F1 strategy – Cutting it fine on fuel
F1 strategy – Cutting it fine on fuel
Strategy Briefing
Posted By: James Allen  |  03 Jun 2010   |  9:23 am GMT  |  229 comments

Sunday’s Turkish Grand Prix was a fairly normal race by 2010 standards until the controversial collision between the two Red Bull team mates.

But that collision happened because of some big decisions on fuel saving tactics, which are becoming clearly a critical part of the story behind the races. And in the case of the Red Bull collision it lead us to reach a fascinating conclusion.

And what has been exposed by this incident is how teams are managing the fuel use during the races, how little margin everybody is running and how close they all are to running out of fuel at the end of the race.

The collision was only possible because Vettel had a sufficient speed advantage on lap 40 to attempt the pass. Now the team has said that this was due to him having saved fuel early in the race, whereas Webber was in fuel saving mode. So let’s look at what the teams are doing and drill down into this Vettel fuel saving explanation.

The first point to make is that the conditions in Istanbul contributed significantly to the cars using more fuel than predicted in the race. After very hot conditions in practice, the temperature dropped and the track became more grippy. So the race was faster. For every half a second per lap you are faster, you will use 1% more fuel over the course of the race, which adds up to around 1.5 kilos. So you can see how tight the calculations are.

What is interesting is that engineers tell me that the difference in fuel consumption between the Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault engines isn’t particularly significant, based on calculations of how the car performs in the race relative to its performance on low fuel in qualifying.

For Vettel to have saved a kilo of fuel by lap 40 is quite significant and it indicates that he was planning a late attack on Webber, at a time when he knew that the Australian was in fuel saving mode.

Now at Istanbul the weight of the fuel for each lap is worth 8/100ths of a second of extra lap time, just under a tenth. So one kilo of fuel, which is what Vettel is supposed to have saved, would give him a speed disadvantage of 5/100ths of a second over Webber in pure fuel weight. Then you have to factor in the fuel saving mode that Webber was on compared to Vettel at the time.

The teams have an “ideal mix” for the first part of the race to the pit stops. You use that do do your fastest time to the first stop because you want to spread out the field and get clear of the cars behind you. Of course you have to trade that off against looking after the tyres, but that is the general rule all teams adopt.

After the pit stop your track position is more or less set and so then you go into fuel saving mode and you can go leaner and leaner on the fuel mix as you head towards the chequered flag and your track position looks more and more fixed. This way you have the smallest power loss early in the race, where you want it. The teams have a piece of software which helps them with this process, but you can see that the driver has a lot of management to do.

If you go onto a setting with a 3% saving, you will be around 1/10th of a second slower. If you go more into more extreme fuel saving mode – to say 6% – the lost time is greater pro rata because it affects the revs you can run and so you are 3/10ths slower.

Red Bull’s statement on Monday said that Webber was in a mode where he was 0.18s per lap slower than optimum, but still using full revs.

Let’s assume that this was the difference between the two Red Bull cars in lap 40, does it fully account for the speed differential between Vettel’s car and Webber’s on the back straight? In both the first two sectors of lap 40, Vettel’s straight line speed was 7km/h faster than Webber’s, but he was only a tenth up on Webber on lap 40 after two sectors, having been two tenths faster on lap 38. The pair set more or less identical times on lap 39, when Webber asked the team to slow Vettel down. Webber’s pace and ability to respond would indicate that he wasn’t suffering from rear tyre wear as has been suggested.

It looks to me like Vettel planned the move all along, having lost out in qualifying due to a mechanical failure on his car, he had a strategy which would give him a golden lap, when Webber would be saving fuel, in which to attack him. And if this is the case then one assumes it must have been sanctioned by the team. Perhaps they felt they owed it to him after letting him down again with the car in qualifying.

It brings into question the whole issue of transparency between team mates. In a tight championship fight, such as this, should the driver who qualified less well be given a chance to get back in front or should this be a team game where the team walks away with maximum points, regardless of who wins?

This incident has blown open the whole issue of fuel strategy and it will be fascinating to see what tactics drivers choose to employ from now on, especially in a battle between team mates.

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Sorry that something went wrong, repeat again!

BBC is now reporting that radio conversations show that Webber did NOT ask Red Bull to get Sebastian to back off. What he asked was – given that Vettel was catching him – whether they were both on the same engine settings.

I’d love to know whether Red Bull ever replied!

But to those who think Webber should never have asked Vettel to back off – it sounds to me like he never did.


Hi James,

A question, what do Williams have to do to find the speed to get back to the heady day’s of Mansell,ETC, I have always been a Williams fan and each year hope for a Williams G.P. Win again..Is it the Engine??, Aero??, they have all the goodies to be a front running team but no results…Can you shead any light please??



nice post, but i don’t think the numbers stack up… for vettel to save 1 kilo by lap 40, he had to drive half a second slower than webber per lap, and so be 20 seconds behind him by this stage of the race… clearly he didn’t do this as he was obviously right behind him on lap 40… honestly, i think this is 100% about team orders. all a team has to do now if they want their driver to hold station is mention the risk of running out of fuel… so if teammates are running close after the first stop we should expect a procession…


As has been mentioned by others, Vettel saved fuel due to the slipstreaming effect of following Webber.

Douglas Revill

Lets remember that Vettel moved across and hit Webber. Webber did not deviate, and allowed enough room for Vettel’s car. Again, Vettel has shown his lack of wheel to wheel racing skill. Sure he was trying to get on the clean side of the track for the corner, but to hit your team mate in the process is amateurish to say the least.

If Red Bull want to play the team game, then they should be transparent with both drivers. If they want cloak and dagger stuff between team mates, then so be it, but don’t favour one over the other, as they clearly have done in this case.

Webber had done all the hard work to that point, and deserved the win. He handled himself superbly at the time of the accident and after the race. Vettel behaved like an idiot, as thought he was told the race was his.


The only one who deserves a win is the driver who crosses the line first, provided they didn’t cheat of course. And whether you do it by visibly shedding blood, sweat and tears, or apparently effortlessly, is neither here nor there.



Just simply the best F1 website. How do you get this info?




Talking to the engineers who do this for a living


James A different subject,

Is there any way to get McLaren to run there cars in Orange as a tribute to the 40’th anniversary of Bruce’s Tragic death? I think it would be amazing!

All the best!



Interesting stuff as always James.

As mentioned by many others I think it would be good if you could get a line on why RBR’s leader pits first rule is only relevant when Sebastian is the leader.

Also the reason Vettel went out after Mark in Q3 seems worth investigating given both drivers’ reactions when Mark was questioned on it after Quaili.

Marcus Redivo

“… when Webber asked the team to slow Vettel down.”

This sounds so wrong to me, I have trouble believing Mark actually made this request without either hearing the radio transmission of his voice or reading the FiA’s official transcript.

We saw the official transcript of the Renault pit communications in Singapore, but I assume that only became publicly available because of the hearings related to the crash. I assume there is ZERO chance we will see this one.


It was a race incident. As a spectator I share the opinion of those who think that Webber did very well. He didn´t even move from his line. Vettel took the risk to overtake him in a risky move. Maybe he thought Webber should be impressed by the move, but that wasn´t the case, he just stayed cool and didn´t give one inch to the other guy.

Webber is a racer and I do hope he doesn´t change his attitude, on track and outside.

In F1 we have several good drivers, but many of them are just fast chickens. Where are the new Mansell’s and Webber’s. No where. Just fast kids.


What I find more interesting is the fact that hardly anybody on this discussion mention the fact that this incident should be investigated.

Spring to my mind the incident between Algesuari and Karun. That was a drive through.

James, I would like to suggest a poll on blog. In my eyes it looks like a drive through… or maybe I am missing something here.

stephen stepney

I have followed F1 for almost 40 years and could never say i “know” i might like to think i do! F1 is and always will be an enigma,you never really know whats happening behind the scenes,at best we can only assume.

James may i ask what your thoughts are on fuel strategy,have RB and McLaren been clever and fine tuned how much fuel they can get away with better than other teams? We no longer have weights of the cars prior to race,could it be Ferrari are heavier?


Fantastic post James. Thank you. One thing I’m still not clear about which you hint at but don’t quite follow up on is how much of the “leaner-fuel” thing is controlled from the pits and how much from the car.

– Can RB slow Mark down from the pits whether it’s necessary or not ? (sub question : could they sabotage him from hereon in if they wanted to ?) and

2 – How much does the driver know of the real situation ? The McL boys didn’t seem to be really in the loop, and I’m still puzzled how Mark could be saving fuel one minute, and be able to go much faster till the end of the race the next. Do the new tyres really account for that ?


Driver has to be guided by the engineers. Listen to the radio transmissions, they are telling them all the time


and i heard horner say webber was advised of the situation about the extra speed of vettel and the threat of hamilton by his engineer but didn’t understand correctly…


Lets put it this way. McLarens pressured the red bull team or the red bull drivesr (although there is no difference) into making a mistake.

Hamilton did all the work from lap one right through to the mistake and whilst they did not know whether they would be able overtake them or not due to not getting close enough in the corners they were trying to get them on the reliability issue.

Red bull has had it easy so far in terms of other teams being able to pressure them and now they are under pressure. It is not so easy leading from the front when someone is relentlessly breathing down your back.

As for what Button was trying to do LH showed him that he was not going to have it and it was important that LH responded otherwise the media would have slaughtered him.

Not such a boring season as we thought it would be.


I can think of drivers in recent memory who failed to win a WDC owing to a lack of support from their team, but I can’t think of one who won it without the total support of the team. So, if you’re right about what happened behind the scenes re. the balance of support and strategy sharing in Turkey, James, Mark Webber should be very despondent within the RB team. It ain’t looking good for his championship prospects.

Also, it explains why Vettel got sympathetic ‘cuddles’ from the pit wall sitters, as observed by Martin Whitmarsh on the BBC, – a man who’s been present at more than one ‘favoured child’ syndrome in his career and would recognise the symptoms.

Ironinically, favouritism can put great stress on the chosen one, especially if he is not temperamentally equipped or simply lacks the skills/ experience to deliver as required.

Vettel made a mess of the pass, possibly through tension and not being entirely in command of the timing of the situation. I’m not clear whether the ‘imbecile’ gesture to his forehead was referring to Mark or himself?

Red Bull has blown its happy reputation. Now we know, if we didn’t understand before, that they’re just as mean as the rest and manipulated by the same forces.

What are drivers for if not to race? Each other as well as other teams. Perhaps we need to dispense with the notion that within a team drivers should be sharing information, strategies, the common (team) good. Up to and including P3 (or testing)perhaps, but not thereafter. It’s ridiculous to suppose they are anyway! As has been demonstrated.

P.S. Contraditorally, I thought I’d noticed some of rather good shared, supportive strategies between the RB drivers at the start of the some recent races.

Stuart Fenton

You know what this whole Red Bull against Webber thing reminds me of? WRESTLING. Old school WWF. It’s all about secret alliances, the good guy getting “screwed over” and faces and heels (almost pantomime baddies and goodies). One big drama


One thing this does show is that to pull the manoeuvre off, you needed detailed knowledge of Webbers parameter’s and strategy. Now whether you feel it is ok to do this for one driver over another is debatable enough, but does anyone believe this would have been considered in reverse.

I believe Button saved more fuel and tyres than all of the top 4, in hope of a late attack. This I believe was the driving force in making the pass on Hamilton.


To put the whole weekend into context..

– Webber won previous two races.

– Vettel is told his chassis had been damaged and losing him an unspecified amount of time.

– Vettel given new chassis for Turkey

– Vettel and Webber take turns to have advantage of qualifying last in Q3 for pole, and it was Webber’s turn to go last

– There was no explanation given, but Vettel went out last in Q3 and would have probably had pole if not for anti roll bar breakage

– Vettel jumps Hamilton on the start but Hamilton overtakes Vettel on lap 1

– Vettel leapfrogs Hamilton in the stops

– Hamilton gets a run on Vettel and Vettel aggressively defends position in a move Hamilton calls “dangerous” because he turned right before a left hand corner.

– Webber turns his engine down in the 2-3 laps leading up to the crash, costing him up to 7km/h straight line speed.

– Webber asks Vettel to back off

– Vettel gets a run on Webber and they crash out, with Marko especially blaming Webber for the crash, while Horner also shares alot of blame for Webber but is more diplomatic about it.

– Most media and ex drivers say Vettel is at fault, polls say 70-80% Vettel fault

– Horner says flatly to BBC Live radio after the race, that they were on equal engine modes and that Webber had been struggling with the tyres

– Some internet coverage shows anger towards Redbull on blogs and forums etc

– Stories change a few more times, and eventually RBR conceeds that both drivers were to blame

– Horner says that Vettel earned an extra kg of fuel to have a run at Webber, and that the fuel saving didn’t make much difference to the pace

– Horner says that Webber asked Vettel to back off and that Webber struggled on the tyre

I can forgive Webber and Vettel in the heat of the moment for pushing the limits, but the team has really botched this up big time and because of the crash people are more interested in these small things then usual!

To me, Redbull didn’t go into Turkey looking for a win, they went to Turkey looking for a Vettel win.


Excellent article, much appreciated.


I’m all for racing, Senna vs. Prost, Prost vs. Lauda, Piquet vs. Mansell, Alonso vs. Hamilton

all epic fights. Vettel could have pulled off the move, had he used a brain. The inside line was the wrong place to attack, Webber gave the room, but Vettel didn’t respect the room and pushed for more causing the INCIDENT. I cannot and will not blame Webber at all. He had the lead, and had every right to defend his line, teammate or not. He had the line for the corner, Vettel would not have made it, and should have lost out at the corner anyway, but instead he decided to hand 1-2 to McLaren. The facebook page on the incident c/w photos brilliantly shows how wrong Vettel was, and how he should be labelled. He’s foremost still a kid, not mature enough to realise his actions could and will be costly. That in mind I still expect him to start banking a few wins and help me in my pool, but sadly he’s not shown an ability to be patient. I have to hand it to Webber, if you had predicted he’d lead the fight with Button by race 7, we’d have called you delirious. Hamilton is my other potential winner, but at least he can handle a sparring match with a teammate. Vettel should watch the replays.

David Jerromes

Again James, a most interesting post!

I just wish we could have Mark Webber on here writing under a pseudonym telling us all exactly how he feels!!!!

Also wish he’d given Vettel a good hard smack on the chops…

Vettel still hasn’t apologised to Webber, so clearly he believes he didn’t do anything wrong to Mark…..JUST the team…, was it so hard to say sorry to Mark???!!!!

Have you heard anything James with regards to Marko not being involved in future team PR discussions because he’s clearly useless?!

It surprises me that Horner forgot that he was being filmed at the point Vettel side-swiped Webber…, surely by now he’s used to having most moves filmed, but ALL his moves when he has one team-member trying to pass another…, wonder if we’ll see a fully enclosed, fully black-tinted RBR pit wall in the future…, to then ‘forget’ again when Vettel comes up to get his snotty-nose wiped.., maybe he grazed his knee as well…., either way he got lots of family love for all the billions of viewers to see…




Thanks for this technical/tactics insight, James.

If a team would allow team mates full racing each other, the team should as well cut telemetry sharing, stop any communication between ‘subteam’ engineers, and erect a wall in the pit. Akin to that occuring in MotoGP Yamaha Racing Team between Rossi and Lorenzo subteams.


7 km is a pretty big advantage on the straights. If you noticed in the race, having a midcorner apex advantage over the car infront couldn’t get you anywhere. Because of the turbulance and also the nature of motor racing and the concertina effect.

Having straight line speed though is good because it has nothing to do with the turbulance. As long as you can keep level in the corners, if you have that straight line speed it becomes much easier to overtake. Which is why the McLaren two years in a row has been the car to have, if you want to overtake.

In my opinion if Webber was equal speed with Hamilton and Vettel but was losing 7 km/h on the straights due to lower fuel map, it’s a pretty unfair fight isn’t it. If he was slower overall (forgetting the fuel) it must have been a pretty small gap. I think it’s rich of Horner to claim that it didn’t make much difference. If it were at Monaco true.. but at Turkey straight line meant alot!

7km/h in S1 and S2 is a big advantage because those aren’t the sectors with the big straight. S3 is the big straight.

At Monaco or Australia having lower fuel map wouldn’t hurt you so much. But at Turkey/Canada/Monza/Spa etc it’s a huge handicap. Especially when the cars are covered by such a small margin.


What your analysis doesn’t cover is how seb would be close enough to mount the attack if up until that point he had saved fuel – surely in priciple at least the extra speed would only allow him to catch webber not already be on his tail and then push for the overtake?

Eric Weinraub

Yet another reason to bring back refueling. IF we are to believe this article then we are to believe that the only ‘racing’ takes place before the 1st pit stop and then its hold station/white knuckles to the finish line. Running out of fuel is a real possibility and i won’t be surprised if it happens this seasion. Fans are not paying to watch the cars go slowly because the teams are forced into this by this rediculous and stupid rule around refueling. Refueling is only dangerous because of the stupid and preposterous choice of fueling rigs which Bernie was making a great deal of money off of.


Anyone who really follows F1 knows that Redbull favour Vettel and have done since he joined the team.

Webber needs to stay strong and not yield even if it costs him his seat at Redbull as he’ll probably never get a better chance than now, now is his time, Vettel will have others in the future I say let’s all get behind Webber and see how Redbull’s Horner and that Marko chap react ❗


Although I dont agree with preferential treatment, its not surprising that those involved in his development (and paying for it) look to try to show how excellent their choice was by pushing him towards the front.

How inconvenient that Mark has got his act together this year, and Seb has a real challenge on his hands.

It will be interesting to watch the next couple of races and how this develops. Redbull will be seen to be in the wrong regardless now (i.e if Seb gets the upper hand everyone will suspect someone is jeopardising mark, and if mark keeps on nailing vettel they will suspect the other).

Just goes to show doesnt it, the old adage about too many cooks spoil the broth.

If I were a betting man, I’d put money on this not being the only crash they have this year.


I don’t know..why shouldn’t we have a race between team mates?


If you are going to have a race between teammates, that’s all well and good.. but keep in mind that a – they should have equal engine revs etc. b – it’s a huge risk for the team, if you say “give room” the driver behind will always take advantage because they can put a risky one up the inside and expect the other to hop out of the way. If you say “race normally like everyone else”, then the driver infront can go ultra defensive and that makes it hard for the car behind to ever complete a clean move.

I am happy for the teams and drivers to actually race, as long as they are both given equal opportunity and have equal conditions. If it is this way, we the audience is the winner.

If Redbull are happy for Webber to attack Vettel in the future fair enough. I don’t think they would be though. And I don’t think Button attacking Hamilton was a part of their plan either. But hats off to Button for making a go of it.


Team mates should race, but unlike the Mclaren’s, there appears to be added pressure on the RBR drivers and/or a lack of respect to give each other fair space when wheel to wheel.

A lot of folks are claiming that if the roles were reversed in Turkey, Webber wouldn’t have been given the strategy/permission to attack Vettel. Can anyone back this up with examples from the 09 or 2010 seasons where Webber has been disadvantaged against Vettel due to RBR management decisons in a race?

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