past.

    I understand even Senna held on back in 1992 on pretty worn tyres against a flying Mansell so yes, it’s possible.

    I also think the Red Flag was unfair to Vettel for this race should have ended under the safety car like Australia 2009 for I think the Red Flag should only apply if the race still a long way to go 15 laps +

    As for Mclaren, the problem is Vettel pitted after Jenson and because the Mclaren people never imagined in a million years that Vettel would have a poor pit stop they put Jenson back on the super soft tyres.

    If Vettel had stopped first (with the poor pit stop), Mclaren would have put Jenson on a one stopper too & that’s one lad who would have brought the bacon home, with good looking tyres & all.

    Anyway this was Red Bull (Vettel’s) weekend again, they got everything just about right

    1. Frans says:

      Good traction would be useless if Vettel tyres had fall of the cliff and that probably what Alonso and Button are waiting for. And Alonso might try a Hail Mary move.. at least judging by his interview :)

    2. Grayzee (Australia) says:

      No disrespect, goferet, but Red Bull did not “get everything just about right”. They balls up their pitstops! Vettel lost 3 secs and Webber lost 15 while waiting in the queue!
      I think they happened to get VERY lucky with Vettel this time, and poor Webber had to drive his pants off(again) to fight his way back.

      1. AnDrOiD says:

        Yes. Vettel was lucky to be having the ‘wrong’ tyres, and to be able to manage those tyres for 50 laps. And he is lucky to be able to defend alonso for like 20 laps.

    3. Robwal says:

      Did you watch the goferet?
      Alonso had already made a couple of speculative pass moves before the red flag gifted Vettel the race.
      Vettel’s tyres would have further degraded leaving him easy meat for Alonso and Button.
      In my opinion, Alonso would have battled it out with Button before taking the win.

  2. barmyf1 says:

    What a disapointing race, fans were robbed of what could have been one of the most exciting races so far this season at one of the greatest street circuits. When Q3 was halted because of an accident, at the restart how do so called officials expect even the worlds top drivers to put in a Q3lap on cold tyres and brakes? isn’t that why we have warm up laps before any race to put heat into the tyres and brakes? Then 6 laps from the end of the race permit a tyre change under a safety car which totally destroyed the strategies of the top teams. It’s inconsistant decision making that needs to be changed. let’s let the drivers race as well as overtake and stop listening to the winging of some who call foul when they are overtaken.

    1. Chris Normal says:

      It’s a constant amazement for me to witness a fans preference for a team or driver influence their opinion on events. After every race whatever calls/rules/decisions go against their team are wrong and whatever events which are beneficial to “their” team are right. This happens in all parts of life but F1 fans seem consistently the most obviously biased and incapable of seeing their own hypocrisy.

      1. Grayzee (Australia) says:

        Hear Hear! Got it one!

      2. RC says:

        Well said. I’m particularly amazed that people seem to think or at least imply that changing tires at the red flag was a ruling that was made on the fly by the stewards rather than something that has been in place all season. You could do a Doctorate in psychology on the thought processes that go on with F1 fans.

        RC

    2. Paul Kirk says:

      Good on yar, Barmy, you’re perfectly correct and I couldn’t agree more, what happened seemed totally riduculous!
      PK.

  3. Andy says:

    A very nice analysis again, thank you for that. However, I can’t help but be amused at statements like “…there is a 71% chance of a safety car here…”. I am sure you received that number from team engineers, but it still seems completely meaningless. What can it possibly be based on, historic data? It is simply impossible to put any accurate figure for a probability of an event like a safety car, let alone with 1% accuracy. If the strategists and engineers take such figures at face value, no wonder we see strategic blunders all the time…

    1. Dan says:

      Quite clearly it means there has been a safety car at 71% of races historically.

    2. Paulo Miranda says:

      Its calculated using a sample, which i assume its all the grand prix in monaco since safety car was introduced, or maybe it has a more accurate sample, like since last major track change.

      Its used every day to calculate almost every probability. Its like the probability of a new born being a boy or a girl, Can you put a 1% acuracy to that event? nop, but if you take a large enough random sample it will be very close to the probability, that is based on historic data. So you will use that value to give a probability of a new born being a boy or a girl in a determinated country based on the historic data, and you will see that if you observe lots of births it will come close to the given value, which isn’t 50-50 in case you wondering. Most of the places the ratio of boys-girls is positive for the boys.

      1. Paulo Miranda says:

        This probabilities normally have an error margin, and a confidence interval, wich is not shown in this. Maybe James can give us some more info where he gets this data, but i think its calculated with every monaco grand prix, calculating expected value, standard deviation and so on, or maybe its a bit more complex…

      2. Andy says:

        This all is of course very clear. My point simply was that with the amount of historic data that we have available, a figure like 71% makes no sense. Simply a random change in one gp changes the figure above already by more than 1 percentage unit. You may be able to make things a bit more accurate by making statistics based on laps and then computing the probability for not having an SC for the whole race, but then one also needs to take into account that individual laps are not entirely independent of each other, which will skew such computations.

        All in all, I just wanted to say that it always amuses me when such accurate figures are presented in a context like this, since one maybe should content to say something like “in roughly 2 races out of 3″…

    3. Andrew Woodruff says:

      You can argue about the degree of accuracy, I agree the extra 1% is fairly meaningless, but surely the principle is obvious?!

      When deciding on tyre strategy, teams will obviously consider the likelihood of a safety car at any given track. For example, as Button proved at Monaco, a three stopper can be undermined by a safety car at the wrong time, therefore trying to apply some science to understanding how likely a safety car is, is rational and relatively straight forward.

      History and intuition tell us that safety cars at Monaco are a near certainty, in fact, approximately 70% certain! ;-)

      1. Andy says:

        Certainly, I am not disputing that. I just wanted to comment on using exact figures like 71% in a context like this where one can not in any sense talk with such accuracy. I’ve noticed that this is a “sickness” that is alarmingly widespread in general in our society, to put exact sounding figures on things to make them sound scientific and accurate, and it leads to people making decisions on false information. Formula 1 is entertainment and there’s no real harm in making such misguiding statements, but in other areas of life it may be different; hence I think it’s a community service to keep things honest and not make them sound scientific just for the sake of implying accuracy. There is no shame in saying “in roughly 2 races out of 3, there has been an SC on track in Monaco”.

  4. Stevie P says:

    It all hinged on Red Bull putting on the wrong tyres at Sebs first (and only) stop! Well, I’m sure I heard someone somewhere (from RBR after the race) say they’d planned to go with super-softs again.

    Anyhow, even more bemusing is that Macca and Button, who in almost every race so far have tried to do less stops than their rivals, tried to do more stops on the one track where “track position” is king, where more accidents occur and thus more safety cars are likely to appear. Utterly un-McLaren like!?!?

    1. TheBestPoint? says:

      Jensen was given a more aggressive strategy Redbull reacted to this and it got them the win but there was scope for Jensen to tcountereact and wrest back away from them.

      It is interesting to see lots of fans (comments made in other reports)feeling sorry for him missing the opportunity to win due to the RedFlag etc persoally I think the main reason he looked less dissapointed than say Monza last year was because he probably knows he could have tried a bit harder.

      Given his faster race car and newer tyres why did he not attempt an overtake on Alonso in order to go after Vettel himself?

      Would have liked to see him try and get the victory not wait for it to come to him.

      1. Stevie P says:

        I can’t answer that (why did he not attempt an overtake on Alonso in order to go after Vettel himself?) as I’m not Jenson.

        But my feeling is that Jenson knows that you can’t overtake at Monaco unless the guy in front makes a mistake and\or their tyres fall apart. Word from the pitwall to him, would have been along the lines of “Vettel’s tyres will fall apart soon”, so he was playing a waiting game whilst keeping his own tyres in as best a condition as he could keep them, hence why he was hanging back from Fernando once he’d caught them on track.

        We were denied seeing IF Sebs tyres capitulated.

        Whereas Lewis, whose first words to Lee McKenzie ironically were “you can’t overtake around here”, tried to prove that you can overtake at Monaco but 1, the other chap has to see it (the banzai move) and get out of the way (as he did with Schumi) or 2, you barge your way past and risk damaging your own machinery (and that of your competitors).

    1. Smiley says:

      The stewards really have it in for you!

    2. RobH says:

      If there’s one thing that gets my goat more than anything else it’s the “1st” comment.
      Grrrrr.

  5. P King says:

    James, you said “Red Bull were caught out by Jenson Button making an early pit stop on lap 15 and taking the lead when Vettel stopped a lap later and lost three seconds with a slow tyre change. But they had been clever in taking the soft tyre at this point.”

    I thought Red Bull’s Christian Horner said after the race that the wrong tyres were put on Vettel’s car. They had intended to go for the option Supersofts but due to a communication problem, the pit crew put on the prime Softs.

    So it seems Vettel was gifted another piece of “luck” in that mistake by the pit crew.

    1. Dale says:

      Vettel’s luck will change, it’s a long season :)

      1. irish con says:

        the key is that vettel is making the most out of his luck when he gets it and to be fair he didnt have much luck last year and still won. bad sign for this years championship.

      2. Dale says:

        In my view Vette’s good, he’s the 3rd best current driver in F1. I want to see him tested against Alonso & Hamilton where he’s behind and let’s see how good he is given their tyres are all simular – I’d suggest there’s not way he’d pass either of them.

        Luck is just that luck and it’s swings and roundabouts though his win in Monaco was asw lucky as can be – all this he drove the best race etc etc is …………………….

        Good he most certainly is the best he ain’t

      3. Dave C says:

        3rd best driver? I think you’ll find Vettel is the BEST driver.

      4. devilsadvocate says:

        Jenso won 7 of 8 of the opening races in 2009 and wrapped up the championship with a mediocre run in the closin rounds with a DNF and only one more appearance on the podium before it was decided, albeit je did finish in points all of those races and Vettel (his only real threat) had 3 DNFs in as much time, but that old points system didn’t reward wins like this new one does, I say Vettel needs at least 2 or 3 more wins to make this rock solid and then try and get some points to solidify it. Bear in min that we haven’t even gotten to the “Vettel” tracks on the calendar yet this year.

      5. Dave C says:

        I can think of Suzuka as a ‘vettel’ track but what are the others?

      6. devilsadvocate says:

        Korea, Abu dahbi, Hungary

      7. Miha says:

        Vettel had all the bad luck last year…

    2. El Shish says:

      http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/91866

      Seems to back that up…
      “In the end, a set of primes went onto Seb’s car and that wasn’t the plan. We were going to stick a set of options on to cover Jenson but in the end, we said, ‘okay, this isn’t a disaster we need to engineer our way out of it.’ And after a bit of number crunching we managed to get our way out of it.”

      Horner said that Red Bull Racing initially reckoned it would need to make another stop to have tyres that were in good condition until the end of the race – but it was Vettel who had different ideas.

      James, have you heard differently?

      1. wolf says:

        After reading and re-reading the comments I can’t shake the feeling that Seb wasn’t meant to pit that lap and took Webber’s tyres. The lone pitcrew member standing dazed on the front tyre certainly seemed surprised to see him pit.
        James are the tyres marked for each driver in some way to prevent the switcheroo from happening?

      2. James Allen says:

        That can’t happen. It’s illegal

      3. Patrick says:

        would be interested to see some vision of Vettels stop to see if it did happen and nobody noticed it? (albeit illegally) Much stranger things have happened within F1 teams!

        Anyway you can check this James????

  6. P King says:

    Here is the interview which confirms my comment that “Red Bull’s Christian Horner said after the race that the wrong tyres were put on Vettel’s car.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/formula_one/13588812.stm

  7. Ron Colverson says:

    My understanding from Autosport is that Red Bull put the wrong tyres on at Vettel’s first stop. They had intended to put super-softs on. As it turned out that was absolutely the right thing to do but they weren’t being clever, they were just incredibly lucky. Vettel on the other hand was amazing in the way he made the mistake work for him.

    Had the race not been stopped, in my view any of the leading three could have won. It’s such a shame that we were deprived of those last few laps.

  8. Freddy says:

    Hi James,

    great insight as always, thank you!

    Did you also notice that many pit stops took incredibly long at Monaco GP? Not only Vettel, but it appeared on TV that the usual 3-4s were from another decade with many teams rather reaching the 7-10s area. Do they need to work with less man power in the narrow Monte Carlo pit lane?

    Thanks

    1. iceman says:

      Pit stop procedures are the same I think, but there were a lot of mistakes and mix-ups. Teams not ready for the driver and so on. I wonder if driver radio transmissions are more problematic around Monaco.

      1. Ajay says:

        Radio contact with the car is problematic in all street circuits because of all the buildings. The team loses all contact with the car when it’s moving through the tunnel in Monaco.

  9. Martin says:

    I still can’t believe McLaren didn’t put the prime tyres on for Jenson’s second stop. Regardless of what happened, by not doing so, they must have realised that it meant Jenson needing to overtake Vettel on track to win? I was shouting at the screen loudly when I saw what they were doing, because I just couldn’t fathom the logic!

    1. Adrian Jordan says:

      I think McLaren genuinely expected Vettel to have to stop again.

      1. Martin says:

        Right, but that still doesn’t explain it. When Button pitted he had almost 14s over Vettel meaning that with a stint on the option tyres he could not pull a pitstop gap, thus even without the safety car he was giving up track position and strategy to Vettel. He would quite quickly cruise up behind Vettel after his stop, but would then be stuck behind him. On strategy, Vettel could then keep Button behind him until the new life of his options was running out and then undercut with a pitstop if he needed to. It was already apparent that the primes were lasting so it was surely a no-brainer that Button could end the race on a set of primes from his second stop. If Vettel had to stop again, Race won, if not, then wait for the expected cliff drop (assuming no safety car). I don’t get how a third set of options was going to win him the race…..

      2. Adrian Jordan says:

        I though that perhaps the plan from McLaren was to let Button cruise up to the back of Vettel again using his faster Supersofts and then switch Button to a brand new set of the Softs while Vettel was still on his worn set and set some faster lap times to undercut Vettel when he came in again so that even if RBR put the Supersofts back on Button would have managed to gain track position.

        I think it was a gamble and maybe not the right one, but it would have been fascinating to see how it played out it we hadn’t had the Safety Car and Red Flag interupt things.

  10. terryshep says:

    Forgive the correction if I’m wrong, James, but my understanding, from what Christian Horner has said, is that RB weren’t clever by taking the soft at Vettel’s stop, it was due to a radio malfunction which saw the crew fit softs when the plan had been to fit another set of SuperSofts.

    Fernando would almost certainly have won the race had that happened.

    1. U know WHO! says:

      How is that any better than the randomness of the safety car stealing a wind from Button?

  11. bouke says:

    James, did you catch that Red Bull actually wanted to pit Vettel with the super soft tyres, but instead got the softs (the choice of tyres they had wanted for Webber who was also about to come in) – that’s the reason that first pitstop took them so long. Horner told that to Brundle during the BBC red button after the race (while at the Red Bull after party, as DC and EJ were being watered).

    So that bit wasn’t particularly clever, but great luck, although it needed the safety car and red flag to show just how well it would work out – it seems this season is really going to Vettel all the way!

  12. Donna Arnold says:

    Hi James,

    As usual a great peice. I have a question for you I apologise if you have already answered it somewhere. I have noticed over the last few races that the KERS graphic on both Red Bull drivers cars only ever depletes to approximately the 50 % mark suggesting that they only ever use 50 % of KERS on any given lap. Is this linked to the problems they have with KERS or does their KERS only have 50 % power available compared with other teams – maybe due to smaller batteries?

    1. Paul H says:

      Don’t know how accurate the information is but I either heard it during a recent race coverage or read on a site somewhere, people discussing that it is due to heat issues. Not sure if this relates to charging or discharging the battery but or how half charge would help but that’s what i’ve heard.

  13. David says:

    Hi James, It may have been covered elsewhere but it was a terrific race. However I take exception to the rules that allow a car to be “serviced” during red flag conditions. Were it not for the red flag it is probable Lewis’s rear wing would have been deemed “unsafe” by Charlie and he would have been out of the race. It was evident (on the Tv coverage in Australia) when his race engineers tested it’s integrity on the grid during the red flag stoppage it was dangerously loose and some quick repairs completed within a rizla of the time allowed him to continue in the race. Similarly for Seb, his tyres were shot, he was under pressure and who knows whether Fernando et al would have got him. But on the grid, a fresh set of boots and away! Untouchable. I consider the rule to be wrong and in this instance I think generated an artificial result. Your thoughts?

    Cheers

    David

    1. Paul H says:

      I think the big question is why is the rule the way it is? Many of the drivers and team members seemed surprised so they obviously thought they couldn’t change the tyres. To my mind it should be only brake coolers, engine restart equipment (all the stuff to keep the engine fluids warm included)and tyre warmers allowed. No wing changes, no tyre changes, no KERS recharging, no repairs. So, why is the rule this way? If stopped due to bad weather then Race Control can instruct all teams to change to wet tyres. Any other repairs etc can happen in the pit with cars pitting either on way to form up on the grid or after the restart – using pits while team personnel are running up and down the pit lane with equipment to the cars on the grid is a non-starter.

    2. Martin says:

      +1 Agree

    3. Born 1950 says:

      You’re right. Apparently they’re allowed to change tyres because “usually it’s red flagged due heavy rain”. Of course on this occasion it was bright sunshine so they really should consider adding a clause to this rule to prevent what happened on Sunday.

      Vettel really was a very lucky guy in this race — not once, not twice but thrice. Let’s hope the ‘swings and roundabouts’ rule kicks in at some point this season.

    4. Jono says:

      At the end of the day the rules are about safety. I agree that Lewis Hamilton’s race should’ve been over- coasting around for the rest of the lap with some major bodywork hanging off the car is not sensible even at slow speeds, and he should’ve pulled over at the next escape road in my opinion.

      But with regards to the tyres, the fact is the race was stopped due to a massive accident and all the leading cars had driven through the debris. Who knows what damage may have been done to their tyres, and changing them (as well as a thorough check over the whole car for loose parts or debris) is the safest option. Pirelli may question the rule at this point, but I do not. We’ve seen enough drivers crash heavily into the barriers this weekend as it is.

      Congrats to Vettel, Alonso, and Button for giving the fans such a brilliant show. Luck plays a part in every sport and where the fans were unlucky to have been deprived of a fantastic final few laps, the sport as a whole is lucky that all the drivers involved in accidents this weekend have pretty much walked away unscathed.

  14. azac21 says:

    Shame for JB. He was 100% on the job on Sunday. Strange McLaren did not go for an 1 stop strategy considering JBs ability to run tyres longer than other drivers.

    1. Martin says:

      Surprised me too, I thought that would be the way to beat Vettel, and is what I expected after Vettel pulled away so quickly in the first few laps. However, I think the first stop worked well and was enough of a surprise to catch Red Bull napping. Trouble was that they didn’t alter the strategy for the way the race was panning out – that was their downfall, not the first time McLaren have been shown to be lacking in the strategy dept!

    2. Born 1950 says:

      From the comments above, looks like even Red Bull thought the magic finger was on a two-stopper until they found he could stay out because they’d accidentally put him on softs.

      1. azac21 says:

        Ted Kravits (the BBC pit lane reporter) says that he doubts RedBull put the softs on by accident. He said it looked well planned (from where he was standing at least)!

        He suggests the got Webber’s tyres wrong not Vettels…???

      2. TheBestPoint? says:

        i am inclined to believe Ted on this. Redbull are very clever with drip feeding the public a nice mixture of misinformation, non-information and coded information.

      3. James Allen says:

        It does seem very odd to make a mistake like that. Maybe they are trying to throw rivals off the scent of how they prep the tyres for a stop

      4. Born 1950 says:

        Surely it would look well planned if they only realised he was on the ‘wrong’ tyres after the stop was over. It seems it was not a case of ‘wrong’ and ‘right’ tyres last weekend — just ‘good’ and ‘very good’.

  15. Owen Li says:

    This article is what I have waited for the entire day!And it never let us down!
    Thank you James!

    1. J. Singh says:

      Agree…a very insightful analysis.

  16. Dale says:

    Vettel won this race for two reasons ad two reasons only: 1) Luck and 2) the stupid rules which allow tyres to be changed when the race is red flagged.

    Had it not been for these two events he would not have won Alonso or Button would have.

    1. Mel says:

      Unless you have a crystal ball, you can’t be sure he would not have won. We’ll never know if he would have been able to hold on or not, so it’s ridiculous when people say that he only won because of the red flag. I believe you’ve chosen to ignore the fact that he managed to make his softs last 56 laps while keeping Alonso and Button behind and still managing decent lap times?

  17. Billy says:

    Unfortunate the tyres were changed under the red flag. We could have seen the best showdown since Senna/Mansell.

    What’s your take on that James?

  18. Andrew Woodruff says:

    Hi James

    Nice analysis as always. However, with regard to the game-changing red flag period – do you know if the rule about being allowed to change tyres (and rear wings!) in such circumstances is now on anyone’s agenda for a review?

    I can’t remember a race where the current rule has ever really been of any real consequence, but it certainly was here. With the wear-rate on the Pirellis now such a key issue for the outcome of any race, surely this needs to be looked at?

  19. Mike Cooper says:

    I also read a quote from Christian Horner that they had intended to put a new set of options on Vettels car?

    Finger was jammier than a kid in a jam shop . .

  20. Ben G says:

    Some odd decisions from McLaren – at the circuit where we are most likely to have crashes, they assumed on both Saturday for Lewis and Sunday for Jenson that the running would be uninterrupted.

    1. Grabyrdy says:

      Agree. For a supposedly clever team with unlimited brain backup, they really made a pig’s ear of both qualy and the race. They even wanted to bring Lewis in after his accident, which would have cost him all the few points he had left. Is it a case of not seeing the wood for the trees ?

  21. . says:

    Luck schmuck, to follow that reasoning Button and Alonso also got lucky that RBR screwed up Vettels’s pitstop handing Button the lead which enabled him the chance for a victory and Alonso a sniff at it too.

    Vettel drove like a champ on old tyres. He even said in an RTL interview after the 1st pitstop he made the decision to go until the finish with those tyres (the team wanted another stop), so he started GOING SLOWER ON PURPOSE from then on.

    Let Alonso and Button catch up on him and just keep them there so he can manage the tyres to go the distance and calculating that in that pace they would get to the end.

    Now that is Prost like thinking.

    He would have won without the red flag too, Alonso could not come close to challenge and his tyres were off too. In fact without the red flag, the race would have ended behind the safety car because they could not get everything ready for at least 17 minutes for the race to restart.

    Fact is the last 2 races McLaren had the faster car in race pace (and the Ferrari was also faster in Monaco) through circumstances and both the races were won by Vettel.

    No luck, but skill, intelligence and determination.

    If Button had won it exactly that way, everyone would be praising him how he managed the tyres and he was a master in thinking ahead in special circumstances. Now it is Vettel doing that amazing job and it’s “just luck”.

    Whatever, this anti-Vettel stance from the F1 “fans” is boring now.

    1. Adrian Jordan says:

      “Whatever, this anti-Vettel stance from the F1 “fans” is boring now.”

      I have a feeling that it is the same feeling that some fans had when Schumacher was dominating back in the early 2000′s. Some fans don’t like to see 1 driver winning everything, something I can understand.

      1. kashif says:

        But surely, domination is no excuse for bias against the driver’s capabilties … these r two different issues. The domination Vs boring arguments is always tricky … and this red bull era is different from the ferrari years … then the race was over after the first pit stop when schumi would pull a 20 sec lead by the first stop and come out in front after pitting ..
        The Red Bull performance, in my opinion is more like the Man U , Barcelona , Federer, Nadal, Rossi phenomena… they dominate but there is always a mclaren or ferarri waiting to pounce on a slightly off day … just like there is a chelsea, arsenal, real madrid, casey stoner or djkovic , murray. Here the domination is not complete, it forces others to pick up their game and the overall quality is raised… and it is exciting.

      2. Andrew Woodruff says:

        Nice analogy. +1

    2. **Paul** says:

      Whilst I don’t think Ferrari had a faster race car in Monaco (or Spain) I do agree with the rest of what you’ve said.

      This was a real champions drive by Vettel, and as I’ve said a few times it reminded me of Senna/Mansell & Schumi/Alonso(x2).

      It’s easy to say it was all luck, but to put in that level of drive at Monaco took huge skill.

    3. 69bhp says:

      totally agree.

      And on a separate note, would also add that i dont think Button would have been a deserving winner.

      He may have been arguably the fastest man on the day but he demonstrated a disappointing refusal to overtake. When he closed up on Vettel after the 1st safety car period and his team told him he had to overtake to win, did he try to overtake? No, he copped out and came in for another stop even though his supersofts were still doing fine. And instead of challenging for (and perhaps taking) the lead, that dropped him to 3rd behind Alonso.

      And after his 3rd stop when he caught up with Alonso, he never once tried to get by. Just waited hoping that Alonso would take Vettel off.

      1. TheBestPoint? says:

        yep with you on that one too

    4. adam says:

      As the race progressed I felt there was an increasing probability of Vettel picking up a puncture.
      Hamilton alone showered the track with carbon fibre shards in four different places !
      Vettel’s strategy was therefore a high risk one that paid off. He was lucky.

  22. d.h. says:

    The biggest factor in this race graph as opposed to previous ones is that the tyres didn’t fall off the cliff. This also meant the ‘undercut’ wasn’t as effective as what it had been in other races. All in all vettel lucked out big time, every thing fell into his Lap, I’m sure if there wasnt the safety car button would have won.

    James, regarding the exit to the tunnel and the chicane where the two accidents were (rosberg and perez),were any suggestions to modifying the area, to reduce the likelihood of it happening again?
    Perhaps moving the wall that the barriers were protecting further back or moving the barriers do the are at an angle.

  23. sumedh says:

    I don’t buy the perspective that the safety car disadvantaged Button. Infact, I think it helped him. Had the safety car come just before his 2nd pit-stop then it would have been a disadvantage as it would have wiped off his 13-second advantage. But it came after his pitstop which means that the 8-10 second deficit he had to Vettel reduced to 2-3 backmarkers.
    Thanks to the safety car, from lap 39 to his 3rd pit-stop on lap 48, Button was on Vettel’s tail with tyres that were both fresher and softer than Vettel’s.
    And safety cars just after your pitstop always help you not disadvantage you. I am sure people haven’t forgotten Singapore 2008?

    1. nando says:

      Alonso got a free stop during the safety car period.

    2. kashif says:

      totally agree with you there .. i am also confused by statements that the safety car ruined button’s race.. how? unless vettel went on a one stopper because of the safety car …am i missing somethin here ?
      maybe button was jumped by alonso because of the safety car … so button went from 2 to 3. But if vettel was alway locked in to one-stopper after his first stop then the safety car did not matter
      James … any thoughts ?

  24. Andy C says:

    I thought McLaren were simply unlucky in the pitstop with JB. Had the SC not happened, and vettel not lucked into a set of tyres (the wrong ones as it emerges) ;-) I was convinced he was going to win it.

    Vettels tyres had to be a couple of laps away from the cliff when (according to BBC) the SC came out.

    I felt absolutely short changed/let down from the weekend. I had two preduictions, Maldonado in the points and JB for the win. And I nearly had both darn it! :-)

    What a compelling race it was though, especially the last laps before the SC with Fernando and Jenson putting the hammer down. It was a genuinely exciting race.

    Well done Pirelli, you’ve changed F1 for the better. Forget DRS, all of the credit should be going to Pirelli in my view.

    1. Jo Torrent says:

      The big mistake with JB was to give him twice super-soft. If the team had gone for SS-SS-S instead of SS-SS-SS he would at least have overtaken Alonso during safety car and from then he would have had the chance to capitalize on Vettel old tyres.

      RBR & Vettel were really lucky today with their mistake becoming an advantage thanks to race incidents, but McLaren got it completely wrong strategy wise both with Hamilton & Button.

      1. Andy C says:

        I dont think McLaren made a mistake. Monaco is a bit of a roulette with the Safety Car.

        Jenson would have had a great chance (as would Fernando) of winning that race on relatively fresh tyres.

        You could see that Vettel was sliding all over even before the safety, so he’d have been toast out of the slower corners.

        The tyre change robbed the public of what was lining up to be the most exciting finish at Monaco since 92.

        Pirelli have come out saying they’d prefer tyre changes not to be allowed after red flag (other than rain etc). I have to say I agree with them.

      2. Jo Torrent says:

        can’t agree more about that red flag. The fault of Sutil as usual.

  25. CartRider says:

    The way this race developed was like a very intriguing dream that was intervened with a wake-up call at the most interesting moment. It is so annoying not to know how it would have ended! So I just hope that the dream will repeat itself after the rules are changed but the hope is rather faint.

  26. irish con says:

    i think that people are missing the point that vettel had a crap pitstop and thats the only reason that jenson jumped him. so that was bad luck. how much different would the race have been then. of course he had luck at the end of the race tho. race is so different when you watch it back on the iplayer the next day. have different opinions on things but still think lewis was in the wrong both times.

    1. Andy C says:

      And it was also the reason they put the wrong tyres on.

  27. Luke A says:

    Hi James,

    I think the only and best way for Button to have won would have been for McLaren to keep Button out on his second stint when he was on super-softs and Vettel on softs. If they could have built a 20second gap (I think it was 15 seconds before he pitted), then they’d have been able to pit, put on the prime and stay infront.

    1. Dale says:

      Traffic!

    2. MikeW says:

      I think they’d got as much lead as they were ever going to get on those tyres – the gap had peaked and plateaued for a few laps before they did pit.

      If the safety car hadn’t happened, Button would have been back up to Alonso & Vettel within 2-3 laps, and then had to pass them.

      If he’d managed that quickly, he could have probably built a gap big enough for the last pit stop. If he didn’t manage it quickly, he’d have ended up in the same position at lap 68 anyway.

      I think his chance of winning easily was really blown when he couldn’t get the 20+ second gap on the 2nd tyres.

  28. Fk says:

    Really wanted to see what the cliff is really like that everybody has been talking about since pre season testing. the drivers know it the engineers know it BUT US AUDIENCE DONT, we were only told. seriously, it cudve been one of the best final phases of a race in recent years, AND IN MONACO, regardless of the positions being changed or not at the end. i personally think the number or the type of touchups on the car during a red flag should be flexibly down to stewards discretions (as if we havent seen much of stewards discretion before with regards to driver punishments) as opposed to a rigid and over-generalised one that is meant to apply mostly for a heavy rain wet flag.

  29. F12010 to kill time until March says:

    I hope they change the rules, as beeing able to change tyres(and rear wings) is neither fare from a competing point of wiew or in regards to the entertainment side of it.

    As far as strategy goes, I dont understand why there was not more atempts at going supersoft-soft(one stop) with an extra stop for supersoft if the softs didnt last or during a likely safety car deployment.

    Other things that is getting quite clear after 6 races is that the level between the top drivers has increased massivly. It is making Massa look bad, and I cant see him driving for Ferrari next year. As for Webber, he seems more and more distent from the RBR team-cant see him in that car next year either.

    As for the championship Vettels run will not last forever, and I can see both the Mclarens and even Alonso closing that gap during the next races. Way to early to call of the fight.

    1. KinoNoNo says:

      I reckon Webber burned his bridges with the team last year,and kind of going through the motions this year.

      Wouldn’t be surprised if he calls it a day at the end of the year.

      Funny enough I think Massa is likely to see out his contract at Ferrari.The team will probably look for someone for 2013.

  30. 69bhp says:

    why were McLaren’s engineers able to confidently predict, with such certainty and accuracy, that Vettel’s tyres would have gone off the cliff in the last 5 laps, when they never expected that the tyres could have lasted as long as Vettel made them last in the first place? Sounds like wishful thinking on their part. Yes, Vettel would have had a huge task on his hands to hang on over the last few laps but he had been hanging on very well indeed for the last 20 laps or so already. And Alonso’s tyres werent getting any fresher either, as his increasingly poor traction out of Rascasse demonstrated.

  31. MikeW says:

    When talking about the passing opportunities at the end – after the red flag – everyone mentions the 6 laps.

    However, Vettel really had to expect to make his tyres last *9* laps – as his reprieve really started when the safety car came out, and reduced the loads on the tyres.

    I also suspect that one of the reasons his tyres lasted as long in the first place was because of the 4-lap safety car stint in the middle of the race too. How much would that have extended their life?

  32. B Long says:

    I am thrilled that Vettel won this race. I have been a fan of his for two seasons now and it has been wonderful watching him mature, learn, and adapt so quickly. Watching him handle pressure from Alonso and the MacLarens is really cool and, of course, he has an amazing crew.

    I was sad to see the two mid-pack guys I like – Perez and Petrov – crash out, but, hey, that’s Monaco. I happened to be in Monaco on race day in 2005 and I became instantly hooked; a die-hard fan ever since.

  33. MikeW says:

    I’ve just been looking at the graph, and some interesting things stand out.

    In particular, the way that after both safety cars, the battle has broken into a number of discrete groups. And those groups distinctly separated by a lap’s time.

    I think this shows the impact of a slower, lower-order car keeping tyres for a long time, and holding up faster cars who had pitted. The safety car rules then amplified the groups into distinct battles a lap apart.

    The incident on lap 68 happened when the 1st group arrived to lap the 2nd group. I’m wondering if the accident was going to happen at that time anyway, even without being lapped, or if some of that 2nd group were using the occasion (of being lapped) to take advantage, and force their own overtakes too.

    In particular, I can’t help but wonder if Hamilton’s overtake on Petrov, and the almost-overtake on Sutil, just before being lapped, helped force the accident as a whole. If so, then he had a double-dip at ruining Jenson’s chances!

    1. TheBestPoint? says:

      yep throw in the ash cloud from iceland, in fact throw last year’s ash cloud which caused more problems. i think i can also link him to the current FiFA crises, the former IMF chief pending case. oh i know for a fact that current drought and expectant food price rise is all down to him too. so also the price of fuel…. jeez lueez.
      i’m a Mclaren fan therefore support both drivers but in this case-as i mentioned above- Jensen did everything perfectly up until his last pit. He should then have driven a more aggressive race and gone after Alonso for 2nd allowing him to fight Vettel for the win even after the redflag but why don’t we blame someone else for this failure?

      he was actually caught napping immediately after the redflag start that was definately Hamilton’s fault.

  34. nando says:

    Any information on how close Vettel’s tyres were to ‘the cliff’?

    1. James Allen says:

      Only running on them would tell that

  35. Komieko says:

    Tyre strategy should have been implemented on Thursday when Vettel did 20 odd laps on the super soft tyre. Mclaren/Ferrari are giving away free points to the opposition. Obvioulsy the tyres where going to last longer. No need to panic, but Macca cannot afford to make these mistakes again. The entire weekend was a waste.

  36. D. says:

    Vettel’s luck was off the charts in Monaco, throughout the weekend. It was not only the SC that ruined Button’s chances for victory. It was not only the red flag that ruined Alonso’s chances for victory (because Vettel was allowed to use fresh tires for the last 5 laps). It was not only McLaren’s “screw-up” in Q that ruined Lewis’s chances for pole and most probably race win. It was also the fact that tires that were supposed to last 35 laps at most, actually lasted 56 (!), clearly venturing into untested territoty. The series of events that played into Vettel’s favor in Monaco is simply unbelievable.
    The RBR is no longer the fastest car in race trim, and perhaps not even in Q, on certain types of tracks. I will be floored if Vettel wins in Montreal or Valencia. The jury is still out on him, on whether he can win if he doesn’t start from pole. I am sensing an Alonso victory in either Montreal or Valencia, and two podiums for Lewis. Vettel’s luck has to change at some point.

    1. 69bhp says:

      the tyres lasting 56 laps was not luck, it was his ability to preserve them.

    2. Tommy K. says:

      Spot on!! Nice!

    3. DanielS says:

      “The jury is still out on him, on whether he can win if he doesn’t start from pole”. Please see Spanish Grand Prix 2011.

      1. Ryan Eckford says:

        I think what D. was meant to say is whether he can win when not starting on the front row of the grid. Jury is still out on that.

    4. sumedh says:

      Vettel’s tyres lasting that long is not luck. It is his driving talent.

      He has a history of taking good care of tyres. See Australia 2011, Monza 2010 and even Turkey 2011 where he only made a precautionary stop.

  37. ACB says:

    Thanks again for the race history graph, they’re excellent. I can see by this one why Red Bull were wondering if the Scuderia were eavesdropping on their r/t. Alonso’s race is virtually identical to Vettel’s, and Button isn’t too far off of those two. It is especially a good graph to compare to a high-speed circuit, in that most of the team’s races chart similarily though they have differing race pace reflecting a relatively slower and higher downforce circuit. Also, judging by this Kobayashi ran a very good race indeed.

  38. DK says:

    I see many complaints about tyre change under red flag, does anybody know if Alonso or Jensen voiced the the same since they were the biggest losers due to this?

    1. Baktru says:

      No point in complaining as the rules actually explicitly allow this.

  39. NJ says:

    “By race day many strategists felt that it was possible to do 40-45 laps on a set of soft tyres, but to do 53, as Vettel did and still maintain competitive lap times, was universally regarded as being very impressive.”

    No. This is EASY to do if you have EBD’s that provide 100% ideal grip levels in the rear. Vettel drove with “Air-Fed Traction Control” of course his tyres lasted 53 laps on this unabrasive surface.

    It’s not like Red Bull hadn’t already established a trend of trying to use their ideal rear traction to stretch tyre life. They tried the same stunt in China. Hamilton passed him in the end, but the rear of the RB7 hardly fell out of step. It stuck on the track like glue.

  40. ——————————————

    Off topic.

    James, Just like to say thank you for reccomending the Monaco GP as one to go and watch live. I had seats in the swimming pool section and I took my Dad and brother.

    We all had an amazing time. The speed they carry through that section is quite simply unbelievable!

    Highly reccomend anyone whos thinking of going to go. You will not be dissapointed. After the race we walked the track (again) and Eddie Jordan was playing the drums (well a wooden box and spoons) with a young singer. Fantastic!

    The weekend was an unforgettable experience and will be going again next year!

    Thanks again,
    Rich

    ——————————————

  41. F1Fan4Life says:

    James, I don’t recall if you’ve commented, but I wondered what your opinion was on tires being changed after a red flag? I think the commentary was that drivers were allowed to change tires for safety reasons. I think that rule sucks. Teams can put tire warmers on so the tires should be back up to temperature by the restart, and on top of that the safety car takes them a lap around…the only safety issue i can think of is if a tire picks up a puncture of some sort from debris, but that can happen anytime. Hope it gets changed. Thoughts?

    1. James Allen says:

      It was a great shame. Caught many experienced F1 people out. Fans are up on arms about it and I’m sure it will be looked at for the future.

  42. Bunt says:

    Looking at the lap speed chart for more than 10 seconds, notice how wobbly the lines are for the lesser drivers compared to the top drivers. The top drivers’ lines are quite linear after each tyre change as the fuel load drops, where-as the for the lesser drivers, fast laps are followed by slow. I guess it’s something we all know, but to see it graphically, wow. Karthikeyan has some work to do! Or is it just the result of being lapped and getting out of the way?

    1. iceman says:

      I’m sure being lapped is a big part of it. If you look at the Hispanias’ lines, they are quite smooth up to about lap 12, when the leaders were around 80 seconds ahead of them so they will have started to be lapped.

      1. Bunt says:

        Good observation – nice one.

  43. paul says:

    james i was very confused by the restart, has the proceedure changed cars used line up on the re start grid in race position order and time differences were adjusted at the end of the race. on sunday they restarted in safety car position.Also do all restarts now happen under a safety car and is there no cut off as to how late in the race we can have a re start. no one seems to have covered this aspect of the race cheers

  44. It was a great Monaco GP, spoiled by the red flag and restart. I think we may have been deprived of the greatest Monaco race in modern times, sadly.

    Had the race continued, my gut feeling is that Alonso would’ve taken Vettel and then Button would’ve got past him too, but with Alonso able to hold him off until the finish.

    Once again it was interesting to see the intra-team battles through the field. Button was on top form and although it’s hard to say for sure because of strategy and traffic, I think this was the first time he’s genuinely been ahead of Lewis on pace. Kobayashi’s pace was impressive throughout as was Sutil’s, who produced the performance he needed to after being shaded by his young teammate prior to Monaco. Petrov had another good race and was unlucky to go out the way he did. He’s always had good speed but he’s learning from his mistakes and shows signs of maturing into a very handy driver.

  45. ikkida says:

    Hi James,
    I am just thinking out loud here and hope you can shed some more light on this.. How come one can trust this sort of lame comment coming from a team principal who has always been disguising/hiding things from the world (Fake exhaust stickers, 10 bouncers standing behind the car to cover its rear end)? Can any modern F1 team do such a basic/silly error of fitting wrong tires on its lead driver?? Is it possible James?

    1. James Allen says:

      It is possible, but very strange. More likely a change of heart

      1. ACB says:

        That’s what I’d say, a last second change that caught the pit crew out is more likely than mistakenly putting on the wrong tyres. Though strange things do happen, that’s why we keep coming back for more.

  46. irish con says:

    james do u think lewis would of been on pole if not for the red flag. personally i dont think he would have because vettel in q3 found 7 tenths as they regulary do with whatever it is they do in q3.

  47. JS says:

    Did anyone hear the radio conversation between Vettel & his engineer when Button closing up on Alonso? It goes like “very good, we have Button close the gap”. Couldn’t recollect the remaining words. Is it a planned move to slow down Alonso so that he might get busy defending Button?

  48. Rich C says:

    When the Red Flag came out they may as well have all started packing, the race was done. With everyone on fresh tires nobody was going to pass anyone, Weber excepted.

    This is the only form of motor racing I am aware of that allows repairs, tire changes, and potty breaks during a red flag.

    Even NASCAR does not! They stop all cars on track at the S/F line and they may not be touched.

  49. nsx says:

    Dear James or anyone for that matter,
    Can you explain how Webber lost position to both Sutil and Kamui during the safety car? He was right behind them both and they both pitted, Webber stayed out, yet Webber ended up behind them both. I thought maybe the safety car picked up Webber, but as you’ve explained he would be allowed to overtake the safety car. I am still a bit baffled by this.

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