How the safety car robbed us of a thrilling showdown in Singapore
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Posted By: James Allen  |  25 Sep 2012   |  5:40 pm GMT  |  82 comments

The Singapore Grand Prix can definitely be classed as a “what might have been” race, as the intervention of two safety cars meant that we were denied an exciting and unpredictable finish. Also the retirements of Lewis Hamilton and Pastor Maldonado spoiled what would have been intense competition at the front.

None of this will have bothered Sebastian Vettel, who took his second win of the season, nor Fernando Alonso, who extended his championship lead over all his rivals bar Vettel.

But despite the anti-climactic ending, the strategy decisions and factors that shaped the race are very interesting and worth a deeper analysis.


Pre-race expectations

One of the key factors in the weekend was that the gap in performance between the Pirelli soft and supersoft tyres was greater than expected. In qualifying it was as much as 1.6 seconds on some cars. In the race, many teams found that the soft tyres were not working to the optimum; they were designed to be more resistant to high temperatures, but didn’t perform on the slippery surface.

Degradation was always going to be the limiting factor in Singapore, especially with the rear tyres, so the opening stint was crucial. Everyone expected high degradation in the opening stint. Teams which were unable to get to around lap 13 or 14 on the set of used supersofts from qualifying were going to have to stop three times. And as the pit lane in Singapore is the slowest of the year at 29 seconds, there was a premium to being able to extend the tyre life and do it in two stops.

So most of the top teams went out at the start aiming to do two stops but waiting to see how bad the tyre degradation would be in reality. Among the rival team strategists there was a suspicion that Red Bull would put Mark Webber on a three stop strategy, as this would gather information on the supersoft tyres and once he moved onto the new softs, which would help Sebastian Vettel’s race effort.

Webber’s tyres were two laps older than Vettel’s so the team could monitor the degradation. However there were also signs that Webber had an over-steering car and this led to higher rear tyre degradation, so he was obliged to do a three stop in any case.


Second Safety car spoils the show

There is always a safety car at Singapore and this year we had two. The first, on lap 33 for Narain Karthikeyan, fell in the window for the second stops and lasted six laps. Most of the front runners took advantage of it to make a stop, although Fernando Alonso and Pastor Maldonado were slightly caught out by it as they had stopped five laps earlier.

But the second one, on lap 40 for Michael Schumacher hitting Jean Eric Vergne, really changed the game. It meant that the cars were able to spend another three laps at reduced speed, making it a total of nine laps behind the safety car. Add in the fact that because of the safety car delays the race ran to two hours and so only 59 of the 61 laps were covered and it meant an 18% reduction in the number of racing laps – a real boost for drivers who were gambling.

This saved quite a few cars, which would otherwise have run into serious trouble in the closing stages of the race without making a third stop.

We would have seen the cars with higher wear coming under pressure from those with better wear, as we saw in Valencia, for example and it would have made for a very exciting finish.

Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso certainly fall into this category. Vettel stopped on lap 10 with clear signs of tyre degradation and Alonso a lap later. Red Bull were on a three stop plan with Webber and may have been obliged to do the same with Vettel without the nine laps of safety car; it certainly helped them to make it to the end in two stops and it’s likely that Alonso would have had the same problem. Ferrari had some issues with overheating the rear tyres in Singapore, so the safety cars were a blessing.

In contrast Jenson Button had been conserving tyres in the opening stint and managed to get to lap 14 before the first stop.

He was preparing the ground for the end of the second stint and the end of the race, when he would be able to attack Vettel on tyres that were four laps newer. The McLaren seemed to be working very well in Singapore and even Hamilton would probably have made the finish in two stops, despite pushing hard in the opening stint and a front tyre issue that forced him to make his first stop on lap 12, slightly earlier than planned.

The first safety car took Button’s advantage away and the second one meant that Vettel had no tyre issues at the end.


Force India – strong result with one car, disappointment with the other

For the second year in a row in Singapore, Force India’s Paul di Resta got a very strong result, in this case a career best fourth place.

Di Resta is another driver who was able to make it safely with two stops; he pitted on lap 12 and then took advantage of the first safety car to stop a second time, losing only one track position to Alonso, who had already stopped. He followed him to the flag. He had stayed with the Ferrari for most of the race, but in the final stint the Ferrari was a little faster on the new soft tyres.

Without the second safety car Di Resta too might have struggled on 28 lap old tyres. Luckily for him there were no fast three stopping cars coming up behind. Di Resta benefitted from the Mercedes of Rosberg holding up cars behind him, in the run up to the second stop, creating a gap for him to drop back into.

Team mate Hulkenberg was one of those who tried a three stopper and lost out due to the second safety car.

Hulkenberg had qualified 11th and started on the soft tyre. His strategy was to run a long first stint but he lost time behind Raikkonen and Schumacher in the second stint, just before the safety car. The second safety car meant he couldn’t take advantage of track position and he stopped when it came out, then tried to do two ten lap sprints on new supersoft tyres, but it didn’t work out and he lost further track positions with a third stop on lap 50.

The UBS Race Strategy Report is written by James Allen with input and data from several of the leading F1 teams’ strategists and from Pirelli

TYRE CHOICES, SINGAPORE

SS= Super soft; S = Soft; U = Used; N= New

Vettel: SSU SN (10) SN (33) 2
Button: SSU SN (14) SN (33) 2
Alonso: SSU SN (11) SN (29) 2
Di Resta: SSU SN (12) SN (33) 2
Rosberg: SSN SN (12) SN (33) 2
Räikkönen: SSU SN (13) SN (32) 2
Grosjean: SSU SN (14) SU (33) 2
Massa: SSU SN (1) SN (19) SSN (33) 3
Ricciardo: SSU SN (11) SN (31) 2
Webber: SSU SN (8) SSU (28) SU (40) 3
Perez: SN SN (18) SSN (40) 2
Glock: SN SSN (13) SN (25) 2
Kobayashi: SN SN (14) SSN (30) SSN (50) 3
Hülkenberg: SN SN (18) SSN (40) SSU (50) 3
Kovalainen: SSN SN (12) SSU (26) SSU (45) 3
Pic: SN SN (16) SSN (32) 2
De La Rosa: SN SSU (18) SN (30) SSN (40) 3
Senna: SSN SN (10) SSU (25) SN (33) 3
Petrov: SSN SN (1) SSU (18) SSU (30) SU (40) 4

RACE HISTORY, Courtesy of Williams F1 Team

The graph has been adapted to better reflect the safety car periods of the race. The zero line is the average of the winners’ race lap times, expressed as the same lap time every lap for reference.

Note the sudden drop off in pace on Vettel’s car in the first stint as the tyre degradation suddenly hits.

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82 Comments
  1. Jodum5 says:

    So was it really the safety car’s fault or Schumacher’s daft mistake that robbed up of this “thrilling showdown”?

      1. Tornillo Amarillo says:

        I’m thinking what happens if Hamilton wins all the 6 remaining races, Vettel always 2nd and Alonso always 3rd…

        Hamilton 142 points + (25×6)= 292 (WDC)

        Vettel 155 points + (18×6)= 273 (3rd)

        Alonso 194 points + (15×6)= 284 (2nd)

      2. Tornillo Amarillo says:

        typo Vettel 165 …= 273

      3. James Clayton says:

        Winning six races in a row is no mean feat though!

        For Hamilton to have a realistic chance at the championship he needs Alonso to have a bad race or two, Button needs to get in between him and Alonso/Vettel in the remaining races too because it seems likely the Red Bull will win at least one more race this year.

        There’s also Kimi to worry about as “the device” will be making an appearance from the next race on. Hopefully the performance will slot them in somewhere between a pair of leading McLarens, and a couple of chasing Bulls and Horses!

  2. Blade Runner says:

    Thanks James again for the insight.

    Off topic sorry but can you answer this,

    On a race weekend we see the pits/garages all kitted out in all the teams gear and drivers have their names over the door of each pit.

    When the GP2/3 and other support races are run on the same weekend, where do those teams pit their cars?

    Also, do the GP2/3 cars have to pass the same survival cell-monocoque, crash tests?

    1. James Allen says:

      In front of the F1 garages. Except some tracks like A Dhabi and Silverstone where they have a second pit building

      1. Kay says:

        Wouldn’t that be problematic for tracks like Monaco??

      2. Richard D says:

        Whilst GP2/3 use the old pit garages at Silverstone, they make their racing pit stops in the GP pit-lane.

  3. AlexD says:

    Anybody knows whether the form of Ferrari in Singapore is an indication of what we can expect from the car in the coming 6 races?

    1. Bring Back Murray says:

      Possibly

    2. Kay says:

      You’re asking something nobody knows. Try asking God.

    3. Robert Gunning says:

      Probably not. If prior form is an indicator, Suzuka, Yeongam, Austin, and Interlagos are far more suitable for the F2012; given the combination of high speed corners and the reliance upon straight-line speed. There is also the potential for wet weather affecting these events(the exception being Texas) which is the F2012′s strong-suit. The only problem I envisage is Abu Dhabi, although there are a few long straights which may mitigate any negative effects as a result of low speed traction problems. Also, remember that the F2012 suffers degradation issues, particularly when the track surface is hot, but has a significant advantage in cooler conditions.

  4. Andrew Jacobs says:

    James – I mentioned this briefly when we met in Spa but there were so many other things to discuss.

    Why do we need the safety car in 2012. Read an article yesterday suggesting technology could replace the need for the safety car. http://wp.me/p2HWOP-4e

    Apparently Formula1.com tells us the reason for a safety car is predominantly based on the skill of Bernd Maylander in controlling the pace of the F1 drivers.

    But the safety car

    1) Takes away the gaps earned by the drivers and
    2) Makes pit stop strategy a lottery.

    The cars are given a delta time/speed to drive to until they form up behind the safety car, why not just give them a delta speed to drive to whilst there are track incidents, or put remote speed limiters on the car. No safety car is then required.

    This saves the couple of laps for everyone to line up behind the car, the couple of laps now because of the rule change this year that allows the lapped cars to overtsake the safety car.

    And if people want to pit they can but will suffer the same loss of track position as in the normal course of a race.

    Of course this was not possible in 1993 when the safety car concept was formally adopted – but we are in the 21st century are we not?

    1. gwgravy says:

      I know some people are very scathing of the idea that F1 should be entertaining for the fans (no reflection on you personally, I don’t know your opinion), but the SC is another element that can really shake up a race. Sometimes that can take away an exciting finish, but sometimes it can close the field up & thus give us an exciting finish. Some people lose out on pitstops, some people gain. It’s all part of the fun IMO.

      Also, I would have thought an advantage of the SC as opposed to the drivers holding position at a lower speed is that hopefully the pack ends up together, thus making it easier for the marshalls if they need to be on track clearing debris etc.

      1. Andrew Jacobs says:

        @gwgravy

        Firstly, fair point on the debris.

        Also I agree wholeheartedly that F1 should be very entertaining. DRS, Kers and current technical regulations that regularly have the top 10-12 cars on their best qualifying laps less than 0.5 of a second apart is fantastic.

        F1 2012 is infinitely better than the era of Schumacher/Ferrari utter dominance or even when Jaque Villneuve was out qualifying his nearest rival by 1.5 seconds – and that was his teammate.

        But even if we retain the safety car F1 could learn some lessons. The new rule allowing lapped cars to unlap themselves “when deemed safe” is just prolonging the safety car period by another couple of laps – over 4 mins at Singapore.

        Indycar deal with this problem better in my opinion. On the lap the safety car is coming in, the lapped cars have to drive thought the pits and in effect are removed from delaying others during the laps following the restart.

        As James pointed out, the race was reduced by 18% which ruined certain team strategies and this needs to be looked at.

      2. gwgravy says:

        Thanks for the response. Do agree on length of the SC period, don’t watch indy car but that does sound like an interesting solution.

      3. Richard says:

        Not as much space for lapped drivers to pit during SC in-lap as Indy Car oval circuits, that would cause severe headaches at tight pit entrance tracks like Monca, Abu Dhabi, etc.

    2. Steve D G says:

      Interesting idea, however as well as controlling the pace the safety car is important to close the field up allowing the marshals and recovery crews time to work safely.
      With the safety car the marshals get a couple of minutes per lap when they know there will be no traffic coming past. If the drivers were driving to deltas instead the marshals would find it hard to find gaps to do their work in.

      1. Andrew Jacobs says:

        As I said in reply to @gwgravy – fair point on the debris clearance and space for the marshals.

        I suggested one of the unfair aspects of the SC is the lottery thrown into the equation over pit stop strategy.

        Much of safety car history did not allow cars to pit at the time of a SC. During the refueling era though the rules were changed to stop cars running out of fuel and so pit stops were allowed.

        Pit stops under the SC are now not necessary obviously because there is no refueling, and even from a safety aspect – a car being driven at SC speed is unlikely to blow worn out tyres and crash.

        So allowing the cars to pit for tyres under the SC(always done before they catch the SC) takes advantage of the gap reduction that the safety car causes. The cars still lose some tack position (as they would anyway) but gain the time it would take to pit stop time during normal racing conditions.

        So close maybe closing the pits would make it better.

      2. iceman says:

        Doesn’t that just move the safety car advantage/penalty to someone else? If you do have to hold on and pit soon after the safety car, you’ll lose track position to a lot of slower cars that you wouldn’t have otherwise. So in that scenario the safety car hands a big advantage to those who’ve already pitted. In Singapore it probably would have given Alonso an easy win.

      3. Andrew Jacobs says:

        @iceman

        At least the cars having to pit after the safety car period would have much fresher tyres to attack their lost track position.

        The loss of the gap is of course going to hurt someone. Which in circumstances where debris is not a problem – say just needs the removal of a car from a dangerous position NOT ON THE RACING LINE – setting the drivers a delta time with no SC would maybe be better.

    3. madmax says:

      Makes sense. I think they like the safety car to spice things up sometimes but this is one occasion it didn’t.

    4. Kay says:

      I have no problems with the SC.

      What if SC actually brings an exciting finish?

    5. Jimbob says:

      As others have said the SC rules are fine as they are as they are more likely to spice up a dull race than ruin a good one.

      The only issue is the solution to lapped cars. The current solution being the least harsh to a car that has just been lapped; if it weren’t allowed to overtake the pack it would then be 1 whole lap behind the car in front, a car than may have only been a second or so ahead before the SC, with no chance to gain places for the rest of the race.

      But this is dull and takes time and instead of punishing the hypothetical just lapped car, it punishes the fans by robbing them of racing laps. The Indy car solution seems preferable from fans perspective.

      Maybe the final solution should just be that Narain Karthikeyan should takes some driving lessons!

  5. giroveloce says:

    I think Vettel saved a set of brand new SuperSoft Tires on Saturday. Maybe Red Bull was oriented on 3 stops and Webber was pitted also to monitor degradation on that compound, so to eventually throw Vettel on a superfast final stint…

  6. Doug says:

    Hi James,

    You spotted what I spotted, that Button would have been in a very strong position had it not been for the Safety Cars. When Lewis went out I took solice from the fact that JB would a) do one less stop than SV, or b) have way better tyres at the end.

    1. Diego P says:

      Ok with the Jenson advantage about nursing the tyres and doing one pit stop less than VET and HAM. But knowing that in Singapore there is going to be a safety car, you can’t rely on a nursing the tyres strategy, you have to push as hard as you can.

  7. Bring Back Murray says:

    I don’t think the safety car had anything to do with it. As soon as Hamilton went out it was time to get a Sunday afternoon nap in.

    1. John says:

      What?!

      The safety car robbed us of the prospect of a fantastic finish. Hamilton’s retirement robbed us of a McLaren one-two. Which way around that would be would have been in doubt until the very end.

      Without the safety car and Hamilton would have been just as interesting with us on the edge of seats wondering which corner would see vettel crash out under the pressure of a fast charging Button.

    2. ham says:

      Why? Don’t you enjoy F1?

  8. Johan says:

    Is there a “Formula1 Graphs for dummies” somewhere ? :)

    I really cant figure the graph out, please be kind :)

    / Johan

    1. AlexD says:

      after 1 years I can’t either:-)

    2. Davexxx says:

      Sigh. Each time the graph is displayed, some people need an explanation. Maybe, James, you have to add to it a link to an ‘explanation’ page?

    3. Dominic J says:

      Each line represents a driver’s race position. A hypothetical line drawn across the top of the graph would represent a driver who lapped at precisely Vettel’s average speed throughout the race, although in this example it appears that the time for the safety car laps has been “normalised” for the leaders.

      Therefore the gap between two cars is represented by the vertical distance at a given (horizontal) lap in the race.

      I hope that helps. Look for example at Massa’s race for an example to show how going quickly at the back brings him back into contention.

  9. Johan says:

    The fact that I cant understand how every lap is slower/below the race winners averagelaptime doesnt make this report/article any less brilliant! Sure BBC has Gary Andersson and his technical reports but after a race the thing I really want is the strategy report afterwards maybe I´ll have look at BBC´s site :)

    This site is really great!!!

    / Johan

    1. James Allen says:

      At the start the car is heavy and goes about 5 seconds per lap slower than at the end when it’s got no fuel left and so is light

      The race winner’s total time, divided by the number of laps is the zero line – it’s his average lap time, somewhere between the heavy car and light car

      Imagine a ghost car at the front doing that same lap time every lap

      At the start the field would be slower than him

      At the end it would catch him up

      But what matters is the gaps between cars and the curves that show when degradation hits lap time

      1. Justin says:

        Also helpful:

        When a line is sloping downward it means that the cars are going slower than the average lap time, as they are losing ground, and when the lines have a positive slope it mean they are setting lap times that are faster than the average. The steeper the upward line, the faster the car. The graphs from last year really illustrate this because the Red Bull was so much faster.

        As you can see at the end, the marussias, caterhams, and HRTs are still quite a lot slower than all the other cars as their lines never have positive slope. the Caterhams are clearly the fastest of the new teams, heikki’s line is nearly flat at the end of the race, while the marussias and HRTs are still sloping downard.

      2. James says:

        It looks more like it’s relative to the winner’s fastest lap or perhaps the fastest lap of the race. Vettel’s average lap time would have been 122.477s (2:00:26.144 divided by 59). According to this graph of his lap times http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/2012/09/23/2012-singapore-grand-prix-fastest-laps/ he did the majority of laps faster than this. On this basis he would have overtaken the ghost car on lap 2 and not have been passed by it again until around lap 34 when the safety cars meant that many laps were very slow.

        His time difference relative to an average speed ghost car would have to be above the 0 line at some point for this race.

      3. double eyepatch says:

        In this race where the safety car laps slowed everything up, you’d be right, as the slow laps times from that would skew what the average lap time over the whole race would be. it would look more like this: http://postimage.org/image/ze5gkhzfj/full/
        But as James pointed out, his graph is adapted to better reflect the saftey car laps.

      4. iceman says:

        James, can you explain a bit more about what’s meant by “the graph has been adapted to better reflect the safety car periods of the race”?

        As the poster above points out above, Vettel’s average lap time was 2:02, and he spent most of the race going faster than that, which is not reflected in the graph. In the past when races had safety cars, we saw everyone running ahead of the “ghost car” early on. Now it looks like the backmarkers were running 1:30 laps under the safety car, if you assume the “ghost car” speed really is constant at the average lap time of 2:02. How has the “ghost car” speed been adjusted during the safety car periods, and how is it now worked out for the racing laps?

      5. James Allen says:

        I’ll get onto Williams and ask them to explain

      6. double eyepatch says:

        I’d show you my version of the race history graph, but for some reason I can’t post image hosted links. But I treated the safety car periods have been treated with a different lap time. In the whole race the average lap time is 2:02 as you said. However I assumed that the ‘average’ car would also do slower laps than his average at laps 33-38 and 40-42. So I change the green average race to be about 1:55 and the other laps around 2:15

      7. iceman says:

        Just to add to my post above, the graph for Valencia – another safety car-affected race – looks very different:
        http://www.jamesallenonf1.com/2012/06/how-the-safety-car-changed-the-game-in-valencia-analysis/
        The zero line on that graph does look like it’s the winner’s total time divided by the number of laps. The zero line on the Singapore graph seems to be something a bit different.

        By the way has anyone else been having problems posting comments? I’m finding my comments intermittently ignored as if my email address has been spam-listed again.

      8. James Allen says:

        Sorry about the comments, it’s not that they are going into Spam box as we have seen in the past.

        Something odd is happening and the tech people are looking at it now

        Please bear with us. Thanks

      9. iceman says:

        Thanks and thanks again James :)

      10. Kris Grzegorczyk says:

        I’m still experiencing problems as well.

      11. James says:

        I just grabbed the lap times data for Singapore and for Monza and stuck them in Excel. For Monza I can work produce an indentical chart to the Willimas one by taking the cumulative delta for each lap to the winner’s average lap time. So the theory of how these charts are normally created is correct. In most races this means that cars dip below the average until somewhere around half distance and then the winner pulls back up to the average at the end of the race. All the laps that show positive gradient are ones that were faster than their average lap time.

        I suspect that for Singapore Williams have adjusted all of the lap times under the safety car to try to factor out the extra time due to running behind the safety car.

        I can get a similar looking graph to theirs if I copy over the previous normal speed lap time for each driver instead of using their actual lap time behind the safety car, but it doesn’t have quite the same bunching effect that the Williams chart above shows.

        It would be very interesting to know what approach they took to normalising the data.

      12. James says:

        James – any feedback from Williams on how they normalised the times? Would be interested to know.

    2. Antti says:

      The lines do not show speed or average lap time. They show time difference to a (ghost) car that laps every lap at the winners average speed.

  10. Mike84 says:

    with all respect, I’m not convinced… if Vettel had worse degradation than Button in the final stint, why would Button back off so much rather than pressuring him for the win?

    also there are other factors we may not know, such as who had to conserve fuel or save an engine — maybe that’s why Button backed off.

    but I’m just an armchair fan, not an expert :D

    1. James Allen says:

      He didn’t have worse deg than Button in final stint, where does it say that?

      First stint yes. Button was working towards having a go at the end of 2nd stint based on 4 laps fresher tyres from longer 1st stint

      It’s quite clear in the piece

      1. f-duct says:

        Sorry James but this is one of your weaker race reports from you (or your team). Button himself said after the race that his tyre saving was in vain because the 2 guys in front of him would just be quicker on fresh set of tyres than Button on a old set (which is logical) and since they were in front of him anyway they´d just increase the gap again right after they´d pitted. So how would Button get past Vettel ? Certainly not after Vettels pit stop when he is on new tyres and lapping faster than Button ! And Vettel didnt look like he had to slow down at the end of the race due to heavier tyre wear on the harder compound compared to Button´s McLaren.

        Also how do you come to the conclusion that Button and Hamilton on one side were definitely on a 2stopper while Vettel might have been obliged to do 3 stops just because Webber had do to 3 stops ? We have seen numerous times that Webber has to do one stop more, last time in Spa. Vettel did 20 laps on the harder set of tyres and still increasing his lead over Button, of course he could have done 5 more laps on one set without problem (10 + 25 + 25) ! And even if he hit the cliff after 20 laps (not that he would, but hypothetically) he had a 9 second gap which would have provided a cushion over Button.

        You also forgot to tell us in this “Button was robbed” write up that Vettel´s 5 second gap over Button was erased by the safety car ! Sorry there is no way other than a DNF for Vettel that Button could have won this race with or without the safety car and Button would be the first to tell you that.

      2. James Allen says:

        Well first of all this isn’t a ‘Button was robbed’ report. Perhaps it just doesn’t align with your view but it’s researched with strategists and Pirelli and I’m merely saying that in general it would have been exciting at the end as some cars would have been marginal on tyres in final laps

        I get my information from talking to people involved in the race, I present it here and I’m sorry if it doesn’t align with your world view

      3. Bradley says:

        Pitting a lap after a rival is the worst strategy possible – you come out just behind, with tyres that are one lap fresher, which is not enough to overtake.
        Hence teams often pit earlier than an ‘optimal’ strategy would require, in order to leapfrog other cars. Since these cars are then pitting earlier than ideal, the obvious alternate strategy is for a car whose rival has pitted to run longer than ideal. They will then come out behind, but on fresher tyres, meaning they will be faster on the track and have the chance to catch up. If they do catch up, they’ll have tyres that are much newer, and the chance to overtake.
        Of course, there are other factors – are car with a couple of seconds lead on the track can wait until the car behind pits, then pit on the next lap, knowing that they have enough of a lead to still come out ahead, and on newer tyres as well. This only works if you only need to cover one car though – if you’re racing two or three others (in front, behind etc) it may not be so simple. Likewise, often one of the above strategies will be compromised by falling back into traffic, which is why the cars so often pit on nearly identical strategies.

        In this case, Vettel pitted early, which means he had the chance to undercut Hamilton and avoided letting Button undercut him. Maclaren pitted Hamilton as soon as traffic cleared behind him, to make sure that he stayed in front of Vettel. Button, on the other hand, did exactly the right thing strategy-wise – he stayed out so that he had newer tyres to attack Vettel with later on. If/when he caught him, his tyres would be four laps newer (maybe more, if he could save a couple of laps at the second stops) and with second phase degredation, that would likely be enough to pass.
        Seems to me like the strategy choice for Maclaren was pretty simple, and they did exactly the right thing. But as James says, the safety car spoiled Button’s chances.

        Personally, I quite enjoyed the report.

      4. Wilma the Great says:

        Hmm.. just before the 1st safety car the gap between Seb and Jenson opened up. It didn’t look like Jenson was going to have a go.

        And does Sebs final performance on the last stint give any hint about the expected performance in the 2nd stint?

  11. Dave Deacon says:

    Safety cars like rain mix it up. This is entertainment not a recipe to be followed. Some randomness is needed to make it exciting. Indeed, part of the entertainment is moaning about the lack of a better entertainment. I refer you to Monty Python Argument sketch and all net forums…

    So, JB would likely have won but for the SC.

    I like your strategy round-ups because they show how little f1 fans and commentators know about what actually goes on during a race.

  12. madmax says:

    James, having problems with comments submitting. Working here but didn’t on the Schumacher penalty article. Page just refreshes with no comment.

  13. Slawek O says:

    Why not using pitlane (like a drive-trough) to unlap cars before restart? Should be faster and much safer than current technique.

    1. Justin says:

      Safety car could lead the train through the pit lane while the lapped cars go around the normal circuit.

      1. Slawek O says:

        Actually I meant quite the opposite. Lapped cars go through the pits while others go around normal circuit.

    2. MISTER says:

      The problem with that is F1 circuit are not like the Indy ones..oval. The leaders are getting up to speed before the pit entrance, therefore those lapped cars would create a problem to those on the same lap with the leaders.
      In the end, we don’t want crashes at the re-start.

  14. Wilma the Great says:

    If the tyre degradation was worse on Sebs car compared to Jensons, how did he manage to open up a gap of 9 seconds with an equal amount if mileage in them?

    1. Michael says:

      With the additional 4 laps from the first period (JB may have run even longer in the second stint so perhaps a couple more). I agree on similar mileage tyres (in the final stint), Vettel was quicker – who was to say at the end of the second stint this might also have been the case, and JB having to pit earlier than the 4 lap advantage to stay in touch?

    2. gary says:

      Because JB settled for 2nd, didn’t even try to challenge finger boy despite being in the best car.

  15. F12012 says:

    I was expecting button to win the race when I seen how he had safed his tyres during the first stint and Hamilton had retired, it would have been a good battle between vettel and button, safety car did play into others hands especially vettel and Alonso, but that’s the way it goes sometimes

    Alonso’s got a battle on to win this championship, Ferrari need some pace and fast, vettel for the championship if the red bull stays reliable

  16. Irish con says:

    There was only one McLaren that was going to win and that was the one that retired. Doesn’t matter about the safety car jenson on the soft tyres couldn’t match seb. Just because he had better deg on the super softs doesn’t mean he would have on the soft. He said on the softs he didn’t have a balance that he liked and we all know when jensons balance isn’t perfect he doesn’t stand a chance. Being a Ferrari fan I was hoping jenson was going to get vettel but I knew from early on he had no chance.

  17. James,

    How do you think Button’s race might have gone had he decided not to stop for tyres at the first safety car?

    If the race had run with only one SC, he would have had positional advantage, but would he have been able to stretch the set he had to the end (given the time under SC)?

    And two SCs would have allowed him to put on a set of SuperSofts in the second SC period and chase down Vettel.

    Do you think that McLaren played it too safe, or did they have no real option?

    1. iceman says:

      My guess would be that 45 laps on one set of tyres, even with 9 of them under safety cars, would be too much of a stretch.

  18. Tornillo Amarillo says:

    So Hamilton said he is going to win all the remaining races… amazing statement!

    1. Bluefroggle says:

      I think he said he “needs” to win them all. Big difference.

      Whether or not he actually does win them all is something we will find out in the next couple of months…

      1. Tornillo Amarillo says:

        You’re right, but IMO when he says he “needs” I understood he’s really serious in his mind and determination to go and win all of them… maybe I’m wrong.

  19. chrisnz says:

    James,

    I’m also having problems submitting comments so excuse this being off-topic. In the initial race review you said Maldonado was sometimes erratic during the race in Singapore. Can you elaborate a bit on that?

    Cheers

  20. JohnBt says:

    Personally I feel the Singapore track is not very good, it’s the glitzy effect that makes it like Disneyland and the concerts that fans flocked to. It’s very convenient and easily accessible and the food is good too. So overall it’s commercially viable.

    If there’s no safety car it can be rather boring at times. And with tyre degradation on the Pirelli compounds, aided with many overtakes and of course the DRS.

    The closest race was in 2010 when Vettel finished 0.2 sec off Alonso. The worst was 2008, you all know why I’m very sure.

    With the new 5 years commitment they are looking at altering the track, I sure don’t mind for an improvement.

    1. Elie says:

      Yep I agree I think F1 could do without it.& if it weren’t for the heritage- same for Monaco – they are boring as [mod] without the occasional incident.

    2. Spider says:

      As an attendee to the race for the last two years I can say that it is an awesome event that is supremely organised. It is truly an F1 that is worth attending. The good news is that they are looking at potentially changing the race configuration to include the area around the marina bay sands hotel. That could include some longer straights and slow corners. Hopefully the organises consider increased overtaking in considering the track configuration!

  21. John Simpson says:

    Aside from Kimi I cant remember anyone dropping off the cliff due to high deg.

    Since then team seem to have got a handle on tyre ware so I don’t get the relevance of this.

  22. Mee says:

    I had the impression Vettel had this one in the bag with or without the safety cars. Yes, Buttons soft tyres in the second stint were 4 laps newer, but even right before the first SC Vettel was lapping as fast as Button. He only needed to extend his second stint with +/- 3 laps at that point and he could have pitted for his second and last stop on the softs. Looking at his pace in the 3rd stint it should have been no problem to do 27 laps on the soft tyres. At lap 34 (when he should/would have pitted imo) he already would have done 24 laps on the soft tyres but with a higher fuel load.

    Button wouldn’t have been able to pass him by going a couple of laps further (since Vettel would have been so much faster on his new set of tyres). He could only pass him by using the undercut of pitting first, but Button never would have done that.

    So, to me at lap 30, looking at his pace on the softs Vettel would have won with or without SC.
    Not saying he would have won from Hamilton though :).

  23. double eyepatch says:

    I feel you should revise what you’ve said about Hulkenberg’s three stopper. I’m inclined to think his puncture from clipping Kobayashi was also to do with his final stop. His pace prior to his third stop doesn’t indicate to me that he planned to run faster with short stints as his pace in those two 10 lap segments aren’t that similar, although it was a four car battle that capped his pace in the first segment somewhat.

  24. VM says:

    What if when sc period ends all cars form on the grid and each driver is given a go signal on his steering wheel to leave the exact gap that they had to the car in front at the time the sc period commenced. Rewards teams who have done the hard yards to get ahead, and does not reward slower cars. I guess it would not mix things up as some people want.

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