Making the right calls under pressure: A deep dive into race strategies from Hungary
Strategy Report
Posted By: James Allen  |  02 Aug 2011   |  8:59 am GMT  |  141 comments

The Hungarian Grand Prix was a fantastic race, again very close between the top four cars, any one of which could have won it. The closeness of competition and changeable conditions made it another race where strategy was the decisive element.

The winner put together the right combination of decisions, based on the data assembled in practice and a judgement when a sudden shower fell late in the race, not to pit for intermediate tyres but to wait it out.

Meanwhile several drivers saw their races compromised by poor strategy calls and we had three midfield runners in the points, all as a result of good strategy.

Rain had been forecast for Sunday morning but not for the race. There was a lot of doubt among teams about the forecasts.

Overtaking wasn’t easy – it never is in Budapest – but the conditions helped in this race. There was much less of a headwind on the pitstraight during the race than there had been during qualifying, which is why the DRS zone wasn’t particularly successful; a lot of people were hitting the rev limiter without the wind to slow them, as it had on Saturday.

Another reason why the DRS didn’t produce lots of overtaking was down to the relatively short length of the straight and amount of wing run on the cars. They never reach terminal velocity before the braking point.

So lets’ take a close look at how the decisions were made.

All smiles before their epic battle; decided in Button's favour (McLaren)

Button makes the right calls
Of Jenson Button’s 11 Grand Prix victories, six have come in mixed conditions such as we had on Sunday. A combination of experience, smoothness at the wheel and judgement of grip level are central to this. Button started the race on intermediates, as did everyone else, then switched to supersoft tyres on lap 11.

Webber, Massa and Barrichello had come in on lap 10 and Webber set fastest sector times straight away; all the right signals were there. However Massa was incredibly tentative on dry tyres on a wet track, struggling to get them up to temperature. Button, in third place, reacted and pitted on lap 11, Alonso didn’t. And neither did the leader, Hamilton nor P3 Vettel and P5 Rosberg. They waited until lap 12 to changeover. All of them except Hamilton, who had had a five second lead, lost time and positions as a result; Button passed Vettel for P2, while Webber passed Alonso.

The supersoft tyres didn’t last long. Pre-race predictions were that they would be good for 20 laps, but the reality was more like 15 or 16 – less in Hamilton’s case. He had a new set he had saved in qualifying and pushed very hard on them to open up a nine second lead on Button. But after 14 laps he had to pit again, Button stopped a lap later. They remained about six seconds apart, but the decisive moment came when Hamilton went for another set of supersofts on lap 40. There was no way he’d be able to reach the finish on them. Button went for soft tyres on lap 42, knowing that they would make the finish.

Here’s how their decisions were reached; the used supersoft was 0.8s faster per lap than the new soft tyre, so Hamilton’s tactic was to open a lead of over 18 seconds in order to pit again and retain the lead. He should have easily done this with a 15 lap stint, but in fact Button was as fast, if not faster on the softs. On lap 47 as light rain began to fall, Hamilton spun, losing the lead to Button. Now behind his team mate and on the wrong tyre, he was caught between a rock and a hard place. Vettel, who was also on soft tyres to the finish, was going to jump him at his pitstop and so was Webber.

Although Hamilton attacked Button and got ahead, he needed a game changing move, which is what the intermediate tyre might have been when he took it on lap 52, as the rain persisted. But it turned out to be the wrong call. Although the lap times went off by 11 seconds, keeping a calm head was vital as the shower died away and within three laps the times were back to normal. The drivers on intermediates had to stop again for dry tyres.

Button, Vettel and Alonso did not take the intermediate and stayed ahead of Hamilton, Webber did take it and stayed behind.

So the decision on intermediate tyres was important in the outcome, but it wasn’t decisive; the soft tyre decision earlier was the decisive one.

Alonso did many of the same things as Hamilton. Judging by the lengths of his stints, he planned to make four stops, especially after losing time behind Rosberg early on. He got jumped by Webber on the switch from intermediates to slicks because he stayed out too long. His first dry stint on supersoft was 13 laps, second stint 11 laps, third stint 11 laps and fourth stint on soft was 23 laps. He jumped ahead of Webber at the third stop by pitting three laps earlier and he didn’t make the mistake of going for the intermediate on lap 50 so got ahead of Hamilton. It was a good recovery from a messy first half of the race.

The two Toro Rosso drivers had strong results; Sebastien Buemi went from 23rd to 8th, while Jamie Alguersuari got points for the fourth time in five races, by again running a long middle stint on the harder tyre and doing one less stop than the others. This tactic has been so successful for them and Sauber this year it’s surprising more midfield teams haven’t tried it. But being kind on the tyres is a pre-requisite!

Di Resta consults with engineers before the start (Force India/Sutton)

Breakthrough result for Paul di Resta
Paul Di Resta got his best F1 finish to date with seventh place, a breakthrough result in many ways. His engineers were amazed at his composure and authority in the most tense moments of the race, such as when it rained on lap 50. It was his call not to pit for intermediates on lap 50. Di Resta has struggled for results since the early races, but this one will have made other teams sit up and take notice. It was not the drive of a rookie.

And it’s interesting to look at his race strategy because it exactly matches Button’s.

He started on the supersoft tyres, albeit his were new because he didn’t get into Q3 and so he had a spare set of new ones. Button stopped on lap 27 for another used set of supersofts and Di Resta did the same. Then on lap 42 Button went for a new set of softs and Di Resta followed suit. There is no suggestion here that he was copying Button, it’s a coincidence. But it’s interesting because the two slick tyre choices were based on their data from Friday practice, where they got good life and good pace from the soft tyre. So it was clear that it would do up to 30 laps on a lighter car close to the end of the race.

Di Resta was racing Rosberg, who had gone for the soft tyres in the second stint. But the Mercedes driver’s decision to pit for intermediates decided it in Di Resta’s favour. It was the second race in a row that Force India has finished ahead of Mercedes. While it was the seventh time in 11 races that Rosberg has finished lower than his start position.

As a side note, given that Button has now won six of his 11 races in these conditions in recent years, it’s probably not a bad idea to copy him on days like these – he doesn’t often get it wrong!


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Great article as always James! Just one thing though which I think was a major factor in the race. Jenson got told to queue up behind Lewis in the pits for Inters, he decided to ignore the order and carry on with the soft tyres!

This surely was surely game winning decision by himself?


McLaren have said today that their drivers are free to continue to battle on track, and unlike RBR, I believe them. This is great news for racing fans everywhere to see these two contrasting yet brilliant drivers go at it wheel to wheel for the remainder of this season. Some of their racing battles with each other thus far this season have been enthralling.

Yet they should stop it and stop it now.

Ferrari have an official, defacto number 1, we saw again recently Massa deferring to Alonso. RBR are much more hypocritical and sly about the whole thing but they too have a number 1 driver and despite their derisive comments about Ferrari last year, they can and will intervene on Vetell’s behalf as they have already done this year at least once that we all know of.

Both Button and Hamilton have to fight one more driver than either Alonso or Webber – their team mates. This is great for us generally but is it great for McLaren fans really who want to see them win WDC’s? What about the shareholders and sponsors who also loose out on wdc’s because of McLaren’s system? Pick a driver, McLaren, any driver and back them because if you have to divide race win’s by 2 everyone looses in the end when it comes to the WDC. Not a popular view, I’m sure, but if you can’t beat them………


Come on guys, yes it is great for us to watch but if they want to win WDCs they need to back a driver sooner rather than later. As much as we want to take sugar-coated view of f1, McLaren need to WIN championships much more often to justify their immense budget, and great driver line-up. They also have a road car to sell now as well - it does the marketing of that car no good at all to always be the 'second placed team' on track does it?


Justin Lewis, that is NOW, no business thinks about NOW or they would be out of business very quickly indeed - they must be thinking 10 years down the line and they must have 'aspirations' for their road car programme.


I think Jeremy Clarkson did their road car more damage than less than perfect results in F1 ever will.


Wayne, you are right they do have a road car to sell now, but you can't compare that programme to Ferrari's business, it's not in the same league.

You are also right that they need to win Championships, but they can only do that when their car is good enough at the start of the season, rather than the middle.

This year, Hamilton has been erratic because he's driving the wheels off a car that hasn't been as good as the RB - until the last couple of races anyway. Button has been Button, good enough to win in mixed conditions, but not fast enough in the dry.

You can't believe that Mclaren can win this year, that would be naive. Mext year, if their car is up to it from day 1, then they will have to make some decisions. Obviously if their driver line up stays the same, the decisions will be tough.


Wayne I think you got it right, again. Before the race I spoke to a friend and said that Mclaren need to get behind Hamilton, but they need Button to be committed to this. For another driver to win the WDC they need to win every race and also see Vettel miss out on points, Button can do this for Hamilton. Button has the maturity and experience to do this.

It will still mean that they can win the constructors.


Without you even being aware of it there were two times in race where McLaren put safe strategy on Hamilton and Riskier strategy on Jenson.

Those two instances were -

a) which driver would be first driver to switch from inters to slicks when the track conditions were tricky. Normally all the teams put their #2 driver to do the toe dipping. In this case it was Jenson. So Jenson went in for slicks ahead of Lewis and came out with massively twitching car (still not as twitchy as Ferrari or Red Bull), Only when Jenson settled on the slicks and it was safe enough the team brought in Lewis.

b) Similarly when it started to rain again and the decision was to which driver to leave out on slicks in the tricky conditions and which driver to bring in for safer option to switch to Inters. McLaren again brought their #1 driver in and left the #2 driver out.

Given their points standing start of that race with Lewis ahead of Jenson, I don't blame McLaren to split strategy and pick safer options for Lewis and riskier one for Jenson.

But all the talk of driver equality is humbug.

Jenson's claim that he was asked to queue in behind Lewis for inters, but chose to stay out was not backed by the team. And given the positive PR their driver is getting they won't challenge it either.

Having said that Jame's analysis and sequence of events on how the strategy developed over the course of race is right on money.

Its just that the whole talk of driver equality is fluff and teams up and down the paddock split their strategy with preferential treatment given to lead driver, but nobody looks in the camera with slight twitch on the corner of the lips and claim that they treat their drivers equally like McLaren does.

Its time to come clean. Jenson had the inferior strategy yesterday, but plan of Lewis (and his engineer) to conserve on the super soft tyres expecting hot track and ambient temperature fell flat on face and all variables worked out it Jenson's favor. Of course Jenson showed superior feel for the situation and saw the checkered flag ahead of the field. All credit to his race management in variable conditions.


Correct me if I'm wrong but I think that if you have a driver that can cope with more challenging conditions, be strategically wiser and still have tempo good enough to win - why he has to be number 2?

I mean, most of McLaren fans are insisting that Lewis should be no1 pick for title challenge. But why not give Jenson a chance? Forecoming races such as Spa or Suzuka often challenge the drivers with changeable conditions and also adding the tyre wear factor it all seems to be in Jenson's favour. And without his two DNFs (of which one was team's error while the other was a mechanical failure) he would probably be already ahead of Lewis in the standings.


I think your forgetting two very important facts. First, that Jenson has an exceptionally strong record of being very quick in greasy conditions on slick tyres that stretches back to his Williams days and that Webber was lighting up the timing screen on slicks at the same time. Second, that Jenson was much better at conserving his tyres whilst maintaining a good pace, surely I'm not the only one who noticed that he let the gap stretch out to about 8-9 seconds, maintain it then carve chunks out of hit to get within 3 seconds of Lewis before Hamilton started off the next round of stops between them. I wonder what Lewis's wear rates on the softs were, could he have been too hard on them making a 30 lap stint a risky proposition?


It's hard to justify your opinion as pure fact, Williams4Ever, they McLaren drivers seem to race each other pretty hard to me. RBR and Ferrari do not allow that - they protetc their lead driver.


You may be right, but Mclaren like the '2 british champions together' approach because it suits their business model which relies on attacting traditional sponsorships. It's different for Ferrari and Red Bull, who simply use F1 to drive sales of road cars and energy drinks, respectively.


Justin, McLaren have a road car to sell as well now.


Their approach: (a) gives them the best chance to win the Constructor's (b) allows them to attract the best drivers who know they will have a car and a chance to win. I am sure they would love to win the Driver's as well, but from your comments, as a shareholder/stakeholder, etc. shouldn't the Constructor's be the goal?


No, it allows them to attract the best 'second' drivers. The very Best drivers will be better served at either Ferrari or RBR where the team will completely devote itself to them (RBR will do this fully once Webber's strong personality is removed form the second car). And if you think that the best drivers do not want the advantage of having the team devoted to them alone you are sorely mistaken.


They have not won a constrcutors title for over a decade so their approach is not working.


RBR being sly? Last time I checked, Vettel's points haul was almost an entire magnitude more than Webber's. If that doesn't make you the defacto #1 driver, nothing will.

Good point about Newey. His contempt for KERS and other systems that conflict with his all-powerful aerodynamics are finally starting to catch up with him. The RBR's fragility might be its Achilles heel in the 2nd half of the season. I doubt it will be enough to threaten Vettel's lead. He'll have to implode and I don't see that happening.


69bhp, yes but you are right in hindsight are you not, where vision is always 20/20. The fact remains they were prepared to risk the championship to give Vetell his shot last year - it's as plain as the nose on your face. This year they are already issueing orders to keep Webber at bay.


Did anybody else not find it interesting that RBR pulled an all-nighter and used up an important limited resource at Budapest? There was nothing 'wrong' with the car, just that it wasn't to Vettel's liking at the previous race. Webber has had myriad problems with this year's car, and nothing was done, but as soon as Vettel is outpaced by Webber, all hands on deck!

Similar occurred last year, for a substantial period mid-season Webber was beating Vettel until an upgrade showed up and 'bokko!' the car suited Vettel again and he was once again faster.

Red Bull stink to high heaven. I hope Ricciardo gets a better offer elsewhere, as he most likely would suffer the same indignity care of the awful Markko.


wayne, I think RBR were absolutely right in not "backing" Webber at the end of last year (I assume by "backing" Webber you mean asking Vettel to move over and cede position to him). The final results showed that if they had done so, neither of their drivers would have taken the title. Webber was simply not up to the championship challenge in the last few races of 2010.


F1_Badger, none for sure that I can recall. But then I did not say they had 'gifted' either driver races. They have asked Webber not to pass Vetell though, they did not back Webber last year when he had the wdc lead towards the end of the season and said they never would use team orders like Ferrari, they have already used team orders this year to Vetell's advantage, they removed parts from Webber's car and put them on Vetell's car (unprecedented for a team without a number 1). And the best evidence that things are not equal? Webber himself. One of the most open, honest and straight talking drivers on the grid has let us all know time and time again that things are not equal. I genuinely believe that if Webber ever writes his memoirs they will make for fascinating reading.


Which wins did they gift Vettel from webber Wayne? Honest question mate, my memory is fuzzy on the point. Ta


'Sly' because they came out last year and tore strips off Ferrari and went on about their own sporting spirit of fair play and how they would never use teams orders. It was downright hypocritical to then employ team orders this year. I know the rules have changed which makes RBR 'within the law' but it does not make them any les hypocritical.

'sly' because RBR have displayed their favouritism for Vetell in various ways while all the time pretending not to have a number 1 driver. Let us not forget the allowed Vetell to take wins from Webber at the end of last year when Webber was the clear leader in the WDC. Note how this year that has ALREADY changed and we are only at the half way point.


A contradictory argument. Sponsors want to see coverage; who wins is less important. If the battling McLarens is ongoing big story, lots of coverage then the sponsors will be happy.


Nigel, I do not buy your casual dismissal of their road car programme. You are talking about NOW. Whereas McLaren (like any good business) will be thinking 10 years ahead and part of that plan will be to use F1 to drive road car sales. They need to set a winning standard sooner rather than later. Winning equal speed in the mind of consumers when it comes to cars and, for the kind of car they are selling to the kind of people who will buy them, wining is FAR more important than the spirit of fair play and plucky ‘loosership’ their current stance equates to.


Wayne, I don't buy the McLaren road car argument. McLaren makes far more money from their Vodaphone sponsorship than their profits from the MP4-12C even if they have sold out for the next 3 years.


What about the marketing of their own road car? Are you going to tell me that this is better served by being championship runners up all the time. Remember that the McLaren Group's business model is changing or HAS changed. Pretty damaging to their road car programme if they find themselves second to a focused Ferrari team is it not?


Ok so people seem to be taking issue with my reference to sponsors etc - I am happy to admit that I know nothign about commercial marketing and could therefore be completely wrong.

What I am not wrong about is that McLaren throw away WDCs because of this new (they used to enforce team orders regularly)ideal. They certainly did in 2007. They would also stand a better chance of hunting Vetell down this year as well.


A good point. No sports editor can resist a photo of two team-mates battling each other. Obviously James is no exception!


"What about the shareholders and sponsors who also loose out on wdc’s because of McLaren’s system?" - McLaren have been using the system of getting the two best drivers they can at the time and pitting them against each other for decades, so shareholders or sponsors disappointed by this should do their homework better.

As a fan, this approach is a crucial part of the McLaren ethos/brand.


Thing is I don't think either Mika or DC ever had to deal with 2 instances of incompetence from the gantry wall in nearly as many laps as that we saw Lewis exposed to.

Good on Jense for his win,no one can begrudge him that,I was stoked one McLaren was on the top step,but with decisions like we witnessed over the weekend one wonders whether Lewis can have any faith in his strategists,why hand a winning advantage over to the other side of the garage by going to those inters eh,"bizarre"!!!.JB fans can waffle lyrically about smooth tyre conservation etc etc but I saw Lewis's win smothered by not 1 but 2 bad tyre calls.....


I agree that they should let the drivers race until it become clear that one of them will not win the championship as Adrian J said. Having said that, I do feel it has been clear since last season that while Jenson can races, he is not quick enough to win the WDC on equal machinery. There is just not enough wet / dry races in a season for him to do it so why let him take points off Lewis?


Adrian J, Hi mate, you have your facts wrong about DC and Mika.


Wayne, yes remember back in the 80's when they had Prost and that other guy, what was he called oh yes, Senna and they made sure that Prost was their number 1 driver. No? That's because they let their drivers race unless it becomes clear that 1 of them is not going to win the championship (as was the case with DC and Mika).


Also the last time they tried that, with Alonso and Hamilton, it nearly brought the entire team to its knees. I think your vision of Mclaren is a tad romantic, they have used team orders plenty of times in the past.


You cannot possibly say that - this is a NEW stand for McLaren. They have a long history of team orders and it won the WDCs. Coulthard will tell you all about it for one.


In the UK we have something of a culture of preferring Corinthian spirit over ruthless professionalism. Probably the root cause of innumerable sporting failures. But I look at things like English Premiership football and I don't like where that kind of "professionalism" leads.


Can't argue with that. We do indeed seem to prefer a plucky looser to a ruthless victor. Just look at how popular Damon Hill was when he lost out against Schumacher!

It does suggest though that McLaren is the perfect target from 'second drivers' and not for the very best who would be better of with Ferrari or RBR as they will receive greater devotion and support.


PS. wasn't it interesting to see Newey out giving the Ferrari a close look-over on the grid in Budapest after all his comments about other team's copying earlier in the year 🙂


Red Bull? Hypocritical? Say it isn't so!?


As always James, a great read!


Great race for di Resta and Button, really shame that Kubica couldnt make it this year in Hungary for Polish fans.

He also would produce a great drive in those mixed condition, not like Heidfeld who just burned away


It's better to burn out, than to fade away... LOL


Well written James, thanks.

Regarding Lewis, a lot of comments about who did and who should have won the race etc etc.

I feel with Lewis, he only wants a win especially at this point of the season with regards to Vettel. His or the teams decision ( or should I say THEIR decision) to pit for intermediates was an all or nothing decision to push for the win simple as that.

Jenson on the other hand is more measured in that he was looking for a podium at the start with the potential for more depending how things developed and so had nothing to loose by staying out on the soft tyres and possibly everything to gain. A very thoughtful and considered drive by Jenson to the win, a mark of a great driver and one I am sure all the other drivers on the grid ie his peers would agree with.

In fact Lewis and Jenson are the perfect team mates, same ultimate goal but different ways of getting there. You don't break up a winning combination lightly.


Hahaa in these type of races, strategy flies out the window.

It's like a casino, the strategy has to play around what the weather does. For lets say it rained a little more, then the drivers who stayed out on the soft rubber wouldn't look so sharp. It's just a lottery but I admit, where Jenson excels is in setting fast times on a damp track but as he said, one day he will get caught out for that's the nature of these kind of races that require drivers to change tyres.

Meanwhile does any one know what those plastic things flapping about on the rear wings of the cars are?


Gosh, am already showing F1 withdrawal symptoms, scratching & itching, pacing up & down all over the place & yet the sport has just gone on holiday.


Think it's called condensation vortices. Could be wrong tho'.


+1 on the withdrawals...I feel your pain!


In that case Jenson's done pretty well to win the lottery 6 times out of 11, I wonder what numbers he puts on the Euromillions 🙂


"Meanwhile does any one know what those plastic things flapping about on the rear wings of the cars are?"

Do you mean the vortices of moist air seen coming off the rear wings of the cars at the end of the start/finish straight?


the flappy things on the wing was the air flow,it shows at high speeds


It's interesting to see that we see these vortices a lot more frequently since the rear wing rule change in 2009. I assume it's to do with the wing angle, as the wings are 'steeper' now than they were pre-2009. We used to see this a lot in the turbo era where the wings were almost vertical.

Here (at about 1.30) you can see these 'appear' on Senna's car at the end of the straight.


In humid air, the same as in aircraft wings.


Is it just me or are these vortices more pronounced on the Mclaren, I know the other cars have them, but I see them more often on the Maca!


It was painful to watch Koby at the back end of the race trying to defend P8/P9/P10 in 30+lap old super softs which were only supposed to last 15-20 laps...instead pitting earlier and trying to challenge for points on new tyres.

James, you mention Sauber and Toro Rosso using the one less stop strategy to score points but I'm starting to question it in the second half of the season (at least for Sauber). It might pay dividends where there's a safety car, but Koby has proven racecraft to execute passes on fresher tyres. Why not try a conventional tyre stop strategy and give you drivers the opportunity to go for it instead of driving in defensive mode.

By analogy, you only have to look at McLaren's good and bad tyre calls with Lewis to see which strategy lets him to attack and which strategies sees him floundering.


Excellent analysis James


I remember thinking to myself 'why isn't Hamilton opening a gap on those tyres' during the beginning of the last stint before it all went pear-shaped anyway. Any idea WHY Button was as fast if not faster on the Softs than Hamilton was on the Super Soft's James?

I said after the last race that this KEEPS happening i.e. the harder tyre is nowhere near as slow as the team's predict when it comes to the end of the race.


If I heard the commentary right, the super-softs tend to cool and lose grip when it's damp. The primes hold onto their heat and grip longer.

[James -- why does it keep telling me I'm posting too quickly and to slow down, when I haven't posted anything for at least 24 hours?]


No, it's the other way around. The harder tyres lose heat quicker, and are more difficult to heat up in damp conditions.

I think Jenson was just fast. Hamilton admitted as much in his post-race interview.


Nick, he's right.

The super-softs stay warmer due to the softer compound generating more heat (more movement = more heat, and a softer tread will move more).

Why did Button manage so well? He used his primes at a time where there was a solid dry line, and he was aggressive enough to keep heat in them (trail-brake a little harder, apply the throttle harder, slide the car a bit, etc... basically, drive like Hamilton!).

The others that tried using primes when it was damp found them cooling too much. Button just picked the right window to use those tires (some luck was involved there).


I don't buy that.

I'm sure there is a technical explanation of why the supersoft didn't work as well in that situation.

I'd love to hear James' opinion on what was going on there. Was it Button driving amazingly well, or was it something to do with the damp track and the temperature?

In Q2 Lewis did a very good time on the softs. I kind of put it down to it being an amazing lap by Lewis at the time, but now I'm thinking that maybe it wasn't that and the gap between them in certain conditions just wasn't that big.

any ideas anyone?


Thanks Quercus, I thought I heard the exact opposite from the commentary.


James I think alonso and his strategy was shaped by 2 things you didn't mention. His 2rd stop was early because of Ferrari thinking there was going to be a safety car and his 3rd stop was early because he was stuck behind webber and was trying to jump him. We didnt really see the true pace of the Ferrari in the middle of the race when the track was at the most dry. I'm still in shock that Ferrari now appear to be the fastest car on race day through the fastest corners over a stint.


@Tom - In a BBC interview he said that, although he had initially been told he'd be queuing and had decided to ignore that order, before he'd reached the pit lane entrance the order was changed to "Stay out".


Wonder what JB's IQ is. He's must be the cleverest F1 driver around.


I don't think so. He's been complaining about setup and the car "just doesn't feel right", "no grip" etc etc all year. He did well to win but don't expect it to last.


No, just one of the oldest. Imagine how good LH and SV will be in eight or nine years' time...


Yes James any idea why this happens, and why the teams themselves can't predict when this will happen? What do Pirelli have to say about this?

Cause from the outside it made Hamilton's tyre choice vs Button's look rather stupid, left me wondering why on earth they coldly took the decision to throw all possibility for a win away... But now that I read your explanation that they were expecting 0.8s per lap and were looking to gain enough for a free stop ahead of Button, it makes perfect sense, except for the unexpected slow pace of the super soft tyre. I am SURE McLaren and Hamilton would like to understand why! 🙂


Good stuff.

In many ways it was a shame for that little mid-race shower as it would have been interesting to see how the strategies would have played out between the McLarens and Vettel especially.

I've read comments on the race thread of McLaren screwing Hamilton on strategy again (even possibly wanting to favour Button intentionally, which is ludicrous). Although going to softs at the 3rd stop was clearly the best strategy in hindsight, you can see McLaren's thinking in putting Lewis on another set of supersofts.

He was wearing his tyres out quicker in relation to Button - who would gain seconds on him at the end of stints - and possibly felt he wouldn't have made it to the end on softs (or end up in too bad a state to hold the lead). So going for another high paced stint and trying to build a pit stop to Jenson seemed logical.

Ultimately Jenson had very good pace on the softs for some reason and was actually catching Lewis before he spun, which was peculiar.

It would have been interesting if it had remained dry though to see whether Lewis on fresher tyres at the end could have fought his way back past Webber, Vettel and Button, on their old softs, to win once he would have fallen behind after his extra stop.


I enjoyed reading your post there, it shows a will to understand why the race went the way it did rather than make wayward comments about drivers and teams.

I also agree with your point about Lewis and the tyre decisions. McLaren clearly understood that Lewis is tougher on his tires and so planned accordingly. They don't publicly criticise their drivers so perhaps wouldn't clearly state this.

As a neutral I think JB won this race with a great drive. I love lewis' aggression and sheer speed, it was great to see him take 4th from a difficult position.

Great race and looking fwd to another 3 car, 5 driver battle in spa!



I agree about Jenson and it being a top performance and in my opinion deserved to win. I didn't want to make the above comment too long but I was going to add at the end this:

Considering the race as a whole, I believe Jenson had the performance measure of Lewis in that race (doesn't happen often I admit)!

Even if Lewis had have been on the softs like Jenson (plus no extra rain), it's possible Jenson may still have had the pace at the end to snatch the victory.

Possibly backing this up is that during Lewis's interview - while also wanting to conduct a mature interview - he said of Jenson, 'the best man won today'. Plus Jenson also said he felt he had a great chance of beating Lewis after the first dry stint, when he was still lapping strongly and Lewis was struggling.

I'd like to think that Lewis knew that Jenson had genuinely put in a very strong race-winning performance in Hungary, and perhaps that is why he didn't react in as fuming a manner - with a feeling that he had been robbed of the win - as many of us were probably expecting him to have during his interview.


Did we ever see Hamilton add front wing during a pitstop? Button added front wing at his first stop to super-softs from intermediates. This would have helped braking, turn in (reduce understeer), and have helped generate and maintain tire temperature. I was waiting all race for FOM to provide speed trap figures for these two as it could have pointed to downforce levels between teammates. If Button gained 3~5 meters of braking from a heavier front wing that would translate into a lot of time on a track with many braking zones.

His quote about the final corner, where he made one overtake of Hamilton during the soft/super-soft stint rainstorm passfest hints more to this as well.

"The surface in the last corner is different," he said. "It feels when you have a hot tyre, you struggle to get grip through there. I don't know if it is the oil in the asphalt coming through to the surface, but most of the lap is fine. It is when you get there you are skating around."

Who knows? Awesome race. Looking forward to Spa.


Great article James. The main question is why didn't Hamilton just put on sifts at his third stop? He has the leas so didnt need to take a risk of another stop surely it was the others who needed to take a risk on a 4 stop.


Damn predictive text! Lead and softs!!


James, do you not think that if Alonso did not spun the car twice in the race could have been challenging for the victory.

I think Ferrari looked very very good, good enough to pass both Mercedes at the start.

Edward Valentine

I read in Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport on Monday that Alonso certainly had more than a strong chance of winning had it not have been for his two. But let's remember that in those conditions it's extreame sporting skill that comes through. Making a mistake is, in my view just as bad as not being quick enough. As the gazzetta article reads "Jenson è il nuovo professore"


I know I'm not James but I agree mate, I think could have been up there. Also did u heat JB's question to Alonso...something along the lines of 'you kept going off didn't you?' I thought fernando was measured in his response 'traffic'.

The Ferrari must be quick for newy to be having a good look!


I think Alonso's excursions of the tarmac were classic ferrari on cold tyres and him eager to compensate for this lack of speed.

He has said he is willing to take risks for the rest of the season.


possibly but he lost over 6+ in poor pit stops. He was over driving to make up for the tardy pit crew ferrari have.

and until that changes there is little point in having the best driver in F1 he will gain you 3 seconds on a stint but whats the point if the pit crew lose you all of that in space of a few seconds


Personally, I felt Hamilton reacted to Alonso going onto super-softs (mid race) as Fernando was putting in cracking times and closing on all those in front. The Red Bulls, thought let's try something different and get to the end on the softs, as did Button... I was then expecting to see Hamilton pull away, but a combination of the green track (after the overnight\morning showers) and Lewis pushing it, early in each stint, meant super-soft tyre degradation for him was massive. Hamilton's spin cost him time and gave us massive entertainment as the two McLaren drivers battled for the lead (other teams, please take note!!!!), but it did not cost him the race.

Button did his normal trick of keeping it mellow early in the stints and thus retaining some tyre-life for later on (he was confident after stint 1, that he was in with a chance of victory); he tried this in China, I think, and rued the decision as all those who went "hell for leather" burned up their rubber, did one extra stop, but ended up on fresh rubber at the end of the race; whereas Button was holding on, on old worn tyres... and had no defence.


Button won another race !

OMG hurry up , build him a monument!

You guys are bliding yourself . JB won a race due to mistakes done by Lewis and Macca. Even more he got owned on track by Lewis with rubbish tyres . Still half of UK feels like that was a race JB controlled from start to finish, "JB is the king in changeable conditions" , yea right especially at the start of the race when it was starting to dry up and lewis changed to super-softs. If JB was king on this kind of conditions , he should had change to super-S before lewis. Yes i know the first driver on track has first choise.

Fact is JB was lucky.

Lewis lost cause of his own strategy pick and ofcourse of his brilliant race engineer and most important due to HIS OWN mistake !

Anyway the race was excellent. Especially the moves JB and Lewis did on each other.


I'm certainly not a Button fan, but he deserves credit for a sterling drive. There was some luck involved, but he exploited it brilliantly.


So JB won because Lewis made a mistake, making him lucky. Was it luck that JB didn't make a mistake? I'd suggest it was skill, as you can't be lucky for 70 laps in those conditions. Lewis said it himself, the better man won.

There's no doubting Lewis is faster but in Hungary he wasn't, again confirmed by him. By your admission he was making mistakes where JB wasn't. Result JB drove better (that day)


How interesting that DiResta's strategy was identical to Button's. I hadn't spotted that during the race.


thought hamilton's post race interview was an interesting comparison on earlier in the season. In the past you got the feeling that it was everyones fault but his!

I think that Lewis still has a lot to learn when it comes to making strategy calls in these situations (always too late or too early), or am i being a bit harsh?


This Hungarian Grand Prix should be nicknamed "How Lewis Hamilton snatched defeat from the jaws of victory". What a disappointment! I am a big Lewis Hamilton fan.

I think what each of Jenson's wins at McLaren have shown is that he makes EXCELLENT decisions. I don't think Jenson is as fast as Lewis but he seems to consistently outthink him whenever the weather throws a spanner in the works. How often do we hear Lewis moaning about strategy calls in races? How often Jenson?

Just as much as getting a banker lap is important in qualifying (Lewis made this error in Monaco), surely getting the tyre requirements satisfied must also be a necessity. As soon as it was announced that Lewis was still on super softs while the other contenders had gone for the soft, my heart sank. Even without the dodgy weather, would Lewis really have opened up a 18 - 20 second lead? Hmm, not so sure.

I think Lewis' raw speed advantage over Jenson is often cancelled out by Jenson's better use of tyres and his better decision making ability.

As for the championship, Vettel should be sent on holiday while the others battle it out for 2nd. Apart from Vettel, the championship is really very close between Ham, But, Alo and Web.


Very interesting analysis. More please!


Great analysis, I really enjoyed reading that. It's nice to read about mid-field runners and see how they adapt their strategy to achieve the best results. I personally feel that the skill in F1 accross the field is at an all time high. There is the exception of the odd pay driver here and there. I've read a lot about 'the golden age of F1'. James do you agree we are in a golden age? What do others think? I was hugely impressed with the level of skill shown in Hungary.


Also enjoyed the analysis. I agree to a certain point. We are in a great period for F1, even with the DRS/KERS etc add-ons we have, which i don't totally like, but live with. Sometimes the 'mystery' with tech specs and team decisions add to the intrigue. As like last year, we have 5 drivers, from 4 countries in 3 different cars battling it out for the championship, (sorry to the others) although one now looks to have it pretty much in the bag. The race for second place in the WCC is ON!. Throw in a few more than usual wet races only adds another dimension. Can't do much better than that. Always hard to compare 'golden' eras in any sport, all are great for different reasons. We have had 2 or 3 drivers battling down to the wire in the past as well.


correction....race for WDC's is ON!

RBR can only lose the WCC at this stage.


Why cant it ever..even once be made clear that when there is comparissons between Lewis and Jenson when it comes to decisions, calls & knowing how to drive the tyres...ONE big point is always swiftly avoided by the media:

Alonso, Webber, Massa & Button have much more F1 experience then Lewis...hes been in F1 since 2000..which is 7 more years than Lewis. ALl the other drivers inc button not only caused calamities in their early careers...but button even alienated the whole F1 paddock with his playboy ways even before he achieved anything in F1, to the point where at the end of 2008...not even one team wanted him to drive for them.

Infact when Lewis is usually being compared to alonso, button, webber and massa...its never said that Lewis has around 7 years less experience than them and if Lewis is mostly beating them NOW...imagine how phenomenal Lewis will be when he has reached the same milestones as them.

I just think that the media can be really unfair to always seemslike a witch-hunt against him.

First of all Lewis gets blasted for not being accessible; Then Lewis gets blasted for being a big-mouth if hes in the media too much (which is the doing of the media groups...not Lewis); Then Lewis gets blasted for being too PR; Then he gets blasted for being too emotional & not too PR; Lewis then gets blasted for 'not being a teamplayer' when he critisizes the team (something they all do every race inc button); Then when Lewis is being genuine like post race in Hungary..being chuffed for button - lewis then gets blasted for being 'an actor'.

I think the way in which Lewis gets treated by the press and his critics is bang out of order and Im perplexed that everyone (media) seem to think its ok to bully him like that. i.e. Nearly every front running driver in hungary went off the track or spun...but they dont get ribbed for it. Some have even amazingly claimed that button didnt make a single mistake in the race....ERM HELLO...he went off the track a few times too!


Hey guys..some good points but also some flawed too.

[mod because far too long]

Regardless of who you are, what opportunites you've had and how well you do things - one thing we all as human beings know as a result of common sense is that for every single human on this earth = WISDOM COMES FROM EXPERIENCE.

Every person grows wiser and more experienced as the years go by and Hamilton is no different....hes no superhero or superhuman..hes just another young lad with fantastic talent growing up in this world we all live in....hes still learning like us all and to begrudge him that is silly.

Lewis will grow and become more experienced with making descisions and controlling himself - thats obvious & people have to allow him that. Just like the alonsos & webbers etc...they too have grown and become more wise through learning from experiences...thats why they are better (experienced) now then they were 7-8 years ago or even a year ago.

To expect Lewis (now at 26) to know it all or even as much as the guys who've been in F1 much longer is the most delusional & unrealistic opinion Ive heard!

Yes Lewis has abit to learn and he will. But the fact is that from his 1st season hes been fighting up front and can still beat the more experienced guys with his less experience - SO I can only imagine that once Hamilton has achieved the same milestones as the others he will no doubt be a miles better than he is now.....And boy doesnt that strike a fear in the hearts of the detractors!

I think what Lewis (and his family) have done and the way in which they did/achieved it is truely inspirational and should be applauded for setting such a great example. NO matter where you are from..with hardwork..confidence and 'never give up' attitude you can do anything.
Hes not from a priveledged racing background where hes cashing in on the name of his father etc.

Why people want to beat up on the real people of this world who fight for everything is beyond me - at the same time those who have been born with a silver spoon and are in racing thanks to their historically-connected surnames are praised without any fault.

Also many of his detractors say Lewis is immature and needs to grow up - WELL if you look at the life of Lewis Hamilton - Even I can say that Lewis is probably much more grown up than most of us. If you consider what hes had to deal with in his high profile life so early on.....I cant help to think that if any of us now get a chance to swap lives with him - we would make a proper mess of it!!!

As much of the great talent Lewis has....Im also glad that he has his flaws too - For that shows how much of a human being he is & like us all he too can make mistakes. He doesnt have the personality of a robot - Hes flawed liked US ALL!!!


This site is mainly free of the ‘things’ that goes on between fans on other sites. Let stick to Hamilton and his positives. I have seen many more articles on Hamiltons wins and great drives than negative ones. The Race Strategy report was based on race facts/timings with JA ‘take’ on it I assume.

The level of ‘attention’ he attracts I suppose goes with the territory. He is a World Champion and does put himself ‘out there’ (whether that is a result of him or his managers doesn’t matter or brand) and so does some of his supporters. Hamilton is one of those drivers that, through his sheer talent, exiting and aggressive style will attract extra attention. Probably would have happened in other years except we have more media and social networks etc etc etc now than even back in 2005, let alone 2000 or before.

Hamilton now is in his 5th full season of F1, all of which have been in a ‘top running’ team. He has past his ‘apprenticeship’ long ago. We all continue to learn and I take your point, however I would say that Hamilton is not lacking in the experience due to years now. Running mid field or back of grid as did the other drivers you mention in their earlier years is a whole lot different experience than running at the front, and vice versa. Hamilton has experience others don’t have as well.

In this instance in Hungary, Button had a better than most feel of the car through the tyres in these type of conditions. And he ended in front. Simple. And it probably will happen again given same conditions

Not begrudging Hamilton, but I am sure all the other four drivers, in fact all drivers would be different and at different levels if ‘thrown’ into a top team from day one with different expectations and measures put against them, and a lot may not just ‘cut it’ too. But then Hamilton deserved that rise through McLaren sponsorship.

Apart from a few ‘hiccups’ this season, Hamilton has always handled the pressure pretty well. And the media is the media. Just see how he handles it since it probably is different to how we handle it.

Just wanted to put an extra angle on this.


maybe the missing element from Hamilton's armoury is the 'punting' that often happens with midfield teams in these conditions.

In the midfield you often have nothing to lose and you can learn a lot from a gamble to switch tyres or not. Hamilton however only has front runner experience where the gamble is too costly to take on and hence maybe his lack of feel for when to twist and when to stick.


Fair point Alex. Probably more punting can be done midfield however as we see, leading teams and drivers do their own punting which sometimes doesn't come off. How often over the years have we seen a mid field team take advantage over the conditions. However you would expect all of them are on the limit in these conditions, hence they all gain that experience.


Well said Alex.

Totally agree that Lewis has been in positions where taking big gambles have been more risky. Whereas if you in a back-marking/midfield team you have more room to experiment. I.e. For Button and his tyre management - Well I can relate that his time in Honda where they were floudering at the back allowed button to be able to experiment more with the car and tyres more as he was in his own things like using each GP for many years as a 'test-session' and gain knowledge and data about tyres etc has certainly contibuted to his current skill set.

When you are in a top team you cant afford to do all that at each GP.


I'm playing Devils Advocate here San, so don't get angry with me... what you say is correct to a degree. However, I would say that at all times any driver(s) can be "attacked" by certain elements of the media because the tabloids (especially) in the UK have a different agenda i.e., sensationalism to sell their product.

Whereas Mr Allen here is not into that, he's reporting as objectively as he can on the finer detail of elements in and around the F1 world - for our benefit, enjoyment, knowledge etc, etc.

On the flip side of Hamilton's lack of experience (compared to some other drivers), no driver has ever been catapulted into a front running car in their first season. Just about any other driver you care to mention, has started in a lesser car, shown their talent and then moved up the grid in terms of car performance. Hamilton was very, very, very lucky to begin his F1 career in such a fashion, so let's not forget that.

Personally, I think that Hamilton's attitude after Monaco was totally misplaced - I think he saw that too with hindsight - but I commend him for coming out and speaking when he was obviously disappointed and frustrated. Remember, these guys grow up\mature in the media spotlight, they will make mistakes (in life and in races) and again these will be pounced upon by the tabloids.

What I like about the McLaren drivers is that they do congratulate each other when the other one wins and that congratulation seems genuine... I believe there is a healthy respect between them. I'm not saying they are off track best-buddies. I'm saying that they both wish to beat each other and both are different drivers, yet they respect each other's abilities and complement each other well.

What I found interesting was Button's post-race comment about how Hamilton was pushing at the start of stints and losing tyre performance at the end, whereas Button was doing the opposite; he also commented that he felt confident after the first stint that he was in a position to win the race.

Sure, Hamilton gets a bashing on occasion because he's successful, but he also gets a lot of plaudits and reward for that too.


One of things I like about this site is that there isn't as much fan on fan flame wars that seem to predominate other places on the inter-tubes. So I'll let you know that this isn't an attack on you in any way. Just addressing some of your points.

I don't have a dog in this fight, as I haven't been a fan of any particular driver since Kimi left. So I think I can be objective here.

First off. Lewis came into the series highly touted, in a top team. That put higher expectations on him before turning a single lap than any rookie in a long time. Expectations that he lived up to for the most part. Then he won the WDC in his second year and the expectations went up.

Now, once you've won a drivers title. Your number of years of experience compared to others will not be considered as much as it would be otherwise.

In any sport when you're a highly rated performer and don't meet expectations some pundits will have a go. It's your reaction to those slings and arrows that determines how well you're perceived afterwards. Going off on the officials doesn't go over well, with either fans of the powers that be, no matter the sport. In fact some sports fine players (even owners in some cases) that criticize the referees (stewards).


Spot on San. Spot on. For some reason it's overlooked in Lewis' case (though not Vettel's, oddly). A massively important factor. Maybe JA could do a post on it during the mid-season lull?...


Excellent post, and right on the money!


In these days when passing is actually possible, McLaren are very smart to let their drivers race when they come up against each other, since in current "tire strategy" racing, the two cars are often running at a different pace. For one to merely follow the other when this happens, whichever happens to be in front and slower at the time, would result in both being delayed over the course of the race.


This race demonstrated once again how sensational Button is in wet conditions. I remember Hockenheim in 2000, his rookie yr, when he took a brilliant fourth for Williams and was very quick in very slippy conditions near the end. So right from his first season, he's shown good form in the rain. Hope Spa delivers up its usual mix of showers, that should keep things exciting on track!


James, button changed to softs to cover vettel who took them a lap earlier. he was fighting for second. as you say it was unexpected that the softs were faster than the supersofts.


Nice article, but your statements about the DRS zone "a lot of people were hitting the rev limiter without the wind to slow them" and "They never reach terminal velocity before the braking point." are contradictory and can't both be true. Personally I'm happy the DRS didn't work well. I've far prefered the races this year when it hasn't worked well.


agree with this 100 percent. the drs isnt needed this year with these tyres. just makes the differs in fastest lap in q3 and the race much greater.


Right I'll pass that on to the F1 engineer who told it to me


Mate he makes absolute sense, both cannot be true. Not sure what your contact meant when he mentioned both scenarios.


Quick note: DRS would still be effective even if terminal velocity was not reached. You don't need to be at maximum speed to gain a benefit from drafting someone.

If anything, running a lot of wing would result in the DRS working very well.


I can see what he means - if you are hitting the rev limiter in top gear, then you can't possibly go any faster, so this must be "terminal velocity".

But if you are still accelerating when you hit the brakes, you clearly haven't reached "terminal velocity".

I assuem that the two contexts just have 2 definitions of TV.



I already post it at other blog, anyway, the point about do the right or wrong call in the heat of the moment is relying this decision in the right information at the right moment.

If you look at the radio transmissions in McLaren’s site, you can see that there’s a slight difference of info provided by the respective engineering teams to both drivers:

Button: “How does the weather look?”

Pit » BUT: “It’s spitting in the pitlane, but we don’t think it will get any worse than this.”[/b]…..

Button: “Info on the weather, guys. Info on the weather.”


[b]Pit » HAM: “These conditions are going to remain for the next 15 minutes or so.”

(it was raining)

….Pit » HAM: “How are the conditions? Do we need to change to inters, or stay on dries?”

And Lewis passes Jenson to re-take the lead! What a race!!

Lewis pits for inters.

Pit » BUT: “It’s your call on tyres, Jenson.”

Button: “I’m staying out.”….

Pit » BUT: “Understood. We think sector one is the only really wet sector.”

Pit » BUT: “We are a lot quicker than the cars on inters. Just take care in sector one.”

Pit » HAM: “We believe there is more rain coming.”

Hamilton: “These tyres are finished.”


FIRST: Lewis had a glitch in his radio and couldn’t do his call. So, he didn't had any responsibility over the inters putted at his car. It was a team decision, as said Whitmarsh…

SECOND: Even if Lewis could do his call, I bet he would have opted for inters because that was the better information at his disposal.

"...PIT: “We believe there is more rain coming...”

Looking at the radio, it looks like Button team is much more experienced at reading weather changeable conditions, and gave to Button more details and well-judged info regard track conditions:

“It’s spitting in the pitlane, but we don’t think it will get any worse than this.”

What McLaren should do without Lewis feedback?

They should put both drivers in the same tyres relying in Button’s feedback regard track conditions – because Button was the only driver they had access via radio at that moment.

If they had done that, it could really have been a team decision…


This does not make sense at all. How can the team "believe there is more rain coming…” and "don’t think it will get any worse than this" all at the same time? Looks like deliberate disinformation to me.


They each have their own engineer, and they probably each give their own opinions. If those opinions differ, it is just a difference in opinion, and each engineer is trying to make the best decision for their driver.

No tin-foil hat needed here. 😉


Yep...I second that - definately raises questions about the inter-team's tactics especially when you consider how meticulous mclaren are with their resources 'central data' and 'mission-control' in woking etc....and it did look as if Lewis' race was scuppered.


I know each driver has their own engineer, but surely the engineers have the same weather information so it looks odd they could have completely opposite readings on what the weather was going to do all within a very short period of about two laps or so when it rained.

If Lewis's team are that useless then it's hard to blame him for any strategy calls isn't it!


My guess is because they are basically two teams within a team. Each driver has his own team working for him and interpreting the information received in a different way.


You forget, that this isn't RBR or Ferrari, where Webber and Massa are lab-test rats for their "team-mates" 😉 Ok, so maybe that's a little harsh on Mark.

Button and Hamilton (and their respective engineers) are racing each other! Yet, the team (as a whole) win or lose together. It's the paradoxical nature of F1; the team championship versus the driver championship. And as you can see from the reactions\comments of Horner, Whitmarsh, Brawn et al, throughout the season it's a difficult balancing act.

There were many gambles by many drivers throughout the race... some came off, some didn't. In those conditions, weather is a fickle thing and no amount of forecasting will give you an 100% accurate view. If the rain had continued Webber and Hamilton (after their switch to inters) were quids in... it didn't continue to rain, hence they lost out.


Good post Stevie, I agree. Although I'd say that in both Webber and Massa's positions they didn't have a great deal to lose so could afford to roll the dice a little. That said I believe more drivers pitted for inters than actually stayed out on slicks!


The critical moment which cost Lewis the race win occurred when he pitted on lap 40, and the team decided to put him on another set of super soft tires. During Q2 on saturday, Lewis turned in some very fast times on the soft tire, and I don't understand why they didn't decide to use that tire on his 3rd pitstop, which would have been his final stop during the race.

Jenson didn't make the call to put on the soft tire during his pitstop on lap 42 as many may believe, but it was the team in fact who made that decision. As Jenson said, " A great call by the team to put me on the prime (soft) tire when they did " and according to Martin Brundle, Jenson intially thought that might be wrong.

Why wasn't that option given to Lewis, especially, when you consider how well he did with the soft tire, during Q2 on saturday?


Since Lewis had radio problems (he could hear his engineer, but his engineer couldn't hear him), that "option" was available to him. He was given whatever tyres McLaren though best. Although that being said, Lewis isn't know to go against what is recommended by his engineer, which may be his undoing in some races (like this one).


Because at that time, everyone felt the super-soft was the faster tyre? And were likely to do another 2 stops? Alonso did the same and he was flying.

I feel, Webber went to softs to try and stay out and thus beat Alonso; Vettel then reacted to this, as did Button. Hamilton had already changed tyres at this point, so he was given a Schumi in Magny-Cours type trial of "we'll make one more stop thus you've got to make a big enough gap". Plus, on top of this, without the rain shower Hamilton would have had fresh fast tyres at the end of the race, whereas everyone else would have been on slower, older tyres.

Merc GP went to softs as they knew their car would chew the super-softs up in quick time.


"And were likely to do another 2 stops?" - sorry, or rather were going to stop again.


Compounded by the supersofts being used in Q3 hardly an ideal conditioning situation. The first heat cycle must cost at least 0.5 seconds per lap which is close the the supposed 0.8 second advantage they were supposed to have. I scratched my head when they did it...


Strategy is probably a combination of (1) preparation & set up throughout weekend by team + driver + engineer and (2) how well the driver and team react to changing conditions during the race.

There had already been a lot of hard work (good decisions) in order to put both McLarens in a strong position to maximize his chances on Sunday.

Button's deft touch behind the wheel was the icing on the cake. A joy to watch.


What I don't really believe is that the super softs were really 0.8s per lap quicker. In new condition and for a single lap, yes, but surely not for 10 laps or more. And wasn't it remarked during the weekend that the super softs had the characteristic of a qualifying tyre, with a substantial drop-off after one lap?

It seemed people in F1 have gotten so caught up in "save as many sets of the softer compound as possible", that they overlooked the fact that the prime was actually the best tyre this weekend. The harder compound in Hungary, the yellow-banded soft, is probably the tyre with the best performance/longevity ratio. The fact that Hamilton managed to get through to Q3 without using any of the super softs just proves that he was saving the wrong compound of tyre!

I realize that calling into question the judgment of all the guys in F1 that study the data on Friday and Saturday may seem staggeringly arrogant, but this is just how it seems to me.


New S/softs were worth a little more. But they don't last. Softs have been the race tyre of choice at every round this year

Edward Valentine

Great article James, a very thorough and well explained analysis as always.


James, it is obvious to me that Hamilton was on a wet setup while JB on a dry one. Because of the extra downforce a wet setup requires, Lewis could do no more than 10 fasy laps on a set of supersofts. Around the middle of the race, Button was moving faster on fresh softs than Lewis was on fresh supersofts. Lewis only reacted well later in the race once some drizzle came down, but it was too brief to save his race.


Very interesting article. I just read the exact version of this wor for word in German on

My question is where does this strategy/ article originate and who is UBS???




I write it with input from F1 strategy engineers. I also send it out to partner sites to translate into their language (you'll also find it in Russian and many other languages) This exercise is kindly sponsored by UBS bank, one of the F1 sponsors.


Great James, great writing (even when I disagree) and a great service.

Can you do something on Mercedes soon? They look like they're becoming the next Toyota - massive resources, anonymous races (hardly mentioned in race reports etc, except updates on whether Schuey or Rozzer came out on top). Surely Brawn has only a year or two to turns things around before they start thinking of following Toyota, BMW and Honda to the exit (and onto maybe a sportscar programme?..)


They are still suffering from massive staff cuts in Brawn season 2009. I hear they are recruiting now. But that team through the years has been erratic at producing cars, one good one every few years


so it's safe to assume that the McLaren is faster than the Redbull on such conditions because both Jense and Seb had a similar strategy.


It would be better to say that Button is better in these conditions than Seb.


Great blog as always,James



Without getting to technical it called for some real decision making and those drivers who had a good feel for the car and the tyres made the right call. Martin Brundle always comments and says you need to be on the right Tyre is very true cause the right tyre was the softs and not the s/softs or intermediates at one stage. Well Button has showed as again and again that he really is good in tricky conditions and making the right calls.

It was just a pitty to see Schumacher drop out I personally think he was in a great position to recover to a good result and he was on the softs. Never mind that.... well done Jenson Button!

James just something interesting, I have not seen Vettel excel in these conditions? When he is in the midst of the field he is has not attacked drove a strong race from P4 or P5 and come through to win this year.

What do you think? Red Bull Clearly has lost that major advantage we saw in the beginning of the year.

Thanks for the post and I am so looking forward to Spa!!!


I am very surprised why so many F1 experts have failed to pickup and question why the race leader Hamilton was pitted on super softs with 30 laps to go. Remember before the weekend Pirelli said the soft could do 25 laps, but it was colder so possiblly more. As others have said, everyone seems to have focussed on his inters and spin. These were mere consequences as a result of having to correct the team strategy error. It's even worse when McLaren knew Webber pitted a lap earlier on softs and was as fast as Alonso on S.S which makes S.S a second rate choice. McLaren had Webbers time as reference.

Also James your article infers that Button made the call under pressure, but reality is that Button admitted he was questioning why they bought him in so early, he did it anyway but he didn't agree with it at the time. Now vice versa to LH, Button IS getting the credit for making the call! but he didn't make it he wanted to stay out even more.

It's a funny world the way things work out.

I will never understand why McLaren chose to gamble with race leader Hamilton. They say they didn't have the data, but made an early comittment to S.S, thus by definition was a gamble. Why would you do this with the lead driver with a 7.6sec lead? Sure Button caught up previous lap by 1.5 secs, but leaving Hamilton out for another lap would have meant Hamiltons lead was down to 6 seconds.

Is 6 sec something really to fret about? Its been many races now where the biggest gap a leader has built is ~3secs. Hamilton did well to be so far ahead, he was the best in wet and dry. The cushion was built but was not 'utilised' to his strategic advantage, which is wait and see what others are doing. Namely Vettel. That's what RBR have been doing with Vettel in the past races he won. Covering everyone off, not committing first.

Instead Hamilton was made to be the guinea pig and was the reference for others.


pallys, I 100% agree with you.

I have a feeling that mid-way through the race, somehow Mouthmarsh wanted to gift Jenson a victory.

I agree that Hamilton shot himself in the foot with his spin. However, the blunder was committed when Hamilton was fitted with SS tyre. Esp, when he was told before that he need to go long for 9 more laps.

Also, I agree with wayne that at some point McLaren should commit to one driver. Else, they are going to lose out on the Driver championship year after year.

Dan in Adelaide

Shame to see Ricciardo's name not on the chart. Looks like he did well to finish 18th ahead of Liuzzi in 20th


One key part of the strategy that we're missing out on is the engine mode / fuel mix aspect, which has become especially important with hot-blowing exhausts, where you can get extra-grip by using extra fuel. So when a driver reels off a series of ultra-quick laps like e.g. Hamilton at the beginning of his super-soft stints it may be that they are using the super-engine modes.

It's very difficult to get a handle on this, but my impression is that Hamilton's approach is to max out for as long as he can and then hang on to the end (cf. Silverstone) [1], whereas Button's is to take a more measured approach and make sure he's still got performance at the end. Similarly, to how they use their tyres (and, in fact, not dissimilar to their cornering styles).

As James points out, very interesting was how Button was, surprisingly, no slower than Hamilton on their third stints when Button was on softs and Hamilton on super-softs. Maybe Hamilton was already having to save fuel? (although given it was a wet race, maybe fuel was not an issue).

Also interesting was where Button was losing out to Hamilton when Hamilton was pulling away - if I remember right, it was mainly in sector 2, which is where all the twisty stuff is. Attacking that sector hard would likely cause the most tyre wear. So this was probably an illustration of the Button taking it easy on the tyres approach.

[1] Which in fact makes some sense - why carry the extra fuel around with you all the race if you can get the benefit without doing so? And, if you can get into clear air in the lead, you might as well do that sooner rather than later.


"As James points out, very interesting was how Button was, surprisingly, no slower than Hamilton on their third stints when Button was on softs and Hamilton on super-softs. Maybe Hamilton was already having to save fuel? (although given it was a wet race, maybe fuel was not an issue)."

Because it was a tyre limitation in the race with the track condition. It was the same with Alonso (S.S) who was slower than Webber on his softs.

As for tyre wear, look at the first stint lap times on super softs and see who wore them out was Button, who could not do Hamilton's lap times and pit first.

For those with autosport subscription, there is interesting analysis by Jonathan Noble. He says that had McLaren backed Hamilton, like RBR back Vettel and Ferrari Alonso, Hamilton would only be 29 points behing Vettel in the WDC. He concludes McLaren hurt themselves by letting Button take some points away from Hamilton.

While Hamilton is the bread-winner over the course of a season, button gets to nibble on that bread. Whereas at RBR and Ferrari, Webber and Massa are not given any bread to eat. This makes becoming a WDC in a McLaren car alot more difficult as they have 2 WDC's. It helps neither Hamilton or Button in their quest for another title.


Good points. There are also some races where Button is generally close to Hamilton on pace and this was one of them. He was on it all weekend and was close in qualifying

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