Inside track on the Brazilian Grand Prix
Insight
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Strategy Report
Posted By: James Allen  |  29 Nov 2011   |  6:28 pm GMT  |  60 comments

This is our final Strategy Report of the 2011 season, looking not just at how the key decisions were made in Brazil, but also at the trends we have seen in 2011 and what we see as the likely trends for 2012.

The Brazilian Grand Prix brought to an end a season which has seen Formula 1 run to a quite different pattern in terms of Race Strategy, largely due to the Pirelli tyres. But also because the DRS wing has made it easier for cars to overtake, so less time is lost for fast cars in trying to pass slower ones after coming out behind them from a pit stop.

Earlier this season the way the cars used the Pirelli tyres meant that they degraded quickly and the performance of the tyres dropped off a cliff after a small number of laps, forcing multiple pit stops. But as the year went on the teams learned more about how to use the tyres and got longer life from them.

Although it has felt like a year of change, if you analyse the top six or eight starting positions compared to the finish positions, the amount of variation compared to last year isn’t that great; Vettel and Webber normally finish more or less where they start, as does Hamilton Button and Alonso usually make up a place or two, Schumacher qualifies a bit behind but races though to finish where he should have qualified.

So despite the Pirelli tyres and the DRS wings, the outcomes haven’t changed that much, but the way they has been achieved has been more interesting for the spectators because of more overtaking and more use of Race Strategy. So the races have seemed more engaging.

Instead of everyone doing the same strategy, as happened last year, people do different strategies. So instead of everyone running in pace order all race long, cars can rise and fall in positions during the race and there is more shuffling about of the order, which creates crunch situations and battles within the race, such as the Massa /Hamilton scraps or the Alonso/ Webber scraps we’ve enjoyed this year.

If the leading four teams were closer to each other on pace, as the midfield runners are, it would make for some really interesting races. The midfield battle has been really exciting this year with Race Strategy used to make significant gains and here we’ve seen Toro Rosso and Sauber in particular finish well ahead of where they have qualified. Force India have also scored a lot of points from qualifying positions on the fringes of the top ten.

There has been a difference this year between the way different teams have used their tyres. But what has not happened this year is a crossover point between the softer and the harder tyre which offers a range of options as to how to run the race, either taking the longer run on the harder one or the shorter run on the faster tyre, where they cross over.

“What you need is the softer tyres, the super soft and the soft, they need to be fast but degrade,” says Paul Hembery. “The medium and harder tyre need to be slower but be more stable, and basically you have to work how many laps you go before you are better off being on the other one.”

It’s very important that Pirelli achieves the crossover point next year, otherwise the strategies could become a bit generic.


Two stops versus Three in Brazil

In the final race of the season at Interlagos the teams at the front generally decided before the race that the best way to do the race would be to stop three times, dividing the race into three stints of roughly 20 laps on soft tyres and then a short stint on the slower medium tyres.

Jenson Button did three stops but approached it differently, as we shall examine later.

Several of the midfield teams thought that two stops would be possible and a couple of them pulled it off, with Di Resta and Kobayashi scoring points with the plan

The medium tyre had shown itself to be around 0.8secs a lap slower than the soft in practice and qualifying, but in a race stint it was down to more like 0.5secs for most teams, apart from Ferrari, who really struggled for pace in it again in the race.

Button was pushed into running two stints on the medium tyre because his third set of soft tyres had proved not to be very good on Saturday. When Button went onto the medium tyre on lap 31, he was at the same pace as Alonso on softs. Button did a 1m 16.9 on 3rd lap which looked good and he then ran in the 1m 17s.

The one variation among the top teams was Felipe Massa who did a two stop strategy. He said he was pushed into it by a damaged set of softs after qualifying, but it opened up and interesting option.

It was surprising that Massa hasn’t done this more often this season, because running in sixth place as he usually is, the slowest of the top six drivers, he generally has no pressure from behind and if he does the same plan as the McLarens and Alonso in front of him, he’ll stay sixth.

Here the Ferrari strategists decided to try it and it did allow him to take track position over McLarens for a while so on that level it worked and was worth a try. There is a 71 % chance of a safety car at Interlagos and if one had come in Brazil it would have played into his hands, as would the rain that was forecast, but which never came.


Rosberg vs Sutil

Force India’s Adrian Sutil did a fantastic job to beat the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg for sixth place and they approached the race in quite different ways.

Rosberg did a very long second stint on a new set of soft tyres – 26 laps. He stopped for the first time on lap 16, which is too short for a two stop strategy. But was behind Sutil who had better pace. On a new set of softs he couldn’t keep up with the Force India car. So from that point, if he did a three stop plan, like Sutil, then he wouldn’t beat him.

So the only way he could try to beat him was by doing two stops and trying to get track position after his final stop. It required a very long middle stint on soft tyre.

Although it worked in that he managed to find himself ahead, in the end Rosberg got beaten by a faster car. After the final stops, they found themselves on the same tyre and Rosberg’s tyres were only three laps older, so the plan was great and should have worked, but Rosberg couldn’t stay ahead. The two stop was the right strategy in terms of getting track position but he just couldn’t hold on to the place.

Sutil crammed three stops into what would normally be a two stop window and he managed to keep a good pace. His short stints were an aggressive strategy, but with Massa doing only two stops and not being as quick as he would normally would be, at one point he came back towards Sutil and almost impacted on Sutil’s race, as you can see on the race history graph below.

The Force India was very quick this weekend. Paul Di Resta hadn’t done as well in qualifying and so the team put him on a two stop plan. He was racing Petrov and Kobayashi and easily won that battle.

Di Resta’s two stop was a defensive strategy, like Rosberg’s because it will give you track position after your second stop and then it’s a question of whether you can keep your opponent behind you.

The UBS Strategy Report is prepared by JA on F1 with input and data from several F1 team strategists and engineers.

RACE HISTORY GRAPH

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60 Comments
  1. CraigD says:

    Wow, the graph really highlights the lack of pace of Ferrari on the medium tyre.

  2. Alex_D says:

    James, let me put it this way – your article is much more interesting and engaging than the race really was.

    Looking forward to read about preparations for next season:-)

    Race? One word – BORING.

    1. Sebee says:

      It’s always interesting to hear people’s views. I have to say, after you’ve seen a few hundred races the bar really is high for entertainment. But it’s true the normally exciting Brazilian GP was quite – yawn. Some really liked it. I think part of it had to do with the hype about expected rain – which we never saw.

      What about the season – was the season a winner or also yawn? Numbers say yawn like when Schumi went for 5. But there were some great rounds. 2011 score out of 10 then:

      1. Alex_D says:

        Let me try to be as objective as possible:-)
        The first half of the season was PHENOMENAL – finally we have seen racing, a lot of overtaking. Pirelli made a huge difference as well as the DRS. Probably it was also related to venues and drivers adjusting to new rules.
        Second half of the season was really boring and again mostly because of venues where overtaking is impossible even when you have DRS. We went back to processional races where positions are changed during good or bad pit stop.
        I think season overall was 8 out of 10. I can’t hide the feeling that there was zero excitement watching the last race. 2007 – Kimi won literally on the last lap, by one point. In 2008 Lewis won in the last sector by 1 point. In 2011 there was no fight at all.

      2. Sebee says:

        Don’t you think that Belgium, Italy, Japan, Brazil – high quality action tracks in second half provided litle of that action this year? So the second half being boring as you say may not be down to the tracks, as much as teams and drivers getting to grips with the new variables under race conditions. DRS, Tires, KERS – they had good handle and plenty of data after first 6-8 races. This can be applied to strategy to weed out the mistakes and unknowns for first half of the season. I think 2012 will fall more into the boring vs. phenomenal now that there is season’s worth of data for DRS, tires, etc.

    2. leo says:

      James as always, fantastic stuff from you.
      You should come and live in Australia, then we can call you our own!!
      Agree with Alex D many races have been a bit of a yawn.
      Best parts are always Webber fighting with Alonso or Button and the midfield battles with Force India, Mercedes and Sauber.
      I still don’t believe Mark has been given all the “bits” that Seb has, funny how after the title was decided Mark is only a tenth off ???

      Keep up the great work James, and love your reports on One HD merry Christmas!

      1. James Allen says:

        Thanks! Really enjoyed it

  3. mallikarjuna says:

    thanks james.

  4. goferet says:

    For sure, Pirelli haven’t got an easy job for to create those cross over tyres without in season testing, well that will be a major coup if they can pull it off.

    But I think what would really help with the show is if the FIA could ban the compulsory rule to run both sets of tyres, they should allow the teams to run only one type of tyres, which scenario would create incidents were smooth drivers like Jens can decide to make one less pit stop like what used to happen in the 80s.

    Yes we wishing Pirelli the best of luck for goodness knows we can’t afford to go back to the Bridgestone days

    Oh, one little correction, the Pirelli tyres didn’t cause that crunch situation that led to the Hammy-Massa battles, the battles between those two was a result of Mclaren with the possible exception of Interlagos

    Monaco – Mclaren didn’t send out Lewis to put in a bunker lap during qualifying and thus putting him behind Massa

    Silverstone – Mclaren short fueled Lewis leaving him fall in Massa’s clutches

    Singapore – Mclaren didn’t put fuel in Lewis’ car during qualifying forcing him to line up behind the poor starting Webber

    Japan – Mclaren sent Lewis out late during qualifying for if he had pole, he would be no were near Massa

    India – Now that was a freak incident for how come only one chap was waving the yellow flag while the green light was showing

    1. Roman says:

      Fully agree. Bring back the one tire for the weekend. Let the teams pick one type for quali and the race. It’ll allow teams to set their car up properly instead of compromising to both tires (and then open up tires to multiple manufacturers). And it’d help passing too, as the soft-tired cars have to make up places and time to allow for the extra stops.

      1. Martin says:

        I suspect just about everyone would go for the soft tyre. It will put you ahead in qualifying – Lewis was the only guy that I can recall getting into Q3 only running on the harder tyre (Hungary and somewhere else). Therefore it is likely that you’ll be outside the top ten. At the start you lose ground with the soft tyre and it is harder to get it up to temperature on the first lap, so you are unlikely to pass anyone. The qualifying pace is indicative of the race pace, so you won’t be moving forward either (take Webber’s first stint in China as a good example – he didn’t go anywhere). So you are stuck in the pack. First thing to hit you is field spread. So after starting 12th for example, you’d be about 10 second behind the leader after lap one. In the first 15 lap stint by the leaders, who have clear air, the 0.5 to 0.8 second gap will be more like 1 second per lap, so by the time they pit, they are more than a stop ahead.

        From there, they have a car that is 0.5 seconds per lap quicker. In this 60 lap race that will buy them another pit stop. Then you need to consider where the guy on hards will be when he comes out of the pits. It is quite likely that there will be other cars around – possibly the fourth-fifth-sixth place battle – people you’ll beat when they stop again. But depending on the situation, you could end up racing cars that are similar in pace, and if there new tyre grip phase is passed, then the guy on hards will struggle to get by the others on quicker tyres in a slightly slower car.

        Overall, starting on the hard tyres compromises the race too much – it puts too many variables beyond your control. The effect is exactly what McLaren did with its qualifying and first stint performance this year. By being behind at the start, there was no chance of making the superior performance count at several races. (Spain, Spa, Monza are examples of this. Montreal would have been another if it was dry).

      2. Roman says:

        This is where that “cross-over” point comes more into effect, along with tire design that allows there to be more choice. The softs would need to degrade quicker to force the extra stop(s) and without refueling it gets distorted as well.

        Forcing teams to use a slower tire that doesn’t suit their car isn’t the answer either (and all those extra tires go to waste as they are cut off the rims). It’s hard enough to design an F1 car at all, much less trying to figure out the compromise of two types of tires which I’m sure isn’t helping the smaller teams.

    2. **Paul** says:

      Monaco was Hamilton messing his lap up.

      Silverstone was indeed the teams fault, mis-calculation, although he enjoyed a light car in the early part of the race.

      Singapore, team error again, although perhaps a more vocal driver would have had no issue.

      Japan, again if Lewis wanted to be certain to get a lap in he should have insisted on going earlier – he’s got a timing monitor too.

      India that was driver error.

      What I’m saying here is that there appears to be a real communications issue on that side of the McLaren garage, and although one or two errors were the teams, one of two were also by Lewis (and then compounded by the team, and vice versa). The guy in the cockpit has a large say in when he goes out, and how many laps he goes for, etc etc. It takes two to tango as they say.

  5. Richard D says:

    Great detail as usual James! One thing that occured to me was that Button seemed better on the primes than options so why didn’t he do a short stint on the options followed by two longer stints on the primes?

    1. audifan says:

      the primes only lasted about 20 lapsas well

    2. James Beck says:

      I don’t think anyone expected the primes to be as fast as they were on the McLaren. Jenson was about 0.3s slower on new primes compared to used options (compared to 0.9s for Ferrari) – most cars were at about 0.7s (new tyres worth about 0.3s). Given that he showed little sign of degradation, I think that he would have been faster going for the strategy you suggest.

      Also, if Di Resta had done this, he might have been able to challenge Rosberg – the options gently lost pace after 10-15 laps, and the primes didn’t.

      But hindsight is easy.

  6. Rob Newman says:

    Ferrari would have noticed from Massa’s lap times how the medium tyre was working. In that case, they should have delayed Alonso’s second and third pit stops. Then Alonso could have finished on the podium.

    I liked the way the tyres behaved. Since Ferrari is struggling with the harder compound, next year more mid-field teams will be challenging them.

    I couldn’t understand Brrichello’s gear setup. He lost too many places in the beginning. So the most experienced driver who wants to hang on to F1 for another year didn’t know he is going to get bogged down?

    I think as part of next year’s strategy, Frank Williams should step down. I have all the respect for him but he has messed up the team and it has gone from bad to worst only.

    There were more overtaking in non-DRS zones. They should have tried Brazil with a total ban on DRS.

    1. Alex says:

      I disagree with you about sir frank, he has only ever done good things for that team. HOWEVER i think adam parrr is to blame for the terrible driver signings. they had a really talented driver in hulkenburg except they let him go because maldonado has some cash. They also missed a brilliant opportunity to sign KIMI!

    2. K says:

      1. It is reported and known that Barrichello had a wet weather setup hence the gear setup.

      2. Frank Williams don’t run the team anymore, it’s Adam Parr.

      1. Tom in adelaide says:

        Yep, the same Adam Parr who has very little interest in, or knowledge of, F1. Intelligent guy, obviously, but better placed in a boardroom.

  7. Jack says:

    Thanks for providing these strategy reports (and all you other posts) over this season James, its been really insightful.

    One thing that did occur to me while reading the above was that DRS may have nulified variation in tyre strategy this year. At the majority of tracks a fast car on new tyres would be able to overtake a slower car on old ones, even without DRS, but it would be more difficult. If this were the case then 2 stops may be a more workable strategy as it gives you track position, and little possibility of slipping behind slower cars (Force Indias, Saubers, Massa etc) also on 2 stop strategies and getting held up. On one hand DRS creates action but maybe in the grand scheme of the race it could detract from it. Thoughts?

    p.s. I’m amazed Jenson didn’t plan 2 stops in Brazil, especially as he was liking the harder tyre…

  8. Raymond Yu says:

    James – will you continue providing these next year? And the strategy previews too?

    1. James Allen says:

      Yes, definitely. Some cool extras planned

      1. ferggsa says:

        Are you trying to spoil us even more than you alredy do?
        I remember when following Formula1 was reading the newspaper on Monday
        Thanks for the great work

      2. Grayzee (Australia) says:

        Ooooh, I can’t wait.
        Only 3 months to go…..Groan
        I’m going down to Melbourne next year for the first time in 10 years. Should be a blast!

  9. CJD says:

    Thanx for your insights james!
    especialy the first part – comparing last and this year are great.

    now i have a question, fore somebody with a nice results database.

    i would be very curious how the results would be with the current nascar points system – as i find this one as a very interesting system – giving every position one point less down to the last, only winner gets one more + fastest lap + most lead laps (ok there is one extra point for “a” lead lap – i think we could skip that)

    i think it would be very interessting (but i need somebody with results at least in excel ;) )

    greetings from austria
    thanx a lot for your insights over the whole season! (i’ll get a copy of your review just now :) )

  10. MrExasperated says:

    I think one thing that has to go next year is DRS and the reason I give is ‘Imola 2005 Alonso / Scumacher’.

    Imagine if we would have had DRS then, we wouldnt have had a tense 15 or so laps edge of your seat battle wondering whether Alonso could keep a 7 time WC behind him, it would have been a half lap overtake and sprint for the finish. What do you reckon James?

    I think between Pirelli tyres and KERS we have more than enough.

    1. Sebee says:

      I really miss Imola. Victim of F1 austerity measures.

    2. Gene says:

      I couldn’t agree more…

      How fun was the battle between Hamilton and Schumi in Monza this year? Or Vettel and Hamilton in Spain? Or Vettel and Alonso and Button in Monaco? These battles went on for several laps, putting me on the edge of my seat, wondering what the outcome would be. … and all three of these examples were in situations where the DRS had a limited effect due to the nature of the circuit.

      Conversely, how many times this season did we see the battle over before it even could begin because of an overly effective DRS?

      We certainly have more passing now, but is it more exciting? I can’t count how many times I watched a DRS pass on the F1 telecasts this year, where the commentators seemed completely bored by it. The passes are completed well before the corners! It’s such an empty feeling when I see a DRS overtake like that. I imagine the driver being overtaken just sighing in apathy, too.

      What I’ve definitely liked this year is that the differences and variances in the Pirelli tire compounds have created passing at parts of circuits that we’ve NEVER seen before (Hamilton passing Vettel for the lead in China for example).

      I’ve given DRS a shot this year, but my conclusion is that it should go far, far away next year.

    3. Alex_D says:

      Imola is Imola, but I also Remember Abu Dhabi last year – Alonso following Petrov where he lost the WDC

  11. Ben Hall says:

    Actually, I’m sorry. Please disregard my comment.

  12. tim says:

    I love Interlagos! What a track; what a setting. It’s the needed apology for all the Abu Dhabis and Koreas and Chinas on the grid. Everything seemed human-scale there, yet still intense. F1 suddenly felt closer. It’s more intimate than most other tracks (save Monaco perhaps) and that’s a needed thing. Don’t change Interlagos one bit!

  13. Alex says:

    James, thank you for all the insightful articles and features. I only found your site half way through the season, ever since i have been checking daily. so thank you.

    1. James Allen says:

      Great stuff! Tell all your friends !

  14. Doug says:

    James, just a “thank you” for your efforts on this site, various interviews, as well as the great work you did that popped up on One HD here in Australia throughout the year. You do an amazing job making a complex sport palatable to the masses. Thanks again.

    1. Grayzee (Australia) says:

      Ditto, from another Aussie.
      Look forward to your views next year.

  15. Vipin says:

    If the Pirelli brings only Super Softs and Hard Compound tyres for all races for next season, it would be like the start of 2009 season,(Melbourne) where the soft compound only lasted like 10 laps or something.

  16. Liam in Sydney says:

    James, you refer a lot to the Pirelli tyres initially dropping off the cliff and the beginning of the season, and later the teams have worked out ways to make the tyres (particularly the softer ones) last longer.

    Can you please do a piece about what specific methods the teams have used to ‘figure out’ the tyres? What can they do to make them wear more slowly? Do you get this info from the teams?

  17. grigved says:

    James can you please suggest any reasoning for FERRARI being much slower on harder compounds?(technically)

    1. coefficient says:

      They have struggled to get tyres up to temperature this year generally, it’s an issue with the car design which is why they’ve struggled to dial it out over the season. The harder compounds are naturally more of a challenge to get up to temperature than the softs because they generate less friction. Ferrari have done well at races where the ambient temperature has been high and the super soft/soft tyre combination has been elected this year. The team probably over estimated the fragility of the Pirelli rubber and that led them to design a car that would be very gentle on its tyres hoping it would lead to greater flexibility on strategy, unfortunately this was a mistake.

      1. grigved says:

        thanx for valuable feedback…

    2. herowassenna says:

      I would imagine it’s something that is in the design DNA of Ferrari since Rory Byrne was designing them in the late 90′s.

      It took Ferrari from 1997 to about 2001 to develop a set up that was very easy on the tyres.
      During the teams dominant period, they had different qualifying rules, no parc ferme, spare car, endless testing.

      Since Byrne retired, Aldo Costa has been in charge. One of the criticisms made of him, is he’s too conservative and chances are that he’s designed cars along the traditional route.

      It’s not a Pirelli/ 2011 problem, this has existed years. It has also caused problems during wet races as the Ferrari doesn’t retain heat in the wet tyres.
      I would imagine Pat Fry is working on this very problem at the moment.

  18. Tom in adelaide says:

    Hey J.A,

    Can you ask your bro Rusty what’s happening with the ONE coverage next year?

  19. Mike N says:

    It is going to be interesting next year to see what levels of risk the teams adopt with technical advances for their cars.

    McLaren, Lotus Renault, Ferrari and Mercedes are all on the back foot to differing degrees, and a more aggressive approach to development and acceptance of risk seems to be being considered by them all in an effort to catch up with Red Bull.

    I wonder if we are going to see cars that are more subject to failures? The current points structure will mean failures are really going to hurt.

    Also, I wonder if we are going to see a definitive technical advantage (such as the D-diffuser) coming from the increased development push from a Red Bull competitor? A little bit of drama around technical legalities always add a nice flavour to proceedings in my view.

    Roll on 2012

  20. Milligan says:

    Hi James
    I was wondering after reading your report if you might have time over the break to do a spot on the technical/engineering people in some of the teams. I dunno about anyone else, but I would like to know a bit more about the key personnel in the teams [+ not necssarily the top teams only], and what you consider a reasonable goal they will try to achieve next season so we can all quantify.
    I know there will be limitations to what anyone outside a team will know of their plans.
    Just a suggestion… regards, Milligan

  21. Heinzman says:

    James, we get to hear from you on One HD before the race here in Aus, it is great to have correspondence on the important stuff from you. Off topic, but do you know what feed One will get next year and can you tell us if we will still hear from you here via One?

  22. Richard says:

    I agree with the comment that the article is much more engaging than the actual race. – It is ordered and constrained by the tyres allowing little GENUINE wheel to wheel action. So I think the Pirelli experiment has been a failure; Sure at the beginning of the season teams were learning the characteristics of the tyres creating a degree of chaos, but as teams understood them it really just brings a predictable order to the race. Make the tyres more durable and constrain the aero then we’ll have something worth watching.

    1. adi says:

      All season ive been trying to get my head around your negativity with the tyres. Yes we know they degrade more than the bridgestones used to, which doesnt suit a certain driver that you admire……The old sprint for 17 laps, come in, new boots and refuel days were great if you had a great car that allowed you to qualified on the front row. Only a disaster prevented you from finishing on the podium. Could a driver in a weaker car, say Alonso have qualified 5th and had a chance of winning in previous years? Or Jaime in the Torro Rosso qualify in 17th and still be able to finish in the points due strategy and patient driving? DRS is a must in modern F1 because the new tracks are go kart in design. If every round alternated between spa, interlagos, suzuka and possibly imola pre 94 then we could sit back and enjoy good old fashioned racing on complimentary tracks. Watching them going around abu dhabi at 10/10ths with no chance to overtake is not what F1 is about. DRS and the Pirelli’s at least help the spectacle on these modern tracks. Sure seb wrapped it up early but he should have done the same last year but I know what season i prefered to watch.

      1. Richard says:

        Well you’ve summed it up in your last sentence. It has been done for the spectacle on TV not for GENUINE racing! There appears to have been a number of drivers disadvantaged by the Pirelli tyres, but the problem is that they do not have sufficient longevity to allow drivers behind to push hard for any length of time to make up ground. – It is only where conditions intervene and/or diverse strategy that this really becomes possible. Pirelli tyres can be initially faster, but degrade so quickly that drivers are FORCED to drive less aggressively to make them last and they reward for the wrong reasons. It is after all meant to be race not a tyre strategy and conservation contest. The best cars combined with top drivers will usually win! This season has been a one horse race due to the aerodynamic supremacy of the Red Bull car, but of course Seb is a fine driver at the top of his game. I do not have such a problem with DRS as it enhances performance rather than degrade as with the tyres, although it allows those that are less capable of overtaking to achieve it. As you know some circuits are just better than others, but with Abu Dhabi they need to modify the preceding corners to the most lightly overtaking areas to produce higher exit speeds. Bring back refueling for lighter less compromised cars, durable tyres, and constrained aero. – That way it puts more emphasis on genuine racing and driver skill rather than just ponce around like a pussy on a hot tin roof!

  23. Jesper says:

    What causes Ricciardo’s graph to look like that? It’s weirdly occilating. Is he bad at getting overtaken compared to Liuzi and D’Ambrosio or was he trying to manage an issue?

  24. Marc says:

    Great place to follow F1, thanks to you James, but also to In Most part, the comments of many followers on this forum. Thanks to the mods too, for keeping this place civil. The tire angle of F1 is fascinating. Early in the season, I tend to remember, many negative comments about the tires degrading too quickly. Now at the opposite end of the same season, we see more concerns about the tires not making as much of a difference in the races. The teams learned to deal with the pirellis and so it led to less excitement during the races. I would love to see at least another tire supplier involve. It adds a dimension to the racing. It won’t happen anytime soon alas. Marc

  25. Rodrigo Visconti says:

    James,
    the site’s 2011 season was very good!
    Congratulations for the strategic analysis.

    Why don’t you write about the increasingly common penalties?
    Don’t you think that penalize drivers in overtaking situations kills the spirit of racing? (Not to mention that it goes against the FIA efforts to improve overtaking)

    Best regards,
    Rodrigo

  26. Tay says:

    I think you should to a strategy report on what the various teams’ off-season objectives and strategy are.

  27. I still think that DRS has hurt the spectacle overall. The ONLY place where DRS has helped the racing was Monaco, where Hamilton attempted two daring passes into the first corner. Every other DRS pass has been a boring drive-by.

    Take the battle between Alonso and Button. The pass of the race? Alonso passing Button, when the DRS zone hadn’t been activated, and away from the DRS zone as well. Potential battle of the race? Button catching up to Alonso in the dying laps. Nice overtaking attempt into the Senna S, brilliantly defended… but all undone as Button opens his wing and drives by Alonso on the next straight. Would Alonso have held him at bay for the final laps? Probably not. Would Button have had to make a daring attempt to re-pass to get the position? Definitely. Did he? No, he just drove by in the DRS zone.

    Frank Dernie was wrong – this season proved it. The Bridgestones were hard tires, and the racing was suffering. Pirelli offered much stickier tires, and the racing improved dramatically. Suddenly the cars could follow much closer, and passing didn’t rely on super-long 1+ kilometre straights for drafting. Of course, the FIA in their great wisdom, thought instead of seeing how the Pirellis would fare for the job, they decided to add DRS, muddying the view of what was working for the spectacle and what was working against the spectacle.

    So far, this is what I have seen from DRS:

    1. Every pass has been a drive-by. Since the wing allows the overtaking driver to have an advantage even after passing the lead driver, it does not accurately replicate drafting and makes passing far too easy.

    2. It has increased passes in locations that never had problems with passing. It only made it easier to pass while drafting down a long straight. I don’t recall drivers having too much difficulty passing on straights before. It was the overly hard Bridgestones that prevented the cars from getting anywhere near close enough to pass anywhere else.

    3. It has eliminated battles of any sort. Remember the saying “it’s one thing to catch him, but it’s another to pass him”? Well, it doesn’t work anymore. It has made defending your position impossible. Unless you weave all over the track, or have a major aero advantage, or both, like Schumacher at Monza, there is nothing you can do from preventing the driver behind you from simply driving by. You are a sitting duck.

    4. It removes the need for a potentially risky (i.e. exciting) pass on another car. The most exciting passes are ones where the driver has to lunge to make it work. Why bother passing in an area that could be risky, when you can wait for a risk-free (i.e. excitement-free) DRS pass? Button passing Alonso was a prime example. It happened many times this year… each time I yelled at the TV (I don’t think the FIA heard me yelling, however). Look at Kobayashi last year at Suzuka… his late-braking dive-bombs were awesome to watch. That’s what fans cheer for – no-one cheers for a driver getting within one second of the car ahead and then opening their wing and driving by. Kobayashi hasn’t had to dive-bomb anyone this year, because he can just wait for the DRS zone.

    With the exception of Hamilton at Monaco, was there A SINGLE pass made with DRS this year that was even remotely interesting?

    Everyone likes cookies, but imaging having a few really good chocolate chip cookies. You ask for a few more, hoping for more of the same. Suddenly your chocolate chip cookies are taken away and they are replaced with 100 oatmeal raisin cookies! Sure, you have far more cookies than before, but they’re terrible!

    I would give back 500 DRS passes for five really good passes. I’m talking Hakkinen going around Zonta to take the lead from Schumacher. I’m talking Villeneuve around the outside of a hairpin (both Gilles and Jacques did that, actually). I’m talking Kobayashi’s crazy dive-bombs. I’m talking Alonso around the outside of Button. I’m talking Hamilton vs. Button in the last two corners of Turkey. I’m talking Rene Arnoux vs. Gilles Villeneuve at Dijon…

    Take away DRS – Pirelli has solved the problem.

    1. Richard says:

      Pirelli have NOT solved the problem! Bridgestone tyres had greater longevity thus allowing drivers to be aggressive and push harder, and since everyone was on the same tyre the relative hardness did not matter. More importantly there was sufficient latitude to allow drivers in the midfield to gain ground by DRIVING and not just by diverse strategy. Pirelli’s are softer hence more grip and initially faster, but that falls away very rapidly if driven hard and therefore forces the driver to drive less aggressively to reduce the wear rate. – Not good! The answer in my view is durable tyres with further constrained aero. DRS is a bit of a gimmick, but overtakes are generally just ordinary. Still not convinced? – Look back 15-20 years and see just how much more exciting F1 was then with GENUINE wheel to wheel action. Super advanced aero is killing F1 and needs capping at a lower level.

      1. With Bridgestones, the cars couldn’t get within one second of each other, except when drafting by on straights. Fans were up in arms asking for overtaking to be improved. Surveys and studies were done for years. The tires were so hard that they were graining at most of the circuits. How is that possibly a good thing?

        With Pirellis, there are passes into all types of corners. Things have drastically improved, and would improve much more if DRS was taken away.

        You are saying what I’ve argued for the past few years: more mechanical grip, less aero grip (at least from the wings, as they are more susceptible to aero wake). My argument for tires was never that they needed 3-5 stops per race.

        My ideal set-up would be that theoretically you could do the race on a set of hard tires, or potentially be a little quicker in terms of time if you stopped 10 laps from the end and put on some sticky tires. That’s how it was back in the era you speak of… Of course, pit-stops are so fast now that it will never happen like that. It’s quicker to do a bunch of 15-lap stints on soft tires than stretch out a whole race on hards.

        The Pirelli approach is the lesser of all the evils, unless the FIA says that a maximum of two sets of tires are allowed per race.

        As for aero, this has long been my opinion:

        - Single element wings, front and rear (low efficiency – higher drag and lower downforce)

        - Strictly-enforced tunnels, like IndyCars and LMPs (under-body aero is far less susceptible to aero wake)

        - Go back to the pre-1993 tire widths and pre-1998 track widths – they look way cooler and give the cars much more grip. The 1991-1992 cars were the last really good-looking F1 cars.

        - Keep the current rules for turning vanes, barge boards, winglets, etc.

        Old-school low and wide, with sticky tires… it’s what all racing cars should be like.

      2. Richard says:

        It’s long been established that soft tyres are faster than hard tyres, but that not the full story as construction and profile matter too, but that’s hardly the argument. When a tyre is so fragile that it prevents aggressive driving such that drivers can only make headway by diverse strategy or that a team is disadvantaged because their car over works the tyres then it becomes a problem. Bridgestone tyres did sometimes grain, but graining can be driven through whereas wear in the Pirelli’s cannot, but perhaps there is a compromise to be met. Maybe the Pirelli Medium tyre is it! The Pirelli soft tyres don’t allow leading cars to be chased down under normal driving conditions, and it is only where diverse strategy/conditions come into play. I mean waiting for the other chaps tyres to wear out is hardly racing is it. The only way to win a championship is to place the car on pole, establish and maintain a gap to prevent cars using DRS against you, and cruise to the finish. – This Sebastion Vettel has done to perfection. The tyres need to be durable to allow sustained aggressive wheel to wheel action, the DRS passes are little more than driveby’s by comparison. In short genuine aggresive racing not an artificially constrained race.

    2. Brad says:

      “I’m talking Hakkinen going around Zonta to take the lead from Schumacher.” There won’t probably be another overtake like that. Only the exceptional will have the vision. It literally made me jump off the chair. Kimi overtake at Suzuka 2005 on Fisichella was probably another….

  28. Tom says:

    “Vettel and Webber normally finish more or less where they start,”
    Well, yes, because their at the front. If for some bizarre reason they had no qualifying pace, but awesome race pace, they’d be at the top of the list, but as their pace is evenly awesome (as it were) it’s not a face comparison.

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