A deep dive into the strategies from the Chinese Grand Prix
A deep dive into the strategies from the Chinese Grand Prix
Strategy Report
Posted By: James Allen  |  19 Apr 2011   |  11:33 am GMT  |  143 comments

So much happened in the Chinese Grand Prix, it’s important to take the time to examine exactly how and why things worked out as they did.

The overriding observation is that strategy was the difference between winning and losing on Sunday.

While we have seen some interesting mixtures of strategy in the first two races, the podium finishers in both Melbourne and Sepang all did the same strategy. The Chinese Grand Prix was the first race to show variations on this and to illustrate how finely balanced some of the decision making is in F1 this year.

Another interesting difference from the first two races is that we had four fast cars out of their normal position on the grid; Webber 18th, Heidfeld 16th, Schumacher 14th and Petrov. This meant that the two Toro Rosso cars and the two Force Indias were in and around the top ten, but staying there proved difficult as the overtaking aids and the Pirelli tyres gave the faster cars the chance of come through the field.

The strategic thinking started in qualifying, where Lewis Hamilton decided to do only one run in Q3, saving a set of new soft tyres for the race. What exactly did this give him? In comparison to a set which has been used in qualifying, a new set will give an first lap performance boost, then it will last two to three laps longer than a used set, which have done that much already. On top of that the degradation on a used set means that every lap in the stint will be about 1/10th to 2/10ths of a second slower than the new set through the stint. And finally there is another benefit, which is that you delay taking the hard tyre an extra couple of laps and that tyre is around a second a lap slower. So it adds up to quite a gain.

Photo: McLaren

Why Hamilton beat Vettel

Computer simulations showed that two stops would be faster than three by around 3 seconds over the race, but this was reliant on running in clear air. Vettel went with a two stop plan, but found himself behind the McLarens after a poor start. His KERS wasn’t working properly at the start. It only gave him 30bhp instead of 80bhp, which is why the McLarens got the jump on him.

At this point Red Bull had the chance to do three stops. But as he pitted only lap 14, the same time as Button and a lap before Hamilton and came out ahead of both, they decided to stick with two stops. They no doubt thought that their car was fast enough to make the strategy work. Had they followed a three stop plan from lap 14 onwards he would have won the race.

But what none of the simulations predicted prior to the start was how little the tyre life would improve during the race. Previous experience with Pirelli in the first two races had shown that the tyre wear is 25% better in the final stages of the race, compared to Friday Free Practice, when most teams do their long runs of 18-20 laps. But crucially, this time the circuit did not rubber-in, which meant the surface didn’t come to the hard tyre for the final stint, as is normally the case. This is why Vettel and all the other two stoppers, like Ferrari, couldn’t keep the pace up and Vettel got caught in the final laps by Hamilton, whose tyres were seven laps fresher. It is also the reason why Webber’s strategy worked out so spectacularly, as we will see.

Lewis Hamilton won the race, by getting the strategy exactly right. Saving a set of new tyres played its part in making the three stop plan work, as did making crucial overtakes such as the ones on Button, Massa and Rosberg.

Photo: Red Bull

How did Webber go from 18th to 3rd?
“What this race has proved,” said Mark Webber after the race, “Is that qualifying isn’t as important as it used to be. You don’t want to be qualifying 18th every weekend, but you’re better off saving tyres for the race than wasting a new set in Q3 for a one-place gain on the grid. Monaco would be the only exception to that rule, of course.”

This is true and we may see some of the faster cars doing what Hamilton did and limiting themselves to using just two sets of soft tyres in qualifying, because the benefit in the race is so significant.

Webber ran the three stop race strategy, but in reverse, starting on the hard tyre and them using three new sets of soft tyres, which he had saved by not doing Qualifying 2 and Qualifying 3. Webber was the only driver on the grid not to start on softs.

The three stop plan gave him plenty of free air to run in and at the end he was running on new soft tyres when all the other drivers were discovering that the track wasn’t improving and that the degradation on the hard was therefore worse than expected. New soft tyres gave him a huge pace advantage as proved by his fastest lap, which was 1.4s faster than anyone else!

Webber did exactly the right thing by running the prime early on, while stuck in traffic and unable to exploit the pace of his car. Had he started on options, he would have had to use the hard tyre at the end of the race and it would have been much harder for him to make progress.

Photo: Red Bull

Nico Rosberg: The one that got away
Nico Rosberg was very upset after the race as he felt that he could have had a podium and at one stage looked like he might even get his first win. The reason he didn’t was a miscalculation of fuel consumption.

Rosberg was fourth on the opening lap, then thanks to a great piece of of strategic thinking by Mercedes early in the race, they brought him in on lap 12 just as he was about to hit traffic. This brought him out in clear air. He was able to run unimpeded at this stage of the race and he was in the lead by lap 17, doing impressive lap times on his second set of soft tyres. After his second stop he came out in front of both McLarens and he must have thought he was on for a podium.

The Mercedes team thought they were going to win the race at this point.

But then it became clear that they didn’t have enough fuel to complete the race at competitive speeds and so he had to save fuel and the race got away from him.

In fairness to Mercedes this is an incredibly hard thing to predict. All sorts of things can upset predictions, like atmospheric pressure, track conditions, tyre conditions, meaning you use more fuel than expected. Rosberg’s Mercedes was much faster in race trim in China than it had been in Malaysia and this used more fuel. In Malaysia they had to open the bodywork up to keep it cool, whereas in China they could run the car in its optimal aerodynamic configuration.

All teams run at a fuel deficit at some points in the race, aiming to save fuel in the final stint. Mercedes clearly fuelled the car expected a lonely race in fourth place, keeping the Ferraris at bay, but the chance arose there to do something much better and they couldn’t take it, for want of a few more kilos of fuel in the car.

Ferrari: Wrong strategy

After the race, Fernando Alonso said, “You need to keep focussed on your own strategy. And in the end when you have a quick car, any strategy is good, as Webber showed today. When you have a slow car, everything is more difficult.”

Ferrari made the same mistake as Vettel in running a two stop plan, which was a shame because Felipe Massa looked the most competitive he has for a long time and on a three stopper could have been on the podium.

Both Ferraris were held up by Rosberg in the first stint. The drivers probably thought they could run quicker in clear air, so they stayed out when Rosberg pitted on lap 12. Massa briefly gained a place on Hamilton, but he and Alonso got split up.

Alonso had been behind his team mate after losing the start to him. He stayed out one lap longer than Massa at the first pitstop and that allowed Massa to stay ahead. Alonso then came out behind Schumacher and he lost a lot of time. It was somewhat surprising that Ferrari stuck so doggedly to two stops with both cars, you would normally split strategies in that situation.

It’s worth remembering that the difference in lap time between old and new rubber, when combined with the fuel load always getting lighter, means it’s no longer an advantage to run longer than someone prior to pitting. If the first person to stop does a strong out-lap from the pits, he’ll always make time on the person who’s stayed out on old tyres.

Graph 1 – Race History. The zero line is simply the race winner’s average lap time (total race time divided by the number of race laps). This is why his curve can go above the line if he’s lapping faster than his average, and below the line if he’s slower than his average or doing a pitstop.

Graph 2 – Individual lap times and gaps

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Hello James!Just from my own observation. Why is Mclaren using it’s tires more during its first stint than Red Bull and Ferrari? Mclaren can’t usually push hard on a heavy fuel load, maybe they have to look out for their tires more than Red Bull and Ferrari during the first stint? But after that, as the fuel load goes down, it seems they could manage their tires and be at par with these teams. It seems if Ferrari can unlock their qualifying pace, they could be a real threat on raceday. I might be wrong tho.


The more fuel you have the less downforce you need as downforce is proportional to velocity. Once the cars start going faster the aerodynamics start to kick in and those cars that have flaws fall behind. Add the necessity to look after the tyres and you get closer gaps to the ones seen in qualifying. If we had last year tyres I think we would see much greater gaps between RB and McLaren and between McLaren and Ferrari.


I compared Webber fastest and slowest lap on soft tyres and the difference in speed between those laps is 10km/h.

10km/h is a consequent difference but doesn't stop aerodynamics from working or from being important


Thanks. I agree if we had last year tyres, we might see much greater gaps between RB and McLaren and between McLaren and Ferrari. But i still think Ferrari has better tyre degradation than Mclaren. In the chart above around lap 14, Massa was able to up his pace given he had the same tyres as Hamilton (same compound and same number of laps). It seems that the first stint is Mclaren's little bit of weakness compared tp RBR and Ferrari?


I'd love to see some analysis on how many overtakes there were in the race where both guys were on the same tyres and at the same tyre wear phase. Is it now all about tyre management i.e. a chess game? Is it about one guy overtaking another who is helpless because of the tyres? I noticed that there was plenty of overtaking outside of the drs zone, so drs is not king. It feels as though the tyres have become the be all and end all of formula one racing...... Is this the case James?


I suspect it always has been, it was only in the recent years of single supplier (Bridgestone) that we got tires that lasted so well they were a non-issue. Look back in history and many of the great F1 races were under similar circumstances.


Hamilton's overtake on Button into turn 1: both on SOFT tyres, Lewis' were 1 lap younger.

Hamilton's overtake on Rosberg at turn 6: both on HARD tyres, Lewis' were 1 lap older (but Rosberg must have had to back off to save fuel).

Neither were a direct result of DRS either.

Hamilton's passes on Massa and Vettel were both HARD vs HARD tyres too, but with 6-7 laps less wear.

Interestingly, Webber's passes that took him from 8th to 3rd were ALL SOFT vs HARD tyres, and half of them were in the DRS zone. I appreciate that he didn't have KERS, but SOFT tyres give more performance gain than KERS.


they always have been, just hasnt been so obvious these last couple years with the bridgies


Lewis new soft tyres only helped him to overtake Button. He ovetook Rosberg on hards with rosberg on hards too. In my opinion, the key of Lewis victory was because he didn't waste time on traffic and passed as soon as possible. that's why the strategy worked for him and not for Button.


I think you are right in some respects. But I think there is a knock on effect.

3rd stint was crucial. In the above lap time graph, Hamilton was consistently faster than Button with his new tyres from lap 25-38.

You can see by the 2011 China Gap graph that by lap 39 (when Button/Hamilton completed their final pit stop) the gap is approx 4 seconds.

Finishing gaps were:


Vettel +5.2

Webber +7.6

Button +10.0

I know the drivers usually coast around at the end of the race - but you could argue that the 4 seconds could have given Button a go at 2nd place and perhaps also hold off for 3rd.


Also - this is rather unscientific. Assuming pace on hard tyres were the same, you could argue that Hamilton's ability to overtake gained him 6 seconds (difference between gap after final pitstop and finishing gap).


It's certainly true that Lewis doesn't waste time passing and your analysis seems right. I wonder how significant it was in this race-actual seconds.


I don't think Button ever had the race pace to challenge for the win. He might've snatched 3rd without the pitlane snafu, but that's about it.

I thought his tyre strategy worked against him in the overtake. It seemed like every time he had to attack or defend, he was up against someone on fresher rubber and just didn't have the grip.


no mate you're way off the mark. As James explained, a new set of tyres gives you extra-pace for the whole stint and helps you reduce the stints you spend on used sets.

The Button move was Button mistake as he should have stayed inside to cover Ham's move but we know how bad is Button when it comes to defending. Watching Schumacher for years doesn't seem to have helped.

P.S : this is one of your best if not your best UBS Strategy report James. Absolutely brilliant


No, you are all a little off the mark.

The unused options were bolted on at the first stop, presumably when McLaren Mission Control were still thinking 2-stop, the change to 3, and pitting to cover Button meant this was the shortest race-stint that Hamilton ran.

He therefore lost much of the relative performance advantage that would have come from running a new set longer. Negating the point made in the summary, and in hindsight meaning he would probably actually have been better-off trying a second Q3 run.

Finally, Hamilton chased down and overtook Button after his second stop, on a used set of options.


I wounder if Vettel would have gone for a 3 stopper if Button did not make that mistake in the pits and stayed out in front of him. What was Vettel's tyre situation after Qualifying and did this have a bearing on the strategy they decided on for the race?



Great report as always! I just have a couple of questions re the racing this year?

1) Last year there was a lot made of Red Bull being able to change an engine setting on their car for a qualifying lap which enabled them to be much faster - is this the case this year? As with last year, RBR's race pace does not appear so far ahead of McLaren as their qualifying pace is?

2) Did McLaren use their new Octopus exhaust in this race or not? I know they were testing it in Friday practice in China.

Many thanks


McLaren were testing a new exhaust, but not the octopus one. I think it had extra outboard elements to blow through more of the diffuser.

Not sure if they raced it or not. The feedback from Hamilton in particular wasn't good, but then he sounded thoroughly cheesed off with the team from getting out of the car in Malaysia to getting out of it in China!


1- Every-team with blown diffuser has that special engine setting which includes Renault, RBR, Ferrari & McLaren.

2- No McLaren copied RBR solution. On the topic of Octopus exhaust I don't understand the concept as it is forbidden to have multiple exhaust pipes so we need precisions on the concept. I'm not sure that the concept is what is advertised.


The utility of those qualy settings varies greatly among the big 4 though: Ferrari isn't really all that much slower than McLaren and Red Bull during the race, but look at the qualifying difference!


Thanks James. I'd like to understand graph 1 more - I don't really understand how it works. It looks to be race positions throughout the race.


Great analysis as ever James. I think Webber and Hamilton were both in a class of their own for strategy this time.

The Gap Chart is brilliant, makes another aspect of the race clear.

It also raise some questions. Did Webber stay out 1 lap too long on the hards? He lost a lot of time on the lap before his in lap.

A suggestion for the lap time chart, can you remove the data points for the in and out laps? It should make it a bit easier to read as the lines won't plummet off the chart.


his tyres were shot and i'm pretty sure he was in a little traffic as well. But as the tyres are so sensitive, you could argue that with pitting one lap sooner may have compromised his subsequent stints... hard to say for sure and one lap is a narrow margin of course.

What I don't get is how he was able to put in a lap 1.4sec quicker than anyone else all afternoon?! and no just one lap, but a several. Also why are the times between quali and the rap so far apart? i get that the tyres will be used when the cars are light, but we are talking 5-6sec difference....


Well, could it be because he was the only driver (?) on the best tyre at the end of the race (when fuel levels are at their lowest), whilst everyone else was on the hard tyre? 🙂

Then on top of that the drive and passion (because he knows he's on a better tyre than anyone else) to get onto the podium and keep up with Vettel - you could hear, in his slight gaffe in the press conference (where he kinda said he was pleased someone had beaten Seb), his desire to get back on terms with his team-mate.

Quali: new tyres and low fuel; Race: tyres that are losing performance rapidly with high fuel levels. So you would think that come the last lap or two that the lap times would be equal to quali, however the tyre performance has gone, so they're not.


We are talking 1.4 sec clear of anyone else, and without KERS. He stopped about 2-3 laps after Lewis/Rosberg/Button and was straight on the pace, so these times were not set in the last two or three laps when the cars would be running on vapours.

just amazes me that he was so clear of the rest of the field, even if you adjust for fuel difference between the stints. Clearly he had the motivation - like you say - and to get back on pegging with SV


In my opinion last year pace was tested on the saturday and reliability on sunday. In other words you won a race on saturday in qualifying and could only lose it on Sunday.

This year it is alot better due to the tyres.

I think the question many are asking is

'Could Vettel have won if he had been on a 3 stopper?'

I, unlike what you've said, don't thiknk so.

Hamilton won with it because he overtook like a crazy man. Webber got up from 18th to 3rd because he reached the next car, overtook ASAP then went on running through overtakes like Hamilton.

Vettel, in my opinion can't overtake to the same level. He would be stuck behind a car for another lap or two and would struggle. I am yet to see him to get past cars properly (Spa, Silverstone, Turkey etc... all against him).

Button was leading the race at the end of lap 1 and had the same car as Hamilton. The difference between a 4th finish from 1st at the end of the lap and a 1st from 2nd isn't having a new set of tyres rather than slightly used IMO. It was that Hamilton overtook.

If Hamilton approached overtaking like Button I'm almost 100% sure we would have seen Vettel win the GP even with a 2 stop stratergy.

I don't think Vettel could have driven like that and I don't believe he has the race craft to cut through the pack like other drivers and that is what seperated Vettel from Hamilotn on sunday.

Not the mildy fresher tyres, not the stratergy, but the driving skill of being able to overtake and cut through a pack quickly. That is what people like to see rather than just sitting out infront 'managing' the race (i.e. turn the engine up and down to follow lap times and driving harder if the gap becomes too shallow).

So all in all, the better driver one, mostly because of the tyres.

Here, here.

NOTE: I'm not British, nor a Hamilton fan, and I am amazed that the first race this year to be decided by use of tyres was won by someone who has complained and moaned about driving on the tyres in the preseason.


Suggest you watch Brazil GP 2009. Vettel qualified 16th and finished 4th. He, Button and Hamilton all drove through the field (HAM was 3rd, JB 5th IIRC). It should be noted that at that point of the 2009 season the RBR was quick but had no KERS(?), whilst the McLaren was probably the best car in the late season thanks to it's class of the field KERS, likewise JB had no KERS on his Brawn GP car.

This myth about Vettel not passing people is just that, a myth. That race alone proves it, none of these slightly false passes on different tyres, no hitting a KERS button that works great on Mercedes engines but no-one else's, just driver skill. All three of those drivers had cracking races that day. So can be shss about the Vettel passing thing please? It's getting boring and is ill-informed at best.


May be because there are not that many of them. And may be because in too many occasions his attempts resulted in a crash. Even if we are wrong there is a reason for the myth. And again kers is part of the car. You need to push a button to activate the design as well. Besides there are different ways of using kers. Unlike design you can use kers anywhere in the circuit. And Hamilton used it very efficiently as Martin Brundle mentioned it. His passes were pure drivecraft. Just watch Button on the same strategy and same car. If he had passed Massa as swiftly as his teammate he wouldn't have got caught by Webber. Well that's my opinion.


just correction. Meant drs not design. Posting from my mobile and that automatic dictionary just fooled me lol


I agree Paul, Vettel can overtake others - on top of that it also helps when you have the best car, with the best aero package 😉 However, if you were to send them all out in equal cars, I'd say Hamilton, Alonso and Schumi would be making the most passes - those three just seem to have an ability to over-take where others fear to tread.


Can't agree more.


I think you have a point and I also think that it is not clear that vettel would have won on a 3 stop. Firstly he would have always been behind rosberg and so would have needed to overtake him. I also think that the lap times seem to show there is not much difference between vettel and Hamilton in lap times so it would have been a close run thing decided by how rosberg Hamilton and vettel were able to overtake the cars on the 2 stop strategy(e.g. The ferraris)

Going forward I think conversely to many opinions on this site that qualifying wil be MORE interesting as potentially in the top 10 the leading teams will decide to qualify on hard tyres saving the sifts for the race, potentially even splitting between their two drivers.


Hamilton passes Rosberg and don't forget Rosberg was hamstrung by fuel consumption issue


James do you think that teams would look at filling fuel tank to a point they can go flat out each lap rather than conserve. I say this because the way strategies (with tyres) are working if you can go flat out all race it seems you will be in a better position at the end (re Webber). Or have the teams not built tank big enough to do this?


If that was the fastest way to go they would do it. It's calculated to work with the way the races unfold


But would Rosberg have been in that position if he had carried adequate fuel from the start? i.e. was he running artificially high due to low fuel weight?


Yes but partly as a result of rosberg being compromised by I think a Williams coming out of the pits so he had to slow down. Earlier Hamilton tried and failed to overtake a lap earlier. Personally I think this was the main overtake that enabled hamilton to win the race.


completely disagree mate. After the 1st pit stop Vettel was ahead of Hamilton and Button wasn't he ?

So if he used their strategy, he would've finished ahead of them thanks to RBR speed advantage. The only problem Vettel would have had to deal with was Rosberg but as James mentioned the German had to save fuel which would've helped Vettel overtake.

To defend Vettel, I've got 2 arguments. Last year RBR lacked straight line speed which was crucial for overtaking which explained both Vettel & Webber issues.

This year, Vettel & Webber had hit KERS problems on every race which is a very important tactical tool for overtaking. Hamilton explained during the F1 forum that he used it against Massa and Vettel. Vettel didn't have the KERS to defend plus his tyre issues.

I agree with you that Hamilton is a great overtaker and that it helped him win the race but had Rosberg not have fuel issues, he would've got stuck behind for longer which could've saved Vettel win and put Hamilton into Webber clutch.


SOme good points there, and I'm glad my OP has created some debate.

IF you remember at that stage, Vettel, if he had taken a 3 stopper like Button then would still have had to use 2 sets of used softs and 1 hard.

THat would have slowed his lap times mariginally and he would, unless me memory has failed me, Massa who was only on a 2 stop and hence wouldn't have to regain that 30 seconds of pit sotp time.

Hamilton wasn't far behind and I think the tyres may have dealt the blow with one of the stints of new vs used softs.

But interesting points. Thanks


Hi James, great analysis and graphs as ever, but I still think the first graph is confusing.

You state that the zero line is the winner's average, but this does not seem to be the case - the zero line seems to be the winners final lap lap-time, and the point where the lines cross the end axis is how far they were behind the leader at the end. Therefore, all the times are below the zero line. This would explain why Mark Webber (faster lap) is always below Hamilton and Vettel, and Hamilton's average lap would be around -30 on the x-axis.

As I said, these graphs are great, and one thing really stood out for me:

Hispania and Virgin show an almost linear drop with time, whereas all other teams seem to recover, or at worse level out, towards the end - why such a difference as the end?


James the Graph1 is absolutely great. Actually it shows the gap between the drivers at every lap. It has everything you want to know about the race :

- drivers positions with visual gaps

- drivers pace with the slope of the curves : it shows even tires going off the cliff at the end of stints as is the case with Barrichello and Heidfeld at the end of the race.

- pit stops with the deep slope slide

- overtaking moves with curve crossing

- the only information missing is the overtaking of back markers (luckily this year there are few back markers)

The only difference between it and "2011 China Gap" is the 0 reference. In the China gap the reference is the leader of the race at that lap

In Graph1, I must disagree with your definition : "The zero line is simply the race winner’s average lap time (total race time divided by the number of race laps)." The definition is hard to give but I think that I understood what it is and I'll give it for those who want to do it.

Let's take Vettel as an example. After one lap he spends T1 time on track, after too laps T2 time and so on...

Hamilton average laptime during the race is Awinner=1:43.897. To calculate Vettel index we do the following operation :

After 1 lap : Awinner - T1

After 2 laps : 2*Awinner - T2

After 3 laps : 3*Awinner - T3


and the operation is done for each driver. The reason Hamilton goes back to 0 after 56 laps is

because after 56 laps he manages the average time of the winner who is none other than himself. That's way all the cruves are negative (below zero) and only the winner manages to hit it at the end.

This curve gives a piece of information very intersting. Only during Stint1 are the average laptimes below the race's average laptime. From Stint2 on, as fuel bruns drivers tend to gain time on the average laptime.

This curve sadly shows how miserable are HRT and Virgin with an abyssal gap to the other teams. They almost fell off the graph ;-)))

It shows TeamLotus firmly at the back only mixing it up with Maldonado and drivers hitting problems and it confirms Willimas misery as the slowest established team.


I agree with that, the zero line can not be an average because Hamilton's line is always below it, there are no times above the line to average out!



What is your data source for the graphs that you produced in this post? It would be interesting to have the raw data made available to tinker with (looking at average tyre duration, effect of dropping off "the cliff" and so on).

Thanks for the insight!


everything is on Curve 1


Race history data, on FIA website under timing data


Hi James

Regarding Hamiltons tyre saving strategy in Q3 and more so Webber's remarks on missing out in that final session, will Qualfying be compromised following this and therefore become less exciting? Surely Bernie wouldnt want this.


They have to do at least one run in Q1, Q2 and Q3 , but I can see that being all


I am going to do a Galapago666. James nothing in the technical rules as I read them mentions that drivers have to take part into Q2 and Q3. Q1 is necessary because of the 107% rule.



33.1 The qualifying practice session will take place on the day before the race from 14.00 to 15.00. The session will be run as follows :

a) From 14.00 to 14.20 (Q1) all cars will be permitted on the track and at the end of this period the slowest eight cars will be prohibited from taking any further part in the session.

Lap times achieved by the eighteen remaining cars will then be deleted.

b) From 14.27 to 14.42 (Q2) the eighteen remaining cars will be permitted on the track and at the end of this period the slowest eight cars will be prohibited from taking any further part in the session.

Lap times achieved by the ten remaining cars will then be deleted.

c) From 14.50 to 15.00 (Q3) the ten remaining cars will be permitted on the track.

The above procedure is based upon a Championship entry of 26 cars. If 24 cars are entered seven will be excluded after Q1 and Q2 and if 22 cars are entered only six cars will be excluded after Q1 and Q2.

33.2 Any driver whose car stops on the circuit during the qualifying session will not be permitted to take any further part in the session. Any car which stops on the circuit during the qualifying session, and which is returned to the pits before the end of the session, will be held in parc ferme until the end of the session.



Mmmm... seems that I'm going to pull a Jo Torrent here:

Questioning if Drivers have to take part in Q2 and Q3


"...nothing in the technical rules as I read them mentions that drivers have to take part into Q2 and Q3."

But you quote the Regulations "...at the end of this period [Q2] the slowest eight cars will be prohibited from taking any further part in the session".

Ergo if they do not take part in Q2 they will hardly do it to Q3 - actually the driver who doesn't start the Q2 will be under normal conditions placed in P17. If they want to start from P10 or better, they have to set one of the 10 fastest laps during Q2.


Looking at the times if any of the drivers from RBR or McL had got to top 10 and deliberately qualified on hard tyres I.e. In 10th, they would probably have won the race on a 3 stop. Tactics for turkey perhaps?


Didn't know that. Thanks. Is there an exception when the car is broken down? Petrov didn't run in Q3.


C'mon Jean-Christophe, if your car is broken, how can you drive it? 🙂 [No offence intended]

Petrov's car ground to a halt in Q2 and thus couldn't run in Q3, but his Q2 time was good enough to get him into the top ten shoot-out... so in the Q3 session we only had 9 drivers out on track 🙂



Maybe if they get to q3, they do not have to do a Q3 run and can start 10th to save tires. Especially if they are in the second tier teams likely to finish 7-10 in Q3 anyway.


The strategy for Vettel failed when a KERS misfunction ruined one set of his tyres- brake inbalance and no radio to inform.

My big Vettel-fan daughters asked why Vettel wasn't nominated racer of the day:

He finished second

Loosing only 2 places with a defect KERS at start

Managed to overtake Hamilton without radio and KERS

Defect KERS is not only less power but also damaged his tyres by making braking balance unpredictable

He lost 5 seconds in 2 rounds this way

It was team tactic which got wrong, not Vettel's mistake

he survived even the foul game by McLaren by bringing confusion into one of his box stops

Why wasn't Mclaren disqualified because of this?

We always thought Button was a fair driver...

I heard all this comments when my daughters browsed your page while i was cleaning the house from the leftovers of a kids birthday


No disrespect but how can you believe that? Button lost 3 seconds in the process. Besides he was expected a lap earlier meaning that he lost even more time and compromised Hamilton's race as Lewis had to do an extra lap with tyres that were cooked losing position to Vettel and Massa.


Anyone had exact data how much time Vettel lost because of Button at the pit?

The video plays i watched, which compare it with a perfect stop, say that he lost at least half a second, but below one and a half.

Still no answer how the rules are: punishable if he had been Schumacher and not Button, and Villeneuve in the stewards?

Button didn't win because of this, but Hamilton could have needed one more round to close up.

And a KERS misfunction can ruin your tyres. A recharging KERS is like an electromagnetic brake. If a driver thinks KERS totally failed and put the balance towards more normal brake power and it suddenly kicks in you get blockading wheels, flat points on it and loose a lot of time if the tyre was close to its end already: 5 seconds.

I wrote earlier in another thread, before China, that a KERS mail function will do exactly this: making brake balancing unpredictable if shit happens.


To answer... your comment followed by - my comparison to Hamilton and Webber

He finished second - from 1st vs Hamilton 1st from 3rd and Webber 3rd from 18th

Loosing only 2 places with a defect KERS at start - Button had alreayd hit off faster than him and had got ahead before Vettel could even sue KERS. Webber was without KERS for some of the race too

Managed to overtake Hamilton without radio and KERS - OH NO! Not the radio /sarcasm. Webber did heaps of overtaking inlcude some without KERS.

Defect KERS is not only less power but also damaged his tyres by making braking balance unpredictable - Yeah... Webber had that last week, and had problmes again this week. And not unpredictable. Just wrongly set unless he change them (which he is allowed to do and drivers do for corners each lap).

He lost 5 seconds in 2 rounds this way - Hamilotn and Webber last 25 seconds extra in pit stops alone and Webber had to deal with 17 cars of traffic ahead of him.

It was team tactic which got wrong, not Vettel’s mistake - They chose 2 stops for a reason. WEbber qualified 18th for a the team reason yet he ended up 15 places ahead, Vettel 1 behind. Hamilton and Webber both overtook heaps to do it. I haven't seen Vettel give any signs he can do that

he survived even the foul game by McLaren by bringing confusion into one of his box stops - Not really foul. vettel didn't lose much in time, came out ahead blah blah. If the worst thing apart from KERS which Webber also had happend to him the whole race was 1 second to or so extra in the pits of something that was worse for Button that Vettel then that is called racing.


I don't think anyone can say that Button sabotaged Vettel's stop. Remember Vettel took the lead in the pit stop phase!


Yes, Button sabotaged only himself!


+1 not only that but he made a fool of himself


As i said my daughters are big Vettel fans and as most of us they see what they want to see 😉

I told them to read both sides of the channel: here it is too much hype about Vettel, on the other side it is too much not liking. So i wanted them to browse some english pages, part to learn some more of the language, part to have more than one points of view.

If you look really close with black/red/golden glasses: wasn't the one guy with the tyre irritated for the blink of a second? And in F1 we are used for milliseconds. Button was not winning from this, but perhaps Hamilton.

Is there a penalty somewhere in this thousands of papers rule book dealing with such a case? I believe Button in saying he was irritated by pressing a button, but what if it would have taken say 2 seconds to leave the Redbull box?

When does it start to be punishable?

Tucholsky once wrote: everyone in europe has at least 3 three reasons to be proud: To be german, to be british, to be french, not to be german, not to be british, not to be french, ....

If i counted right i have my 3 reasons


Yes, I think Button helped rather than hindered Vettel in the pits.

I have to say I was thoroughly impressed by the way the Red Bull pit crew just took it in their stride and still carried out a tidy stop for their man. Don't think they've been given enough credit for that.


Thank you James! Always the extra bit of information that we hadn't read before: the not rubbering in of the track.

In all reporting post GP, I didn't see this piece of information before. It explains a lot of the reasoning behind the 2 stop strategy opters.


And also clearly pointed out that it was not just right strategy, but also Hamilton's overtaking that made the strategy work.


Superb Analysis James.



The only strategy I see that can work for us the fans (non Red Bull fans) is if a Red Bull doesn't make it into the first bend first - Only then would we have a race.

And yes, the 3 stop strategy will be the way to go for every race, every circuit - You can't beat fresher tyres + less fuel especially in the closing laps

Somehow, I have a feeling the strategiests at F1 teams aren't sleeping too good apart from that genius that always thinks on his feet - Ross Brawn.

P.s. Isn't it funny to see the looks on the faces of Red Bull pit wall when they do not win a race. I had become accustomed to seeing those fellas smirk after every race & qualifying

As for Mclaren, it seems like something is burning their seats especially Whitmarsh when they can sense a victory in their reach = Pressing buttons on the pit wall & whatnot


3 Stop strategy at every race? Don't bet on it. Vettel only lost out by 5 seconds - and his first stint was compromised by being behind the Mclarens.

The 2 stop Strategy was not that uncompetitive at China. If there was a Safety Car, then Vettel would have been laughing.

Go to a different circuit, with different conditions, and who knows what the best strategy will be?


If there was a saftey car after Vettels second stop Webber would have won by a large margin. The "start slow on hards" method is much better in a saftey car race.


Maybe, Maybe not.

If the Safty Car had come out right after Vettel's stop, then Webber would have gained a little time on Vettel, but the compressed field would have caused Webber to loose more positions when he came in for his final stop.

Also, don't forget - while the safty car is out, Vettel would be saving his tyres.


If there had been a safety car, I imagine Webber would have been laughing louder.

Don't forget though, the leading 3 stoppers had their own handicaps (Hams late first stop, Webbers low starting position and Rosbergs fuel trouble), or they would have been quicker too.


Apart fro where 2 stops are better or 1. In Australia I don't think 3 stops was better than 2. Perez did 1 and that worked very well for him.

It isn't one size fits all.


I don't think that it's as straightforward as you mentioned. In Australia 2 stop strategy looked the fastest and it depends on the tracks but clearly the 3 stop has the edge.

The 4 stops looks unlikely because it requires the use of 2 sets of useless prime tyres unless the level of degradation is apocalyptic (Canada comes to mind).


The reason why the 2 stop strategy worked in Australia is simply because Vettel made it into the first corner first.

If we do not have a Red Bull running off into the sunset, the 3 stop strategy rules.

So it all depends on who makes it into the first bend. Fingers crossed the Red Bull's KERS keeps failing them for only then will we have China all over again till the season end.

P.s. Perez made it to P7 with a one stop strategy. Yes, that can work beautifully - if you do not have any podium ambitions


Excellent insight. I agree James I think Vettel would have won on a 3 stop strategy, I also think Massa might have taken 2nd place had Ferrari chosen that strategy. I agree with Mark (#1) that Ferrari doesn't have a bad race car there. I think it's tyre conservation is a feature of note. We could easily have seen Alonso P3 in MAL and Massa P2 in China.

The gap chart perfectly demonstrates why I gave Webber Driver of the Day, lap 11 53s off the lead, lap 26 47s off the lead, lap 56 7s off the lead. That is one hell of a drive.




Paul, if you've got brand new option tyres and you are lapping, on average, 1.5 seconds faster than almost everyone else, especially the cars down the field, you do tend to gain time. He had 40 laps of new options, do the math.

The first 15 laps on primes, when he actually lost a place, is quite telling.

I esteem Webber as a real trier who unfortunately doesn't seem to attract Lady Luck, but we have to remain objective and do the proper sums.

I enjoyed the race as a show but I still find it a bit hard to see an otherwise winning-capable driver prevented from doing his best by either the tyres or the fuel restrictions, as in Rosberg's case. Still, this is F1 2011, it's the F1 we have, it's the only game in town, so we might as well enjoy it!


He took a gamble starting on the hard tyre and made it work.


Totally agree on both points mate. Webbers pace in the 2nd half of the race was just savage. Also Ferrari should have used there ability to outlast the others on soft gyres in the first stints better than they did. Teams I think can give up track position to be on a shorter final stints on the hard three so can push harder.


That race history graph is brilliant. It's amazing to see which teammates were right on each others' pace (Hamilton & Button, Heidfeld & Petrov), who clearly had the upper hand (Rosberg, Di Resta, Kovalainen, Barrichello) and which drivers' pace fell away at the end relative to their teammate, presumably due to tyre management (Perez, Sutil, Trulli, Maldonado, Glock, Liuzzi).

Great analysis.


Off topic : GrandPrix Attendance


Why do F1 journos & fans criticize Turkey for the low attendance eventhough the circuit is magnificent and offred great racing even during those dull overtake-less years and they don't do the same with Shanghai.

I understand teams who look for sponsors and Bernie who looks for countries with strong economies and deep pockets but for both fans and journalists that doesn't matter : only 2 things should matter the quality of the circuit and the atmosphere.

Turkey and Shanghai both lack the atmosphere and the circuit near Istanbul has a better track and arguably the best corner of them all (The mighty triple apex #8), so why don't I read any of the usual critics hitting out at Shanghai : do most of this blog readers have investments in China or are they members of the "not anymore Communist party" ?

The other point is that journos in no media criticize this circuit's atmosphere as heavily as they did with Turkey (I'm not including you James). In a 3 week, we'll see many rising questions about whether that race should let place to another.

My own opinion is that F1 should better take place in countries where fans have knowledge and interest in the sport as long as the circuit are great. In that respect, both China and Turkey has to be dropped.

On the other hand, F1 aspires to enhance its worldwide appeal and to do so it has to visit different countries where the F1 knowledge is certainly at very low level due to many factors including lack of motorsport culture in general, jet lag in many cases and lack of F1 figures belonging to those countries mainly drivers but also team key men.

F1 is a sport very hard to fully understand and it's very hard to get the casual viewer to dig deep inside, so to bring a whole new audience to F1 needs a lot of time and a lot of commitments. For example, I casually watched an American football match and I couldn't stand it because I understood nothing about the tactics at the core of the game, I got bored and left.

What happened to me there is what happens to the casual follower of F1 races : he finds entertainment only in close racing, overtaking moves and big shunts.

The situation is not helped by the lack of actors in the F1 circuis. The casual viewer doesn't know Whitmarch (unless he's British), Dominicali and so on... He knows only half the 26 drivers whose PR declarations are carefully monitored in order to avoid polemics that might damage the team's image and thus its attractivity to sponsors with the exception of Webber. In Football there are 20 teams with 15 key players plus a manager and polemics are never far away.

This generation of drivers brings nothing to the sport. It takes its fame from the former generations of drivers who faced and even defied death, the most thrilling example being Gilles Villeneuve. The danger and the values of bravery it exhibits together with the technology are what made people fascinated by F1.

The level of professionalism has become so intense that F1 has lost its naiveness and freshness as all is calculated and that doesn't help bring newbies to the sport and more so in other countries.


And in most cases, regarding your statement that the most casual viewer knows maybe half of the drivers, the casual viewer only knows the current race winners and Michael Schumacher. And then they stopped watching when Schumacher retired. Now these casual observers come crawling out of the woodwork and there is nothing more frustrating than having an F1 related discussion with said casual observer. Since the discussion inevitably turns into an argument, the closing statement that always gets me is the " What do you know of F1!" Then tell me who is Norbert Haug? "Norbert Haug? Don't know, who does he drive for?" Aaaah.. fun times... 🙂

Sorry, rambled a bit there... But I always wanted to get that of my chest, and it does fit into one of the points that Jo is making. I guess the fan base of F1 is pretty divided at times, and not just between supporting different teams/drivers. And a lot of fans are drawn to the sport for different reasons. Some love the glamour of it, some love the technical aspect of it. Some just love Ferrari, some just McLaren etc... I guess that is why F1 discussions usually drift far apart. Much like I just drifted of topic here... Sorry about that. Just wanted to share.


The key is to use hard tyres when you have traffic in front. For instance, Webber at start, team said him by radio that all drivers in his situation were with softs. So if you are going to have traffic and you can manage to follow the cars pace (or even overtake them with hards) it's the key of this year to reserve soft, which are one second better, to doing laps on clear air.

Also the strategy should be more flexible than ever, very different behaviour of tyres at every situation (great start, poor finnish, with more than a 5 seconds gap) makes drivers/teams which make possible to get clean air a big advantage to that which get traffic in the best part of tyre cycle. If you add to this the Chinese Grand Prix DRS not so great advantage at overtaking (which was poor as result of a short DRS enabled zone at the shorter straight of the circuit) you get that kind of race, where pitstop were more important than driving or even car's pace, don't boot how much people that Hamilton/Webber performance were fantastic, as I think we should congratulate his track engineers.


Super review of the race!

However some things I would like to see some comments on.

Where the hell did LRGP loose all their pace from I am bemused.

IF it wasn't for Vitaly's engine problem he was really up there in Qualy 3.

Come race day they where joke of the GP. Passed by absolutely everybody. Same reason Merc all of a sudden with a same package got pace? How does one explain this YO-YO-ing of performance from teams that had no real updates for this race.

The next three races are quite crucial as they are quite different from each other. Would be interested to see if Renault can re establish their cars pace or was this all due to luck.


What really impressed me about this race, was that we finally had a battle between two different strategies, and at the end there was only 5 sec or so between 3 stop Hamilton and 2 stop Vettel ... which shows Pirelli got it absolutely right.


James, while I think it was great to see Webber come through the field like he did. I can't help feeling that qualifying may not have as much value anymore. That's a big part of the Weekend.For a fan to buy a 4 day or 2 day ticket, pay for accommodation and meals,I may feel like I've been riped off.

P.S don't get me wrong the racing has been fantastic


Excellent article. I would have to say though that I don't think a fully functoning KERS would have saved Vettel from his disastrous start, he bogged down very similar to Webber in the previous race.

Red Bull need to work on their starts. No point qualifying pole if you can't keep it off the line.


In future races will we be seeing more drivers conserving tyres like Lewis did in qualifying? with reference to qualifying in round 3? As I feel this gave him an advantage to finish P1 and furthermore if you compare to Malaysian GP, Lewis did well to qualify on P2, but lost out as he flat spotted a set of tyres?

I am a fan of Lewis and feel he drove well to win the race. Pirelli have provided a key spectacle, DRS would be better if the drivers could use it like an F-duct (last year races) on straights as seen in china we had to long straights, basically scrap DRS zone, and drivers should be given a freedom to use it where ever they feel like it. Kers is used anywhere on the circuit.


I'm liking this detailed analysis more and more thanks.

The first graph doesn't paint a pretty picture for Virgin and HRT. They finished twice as far back as Lotus and four times as far back as Kobayashi's Sauber.

Mark drove a blinder from lap 41, the only car consistently closing the gap to the leaders.


Great analysis.

It seems clear that McLaren learned a valuable lesson in Malaysia and applied it effectively at China.

I agree with the comment above that qualifying may be compromised by teams trying to save tires for the race. It only seems inevitable.


And that lesson is: 'Give Lewis the tyres he demands'. I think the call from Hamilton at the end of the Malaysian GP was a pivotal one in his career "I'm coming in the pits so you better make sure there's something there for me" (paraphrased). For two long McLaren have been too reliant on their data and too reluctant to let Lewis dictate what he wants.

All through Malaysia Lewis was apparently asking for one type of tyre, and being sent out on completely the opposite and look how that turned out!

Look back to Australia 2010, where Lewis was called in to pit, or China 2007 where he was told to stay out another lap. Both calls, arguably, lost him a championship.

For the first time in his career it seems he had the courage to say: "THIS is what we are going to do" and look what happened, McLarens first win of the season.


Just wondering if you knew which specific Option tyres Hamilton used and for which stints.

It seems he had the tyres from Q3, on which he started, and did 15 laps at the start.

The other 2 sets were 1. unused and, 2. used Q2 tyres.

Did he use the new tyres in stint 2 (when he only did 10 laps, and was stuck behind Massa) or stint 3 (when he did 13 laps, and overtook Button, maintaining good lap times until the end).

Performance-wise, it would seem the latter, but wondering if you could confirm?


One thing not touched on so much here is the fuel loads effect on tyre wear/pace. Webbers success with the 'backwards' strategy and phenomenal lap times made me wonder about that. Has the pattern of his race shown that it could be considered a bit of a waste to use up a set of softs under a full fuel load? If overall you get a lot more out of them with a lighter car?


Agree and add to that it seemingly multiplies that the track has rubbered in which is why webbers fastest lap is so much better than everyone else. I can see a leading driver deliberately qualifying in p3 on hard tyres to try and do a 'webber'


" Lewis Hamilton won the race, by getting the strategy exactly right " . . . I am Lewis and McLaren fan, I am really glad Lewis win, but I don't agree with this even Lewis have a new fresh tyre

if RBR did 3 stops, with new extra fresh tyre for Lewis, I still don't think Lewis will win. Lewis won by the fault 2 stop of RBR, not by the new fresh tyre that he saved if from qualify. The new fresh tyre give Lewis the advantage over Jenson, not Vettel.

And if Vettel still keep the lead in the first lap and make the gap to both McLaren, will the new set of Lewis will make him the win . . . I don't think so. So Lewis didn't win by the right strategy, but he win with RBR wrong strategy and because Vettel lost the place at the start that give Lewis a chance.

Before McLaren made 2nd stop, Vettel already ahead of both McLaren, why RBR didn't do 3 stop. I don't see any factor that force RBR to do 2 stop. Jame, do you have some explaination for this? If Vettel was behind, it was fine to do something difference, but that not the case at that time while Vettel got the advantage over 2 McLaren, there is only Rosberg was in front and his race pace is not as fast as RBR for sure, I don't think Rosberg pace won't be any problem for Vettel.

So, I don't think the conclusion of save the new set to tyre in Q3 will all give the advantage. it will gain the advantage when you quite know where your car will be. if Webber didn't have problem and Q in P2, McLaren 3-4, and all 4 fastest car do the same pti stop, do you still think the new fresh tyre will give McLaren winning the race?


I guess Red Bull thought that once they had the effective lead around mid distance (think Rosberg was still ahead), they could just use their car's superior pace and clear air to get the job done without further stops and risking traffic etc. The hard tyres just didn't hold out as long as expected.

Also, Hamilton was just mighty. I bet Red Bull didn't expect him to plough through three cars like butter to get to Vettel!

Imagine if the race had lasted another 3 laps and Webber won! That would have been insane! Of course nearly every strategist barring Webber's would have been subsequently fired!!!

Lastly, I predict Monaco is going to be crazy! With overtaking still virtually going to be impossible even with DRS, track position will continue to be king. Consequently, cars will still risk making they're final stop early to gain positions and then take the risk of having terrible tyres in the dying laps. There could be many incidents in the final laps of Monaco in such a scenario!


James. I realise the teams will start to get better at strategy as the year progresses but do you think there is enough 'Randomness' in the tyres and circuits to keep the excitement going?

Also if this is extrapolated to next year will their experience from this year circuit data mean closer racing and more predictable?


Yes. Look at the next four tracks, completely different in character. It will be a while before they work it out


We haven't yet seen the super softs!


I'm hoping they save them for Canada. They may as well send them out on bare rims!


Why does being behind 3-stoppers on the first stint of a 2-stopper mean your race is compromised?


I see your point, though you must remember fuel is equal now so it's not as though you would necessarily expect the 3 stoppers to be faster than a two stoppper at the start, pull away and not comprise the two stopper's pace. They all try to make the tyres last as long as they can really in each stint.

The real compromise was that Vettel couldn't romp into the lead for the first 3 laps, then control the gap and his tyres from there and react to others.

If Vettel aimed for a two stop all along, he have stayed out another 3 laps or so than the McLarens in the first stint. He wouldn't have left his hards having to do so much work then.


The race history graph really emphasises how Lotus are now getting onto the tail end of the established teams, while Virgin and HRT are still way behind.



Might I suggest one of the key reasons for Rosberg's improved showing at the satrt of the race was the lack of fuel in his car that eventually compromised his race!


A quantity of 5 to 6 kgs was quoted.


Good point but the amounts aren't that significant!


It can't be both ways though. If it was only lighter by a small amount then he wouldn't have had to save much fuel which means he wasn't hampered much in the latter stages. It's can't be both.

The win was never on offer IMO. Very solid performance though.


great analysis as always!

one thing to the "used" and "fresh" tires ...

wendlinger talked about it, an said, that it's not only the 3 laps the really fresh tire was not used in qualifing. He meant its a big difference if the tire was used at all. As soon as the tire once was really heated up - when its used a second time (throughly heated up a second time) then it's degreation is even worse ..

thats should be one of the reasons marks really fresh tires performed on a higher level



James - i think it's worth pointing out that lewis got no benefit from his fresh set of softs as he only used them for 10 laps on his second stint.

Rather than being the key to his wn it actually nearly cost him as he qualified behind his teammate and therefore got second dibs on strategy...with his tyres gong of a cliff that cost him 2 places and several seconds.


This time last year I was really annoyed and frustrated despite my team winning races. How the FIA keep dicking up the rules and going one step foward, two steps back.

This year I love the racing. Don't think I've complained on here once. Feels good to have something worth waiting for in between races. It's nice to have the enthusiam for F1 being "repayed" by the satisfaction of watching good racing this year. It's a bit artificial (in some ways) but 1000 times better then the last 3 or 4 years. I see the artificialness as a comprimise for the inevitable aero turbulance, the rev limits on the engines, the lack of tyre war and all the other changes that have taken place.

Haven't enjoyed F1 races so much since 2006. Yes, that was when you were calling the races James. 🙂


Thanks for that. A gee the racing is entertaining this year



I think it is interesting how the leaders don't appear to be stretching away from the field like they used to. This made what webber did possible. Early on everyone is trying to protect their tyres rather than streak away, so perhaps this does make running the lesser tyre more appealing in this first stint. I wonder how long until a top team does q3 on the primes?




I think it depends on the track in question. If it is an overtaking track, then Yes it might be a way to go. If not, then no, since qualifying position is "nearly" everything. Monaco springs to mind with regards to the later.

As mentioned previously, I am just wondering how many stops will be necessary in Canada. If it was 3 or 4 stops last year, could it be 5 or 6 this year. Will they run out of tyres, or maybe even resort to using Intermediates, because they've used all the normal dry tyres?


I admit there was plenty of action in the race, but I'm finding it very difficult to follow the progress of drivers I'm interested in, because everything is chopping and changing all the time and it's not until toward the end that I start to see a patern. I accept that Pirelli have done a good job in supplying the type of tyrs they were asked to, but I'm not sure the result is holding my attention. It just seems wrong for a slow car to be holding up a fast car, or a slow car passing a faster car just because of having better tyres on at the time then getting passed again as his tyres go off.



James, your website is amazing for getting different perspectives on the racing this year, no body else covers things in such detail.

Could someone please explain to me the differing DRS systems that teams have developed. Each team seem have devleoped a slightly different mechanism for activating it(ie mclaren have what looks like a vetically mounted hook that activates it). Are there any superior systems or should they all produce the same level of drag reduction. Martin Brundle mentioned that mercedes had a 'very efficient DRS' at the weekend at that got me thinking..



Some teams have a gone for a big main plane and a small flap on the rear wing; while others have a smaller main plane and a larger flap, which means less of a change in angle to achieve the 50mm gap. I don't know which would be better but I can imagine the difference being significant.


I'm doing a piece on this shortly



A quick question why are the hard tyres labelled the prime tyre? I would of though that given the grip levels and the speed advantage this gives that would be the prime and the option the hard?


That's a very good question. I too would be interested to know why is that...


Just a few thoughts...

as Vettel likes to focus on the stats and enjoys taking pole, might he put himself at a disadvantage at certain points in the season by sticking to the qualifying strategy of last year where pole was a race winning position?

Will we see pole battled out on primes from all of the top teams perhaps?

I don't think the tyres are creating artificial racing although I feel the DRS is a bit of a stretch. Could we see the DRS gone next year?

Either way the racing is pretty awesome right now, feels like F1 just exploded out of a cocoon all bright and colourful!


"Could we see the DRS gone next year?" - I don't think so Greg. At the moment the teams are understanding the tyres - they have no previous data to work with, so we teams choosing different strategies because everything is still unknown. Next season they will have more Pirelli tyre data to work with and thus will know the best strategy to use... thus the teams will be closer together in terms of tyre usage i.e., pretty much everyone will be doing the same strategy. So DRS may actually be more important in facilitating over-takes.

Pole Position: is still king though! I'm sure Mark Webber would rather have qualified high in the top ten than be in 18th.



Thanks for your insightful analysis as usual. I'd like your take on Hamilton's overtaking maneuvers

on Jensen, Massa, Rosberg and Vettel. Just a technical analysis. Do you agree with Martin Bundle's glowing assessment of those being a "masterclass" in overtaking techniques for a single seater racer?. Also, its nice to see that most now recognize the importance of his "gamble"- conserving his tires and doing a single lap in qualifying- that some thought hadn't paid off before the race.


Hi James,

You mentioned something that I was thinking exactly. In the last two races at least, I don't really recall the first race, why on earth have Ferrari been running Alonso long at the first stint? In Malaysia and China it was like they wanted him to run longer and be one of the later competitors to pit...but despite running long, unlike previous years, he always ends up coming out from the pits far behind everyone else. In virtually every race this season, he has lost places at the start (I think he is driving very cautiously, avoiding contact and lifting, losing places along the way, except for China) and then they seem to revert to a run as long as you can strategy. This makes no sense this season. Thoughts? I know in this race they did it for a 2 stop strategy but the guy was already trapped behind multiple cars, and you can see from the gap times that he'd come out well behind the people he overtook...


This is interesting stuff, especially Webber's comments about about quali position.

How about you just push into Q3 then use hard tyres for Q3 and safe the softs for the race.

I hope Turkey will be as exciting.


Hi JB,

Your example works with 1 front-runner doing that, or maybe a Renault opting for that for a crack at the podium (Heidfeld, Malaysia)

If qualifying this season adopts the course that ALL the Red Bull/Ferrari/McLaren/Mercedes drivers save tyres in Q1/Q2/Q3 the advantave in saving tyres for the race is lost if you're behind someone who's done the same thing.

As predicted by Martin Brundle on the BBC Online F1 preview, tyres 'falling off the cliff' can and will affect the race result in the last few laps dramatically.

If you've got one guy in front with tyres degrading and someone behind on fresh rubber saved from qualy, fair enough.

When you've got top 3 all having fresh rubber to hand - your potential benefit has gone.

Mike from Medellin, Colombia

Hi James. Sorry, but this is off topic.

Has the FIA evr considered permitting a 3 cars per row grid format at circuits that would be wide enough to handle it.

Would there be too many safety implications?

I ask this because the key to the Chines GP being interesting was mixing the order after the start. Maybe a 3 cars per row grid would make things more exciting?

Best wishes from Colombia.


Off topic, but looking at the Ferrari drivers their gloves are red, according the FIA regulations shouldn't they be a different colour to the car so they can indicate if they have a problem at the start?


I would just point out that if one studies the last chart, and look specifically at Webber and Hamilton, it is interesting to note:

1st set of tires - Ham (S), Web (H) Mark loses about 24 secs to Lewis.

2nd set of tires - Ham (S), Web (S) by the end of the stint, Mark is still about 24 secs back of Lewis.

3rd set of tires - Ham (S), Web (S) by the end of the sting, Mark is about 26 secs back of Lewis.

4th set of tires - Ham (H), Web (S) Mark whittles the gap to Lewis from 25 secs to about 8 secs.

So,while Mark had a fantastic race, in terms of race pace the two middle stints where both Mark and Lewis were on the same Soft tires, they were running essentially the same pace. The obvious differences were in the 1st and last stints where Mark and Lewis were on different compounds and Mark faced more traffic on his first stint.


And that he had no KERS in the second half of the race, on a track that really rewards it.


Yes, Jon, Mark is wonderful. Having said that, okay, so he had no KERS, what's that worth? 3 tenths or so a lap? And, how much are fresh softs, vs scuffed softs worth? About 2 or 3 tenths a lap? Okay, let's just call it mostly a wash, shall we?


Really interesting post, Ken.

So Webber lost -24 seconds first stint, -0 second stint, +17 third stint.

Pit stops:

Hamilton: (started S) S (15) S (25) H (38)

Webber (started H) S (10) S (25) S (40)

Webber did 2 fifteen lap stints on the soft plus another 16 stint and pace wise didn't gain or lose to Hamilton, who managed 15 laps on the first softs, 10 on second softs and 13 on third softs.

Clearly Webber could make the soft tyre last - the issue was where the pit stops fed him out in terms of traffic.

I had previously thought Webber was quite brutal on the tyres, but in China this didn't seem to be the case.


Hi James,

I believe that FOTA might need to look at the rule that requires drivers in Q3 to start the race on the tyre that they set their grid position lap on.

This was bought in last year in an effort to spice up strategies and increase pit stops however failed miserably as a result of the durability of the Bridgestones.

Surely now with degrading tyres leading to increased pit stops and a myriad of strategy variation this rule again does nothing to improve the GP's and in fact hampers racing.

There is also a real danger of seeing a lack of running through Q2 and especially Q3 with drivers already stating that it is better to do one run and preserve their tyres for the race. Surely then its not good to have an empty track for 7 minutes in Q3.

Last year if you made Q3 and were likely to qualify 9th or 10th there was no downside to attempting 1 or 2 runs in Q3 to attempt to improve your position. This year if you make Q3 and are likely to qualify in 9th or 10th (Torro Rosso, Sauber etc) then why take 2 or 3 laps out of a set of tyres when the guys starting in 11th and 12th etc have a fresh pair of boots.

In this scenario we could likely end up with 6 maybe 7 cars in Q3 doing 1 one lap run.

Qualifying in the top 10 should not come with disadvantages but should be rewarded.


This is an interesting point, Dave.

Would you propose that instead of the top 10 starting on the Q3 tyres it should change to top 6, top 8? The downside with that is that the numbers eliminated in Q1 and Q2 would have to be increased to make Q3 a top 8 or top 6 even. But then the question is, why go for top 6/ top 8 if the person starting 7th/9th is on fresh boots. It could go on and on!

If the runners in Q3 are reduced - you would lose that sense of 'scalp' as at the moment a Toro Rosso, Force India, Sauber might 'scalp' a bigger team (like Mercedes) but reducing it to top 6 effectively 'relegates' those teams to a lower order of racing.

It would be the same old, same old top 6 barring some serious qualifying problems.= vs. 'the rest' I'm not sure if fans would welcome that.

I like the top 10 format, it's always good to see different guys up there and 'bigger' names starting down the pack.

Secondly,a 1 lap run does run risks. Think back to the Renaults in Malaysia, they made a 1 lap run work beautifully in qualifying to save the tyres - and helped Heidfeld get to the podium.

However, in China, the same logic saw Heidfeld stuck in the pack after Petrov's failure. The 1 lap run was compromised and the Renault couldn't penetrate the order like Webber did. (strategy)

'Saving' tyres in Q3 only works if everyone in front didn't - that's your advantage. If you make a mistake in Q3 but others also also on a single run and you're behind them -you have no advantage other than 'covering' people behind you.


I think you may have missed my point. It is not about changing the structure of qualifying or reducing the number of runners in Q3 however removing the rule that requires them to start the race on the tyre they set their fastest lap on.

With having fresh tyres a priority why disadvantage those that have made Q3 by having them start on a set of tyres that have had the 3 best laps of life taken out of them?

My point was it is conceivable that you will have 3 or 4 cars not willing to lose this life out of their tyres if they are more than likely going to qualify in positions 7-10 anyway. The remaining top 6 or 7 aren't going to bother doing more than one run so it is conceivable that in Q3 there could be no track action for 7 minutes and then only 6 or 7 cars doing one flying lap.

Removing the tyre rule allows all cars to feel comfortable with doing at least one timed lap and still starting the race on fresh rubber.


Ah right, I am with you now.

I am personally in favour of the rule, I presume it was designed to give the mid-field teams more of an opportunity to sling shot into the top 10 during the race, thus to an extent 'levelling' faster cars against 'slower cars' with fresher boots?

However I see the argument that it might reduce Q3 to silence save for the last couple of minutes given the tyre situation this year. But then it's a case of trading off a 'quiet' few mins in Q3 for a more action-packed race.

The rule as it stands offers the opporunity to go for track position or strategy - at tracks like Monaco, Hungary, etc. - perhaps track position will be worth putting a few laps on a set of softs.

Would you be happy removing the rule for the top 10 and then not offering a compensatory regulation for those who 'lost out' ?(P.11-)

If we have to sacrifice a few minutes of Q3 and not have the fastest-possible laps then it's a sacrifice I'd make for the sake of having a more eventful middle-order with drivers coming through.


- OFF TOPIC (a bit)

James, have you seen today's Guardian, talking about a potential F1 take-over bid by Carlos Slim and Rupert Murdoch? Any chance of an article on that and how it might work or happen?


So, up till now, there are 3 methods to race. Do a 'Perez', do a 'Hamilton', or do a 'Webber' 😀

Anybody wanna add? 😛


Do an Alguersuari?

Probably not going to win with a strategy like that though .... 😉


There has been lots of uncertainty on strategy and thus excitement in the first 3 races. .

When the teams get a fuller understanding of the tyres does anyone else think we’re just going to be back to all the teams running the same strategy (whether that is an optimum 2 or 3 stops on a given circuit)?

I guess I’m arguing that the only reason the first 3 races have been so exciting is that all the teams are frantically trying to get to grips with the new rules and tyres.

What do people think?

If you agree I guess this suggests that we should change the rules every year to keep the teams guessing at the start of every season!


A "little bit" of that could happen this year. Unlikely though.

Next season, definately.. as the teams will have prior experience from 2011 to help them. However, I hope Pirelli make some changes to the tyre to counter this.

People might see it as artificial.. I see it as a comprimise to comepensate for the lack of a tyre war. During the tyre war the tyres were always new, and unpredictable and "on the edge". I enjoyed that element.

Pirelli has done a good job of having the advantages of the tyre war, without the disadvantages (cost, wastage etc).


Thanks for such incisive analysis James. I have a question regarding fuel loads/fuel usage/fuel saving modes.

Surely Mark Webber must have saved fuel in the first half of the race to have run the way he did, as there appeared to be no commands from the pit to conserve fuel at the end. Or at least such commands weren't selected for broadcast, and one would expect the broadcasters to have given out such a pitbox command to add to the drama of his progress.

Has any analysis of fuel saving capabilities of cars in traffic early on in a GP been done or even worth doing? I have been wondering (prior to MW's efforts at China) if there's an advantage at most tracks to burying yourself in the pack early on, very specifically save fuel, and have a flat out car at the end with grip and control rather than track position, fuel saving, and tyres that may catch you out a hefty amount thanks to their late race condition/degradation?? Or would a usual GP with Safety Car periods (even just one) completely throw this concept out??


James, I just re-watched the Chinese GP (what better to do on a cold Easter Saturday on Melbourne) and I have 2 questions: 1) On David and Jake's grid walk, VET was too busy putting tape inside his helmet to talk to them. I am curious to know if he may have damaged his mic which then caused him problems in the race, and 2) Despite many people's first impressions, WEB's strategy worked pretty much to perfection. Is it conceivable that someone could/would employ the same strategy from qualifying within the top 10? Ie qualify 10th on hards, start on them, (and not loose too much in the first stint), swap to softs and power though the rest of the race? Do you think this might be a strategy option we might see from now on?


1. You think Jake caused the problem? That would be a good tale!
2. The difference between soft and hard is too great. A fast car qualifying 11th might do it, but only a car which should be at the front


I've been tinkering with various views over the laptime data and have come up with some views that I think make it easier to see what was happening with particular cars... For example: lap time by lap - Webber's charge [ http://www.flickr.com/photos/psychemedia/5669357832 ], and another view of lap times by driver [ http://www.flickr.com/photos/psychemedia/5666595401 ]

Any thoughts on what other views might be useful, please let me know:-)

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