Playing with fine margins: A deep dive into race strategy from Nurburgring
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Photo: McLaren
Strategy Report
Posted By: James Allen  |  26 Jul 2011   |  9:05 am GMT  |  130 comments

The German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring featured three drivers in different cars closely matched on performance. As the winner Lewis Hamilton observed, it was all about being perfect and not making mistakes and this was as true of the strategists and the pit crews as it was of the drivers.

In the end it came down to some inspired driving and finely balanced strategy calls. But further down the field we saw some varying strategies making a difference to the race result, particularly in the case of Adrian Sutil, who finished sixth ahead of the Mercedes and Renaults.

The key consideration in deciding the strategy in Germany was the performance on the slower medium tyre. If you were getting a difference between the soft and medium tyre of around 1.5 seconds then two stops was the way to go. If the gap was larger then three stops would be the answer with a short final stint on the medium tyre.

Tyre life turned out to be better than expected in Friday practice, so for many teams two stops looked a good option. But then heavy rain on Saturday night cleaned the track and that might have pushed some people towards three stops in the race believing that the track was very green. In the Bridgestone days this would have led to tyre graining, but that didn’t happen with the Pirellis in Germany. Instead what happened was that the track had less grip so the lap times were slower and this took less life out of the tyres, but the green surface didn’t damage them.


The battle at the front

Bearing all of this in mind, even the three-stoppers at the front ran almost a two-stop race in terms of stint lengths. Webber for example, did 26 laps on his third set of soft tyres. They didn’t want to put on the prime tyre, so they stopped as late as possible. Two cars pushed it to the extreme – Vettel and Massa – they pitted for medium tyres on the penultimate lap!

Among the leading trio Webber, who lost the lead to Hamilton at the start, was able to undercut Hamilton at the first stop by pitting first on lap 14. Webber was 0.5s behind the leader Hamilton when he made the stop. A very fast turnaround by the Red Bull crew, plus two very aggressive out-laps by Webber got him into the lead. He pushed hard to open a gap but Hamilton was faster in sectors one and three and Webber knew then that it wasn’t going to be his day.

Having pushed his tyres too hard early on, Webber’s pace wasn’t good at the end of the second stint. He tried the undercut again, but it didn’t work out. Hamilton and Alonso, on option tyres that were two laps younger, were able to increase their pace when Webber pitted. Webber’s second stop was 0.8s slower than his first stop and the end result was that he was down to third.

As for Hamilton and Alonso, they came in together for the first stop but Hamilton pitted a lap earlier second time around. Alonso’s in lap was 0.7s faster than Hamilton’s and the pit stop was 0.4s faster. What was interesting was that Hamilton’s out lap on fresher tyres hadn’t been significantly faster than Alonso’s on worn tyres, which defies the principal of the early stopper having the advantage.

Alonso came out of the pits in front but the Ferrari’s weakness in not warming the tyres up straight away meant Hamilton was able to pass him in Turn 2. So the strategy had worked for Ferrari on paper, but not in reality.

Webber had managed the undercut at the first stop but stopping first didn’t work for either Webber or Hamilton at the second stop. This can partly be explained by the damage the extra duel weight does to the tyre in the first stint, which diminishes by the time of the second stop and by the durability of the Pirelli soft tyre.

As for the timing of the final stop to the slower medium tyre, that was all about looking for evidence and it came in the form of Vitaly Petrov and Kamui Kobayashi. Maldonado had gone to the medium early on lap 35 but his lap times were inconsistent. When Petrov went to mediums on lap 46 and started setting personal best sector times on his second lap on the tyres, and Kobayashi went faster than his team mate who was still on old soft tyres, it was clear to McLaren that the time had come to take the medium tyre.

Webber was out of the picture by now, 8 seconds behind second place Alonso. McLaren pitted Hamilton on lap 51, but Ferrari did not react, leaving Alonso out there for two more laps, Ferrari was more concerned about its pace on the harder tyre. Hamilton’s pace was good straight away on the medium and the race was in the bag. Webber tried to stay out longer and jump them but he was coming from too far back and he couldn’t get close.


Sutil vs Rosberg

One of the highlights of the race was the performance of Force India with Adrian Sutil. He put together a perfect weekend and the strategy team got it just right. The result was he finished in sixth place, ahead of both Mercedes. He qualified 8th, two places and 0.8sec behind Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes. To beat him from there is quite an achievement.

Sutil vs Rosberg was a good example of two stops working out better than three. Force India were one of the teams for whom the simulator said that two stops was as fast as three and with one less stop to make there was less risk of losing time in traffic or with a poor stop.

Sutil stopped on laps 22 and 48, Rosberg on laps 14, 36 and 53. Their lap times were pretty similar in the first stint, but thereafter Sutil had the measure of him. The Mercedes is heavier on its tyres and Sutil closed the gap to Rosberg from four seconds down to nothing by the time Rosberg made his first of three stops. The Mercedes is a faster car, as was proven in qualifying, but their hands were tied by the heavy tyre use and Force India were able to beat them with 10 seconds to spare at the end.

Sutil was very impressive all weekend and he managed to find good consistency from the medium tyre. He was straight onto the pace after he went to mediums and set his fastest lap of the race when they were nine laps old. Many teams found it hard to get temperature into the medium tyre in the cool temperatures.


Getting the fuel load right
The possibility of rain on race day had quite an influence on fuel strategy in this race. A lot of people under-fuelled their cars in the belief that it would rain and that forced a lot of people to save fuel late in the race. That’s why Alonso eventually finished four seconds behind Hamilton, before then running out of fuel on the slow-down lap.

After making that mistake and under-fuelling Hamilton at Silverstone, McLaren didn’t make the same mistake twice!

(The UBS Strategy Report is produced with input and data from the strategists of several F1 teams.)

Race History Graph
Below is a graph showing the race history. It shows each car and the time delta between them and the race leader. So the laptime is encapsulated in it, but it also shows progress at different stages during the race because a cars slope will change if it goes faster or slower. You can also see when someone is clearly being held up in traffic.

The zero line is simply the race winners’ average lap time (total race time divided by the number of race laps). This is why his curve can go above the line if he’s lapping faster than his average, and below the line if he’s slower than his average or doing a pitstop.

LAP TIMES GRAPH

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130 Comments
  1. wayne says:

    Hasn’t it been the case quite a lot this season that, by the time the cars switch to the ‘harder’ tyre, the track has evolved sufficiently that there is nothing tlike the expected drop-off in pace? If so why don’t the teams recognise and use this?

    1. wayne says:

      Oh and thanks for a great explanation as to why the undercut did not work later in the race. You are the only journalist who has even attempted to explain this fascinating concept. Other have just been ‘mystified’!

      1. Leo says:

        Agree James I wait for your reports each week as you explain things really well, congratulations on a great column.

        Martin and David are also good commentators, so between the three of you a great job!!

    2. Xman says:

      The current pirelli tyres do not leave the same rubber characteristic on the track like the bridgstone did. Track evolution is a fraction of what it was last year…

      1. Wayne says:

        Not necessarily truse. The hard tyres were 1.5 to 2 seconds slower in fp and qualy. Come the end of the race the difference was negligible.

      2. Jack says:

        yeah but that was largely due to the degradation of the softs after 26 laps

      3. Xman says:

        Wayne the difference is performance from one tyre to the other is almost constant when the degredation is also similar.

      4. wayne says:

        Took a while Xman but I got there in the end, thanks! Bit slow on the uptake this time round :)

    3. hawkfist says:

      A lot of the time the commentators seem to talk about a 1s difference between the compounds when the teams are pitting, but what they always seem to forget is that’s the difference between a brand-new tyre of each compound. A brand new hard tyre is generally not going to have such a big dropoff against an end-of-its-life option, so a lap-time decrease isn’t always a great surprise.

      Obviously it’s still going to be 1 second slower than a brand new set of options would be, but fresh rubber is still fresh rubber.

      1. wayne says:

        Of course, ta!

    4. Fareed says:

      I was wondering the same thing. How could Petrov run his fastest lap on the medium “slower” tire. Is it track evolution/rubbering in? Is it the lower fuel load? Less trafic? Very interested to hear your answer James.

      1. Baktru says:

        If you look at the Hungaroring report:

        10kg of fuel adds .35 seconds.
        They use about 2.15kg per lap.
        So every lap driven will make the car about .35/10*2.15 is .075 seconds faster.

        There are 70 laps, so all other things being equal the last lap will be .075 * 69 = 5.19 seconds faster than the first one. More than enough to offset the difference in tire types.

  2. KK says:

    Awesome James! I agree with everything I have read except one thing. I thought it was a mistake by Redbull to leave Mark out with worn out option tyres towards the end of the 3rd stint as it was clear in the live timing screens that, sector by sector, lap by lap both Hamilton and Alonso were lapping faster than him on new harder compounds. So, after seeing Lewis making good inroads with hard tyre, Redbull should have simply copied his strategy and given Mark a chance to fight Alonso as they are better at heating up their tyres than the Ferraris are. So, what I’m trying to say is, Webber’s gap to Alonso was pushed to 8 secs because of his doing 5 more laps on soft tyres which were slower than the medium ones and not because Mark simply went out of the picture.

    1. Aaron Parsons says:

      In the commentary Brundle reckoned that they had nothing to lose by leaving Mark out longer. Who knows? I think it was an error also as putting Mark out as close to the Ferrari as possible would have been better for them.

      1. James Allen says:

        If you look at race history he was 8 secs behind, then closing on Alonso, to 4 secs, but through the final stop he went back to 9 secs behind

      2. Ben says:

        I thought they left him out in case it rained, he could have been in for wets while the others took their chances with slicks or had to pit again – giving him the lead. He had nothing to lose behind him and wasn’t going to get Alonso or Lewis so I thought it was a good gamble.

      3. Justin Lewis says:

        What’s with Webber’s terrible starts? Is his car different from Vettel’s do you think?

      4. Jo Torrent says:

        exactly he had absolutely nothing to lose, he had nothing to lose.

  3. Adelaide says:

    I just love that photo of Alonso & Webber. One of my earliest memories of F1 was a similar situation, only it was Senna & Mansell.

    The race strategy piece is great and insightful, as always.

    1. pargo says:

      Yeah, great shot of Alonso & Webber.

  4. Aaron Parsons says:

    Can someone please explain how the zero line can be the average lap time if no one ever goes above it? I’ve read an explanation of it before but it still made no sense. Am I on my own? I understand the rest of the graph, how it shows when people box, overtake, blow up etc and where they are in relation to each other, but the zero line?
    Thankfully the second graph makes total sense.

    1. Tony says:

      It’s because of the pit stops. That time is included in the avarage. If the winner never stopped his times would be around the zero mark

      1. Aaron Parsons says:

        I’m an idiot. i still don’t get it.

      2. Paul C says:

        I’m with you Aaron. If the zero line represents the winner’s average then to achieve this his area beneath the line must equal the area above. Sorry Tony, I don’t understand how the pit stops effect this. One can see the pit stops on the graph as the sudden severe drop-offs but they must be taken into account if the zero line represents the winner’s total race time divided by the number of laps.

      3. AB says:

        If the graph was to go above the line it would mean that the leader was lapping faster at that point in the race. Imagine the winner is lapping at 90 second laps and is leading by 50 seconds with 3 laps to go. A problem develops and he slows by 15 seconds a lap for the remaining 3 laps. He would still win by 5 seconds but would have done it at a slower time that if the problem hadn’t developed. If the problem hadn’t developed his average lap time (the zero line) would have been for 90 seconds. Because his last 3 laps were 105 second laps, his average lap time would have risen so you would see the leader above the zero line until the last three laps when his line would then come down to meet the zero line

    2. steakbearnaise says:

      I also find these graphs very complicated and the explanations make no sense. It’s not average lap time, but I’m not clear what it is. Or why the race winner’s first and last laps go to zero (the two laps must be vastly different times), or why the cars are getting slower in the first phase of the race, and then speeding up. Makes no sense at all. But it does clearly show the gap in seconds to the leader, at least.

    3. Daryl says:

      I agree with you Aaron. The average lap time line should be around the -10 line. I like the graph that has the leader as the zero line.

      1. Craig D says:

        No it shouldn’t! Remember the zero line is calculated what the average laptime would be when also including the pitstops of the race winner. Don’t view the other drivers’ data as a plot of their laptimes, like in the graph below.

      2. Chris Mellish says:

        The point behind the first graph is that by taking an average lap time from the leaders overall race time (so that the leader always starts and finishes on the 0 mark), you can see relative performance without fluctuations in the leaders pace distorting the entire graph.

        So if it were a ten lap race that took ten minutes for the winner to complete, then the zero line represents taking exactly one minute for each of those laps.

        In F1 because of the fuel loads at the start of the race, you see the whole field slip away from that average lap time to begin with (some more so than others), but then they all start clawing their way back towards the average lap time.

        Pit stops show clearly as falling away from that zero line, and relative pace between each of the cars can be seen by the slope of the lines. You can also see any big mistakes the drivers make, such as the big drop in Vettels time from his spin, visualised as the opening gap from him to the leaders.

    4. Craig D says:

      Because the curves of the other drivers are not plots of their actual laptime but the time gap they are to the zero line.

      The zero line should be viewed as like a ghost car completing the entire race lapping consistently at the average laptime of the race and making no pitstops.

      The only time a driver’s race plot may go above the zero line is if the race was to be severely delayed part-way through, such as by a lengthy safety car period or the onset of heavy rain, for example, since the drivers’ pace would dramatically reduce compared to the beginning of the race. Hopefully that makes sense, even if it requires a little thought to envisage it!

    5. Quercus says:

      Tony is right — it’s because of the pit stops. The earlier in the race, the greater percentage the loss of time each pitsop represents.

      The other reason for the shape of the curve is that the lap times are falling throughout the race as fuel is used, so the curve all tends to be under the 0 line for the vast majority of the race.

      Theoretically if the winner pulled out a big lead (like MSC did sometimes in his Ferrari days)and then slowed down considerably for his last few laps we’d see his curve go over the ’0′ line towards the end (just before he slows) — but, of course, no-one else’s.

      Hope that makes sense.

    6. Darren says:

      Aaron, no you are not the only one. I had a lot of difficulty understanding them myself for a while. Basically the Zero line is the winners average lap time for the whole race (i.e. the time Hamilton took for the race divided by the total number of laps).

      Lets say for example that this average time was 1:30, I have no idea what it actually was but lets got with that. Think of the zero line as a theoretical car driving 1:30 for the whole race. Up until the first stop the leaders lines have a negative slope, higher at the left and lower at the right. This means that they are loosing time to the theoretical car doing 1:30. This of course is due to the high fuel and slow lap times. Yes the lap times got quicker throughout the first stint but they were still slower than 1:30 and therefor will always loose time to it. you follow?

      After the first stop we can see the leading trios lines start to slope the other way (up at the right and down at the left) this means that they will have dropped below the 1:30 and are thus starting to catch our theoretical car doing 1:30s.

      After the second stop the lines stay the same but if you look closely are steeper, this of course is because that as the leaders progress and burn fuel they are getting faster and faster and thus catching the 1:30 car more rapidly.

      At the end of the race Lewis Hamilton touches the 1:30 line, this is because as I said at the start 1:30 was his average pace. So basically if 2 Lewis Hamiltons set out at the start of the race, one in a monster car that doesn’t need new tires or fuel and can do 1:30 consistently it would have finished neck and neck with the actual Hamilton for the race.

      I hope this somewhat long winded explanation helps. It is a confusing graph but after you can read it is a very useful piece of data for analyzing the race

      1. Aaron Parsons says:

        So the graph shows where a driver would be on track relative to the average lap time. i.e on lap 32 Hamilton would have been 45 seconds behind the monster car that would consistently do 1m30s per lap. Then he catches up as his fuel load diminishes and the track evolves until they cross the line at the same time. If that’s right then I get it and you are awesome at explaining stuff. Thank you

    7. Jason C says:

      You are not alone – I have found it difficult to understand, though James’s explanation today really helps. The drivers can go above the line, but have not during this race, and haven’t done very much this race.

      The winner will always end up at zero. I think that in the right-hand side of the graph, where you can see Hamilton Alonso and Webber rising, they are all going faster than their average times. They’re ‘catching up’ with the virtual Hamilton whose line is constantly at 0 who does exactly the same lap time on each lap of the race.

      1. Jason C says:

        “and haven’t done very much this season

    8. Michael says:

      The 0 time is the average lap time based upon the full race time. The other lines show how far behind that particular driver is behind the average at that point (key being the average race time, not lap time!). Hence why it drops of at the beginning, then improves at the end.

      Simples.

    9. Andy says:

      The graph depicts the -gap- of each driver to the car that drives at the average speed of the race winner. In the beginning, all the cars, including the winner, drive slower than the winner’s average speed, hence they fall behind. Later on, they start to drive faster than that, and the gap to the imaginary car (which drives at the winners average speed) starts to close. The winner catches him at the end, obviously.

    10. Jo Torrent says:

      go to the 2nd or 3rd strategy report. I gave the formula which leads to this graph

    11. Jack says:

      100% agree with you mate, i’ve no idea how you can be faster (or slower i can’t tell) than your average lap time on every lap, it seems to make no sense. You can sort of tell what you’re looking at on the graph though

      1. James Allen says:

        It’s simple – when you start the race you are slower than your average lap time (which is total race time divided by number of laps) because your car is heavy with fuel. Later in the race, with a lighter car you are lapping maybe three or four seconds faster, so at that point you are faster than the average lap time.

      2. Aaron Parsons says:

        That’s what has been confusing me James. If the zero line did show the average lap time you would expect to see it bisect a driver’s lap times.
        This is what I mean: Over a 2 lap race a driver does a 1m35s followed by a 1m25s. His average time is 1m30s. A graph showing his times against his average time (zero line) would be two points connected by a line and that line would be bisected by the zero line.

        What I now realise is that the graph in your report shows where a driver would be on track in comparison to a virtual car racing at the winner’s average lap time.
        So to take our example; on the first lap our driver is 5 seconds slower than the average lap time and so on the graph his line moves away from the zero line. He is 5 seconds behind the virtual car. On the second lap he is 5 seconds faster than the average time and so his line moves towards the zero line as he catches up to the virtual car.

        thank you everyone for helping me with this. Sorry to be slower than the zero line. (i.e. below average).

      3. James Allen says:

        But it’s about the gaps. Losing time to the ‘ghost car’ setting winners’ average lap times at the start and then closing the gap towards the end.

      4. Brisbane Bill says:

        Good discussion – I finally understand the graph. I like the analogy with the ghost car doing continual and constant laps without pitting as the measure of the other cars’ relative positions to it. In theory, a driver could go above the line if they did an absolutely stellar job with super-soft tyres and full fuel load in hot and dry conditions in the early laps and then rain came and slowed the pace for the rest of the race.

      5. Pete 6 says:

        Yes but where on the graph does it show Hamilton lapping at faster than his average laptime (i.e. above zero)?

      6. john g says:

        if you want it really simple, then just look at the gradient of the line. obviously, the 0 line is the average of the lap times over the race. if you’re running parallel to that line, then you lapping at the average pace. if the line slopes down, then you’re slower than the average, when the line slopes up then you’re faster.

        clearly all cars will start with the lines sloping down due to the high fuel loads, the top 10 or so cars will start to increase their speed towards the second half of the race and you can see the lines coming back up, and the back half of the midfield and slow cars never hit the average speed of the race winner and so their lines always slope downwards.

      7. Mike M says:

        Of course you can’t be slower (or faster) than your average laptime on EVERY LAP.

        I think the misunderstanding here is, that the graph doesn’t show laptimes, but laptime DIFFERENCES to the average lap time on each lap.

        So to figure out whether ones lap was faster or slower than the average laptime you have to look at the slope of the line:
        If it goes up the driver is laping faster than average, if it goes down he is lapping slower.

      8. Pete 6 says:

        Got it, nice explanation Mike.

      9. NRG says:

        Several of the explanations have hinted at it, but to be explicit, what is being plotted is the cumulative difference between actual lap times and the race winner’s average. It would therefore require very unusual race conditions for any line to be above the horizontal axis.

        I promise this is the last time I will mention it (this season at least).

  5. Andrew Myers says:

    I dislike the rule where you have to use both tyre types.

    I’d rather see the tyres a bit closer in terms of lap time, but the prime be durable enough to make running longer stints more attractive.

    Then if the rules specified you must use the primes, but the options are optional we may see some interesting 1 stop strategies using only the harder compound go against the multi stoppers.

    Thoughts?

    1. Martin,UK says:

      Sorry, you want tyre preservation style driving? god no.

      F1 is damn good the way it is.

    2. Richard Mee says:

      I like the suggestion that tyre choice should be fully variable. But there would need to be fairly significant speed advantage in the less durable option in your scenario to make it worth while for the teams to choose that route

    3. Richard Mee says:

      Ultimately – what was more interesting was having more than one manufacturer in an all out tyre war! – imaging Pirelli lining up against Michelin, Dunlop, Bridgestone etc etc. Now THAT would spice it up.

    4. Michael says:

      I can’t see that being a viable strategy. Take a best scenario value of the Prime being 1 second slower than the Option. If you 1 stop on the prime, you lose a total of 60 seconds based on the tyre alone, then add 20 seconds for the average stop, that makes it 80 seconds lost on the Prime. Now the option, they only lose the time in the stops, so 20×3=60 seconds. So a 1 stop on Primes is still 20 seconds slower than a 3 stop on Options.

    5. Justin Lewis says:

      The options are always faster, so your idea would only work if the rules forced teams to use at least 2 sets of primes per set of options, or if the durability of the options was reduced to less than 10 laps or something.

      The way it is now is a little artificial, but for me the only real alternative is that Pirelli only bring one type of slicks to each race.

    6. docjkm says:

      Absolutely agree. The prime needs to be attractive, and that comes down to pit delta times, and lap deltas between compounds, and relative compound durability. So, not a simple equation, particularly when the cars work with the tires differently. What you propose is the ideal, but it takes time to evolve it out. I would like to see more rubber left on line (rubbering in), than the klag offline making offline maneuvers difficult or suicidal. Another tire war (2+ tire makers) would be. Fun.

      But to go with the ‘greening’ of F1, a compound that could go the distance, with enough grip to make a 0 stop strategy, would be realistic approach for a manufacturer. I know I am not attracted to purchase tires that can do 12 laps.

    7. Marc says:

      I like this idea! I like it a lot actually. It would render strategy a bit more important. Right now, unless trying to come from far back. Leading cars have adopted a very similar strategy. I was hoping to see more of one car being on a type of tires while another close contender would on the other, this year as in Australia. But…I used to enjoy this kind of racing in the late seventies and early eighties.

    8. Rafael Moraes says:

      That IS the rule. Hence the tyre names.

      One you have to do, the other is optional. Except the optional is always much better than the prime. So if you want, you could just race on primes… but you will be missing out on the sweet fast tyre.

      The only reason prime is not obligatory, is in wet races, to stop drivers having to do a stint in slicks if the rain comes down later on in the race.

      1. Andrew Myers says:

        If that is the case, I apologise as I was always under the impression you were requried to run both.

        Was thinking about this more, and of course now that there is no refuelling, it makes running the slower tyre even less attractive, because the pitstops are so fast.

        I do however think something is lost when we don’t have some 1 stoppers mixing it up. Especially with DRS into the equation, as these would not necessarily become moving roadblocks anymore.

      2. Hendo says:

        You are right in saying the pitstops are too fast – 3 seconds is too fast – you cant even see the brilliant work of the pit crew. Maybe reduce the number of mechanics so that the stop takes around 8-10 seconds – and then even a slight stuff-up will really do some damage to the time in the pits.

    9. unoc12 says:

      Agree.

      Without the rule Massa wouldn’t have had to pit and we would have seen a nearly WDC vs the current WDC (with a ? on overtaking) battle ON TRACK. Insteda we got Vettel’s engineer working out how to jupm and then in the end just some pit crew guy being a bit slower with his gun. Racing fail.

      Without the rule we could have seen
      Option then Option
      VS
      Medium

      The options going a bit faster but needing to stop, as well as overtake the mediums during their 2nd stint. Mediums need to get a head of soft rivals but need enough to defend.

      Would have been great. Imagine and then someone with nothing to lose and a car light on tyres could try the softs all distnace. They easily last half the race. Proably wouldn’t work though.

      Would have been great

    10. Andy C says:

      I suspect a lot of it is simple economics.

      I believe Pirelli have produced (and this is not a made up figure) somewhere in the region of 40-50 thousand tyres for this season.

      if you open up the variability (and therefore the number of softs/hards) you have to ship to the race, it would presumably exponentially increase the costs.

      For what its worth, I’d like to see it open as well. I just dont think the performance gap is small enough to win on a logn stint race at present.

  6. jmv says:

    Was it an option for Alonso to stay out and not make the final stop?

    Or for Webber?

    When Webber was still out, I didnt see Lewis closing the gap by a lot. He brought it down from 13 secs to 11 secs.. and then it stabilized with 8 more (or so laps to go), my question was why did Red Bull pitted? Why not take the gamble?

    Minimum there was a podium finish for them.

    1. jmv says:

      I think the answer lies in the rule that Webber HAD TO pit to take on the harder tire (obligatory).

      1. Neil says:

        Not quite. It’s a fixed 30s penalty to not use both tyres. If the pitstop will take more than 30s (including warming the tyres etc.), it might be better to stay ouit and take the penalty!

        Neil.

  7. Pete 6 says:

    @4 – The zero line equals first place. To help explain, where you can see people have boxed at the same time you can see who has taken the lead i.e. a different car is on the zero line. The time in seconds is the time difference relative to the leader.

  8. Grayzee (Australia) says:

    Excellent analysis again, as always, Mr Allen!
    Thankyou for explaining the undercut “mystery”,too.
    Do you have ANY inside info on why Mark’s starts are always lousy?. He just can’t seem to get away as quick as the others, even when he does a self proclaimed “good start”.
    Is it something unique to just him, the car, engine mapping, clutch design,etc or is it just bad luck.

    1. docjkm says:

      May I echo the same request? Vettel credited with using his qualifying advantage to his current WDC position. What of his teammate rendering his own qualifying almost moot by inability to start the race at lights out? Webber is too consistent to not merit analysis.

  9. Tom in adelaide says:

    Is it just my eyes or do Red Bull run a lot more camber on the front than anyone else?

    1. Aaron Parsons says:

      Look in a mirror. If you can’t see yourself, it’s your eyes. Seriously though, I hadn’t noticed. What pictures/ video made you think so? Anyone know what effect an increased camber might have?

    2. Rodger says:

      Adding negative chamber improves cornering by allowing the outside tire to use the contact patch more efficiently.

      The trade off is that there is less tire touching the track surface when traveling straight, which effects straight line stability.

    3. Andy C says:

      The most interesting thing for me is the camber diff between front and rear.

      The lack of camber on the rear is an attempt to not overheat the inside of the tyre, which is already heated from the blown diffuser concept.

      The rake of the redbull is also something else.

      1. Tom in Adelaide says:

        Thanks for the insight guys, the technical side of F1 is usually a mystery to me.

        Having said that, when I look at the Red Bull in particular, I get the overwhelming impression that it is just made to push itself towards the ground. All the angles seem to sum up to that.

        I’d be fasinated to see every car of the 2011 season lined up side by side without any livery at all. I wonder how easy it would be to guess each manufacturer?

    4. Chapor says:

      I also think that it helps with reduced steering effort when at standstill or moving very slowly thus needing a less powerful power steering which in turn can be made lighter. Less power assistance at high speeds also translates to better steering wheel feed back for the drivers. And to add to it, the camber also helps to provide a better contact patch when cornering.

  10. CJM says:

    Is there any analysis to be done on the final pit-stops of Massa and Vettel? It looked like there was a difference of about 1-2 seconds there (Vettel was past Massa well before Massa started to move) when surely we should be talking in fractions of a second. I’m surprised we haven’t heard more about this.

    1. Tom says:

      I’ve read comments about the Ferrari guys losing (another?) wheel nut, supposedly said by Massa post-race, but can’t vouch for the accuracy. Something definitely went wrong though, as you said, Vettel was miles clear.

      1. Tom says:

        From the Ferrari site, attributed to Felipe:

        “Sure, I would have preferred to have stayed ahead of the World Champion right to the end, but at the final pit stop there was a problem with the wheel nut on the left rear which cost me a few seconds: these things happen and recrimination achieves nothing.”

      2. Tom in Adelaide says:

        The words of a very level headed and fair man. It’s impossible not to like the guy.

  11. Jason C says:

    More on the graph – I finally understand the graph for the first time this season! Thanks for the extra bit of explanation, James.

    However, I feel one part is misleading, and certainly slowed down my understanding of it:

    This is why his curve can go above the line if he’s lapping faster than his average, and below the line if he’s slower than his average or doing a pitstop.

    I don’t think this is entirely correct – when the leader is rising on the graph, usually in the second half of the race, he’s going faster than his average lap time, because he’s catching up with his ‘virtual self’. The ‘virtual’ leader is the leader’s car if it does exactly the same time every lap without stopping, which is why at the start it’s faster than the leaders and later on, the leaders catch up with it.

    So, probably the only time cars will end up above the zero line is when there’s a safety car or similar delay that causes the ‘virtual car’ to lap slowly.

    Now I understand it, it’s a really useful illustration of the race!

  12. chris green says:

    The Williams was hard on the tyres and slow. Quite an engineering feat!

  13. Tony Kulla says:

    James, did you gather any info about whether Button could have really finished 4th ahead of Massa and Vettel had he not had the hydraulic issue. Whitmarsh and Button said they could have, but it’s difficult to tell if that’s wishful thinking or was a realistic possibility.

    1. James Allen says:

      I felt he was on for that, but who knows?

    2. James Draper says:

      I think it is certain that Button would have been 4th. He would have been closer to Webber if he hadn’t lost 30 seconds being held up by Petrov.

      Clues are looking at his performance increase after Petrov pitted, Rosberg’s very slow second pit and Hamilton’s performance on the prime tyre.

      Button would have passed Massa and Vettel when they took their final pit.

  14. Josh says:

    It does make you wonder whether it would be a good idea to tweak the tyre usage rules in a race.

    E.g. Put the pit lane speed limit down to 40kph to make pit stops damage times more and then if start on the soft tyre, you HAVE to use the hards later. But if you start on the hard tyre, there’s no need to move to softs, you could pit once for another pair of hards.

    The men with the data could analyse it properly but what I would want is for a car completing a race distance to be able to do it about as fast on 2 pairs of hards as any other tyre combination.

  15. Justin Bieber says:

    Off topic here.. Did anyone find the race coverage to be the worst we had this year. While we had an exciting battle for the lead, the producer kept focusing on Vettel in 5th place or any other random German driver. I know its the German GP but to not show Webber last pit stop and where he would end up compare to Hamilton/Alonso was extremely frustrating. Still it was a nice race, cant wait for Hungary and hopefully a Vettle DNF(for the championship sakes of course)

    1. DJR says:

      I totally had the same frustration all throughout this race!! I was about to perform a fatality on my TV, but then finally they showed us the battle for the front.

      The TV director is more than likely obligated to show any home drivers as much as possible, but me thinks they took it a wee bit too far this race.

  16. Chris Q says:

    “Alonso came out of the pits in front but the Ferrari’s weakness in not warming the tyres up straight away meant Hamilton was able to pass him in Turn 2″

    Is one corner enough for the weakness in tyre heating of the Ferrari vs. other cars to really make a difference?

      1. Aaron Parsons says:

        Of course, the effect is weaker the longer the car is out on track i.e. the tyres warm up. It would have been harder for Hamilton to pass Alonso a lap later as the Ferrari would have been quicker through turn 1 and between turn 1 and 2 (this is where the pass was really made).

      2. Chris Q says:

        Of course all cars heat their tyres over time and eventually they all get up to temperature. However, that doesn’t mean that the difference is maximised after one corner. I’d have guessed that you’d need half a lap at least before the difference was significant.

        This chart shows how I imagine it: http://postimage.org/image/2uv8py2x0/

        What I’m suggesting if Alonso had been in, say, a McLaren, his tyres would still have been stone cold one corner after exiting the pits. So the fact that his tyres were cold is simply because he’d only just come out of the pits, rather than because the Ferrari hadn’t heated up its tyres as much as another car would have by that stage.

      3. Peter C says:

        NO

    1. JohnBt says:

      I felt Brundle’s comment on Alonso was caught napping was rather unfair.

      Ferrari’s weakness are the mediums, worse on a cold track. But they’re catching up race to race.

  17. Justin Lewis says:

    Excellent analysis as always, thanks James. I would be interested to know if anyone can shed light on Vettel’s performance. He had a spin and flatspotted the tyres, fair enough, but he didn’t seem particularly interested until the final pit stop got him 4th place.

    Driving for points rather than wins from now on?

    1. Rodger says:

      He was warned about rear brake temps somewhere in the middle of the race. And was given the go ahead to race right toward the end.

  18. Andy C says:

    It was a fantastic race and I cant remember a race where 3 guys were so closely matched for such an extended period.

    As someone who has to look at graphs and graphics for a living, I can never bring myself to look at them for home purposes too much :-)

    James,

    I was reading today that Mercedes GP are going back on the recruitment drive (reversing the impact of the brawn changes in 09 presumably).

    Have you ever done something on the headcount of the bigger teams? I know that around 400 + is the top team level, but am always interested whether you can see a link between the performance and the people no’s (i.e a lot of people I’ve spoken to said Williams tech team has been too stretched for some time – finances lead on that obviously).

    Thanks
    Andy

    1. James Allen says:

      I’ve not but it’s a good idea. Thanks

      1. Andy C says:

        Perhaps overlaying headcount and points would be a really good analysis, to show who gets the biggest points per head.

  19. Harvey says:

    James, what about the age-old McLaren strategy on Saturday, alluded to by Hamilton in the post-qualifying interview, running on light fuel to improve grid position? That enabled him to jump Webber at the start, get in front and maintain position. I don’t want to discount a great team effort and tremendous drive by Lewis, but I question whether there’s anything in the rules that equalizes the fuel load for the teams in qualifying. Grid position is still a huge factor in a race, especially this week at the Hungaroring, despite the DRS zones and so-called tire strategy.

    1. James Allen says:

      THey don’t carry race fuel in qualifying any more. Everyone is light in qualifying

  20. Janis says:

    Nice review!
    But how about Vettel vs. Massa battle?
    Strangely, none of them wanted the prime tyre – to the extent that they postponed their pitstops to the last lap!
    And that’s seeing that Petrov and Hamilton were setting their fastest laps on it.
    Neither one tried to undercut. Could it be a mistake?

  21. Chris says:

    It looks like Vettel’s pit box is before the start finish line. If so, could he have pitted on the last lap, changed to prime tires, and taken the checker on pit road?

    1. steve says:

      To be honest, that’s is what i thought Red Bull were building up to do with Webber. I think there was 5 laps to go with an 11sec margin over Hamilton. Bring him on the last lap, change tires and roll over for the chequered flag. Perhaps somebody could shed some light on that?

  22. Vinola says:

    JA- you have been on song in your last 3 articles on the German race- not that your standard wasn’t exceptional in the first place. Great work.

    1. James Allen says:

      Thanks very much..

  23. Harvey Yates says:

    Thanks for that.

    I note you said McLaren not making the same mistake twice. If only.

    I assume that if they’d fueled Alonso for another couple of laps then he’d have had problems staying with Hamilton in the rest of the race and, of course, he might not have been second on the grid nor got away so quickly.

    What is it with Alonso’s starts? All of a sudden its as if his lights go out earlier whereas I can remember him struggling, and not so long ago.

    I can’t remember a modern race (no going back to the 71 Italian GP) where the top three cars, from different teams, were so close for so long. I am certain others will point out I have a poor memory. As you say, Webber dropped back to 8 sec behind and he seemed out of the race. Yet we’d have been saying ‘he could make that up’ any other time.

    I’ve just watched the race again. The lap 16 incident where Hamilton was overtaken and then repassed is still exciting.

    Great race and made all the more interesting with your explanation of tactics. Thanks.

  24. Jo Torrent says:

    Is it me or races are less and less dramatic. I don’t see drivers struggling as much on dying tyres nor seamless overtakes anymore.

    The situation is fast converging towards the Bridgestone era.

    1. James Draper says:

      I used to love the action these tyres gave. Now I also think that they appear to be huge equalizers.

      Once the teams figure out the amount of mechanical work that can be applied to the tyres before they become useless the game is over. The cars are then engineered to provide the most efficient tyre usage. The net effect all the big teams will end up driving the same speed and not needing to maximize their mechanical components. It is to the point that I couldn’t remember the last mechanical failure and then in this race there was a puff of smoke and a hydraulic failure. But anyway I agree the gimmick appears to be wearing off.

    2. Paulo Miranda says:

      They are starting to learn how the tyres work.
      Pirelli needs to make something like 8 types of tyre degration, and stop telling them which ones are medium, soft, hard and supers soft. It will all be closed in the blankets, and they just randomly choose the ones to feet and prey that are good ones.
      Than we sit back and watch them all panic :P

      I think the for us to have real big excitement is to call back the in race refuelling. That with tyres and we all can see the strategic side of the f1 come back again, not that i enjoyed much last time i saw Mclaren able to choose too many strategies. In the early 00′s it was like helping Schummy, like he needed…

  25. Robert says:

    Why no penalty for Alonso? After Hamilton ran dry some races back, the FIA stated that all cars must be able to drive back to the pits. If they couldn’t, they’d be penalised.

    1. The other Ian says:

      That rule only applies to qualifying, as far as I know.

    2. James Draper says:

      I think Hamilton got a fine during an ultra light weight qualifying lap.

      Why not a “drug test” pre-race of a pre-determined volume then it gets rid of this whole requirement?

    3. Steve says:

      Thats for qualyfing… And the incident you’re talking about was at last years Canadian GP.

    4. Gate 21 says:

      Cars can stop on the track after the finish line, there’s no law against that. Webber parked the RB after the finish line in Melbourne.

      They just have to have 1L of fuel on board for a post-race fuel sample.

      Hamilton ran dry, whereas Alonso was ordered to stop the car so there was sufficient fuel in the tank to be analysed.

    5. Chapor says:

      I think Ferrari made Alonso stop the car to keep fuel in the car for the FIA to take a sample. I think that is the reason for the rule since there was no fuel left to sample in Hamilton’s car.

      I do speak under correction. James, can you maybe just shed some light on it?

  26. Dave Aston says:

    Hey James Allen, great analysis as ever, thanks a lot.

  27. Will says:

    Have there been any developments in the legal case against Sutil?

  28. Mark says:

    Fascinating graph, it’s clear to see that Jenson’s line was on quite a steep incline and improvement before his failure. If he would have followed Sutil’s strategy (which I presume he was) he would have been very close to Massa and Vettal near the end of the race.

    Such a shame he had another breakdown as we were robbed of an exciting finish.

  29. Question for James:

    Pirelli has said they want to have a test day in the days following a GP. Personally, I can’t see how the teams would want that, as they would have likely tested any new parts on the Friday before the race to gain a possible advantage that weekend. It’s not like many parts would not be ready for Friday, but be ready for Monday or Tuesday.

    If anything, I could see a Thursday open test happening at four or five races, because then at least teams could test parts for the race happening on the weekend.

    We know Pirelli’s point of view, but do you know how the teams feel about when and where tests should be?

  30. Weird says:

    You always seem to ‘miss’ Kobayashi’s amazing drives.

  31. Seán Craddock says:

    what happened to Chandhok’s lap times? He was keeping up with the Virgins, but then dropped off dramatically!

  32. Bevan says:

    Alonso came out of the pits in front but the Ferrari’s weakness in not warming the tyres up straight away meant Hamilton was able to pass him–

    So James do you feel it was Alonso’s cold tyres responsible for the fact that Lewis breezed past him on the outside or would you grant Hamilton a smidgen of credit for his precise move around the long way.
    The way you worded that part had a dismissive tone that lacked any recognition of the fact that Lewis blitzed Fernando around the outside,I saw a different turn 1 exit angle from LH that setup a perfect wide turn 2 entry & FA obliged perfectly by sleepily hanging on the inside,cold tyres be damned.

    1. James Allen says:

      Credit where it’s due, Hamilton did brilliantly. It says that quite clearly in the piece.

    2. TheLegend says:

      If Fernando had had the tyres warmed, Lewis couldn’t have passed him. Lewis did well, but the tyres temperature did the biggest part of the move.

    3. Nando says:

      I’m not sure how much tyre warming the Mclaren could of done relative to the Ferrari driving down the pit-lane and one corner which they barely had to brake for.

      1. Baktru says:

        IIRC Ham pitted a lap earlier on that one, so his tires had a lap’s worth of heat in them when Lonso came out of the pits.

  33. Peter M says:

    Red Bull seem to continue messing up Webber’s races, this time with slow pit stops and leaving him out too long. They obviously do not wish to finish 1 2 in the drivers championship. If Vettel can not win they do not seem to care what happens.

  34. Andrew says:

    I am interested in the comment that Alonso ran out of fuel on the warm down lap – did he run out or switch off to save the litre of fuel the FIA require? If he ran out – why no penalty?

  35. hawkfist says:

    No worries, it’s one of the few sticking points I have with the BBC commentators, they always seem to overlook this when driver’s pit for tyres and end up misleading people about the relative merits of old and new tyres, whatever the compound.

  36. MikeBoy says:

    I feared in the end of the Race that Mclaren would ruin Hamilton’s race on strategy, as they seem to do that more often than usual.
    Fortunately, that wasn’t the case, but I do hope they get their act together on this department.
    If not having the quickest car isn’t enough, they always seem to come up with something in either Qualifying or Race than no-one understands, and ultimately is pure nonsense, especially with Hamilton. Button makes his own decisions more often, and Hamilton should also do that to.
    He let’s the team do that to show them he trust’s them, but they have let him down many times in the last few years. Maybe it’s his engineer?

    1. YIMA says:

      Well stated MikeBoy. I too have been puzzled by some of the late race decisions of his engineers begining from early last season, when they chose to bring him in late in the race while he was in P2 and closing down on Button.

      Often times a shake up of the engineering team tends to light a fire under everyone.

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