Complex decision making: A deep dive into race strategies from Italian Grand Prix
Strategy Report
Posted By: James Allen  |  13 Sep 2011   |  11:34 am GMT  |  90 comments

Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix was one of the best races of the season from the point of view of wheel to wheel combat.

But because of the unique nature of the Monza circuit, it also featured some fascinating decision-making by teams on race strategy, not just in terms of tyre strategy and pit stops, but also in terms of how to set up the cars, particularly wing level and gearing.

With top speeds reaching 350km/h, one of the key decisions was how to balance the use of the DRS wing (giving a 6-8km/h speed boost) while not hitting the rev limiter which is set at 18,000 rpm. How teams like Red Bull, McLaren and Mercedes in particular chose to tackle this had a huge bearing on the outcome of the race.

The battles at the front
It was widely known after qualifying that Sebastian Vettel had chosen to use a shorter top gear than his rivals. This gave him the advantage of a smoother acceleration out of corners like Lesmo and Parabolica, even if he was sacrificing top speed. It also allowed him to use the DRS exactly how he wanted to. Vettel was clocked at just 327km/h, the slowest of any driver and 22km/h off the fastest, but he was on pole by half a second, so the tactic worked.

But it made him vulnerable if he lost track position in the race as he would not have the top speed to overtake on the straights. When he fell behind Alonso at the start, he had to make a very bold move in the Curva Grande to pass him for the lead. He was then able to use his pace advantage to break the tow and pull away.

Meanwhile McLaren thought that they had got the balance right, but hadn’t counted on finding themselves behind Michael Schumacher, who had his car set for high top speed and proved very hard to pass after another fantastic start put him in the race at the front.

Schumacher qualified 8th, but got a great start, running third after the first corner, but dropping back behind Hamilton by the end of the lap. The safety car was deployed for the accident in Turn 1 and at the restart, Hamilton wasn’t sharp and Schumacher repassed him, staying ahead for the whole of the first stint. Mercedes pitted him on lap 16, putting him on the new set of softs that the team had saved in qualifying by doing only one run in Q3. Hamilton stayed out for two more laps to try to build a gap. His stop was 0.7s faster than Mercedes, but Mercedes tyre planning for the race paid off and on new tyres Schumacher was fast enough to stay ahead of Hamilton. Mercedes top speed without the DRS was equal to the McLaren’s top speed with DRS so Hamilton couldn’t get ahead.

After a warning from Race Control about blocking, in the end Schumacher lost the place by making a late upshift when the engine was on the limiter and this lost momentum and allowed Hamilton to pass.

In the battle for second place between Button and Alonso, the Ferrari driver had good pace on the soft tyre, but once again the Ferrari’s weakness on the first laps on the medium tyre cost him a position. Button came in on lap 33 and his outlap was 1.5 seconds faster than Alonso’s when he pitted a lap later. Button passed him on that lap. Button’s second lap on the tyre was a 1m 28.0, while Alonso’s was a 1m 29.3. This has now cost Alonso important positions in three races, including Germany, where he lost the lead to Hamilton is similar fashion to the way Button took him at Monza. Ferrari acknowledges it is a weakness they must address for 2012, as it holds them back strategically.

Mercedes thinking differently
Another important reason why Schumacher was able to compete at Monza was that the soft Pirelli tyre turned out to be more durable than expected. The blistering was not as bad as at Spa, due to strict camber levels imposed by Pirelli and enforced by the FIA. And the degradation was not as bad as in Friday practice because the track improved. Mercedes have struggled this season with wearing out the soft tyres more quickly than their rivals, but Schumacher was able to do 21 laps on his second set of softs.

Knowing that they didn’t have the speed to do better than 7th and 8th in qualifying, Mercedes strategists had been focussing on the plan for the race. To this end Rosberg had qualified on medium tyres, which meant that he fell behind Petrov and Schumacher, whom he would normally outqualify. The thinking behind Rosberg’s strategy was to avoid starting the race on blistered soft tyres, to run a long opening stint and then two fast stints on new soft tyres. Part of this was due to the fact that Mercedes had high degradation on the soft on Friday and also because the difference in lap time between the soft and medium wasn’t as great as at Spa. Here it was more like 0.7s to 1.2s, with Mercedes and Red Bull on the lower end of that.

Sadly we never got to see what Rosberg might have achieved as he was eliminated in the first corner accident. But it is worth noting that as the durability of the soft tyre was better than expected on race day, all Rosberg’s rivals were easily able to do the race in two stops only, so it’s unlikely that he would have finished higher than Schumacher did in fifth place.

Strategy brings midfielders strong results
Rosberg’s decision to start on mediums was not unique and caused a ripple effect. Senna did not set a time in Q3 so he could have the choice of which tyre to start on and sitting behind Rosberg on the grid he went for medium, reasoning that there was no point being on the faster tyre if Rosberg was going to be slower ahead of him in the opening stint on mediums. He lost five places in the opening lap chaos and pitted under the safety car on lap 2 to soft tyres and did a three stop strategy from there. Arguably he would have been better to stick with the original plan to run mediums and stop twice. It might have left him closer to Alguersuari in the middle stint.

But the Spaniard had great pace in that second stint and this set him up for his career best seventh place. His start was good, coming from 18th to 11th and because he had been eliminated in Q1, he had new tyres for the whole race. The Toro Rosso is very kind to its tyres, like the Sauber, and the general pattern seems to be that they qualify poorly but can race well. In previous years with durable Bridgestone tyres this would have led to no points, but they’ve played the Pirelli card very well.

Alguersuari’s result makes it seven consecutive races – and nine in total out of 13 – in which a driver eliminated in Q1 scores points.

It’s all down to strategy and this has been one of the most refreshing aspects of the 2011 season.

Behind Rosberg and Senna several drivers outside the top ten (and therefore able to choose their starting tyre), went for medium tyre too. These included both Saubers and Sutil, their target being to do the race in one stop only. Again, regretfully all three retired so we never got to see what they might have done.

Perez was looking very good, though. He made up seven places at the start to 10th and was running 8th in the opening stint, with Alguersuari. He was in a very good position with good pace on the medium tyre. When the Spaniard pitted on lap 20, Perez could have switched to a two stopper and come home just ahead of him in P7. But sadly the gearbox failed and he retired. This proved significant in the championship as it allowed Di Resta to score four points, which moved Force India into 6th place in the Constructors’ championship, ahead of Sauber.

The UBS Strategy Report is written by James Allen with input and data from strategy engineers from several F1 teams


Note Vettel’s pace after the restart on lap 4, which astonished rival teams. Note also the way Alonso’s pace drops off relative to the McLarens after switching to medium tyres on lap 34.

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Great piece, as usual. Apart from Rosberg's elimination, it's also a pity that Webber didn't get very far ; the best comparison with Vettel would have been his own team-mate with a different setup.

Incidentally, Mark says he didn't know the wing was under the car after his accident, which I can well believe. But why didn't his team tell him ??

mohamed south africa

i assume that the teams have a permanent video feed of both their cars


No they only have the world feed.


and we can watch in the comfort of our home , they have to watch on a pit wall...

ok RB and others have control centres back home .. but i bet they are a very busy / lots of information flying around ...type of place


I don't think they would have known either! The tv pictures didn't show it until the replay of his second incident.


After the incident with Massa, you can clearly see the wing stuck underneath the car... that was way before he went off into the wall and plenty of time to let Mark know.


Immediately following Webber's tangle with Massa, Vettel made that sensational pass on Alonso, which forced the world tv feed to concentrate on that battle instead. So the team wouldn't have seen anything regarding the damage. Mark finally left the circuit at the very moment the replays for his incident were showing.


Maybe they didn't know. As I recall it wasn't shown on the live feed until he had gone off - they then showed a replay.


I never understand why drivers elect to start on the harder tyre. Surely by the end of the race the track has evolved to the point where the harder tyre is not such a hindrance? Perhaps if you are piloting a RBR it might work as the car will still be fast enough on the harder tyre to overtake the back of the field on soft tyres, but otherwise......?


One feature countering that is that the heavy fuel hurts softer tyres more. It may also permit more time spent on softs, for both fuel and track reasons.

Also, being quick at the end makes overtaking easier as most rivals won't be.

Finally you can do what Senna did in response to an early safety car - being on the bad thee for far less time.

Personally I'm surprised the minnows (and Williams) don't do it more often.


Plus the harder tyre gives you less traction off the grid.

Maybe part of it is the issue of running in traffic early in the race. If you think your grid position will prevent you making full use of the soft tyres, it could be advantageous to save them for later when you have clear air.


Kimi - please come back to F1!


maybe his team did not know ! , as unless he drove past them , they only see what we do ...



I saw the wing get trapped on the BBC feed and was wondering why Webber wasn't limping back at walking pace. They must have seen it too.

You have to assume that either Webber was unwilling to loose too much time and was willing to take the risk, given that Vettel was shutting the door on the Championship- Or the team chose to risk it by staying quiet on the radio and avoiding a black flag.

If Webber and RB can race on blistered tyres and take Alonso on Eau Rouge, Crossing their fingers on a broken wing staying out of the way is no great leap.

If Webber took out someone else, surely there would be more questions asked.

Would a team have a code word for - "you should be black flagged so lets not talk about the damage?"


That's true, but they have all the readouts and 5 million computers and more camera angles than we get. He'd done Curva Grande and Ascari and both Lesmo's before he went off. Surely Mark's engineer was talking him all the way round, and telling him what was going on.

Wasn't he ?


Thinking back to watching the race I remembered seeing the in car footage from Mark's car heading down the back straight and thinking "he is going way to fast for a car with no front wing", hearing the engine and shifting it honestly sounded like he was going into parabolica as if he was still racing the other cars not limping back to pits with no front wing, and to be completely honest I think his off had nothing to do with the wing under the car because as you mentioned he had already taken a few corners before going off, I think he just got impatient trying to get back around and didn't slow down soon enough. He more or less admitted to that in the interview post race. Frankly he was quite lucky he found a slot between two cars when he speared off track because a few feet before or behind and he would have taken someone else off with him.


In the history graph, I understand that the gaps between the lines is the time on the track between drivers relative to each other, but does the 'time difference' axis actually mean? ie. what is Vettel between 0 and 100 seconds 'behind'?


Behind his average lap time pace. Car is slower at the start as it's heavy so lap times are below average. Safety car period also. Then later in the race he's faster than his average lap speed so graph rises.


Hi James,

Nice article.. very good read.

Regarding the chart, I'm not sure your explanation is correct. Based on what you wrote, Vettel was around 60 sec slower than the average lap time after his second stop. And, if the 0 is the average lap time, surely there should be some lap times above the 0 line. Also, Lap 1 shows that it is equal to the average lap (based on what you wrote) which seems completely off.

It seems like the graph is maping something calculated from the lap times, obviously, (inludimg the time in secs the following cars are behind) and the x axis seems to show when the fastest lap was set but not by whom(lap 52 set by Hamilton) as that's where vettel crosses the 0 line but never goes above it. Other than that, it's hard to say as the data is not shown. It stills shows some useful information about the race though.

Ofcouse, I could be completely wrong!



Gareth is right, if the zero line is the winner's average lap time, then the winner's trace must go above zero at some point.

No units are specified for the y-axis, time difference, so when Vettel is shown at -100 on lap 3, during the Safety Car period what does this refer to please?

Final question, the box on the right has various figures against drivers names, Vettel 20.35, Hamilton 18.34 etc. What is this telling us please?



Thanks to everyone for your replies, I get it now.



The y axis is time in seconds behind the fictional race pace that the leader would be setting if he lapped consistently at exactly the same time each lap (his average lap time for the actual race). That's why Vettel only hits zero at the end - because he's slower at the beginning of the race and his lap times come down, he falls way behind that notional pace like everyone else, and the line showing his actual race performance only catches up with the average at the end. iceman above explains why this is a useful way of doing it. (Can't reply to that comment, but thanks iceman).

The numbers after each driver's name are the laps they pitted.


Those numbers refer to the laps that the driver pitted on


steakbearnaise a few posts above has a good explanation.

Vettel finished in 1:20:46.172, over 53 laps that's an average pace of 01:31.437 per lap. If you imagine a car that came out and put down 01:31.437 laps from start to finish, that's the 0 line.

So on lap 3, after the safety car, Vettel would've been ~100 seconds behind that car. He closes the gap to ~68 seconds at lap 20, when he pits, and the gap increases to ~86 seconds. He closes the gap again until lap 35 when he pits for the second time, and finally catches back up at the finish line.

Given that the cars' pace typically get better over the course of the race I think it would be unusual to see anyone above the pace line. I suppose a safety car or botched pit stop late in the race could do it.

The numbers in the legend are the laps each driver made a pit stop.


To continue, units are given to y-axis, it's seconds (s).


The graph does not show lap times, it shows the difference to an imaginary car that drives every lap at the winners average lap time. In the beginning, all drivers are slower than that, so they fall behind, while later on they are faster than that, and start to catch up.

The numbers after the drivers names are the lap numbers of their pit stops, I believe.




Hi Martin, I am sure you have read above that the zero line is a hypothetical race in which the leader runs every lap at the same pace - his overall average. Every line below that represents how far each driver is behind this theoretical race (the vertical scale is in seconds), and they are typically below it because they start on a heavy fuel load and do their slowest laps first. If you look at the plot for the Spa race however they start out above the zero line because they were lapping relatively quickly, but then the safety car came out and dramatically slowed the field. As a result the average lap time was increased and was actually higher (ie. slower) than the lap times the drivers were posting in the first few laps. During the safety car period, in which they ran their slowest laps, they dropped below the zero line and in the faster post safety car laps worked their way back up to the zero line at the finish.

The numbers after each driver's name are the laps in which they made their pit stops.

I hope that made sense 🙂



your final question - it's the laps on which they pitted. you can see it on the graph when the time difference (how far back they are) from the average lap time increases.


Not true. the confusion is what the Lines on the graph represent. they are not actual race times, but a representation of how far behind they would be if there were a car on track doing the average lap time lap after lap.


It's the lap they did their pit stops Martin.


Understanding this chart is pure genetic predisposition. Like having blond hair or blue eyes.

Those who get is don't understand all the fuss. And those who don't get it never will.



Thank God I have blue eyes.


I think I've just finally understood this graph: so the 0 line at the top is where the race winner would be if he did each lap of the race at the same pace, and all the driver's lines below are the cumulative time gap behind that theoretical race pace that they are at any time during the race?

I could never understand before why the winner only tended to 0 at the end of the race if it was supposed to be an average. Can't believe Vettel has basically won the championship by the time I finally worked this out, despite me reading and enjoying each of these strategy analyses...


This confusion must happen after every race and the graph is put up.

The 0 line is the average lap time for the winner. In this case Vettel's.

The lines on the graph plot how far behind that average lap time each driver is at any point.

The winner of a grand prix always finishes at the same time as the "ghost" car because the "ghost" car's pace is based on the winner's average lap time.

Imagine a ghost car racing around the track doing the average time lap after lap for the whole race- no pitstops and not effected by safety cars, drive throughs etc.

Initially everyone falls behind because they are slower than this average lap time.

Gradually they begin to catch up because they get faster. Safety cars and pit stops etc put them further back.

On the graph above by the end of lap 3 they were 100s behind this "ghost" car because of the safety car. They then begin to close the gap as they are going faster than the average lap time until they pit. On lap 21 instead of being 70 seconds behind Vettel was 90s behind because of his pit stop. Vettel goes faster and faster until he crosses the finish line at the end of the race at the exact moment the "ghost" car does.


Spot on steakbearnaise


Exactly. I agree it isn't very intuitive. But it has advantages. If you plotted the gap to the leader (as we see on the timings shown on TV), you could see whether gaps are opening or closing, but you couldn't tell if it's because of the leader's pace changing or the follower's. A straightforward lap time plot would tell you who had what pace at each stage, but wouldn't give you any idea of the gaps. This plot manages to illustrate both - gaps on the vertical scale and pace by the slope of the line.


I still don't quite understand these graphs, either.

Does each value on the line represent the driver's average lap in the race up to that point?

If it was plotting each individual lap time against the leader's average for the race, surely the front runners would be above the zero line at various points in the race.


The lines on the graphs never go above 0, meaning that they do not go above the average lap time. This cannot be right. If they are below the average lap time for some of the race, they must be above the average lap time for the rest of the race. It looks to me that the 0 line is the fastest lap, not the average lap time.


No it is the average, Well its the race winners average. The way I think of it is to imagine a "ghost car" that does the average lap time for the whole race, at the start of the race the f1 cars will be slower (high fuel load) so fall behind the ghost car (in this particular race the effect is compounded by the safety car). When the lines start to slope up at around lap 5 that means that they are catching up on the ghost car (i.e. lapping faster than Vettels average lap time).

You cant cross the zero line because it is impossible to go faster than the winners average lap time which of course is the winners (therefore shortest) race time divided by the number of laps. That is why Vettels line reaches zero right at the end.

I know what you mean, its confusing that people clearly go faster than the average lap time for some of the race but never cross the zero line, but what you have to appreciate is that this graph is based on the total race and takes account of the cars going slower and faster than the average time. When the lines slope up at the right it means they are faster than the average time, and if they slope down at the right it means they are slower than the average time. Hope this helps 🙂


how about alonso being 2nd in the championship again this year. makes me think he is the only one who can beat vettel over a season now.


James, not sure what you mean by Vettel's shorter top gear allowing him to use DRS exactly as he wanted to. Would have thought it would negate the effect of DRS as he would be hiiting the limiter. Could you elaborate please?


From what little I understood about the matter, a shorter gearset will, as James mentioned, allow him to put the power down more smoothly accelerating out of a corner allowing him to use the DRS on corner exit sooner without a big power surge from a taller gear causing a spin. In qualifying where DRS is used everywhere he probably knew he could use it to extract more pace from the car in quali trim to get on pole and then assuming he could stay in P1 he wouldnt ever need his DRS anyways and the shorter gear would allow him quicker acceleration out of a corner to break a tow making the lower top speed a non-issue, similar to how he held Hamilton at bay in Spain as he got out of the last corner fast enough where Hamilton couldnt run him down on the pit straight. He almost got made to look like a huge fool though when Alonso snuck around at the start and hence it being a huge pass that he pulled on Alonso to gain the lead back, and what I find most impressive was how quickly he put 1 second between them before the DRS was reactivated 1-2 laps after he got around. The rest, as they say, was history... what a great race!


I don't think activating DRS on corner exit will make much difference because at that point the car's speed is still (relatively) low. The DRS effect surely is most pronounced at much higher speeds where drag reduction is most significant. And it is precisely at these speeds that Vettel's shorter gearing would have crippled his ability to derive any benefit from DRS.

I can understand RBR's logic if their calculations showed that the improved acceleration from the short gearing would more than offset the loss of top speed and inability to maximise the DRS effect. What I don't understand is James' statement that the shorter gearing allowed Vettel to use DRS exactly as he wanted to.


Great article James. Just to add to Schmacher missing the gear and letting Hamilton through, Ross Brawn says he was distracted because he was on the radio at the time. Wonder how long Schumi might have kept Hamilton there if didn't missed the gear.


Interesting.The graph is very graphic re Vettel's pace,"he killed em (2010-2011 WDC)"!

As for my foot shooting team McLaren,"sheezus guys,wouldn't an extra tooth on LH's top cog have made a world of difference,I mean its easy for me to say in hindsight but aren't you mechanics paid to know what the required gear ratio is to avoid stuttering down the pit straight bouncing off the limiter,without even touching the DRS button.

Quite amateurish IMO.Hurry back Ron.


No doubt Lewis' chosen ratio was shown to be 'mathematically superior' by some simulation or other...


The strategy was a good one, ruined by a muffed start.

If he hadn't had the bad start and got stuck behind Schumacher, it would have probably been good enough for 2nd, or at worst 3rd place.


I believe part of it (from what was mentioned somewhere a the beginning of the race I think) is that Hamilton's car was setup for the RBs (and they would have a good idea on Friday and Saturday morning what the RB plan was wrt gear ratio) and the lower ratios would've helped him keep up coming out of the corners and still keep up.

The ratio Hamilton had allowed a quicker off-the-corner speed (which the Merc didn't have, but made up for farther down the straights).


Yes looked as if Hamilton was setup for a bull hunt. But i think it was not only Schumi's not punishable blocking. Hamilton looked as if he was doing a overtake thinking he had the faster car, which he obviously didn't had. Trying to overtake on the outside demands a faster car because of the longer way. He hadn't the faster car compared to Schumi and should have tried the inside?

Was he just not experienced enough with slow cars (well just compared to a Merc in this race) in difference to Button. So good drivers should have had a saison with slow cars?


Good analysis James.

During the race we saw a lot of footage from inside Hamiltons car and could hear him bouncing off the limiter on the pit straight. It is something we saw lap after lap for maybe 5 or 6 laps while he was stuck behind Schumi.

We didn't, as far as I remember, see much from the inside of Jenson's car, for comparison.

Basically, I am wondering if Jenson had the same issues Hamilton did, or whether they'd given him a longer top gear than they had Hamilton (not suggesting any conspiracy - may well have been driver preference as at Red Bull!). He got passed Schumi instantly in a great move, but it makes me wonder why Hamilton struggled where Button succeeded.

Was it simply a great move from Button following perhaps a slight mistake from Schumacher, all coming together at the right time for Jenson - or did he have a slightly different setup that gave him a slight advantage in that scenario?


I reckon two factors helped Button past Schumacher. First, he preserved his tyres more in the first few laps so had more grip when he got up behind Schumacher. Second, he'd had the opportunity to watch Schumacher defending against Hamilton, which maybe helped him anticipate where Schumacher would go on the approach to Ascari.

The two McLarens both went through the speed trap at about 333kph, in qualifying and the race. Button just faster by 0.5kph in qualy and 0.2kph in the race.


Thanks iceman - just the answer I was looking for 🙂


Even more importantly, Schumi's pace was compromised by his attempt to run Lewis off the track, so Jenson was able to get a run on him into the chicane.

I previously wondered whether Jenson's setup was significantly different, but his comments after the race regarding how he was able to pass, and your stats on the relative speeds of the Mclarens show that he just had better luck than Lewis that day, admittedly allied to probably slightly better racecraft.


After the Monza race, it dawned on me that the belief that Mclaren has had the faster race car isn't exactly accurate.

Red Bull has been the all round package since the season began. It has been fast on every track & more importantly it has been dominant in qualifying + as a bonus, it has been pretty bullet proof.

The thing is since the hard tyre is used by teams at the end of the stint - towards the end of the race & Mclaren have been fast on those, it has given the impression that Mclaren has been the faster race car as they have been able to set faster times on low fuel.

And yet on heavier fuel but on the soft tyre, Mclaren is slower than both Ferrari & Red Bull, which has enabled Vettel to build a gap early in the race while the Mclaren lads are crashing behind trying to get past other cars due to lower grid slots because surprise-surprise, even in 2011, pole position is still critical.


I'm curious whether both McLarens had the same gearing. Although I was not able to see the whole race, from what I viewed I did not recall Button bouncing off the rev limiter aka Hamilton.


This could be because he wasn't in the slipstream of a car in front going down the main straight.

Hamilton was close enough to Schumi without DRS to be in the slipstream. Time and again he would pull up behind on the main straight in the slipstream, step out from behind Schumacher come half alongside before fading back again as the Merc had so much straightline speed.

Incidentally I thought Hamilton could have been a little smarter with the DRS. It seemed he stepped out from behind Schumi before the DRS line, thus losing the slip, and then once he was already losing ground opened the DRS. He seemed to do this a few times.

Would it have been better to be a little further back leaving the parabolica, use the KERS, DRS and slipstream in conjunction to propel him up to and past Schumi, or at least alongside, into the braking zone?


As per comment above, their speed trap figures were practically identical.


James I don't know how you managed to create this report in one day. Get all the information that you need and then analyze it.

Such an excellent work.

Great race and we don't care anymore to know who is first in the race because we all know that.

Good overtaking and a very entertaining race.

Grayzee (Australia)

Great read, again.

Ok! I'm confused. Monza is supposed to be all about top speed, so how can the car with slowest top speed be so much faster than all the others? I understand how it worked in Qualy, but the race? Is it to do with downforce(he wasn't running much wing) or with pure acceleration? It seems to defy logic that a car that tops out at 327kph can be quicker over a whole lap than one that does 340kph. And, given that the strategy worked, why didn't anyone else do it? Or would it only work with the Red Bull car? I dunno. Please help !


"It seems to defy logic that a car that tops out at 327kph can be quicker over a whole lap than one that does 340kph"

You're only looking at one point of reference, which is the speed trap at the end of the longest straight. As Aaron says, you need to consider the rest of the lap or take average speed to show who really is the quickest and not necessarily the fastest 😉

I have to admit that I'm not the biggest Red Bull Racing fan, but I've become more impressed as time goes on with their thinking outside the box approach. Running the shorter ratios here and at Barcelona was inspired and they fully deserve to win this year’s World Championships.

It's only a shame that this won't be picked up more in the general F1 press. Had it have been a third pedal or an F duct, we wouldn't hear the end of it, but adopting a different strategy and concept has really paid dividends, just as the rest of the RB7 has been brilliant.


Exactly. The lap time gain from a smoother acceleration out of the fast corners outweighs the top speed they hit for a few moments later on the straight. It's only a problem when you are behind a faster car in a straight line, as Hamilton was with Schumacher


Its a bit like drag racing, the car with the highest terminal speed is not always the quickest over the 1/4 mile.

Grayzee (Australia)

Thanks Guys! Now I understand. It was pure ingenuity on RB's part. Thinking "outside" the box is pretty rare these days.


faster through Ascari, parabolica, lesmos, curva grande and the chicane at the end of the main straight. faster acceleration, stronger braking. I guess it must all add up!


You're right he wasn't running a lot of wing, so I guess it was down to gearing for optimum acceleration. I think that set-up could have only worked for Vettel, based on the plan of running away at the front and never having to fight with anyone. Everyone else had to make sure they had enough top speed to attack or defend.


Strategy or set-up? Red Bull aced them both on Sunday.

I’ve always thought that wings, ratios and basic suspension geometry are very similar across the teams. Very interesting to see that is not always the case.


do you think the mclarens could have given Seb a run for his money if they had their starting position after the first few laps?


Hamilton's pace in the last 14 laps relative to his peers was phenomenal. Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed watching Schumacher hold him at bay, I can't help thinking that the race and potentially championship would have been more exciting if Hamilton hadn't been caught with his trousers around his ankles after the restart. But let's not forget that IF is F1 backwards as Murray used to say.


Hamilton and Button matched each other, virtually to the tenth, over the last 14 laps.


James, what happened around the last stops that meant Schumacher exited the pits close to Hamilton? I would have thought that the earlier stop and faster car would have put Hamilton further ahead.

Was this down to the difference between the soft and medium tyres do you think?


I also thought that it was odd that Mark didn't know about the wing being under the car. You would have thought that he would have been told to slow right down so that he could have still made the chequered flag and some points.


Mclaren opted again for a higher downforce set-up like what they had at spa. Yes they are quick but in my observation they suffer massively on a heavy fuel load at the start. More downforce + full(heavy)fuel load they suffer with top speed in circuits like spa and monza.

But in the middle of the race they seem to make it work since the fuel goes down which helps their top speed. Maybe they should tweak it a bit so they wouldn’t suffer at the start? just like vettel's gear ratio strategy.

Whitmarsh said mclaren was fastest Yes they were fast, but to be fast at the last segment of the race is good but at some point it would be hard to catch the leader if he was able to pull a gap during the first half or 3/4 of the race?



Do we know what the difference in the top gear ratio between Vettel and the other front runners?


Hi James,

Been musing about the different gear ratios that Vettel used, and the advantages vs disadvantages the strategy had.

My understanding is that the only advantage would be quicker acceleration (more time within the peak torque/power band), at the expense of top-end speed (due to the rev limiter).

With the overall understanding that according to Red Bull's simulations, the extra acceleration from the start and after corners would more than made up for the lack of top speed at the end of the straights, over the full race distance.

It also helps that the top-speed would only come up perhaps 2 times per lap (the main straights), whereas the acceleration could be used 6 times per lap (after every corner = 3 chicanes, 2 Lesmos, Parabolica).

In terms of passing, this would mean that Vettel would have reached a certain speed earlier than his rivals, meaning a speed advantage on the early parts of straights and on parts of the track where the top speed is not reached.

Could this quicker acceleration have been the reason for his easy pass on Alonso?

It would have meant it was easier to pass on Curva Grande, coming up to Ascari etc. It also would have meant he would be able to drive away from rivals initially on the straight, though would have been a sitting duck at the end if the rival was still close enough.

This extra acceleration was also in conjunction with the good downforce and traction of the Red Bull - the gearing was not the only strength - which would also have given him a gap out of Ascari (where he seemed to make up all his time in Qualifying on Hamilton) leading up to the straight.

I also assume that with full tanks at the start of the race, the lack of absolute topspeed was less of an issue than in qualifying with empty tanks as it is harder and takes longer to reach max speed. The extra acceleration with full tanks would also have been more useful. Is this one reason why he seemed so quick in the first stint of the race?

Would this have meant that the other cars would have likely been a closer match in absolute lap times at the end?

The strategy was then essentially to run & hide, build an advantage using the acceleration early (not missing the top speed so much as yet), stay out of traffic/trouble, not let a car get close enough for DRS, keep managing the gap to the finish.

Was the only reason the strategy worked because they were on pole? Or because of the combination of strengths of the Red Bull? Or because Vettel was in imperious form? Or did their rivals miss a trick? Or did they all combine?

Anyways, prob enough about that...


I think you've got a pretty good handle on it Vinwah. That's why Seb was so eager to get past Alonso after the restart.


Can somebody explain to me, how is this possible that EVERYBODY, I mean engineers were so sure that the decision that RBR took with Vettel was wrong and yet he completely destroyed the field?


Vettel is in a totally different level completely, thought his straight line speed was hampered with his set up. Gotta be his unique driving style not just the car. Vettel is the new Senna I guess.


Isn't it amusing how Schumacher could get away with what he did! I'm sure if James had committed a crime and was seen doing it by the police that even though his mommy pinched him on the ear and scolded him for the police to see that he would still have been charged for that crime!!! I remember LH being given a drive through for forcing a driver off track in Hungary and a reprimand for moving more than once in the braking zone earlier....ever consistent stewardry?...


Hello James, it did cross my mind at the time but I did not pursue it any further, but according to Martin Brundle this was the first time since the 1970 Mexican Grand Prix, that 5 World Champions have filled the top 5 positions.


Actually, I have just checked the results for this race and it couldn't have been. Any suggestions as to what race it could have been; if ever?


At one point in the race the 5 world champions were in the first 5 positions, I think that was what Martin was commenting on. I suspect it will have been the first time that's happened. I can't of any other race this year - Schumacher has not been in the top 5 very often, and non-champion Webber has. The South African and Spanish GPs of 1970 are a couple of others where it might have been a possibility.


I do a bit hard to remember, but the graphs can go above the 0-line at rain or savety cars.

Imagine a race starting at sun, then rain and ending with savety car.

So the first part of the race would have better lap times than the average for the whole race. I think i saw such 'positive' graphs a few times?


Yes Monaco with the late stoppage would be an example.

A similar plot from back in the refuelling days would also be likely to go above 0 as lap times remained fairly even through the race.


Hi James,

Very good article, but please, please put the speeds down in MPH as we are British and. I presume, this is a British web site!



It's easier to multiply (estimate) by 1.6 than to divide. So James, please keep it at KPH. Thanks!


60% of the audience is international


But as we are the 60% and British or English speakers , why should we have to do a conversion? Let the other nationalities do it or better still, put both down if it's not too difficult!



how about alonso being 2nd in the championship again this year.


hard to believe this was back in? 2010

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