Pre-event strategy content: Buddh International Circuit, October 25-27
Although the new Buddh International Circuit, just outside Delhi has proved popular with drivers in its two seasons on the calendar, the event will not take place next year and its place on the calendar from 2015 onwards is in doubt for financial and administrative reasons.
This is a shame, as it is a great circuit for F1 cars with a challenging mixture of fast corners and slower technical corners, which really shows a good car from a bad one.
Strategy wise last year was a bit flat as the tyre choice was too conservative and everyone stopped just once, This year Pirelli has brought the soft and medium tyres and this should make for a fascinating strategic battle like the one we saw last time out in Japan.
Worth noting is that teams have got on top of the new wheel nut safety regulations and we saw two sub 2 second pit stops in the Suzuka race, by Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull. This is the first time it’s happened in a race situation, even though several teams have done 1.6 second stops in practice.
The track has some similarities with other new tracks designed by Herman Tilke, but it also has some distinctive features, not least quite a bit of elevation change; the track rises 14 metres from Turn 1 to Turn 3, which contributes to increasing the fuel weight penalty, in other words the weight of every 10kg of fuel you carry slows you down by more than at some other tracks.
Buddh is a combination of mostly slow speed corners and some long straights, which leads to a reasonably high average speed. The first sector of the lap is stop-start, with two straights intercut with hairpins, while the middle sector is a flowing section featuring some faster corners, including the banked Turn 10/11.
Buddh International – 5.125 kilometres. Race distance – 60 laps = 307.249 kilometres. 16 corners in total. Average speed 210 km/h. A new circuit hosting a Grand Prix for only the third time
Aerodynamic setup – High downforce. Top speed 323km/h (with DRS open) 310km/h without
Full throttle – 70% of the lap time. Total fuel needed for race distance – 161.6 kilos (high). Fuel consumption – 2.65 kg per lap (ave)
Brake wear – average.
Total time needed for a pit stop: 21 seconds
Fuel effect (cost in lap time per 10kg of fuel carried): 0.35 seconds (ave/high)
The Indian Grand Prix is the 16th round of the 2013 FIA F1 World Championship. Sebastian Vettel has won the last five races – every event since the summer break – and needs only a 5th place finish in India to clinch his fourth consecutive world drivers’ world championship.
Vettel is the form man in India too; he has won both of the Indian Grands Prix to date from pole position.
Jenson Button finished second and Fernando Alonso third in 2011, while last year Alonso was second with Mark Webber third.
The forecast for the weekend is stable with temperatures likely to be high; between 29 and 31˚Cs and track temperatures up in the 40˚Cs. No rain is forecast.
Likely tyre performance and other considerations
Pirelli tyre choice for India: Soft (yellow markings) and medium (white markings).
Last year Pirelli was too conservative with its tyre choice; hard and soft. The proof is that the four fastest laps in the race were all set on the final lap, so there was plenty left in the tyres at the end.
As a result everyone made only one stop around lap 30.
To counter this and with the interesting strategy battle of Suzuka fresh in the mind, Pirelli is bringing the soft and medium tyre this weekend. This will mean two stops instead of one and some teams might be able to race two stints on the soft, which will be faster than the medium. Lotus and Force India may well try this.
A glance at the tyre selections for the season to date shows that the medium has become the default tyre for F1, used in 14 of the 15 races to date. The only race where it was not used was Monaco.
The circuit provides a similar level of tyre challenge to Silverstone, with 80% of the tyre energy of Suzuka.
The high temperatures should suit the soft tyre, which has problems sometimes with graining if the weather is cool.
Last year there were no problems with wear or degradation,
The surface of the track is not like many other venues and is not particularly abrasive. It is rarely used, so it is usually quite dusty at the start of the weekend and stays fairly dusty. That said, the track does improve quite a bit over the weekend, so tyre data from Friday practice will not necessarily translate to performance on Sunday.
The front-left tyre is usually a limiting factor in the race, due to the layout of the corners, while wheels spinning under acceleration out of the many low speed corners will also take quite a bit out of the rear tyres.
Number and likely timing of pit stops
The pit lane at Buddh is long at 600 metres, but the fastest stops have been in the 20-21 second range, so it’s not as bad from a strategic point of view as might be imagined; a pit stop is not too expensive.
With the soft and medium tyres available, we are likely to see a mixture of strategies, with some cars outside the top ten on the grid opting to start on the medium and trying to come through the field, while some teams may try two stints on the soft tyre for a faster overall race.
The likelihood is that this race will feature two stops, with the front runners starting on the soft tyres from qualifying, pitting around lap 14/15 and then again around lap 35-38, for new medium tyres, or possibly in the case of Lotus, a set of used softs at one of the stops.
The key is to space out the stint lengths so you never run out of tyres. We may see teams trying the undercut before lap 35, which would leave cars touch and go on tyre life in the final laps.
Chance of a Safety Car
As this is only the third race on the track and there was no safety car so far, the probability is yet to be established. A Safety Car at Buddh would help drivers attempting to make one less stop.
Recent start performance
Starts are a critical part of the race and strategy can be badly compromised by a poor start, while good starts can make strategists change their plans in the hope of a good result.
As far as 2013 start performance is concerned drivers have gained (+) or lost (-) places off the start line this season on aggregate as follows:
[Note- This table is intended as an indicator of trends. Where drivers have had first lap incidents which dropped them to the back of the field, they are not included above, but are detailed in the notes marked * below. This affects other drivers’ gains, but the sample still shows prevailing trends of places won and lost at the start.]
+25 Van der Garde*****
+19 Di Resta
+15 Massa ********
+17 Sutil*** /*********
-5 Raikkonen *******
-9 Hamilton **********
-17 Vergne ****
*Webber dropped from second to seventh after a clutch problem in Australia ** Hulkenberg did not start in Australia *** Sutil suffered puncture from contact with Massa in Bahrain ****Vergne retired following collision. *****Van der Garde and Maldonado made contact in Monaco. ******Bianchi started from pit lane in Monaco after stalling *******Raikkonen crashed into Perez at the first corner at Monza ********Massa spun at hairpin in Korea *********Sutil had collision in Korea ********** Hamilton suffered puncture from contact with Vettel in Japan
Pit Stop League Table
Of course good strategy planning also requires good pit stop execution by the mechanics and there have been some amazing performances, including sub two second stops.
The table below shows the fastest single stop by teams in the recent Japanese Grand Prix, expressed as a the total time in the pit lane. Results from the previous race are shown in brackets.
1. Mercedes 22.551s
2. Ferrari 22.645s
3. Red Bull 22.774s
4. Lotus 23.086s
5. McLaren 23.105s
6. Sauber 23.183s
7. Williams 23.421s
8. Force India 23.476s
9. Marussia 23.648s
10. Toro Rosso 24.807s
11. Caterham 24.308s
The UBS Race Strategy Briefing is written by James Allen with input and data from several of the leading teams’ strategists and from Pirelli