How Perez could have beaten Alonso at Sepang – despite his mistake
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Sauber
Strategy Report
Posted By: James Allen  |  27 Mar 2012   |  10:23 am GMT  |  201 comments

The Malaysian Grand Prix provided us with an exciting glimpse of what we can expect in 2012, from a racing and strategy point of view.

We saw also a phenomenon which could provide the key to the season for whoever wins the title; the ability to be fast on all types of tyre in all conditions. Because judging from the Sepang race, even more so than Melbourne, all the teams are finding it hard to manage that. Hamilton, the pole sitter, for example, wasn’t particularly fast in any condition, while the Sauber was very quick on used intermediates and hard slicks. Williams’ Pastor Maldonado was not particularly quick on intermediate tyres, but once he went onto slicks he was extremely fast.

It was a fantastic race and one that Sergio Perez could and should have won, even without the driving error he made six laps from the end, as we will see.

Race morning strategy predictions for a dry race had been that the hard tyre would actually prove faster in the race, with estimates of up to 0.2s advantage. In the event this proved true and what was critical was taking a new set of hard tyres versus a used set of mediums. This was to be proven by the duel in the closing stages for the lead.

Perez and Sauber – the one that got away

Sergio Perez and Sauber were the fastest car/driver/tyre combination in two vital phases of this curious afternoon; in the long second stint on used intermediates and particularly in the final stint on slick tyres. But a historic victory wasn’t lost solely on his driving mistake. The strategy, while bold early on, became very cautious as the race progressed and this also cost him the chance to win.

As the rain fell heavily in the opening laps, Sauber pitted Perez on lap 3 for wet tyres. He was the first serious runner to make the move and everyone followed suit, but not for another two laps. On extreme wets Perez was three or more seconds faster than the leading cars and when everyone pitted on lap 5 he moved up to third place.

This bold move by Sauber had set up the platform for a great result. But then they started playing it cautious.

Going into the second stops, Perez was ahead of Alonso. At the second stops, the move from full wets to intermediates, Perez stopped two laps later than Button and a lap later than Alonso. The track was drying out and by the end of lap 13, when the safety car was withdrawn and it was obvious that intermediates were the faster tyre to be on. But Sauber played it safe, leaving Perez out for another lap, in which he took the lead.


But critically, this mistake led him to lose track position to Alonso. When Perez came out of the pits on lap 15 he was still just in front of Alonso, but was now feeling his way on new intermediates, whereas Alonso had a lap’s worth of experience on them and was able to pass Perez early in the lap.

However Perez did gain a position over Hamilton who was held in his pit box by McLaren so as not to collide with the incoming Massa.

The Ferrari opened up a six second lead over the Sauber, but as the intermediates wore down and the tyre pressures came up, Perez came flying back at Alonso, closing the gap to 1.3 seconds on lap 39. By now Ricciardo, the pioneer on slick tyres, was lighting up the time sheets and it was clearly the moment to follow.

The Sauber strategists delayed again; they were cautious about putting their inexperienced driver on slicks too soon, they also had one eye on the weather, with the threat of more showers in the air. They lost the initiative; Ferrari went for it, bringing Alonso in. As the leader, Alonso needed to cover off the threat from clearly the faster car, which he did.

This second mistake dropped Perez back seven seconds behind Alonso. Sauber had chosen a new set of hard tyres, Alonso a used set of mediums. The Ferrari decision was an interesting one as many strategists weren’t sure whether the medium would last 16 laps, the distance to the flag from this point. But on paper the medium offered faster warm-up. In fact the hard tyre proved faster to warm up on the Sauber and was instantly quicker. Perez again caught Alonso easily and with the DRS wing activated and a tyre advantage was sure to pass him at some point in the final six laps.

However he lost focus when the team told him to protect his position and he made a mistake, losing four seconds. There were suggestions that with Sauber so politically aligned to Ferrari and a long-standing customer of its engines, had made some kind of “arrangement” with the Scuderia, but Sauber and Ferrari denied this on Sunday night. And it does look more like a case of Sauber not wanting to throw away the chance of its best result in five years.

Nevertheless in that final stint we saw something that gives great encouragement for the season ahead. After six laps we had reached a crossover point where the hard tyre was the faster tyre than the medium. This is something Pirelli had been hoping to achieve this year and it will make the strategies extremely interesting. With lots of cars close on performance and many strategic options, it’s going to be a great year of racing.

Toro Rosso – tactically astute

Toro Rosso’s technical director Giorgio Ascanelli used to be race engineer to Ayrton Senna at McLaren and is one of the wiliest old foxes in the pit lane. On Sunday we saw a couple of classic Ascanelli moves: first he left Jean Eric Vergne out on intermediate tyres as the torrential downpour hit. He had only to stay on the track as everyone pitted for full wets and he managed it. When the race director stopped the race, as Ascanelli knew he would, Vergne was in seventh place. And with the restart behind the safety car, this meant full wet tyres must be fitted so Vergne got a set of full wets without having to make a pit stop! It set him up for his eventual 8th place finish.

Meanwhile Ascanelli was at it with his other driver too; as the track dried out he decided Ricciardo should be the first to go onto the slicks. This made sense as he was 17th at the time and needed to get into the game. There was no need to risk Vergne’s position. So Ricciardo rolled the dice and gained three places; not enough to get him into the points, but well worth a try.

Risk and reward; it’s what F1 race strategy is all about.

The UBS Race Strategy Report is written by James Allen with input from strategists from several F1 teams

(Race history graph to follow)

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201 Comments
  1. Andrew Myers says:

    James – is there such a thing as a ‘wet setup’ and a ‘dry setup’? Do you think maybe Alonso and Perez gambled on it being a wet race where the higher qualifiers weren’t prepared to do this? Or can they set up quickly for wet pre race and it becomes irrelevant?

    1. James Allen says:

      Wet set up is more wing, gurney flaps etc and a slighter softer spring

    2. Enigma says:

      James, Perez pitted on lap 1, not lap 3.

    3. Liam in Sydney says:

      There is such a thing as ‘wet setup’, which includes changes to the car that cannot quickly be changed. Also remember that before race start, cars are in parc ferme – I am not sure whether mechanics are even allowed to touch anything then.

      1. Raymond Yu XB says:

        Parc Ferme starts as soon as the cars roll out in Q1. Either that; or when the Q1 green light starts. I don’t remember which.

      2. Craig in SG says:

        The former. As soon as the car leaves the garage during Q1

      3. double eyepatch says:

        When Charlie Whiting declares a ‘change in climatic conditions’ before the race, then the parc ferme is lifted so that cars can change their setup, and absolves the top ten from starting

      4. double eyepatch says:

        with the tyres they qualified on.

    4. Wayne says:

      I have to ask, do the stewards make allowances in the wet? As usual Sunday’s race was insulted by the child-like inconsistency of the stewards. I have read that Karthikeyan has been given a penalty for causing an avoidable accident with Vettel – which in itself is HIGHLY dubious. However, Button held his hands up and said ‘it was my fault’ when he collided but has not been given a penalty! Anyone have the first clue why this would be? The slightest inclination? James, any insights? Are the backmnarkers fair game because their car is slower? Is it ok to award them penalties when they are trying to survive because it will not affect the WDC title? If you are a wdc contender, is there a seperate rule book just for you so it does not upset fans?

      Vettel blaming Karthikeyan is like blaming a pothole in the road because it was there. It’s childish, petty and not becomming of a wdc. Slightest bit of pressure and Vettel is all over the media insulting his colleagues. It’s disgraceful.

      Someone posted on another site saying that Vettel is the Justin Bieber of F1 – I had to smile quite widely at that one.

      1. Doobs says:

        Wasn’t Karthakeyan on a blue flag against Vettel?

      2. Wayne says:

        Yes. That does not make it automatically his fault if they collide. It certainly does not give SV the right to call him a ‘cucumber’ and an ‘idiot’. To me it just suggests what I have suspected all along, the media circus over SV’s ‘calm, likable’ personality is all hogwash and lasted only as long as he had a car to carry him to the wdc with little or no oposition. This year, in a car that does not have ‘cruise control’ even his team mate is generally a match for him.

        It’s not like we havn;t seen this before, such as when Vettel drove into his team mate in Turkey and gave him the ‘screewey head’ gesture. I firmly believe that SV is a driver who needs all the odds stacked firmly in his favour, both in the tema and out.

      3. newton says:

        I think in the case of Button, NK wasn’t really affected by the collision. Vettel obviously was.
        IMHO though, he should have given NK a wider berth. NK shouldn’t be penalised.

  2. Ahmad says:

    Everyone says Perez deserved to win, but actually he didn’t. He drove a great race but he made a driver error while Alonso drove perfectly. The win is determined not just by the fastest car, but also by strategy (as mentioned in the article) and of course, the driver. Perez, with less experience, choked, but also drove brilliantly.

    1. hero_was_senna says:

      I re-watched the race again this morning. It wasn’t the only mistake Perez made.
      Before they stopped the race, he had already been off the road at turn 13 (?) and rejoined in front of Webber.
      Maybe it was aquaplaning, as a few other drivers went off at the same time, but Alonso didn’t.

      1. wolf says:

        This was the incident I talked about in another post – Webber nearly lost it as a much slower Perez dropped back onto the track in front of him. Surely that was gaining an advantage by leaving the track?

      2. hero_was_senna says:

        Yes, but wolf, that wouldn’t suit the conspiracy theorists to bring that up.

    2. Wayne says:

      Agreed, very, very rarely does anyone deserve to win other than the driver who actually did win. If the lead car fails they did not deserve to win because the car had a weakness etc etc. As usual the general media flip flop all over the place backing this week’s standout as a superstar of the future while forgetting him the following week when order is resumed. Alonso deserved to win for many reasons but none more than the fact that he won.

  3. Alex W says:

    The radar said the rain was coming back, the radar is correct more times than not in short term forecasting, Sauber made the correct choice at the time, with hindsight we know it was wrong, but wile Ferrari/STR guessed correctly, in the long run it is better to use the best evidence than to guess.

    If it had of rained late as expected, everyone would have had to pit (again) and Perez would have romped it in.

    1. Heinzman says:

      Few have been saying this but everyone’s inters were effectively slick after running in near dry conditions (many drivers were diving for water offline towards the end of the stint) so they would not have held up had a shower come anyway.

      It is not good enough with a pitwall of strategists how long it took Sauber, Mclaren and others to react to Ricciardo’s purple slick sectors.

      One purple sector and you bring your driver in that same lap, no questions.

      1. Alex W says:

        No my friend, even if Perez’s tyres were shot it doesn’t matter, if eveyone else switched to slicks, they all lose 25 seconds or so in the pits, if the Mexican stayed out for 4 laps losing 5 seconds a lap, then it pored rain, everyone pits for new wets, Perez is 5 seconds better off.

      2. Heinzman says:

        yeh the gamble there is it HAS to rain in the next four laps or your race is finished, no one would take that gamble. The rule has always been right tyre at the right time.

      3. Doobs says:

        Except hed be losing 20 seconds a lap not 5.

      4. Alex W says:

        Heinzman, if the information at hand tells you there is a 80% chance of a shower in the next 2 minuites, if it is raining 200 metres away, it isn’t a gamble to hold off, it is a gamble to ignore that information. On this occasion that gamble paid divivends for those that changed early, ignoring the information at hand. Your “rule” was good when the weather info was very unreliable or nonexistent.

      5. Mad Marz says:

        The weather was unreliable

  4. Yasser says:

    Great article thanks james.

    But I disagree when saying that Sauber played it safe and were too cautious when they pitted perez a lap later than alonso.

    because If he had followed Alonso , we would know that He would also exit the pits behind him ( we know how good ferrari are in the pits this year ) so they tried to get a very fast in lap ( which we would expect him at that stage to do) and pit him and get him in front of alonso. which happened, but he couldn’t keep his position as you said.

    it was a good try and a very safe one as Hamilton was far behind.

    1. James Allen says:

      Yes but he was ahead of Alonso at the time….

      1. Pani Tsouris says:

        Sauber made a tactical error during this pit stop. Perez should have definitely followed Alonso into the pits and not stayed out a lap later.
        They should have seen that Ricardio in the Torro Rosso lapped nearly 5 seconds quicker than the leader the previous lap, so pitting for fresh slicks was an absolute must.

      2. Heinzman says:

        spot on, one purple sector and you bring your driver in, i cant see why they took so long

      3. Simon Donald says:

        The conditions were potentially similar to those at Donington in 1993. Senna won that race with something like 7 tyre changes. You need to be on the right tyre at the right time

      4. James Allen says:

        Senna made 3 tyre changes, Prost 7, Barrichello or Herbert (can’t recall which) did just 1

    2. Andrew Carter says:

      If your reffering to the last stops thats rubbish, as Ricciardo was already going 4 or 5 seconds quicker per lap than he had been on his inters, pitting after Alonso was always going to leave him even further behind.

  5. Mark says:

    Great read James. Shows the importance of strategy this year. Was amazed Hamilton couldn’t close the gap to Perez.

    Can someone explain this mystery for me? How did Vettel get in front of Webber? For the life of me I can’t work it out?

    1. James Allen says:

      More important than ever

    2. Simon says:

      The McLaren looks extremely sttffly sprung which is a big disadvantage in the wet, James is this the only factor or are their any other reasons why Lewis and Jensons apparant expertise in the wet abandoned them on Sunday?

      1. kennth mulvaney says:

        mercedes is very softly sprung – and they went backwards too!!

    3. Scott says:

      I believe Vettel passed Webber by pitting for slicks 1 lap earlier than Webber despite Webber being in front. This would normally mean the front running team mate gets to pit first, but this is Red Bull whe’re talking about here.

      1. Andrew says:

        I believe actually Vettel pitted after Mark, but Mark got held up in the pits, so when Vettel come out a lap later he was in front.

  6. Dan Orsino says:

    James, would you say all this was possible because of 4 factors:

    1 Button screwed his race [Kartikeyan also helped]

    2 Vettel likewise, [kartikeyan helped again]

    3 Kimi was handicapped by grid penalty

    4 Hamilton is in terminal decline

    1. James Allen says:

      1. Possibly
      2. Yes
      3. Wouldn’t have won anyway
      4. Not at all. He’ll have his days.

      1. alucas says:

        1. Button helped himself
        2. Sure, But Vettel always drive that way (remember the Webber affaire)
        3. give time, he was out for 2 years
        4. No. He is one of the best in dry, not on wet

      2. Andrew Halliday says:

        4) What about Silverstone 2008?

  7. Kay says:

    I hope this piece by JA stops the conspiracies for good!! :D

    1. Pat M says:

      Unless James is in on the conspiracy :)
      I have noticed that there is an awful lot of red on the webpage, also there is an archive for Team Ferrari, but not one for Team Sauber. Coincidence, or is James secretly in the pay of the Scuderia Ferrari. What about it James, are you driving around in a prancing pony?

      1. markdartj says:

        458?

      2. trody says:

        He’s named his son Enzo… :)

      3. James Allen says:

        Yes, after a character in the movie “The Big Blue”…sorry

  8. Hutch says:

    Love that info about Ascanelli. What a legend!

    1. hero_was_senna says:

      Ascanelli took alot of the decision when Vettel won his first race at Monza. He was also one of the few men that Senna didn’t argue with!
      For the life of me, why isn’t Ferrari trying to bring him onboard.

  9. Martin says:

    Hi James,

    Have you seen anything that suggests that Ferrari might struggle with the harder tyre? You mention that different teams have different issues. Could it be that for all its faults the Ferrari (with Alonso at least) make the medium tyres work, it is just that the car is fundamentally slow?

    Cheers,
    Martin

    1. James Allen says:

      It’s better than last year but they were obviously a bit worried as they put Alonso on used mediums

  10. James, a question to you if I may: Ferrari got the tactic calls all right for Alonso, as opposed to previous years – is that mostly due to Steve Clark or not at all?

    1. James Allen says:

      Neil Martin, who is in Maranello

  11. Tom says:

    James – great analysis as ever. However, you claim that Perez/Sauber were the fastest driver/car/tyre combo in the two vital stints. I would argue that actually it was Alonso who was the quicker driver in one of these – the long stint on inters. After all, Perez came out of the pits ahead of Alonso at the start of the stint but at the end of it, Alonso was ahead by around 1.5 seconds. Therefore, if you forget the emotion of Perez’s fantastic charge from the middle of the stint to the end where they pitted for dry tyres and take the average of the entire stint it was actually Alonso who was quicker. This in effect kept him in the game, as if he wasn’t able to have passed Perez or pulled out the initial c. 6 second gap then you could argue that Perez would have had the opportunity to either disappear down the road or to try and overtake Alonso before they even got to the dry tyre stint.

    1. James Allen says:

      If you look I said Perez was fastest in the worn inters stage, not the whole inters stage

    2. Bradley says:

      And Raikkonen was fastest over the last 8 or 10 laps.

      1. Robert says:

        Was raikkonen in that race?

      2. ValoisBR says:

        You gotta be kidding. He made a great race.

  12. matthew cheshire says:

    Great race, I’m keen to see the history graph- it’ll be an unusual one. Can we get a lap time graph too James???

    Shame about Perez letting first place get away, but Sauber must be hungry for the big points now. Will they leapfrog Mercedes and stay in the top four?

    1. ValoisBR says:

      The first two races were quite unusual. Melbourne is itself not a good thermometer for the season. And Sepang’s showers always make big shows. Can’t wait to see what happens now that RBR is not 1s/lap faster.

  13. SP says:

    James, thank you very much for that insight. As usual, a great and useful analysis. I expect those teams with heavier tyre wear issues to give the harder tyre some serious consideration in similar conditions. Maybe even on dry weekends.

    Any info on the set-up Alonso and Perez went for? I wonder if they opted for a wet set-up. Also on Mclaren, I have a feeling they ran less wing to cover the Mercedes speed advantage. And maybe this is why it affected their pace when more downforce was much needed.

    Thanks too for the mention of Giorgio Ascanelli, of whom I have not heard of before. I guess he’s one of those unsung heroes. Would be great to hear about these heroes more often and handy if we had a face to the name.

    Finally, we’re off to China next. Long straights, heavy braking and a variety of corners…. not much of the high speed stuff though. Look forward to see the pecking order…. if it remains dry!

  14. madsurfer says:

    Great race info as usual James, I have two questions firstly, with two long straights and DRS, Perez would have taken Alonso very easily, he would not have needed any brash overtaking moves ie diving down inside under braking, so why the radio message at that crucial moment, then after the off track moment, why did’nt Perez attack again?
    Secondly, Lewis failed to make up any time, on Perez and Alonso, during his stints on inters or prime, while Button set fastest times on his inters. I doubt that he would have been able to protect his position even if he had been released, from the pit stop, ahead of Alonso.

    Thanks

    James

    1. Damo-McLarenF1 says:

      Button was only fastest on a 2nd set of new inters after he had a total lack of pace on the 1st set (therefore he pitted to change them) meaning Button was bound to be faster than the whole field, let alone Hamilton @ that stage of the race (which he was).

      Perez and Alonso drove away from the whole of the field and not just Hamilton.

      I am actually happy with the two 3rd places he has achieved so far. Admittedly I’d have prefer to seen both poles converted into victories but two 3rds is hardly a poor return and fro what I can see, he was hardly challenged all race (given that he didnt really challenge the front two either). Give me a dry race, Hamilton on pole and a McLaren with half decent race pace (which I think it has lacked so far, albeit with stunning qualifying pace) and I’d be damned sure he’ll be sitting at the top spot.

      Jenson

      1. Robert says:

        Buttons race pace in Melbourne looked pretty good to me

      2. rgvkiwi says:

        especially since both were heavily fuel limited by the teams fueling calculation error.. (preportedly…)

    2. Brace says:

      Actually, messages are slightly delayed for TV audience, so his message came probably around a minute before it was aired, if not even earlier. At best, I’d say 30 seconds before he went off.

    3. Damo-McLarenF1 says:

      Button was only fastest on a 2nd set of new inters after he had a total lack of pace on the 1st set (therefore he pitted to change them) meaning Button was bound to be faster than the whole field, let alone Hamilton @ that stage of the race (which he was). Button was uninspiring in this race but as he has already said “that’s my bad race out of the way”. Which could be ominous… :-/

      Perez and Alonso drove away from the whole of the field and not just Hamilton.

      I am actually happy with the two 3rd places he has achieved so far. Admittedly I’d have prefer to seen both poles converted into victories but two 3rds is hardly a poor return and from what I can see, he was hardly challenged all race (given that he didnt really challenge the front two either). Give me a dry race, Hamilton on pole and a McLaren with half decent race pace (which I think it has lacked so far, albeit having stunning qualifying pace) and I’m sure he’ll be sitting at the top spot.

      Currently, I think Hamiltons biggest threat is Button…..

      1. hero_was_senna says:

        Well, Hamilton had that very opportunity in Australia didn’t he?
        Pole position, half decent race pace, as had Button and yet…

        I don’t know, maybe gut instinct, I just don’t feel he’s the same person as he was. I don’t doubt he is still capable of amazing speed, but it’s almost as if he has no answer to Button and doesn’t understand why.

      2. ValoisBR says:

        i’m eager to see HAM back at his feet. That will bring a great season.

    4. Nelson Pissquick says:

      Perez was within the DRS zone for two laps, but he couldn’t get passed.

      1. hero_was_senna says:

        I’m surprised your name is deemed acceptable on a family forum Mr Piquet. I heard the myth of your shenanigans at Brabham with those poor mechanics!

    5. Johnny English says:

      Perez was already for lap or two with DRS behing in the straights and couldn’t do anything. I’m pretty sure Alonso would have kept his possition because:
      1) he defends well (remember Imola vs Schumacher)
      2) Perez told that his tyres were going off already because he was so hard trying to catch Alonso and that he had only one chance to atack.

  15. Erik says:

    James, has anyone in the paddock mentioned the conundrum that is the race time in Malaysia? This is the second time rain severely hampered this race. Would of thought a ‘fix’ would have been thought up considering what happend here a few years back.

    Also, why does Charlie Whiting keep them lapping behind the safety car for so long?.. Drives were saying it’s good to go, and as soon as they did they all went in for inters. What are the rain tyres for then?

    A bit frustrating to sit about the lounge room, almost got bored with it. (Glad I waited though!)

    Something needs to change so that fans who alocate time to watch the race actually have a chance to. Should the wets be better maybe, what happened to ‘monsoon’ tyres?

    1. James Allen says:

      Yes but it’s only the 3rd wet race in 14 years!!

      1. Jodum5 says:

        There have been more than 3 wet races in the past 14 years…

      2. Richard Foster says:

        In Malaysia?

      3. Scott says:

        James may mean at this particular venue???

      4. Heinzman says:

        he means 2001, 2009 and 2012 at Sepang

      5. Erik says:

        Im thinking back a couple of years to the Kimi ice cream eating day. That was the only exciting action that day.

        I would have thought procedures would have been put in place to make sure everyone is not just sitting about on the grid or behind the safety car.

      6. Mike J says:

        With the later start time Bernie has requested (demanded?) in Malaysia look for that statistic to rise sharply.

      7. Erik says:

        The fact is at that time of day, in that time of year it always rains in South East Asia because of the monsoon season. It was a dud move to hold this race at this timeslot in that part of the world. If Bernie is adamant on keeping the start time Europe-friendly then he should consider moving the race into a better part of the year for Malaysia.

        James may be right, only 3 wet races so far but 2 of them are recent and in this new timeslot. And when it rains here we all get to sit and wait for it to stop. Not good for anyone.

        I agree with the monsoon tyre idea. Let’s find out who the real rainmasters are, they are supposed to be the best in the world.

      8. darth_patate says:

        but the 2nd red flag in 4 years at the “later time” isn’t it ? (and 2010 qualifying was very wet)

        sunday’s race was dramatic, and to remember but the risk of a 2009 race is very high, and this one was a borefest (except for the coke and ice cream bit)

      9. Millsique says:

        Am I correct in thinking this is the 4th race at the later time slot, and the 2nd time since then that the race was red flagged due to rain?

        Maybe the race should be moved to its earlier slot?

    2. Andrew Carter says:

      Charlie is massively concervative since if he gets it wrong he and the FIA could be in real trouble. I have to admit though, I really wish he would grow a spine, he’s too afraid of what might happen in anything other than mildely moist conditions.

      1. Trent says:

        Yes, way too conservative in the past few years. It’s reasonable to not race in conditions such as Adelaide ’91, but nowdays we get deprived of the chance to see who can really master a fully wet track.

        As noted above, it seems the full wet tyres are increasingly becoming a tyre that you only have on behind the safety car. And a red flag seems to get thrown the moment a couple of cars spin off.

        Let the guys race – conditions like that help to make legends.

      2. ValoisBR says:

        +1 thousand!

      3. Erik says:

        A very big +1..

      4. rgvkiwi says:

        Bring back the monsoon tyre as above!!!

        Whilst driver safety is taken far more seriously these days, it does seem they have a point…..

  16. lecho says:

    It would be a mistake if done by Red Bull, Macca, Ferrari or even Mercedes. But from Saubers point of view it was simply an opting for secure podium finish instead of chasing the rabbit and possibly slipping over the edge in the process.

    1. O.S says:

      Agreed – look what happened with Maldonado at Melbourne – Williams threw away 8 points.

  17. matthew cheshire says:

    In James’ interview with Webber before the race, Mark said that Vettel wasn’t competetive in qualifying so starting on hard tyres was probably a good call.

    Is Vettel struggling with the new tyres or missing the off-throttle blown diffuser? Webber is 2 for 2 qualifying against Vettel.

    1. James Allen says:

      Vettel preferred the hard tyre this weekend, from a balance point of view

  18. JC Agoglia says:

    Great review James, it highlights the good decision making that Ferrari/Alonso had this race. There are some lessons learnet from Abu Dhabi 2010 fumble.
    Although a great result, this could have been Sauber’s version of the Monza GP win for Toro Rosso…is Sergio Perez that good?

    1. James Allen says:

      Yes, since AD they’ve hired Neil Martin who was at McLaren then Red Bull

      1. Formula Zero says:

        Off the topic James, is the rumor about Merc exiting F1 true?

      2. James Allen says:

        It’s possible. They don’t like the deal on the table. I hope not

      3. Anand R says:

        What about supplier to McLaren in that case? Would they return back to status in 2009, just as engine suppliers?

      4. hero_was_senna says:

        F1 makes people cynical, I think this would be a great excuse to exit F1 without looking like they have been beaten.
        Motor manufacturers cannot afford to be in F1 too long without winning, otherwise brand value is affected.
        To supply engines is almost invisible, but to have the team there and falling backwards every race is difficult to explain to share-holders.
        Recently, we have lost Honda, Toyota, BMW, Renault and co.
        They’ll always use the excuse that F1 doesn’t look anything like a car, and touring cars is transferable in advertising.
        Yet when they come in, they spend an absolute fortune building wind tunnels, engine plants, design and build factories costing hundreds of millions and disappear when the going gets tough.

        Mercedes bought Brawn GP because they were champions and expected to carry on. They signed Schumacher because of his legacy and believed they would add to it, yet 3 years down the road, they are still struggling.
        And this with 2 of the men behind Ferrari’s dominant period.

      5. Kevin Green says:

        Mixed reaction that one hero some of your points accurate and some not quite accurate i feel.

  19. Mr Squiggle says:

    Great insights as always James, thank you.

    I need your help – I can’t find any good source that tells me how much time Webber lost in the pits.

    Several media sources mention how he got held by the team because everyone else came in behind him, (usually quoting Christian Horner), but I can’t find a number of what this problem cost him in time?

    Was it bad, or just a little bit bad?

  20. Nil says:

    Brilliant analysis!

  21. Jeroen says:

    Great article as always, James!!!

  22. em comments says:

    James, small typo “even without the driving error he made” => “even WITH …”

    “was sure to pass him at some point in the final six laps” Sure? As many have said “it’s one thing to catch, another to pass”.

    1. Jason C says:

      “was sure to pass him at some point in the final six laps” Sure?

      He would easily have got past using the DRS. He was just so much quicker.

  23. Chris says:

    Sorry to say I don’t think he would have passed Alonso!!! That radio message told him to hold his second place. If anyone thinks that a driver closing in on someone by 1 – 1.5 seconds a lap wouldn’t get a message like “come on, we can get him” (even more so when it’s a team that doesn’t have a win as an independent, and doubly so when you have that speed advantage on a very passable track, esp with DRS) is just deluding themselves. Do you honestly think if he was closing up on a Red Bull or McLaren the message would have been the same. The excitement at the possibility of win should have been unbearably fantastic, and the way Perez was driving you would have encouraged him all the way.
    Sauber as independent has always been a supporting Ferrari team, meaning they can’t take wins away from them. The tone of that message had disappointment from Perez’s race engineer all over it, he might have well have said “Alonso is faster than you”.
    Formula one is political, and it seems Red Bull and Ferrari have supporting teams in place in the midfield (Ferrari seem to have a supporting driver to it seems in Massa, but don’t think that should be part of the setup). Can McLaren ignore this?

    1. Bru72 says:

      Peter Saubers, Perez’, and the teams happiness at the end of the race, dispels your theory completely. The emotion of the Sauber team told the truth, they were ecstatically happy and no orders tainted their potential.

      1. Chris says:

        Why on earth would you tell a driver closing in at such a vast rate of notes to hold position (even more so when a win was at stake, something Sauber have never had, and IMO deserve)? I could understand if it was a few tenths here and there, but we are talking 1-1.5 seconds, would have been candy from a baby. Why on earth would you give such a dry and labored message when your driver has a golden chance to score the team’s maiden win?? That moment might never come again!! As Eddie Jordan said, we celebrated every victory as if it would be our last. No doubt Ferrari and Alonso fans will find some reason, and convince themselves there was nothing untoward in that message. If your an F1 fan from the late 90′s and early 2000′s, you’d know Sauber and Ferrari were very close. There is a political game, that goes on behind closed doors in F1. Do I believe Ferrari would expect Sauber not to hinder them on track, or take points, especially victories off them, of course I do. You can not be blind to what was very clear. The stakes are almost to high not to be the case especially as at the moment, in a normal race, that Ferrari is not a winner, and if they don’t find the right mix soon, they may have a very miserable season, and no wins is something I was thinking about after qualifying on Saturday. In my ideal F1, Ferrari would be challenging of course, like them or loath them, they are F1’s biggest team and story.
        I say again, if Perez was chasing down a McLaren or Red Bull, would that message have been the same?? It was about as un-encouraging as you can get!!! I’ve heard more positive tones out of people who have failed exams!!!

      2. Matthew says:

        They did not tell Perez “don’t pass Alonso”, they told him not to risk his second position. There’s a message difference between the two. One means “don’t pass him”, the other means “don’t do anything stupid”. The message would have been exactly the same if it was a Red Bull, a Mclaren, a Mercedes, or a Lotus.

      3. Brace says:

        Because Shumi wasn’t able to do it for 15 laps in a 3 seconds per lap faster Ferrari back in 2005. And that was Alonso’s only 4th season in F1!
        So why do you think Perez had a better chance then?

      4. jay jacob says:

        Hi Chris,

        From a certain perspective, I do agree with you that Sauber and Ferrari have a long standing relationship, but would Mr Sauber himself let Alonso win just to get better terms in a contract? No. Sauber has to pay millions to Ferrari and doesn’t get any more preferential treatment than Toro Rosso.

        I think, if Perez had won, Mr Sauber is confident enough that Ferrari will be professional about it and i think Mr Montezemolo wouldn’t penalize them because a Ferrari engine still won the race.

        If we consider the whole race, mistakes by Button & Vettel cost them zero points from the race. Imagine if Perez’s mistake, while hunting down Alonso, was like Grosjean’s and he stranded the car in ‘kitty-litter’? He was lucky that Turn 14 had asphalt run-off areas.

        So, conspiring with you is sooooo tempting but 18 points for a mid-field team is to-die-for compared to zero.

      5. HansB says:

        These messages are always transferred to us in delay. Which means that message to Perez was maybe send when he was still about 5 secs behind Alonso.
        I think the team said to him…. “don’t take too much risks in catching Alonso, we need the points”.

        There are several reasons why that message made sense:

        From a financial point of view, a second place will attract them some sponsoring (Just look at that white Sauber… they openly admit they don’t have enough money from partners)
        Perez is unexperienced in such conditions in F1 and a young driver that is getting close to his first race win, easily takes too much risks.
        Alonso is probably one of the toughest to overtake (Perez had 2 runs with DRS without getting close to pass the Ferrari)
        Look what happened to Maldonado just one race ago.

        Of course you can see anything in such messages… if you want. Maybe Ferrari even sponsors Karthikeyan, to stop Vettel and Button.
        Just don’t go frantic when a race doesn’t go the way you expected.

    2. Don says:

      With the track and tyre conditions and the chance of a mistake and not finishing vs a second place podium finish. If your a team manager you make the call. Mine would be to hold position and walk away happy.

    3. mikey says:

      Chris get real
      Peres did a great job but to pass Alonso is not so easy
      Last year when button / Vettel / Webber
      overtook Alonso was because their cars were a lot faster in the corners and the straights and if you notice Alonso gave them room
      This race Alonso would have fault tooth and nail for the 1st position
      and with his skill would have given Peres just the width of the car at 220 MPH to pass him if he dared
      so Sauba just pointed out to there Driver better P2 then a none finish like Maldanado who tried to match Alonso for speed throgh the fast bends
      No way would sauba give a win away if they thought they could get it
      Lets stop this conspiricy now please
      to win a race is like winning the lottory
      would you throw your winning ticket in the bin to keep your boss happy
      Dont think so

      1. Chris says:

        Mikey, if your 1 – 1.5 seconds a lap quicker a lap, you can easily pass in malaysia, even more so with DRS etc. At other circuits it wouldn’t be so easy, tracks like Hungry, Monaco etc spring to mind!!!The tone of that message said it all!!! If you watched it on sky, you could tell Martin Brundle knew what it meant,and for a split second he failed to hide his dissapointment.

    4. iGOR_BdA says:

      I absolutely agree. They can deny as much as they want but for the wise half a word is enough. I’ve never felt so shocked watching a F1 race as I did last Sunday, not even in Austria 2002…

    5. Tay says:

      The FIA did life the ban on team orders a few years back…

    6. puffing says:

      Formula 1 is MONEY and then fame. Constructor-championship points bring big money to the teams. This money is particularly needed by midfield teams, which heavily fight for points in constructor-championship because of this reason. This is explanatory enough of Sauber conservative strategy, included the radio call to Pérez. Which by the way was made laps before it was broadcast on TV. And, it didn’t avoid Pérez’s charge and consequent mistake. I was glad Pérez was not out of the race as Maldonado was one week before. Glad for Pérez and for Sauber, which now is 5th with 30 points in constructor standings. Ferrari is 4th with 35 points and Lotus 6th with 16 points.

    7. Carlos says:

      You can bet everyone in the paddock was thinking of what happened last week to Pastor Maldonado.

    8. JD says:

      If it weren’t for Toyota folding in 2010, the Sauber team would be no more. The in the last 2 seasons, the team has been one of the lower financed teams on the grid. The 2nd place finish was like a win for them in terms of positive exposure and potential constructors money from a higher points finish at the end of the season. Preserving the 2nd place was very important. Sure, Peter Sauber would have loved to win, but he was also thinking pragmatically about the long term stability of the team.

      1. jay jacob says:

        JD, i don’t get your comment “If it weren’t for Toyota folding in 2010, the Sauber team would be no more”.

        BMW bought majority share of Sauber in 2006, and when BMW pulled out in 2010 Mr Sauber bought back his team.

        Maybe you mean BMW instead of Toyota?

      2. JD says:

        When the Qadback deal to acquire BMW Sauber fell through, the team became the 14th team and was only a conditional entry for the 2010 season. Toyota needed to give up their spot as the 13th team in order to trigger Peter Sauber’s reacquisition. If Toyota had stayed in F1, the Sauber team would have folded.

    9. Ant says:

      It’s time McLaren purchased a midfield team (maybe Force India) or atleast a back marker (maybe Caterham) or they might be left behind in the arms race that I fear will ensue under the new agreement.

  24. PeterW says:

    The real question did not regard the race but came in qualifying.
    Did Red Bull blink and then panic? Why start Seb on hard tyres?
    He would have spent a large portion of the first stint stuck in traffic going as fast as the car in front but not as fast as the hard tyre would take him. Later he’d have been on softs when everyone else was on the hards and going faster.
    James, is this the first sign that Red Bull are really worried about the pace of the McLaren and chose the ‘anything else’ strategy to try to get ahead! This early in the season!

    1. James Allen says:

      At this stage they knew that they couldn’t beat McLaren by doing the same thing, especially with the deficit in qualifying

      1. JC Agoglia says:

        That’s something that I like about RBR, look for a different solution once the raw speed is not there, unfortunately we’ll never know if the harder tire was the right call (it seems that not, but…).
        I believe that RBR got some innovative setup-strategy happened a few times last season (ie sacrificing top speed for lap time) and the RBR/Vettel combination pulled a few “marginal” victories.

    2. Formula Zero says:

      Damage limitation is the only way for Red Bull & Ferrari to stay close to McLaren. On the other hand McLaren cannot afford to play safe or be too arrogant about their speed, keeping in mind it has been 14 years since they won the constructors championship. So we are on for a very exciting championship.

  25. Simon says:

    Very insightful, thanks James.

  26. ramprasath says:

    can they change the setup of the car during the red flag period to a wet weather setup. if so did someone did it

  27. DC says:

    I always felt Perez lost not necessarily because of his mistake (even though he was much faster he would still have to actually overtake Alonso who would not give up on a win that easily) but due to Sauber pitting him too late when it was obvious it was time to go on slicks.

  28. goferet says:

    With Sauber being a midfield team with no experience regarding such strategic decisions in the heat of battle up front, well, I can’t hold it against them but what’s worrying for Mclaren fans is their strategists might as well have been the Sauber ones —-> Yes Whitmarsh & his rat pack are that bad, Boooo.

    Now it appears Pirelli and JA on F1 were right from the start in that these new Pirellis and the smaller gap between the two tyres, will throw us a treat this year strategy wise.

    Also it appears Vettel’s gamble to qualify on the hard tyre wasn’t as foolish as it seemed at the time —-> Hahaa in our defense, we arm chair experts are known as such for a good reason.

    Also I would like to put up my arms and say, I was one of the conspiracy theorist that believed Montezemolo sent Peter Sauber a text confirming a discount for his engines for future seasons but having read other people’s comments, it appears, I was wrong.

    Say, interesting infor about Aryton Senna’s former race engineer, from that I gather Senna had lots of help to make his genius strategy decisions e.g. Donington 1993 and yet what the fans would like us to believe is Senna had an IQ of 170+ —-> Sheesh, some people!!!

    Maybe, it’s time Lewis Hamilton got rid of his race engineer better yet, shoved off to Red Bull.

    1. hero_was_senna says:

      I do enjoy reading your rambling goferet
      Fair play for admitting you got the conspiracy wrong.

      Regarding Whitmarsh and rat pack, I’d imagine they would wish they were “a bad” as the Sauber team this weekend.

      Last point, Ascanelli worked closely with Senna, but you may like to read some biographies of Senna before you dispel just how good he really was.
      Ascanelli joined Mclaren in 1992, at the request of Berger and worked with Senna through 1992 and 1993.
      Donington 1993 wasn’t a strategy put together by Ascanelli, it was sheer genius on Sennas part.
      These days, strategists have a major role within an F1 team, but 20 odd years ago, they didn’t exist.
      To be honest, the first person that took the role seriously, was Ross Brawn in 1994, when they re-introduced refuelling.

      1. Kevin Green says:

        +1

  29. UncleZen says:

    Extreme wets, full wets and intermediates, you make it sound like there were 3 wet tyres to choose from.

  30. Iwan says:

    Super analysis. Well done.

  31. Rob Haswell says:

    James, I am most mystified as to how Perez was the fastest car on track in the closing stages of the race, even after everybody else had gone for slicks. With all due respect to Perez and the Sauber machinery, there should have been faster car+driver combinations on the circuit at the time.

    Is there a technical explanation akin to Hulkenburg’s amazing pole in Interlagos?

    1. James Allen says:

      Tyre selection and tyre pressures.

      1. Rob Haswell says:

        Thanks James. I also hear there’s a theory about suspension stiffness.

  32. Matthew Yau says:

    While the strategy was interesting in this race, I think what was more telling was the performance of the Sauber and the Ferrari.

    James, could you do an analysis of how Alonso and Perez were able to pull away from the pack? Was is just a case of the rain levelling the playing field and Alonso showing why he’s the best driver on the grid?

  33. roadie says:

    Will we see the race history graph for this GP? I love seeing how that shows different drivers making and losing time through the GP.

    1. Stumo says:

      Just a quick “+1″ on seeing the race history graph; I can appreciate it can be tricky with the restart & safety car periods; if you can’t do anything else, do 2 separate graphs for before and after?

  34. Andrew Woodruff says:

    Yes – nice work. I thought at the time that Perez delayed unnecessarily before the switch from wets to inters and then from inters to slicks. Still, great race for the lad!

    As much fun as the rain was, I am hoping for a clean, dry race for Mercedes in China. Schumacher has had appalling luck so far (Grosjean looking well out of his league again at this level, tagging M Schu and then spinning out) and we still don’t know the true race pace of the Merc in representative conditions.

  35. Stickymart says:

    Well done to Ferrari and Sauber I say, they chose a tactical race and and it paid dividends. I’m not sure that this will be a common occurance this year though unless Ferrari sort their car out big-time. Nice to see the Hamilton haters out in force over the last few days. How a driver who has grabbed pole in the first two races, finished third twice (missing second due to safety car in Oz, and arguably losing precious time due to awful pit stops here), and currently sits second in the championship (albeit early days yet) can be described as “in decline” is beyond me. Time will show that the top drivers (Button, Vettel, Hamilton, and maybe even Schuey if Merc get the finger out) will start to finish consistantly higher up the order. Whilst this was a quality race, the weather conditions (with the tactics to suit) just about settled the result.

    1. devilsadvocate says:

      people drew far shakier conclusions against Vettel last year even when he would stay in the lead in the championship… nothing new really

  36. BW says:

    What exactly did you have in my mind when your wrote of Sauber’s “best result in five years”? It’s just four years ago when they had their only win as BMW-Sauber, and they had never been that high as just Sauber.

    1. JD says:

      We’re all assuming James meant Sauber’s best result as a non-factory, independent team owned by Sauber himself. After all, as BMW Sauber, the team was Sauber in name only. He had to buy back the team after BMW departed.

      1. BW says:

        Noticed that. It was unclear, however, as for the independent team position of Perez would be not just the best result in their last 5 seasons, but the best result ever.

  37. Anand R says:

    Hello James,

    Do you think McLaren lost the race for Lewis by not pitting him a lap earlier on both stops? (Wet-Inters and then Interns-Dry) Or was it lost for Hamilton and Button and the Red Bulls because they didn’t gamble for a wet weather set-up?

    Why did they pit Jenson before Hamilton when this race Hamilton had track position?

    Also, any news on Hamilton’s future at McLaren?

    Thanks,
    Anand

    1. James Allen says:

      I don’t think they had the pace to win the race on the day in the conditions.

      He lost track position when he was boxed in at the second stop (for inters)

      1. Anand R says:

        Correct, but before the second stop (for inters) also Button was pitted before Hamilton. Why?
        I.e. Button almost leapfrogged into the lead if he not been blocked by Rosberg and would have secured 3rd if he had not hit NK.

    2. devilsadvocate says:

      over here on the speed channel I recall there being radio transmission broadcast where Hamilton opted to stay out, at least on the first stop, at which point Jenson opted to pit… not sure about the other one. I remember the announcers making a pretty big deal about it.

      1. Anand R says:

        Yeah, there is a difference in a driver opting to stay out/pit and a team standard scheduled pit stop…

        Anyways the race is over, over and out to China!

  38. OJ says:

    James,

    I am a big fan of your website and posts. They are amazing, and look each day forward to more news and inside information. Thank you for the great work!

    During the race which I always follow with the F1 live timing next to the TV, I noticed some things which where not mentioned in your article:

    1) The pace of both McLaren was more then 1 sec a lap faster then the rest of the field on inters in the stint before the safety car.
    2) After the safety car, you could clearly see both McLaren being on the edge of grip (understeer as well oversteer), and therefore loose their pace.
    3) Button had a new set of inters, and was sliding around even more, he laptimes went actually up; he went after 10 laps back to the pits, changed for new ones and immediately set the fastest lap times of the race by 2 secs a lap for a few laps.

    Could it be that McLaren went for the wrong tire pressure after the safety car? The cars also looked very heavy, did they take more fuel then the others? With other words, did Ferrari and Sauber gamble with fuel strategy and had to save fuel (= lower pace) in the first stint?

    What is your view on this?

    1. James Allen says:

      Tyre pressures were certainly a factor on Sunday on some cars. But Hamilton wasn’t particularly fast at any stage of the intermediate phase

      1. Boulay says:

        Hi James

        Thanks for the analysis but I really would like to understand more of why you think Hamilton was so off the pace?

        Is it simply the set-up, the tyre pressures, the Mcclaren having fundamental race pace problems or strategy?

        I thought it amazing that jaime a was saying on the commentary that the smart move would to be to come in straight after the safety car and change tyres but my friends and I were staggered when he did not.

        If he had he might have been able to gain advantage – considering he didn’t on the chosen strategy then he might as well have risked it.

        Is there a fundamental difference where Hamilton waits to be told to come in where button chooses for himself.

        It does seem strange that the two sides of the garage appear to have very different approaches to strategic changes.

        Thanks in advance.

      2. Anthony says:

        at the start of the race he was almost 2 seconds faster than anyone bar Perez (who was on full wets)

      3. Supersonic says:

        Hi James
        It is great to hear you live again and thanks for the insight into Sundays happenings.

        How much did the track temperature drop from the red flag to the re-start? Is this the reason for the Mclaren drop in performance?

        Thanks

      4. Roo F1 says:

        I think the tyre pressure is the key factor. Button’s huge struggles which lessened slightly after a pit stop showed that McLaren didn’t get their research and/or predictions correct regarding their car the tyres in wet weather. I don’t think this will be a problem because most races aren’t wet AND they will have learnt a huge amount from this race in data etc.

        Vettel showed what I predicted – if he is not at the top he is going to find it difficult to accept the change – and act crassly / rudely. I also believe that Webber has had the pace on him twice now. That might be the most interesting thing in this entire season – Webber finishing ahead of the RB golden boy. If that happens just 2 or 3 times we are going to see fireworks and very strange RB strategies.

        The title is still in the hands of McLaren, it is going to depend a lot on luck and who gets a good run with no mechanical errors or racing freak issues.

  39. Steven says:

    Thanks for your insight, James.
    Can you tell us, when the race is stopped and teams allowed to work on the cars, are they able to dramatically alter settings?
    If a driver had gambled on a wet set up, would that advantage be lost or is there a limit to what changes are permitted?

  40. Andy H says:

    In answer to the headline……………..
    Not whilst Alonso was driving a Ferrari.
    If there was nothing to deny, why deny it?? The whole episode stinks and its Ferrari again. They are what is right with the sport and also everything that is wrong, how Mr M can moan about other teams polemics is just beyond me. Ferrari have no interest in the sport beyond themselves and allow themselves to be used by Mr E for a pot of gold. Then having the pot of gold manage to turn out midfield car, what a class act.

  41. Andy H says:

    Mr Perez is top drawer talent. With a bit of luck a future WDC. Bugger!!!!! he’s a Ferrari driver.

  42. Tornillo Amarillo says:

    1. I would love to have statistics about pit-stops and type of tyres for each stint per driver after each race, it would be very useful…

    2. With Alonso, Perez and Maldonado shining it would be also worthy to have in this blog some articles in Spanish :)

  43. Gene says:

    Sergio’s stops were ‘safe’ tire calls all day. Early on full wets… and then late on a drying track for intermediates and then slicks. I almost get the feeling that the calls are a slight reflection on Sauber’s opinion of their driver’s ability. There were a few interviews after the race with Sauber’s CEO, Monisha Kaltenborn, that also give me the impression that they’re still nurturing and being very wary of his driving talent and mental state of mind. But to fully confirm my feeling, I’d need to know whose call it was to go onto the different tires throughout the day. In all the interviews I’ve read, I haven’t quite figured out who it was that decided the timing of the stops. Any ideas James?

  44. sumedh says:

    James,

    Do you think some cars might have removed fuel from the car during the safety car stoppage? It would be the obvious thing to do as it was clear that most of the remainder of the race was going to be wet and cars will have saved more than enough fuel in the first 13 laps in the wet?
    Is it allowed by the rules?

    1. Alan H says:

      An interesting question that hopefully James can answer! I can’t see anything in the Regulations that would prevent fuel being taken out. Purely for interest, Article 41.4 states that a car can be worked on but not refueled.

  45. Obster says:

    Great inside info about the Toro Rosso’s, James. Thanks-I will be watching for this aspect in future wet races.
    You have to be happy for the Sauber team. Wasn’t it early last season they had a similar great result nullified by a wing penalty?

  46. UQL says:

    Not only one error by Perez, but two. First in lap six:
    http://img839.imageshack.us/img839/4920/lap6perezout.gif
    So… Sauber call made ​​more sense than many think. Moreover, according to Alonso, had a single dry lane overtaking, despite the DRS would not be easy.

    Why driver who made two error is driver of the day in this blog, and a perfect race by Alonso not? Good question…

  47. Andras F. says:

    James,
    Just watched the race again a saw when Hamilton pitted for the slick the team removed some cover from the front brake ducts.
    Is that legal to make such a change on the car? Probably wanted they wanted more air in to cool the brakes.
    It was definitely not a debris. Same thing can be seen at the beginning of the race and also on Button’s car.

  48. Aussie Rod says:

    Great analysis as always James.

    Just goes to show that it is easy to make the bold calls when you have nothing to loose, like Perez’s initial call to go on to full wets, or Vergne staying on inters, or HRT starting on full wets.

    But Sauber showed that when you get into a good position and have everything to loose, the decisions become much harder!

    The midfield teams have the liberty to roll the dice and look like heroes when they get it right, because they have little to loose. Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari don’t have that luxury.

    Every one of their decisions can cost them dearly.

  49. CRT says:

    Hi James,

    Great analysis as usual, thank you!

    There are some discussions in twitter about the engine maps used by Alonso and Perez in the last stint of the race. In the TV images you can see that, in this last stint, the rear rain light is on in Alonso’s car and off in Perez’s one. A possible explanation is that Alonso was using a wet engine map and Perez a dry engine map. A wet engine map I suppose means safer driving in the treacherous conditions of the track, gently use of tyres, and that Alonso still had something in reserve to defend from Perez. Do you have any information about this?.

    1. darth_patate says:

      yep, noticed it too and wondered what it meant, good question. (and indeed thanks for this wonderful blog.)

  50. Micheal Evans says:

    I don’t think Sauber and Perez ‘arranged’ to stay behind Ferrari because those 18points are worth so much to them that it wasn’t worth the risk to dive down the inside and throw it all away, and then Perez just lost some concentration once he was told to maintain position.

    However, I think Perez definitely showed Ferrari that he’d be quite happy to be No. 2 at Ferrari, behind Alonso, as soon as they get rid of Massa. Great timing Perez! =]

  51. GregH says:

    I’m sure Mark could have gotten third place at least if RBR had let him come in for slicks before Toro Rosso did with Ricciardo.
    I noticed at least twice in the telecast the RBR team telling Mark to stay out on the inters as rain was coming – while we didn’t hear what Mark was saying I’m sure he must have been asking to come in for slicks from about 4or5 laps before Ricciardo got them.

    1. Ben says:

      The radios on both RB was not working. He couldn’t hear them, they couldn’t hear him

  52. Just A View says:

    James I think your analysis is fantastic and the service you provide is first class.

    However it’s essential to be a grown up. Sauber were never going to show up a key supplier. Period. No one in business would do this – unless they specialise in making their life unnecessarily difficult. Perez was told to ‘hold’ or words to that effect. Some might think this isn’t too different a message to Smedley’s famous, “He’s faster than you,” to Massa a few years back. You might want to conclude that everyone has covered their tracks very well given how little comment there has been on this aspect of the race.

    1. James Allen says:

      This is racing, remember.

      1. Just A View says:

        C’mon James you’re smarter than that. This is not only about racing amazing motor cars.

        Before one can say “To finish first, first you must finish”, one has to say, “To be a starter, first you must have money.” In Malaysia I think Sauber showed they understand this perfectly. The simple fact is they wouldn’t be on the grid without Ferrari engines and perhaps even for other benefit-in-kind reasons as well.

      2. James Allen says:

        That’s your view

      3. Kevin Green says:

        quite probably true i see Sauber currently as a form of ferrari B Team or a Red Bull (Torro Rosso) or however you want to put it! but all in all its wrong.

        Any way if peter does want to break from that current little tie in in which i think it is in some form other than simply engine supply deal so to speak! he has done himself no harm in respect to attracting a potential take over/buy in/major sponsor.

        I feel other than for Ferrari they ain’t in great shape but certainly hope they survive in there own current name sake :)

  53. Methusalem says:

    Yes, Perez could have beaten Alnso if the Ferrari gangs weren’t desperate to report some success — I think Perez, alongside Massa, was forced to become another Alonso helper.

    On another note, in my 20 years F1 following I have never heard a team telling its driver to retire his car without any obvious problem like Red Bull did to Sebastian Vettel. Are we about to witness an icy relationship between Vettel and his Bulls this season? I read that Red Bull will sit down with Sebastian Vettel following reports Vettel deliberately ignored the team’s race instructions in Malaysia.

    1. kennth mulvaney says:

      not a first — honda tried that trick a few years ago…. they actually retired both thier cars from points scoring positions (melbourne i think) – so that they could get a new gearbox to win the next race – overconfidence!!

      FIA steeped in and prohibbited it.

      I think this is what rb were trying… but they were still reading the rulebook as they were doing it!!

    2. Johnny English says:

      You should watch more races – every season of the last few there has been somebody not finishing just to change his gearbox without penalty.
      Regarding Perez – yes – you know better than him and congratulations on that!

    3. BurgerF1 says:

      Red Bull claim there was damage to Vettel’s rear left brake from the puncture and were very concerned for his safety. Vettel’s radio was not working so he didn’t receive the message. So unless you think Red Bull are lieing about the brake problem, their order to retire was a normal one.

  54. Andrew Kirk says:

    Good read James as always was wondering how much pressure will Massa be under now?

    Alonso winning in what Ferrari admit to a car that isn’t a winner, a young gun like Perez driving a strong race with links to Ferrari, a couple of hurry up’s from the pit wall during the race and now two races where once again Massa has looked second rate. I know it is 18 races to turn it around but if anyone needed a strong start to the year it was Massa!

    1. James Allen says:

      A lot. He was a bit closer in qualifying, 3 or 4 Tenths, from session to session, but no points after two races when his team mate is leading the championship says a lot. Loyalty must have its limits

      1. jay jacob says:

        Agreed. At the half-way season mark, if Massa doesn’t improve, it might be trouble in the making. At year end, if his points deficit to Alonso cost Ferrari a higher standing in constructors’ then it’s as good as sealed.

      2. Johnny English says:

        Well, I don’t think they take a look at point’s deficit between Alonso and Massa. If they did, they should have made conclusions after every season from 2010:
        2010:
        Massa – 144
        Alonso – 252
        2011:
        Massa – 118
        Alonso – 257
        So I don’t get what makes people to be so surprized this year.

      3. jay jacob says:

        You’re right Johnny about the stats you gave above, but they do look at constructors’ points.

        I think Ferrari has had enough of the last two years and have told Massa, personally and publicly, that if he’s not closer to Alonso in points, which in turn translates into a better position in constructors’ points, it’s over.

    2. RomeoG says:

      Perez also got great support from the Ferrari mechanics at the park ferme celebration, look when he got out of the car and walked to his team standing next to them, many Ferrari mechanics padded him and they were even holding his arm while he was embracing his team. They really consider him one of their own. Remember that he lead all events in the Ferrari Academy ahead of Bianchi. I am sure these boys have work with him already. I wrote Checo and I repeat, do like Alonzo and learn Italian NOW!!

      It will be great for me a lifetime fan of Alonso see my compatriot race next to him. It will be my most proud moment since Rebaque’s years.

  55. Adrian Newey Jnr says:

    James – thanks for the informative break down. This level of detail (due to time most likely) is missed on the live feeds. But great for the post race analysis!

    I would also like to say how good I’ve though Jamie’s analysis has been on your podcasts. For someone so young, I have been thoroughly impressed. Far more insightful in my opinion than some of the other ex-drivers in the media.

    1. James Allen says:

      Thanks. Yes Jaime has been very insightful, I agree. He sees things very quickly and is very decisive.

      1. puffing says:

        James, I am still puzzled about the paddock commentaries, or maybe Toro Rosso Principal commentaries, that you said there were circulating about Alguersuari’s intelligence at the end of last season. This was very rough and potentially dangerous for a young pilot career. Now that you know better of him because of podcasts, could you say if the commentaries did make justice to Jaime’s intelligence? May be what he lacked was ‘political/emotional’ intelligence toward his boss? Sorry to ask you on this delicate matter, As I’ve said above, I’m still puzzled and therefore curious about.

      2. James Allen says:

        I find him very sharp. He’s bright, articulate and very decisive. A couple of sessions with him made me see things I’d never appreciated before about what was going on in practice and with car behaviour.

        He definitely deserves a seat in F1 if you look at the quality of the entire field. His performances in the second half of 2012 showed a steep improvement.

    2. puffing says:

      Jaime Alguersuari writes a short column and answers questions too in the Spanish newspaper El Mundo every week, or at least every week after F1 racing. There, he is concise and shows insight from a driver’s perspective. In last column he brought up attention on how intelligent was the driving of Alonso in Malaysia when the track was getting from full wet to half dry. In such a changing condition, most drivers on inters usually go for wet lines on the straights in order to refresh tires. Jaime said that the approach of Alonso was really impressive, because Alonso kept looking for a different best line not only in the straights but also in every curb, and changed them lap after lap in agreement with the track condition.

  56. C. George says:

    James,
    Is it something wrong with the red car, when somebody’s close behind? (I mean wrong for others) like extra turbulence disturbance or something, the point is, PM in Melburn and SP in Sepang lost the car in quite similar way while FA benefited, or just it’s driver’s mistake..

  57. Adam says:

    So what if Perez had received a message like: “Push Push Push” and then had his little off track moment??? Everyone would be jumping up and down for a different reason. Can’t blame the pitwall for a mistake on track. People need to remember that we only hear perhaps 10% of all the radio communications sent between the cars and the pits… and then usually they are just the juicy ones. Perez drove fantastically all day, apart from 1 corner!

  58. Jay says:

    Perez lost a lot of time leaving the pits, it sounded like he either stalled it or was in the wrong gear.

  59. Avi says:

    Hi James, great article and very good analysis of the strategies. However I have 2 questions about how the teams prepared for this wet race. Considering the last wet conditions were in the first practice in Australia, interestingly it was Sauber/Kamui who completed the most laps (26) and Ferrari/Alonso a close third (23), so how much of this running helped them in the race? The second question is, how much of a factor was track position in the race? Had Hamilton emerged from the pits ahead of Alonso, would it have been possible for Perez to hold onto his lead and win?

    1. James Allen says:

      It was clearly worth something !

  60. JamesMP says:

    Hello James,
    I’m a big fan of your work, particularly the detail you put in your analysis, so i thought i’d get your opinion on something; I’ve noticed that with the first two race weekends gone that Vettel really seems to be fighting with the redbull leading to minor mistakes, but Webber doesn’t seem to struggle with the car AS MUCH and if memory serves he out-quallified Vettel on both weekends, could it be that the ban on the exhaust blown diffusers has resulted in a car or car balance that suits Webber a bit more than Vettel?
    And could a similar explaination be used for Schumi getting better times than Rosberg?

    Thanks,
    Keep up the good work :D

    1. James Allen says:

      I think that the EBD was something Vettel had a real way of driving without it Webber is closer.

  61. Bru72 says:

    The message was ‘be careful’, and if you saw the race, Perez tried very hard to pass Alonso, and went off the track at a 150mph corner. This was after the be careful message. Catching a car is one thing, but when your close and lose downforce, it’s a different story.
    I say again, the truth was there for all to see in the happiness of the Sauber team when the race was over! They tried to win, came second, and they were understandably ecstatic.
    Why let a negative conspiracy (media inspired) theory ruin what was a brilliant and clean race?

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