Did McLaren get it wrong? Analysis of a game changing decision
Did McLaren get it wrong? Analysis of a game changing decision
Strategy Briefing
Posted By: James Allen  |  13 Sep 2010   |  1:05 pm GMT  |  196 comments

Jenson Button maintained a narrow lead over Fernando Alonso for the first 36 laps of the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, but lost the race when he pitted first. It was a game changing decision by McLaren.

After the race Button said it was the wrong decision, while McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh said it was the right one. So what is the truth? Did the call to pit Button before Alonso cost him what would have been a historic and memorable victory?

Button wins the start (Darren Heath)

Button got the lead at the start, but it was clear from the performance of the Ferrari that it was a slightly faster car on the day.

While Button had opted to run with a F Duct rear wing giving reasonable downforce, Alonso was running with a compromise aerodynamic set-up, involving less downforce and more straight line speed.

Button’s belief after qualifying was that this would mean that the Ferrari would slide around more on its tyres, leading to them losing performance sooner. In practice the soft Bridgestone tyres were so durable that in Sebastian Vettel’s hands they were able to do 52 laps, still at a competitive pace to the end. Vettel’s fastest lap was on lap 50!

As the race went on Button’s pit crew, like Ferrari’s were monitoring the performance of the cars which had switched to hard tyres. Early examples were the Virgin and Lotus cars, but it was Robert Kubica’s stop on lap 33 which caught their attention.

Prior to his stop Kubica was lapping in the 1m 26.4 range, very consistently. On lap 35 he did 1m 25.7 and it was this improved performance which made McLaren make the decision to bring Button in on lap 36. That and the fact that Rosberg had just pitted from fourth place on lap 35 and there was now a gap that the team could bring Button out into, ahead of Hulkenberg.

McLaren were convinced that the tyres had reached a crossover point, where the new hards were faster than the used softs. If they delayed bringing Button and Ferrari pitted first, then they believed he would be at risk not only from Alonso but also Massa on new tyres.

Martin Whitmarsh basically admitted after the race that they had convinced themselves that whatever they decided to do, they were going to lose the lead to Alonso anyway. I asked Stefano Domenicali if he agreed with that and he said yes, the Ferrari was faster on the day. But it was only by a tenth or two. So it really was down to the timing and execution of the stop.

Ferrari were also monitoring Kubica and also considered bringing in Alonso on lap 36, the lap Button came in on. They didn’t know when Button would pit but their concern was about backmarkers; they have painful memories of Montreal this year where Alonso could have won the race, but for losing time in traffic on his in lap to the pits. They were only three seconds on the road behind Adrian Sutil, who was lapping two seconds a lap slower. Luckily for Alonso, he pitted on lap 36, thus allowing the Spaniard enough space to do a fast lap and then and in-lap before catching Pedro de la Rosa.

So Kubica was 0.7s faster on the hard tyre on his first flying lap but what about the out lap?

Button believes that the reason he lost the race was the immediate performance of the hard tyre on the first lap out of the pits. Here the advantage would be with the car that pitted second as his task would simply be to emerge from the pit lane ahead. The performance of his new tyre over the out lap would be academic because he would already have track position.

So it’s clearly all about the fine detail here – should Kubica’s performance in those first sectors out of the pits on new tyres have given McLaren pause for thought? For this we need sector timing data, which is only available to the teams. Luckily we have been able to get hold of it.

Breaking down Button’s out-lap, it’s clear that the new tyre took time to getup to speed. It was not faster than the old one until the third sector. The first sector time involves the pit stop and the drive out of the pits, where Button lost 2/10ths to Alonso.

The middle sector was 29.1s, which was 2/10ths slower than on his previous lap. It’s only when Button got to sector 3 that he did a 28.3, which was half a second faster than before.

So this bears out Button’s theory that the hard tyres took most of a lap to get up to speed. Was this obvious from Kubica’s first lap on them? It was.

Kubica’s experience exactly foreshadowed Button’s – he was 2/10ths slower on the middle sector and then half a second faster in the third.

When he saw Button peel off into the pits Alonso knew what he had to do. He had been 9/10ths behind Button on that lap before the McLaren stop. He did a personal best for the race in Sector 1, which gave him two tenths, then in Sectors 2 and 3 he matched his recent times. The following lap, his in lap, he repeated that.

So the real difference between the two cars was in the final sector of their in lap, the pit stop itself and the first sector of the outlap. Alonso gained 7/10ths of a second here, which when combined with the two tenths he gained when Button was in the pits, was enough to give him the lead, by the slenderest of margins.

Another factor is that the Ferrari mechanics were faster than the McLaren ones in the actual stop, but it’s not as simple as many pundits are saying that the mechanics were 8/10ths faster on Ferrari’s stop.

The calculation the timing computer does is based on a formula which deducts a standard amount of in and out time from the total time the car is in the pits to give the stationary time. But that is not an actual measure of how long the car is stationary for. Button was in the pits for 8/10ths longer than Alonso, but some of that lost time was on the way in and, more importantly, on the way out.

“When I exited the pits I had very little grip on the prime tyre,” said Button. “Lots of shuddering which means the tyre isn’t working, so little bit disappointing to find myself in that position and Fernando coming out of the pits in front.”

The pit stop, combined with the initial sluggish performance of the hard tyres in the first two sectors of the lap, is what lost Button the lead.

Ferrari have posted their own anaylsis of how they did such a fast pit stop at FERRARI CLICK HERE

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If McLaren had matched or beaten the time on Alonso's pit stop Button might have held or retaken the lead. As it was he was able to challenge hard in the first two corners after Alonso emerged from the pits. Great race though - one of the many brilliant ones so far this season.


And if Button had pitted second, he could still have led the race, even with the poor pit stop. Ferrari did their homework, McLaren just looked at the headlines.

Well done James, great in depth analysis!


Thanks for the breakdown of all that James. I was very very surprised McLaren pitted before Ferrari.

From the limited data I had whilst sat on the Sofa it seemed like a bad decision at the time, and it was, shame Whitmarsh couldn't admit that, mind you when was the last time he told things straight?

Speaking of decisions I think a big star goes out to RBR for the Vettel tactics. For the last 15 laps or so it was possible to see him gaining all the time on Rosberg, and that's who I thought he was racing... not Webber (unlike the beeb). Stonking drive and great tactics.

McLarens tactics have proven less than solid this year I'm afraid. Was it Germany where they pulled JB into pit when he was gaining time over people who'd already pitted? And then emerged just behind Lewis *hmmm*. Very odd decision given that I think another couple of laps could have seen him past his team mate. In my mind you only pit for tyres when one of your competitors can go faster on new rubber, and not until that point (if you've stayed out that is, the crossover gain needs to be considered).

Not impressed with McLarens tactics really.


So everytime Jenson is leading or could win a race, his chances are diminished by his own team, ... I think we've seen 2 or 3 strong performances of McLaren with Lewis.. maybe McLaren tried everything so Jenson does not win the race so they do not hurt Lewis ego?


I tend to agree. McLaren intelligence seems to be down this season.


That's certainly right. It seemed so obvious at the time too. Button was racing Alonso, nobody else, so calculations about other car's tyres were merely a distraction.

It was quite clear that the moment Alonso had clean air he would pull out a gap. So all McLaren had to do was keep him behind for as long as possible, and then pit the moment he looked like pitting - but not before. Surely, with the two cars so close, McLaren could have seen the Ferrari pit-crew getting ready, and just waited?


Considering how close it was, that was probably their best chance and it was very close. I don't see how you could fault them for that. Last I checked they're overachieving quite well in an inferior car. Ferrari of course did an amazingly quick pit stop (or McLaren were a tad slow). In hindsight, they could have done a Vettel/RB strat to ensure they pitted at the same time but thats really pushing it.


I don't think they made the wrong call, I believe Ferrari would always have waiting until Button pitted, then simply come in a lap later. Shame though, always better to see position changes on the track, not due to pit stops.

On another note, interesting to see Vettell do nearly the whole race. I don't get the "use both compounds" rule. It's probably there to articially spice up racing. You should be able to do the whole race on one tyre if you like, and that should be the hard tyre. The soft should no way last a whole race.


That late stop by Vettel set me thinking about a rules question. If a teams pit is before the finish line, could they leave the change until the last lap, and then take the chequered flag in the pit lane? Or do they have to do a full lap on both tyres?


I think the rule is that they must 'use' the two different compound tyres, so yes they must do at least one lap.


Well, Schumacher did just that some years ago, although he was serving a pit lane penalty, not changing tyres. That was in the F(errari)IA days though, so can't see it happening today.


That move they did that day wasn't exactly in the rule book (similar to many things Lewis has done) but a rule was made after to ensure it didn't happen again. It was clever but very naughty.

They should make teams use each compound XX amount of laps, not simply 1 lap and done.


I agree about the both compounds rule, it's ludicrous and artificial. I dread the day when they add success ballast or reverse grids.

Bernie wanted to introduce the awful medals idea because he thought it would force more racing. Well I would say that Monza was a perfect example of where the use both compounds rule stifled the racing. Vettel showed that it was perfectly viable to do the whole race on one set, so if Alonso had not known whether Button would pit he might have tried harder to overtake on the track.


there was noway Alonso would have taken Button without the pit stop, every time he got close he lost traction and he was never going to out break him due to the amount of down force button was running.

like the others the instant he pitted before the faster car of Alonso's, Button was doomed.

shame but that's how it always works, McLaren lost that race for Button, no one else.


I don't think it can possibly be as clear cut as that, sorry. I do see what you're saying but we have no idea of how Alonso was trying to pass. He obviously was trying, but was it 80% or 100%? As you said, the instant Button pitted he was doomed, and of course Alonso would have known this too, so why try 100% to pass on track with all the dangers that entails?

I'm certainly not saying that he would definitely have taken Button, but he might have tried harder if he thought Button might not pit.


Yes ballast and reverse grids etc ruined BTCC for example. Used to be an avid fan in the '90s, but its not the same now. They also do what some F1 people are pusing for; shorter races. That's also ruined BTCC, with 3 races in one day. You're right though, I was a little bored during the race, and if Alonso had been unsure whether Button would pit or not, it would've been a completely different race!


Funny you mention BTCC as that was exactly what I had in mind when I wrote it! You're right; I used to love it, now it's so dull.


I really enjoyed the race actually, but I totally agree with the comment about the tyre compounds. No compulsory pitstop, and soft should be soft and NOT durable.

Bridgestone's goal of being conservative, to protect their brand name, has probably actually generated them a reputation for a dull company lacking in dynamism and flair. At least in my books. My next tyres won't be Bridgestone!!


This was a tough one for Button to lose. I think it's certainly a worthy second place, in the end, but I was on the edge of my seat for a lot of this race.


I don't there was an error by McLaren on tyre strategy. It was simply down to who was fastest in the pits to change tyres. Ferrari were quicker in the tyre change than McLaren which made all the difference otherwise I believe Jenson would have defended his lead against Alonso to take the win.

Where McLaren may have failed was coming to Monza without an F duct in their low downforce package.


Maybe re-read the second to last paragraph of James's article?


Remember back at the start of the season when it was quite clear that whoever stopped first would have the advantage because the new tyres were so much faster?

What happened to that? Did the tyres change?


I agree, the soft compound seems to be harder. You could not go more than 20 laps on them earlier in the season. Hay what are you going to do? "Sack the tyre manufacture" they are leaving at the end of the season.


As always James, great insight. Such a shame we didn't really get to see if Lewis' setup was quicker or slower than Jenson's. I have a funny feeling Lewis would have been quicker as he likes his car on the edge, and the race certainly seemed to reward the more aggressive style and setup.


For the fact that McLaren lost the championship lead this weekend, it is my humble opinion that this post is addressing the wrong garage for which McLaren misfired on strategy. Unfortunately the fact that Lewis went on to crash his car on his very own does not allow us then to discuss whether on this occassion McLaren had got his strategy right or wrong.


Your first opinion contradict to the fact posted on your second sentence.

You said it yourself. Lewis crashed his car on his own, thus we wouldn't know whether he got the right package or not but your insisted that the team let down Lewis by making him use the low DF package which Lewis himself choose.

The fact is that all off the established team have Monza package and all of them use their Monza package. It just happen that McLaren Monza package didn't really give a boost in term of lap times.

Some Lewis supporter think that if Jenson can be that fast with the standard package then Lewis should be faster, which we never know. The only opportunity to compare lap times equally was when both using the standard package in FP1. I don't like using FP1 for comparison, but we don't have anything else beside FP1 times to compare both driver in similar package.


Plus lap time in FP1 and 2 doesn't take into account how a car feels to a driver, it's not all about out and out time in those sessions. JB liked the feel of the high downforce setup and LH liked the feel of the low drag setup.


My gut told me duriung the GP that JB should have waited and gone one lap longer than FA, and I've since seen or heard nothing to convince me otherwise.

In these days of no re-fueling I think when your leedig you let the other guy blink first as track position is king!


Retract my last paragraph as the new tryres are uaually quicker but there was no real advantage in the new tyre yesterday and the teams new that as the race unfolded, which confirms the right decision was to pit one lap after the other guy!


It would, however, have been better for the 'overtaking' to have occurred on the track.


At last, a voice of reason. I too thought I was supposed to be watching a motor race, not some strategy board game. Once again we saw that Alonso is simply not good enough.If it had been Webber in the Ferrari we would have seen some real racing.


A shade quicker you say James lol it was 8 tenths. What would you call a slow pit stop then. The Ferrari pit crew won the race. The mclaren pit crew lost it. Very simple


I thought Ferrari were 0.8s faster on the pit-stop? Have you got better information on the stationary times James?


Very interesting analysis as usual James, thanks for this.

Does anyone have an idea as to the direction Pirelli will go with tyres for next year yet? Surely the "soft" compound tyre shouldn't be able to last the qualifying lap and full race distance so competitively (as in Vettel's hands at Monza for example), otherwise what is the point of having different tyre compounds? Yet I understand the reluctance of a tyre manufacturer to produce "inferior" tyres for racing sake - they have a brand to protect after all. Is there any view as to whether there is a solution to this, or even if this is considered a problem at all?


It would be nice if Pirelli could produce a soft sticky tyre which lets you absolutely fly for a few laps then falls away and a hard durable tyre which is slower but lasts longer nearly full distance.

That way we open up tyre stratagies again. Two stints on soft V one on hard, short fast soft for position then hard to hold it V hard get past the soft runners then soft run away from them.

Interesting tyre racing again and Pirelli can be seen to make both fast, grippy and durable tyres.

Obviously this is a simple idea that will spice up the racing so it'll never happen.


Though i have no doubt about what you're saying James, emphasis should surely lie more heavily on the pit stops. Alonso gained almost 3/4 of a second on his one, which more than catches up the gap. Without that, Jenson would have held the place.

Also, Alonso was always going to be faster in the clean air than stuck behind Jenson's turbulence.

Though the tyre was an issue, i think there were other factors which were at least as significant.


Not if you look at the first sector of each driver's out lap, which includes the stop. The difference is 2/10ths.


James, did I miss something?

Alonso's out-lap was right in front of Jenson and that forced him to drive defensively at least past the Lesmos. Doing that will produce a slower lap than Jenson who was by himself on his own out-lap. Is it really a fair comparison?


James it appeared that they showed the stationary times for the pit-stops in real-time.


Oops mis-remembered that. From the Ferrari data looks like the calculated time was congruent with Alonso's pit-stop team anyway.


They showed the stationary times once the car had left the pit lane.


So, given the 8\10ths difference in stop time does this then mean that Button was 6\10ths faster than Alonso in the first sector of his out lap?


But Alonso was fighting for position on the first sector of his outlap - that will clearly slow his time down. Jenson's was is clear air.

According to the pit lane timings, the stationary time for Button was 4.2s, Alonso 3.4s.


James, I find in the ferrari anaylsis of how they did such a fast pit stop,please see below detail steps, I think they must have some device to timing every steps of the operation.

+0.35: car lifted up by the two jack men

+0.70: wheels with the soft tyres come off

+1.40: wheels with the hard tyres in position

+2.30: first wheel locked on and arm up to confirm

+2.60: second wheel locked on

+2.70: third wheel locked on

+2.90: fourth wheel locked on

+3.40: car on the ground and green light


Read the bit about the pit lane times and how they arrive at a stationary time figure


Spot on piece of analysis! I think this was one of those situations where the Ferrari was going to have it covered simply because of their slight speed - and home crowd - advantage. It must be a tremendous strain to drive with a faster car hounding you all the time especially at a track like Monza when you have a slower car in a straight line. I am sure Jenson was grateful for the momentary respite a pit stop offered. It doesn't appear he challenged the order to come in.

He did very well to score such a fine second place. He made no significant mistakes and having to drive continually at 10/10ths it could easily have been otherwise.


That's why I think this was a fantastic race. Two of the best driving flat-out for the whole race without making a mistake. No race/show ruining antics à la Vettel in Turkey and Spa.

What made the race so fascinating as well is the different aerodynamic set up of each car. And given the nature of Monza, it was easy to see exactly where each setup was at an advantage and disadvantage.

This is one hell of a season!


Oh wow, an idea just came to me... what if McLaren/Button had decided to go like Vettel, and pit on lap 53 of 53? It would have been funny watching Ferrari wait and wait...

Oh well, "what if's".


Webber could have done the same and would have scored P4... but very risky, one safety car would have ruined it.

Not that being stuck behind Hulkenberg helped (though you can argue he shouldn't have been in that position in the first place).


Webber could have done the same... and would have scored P4... but very risky, one safety card would have ruined it.


I have asked the same question (comment #34), and James says that it is not allowed.

So I have gone to the Rule Book, and this is what the rule says:

"25.4 Use of tyres :

e)Unless he has used intermediate or wet-weather tyres during the race, each driver must use at least one set of each specification of dry-weather tyres during the race."

I understand that we have to read "lap at least once" where it says "use".


Then again Ferrari could have done the same,and built up a considerable advantage over Mclaren.


I thought that at the time. It was always Button's race to lose if he came in first. The only way to stop Ferrari getting in an extra lap was to wait until 1 lap from the end.

Vettel/Red Bull proved that the idea would have worked. McLaren didn't think enough out-of-the-box.


Yes but Vettel said it was a big Gamble. When you are in 8th postion and your championship is riding on a better result than your teammate, you will take a risk. Butten had too much to loose if it went bad.


This wouldn't have worked for McLaren - If Jenson had stayed out until the penultimate lap they would have probably pitted Alonso at the same time but of course Massa would have pitted earlier and beat both Button and Alonso!

McLaren were damned if they did and damned if they didn't and the only reason for that is that their stop was 8\10ths slower than the Ferrari. That's all.


Button coming 2nd behind Massa would have been better than 2nd behind Alonso. At least for Button's championship.


At least they should have waited until one of the 2 Ferraris pitted. But anyways this is much better for the championship!


Good point - except that pitting Massa early enough to jump them both would have risked Alonso being 3rd. I don't think Ferrari would have done that. Massa would have been sacrificed to ensure Alonso was 1st or 2nd. But definitely in front of Massa.


Is it possible that the damage to the rear of Button's car made him slower in the race or was the Ferrari still faster anyway? I saw the damage to the car on the BBC one programme and it looked fairly bad.

Also on a different subject does anyone know why the team bosses always stand in the garage for the start of the race and then move onto the pit wall presumably some time in the first lap?


The damage did look significant but i think had little or no consequence to lap times since the air passing over the car would have already done it job by the time it reached the back end.

The reason all team bosses and engineers go to the garage is because there is a rule that says nobody allowed on the pit wall during start of race.


Since the team's resurgence in 1998, at the key moments McLaren has got it wrong on strategy more often than right. This race will go down with Hungaroring 1998, Hockenheim 2000 and numerous other occasions.

An increase in rainfall intensity during the final lap of the 2008 Brazilian GP was what enabled Hamilton to finish that race with sufficient points to claim the championship.

The team regularly cracks under pressure - something that anybody who saw the outfit almost pull the roof down at Melbourne in 1999 can tell you.


Mclaren get it wrong from time to time, but I would suggest the history books will tell us that they have done pretty well whilst competing in F1 winning both WDC & WCC.



I strongly disagree. We are talking about 2010 not 1999, a decade earlier. Anyone can find examples where teams have cracked under pressure if you go far back enough.

Take 2010, many commentators would say that McLaren's race strategy has been superior to Ferrari and that's why McLaren are only 3 points behind Redbull in the WCC.

And the Brazillian GP. That was a superb example of McLaren decsion making. Granted...It was a close call decision to change Lewis Hamilton's tyre's expecting rainfall but importantly it was the right call! McLaren would not put racing wet tyres on unless they expected it to rain at that point in time.

And then there was the controversial Spa 2008 decision that gifted Massa a free bagful of points to make the 2008 WDC artificially close.


Mclaren's Brazil 2008 strategy was predicated on the rain falling heavier on the last lap. Ferrari's strategy was hardly faultless yesterday, they could of at least tried to bring Massa into play.

Regardless Alonso won due to a faster pit-stop, not a strategy decision.


Sorry, but Hamilton effectively admitted after the race (Brazil 2008) that the claims from Ron Dennis that everything was under control were baloney.

McLaren didn't account for the possibility that a close-following car (that of Vettel) would overtake Hamilton.

McLaren almost destroyed Hamilton's chances that day by running him on a strategy throughout the race that was too conservative. The sort of tactical blunder that McLaren commits to often.


You are in dispute with Hamilton on this issue!


As Nando said, "Mclaren’s Brazil 2008 strategy was predicated on the rain falling heavier on the last lap".

That is exactly what happened so great strategy timed to perfection by McLaren!



Are you claiming that McLaren put Hamilton on wet weather tyres BEFORE the rain commenced?

If that were correct, which it is most definitely NOT, then it would have been an EXTREMELY UNWISE act. Intermediates and wet weather tyres are NOT designed to be driven on a dry surface.

The only driver who gained an advantage over Hamilton was Glock. Hamilton was initially still on target to win the championship, but that changed when he was overtaken by Vettel (another driver who had changed to wet weather tyres because the rain had commenced).



It was the rain that almost destroyed Hamilton's chances. He was in a 2008 WDC winning position until the team brought Hamilton in with a tyre change to wets because of PREDICTED rain. Only at that point did Massa have the WDC points advantage and I say again, before the PREDICTED rain came down and only because other drivers gained a temporary lead over Hamilton because they gambled on no rain such as Glock could then barely tip toe around the circuit when it did rain.

2008 WDC in the bag for Hamilton and more to come!


Hear hear!


Very well explained James. Best site for clear infrmation, thanks.


Any word\news\insight James into how much (if any) Button's lap-times were affected by pieces falling off his car after Alonso had given him a slight nerf on lap one? What I'm asking or suggesting is... would Button have been able to make a bigger gap to Alonso if his car had not had damage? [Jenson did say in his initial interviews (post-race) that he didn't know of any damage or of being hit]

I think Macca were damned if they did or damned if they didn't - I feel that if Alonso had pitted first he would have put in a good lap time out of the pits and under-cut JB; Fernando just simply seemed to be on fire in Monza - he was faster than JB when in the lead. The only way to stop it would be to pit on exactly the same lap - but how do you manage that exactly?


Ah no, you see the new tyres were in fact slower throughout most of their first lap, so whoever stayed out on the old tyres was quicker. Had Jenson pitted After Alonso there was a good chance his lead would have been increased.

In fact we have reached the reverse of the situation at the start of the season, where the advantage was gained by pitting first. I would assume that this will vary with track length and surface type, number of bends, braking points etc. Monza is a low wear rate track. So on a high wear rate track the advantage may well be to pit first.


Yeah, I wasn't totally aware that Monza was traditionally a low wear-rate track... but makes some sense I suppose. Sure, it's supposition on my part to say that Alonso would have been fast if he'd pitted before Button - hence the "I feel" - it's simply a gut feeling and not based on evidence, because we'll never know - we can suggest that because others were slow (first 2/3rds of the lap) compared with those on older tyres, that Alonso would have been also. But he looked racey, he was hassling all race long... and hustling the car on an out-lap is something he's especially good at. [I'm not pro-Alonso btw] I wonder mainly if the damage sustained by Button at the first corner affected the result \ was the true game-changer?


James, I don't know if I'm wrong in thinking this but have the McLaren pit crews been a little slower than their Ferrari and Red Bull colleagues all year?

I can remember a few races where the McLarens seem to be pitting in the 4-5 second range where the Ferrari and RB's are in the 3's (and I think in 1 case the high 2's).


Mercedes are the fastest. But if you look at Sector 1 of Button and Alonso's out laps, there is only 2/10ths in it, that includes the stops


Does Mercedes have a pull-off from standstill trick like Renault once had? it would explain both the fast starts and the good pit stops.

James, when does sector one start in the pit lane? To avoid confusion, perhaps before the first pit box? Is there any discrepancy between that line and the finish line on-track?


If the 'orange' times shown on the TV graphics are to be believed, Alonso's stop was 0.8s quicker than Button's. This would imply (assuming the pit-lane exits were the same by both drivers) that Button was 0.6s faster in the first sector whilst at full speed. In turn, this means that JB couldn't really have done much more.

I suppose you also have to consider that part of Alonso's first sector on the out-lap was defending JB in the first corner.

Either way, I think that because the tyres were so marginal all weekend (option not massively faster than the prime, and tire wear not making a massive difference) that McLaren should have realised that it was going to be who pitted second who won. In in-lap is faster than an out-lap, unless there are traffic problems or big difference in tyre performance.


I think James that is easy to explain. If you look at the way fernando positioned his car at turn one on his out lap he slowed himself but he made sure that jenson wouldn't get a run on him going up to turn 4 but button was on his own and could do his own linebon his out lap


i think both mclaren and button did the best job.

it is always easier to talk after the race about what was best to do.

imo the chance of button to stay ahead was very slim because;

1. ferrari was a faster car for this race

2. alonso had another big advantage that he was fallowing button very closely with a faster car which means he had the advantage to choose when to stop. now consider that button had decided not to pit until alonso pit in.

in such a situation than alonso would have easily decide to pit in just after button past the pit entry, in a lap where button have to past back-makers which surely will cost button some times before he pit in and almost enough to lose the lead to a faster car.

overall mclaren and button needed some luck yesterday to stay ahead, they did everything right but nothing strange happened to their chance during the race and the faster car won the race.


Will yesterday's race come to be regarded in the same manner as the 1995 German Grand Prix? Look at the parallels - the lead driver of a team crashes out on the opening lap, and the said team's quasi-no.2 finishes the race in second place on a day when he should have won.


Another event that comes to mind is Imola 1999.


The last decade again!



I think your analysis is flawed because I don't think any race is a guaranteed win for a team let alone a 1-2 as your comments imply.

A second place was a great result for McLaren as it ensures that they have two drivers in contention for the WDC.

I would question Ferrari's strategy. Ferrari could have bagged a 1-2 finish given Hamilton's crash but failed.


"Ferrari could have bagged a 1-2 finish given Hamilton’s crash but failed."

Yeah, but Hamilton would have made several overtaking attempts on Massa...and maybe on Button as well...if he hadn't retired after an attempt to overtake Massa.


Not sure if this has been commented on before but surely one factor was the radio feed telling Button to push as hard as he could before the pitstop. If nothing else, it removed any element of surprise, and gave Ferrari the advantage of choosing before, or after. Why did Mclaren send such an obvious message? It hardly made sense even if it had been a bluff, which it wasn't.


That is a good point you make.Only thing is who makes the call to broadcast these radio messages as we all know that we're only privy to a select few of these radio chats & we certainly didn't hear any from Ferrari.Sounds like a cheesy conspiracy theory I know "but"!.


The teams get to hear all the radio messages regardless of whether they're broadcast apparently.


I too have noticed that McLaren pit stops are far from the quickest.

Button's was a 4.2, Alonso's a 3.4. The race was won, and lost, in the pitlane.


I agree. It could so have easily been a win for Button.


Then again, it could easily have been a win for Hamilton. Or if Alonso, Button and Massa, who were running in close company for much of the race, had been involved in a pile-up then it could have been a win for Vettel.



Something interesting I saw you say about traffic. What McLaren could have done would be to try and time their stop based on an upcoming back-marker so that while Jenson pitted and has his out-lap, Alonso's in-lap directly before he pitted would have been compromised.

He then may have been forced to stop out, which would have allowed Jenson time to get the hard tyres working.

Even if that hadn't of occurred, I still believe, McLaren should have let Ferrari pit first or even try and counteract to Ferrari's radio message to Alonso to pit and then send Jenson in too.


Two things of real interest come out from this race. Ferrari scrutinised every detail of Kubica's times on the hard tyres, McLaren did not. I was puzzled at the time why Ferrari only went one lap longer than Button, but Kubica's times clearly showed why.

If Ferrari wanted to maximise their chances of winning this race, Massa would have been brought in beforehand.


If Button had tried to stay out on failing tyres Ferrari would have pitted Massa.

That would pressure Button to make a stop to prevent Massa taking the lead, and Alonso would have still jumped Button by staying out a lap longer.

If anything, I think Ferrari missed out on a 1-2 as they had the quicker package yesterday.


I'm not sure about that. After the pit stops I was expecting Massa to go after Jenson but he never got close.


It seemed a no brainer to me for them to wait for Ferrari to pit then either attempt to come in on the same lap, spotters would have seen them coming out maybe or wait to the next lap with a little 'Yellow G1' push Jenson push!

Given mission control and all that it seems to me to be another 7pts that Fernando has gained.

Shame Lewis wasn't in the same mix, silly boy!


Unfortunately I think JB would have lost first place no matter what he would have done.

Lets say he stayed out as long as possible (Similar to Vettal) and held up Alonso, all Ferrari would have had to do was to split their car strategies and bring in Massa earlier and ensuring he got good track position, then once JB pitted Massa would have been the one to overtake the lot of them. Alternatively Alonso could have pitted early and Massa could have followed JB, either way Ferrari had all the cards.

The only way JB could have won was either a quicker pitstop or support from his teammate to split the Ferrari's unfortunately neither happened.

Still it was a cracking drive by Jenson.


If the car behind is faster and there is no speed benefit in new tyres, then when the pitstop is taken is irrelevant to position aside from traffic and fuel. McLaren went for a gap, hoping that DeLaRosa would interfere with Alonso, but DeLaRosa pitted.

McLaren have been consistently slower all year on pit stops as far as I am aware - which I presume is a design issue which may be limited by restrictions on changing the wheel design.

So, McLaren, slower car (who knows whether it was impeded by the significant damage by enough to make the difference), slower pit stop - why is it a tactical failure rather than an inevitability?

I think that was the push message - the only way you will win is by turning the wick up and pulling a gap - there was no secret to be hidden from Ferrari, they knew they had to be on Button's tail, so there was no opportunity for Button to surprise Ferrari. McLaren would have known that Ferrari would not pit before McLaren, especially when it was confirmed what was already suspected - the hard tyre gave little or no speed advantage.

I'd presume that Button needed to pit so that they could switch to a fuel saving strategy - the only way they could win in a slower car was to pull a gap, that means driving hard. I guess that they tried to drive hard to get Alonso to loose tyre performance, and once they had reached their fuel window, they had to pit to try to maintain track position.

So, I think once they knew that they couldn't pull a gap, they knew that they were second - in act I am sure that Button more or less said that before the race.


There is a serious flaw with that argument, since when have Ferrari been concerned with getting Massa in front of Alonso?


Haha, well, if Massa's in front, it's no big deal for Ferrari is it?

Can you confirm you understand that message? 😉


Since they were racing in front of the Tifosi at the home Italian grand prix.

Also as I said they could have switched the strategy so that it was Massa pressuring Jenson into a mistak for the second half then have Alonso in earlier and out in a clear track to build an advantage.

Either way it's a ferrari win which was the most important thing.

I do feel they compromised Massa's race slightly to ensure Alonso got the win at the expense of a possible 1-2 for Ferrari.


Great race-thrilling to watch Button with his thoughtful setup hold off the two Ferraris.

JB needed a little bigger gap when he pitted-Ferrari have pulled the "second to stop-pass during pitstops" strategy with Schu for years!

Too bad Lewis wasn't still around to slow the red cars up a little!

Another great race.


The victory couldnt have come at a better time for Alonso.

He is the only one amongst the Top5 who has the complete backing of his team with him being the clear No1.The same cannot be said about Lewis\Button and Webber\Vettel

Do you think this situation will strongly play into Alonso's favour,James?


James, could it have been possible for Jenson (and so for Fernando)to pit on the very last lap, change tyres, and then cross the finish line through the pit lane? (Schumie did it once just serving a drive through penalty, didn't he?; maybe it was Silverstone?).

Could have been great to see both cars runing for the finish line on the pit lane! 🙂


No, that is not allowed. The maximum is what Vettel did


I find Vettel's pit stop very interesting as all the of the garages in Monza appear to be after the finish line. This means that Vettel didn't actually complete a whole lap on the harder compound tyre.


You make a good point. Could anyone please educate us on what the rules say?

At least on one ocassion, the watchmen have not been looking closely to ensure the rules are enforced!


In hindsight, McLaren did get it wrong, no doubt. They shouldn't have looked at Kubica's second lap on the hard, but the first. That was where the damage was done, as James points out. That would have told them that who ever blinked first would lose, a suspicion that they would have had the ability to confirm had they kept JB out until Massa pitted, when they could see how quick a Ferrari on new tyres would be on its out lap.

With that info they might have be able to keep FA behind them, up until maybe even the last lap, which would have been very cool. Of course, we don't know if JB's tyres could have lasted that long, but he is supposed to be a master at looking after them.

Sometimes I think McLaren suffer from a lack of imagination in times like these, where as RBR, Newy, and famously Shu/Brawn were masters of thinking outside the box. I think FA did a great job of not just pressuring JB (and he didn't crack did he?) but the team, and they did.

Everybody seemed a bit in awe of FA all weekend, didn't they? I just wish LH hadn't crashed, at least so soon. Always feels like a let down, 'cos you just knew it could have been an even better race than it was....


"Everybody seemed a bit in awe of FA all weekend, didn’t they?"

I don't know why especially as Alonso has admitted that he has made quite a few errors this season. Apart from three crashes, who can forget the following two incidents which must place a question mark over his concentration:

i) Schumacher's overtake on Alonso at final curve on the last lap at Monaco. Thankfully for Ferrari, FIA saved their bacon again in spite of the green light for overtaking.

ii) Alonso dithering with overtaking slower drivers at Montreal which enabled Hamilton and Button to pass Alonso on the circuit due to their killer racing instincts.

I've not seen any instinctive overtaking by Alonso this season.


That is because he races with his brain



Yep, Alonso got it wrong in China (and on other occasions througout his career). Huge revelation!

I have never been a big fan of Alonso, but what has always been apparent to me is that there are numerous open-minded fans who ignored his negative attributes when he was battling Schumacher, but then condemned him for displaying these same attributes towards some Englishmen.


And also not forgetting Alonso's school boy error when he jumped the start at China grand prix this year.....

With so many driving errors by Alonso in this year alone, he might be doing too much thinking, or may be Alonso is not handling the pressure too well.

In any event, we have not seen much evidence of raw overtaking ability this year from Alonso in the way that we have seen from Hamilton and Button and that is the hallmark of a WDC champion.


And it was Sutil in a Force India who proved to be a major log jam for Hamilton at Sepang.


And there was also Alonso's inability to overtake the rookie driver Kobayashi at Valencia.

Infact it was Kobayashi that gave Alonso a masterclass lesson in how to overtake when he managed to pass Alonso and Buemi despite the performance disadvantage in the Sauber.


I don't think there was any one point that lost it for Button. This was one race where Ferrari got it all right. When that happens, it's hard to beat. Hat's off to Button for making it as close as it was.


Did Ferrari also suffer on the first lap getting the hard tyre up to temperature? As you know, James, tyre characteristics can be quite team-specific. McLaren might have been risking too much to base their pitstop strategy on Kubica's warm-up profile (especially when they presumably didn't know if he'd made a small mistake in Sector 2 on his out-lap).

If Lewis had still been in the race, it's safe to assume he would have stopped before Jenson (lower downforce = higher tyre wear, and would have had less to lose since he would probably have been circulating a second or two behind Massa). He would then have been able to report back the car's difficulty on the first lap of hard tyres.

If this had fed into McLaren's decision process, Jenson might not have stopped before Alonso, and therefore might have won the race.


I believe McLaren made the wrong decision by blinking first, but i don't think it would've made a difference. I think Alonso was way faster then what he made it look like. I personally think Alonso was capable of overtaking Button on the track in the first stint, but being the wise cat he is, he didn't want to take that risk then rather just trying to overtake him on the pitstop window. Only if he failed to overtake Button on the pitstop window would he then of been forced to "take a risk" & dive down the inside of turn 1, & taking the chance of him crashing with Button at this point of the season & championship. So i don't think it was a matter of McLaren getting it wrong, but it was just more a matter of Alonso being smart....think about it, would you as Alonso rather risk & try overtake Button on track or on the pitstop window, knowing well that you have a faster car than him. What i think McLaren should've done is seeing that Button is excellent at managing his tyres (Although so is Alonso or the Ferrari car itself), they should've let Button stay out 2 or 3 laps longer than Alonso on those softer tyres & really try put in some stellar lap times while Alonso was getting up to speed on the new hards & then pit & see if they keep the lead.



interesting points,

shame it never happened like others have said it would have been a even better race if Button had got out in front of Alonso,

i watched Alonso make a couple of fast moves on Button before the finish line straight, the front of his car slid out from him and he had to back off, plus im pretty sure Button would have never allowed Alonso on the inside coming up to the chicane as he got that position when Alonso was leaving the pits.

Jenson did ok, and Alonso better, it is how it finished and we are stuck with it regardless of all the speculation.


Exactly - a Prost-like performance from Alonso, the thinking man's F1 driver!


One can quote statistics at length, typically used as a last resort by those seeking to promote a prejudice. In order to have an open mind on the driver performances during 2010, it is clear that Alonso has not demonstrated the overtaking skill expected of a top f1 driver, choosing to rely on team orders and pit strategy.


That's my concern with Alonso. Perhaps he does too much thinking rather than being instinctive.


Combined statistics for McLaren line-up of Hamilton and Button: 252 GPs entered, 23 victories, 2 WDCs

Statistics for Alonso: 154 GPs entered, 24 victories, 2 WDCs

It is clear that Alonso's approach is superior!


Alonso is stil behind Hamilton in the 2010 WDC after many cerebral drives by Hamilton.


Hamilton's de Cesaris-esque performance in Monza proves that he is still an underling of F1's sole intellectual heavyweight, Professor Alonso (the only F1 driver who comprehends M-theory).


No Button is more Prost with his smooth and steady style whilst being very calculating but for ultimate pace Alonso/Vettel/Hamilton is ahead just like Schumacher/Senna was although I have to say the 3 current best in my opinion wouldn't be a match for the 2 best ever when they were in their prime. Driver of the Italian gp has to go to Alonso.


Alonso by his own admission has made quite a few driving errors this season and has not shown himself to be an instinctive killer when it comes to over taking that one would expect from a true racer.


Fab article James

Maclaren were out-thought by Ferrari... They'll know JB was right and they wrong, which will increase JB's standing with the team managers all the more.



it is amazing that with all the millions spent on technology to keep on a team competitive that so much still relies on the human factor. Of course you have to spend to be in the game. In the end though, spending alone won't get you to the podium. Somebody has to make a decision and get it right. Like most of us. F1 teams tend to make as many wrong decisions as they do right ones. So don't be too hard on McLaren. They're only human.



excellent that you are able to put some facts around the discussions on sector times and so on.

It was a massively close thing going to the first corner, and in reality Ferrari did a great job in the pitstop.

I think Jenson did a great job yesterday, given the damage to his car. Its one of those if only moments on the pitstop.

That said, I think he'd have taken a second at Monza if you offered him it before the start of the weekend.

Here's hoping McLaren get the diffuser optimised as much as possible before the next race, as if they do, I think they'll take some beating over the remaining races.


I think Jenson did all that could be expected of him in both qualifing and race. It was very obvious that he didn't have the quickest car and in the race a damaged one at that.

The way he took the lead and his composure when in front was very impresive. If as James say's there was only 0.2 difference in the first sector between Alonso and him, Jenson must have gained 0.6 on track. An equally timed stop would have been enough to keep him in front of Alonso.

It is very unfair of Martin Whitmarsh to comment on a mistake on the in lap. It is hard to fault Buttons driving on the day. I thought and hoped that a new, straightforward and honest approach was being fostered at Mclaren when Ron stepped down. We seem to be getting more and more Ron speak.

Pity about Lewis's rookie mistake, I would have loved to see what sort of race impact he would have had.

I would still like to see Webber win the championship but he could do without to many races like Monsa. How did he drop back to ninth?

I know he made a bad start and then some good on track overtaking. With a decent start it would have been unnecessary. I can understand his anger at the Hulk and the stewards but he should never have been in this position. Red Bull need to have a good look at Webbers clutch settings. It's not the first time this season he has been let down. I can see the favourtism towards Vettel surfacing again.


"I thought and hoped that a new, straightforward and honest approach was being fostered at Mclaren when Ron stepped down. We seem to be getting more and more Ron speak."

Journalists keep making the claim that McLaren has changed, but the public isn't seeing any evidence of this. Perhaps journalists are no longer fearful of having their access to McLaren restricted if they say anything negative about the team. For as long as I can remember, English journalists were full of praise for Ron Dennis - but as soon as he stood down, quite a few critics came out of the closet and started acknowledging firstly that all was not perfect at McLaren, and, more significantly, that communication from McLaren was often arrogant, self-righteous, and a touch hypocritical.


"You said it – Ron put his interests ahead of what was best for F1!"

Most fans would not be naive to think a racing team would put F1 before the best commercial interests, not even Ferrari otherwise Luca di Montezemola might have redistributed some of their "special" F1 income to help some of the newer teams establish themselves on the grid.


Presumably it is acceptable for a team to act in such a manner - provided that the name of the team is not Ferrari.

Ferrari earns more money than other teams because it is far and away the most popular team in F1 - deal with it!



I would n't be so naive to think any team would put the best interests of F1 before their own commercial team.


The McLaren veneer is cracking!


The journalist tittle tattle you mention is just that. it’s Ron’s business, so he is entitled to do with it what he thinks fit which is best for the business. Rather than trying to find reasons to criticize Ron, he should be congratulated for building up the McLaren business into a highly successful world class technology leading company and into a global brand, employing many people.

Ferrari communication has also often been criticized by journalists for being arrogant, self-righteous and at times hypocritical. Many F1 fans worldwide were upset by the dishonesty shown by Ferrari at Hockenheim by denying that team orders were being used. And there were also the lies from Ferrari's pit wall to Massa, "Alonso is faster than you" when in fact this was not true because Alonso was allowed to turn up his fuel mix.


You said it - Ron put his interests ahead of what was best for F1!


When the rain came down at Hockenheim in 2000, both McLarens changed to wet weather tyres. This action undoubtedly cost the team a 1-2 finish. The po-faced expression on Ron's face afterwards was priceless!

At least Coulthard and Hakkinen had the decency to graciously congratulate Barrichello on his maiden victory.


That's history. Once could have said that Ferrari should have got a 1-2 at Monza but I guess Domenicali was pleased because Ferrari have had some quite disastrous results of late due to a combination of poor strategy and bad driving by Alonso.



You make a good point that MTB has failed to spot. The result could be viewed as a disappointment for Ferrari given that they could have achieved a 1-2. One might question Massa's motivation or indeed Ferrari's strategy with respect to handling Massa's race.


I believe McLaren did the right thing. The fact is that the pit stop in lap 36 is irrelevant, because Ferrari didn't stop in that lap anyway, so Button would have had to do two more laps if he wanted to stop after Ferrari, assuming Alonso would have come in in lap 37 as he did. However, as Whitmarsh rightly said, Ferrari was never going to bring Alonso in at the same time as Button, so that meant either two more laps in the softer tire (if Alonso came in in lap 37) or just one more lap in which case the situation would have been exactly the same as it actually was. Also, remember Button was racing two Ferraris, not just one so for me doing two more laps in the softer tire would have put Button at risk not only fo P1 for also for P2, as both Alonso and Ferrari were simply faster.


I think it is a shame that we are considering a negative aspect of Maclaren's race. I think that Jenson did a brilliant job holding off Alonso in a slower car and that it was Ferrari's race to lose rather than Maclaren's.

That said, surely unless Maclaren were in fear of those on fresh tyres catching them and the Ferraris up as long as Jenson could keep Alonso behind they could have held out? It did not look as though Alonso was going to be able to pass on the track unless Jenson made a mistake.


It was always going to be difficult for JB to stay a head of alonso as the ferrari was quicker, plus did mclaren not tell JB to start saving fuel when he came out in second as he had been driving flat out up until then, so the game was up

Shame hamilton when out at the start, think we could've had a classic with hamilton chasing down the ferrari's


Hi James,

Off topic - How soon after the season finshes will your 2010 Review be released? Mid december would be good. Just booked to go away at christmas and could do with some reading material. Totally selfish, but I thought i'd ask the question.


To me it looked like Ferrari called Mclaren's bluff as we all expected Button to run way longer than Alonso. The problem was they were hitting traffic and this was always going to compromise any kind of strategy, unless Button had done what Vettel did, in itself a big risk.

It was also obvious that the Ferrari was faster. Alonso was always going to break down that tiny gap if given free air.

At the end of the day it was a tense (in a good way) race and one that suggests it's not always possible to for the team to make such fine line decisions.


Dear James,

Great Analysis and information for earlier i always used to wonder how they measured the stationary time(whether it was measured by the sensor in each car or when the front jack came in play) and i am surprised that they do not use a more advanced method to calculate it.

The one piece of information i would have loved to have (especially since you have the breakdown of the lap data) is how actual was the Mclaren perceived threat of Massa. As you pointed out that the three had enough of a lead to pit and emerge in free air, and Massa was 2.4 sec behind (if i remember correctly) could he have leapfrogged Button had he pitted earlier, and also if in that case also the prudent strategy would have been to wait for Massa to pit and go in then (assuming Mclaren believed that Button was racing Massa).




I wonder if Button could have pitted on lap 50 like Vettel, thus keeping Alsonso in his dirty air all race.


A stunning race,a duel between to world champions on one of the fastest tracks.

This showed the calibre of why they are champions,Button having to defend lap after lap,being inch perfect at every chicane, any mistakes and the red car will attack,Alonso making sure he stays within striking distance,keeping the engine cool,slipping and sliding in turbulent air,dropping back then pulling the Mclaren in.

Both drivers were completely fired up,drove faultlessly.

Yet 2 tenths seperated a win,we can pick at the bones until nothing is left,simply it could have gone either way,i,m pleased Alonso won in front of the Italian crowd,but equally Button would have deserved to win as well.


Given Alonso could pull away on the hard, assuming Button wasn't backing off, I think it was just the case that the Ferrari was the faster car on either compound.

Although it would be interesting to know how Alonsos 2nd and 3rd sector on the outlap compared to Buttons. Did the hard work better for him straight away? This might give an indication if Alonso had pitted first, could he of gained over Button?


Hi James,

I appreciate your analysis part by part of how Mclaren lost it but even when Alonso just had a 0.2 sec lead over Button, he could extend it easily by 3-4 seconds in next 2 laps. Do you think it is all in about the compounds in the tyres ? Dont' you think its more to it like maybe the quantity or fuel carried by the two cars + different set of tyres made the difference ?



Will Red Bull be happy that Renault are supplying another team? or does this new deal with Lotus mean Red Bull are looking elsewhere for engines for 2011 - Mercedes for example?


If you all paid attention to what Button told Alonso before going up the podium you'll know that he was complaining about one of his front tires saying it was overheating... so bearing that in mind and the numerable lockups he was incurring it is quite evident that his tires were not in the best of shape, so a conventionally time-windowed pit stop was inevitable.

Alonso tried on numerous occassion to overtake Button yet he couldn't for Button's grip out of Parabolica was far better than Alonso, Alonso tried to stay on his tail once through there and incurred a bad slide... So the only chance he had to win the race was stopping later than Button, no matter when he stopped... he would've stopped a lap or two later than him. For his tires were in far better shape then Button's for Alonso was belting in fastest laps after fastest laps.

So, it is irrelevant when Button stopped Alonso was always going to stop a couple of laps later than him for that was his only means of winning the race.


McLaren always may the wrong choice, it was buttons to lose so why on earth pit early and give Alonso so clean air.

Button was on the hard tires so should be easily to go 1 lap further. Every person watching it thought that should have been the case.

James, do you think this was a point of having too much information to hand??


Good read! It's a bit difficult to compare like for like on outlaps as obviously Alonso's was perhaps a bit less clear cut coming out right with Button (in reality Alonso's 1st sectors were generally always better than Jenson's). Also, Monza does perhaps offer a bit an advantage coming out of the bit lane, as it does somewhat seem to give a good track position for the first corner, so maybe an advantage as the person on racing line usually going have to yield?

Being glued to the live timing probably more than the tv, it was obvious throughout the first part of the race that Alonso was a lot stronger through sector 1 (3-4 tenths) than Button, and Button through Sectors 2 & 3 than Alonso, generally pulling the loss of sector 1 back. Obviously at this point its a bit difficult tell what the clear air for Alonso would produce. So given Alonso was probably 4 tenths faster in sector 1, Jenson say 2 tenths in sector 2 is it not possible entry to the pits might destroy any sector 3 advantage Jenson might have had with the acceleration out of the last corner onto the early part of the straight and, coupled with Sector 1 being Jenson worse sector?


I think Button should have waited for Alonso to pit first, if nothing else it would have given him the inside line into turn 1 if Alonso was close. If they waited until the end then both of them could have had a race in the pit lane.

I wonder if the reason for not pitting Massa first was the problem of wanting Alonso to finish ahead of him as they could not risk changing places again on track. This could have been a 1-2 for Ferrari with the wrong person first.

On another point, I did not see all of the BBC coverage, does anyone know which game/player they were using?


Excellent analysis, James, many thanks indeed.

I had thought that with the no-refuelling regulations (which have truly reinvigorated the racing, in my opinion) the advantage would generally be with whoever pitted first, because they would have an extra lap on fresh rubber. However, given what you say about the outlaps in this case, the reality is clearly different provided the second driver to pit does so only one lap after the first.

I suppose at circuits where overtaking is possible, it could be that the driver who pits first may still have an advantage, because even if the other driver emerges in front of him and has track position, if he's struggling to get the tyres working on the outlap it will be easier to pass him?

Also, I agree with the comment above that the radio transmissions selected for broadcast can lead to unfair advantages. I think I heard Martin Brundle in the race commentary say that the teams have access to all radio conversations, not just the ones selected for broadcast. James, is that correct? do they have access to them in real time - surely it would need somebody doing that and nothing else if they're to listen to all of it.


Best article I have read on here. Outstanding analysis.


Jenson Coulthard and Lewis de Cesaris were no match for Alain Alonso at Monza.


Good analysis James, thank you.

Traditional McLaren over-analysis while missing an essential point in racecraft, the on-track up-to-speed time of the hard tyre.

Surely they should have worked that out?

It was absolutely critical to the tactic of bringing in Button early.

Their approach is simply baffling if Button's strategy was to drive his car with sufficient care to preserve his tyres longer than Ferrari. His strategy always required Button to stop AFTER Alonso whenever that was!

And that could have made for a VERY interesting race given the longevity of Vettel's tyres.

Ferrari had the (slightly) faster car on the day but we all know that doesn't mean they should win.

If in doubt see Red Bull's results this year (and last)!


Mclaren should have kept Button out til Alonso pitted. Massa was 3 secs behind them at that stage. Not an immediate threat. Rest of field 10 sec behind.

Pitting 2nd would also give Button inside line for turn one.

Mclaren need to pull their head out of the computer strategy screen and just look at what is really happening.


Off topic, but F1 needs a design like this:


If you miss the chicane, you have to go through the second, tighter chicane. It's better than hitting a wall, but you don't get the free pass that Hulkenburg got THREE times.

Mr. Tilke should incorporate that into his next chicane design... (and give me 5% of the profits!) 😉


Note: merging with the track is similar to pit-out, and if you go straight on at similar chicanes, you either need to go through a second chicane or come to a full stop before merging.

This is different because it forces drivers that cut the chicane to do something similar.


This Analysis chose to ignor the fact that Alonso was the best among the top three in managing the hard tyres in the first few laps:

what Alonso did:

37 P 1:28.594

38 1:44.227

39 1:24.942

40 1:24.680

What Button did:

36 P 1:29.169

37 1:43.835

38 1:26.736

39 1:25.244

What Massa did:

38 P 1:28.810

39 1:45.774

40 1:25.001

41 1:25.145

42 1:25.007

43 1:24.897

So, if Button was arranged to pit after Alonso did, he might loose more.


All that demonstrates to me is (as quali also showed) the fact that the Ferrari was the quickest car - Alonso knew before hand, as did the rest of the Planet, that Button was going to make a pit stop (McLaren foolishly made sure of that :)) so he turned his engine up got as close to Button as he could on Button's in-lap and when Button pitted that released Alonso to lap at the true pace of the Ferrari that weekend something he couldn't do while tucked up behind the McLaren.


Was the situation exacerbated by the lack of data running long stints on the soft tyres?

Do Bridgestone suggest optimum pit-stop time based on estimated performance drop off?


It's a bit disappointing to realise that a billion dollar organisation like McLaren, with all the technology they have at their disposal can made such a rudimentary error!

They should listen more to Jenson in future. I also wonder what RonDen would have done in the same situation!


History suggests that Ron would have got it wrong. Interestingly, when Max Mosley said at Monza in 2004 that there was a certain team principal who wasn't the sharpest tool in the box, it was widely assumed that he was talking about Ron Dennis.


Those who follow the sport with an open mind would not seek criticize McLaren at every opportunity!



Thank you for pointing out the anti McLaren bias that many F1 journalists feel Max Mosley had for the team. It was widely believed that McLaren was treated appallingly by FIA under Max Mosley given the relationship he had with Ron Dennis so your alleged comment is hardly surprising.

Given Ron Dennis's incredible achievements, namely, building McLaren into an incredibly successful business, Max would have every reason to be jealous of Ron given that McLaren has well surpassed the achievements of March Engineering.


It was widely believed in segments of the English media that McLaren was treated badly by the FIA, but those who follow the sport with an open mind know otherwise.


Talking of Ron Dennis I would really like to get a take on his opinion of Jenson Button this season - has he made any comments anywhere ? Has Jenson met or surpassed Dennis' expectations or underachieved in his mind this season i don't recall reading or hearing anything from him on the subject.


What ever way you look at this, Mclaren and ferrari have under performed at Monza and Spa. If you said to Red Bull that they would be ahead of both Championships leading into Singapore they would have laughed at you. These two circuit should have given Mcclaren the lead in both championships and ferrari should be a lot close than they are.


When it comes to Jenson, why does it always have to be car or tire or team strategy or other drivers' fault?
I don't dislike the guy but I have noticed that for sometime. From what I have seen in the past, he never seem to think or admit that he just didn't drive fast enough. He is absolutely sure that there is nothing wrong with his driving so it must be something else.
James, do you think there is a chance that he didn't get the best out of his car?


That is why the only former McLaren driver that he reminds me of is David Coulthard.


Two comments: all the drivers are to a greater or lesser extent passengers in their cars - drivers cannot make a car go quicker than its design and set up allow.

Secondly, Jenson is usually pretty candid about his performances - especially on qualifying where he has explicitly accepted responsibility for failing to get the best out of the car.


First of all I am not arguing whether drivers can go faster than their cars allowed them to be. The question is why Jenson always come to conclusion too early without even analyze his own performance for a few hours after the race.

And I have never seen him blame himself but I have seen him pointing fingers as you can see below:

"British GP: Jenson Button bemoans 'undriveable' car as Vettel takes pole."


"It seems there is something wrong with the car, so we must look back”


Frustrated Button critical of Schumacher (After beaten by a 41 years old in an inferior car)


And thats not all.


i no this is off topic,but chrlie sale in the mail today is saying that martin brundle wants the moto gp commentator, sorry cant remember his name(the aussie one) to replace j leggard, but others in the bbc f1 team,want to keep leggard in place,any truth in th story?


got a link to the story?



Kimi Raikkonen to Renault in 2011?

Any thoughts?


The conclusion that this piece seems to come to is that if Button had done the same as Vettel and pitted on lap 51 (and had managed to keep Alonso behind him) he would have won.


Just reading heidfeld is replacing pedro at sauber.

Do you think this is pirelli backed to get some info on bridgestone?


Not really. It's probably a bit early in the testing cycle for that. As far as I know they've only done 2 tests so far. Now they can use De la Rosa..


This is probably the first race this season Alonso had outright speed advantage over others. It's almost impossible to beat FA in a fastest car. Button was a little lucky to get ahead of Alonso at the start. I believe Alonso's move to the right off the line was not entirely aimed at Button. The last thing he wanted was another Ferrari ahead of him again.


Off topic again, but I would also like to see your views on Kimi/Renault and also the news that Heidfeld has gone back to Sauber for the remainder of 2010. Is it a clever ploy by Mercedes to get Nick some race experience (coupled to his recent work with Pirelli) so they can slot him in for Schumi and steal a march on 2011?


Surely McLaren can / could of use(d) a little bit more "nouse" and not telgeraph there intentions of their intended pit stop the way they did on Sunday. Something as straight forward as a pre-arranged code word in a radio transmission would suffice. Had they of done that and the McLaren mechanics not emerged from their garage until Jenson was actually in the Parabolica - Alonso would have had no pre-warning of their impending pit stop and would not have benefited from turning his engine up to full power (which he no doubt did during Jenson's in-lap) out of the Parabolica & along the whole of the main straight. That alone would probably kept Jenson the lead.


The weak link in the chain was Button. He's as slow as a snail, and ususally loses about 0.5 to 0.7 seconds of the available car performance.

Hamilton would have hammered home a win with a good margin.

Button is just a fake.


I think it's a bit harsh but it's true.

Because he just exposed the biggest flaw in the highest level of motorsport.

World champion means he is the best in the business.

Arguably he should win more than anyone when all the cars are equal.

How can you consider someone a champion when he cannot beat ONE guy in the same car?


Hi James

Great analysis. I've been following F1 since 2001 and missed just one race in all that time. But there is something that i have never heard or seen explained and I wondered if you might be able to.

How do the teams know how much time they are going to lose - to the nearest few tenths of a second, say - when a driver pits? It's all very well knowing how long a car is in the pits (i.e. the time between crossing the white line at start of 100kph line and crossing the white line where they can release the speed limiter) but, clearly, that does not tell you, to the nearest half a second, how much time a driver will lose at a given circuit by coming through the pits and making a stop instead of carrying on over the start/finish line!

Surely, to get an accurate idea of how much time making a stop loses a driver you would need to some how start a stop watch (so to speak) before the driver starts decelerating for pit entry and deviating from the racing line...and then stop the stop watch at turn 2 or 3, say, by which time the driver will be back on the racing line and will have recovered from any difference in speed and racing line going through turns 1 or 2 ???!!

...and then to compare that time with the time it takes a driver - without making mistakes - to drive between those 2 points and over the start line as normal?

I hope you get the point I'm making! lol.

if you could shed some light on this (which is obviously pretty important for strategy) that would be great.

You often used to say - as Jonathan would do now - that it takes, say, 25 seconds to make a pit stop, and so i was just wondering how the teams work this thing out! eg. how would they do it in Korea, where they've never been before!



They measure it during practice. The data stays the same from year to year unless the pit lane length changes or the speed limit. It's quite simple to calculate. It is called the "Loss Time"


I enjoyed the race. Although I was expecting a Ferrari win, it was very tight. A dropped wheel nut in the Ferrari pit stop and Jenson would maintain the lead and possibly go on to win the race. And what with a DNF for Lewis, the WDC is in a thrilling position.


Hi James

A wonderfully insightful article. You are always a pleasure to read.

As you have pointed out, it was frightfully close and could have gone either way. McLaren blinked first and handed the win to Alonso. As someone else mentioned here, i doubt alonso would have been able to out brake jenso in their respective car setups.

Bridgestone has indeed ruined the races with their super safe approach. Hopefully Pirelli will spice things up. Having said that, my next set of tyres will be Bridgestones. 😉


James, it would be great if you could shed some light on this please...

Following the revelation that the McLaren pit stop was 0.8 seconds slower than Ferrari at Monza it got me thinking about how one team can have such an advantage.

Red Bull angle the wheel (the 'swing-in' approach) so it's a 90 degree rotation to put it on rather than waiting for the guy taking it off to move his hands and putting it on, straight on. This apparently saves them a few tenths.


Notice how in the Red Bull clip they hold the wheel at a right angle to the direction they end up yet in the clip below, the McLaren mechanics hold the wheel forward facing (the 'slide-in' approach).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dHZ8... (cheers autounion).

I will add that the Ferrari pit stop is more similar to that of McLaren (however they claim to have a 3 tenth saving traffic light system).

McLaren have lost out on pit stops now in Turkey, Canada and Italy.

Why is it that the teams have different approaches? Is this a big problem for McLaren and if so why do you think they haven't changed their system?

It would be great if you could do a feature on this as it's proving to be critical to race position.


Thanks for that. I had been thinking about it. Worth a closer look


Thanks James and cosicave.

This is also quite interesting from Ferrari:

"a front one [jack] was introduced that could be released at the side of the car, so the jack man can move out of the way before dropping the car to the ground for a faster release. Also important are the wheel nuts and their design and thread is optimised for speed."

Look at it in practice 25m05 in http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00tqqwd/Formula_1_2010_The_Italian_Grand_Prix_Highlights/

It doesn't look like McLaren use this type of jack.

So whilst the Ferrari stop averages 3.7 seconds and the McLaren at Monza was 4.2(?) the traffic light system and this jack could certainly help explain the difference in stationary stop time.


It is well worth investigation James. McLaren's 'new' wheel men need to take an extra step when compared to Red Bull's swing approach.

The vital thing is that 'off' wheel never touches the 'on' wheel.

The swing approach requires very accurate positioning in the box, whereas McLaren's slide-in approach is inherently more able to deal with some inaccuracy, since any 'in-line' shuffle required of a corner-man keeps the wheel aligned with the direction of motion throughout.

Like all things which involve both speed and accuracy, a compromise is virtually inevitable. But McLaren's 'safer' approach could be costing them a little time.

But given that Hamilton and Button are two of the best 'boxers' on the grid, McLaren could probably afford to hone their particular compromise by leaning ever closer to the speed element of it; as in the Red Bull approach.

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