What might have been: A deep dive into race strategies from Korean Grand Prix
Strategy Report
Posted By: James Allen  |  18 Oct 2011   |  3:11 pm GMT  |  130 comments

The Korean Grand Prix was a fascinating race from a strategy point of view, with many talking points and there have been lots of questions from fans about whether Mark Webber could have won the race if he hadn’t pitted at the same time as Lewis Hamilton or whether Fernando Alonso could have got on the podium if he’d been released from behind Felipe Massa, as he was in Suzuka. Hopefully the answers are all here.

This was one of those races where strategy was always going to be decisive, but where it was vital to be flexible and adaptable.

As soon as Pirelli announced its very aggressive tyre choice for the weekend, bringing the two softest compounds to a track with quite a few high energy corners, all the strategy engineers realised that they were up against it. Throw in rain all day Friday meaning that there was almost no data on tyre wear on long runs and it really was a voyage into the unknown.

Pirelli brought the soft / super-soft compound pairing (usually used on slow street circuits) because they were worried about the graining evident on the Bridgestones last year. The soft tyre this weekend was between 0.8s and 1s per lap slower than the super-soft.

There were several tactics at play in qualifying with Red Bull saving sets of soft tyres for the race, while Ferrari and McLaren prioritised saving supersofts.

In the end the supersoft turned out to be a far more durable race tyre than expected and pre race predictions of three or four stops were revised as the race went on and strategists and drivers were thinking on their feet. A Safety Car one third of the way through the race – one of several this year happening at this critical juncture of the race after the first pit stops – again changed the game for several drivers. The four-lap Safety Car period (laps 16 – 20) helped to conserve tyres and 18 of the 21 finishers ended up doing two stops.

Vettel changes plans and still wins the race

After losing out to Lewis Hamilton in qualifying, Vettel knew he needed to pass the McLaren early in the first stint. He muscled his way past on the opening lap and was never really tested after that in the race. He was able to use his car pace advantage to open a 1 second gap over Lewis Hamilton on the opening lap and that gap was out to 4.7s by the time Hamilton pitted on lap 15.

Vettel had saved sets of soft tyres, thinking they would be the tyre of choice for the race. But having managed 16 laps on the used supersofts, the team switched plans and put him on the same tyre again for the second stint, this time lasting 18 laps. This took him to the window for putting on a set of softs and going to the finish on a two stop plan, one less than pre-race predictions.

After the Safety Car appeared on lap 16, giving Vettel a ‘free’ pitstop and fresher tyres, Hamilton had to turn his attention to Mark Webber behind, who was particularly quick on the prime tyre. Vettel cruised to victory, the winning margin over Hamilton 12s.

Could Mark Webber have won the race if Red Bull hadn’t pitted him with Hamilton?

One of the real talking points of this race was the decision by Red Bull to pit third place Mark Webber on the same lap as Lewis Hamilton (lap 33) when Webber, running on soft tyres, was faster than the Englishman on supersofts.

Why did Webber make his final pitstop on the same lap as Hamilton, when he’d radioed the team to say his primes were holding out okay? He was very frustrated after the race,

“I think at the second stop we did the worst thing,” he said. “We didn’t stop before or stop after [Hamilton], we stopped on the same lap. That was disappointing as clearly we had some good pace to pull away from Lewis.”

Webber had caught Hamilton who was due a stop. By lap 32 Hamilton’s lap times had dropped off by a second a lap. Webber had been sitting behind him since lap 27 and as the car behind had the tactical advantage of being able to stop first without Hamilton being able to react and cover him. With Red Bull having the fastest pit work, it is likely that had Webber dived into the pits on lap 32 he would have undercut Hamilton as he had a car pace advantage of 0.5 secs over the McLaren plus the out lap on new soft tyres was substantially faster than Hamilton managed on lap 33 on used supersofts (his in-lap).

However staying out a lap longer would not have done the job, as even with a car pace advantage believed to be 0.5s/lap over the McLaren, Hamilton’s new tyres would more than offset that advantage.

As for passing Vettel in the undercut, Webber was quick to point out after the race that Vettel’s lap times (lap 31: 1:42.433s; lap 32: 1:42.281s; lap 33: 1:42.044s) were still getting quicker at this stage of the race, so he would not have jumped his team mate. Red Bull cannot therefore be accused of trying to stop him from winning. However they probably did lose him a second place by not stopping him before Hamilton.

Red Bull were cagey after the race (and keener to talk about the big picture of their constructors’ championship success) but it’s likely that the team thought that Webber had taken more out his tyres than Seb, due to his scrapping with Lewis. So they didn’t think he’d lap significantly faster in clear air.

It is also possible that Red Bull fancied their chances of winning a “pitstop race” with McLaren under pressure, given their track record this season (as highlighted in my pre-race UBS Strategy Briefing). Sadly for them that’s one race they lost this time.

Either way, it failed and Webber ended up staying behind Hamilton.

Could Alonso have finished second?
The Ferrari with its experimental front wing, was slow in qualifying, but Fernando Alonso was very fast on the soft tyre in the race. He spent the opening 34 laps stuck behind his team-mate Felipe Massa, costing him about 0.5s per lap if you compare their lap times when Fernando was in clear air, having jumped Massa in the pit stops, from lap 38 onwards.

After making his second stop on lap 37, Alonso was seven seconds behind Button, yet that gap was down to one second within 10 laps. All of the leading cars ran the same new soft tyres in the final stint and they set similar lap times, but Alonso had exceptional pace on the tyre.

Although he said after the race that he did not lose time behind Massa, it is very clear therefore that had Alonso been closer to Button at the second pitstops, he could have got the undercut and challenged Webber and Hamilton. His radio message, “I give up” at the end of the race, was a clear message to Ferrari’s management, which he rowed back from in the past race interviews.

Rosberg’s heroic efforts to stave off Alguersuari
Nico Rosberg did a phenomenal job to do 28 laps – four laps longer than anyone else – on the soft tyres for his final stint. It was a surprise to see any car – and particularly a Mercedes – last that long.

His opening stint was 13 laps on used supersofts. What wrecked his race was that he only did 14 laps – four of which were behind the Safety Car – on a new set of soft tyres for his second stint because he was forced to pit early after flat-spotting this new set while scrapping with Massa.

Although he kept soldiering on near the end, the tyres were finished and he was passed on the final lap by Jaime Alguersuari for seventh place.

One third distance safety cars becoming a trend

This year we have seen quite a few Safety Cars deployed at one-third race distance. These favour the drivers running the longer opening stints. The ones that started on the soft tyres and ‘going long’ were Adrian Sutil, Pastor Maldonado and Sergio Perez, and they all benefited from the Safety Car. Jaime Alguersuari was running the supersoft tyre but hadn’t stopped either so his tyre performance and pace was very impressive and he benefitted from the Safety Car.

Toro Rosso’s low tyre wear and very high straight-line speeds were the two biggest factors behind Alguersuari and Buemi finishing in the points. They were first and second fastest through the speed trap in the race (Buemi 320.6kph, Alg 320.5kph), whereas Vettel was just 14th fastest (312.9kph). They were also first and second fastest in sector 1 (Alg 35.0s, Bue 35.1s, Vet 35.6s).

Buemi did the longest stint of anyone on the option tyre in the final stint. He pitted for options on lap 36 and his final lap of the race was 1.5s slower than team-mate Alguersuari on the primes.

Why did some drivers run out of fuel?
Rosberg and Alonso ran out of fuel on the slow-down lap in Korea, and Button had a similar problem at Suzuka. It begs the question, why? Four laps behind the Safety Car at Yeongam should have given the teams ample opportunity to save fuel.

It appears it’s down to the teams being a lot more aggressive with their fuel tank sizes this year and the need to use aggressive engine modes at the start and re-starts.

THe UBS Strategy Report and Briefing is prepared by James Allen with input from strategists from several F1 teams.

This is a graph representation of the Race History sheet showing the gaps behind the leader and the leaders’s own performance relative to his average lap time.

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I think that while Alonso was fast late in the race, it doesn't mean that he was that fast the entire time.

For example, how could Massa pull out a 2 second gap within a couple of laps after getting past Rosberg if Alonso was so much faster?

Also, Massa's pace in the final stint, while slower than Alonso, was still equal to the 2nd/3rd/4th battle, so we could've had a 5 way battle for 2nd if Ferrari hadn't lost time in their first pitstops, due to Massa's delay in the stop and Alonso having to do a few laps on tyres over the cliff.


Alonso was faster after the second pit stop because his tyres were more fresh than the others. The fuel level was going down. And Hamilton was holding up at the front apparently with marbles stuck in his front wing. That is why Alonso could catch up with the pack. Other than that he was not particularly any faster.

I can't remember which tyres Alonso used for the second stint, but for Massa it was super soft, soft and soft.


Exactly. Alonso himself does not consider to have been held up by Massa and admits that his tires came alive only in the third stint:



Of course he says that because he knows he has to protect the team. But look at his pace again in the 3rd stint on the graph below.He was on the same tyres in the second stint..


Hi Rodrigo, I just saw your message, hopefully you will get this reply.

Basically, mid-race, Ferrari turned down the engines of both cars, and then turned up Alonso's engine without telling Massa. So then it made their argument that Alonso was faster more convincing.

It was revealed in the FIA report commissioned for the WMSC hearing. Here's a source that quotes the relevant parts of the report.


Rodrigo Visconti


i did not know about this engine mapping thing at Hockenheim 2010. Could you please tell us more about this?

Also, i agree with you: how could Massa pull a gap over Alonso if he was so much faster?

Thank you.


OK, but as I said above, how could Massa pull a gap over Alonso if he was so much faster?

Also, we should not completely rule out that Ferrari may have been playing with the engine mapping systems of their drivers during the race, just as they did at Hockenheim 2010 to make it seem as though Alonso was faster.

Warren Groenewald

Is it possible that the new wing on Alonso's car is more sensitive to turbulence than the old, and may be a reason why he wasn't all over Massa's gearbox as we've seen in previous races where he has ended up behind for some reason?

There have been a few theories thrown around various forums that the Red Bull is more sensitive to turbulent air than the Ferrari or McLaren, so copying the RBR style wing might lead to a similar "problem" for Ferrari.


Yes, but the fuel load was lighter. Actually, fuel corrected in comparison with the second stint, I make Massa slow in the third stint rather than Alonso fast.

Massa's pace on new tyres was about as fast as Alonso's fast laps before his stop, The reason Alonso got past was that Massa lost a full three seconds on the out lap. I'd be interested to know if you know why.


Alonso's fast compared to everyone in that stint


I agree.

Notice that when Petrov hit Schumacher there was a Ferrari behind? All three had stopped, so how did Alonso end up behind people he was more than 10s ahead of before the pitstops?

If you look at James' race history chart you'll see that the red curves bend over massively before the stops (as ed24f1 says - the cliff). Alonso lost 4s on the lap Massa stopped and 5s on his in-lap. By removing two cars in front of him and bringing out the safety car (closing the now 8s gap to Rosberg who he was 2.5s ahead of on lap 11), Petrov did him a massive favour. They got away with that one.


Petrov's banzai move into Schuey left me wondering whether teams ever demand payment for the destruction of their cars after such stupidity


I really think that massa was slower than alonso and there should have been team orders


Dave - I'm not sure Alonso's line at that corner was due to missing the braking point.

I suspect he was swinging wide to get out of the way of the aftermath of Petrov's screw-up.


Not only Petrov. Alonso outbreaked himself as well and was lucky he was on the outside.


Alonso may have been fuel saving at that point in the race. Similarly, Massa may have been doing so later in the race. I don't see any evidence that Alonso was driving with tyres that had gone over the cliff, especially given he set two or three fastest laps in the laps immediately before his pitstop.


I am talking about the first stint when I mention the cliff. Alonso lost 1.6 seconds to Massa on the first two sectors of Massa's inlap, and had a slow inlap of his own.

Just like Singapore, Massa seems better at preserving the super soft tyres at the start of the race - or perhaps he uses less of the tyres in qualifying.


Once again a fantastic analysis James. Thanks for that.

But Massa did a better job in qualifying and Alonso couldn't overtake him on the track. That is his weakness. Alonso should not expect Massa to move over everytime he is behind him. Clearly Massa is not up to the job. If Ferrari wants to win any races or championship next year, then they need to think about this very carefully. It is still not too late.


"Coulthard also thinks that Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso could be a good benchmark for Vettel if he gets a competitive car.

"Alonso won two championships when Michael [Schumacher] was in his prime. Since then the car has not quite been there but once it is he will be very hard to beat. All you can do, if you look at the history of the sport, you need a reference to another driver".


I wonder why Coulthard thinks Fernando is the benchmark in the sport.

It's obvious that Fernando was very fast during the race and the points are given on Sunday, not Saturday. Besides Alonso has outqualified Massa this year more times than the other way around.


so your telling me alonso cannot overtake. pretty obviously you have not seen susuka 2005 when alonso pulled off atleast 2 stunning overtakes. thats just one example. heidfeld at magny cours in 07 would be another one.


2005 is a long time ago

Rodrigo Visconti

He is just unmotivated. The championship is over. The championship is over. And frankly, this fight for second place is ridiculous.As Senna used to say, second is the first to lose.


Alonso has not been looking so good of late... yes, he does not have the fastest car, but Massa has beat him in qualy 4 of last 5 races if i am right. I always took him as 110% always but it is clear he is not killing himself right now to do well


If he aint looking good then everyone apart from Vettel STINKS this season. Actually scrap that, lets agree, to save valuable time posting in Alonso's defence, that from next race onwards, Felipe Massa was sabotaged by his own team in the following senarios....

1/ Alonso qualifies in front of Massa

2/ Passes Massa on track.

3/ Passes Massa in the pits.

4/ Lewis crashing into Massa


Massa outqualified Alonso 4 times in the last 6 races if I'm not mistaken, but how many times did he finished in front of Alonso in the race?

Yeah, I thought so..


You are quoting 2005 and 2007. Solid drives by Alonso but nothing really sensational. Surely, he might have attempted to over-take Massa (apart from relying on a pit stop). For that reason it seems that Alonso is not living up to the hype.


Look man I am hated Alonso, at least in the past, but if you are not impressed I don't know who is. He is a very calm and calculative, prost like dricer which is why I wasn't too keen in the first place. But he does a very good job. Many people worked so hard on that car. He knows he can't take huge risks binning the car unlike certain driver. And that's why his results are good considering his car.

And I am tired of people saying Vettel or Alonso can't overtake. You dont win two championships if you don't know how to overtake man. Surely they are not as spectecular as Lewis and may be it is one of the reasons why they had two world titles.


"seriously the lack of knowledge some guys have on f1 is scary"

If one happens to disgree with your opinion does not mean they have less knowledge on F1....we don't all share your devotion to Fernando Alonso.


@ DAMIEN J....... Thank you for giving me the opportunity to use ROFL to describe what i was doing when i read your post. Seriously Alonso is one lucky guy. In terms of somehow getting a drive with Minardi as a 19 year old even though Spain had no F1 culture back when he was a youngster and that hes been in F1 now for 10 years without hurting himself or another driver. Here the luck stops and talent, hard work and a single mindedness to be the best comes into the equation. Hes won 2 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS, missed out in 2007 by 1 point, somehow dragged last years championship to the last round and almost won, was the youngest single and double world champion, is the highest paid driver on the grid, a 5 year Ferrari contract (from memory those long term ones dont get handed out to often at Ferrari), consistently rated by most as the best driver on the grid, DOESNT HIT ANYONE WHEN HE OVERTAKES....and is really good at card tricks. C'MON DUDE, SERIOUSLY....good night


so going around the outside of michael schumacher into the 130r corner at 204mph is not sensational. you are hard to impress mate. seriously the lack of knowledge some guys have on f1 is scary. alonso hasnt even had a car anywere near the best for 4 years either, wait till he gets his hands on a good car again.


To be honest, Alonso has not impressed me and I don't think Heidfeld was a strong driver.

Massa had problems during both of his pit stops in Korea which cost him time. Otherwise Alonso would have been sat behind Massa till end of the race.


I thought I was reading another Vettel bashing comment.

Oh wait, it must be another Hamilton bashing comment.

I'm mistaken, it is actually a Button bashing comment.

Hold on, I think it's another conspiracy against Webber comment.

Now I get it. Today we are bashing Alonso!

When all is said an done, I think Jaime Alguersuari will end up being the people's choice for the "best driver in the world" fan opinion poll.


Ive never posted, emailed or texted and abbreviated saying (for want of a better description!!) However this post by ROB NEWMAN had me ROFL.... and it goes without saying i nearly PMP


Ok ... I give up ... I give up ...!!


No-one gets past the Massa chicane cheaply. Webber and Hamilton have lost out big time. Alonso is probably wise to that now. He used to be a great driver and a nice person. Now he is neither. Not sure if it was the head injury or losing to Hamilton in Brazil..... either way he needs to see a shrink or quit


Alonso won't risk overtaking his teammate & having both of them crash out. Look at what happens when Lewis & Felipe tangle.

He tries to make moves on Massa, only to have the door rudely shut on him. I think that Alonso doesn't trust Massa & won't risk racing him too hard. Better to finish 4th than not to finish at all.

I'm one of those guys who thinks racing is a team sport & whichever driver is faster should have the support of the team, including the other driver - Massa does not have this opinion IMHO.


well then i think you are following the wrong sport if you are not impressed with fernando alonso. i think quite frankly that is one of the most rediculous statements i have ever read in my life.


Excellent article particularly in answering the Webber & Alonso questions.

On the Webber situation even if he would not have made up the time by staying out longer than Hamilton he could have had a couple laps fresher tyres to attack later when he caught him up after the stop.

Massa is already damaged goods with the way Ferrari have treated him since Alonso arrived so its good to see at least one race were they don't demoralize him.


I was thinking this too, although in hindsight this may have caused Webber to come under pressure from Button who I think was only around 5 seconds behind. From Webber's point of view probably worth the gamble (hence him being a bit annoyed in the press conference) - but the team were probably more interested in ensuring they wrapped up the constructors'.


Don't understand why Mark came in behind Lewis. All he had to do was stay out and drive like hell for another lap, and pretend he was baulked or something. What did he have to lose ?


Vettel and Hamilton had pulled away from the others before the SC - that needs to be mentioned re. Webber - i.e. the SC brought him back in touch with LH, and without the SC the pitstop second-guessing wouldn't even be going on..


MW running in clear air, would have caught LH soon enough and would have had two or three laps less sucking his exhaust pipe.


Is that THE Ian Hislop ?


Great point over-looked by the "Alonso could have won" believers....


Why did Perez make a stop right near the end? From the graph it looks like it cost him a place.


He was losing time hand over fist, so it was better (and safer) to pit for fresh tyres rather than end up losing as much as 10 seconds a lap and losing the places anyway or, indeed, sticking it in the wall.


I saw picture of his tyres that he changed.

I am no tyre expert but I know when you see fabric it's not good.


massive flat spot caused by locked wheel under braking as per ted kravitz on BBC post from pit lane


I've never quite understood why front runners "manage a gap" back to the 2nd place man. If you look at that chart, it's clear that once Vettel had opened a gap of about 10 seconds back to Hamilton (after lap 32-33), he matched his pace for the rest of the GP (except the final lap, where he set the fastest lap of the race).

Why is the gap 10 seconds? Why not 20? Why not just race off into the distance? 10 seconds seems odd to me as it's not even enough to have a banker pitstop should you have a puncture, but is far more than you would expect to suffer from making a small mistake in a single corner.


As Jammes said in the piece they are running very aggresive fuel strategies. So SV is not only managing tyres (which SV mentioned post race),engine but making sure he can finish the race or respond if needed knowing that he has a safety margin


Where is Wayne? He'd absolutely love this particular discussion... ; )

"Pace strategy is counter-F1... you need to be given the tyres and engines etc to drive it like it's rented the whole goddam time - it's the only valid way"...

He kind of has a point on the yawn stakes of knowing that if/when Vettel gets his nose in the lead his risk of losing P1 are virtually nil.


I think Red Bull doesn't want to show how fast they really are!


It's not just managing a gap, but also managing resources which must last more than one GP, such as engines. Several low stress laps during this GP could mean several more high engine performance laps in India, for example.

Plus, the more you push, the more you risk a mistake. Vettel had settled in to a comfortable pace that was risk-averse. His race engineer and Christian Horner were not thrilled when he finally began to push for that fastest lap at the end. 🙂

Although I completely agree with this kind of gap management, I will say this... I believe it absolutely bit Vettel in the behind at Canada. When Button was stuck fighting for 2nd with Webber and Michael toward the end of the race, Vettel was 'managing' a gap of about 4 seconds over that battle (1m20s laps). With 6 laps to go Button cleared Schumacher/Webber and showed his true pace, Vettel responded with first a 1m19s lap, then 1m17s laps for the rest of the race. But the gap wasn't enough, and we all know what happened next.


Indeed, and Vettle said they'd been too conservative at the time. He went on in the post race interview from Korea about how his race engineer was going to kill him for setting the fastest lap and how he hoped to do well in India - if we wasn't dead! Good times.


Why thrash your tires, and engine to within an inch of their lives for no good reason?

10 seconds is probably in a nice cosy place where you can afford a pit stop error, yet still preserve tire and engine wear.


One thing Webber can congratulate himself on is that he is getting stuck behind a better class of car this year, compared with, for instance, the title decider last year!


As regards the Webber, Alonso issue, just goes to show, the arm chair strategists really know what they're talking about.

As soon as their favourite driver doesn't make it, then the conspiracy books are written, all based on emotions of course.

Meanwhile, this year, Webber has to go down in history as the worst driver (with the fastest car) not to have achieved results the car was capable of (Must be that famous Webber luck again)

As for Alonso, I really thought that bloke had changed, just wants his teammates to jump out the way I see. It's either that or he starts crying.

Somethings never change it seems


worst driver in the fastest car? What about Frentzen in a Williams in 97? He scored about half the points of Villeneuve, and only won one race when Jacques retired. And I think we can all agree Seb Vettel is a slightly more talented driver than Villeneuve Jr.

Webber's not having a good year, and I don't believe it's down to luck, he's being outdriven fair and square. But give the guy a break, he's a solid driver.

If you replaced Vettel with a driver of the caliber of Frentzen, Herbert, Coulthard, etc - I think Webber would probably be this and last year's WDC. Vettel is doing a great job to be beating Webber so convincingly. Not the other way around.

Now, if Alonso could beat Massa in the same way (including qualifying and the first 10 laps of the race) then he wouldn't have to whinge about Massa holding him up so often.


@James, given your usual in-depth analysis it was strange to read your quick take on the inter-Ferrari battle; yes Alonso had prodigious pace at the end of his penultimate and final stints but prior to that it looked like Massa had ≥ pace (live timing plus BBC coverage)...

Alonso was lucky to take advantage of Massa's pass on Rosberg and then had the benefit of a clean stop (versus 6.3 seconds... which I think put Massa back into slower traffic).

Just surprised that you thought Alonso stood a chance of 2nd given that he didn't even challenge Massa for 2/3s of the race!

Alonso does seem to like having the team interject so it'll be interesting to see how the remaining races unfold. I for one hope that they don't.


Let's put it simple....ferrari would have been far-far behind if not Alonso this year.

He is the one to do all the job...and I think it is the time the team gives him the car. He doesn't have to prove anything, but the team does...

End of story........



James, on your analysis with Fernando, you failed to mention that Alonso himself does not think that Massa hindered him.

See here: http://www.itv.com/formula1/news/2011/10/fernando-alonso-says-his-progress-not-hindered-by-team-mate-felipe-massa-9360/

In fact, this should be clear from the TV broadcast. At only one point was Alonso all over Massa - the rest of the time he was simply behind him and did not seem much quicker.

In contrast, the McLaren behind Alonso was all over him pretty much for the entire period that it was behind him.

Alonso's tires only came alive in the last stint, he did not have the pace while behind Massa.


I'm glad for this analysis James. It's amusing to hear people assume that Red Bull pit Webber on the same lap as Hamilton to 'protect' Vettel. That simply doesn't make sense. If you were Red Bull, who would you rather have in 2nd place? Hamilton, who got pole position, and is an incredibly dangerous threat in any race, or Webber, a member of your own team who, like it or not, would have to follow "maintain the gap" orders if you choose to give them.

Bottom line, It was simply a poor decision and an error by Red Bull to pit Webber when they did, just like at the end of the German Grand Prix when Vettel pit at the same time as Massa. They got away with it then, but not in Korea.


Given Lewises recent driving, RB probably thought Mark was safer behind him..!


Worth mentioning too for the conspiracy theorists is - didn't this happen during the 2010 Singapore GP, but hindering Vettel? Vettel was catching Alonso but then the team chose to pit him on the same lap. It didn't work and Alonso got out ahead of him and stayed there for the whole race.

With Alonso it's a mystery; it may be frustration with Massa although I did think he didn't look that quick until the run-up to the second stops. In that sense maybe it was a handling/set-up issue. I also wonder if it's a motivation thing instead - I remember we used to occasionally get this at Renault during his second spell there. I think it was Nurburgring 2009 when after a quiet afternoon he suddenly started lapping faster than anyone else on the racetrack in the final third of the race - all for only a handful of points.


From your point of view it's very logical to assume all the reasons to be 2nd at a very far distance from Vettel, it's a question of luck and lack of competiveness of Webber. RB had the chance to improve Webber's issues but they didn't. Why? RB it's one of the whealthiest, advanced technichaly, smartest and organized teams, if not the most of the Paddock. You can think everything is Mark's fault, but his particular problems with DRS, KERS, strategy moves, starts, was susceptible to be solved. It's "inexplicable" how Mark's performance had changed suddenly in China after saying he begun 2011 season struggling with tyres. He started from 18th and he was the fastest car of the race by far, far away. You have dozens of clues to think for yourselve or let the "luck" did their job.


Whitmarsh said something about listening to the radios of other drivers on the pitwall (having managed to crack the military-level encryption, it seems). It was Hamilton who we heard being told to pit this lap on the radio - I wonder if that was actually a response to Webber being given a coded message to pit and that Hamilton's stop was actually going to be a lap or so later originally.


Take off the tinfoil hat, mate - it's interfering with the reception. From the technical regulations;

8.7 Driver radio :

Other than authorised connections to the FIA ECU, any voice radio communication system between car and pits must be stand-alone and must not transmit or receive other data. All such communications must be open and accessible to both the FIA and, where appropriate, broadcasters.

Also, I see nothing in the sporting regulations that says teams are not allowed to listen to other teams' broadcasts. You may recall Webber being told openly on his radio that Button had been told by his team to use KERS and try to get him at the safety car restart. Not something they would be doing if it was outlawed.


It is my belief that all radio communications have to be "in the clear". Otherwise, how did we get the radio message telling Lewis to pit being played on TV. It would be like FIA have also broken the encryption for McLaren's radio communications.

If the radios were using "military-level encryption", then the military may want to know how they did it!


Watching Dan Wheldon's win at Indy in 2005 on Utube yesterday (RIP Dan) there seemed to be direct broadcasting of pit/car communications, not delayed as in F1. Is this how it works ?

And if OK in Indycar, why not in F1 ?


FIA monitor all the radio communications anyway and decide which messages to broadcast. The teams aren't supposed to be able to listen in on other drivers' radios, though.



I appreciate the comments around Webber's lap pit stop timing. This is one of those issues that makes me partial to the view that Webber's talent is being managed down.

Surely the elephant in the room is that Webber was put on yellows very early, presumably to go for a long stint so that he could be on red's for a last stint?

The question of whether a win was in reach for Webber seems to me to hang on the idea of a long middle stint on yellows, plus a shorter and faster stint on Reds.

Or have I not remembered things right? I didn't record to the event so I can't check my facts.

From the chart, it looks like Seb's winning margin was built while Webber was on yellows and Vettel was on Reds.

The whole RB/Webber strategy seems rather dubious to me, not just the lap of the pit stop.


Seb built a gap on reds, but lost it under the safety car, Webber would have gained on reds and really challenged Seb, likely winning it.


Laughable that some people still comment on Alonso being so favored over Massa when we've seen them wheel to wheel and no real team orders in the past 2 races. I guess if you give a dog a bone...

Alonso is the best driver in the field, in my opinion, but I do believe he can get a little disinterested at times, or downtrodden. Who cares if he gets 2nd in Korea really? Even 2nd in the championship is meaningless. He's been outqualified by Massa in the last 2 races, pretty much immediately after Ferrari gave up on this years title. I don't hold it against him if he is underperforming now, in fact should Massa outdo him in every race it wouldn't matter because once next year starts he'll just destroy Massa again. The cream always rises... But James, do you have any information on Ferrari and their new car? Why did they not just go full steam ahead on 2012 four races ago?


Thats 2 races. Try looking at the rest of the season.


its impossible to tell who is the best driver unless they are all driving the same car.

duno how youve come to that conclusion. you can only judge teammates against each other.


Its just an observation from watching them through the years. Your same car theory isn't really any more solid because every team virtually has accusations of favouritism. This has been the case for decades, so all we can do is judge by a drivers relative performance over his career...


James, is this the first time both RBRs and STRs were in the points?


In 2007 points were given to top8, but under current system all four Red Bull cars would have been in the points in China! Vettel 4th, Liuzzi 6th, Coulthard 8th, Webber 10th.

And also this year in Canada and Hungary both RBRs and STRs were in the points.


I am concluding that if both RB drivers had the same speed as Webber we would be crowing an McLaren Drivers world Champion. If I am the folks at RB, I am going to either continuing to spend whatever the going rate is to hold onto Seb or seriously think about replacing Webber, who by the way, is not really doing a great job as 2nd driver. He's much better at crashing his road bike and then lying to the team.


Webber is actually a great 2nd driver for RB. He is fully integrated within the team and usually does what is best for the team. In general, the best strategy to win championships is to have a clear #1 and a supportive #2 who will score points but not damage the efforts of the #1. Webber is that guy for RB.


"It is also possible that Red Bull fancied their chances of winning a “pitstop race” with McLaren under pressure, given their track record this season (as highlighted in my pre-race UBS Strategy Briefing). Sadly for them that’s one race they lost this time."

Where was your pre-race strategy briefing posted? I didn't see it come up on the home page at all last week.


no it's not....the Japan one is on page 3, but no Korea one.



no it's not.


I am not sure if I remember correctly, but I think red bull notified Webber through radio that he should pit. So it was a very easy decision for maclaren to pit lewis. I do remember also that Alonso in another race was in front of Webber and he was pitting exactly the same lap that webber was. Therefore Webber could not pass Alonso until Red bull tricked Ferrari by making them believe they will pit webber when they did not. Only then Webber managed to pass Alonso. It is strange for a team like Red Bull that got everything right to repeat same silly mistake twice.

I also remember that after Spa it was told to the press that the Mercedes message to Rosberg to save Fuel was a team's order message. The reasoning at the time was that since the cars spend time behind the safety car they would have enough fuel. However we had 2 races now in a row that Button (Suzuka), Alonso (Korea) and Rosberg (Korea) again run out of fuel with a Safety car period. So it looks like we cannot use this argument to judge if that message was team orders or not.


James - Any chance you can do an interview with Mark and ask why he thinks he was comprehensively beaten by his team mate this year? And also why he thinks he can turn this around next year?


I'm not James, but this is my take:

Any chance you can do an interview with Mark and ask why he thinks he was comprehensively beaten by his team mate this year?

Poor starts.

And also why he thinks he can turn this around next year?

Improve starts.


I disagree with you James.

If they had pitted Webber 1 Lap later he may have been in front of Hamilton.

Even if Hamilton may have caught up on fresher tyres or even passed Webber at least he would have had a chance at being in FRONT. I'm sure Webber can make his car just as wide as Hamiltons was.


Actually, Hamilton would've had a chance to win, had he made his 2nd stop at lap 27 - 30.


James, any plans for an interactive version of the Race History Chart for the ipad or similar? Would be great to be able to switch driver's history lines on and off and compare groupings or teammates, and show which tyres are on which cars. Or even have pop up notes about incidents. For example, I notice Ricciardo's line is all over the place in the final laps. I assume he was being lapped by the front runners and had to slow, or maybe his tyres were shot. Currently some periods of the race are so bunched its almost impossible to tell who's doing what, especially on the low res jpg available.

The graph only works at the moment if you absorb all the other facts in your head from the report, and maybe remember the race very accurately. I now use the comments from everyone to piece together the full story.


I got this "F1DriverComparison" iPhone free app. You can compare the laptimes of the drivers.


Peter, I have an excel sheet of the race with an interactive chart in it - and I do precisely what you want to (no pop up notes though!). If James is happy to let this go through moderation, then maybe you can contact me.

PS. Ricciardo's trace wobbles due to being lapped - between wobbles the pace is consistent.


Sounds awesome. Where do you get that from?


I wrote it. You can get the laptime data from the FIA media centre (for free), and the rest is the work of my own fair hand. I wasn't sure what to do about contact - especially as this is someone else's site, so I have put a form here:


which you can fill in, and I can send you the Korea race chart file.


WEBBER and ALONSO - Ruined chances to win the race (Webber), finish on the podium (Alonso).

One thing that seems to have gone amiss here, is that Webber's best chance of winning the race was to NOT go for the undercut on Lewis; okay sure he would have been in front of Lewis, and possibly even Seb if he did the undercut early enough, however Webber would have been on older tyres and likely overtaken by Seb.

By "undercut" we mean pitting before your opponent and going out on fresh tyres and setting good lap times vs your opponent who is on used rubber, and therefore when your opponent pits, you will have track position BUT you will have older rubber now compared to your opponent.

So if Webber had've pitted say lap 27,28,29,30, then he surely would've had track position on Lewis and possibly Seb too.

However, Webber's best chance for victory was surely to stay out longer than both Lewis and Seb. Remember that Lewis and Seb were both using the short life Red Super Softs vs Webber on the Yellow Softs. Therefore Webber had a lot more life left in his tyres.

Webber would wait for Lewis to stop or overtake him if he doesn't stop (as it turns out Lewis was about to stop and it was publicly known), and then this would allow Webber to make inroads on Seb, since his tyres were in better condition. Now Red Bull, being Red Bull would not allow Webber to pit before Seb if Webber would get close enough to undercut Seb - okay fair enough.

So now, Webber would wait for Seb to pit, and then he would have the option of either a) trying to make his softs last the whole race and have a chance to win the race that way. Or b) keep going on the softs for a number more laps, and then come out for a short dynamite stint on the Red Super Softs, and see if he can catch and overtake Seb (and possibly Lewis), considering both Seb and Lewis would be on older Yellow Softs, either way Webber would have a great shot on victory.

So that is the FUNDAMENTAL POINT, by Red Bull pitting Webber when they did, they ERADICATED any chance Webber had to beat Seb; and therefore win the race. By adopting one of the options I have suggested, yes Webber may potentially have fallen behind Button, though that would be unlikely. However, by adopting one of the options, which was ABSOLUTELY CLEAR during the race, it would have given Webber a good chance of victory.

And that brings me to my final observation; why did Ferrari not leave Fernando out on the circuit to see whether he could bring home his car on his used soft tyres? On Lap 37, Fernando set the fastest lap of the race while in the lead, going faster than the drivers on their fresh rubber, demonstrating the pace of his Ferrari on used rubber. He held a 4.1 second advantage over Vettel and had the pack of Lewis, Webber and Jenson about 16 seconds adrift. By staying out, he would give himself a REAL chance to take second, and even challenge Vettel for the victory, as Vettel would be required to battle Alonso for the race lead. At the very worst, he would end up behind Massa. So not much of a gamble for Ferrari at all, yet with a very good possibility of finishing second in the race, considering Lewis's struggles with his final set of tyres. First Webber pitted bizarrely, then Fernando pitted, when he had a real chance to get on the podium. Incredible.

I think this is like Spain 2009 James, all the evidence points to a team favouring its number one driver, yet pretending they are getting equal treatment.


Hamilton on new tyres would have been more than fast enough to ensure that Webber couldn't build a gap to pit and retain track position


Your missing the point James.

Webber was not given the OPPORTUNITY !

"Nothing changes if nothing changes".

What is lost by pitting him a lap later ?

Even if Hamilton gets passed nothing is lost.


Remember last race last year when RED BULL used webber as "BAIT" to bring Alonso and ferrari fell for it "hook line n sinker"... and both drivers got stuck in traffic while SEB won as he liked....Red bull will do anything to ensure SEBs victory.....Question is why does he still drive for them.....probly over 10 million reasons (just a guess at what webber gets paid)


Well that is my point. They missed the chance..


I think chances are, yes, Hamilton would have been faster than Webber on his new rubber. However, there is still a chance Webber may have been faster on the older rubber, considering the times he was setting.

However, by running longer, it would give Webber a chance of victory. He could either see if his softs could go for the whole distance of the race (ala Vettel in Monaco), or stop later on and go for a banzai stint on the supersofts.

Webber would then be in a position to overtake Hamilton, as his tyres would be possibly up to ten laps newer than Hamilton's, and he would be on the faster red compound. Once he cleared Hamilton, he would then have Vettel in his sights. He would be on fresher rubber and the faster compound vs Vettel as well.

I guess, that is the fundamental point I'm making. That by pitting Webber when Red Bull did, they eradicated any chance Webber had to challenge Vettel and win the race.

FROM an article in AUTOSPORT:

The problem was the team was also focusing on Vettel up ahead. Had they kept Webber out for that extra lap, the German would have had to stay out for two laps longer than Hamilton, and the McLaren was still close enough to be a threat. By bringing in Webber at the same time, Vettel could come in just a lap later, and the team could be confident that he would retain his lead.


Ricciardo beat one of the Virgin cars on merit (great overtaking move) and flogged Liuzzi again, very impressive.

James, do you think he is still a good chance at stealing one of the seats at Torro Rosso next year now that Red Bull don't own the team any more?

If so, who do you think he would replace?


Yes I do and Buemi, probably. But there is a lot of push behind Vergne too. It's Dr Marko's call


Why is it that Red Bull always take conservative strategies with Mark? I mean, he was right behind Seb and he was on the primes. Why not run him for longer and throw a set of super softs on for an aggressive 15 lap stint at the end and go for the race win?

The same thing happened at Spa, Webber had a set of options left and they ran his final stint on the primes, he had the pace to win.

As a Webber fan its frustrating watching Red Bull put him on the 'get a podium' strategy. Obviously from there perspective when they can get a 1, 2 position they don't want to trip over themselves, but its frustrating when you want Webber to be that number 1.


He is harder on the tyres than SV, that's been the case all year


In Japan, it appeared that SV was the harder on his tyres. Even out in front SVs tyres were degrading very quickly, forcing him to pit early. Webber did not need to pit as soon as he did for Japan. Even in Japan, the strategy Red Bull adopted for Webber was designed to ensure he could not challenge Vettel, and therefore it was no surprise when Webber was radioed to hold position behind Vettel towards the end of the race.

At most circuits though, SV has certainly been easier, however SV has been out in front, while MW has been battling thru the fields due to his terrible starts.

By the way, thanks for your great website James. Keep up the good work and the analysis.


Yet he was on the better tyres in Korea and they still switched him.

He radioed to say his tyres were ok and he had pace, sure they could try and see what happens, the worst being what did happen.

There was no need to get him the extra position through risk of a pit stop race, surely a let Webber decide where Webber finishes would be best


Totally agree, I've covered it all, in my posts above. Very disappointing for Webber - he was on for the victory, and Red Bull ensured he had no chance for that victory.

Ferrari have stuffed up Massa many times too, but at least Ferrari acknowledge that Alonso is their preferred driver. What seems incredible is why Red Bull simply don't admit that they like Vettel more (whether he is faster or not) than Webber, and admit they will always give Vettel the preferred strategy and that they will always compromise Webber if he threatens Vettel. Come on Red Bull - The Truth Will Set You Free.


If we're looking for conspiracy theories, a more likely situation is that Webber was brought in that lap so that Seb could be brought in the following lap.


I've been thinking quite a bit on this. I wonder if Mark isn't very confident in his own strategy thinking. If we look back at Jenson in Melbourne 2010; he told the team, "I'm pitting. Give me options." Vettel this year in Monaco said, "No, we'll try to stay out and win this thing."

They had the confidence to be assertive of their decisions. I wonder if a large part of that is missing in Mark


Ferrari's indulgence of Massa is scandalous and Alonso is only right to point it out with his 'I give up comment'(so well put into context by James - after the race Alonso talked about having to do 20 qualifying laps to close on Jenson...and recover from Massa playing F1 driver and Domenicalli's passivity!). Any consideration Ferrari's management still is giving to Massa is only up to their own [mod] misjugdement. There is not one race this season in which he has trascended beyond the car's potential (not to talk about last year). Race in and race out Massa proves to be transparent and irrelevant but if to stand in the way of his team mate who is braking his balls for podiums against far superior Red Bulls and McLarens. The professional thing to do for Massa (in the interest of the team) would have been to move over in the last race. Clearly! Alonso is impressingly rising above his Ferrari for two seasons now, while Ferrari does not seem to have the determination to fight under adverse circumstances(literally to get your own red roadblock off the way of your only small chance to cash in a race win!)
The name for this is lack of competitiveness and it's not in the car but at the pit wall. Must be a frustrating for a great like Alonso. Ferrari better gets their basic mindset clear if they are to compete in 2012!


So why did Massa pull away from Alonso after they got past Rosberg and into clear air? And why don't you believe Alonso when he says he only really had pace in the last stint (which was a great stint, no doubt)?


My view on the matter intends to be more generic (about overall driver and team performance, mindset and result oriented race and team management dynamics)rather than based on a specific situation. Certainly in my view the 'I give up' comment refers to a specific situation also (Massa not clearing the way), which I interprete in the context of an overall team dynamic. This is to say that I can't tell on that one situation with Rosberg - and you will agree that we can find specific race situations to support any theory - but that Alonso fights for podiums and championships (last year) where he should be fifth and that Massa struggles to make it sixth, both cars natural positions. Consistently. And that the team should maximize, not minimize their own chances but it seems like they don't know at the pitwall how that translates during races (or are hesitant to do so). Alonso can't be happy with that lack of focus by the team while he is doing more than his share. So I think that it makes full sense to read criticism to his own team managament in his 'I give up comment' (that has become public only by a team radio communication during the race) while it is obvious that he will deny it publicly (on reporters questions).


Cheers alexbookoo!

I agree in that the bigger danger for the team is in Massa's spirit being destroyed, but I wouldn't say that that is by the team. It's a fact of life in F1 when your team mate consistently beats you and overall delivers in excess of the cars potential while you don't. (Unless in McLaren - I don't want to discuss here again if Hamilton really was quicker than Alonso in 2007 (both scored the same points and about the same poles while McLaren's preference was evident - misjudgement!), but I hope you would agree that if McLaren had sticked to the worldchampion instead than to the rookie, they would have easily clinched a dominant one-two in that drivers championship!) Back to Massa, to build up his confidence in 'unsubstantial' races is not a too smart idea: Next time when under pressure (competing!) there will be no reason whatsoever to believe that it should turn out differently than Massa cracking. Will Alonso and the rest of competitors be less fierce? And the choices the team will need to make, will they be less tough for the slower driver? Do you really think it will be Alonso? No need to say that I would get rid of Massa rather sooner than later, trusting to find another driver either to compete with Alonso or comfortable and capable to support the leader the team believes in. The balancing act can only go wrong for its lack of determination and will. Ferrari is only wasting itself by electing a number one driver to then go down that path only half-heartedly. I'd love to be proven wrong, the way it looks we will find out next season!


Yes but even if we assume Alonso's comment was an attack on the team, which still isn't clear to me, then we have to take into account that Alonso has a record of making grumpy, disparaging comments about his team mates and his failure t be given preference, even when, in the case of Hamilton, his team mate was faster than him. It's just part of Alonso's character, it doesn't mean that there's some deep problem within the team management.

In fact Alonso can't complain that over the last two seasons he hasn't been given preference by the team - that much is obvious. The bigger danger for the team now, if they're going to keep Massa for 2012 as seems to be the case, is that they've apparently destroyed the spirit of one of their drivers which makes the constructors much more difficult for them. Given that the championship this year is over and that the result at Korea made no difference in the scheme of things, it should have been much more important for Ferrari to boost Massa's confidence and give him the chance to race than to pander to a grumbling Alonso as usual.


Mate, from the opinions of some of these posters i think its just me, you and the boss of this site, Mr James Allen, who think Alonso really is better that Massa. The rest believe that Ferrari are sabotaging Massa with any one of the following ploys.....

1/ Tuning Felipe 'i only close the door on alonso' massas engine to run on 7 cylinders.

2/ Playing the old fake KERS and DRS button trick on Felipe 'When Fernando is behind me i fight extra hard' Massa.

3/ Providing Felipe 'Ill drive defensively and lose .5 a second a lap to the leaders for 30 odd laps just to keep Alonso behind' Massa a chassis with the structural integrity of spagetti,

4/ Lastly, Ferraris favourite trick is to give Felipe 'I had bad luck with traffic, blue flags and i accidentally left the hand break on' Massa the exact same car and let him finish 2 to 3 places lower than his qualifying position.


Not sure that many would think Massa is faster than Alonso as you imply but Massa has improved relative his performance relative to Alonso later in the season.

Only because there is nothing to be gained for the team are Ferrari allowing their drivers a free for all for race position but Alonso seemed unable to over take his team mate. Does he really want a podium or a few more points each race??


Unfortunately I have not seen the race live and only seen the highlights, but looking at the results I am so glad for Lotus. One of their cars beat both Sauber cars.

Could someone help me understand how was that possible until I have a look at the whole race on iPlayer?

Was it on pure pace or the Saubers had problems?



So could Pastor have taken advantage of the safety car and scored a point, if he hadn't got his penalty or reliability problems?

My suspicion is that he would've come in behind the Force Indias but ahead of Rubens, so no. But might two super soft have done it?

Antonis Papadakis

Staying out three-four more laps after Hamilton pit stop and maintaining similar pace to Hamilton then at the end of the stint he would have the advantage of fresher tyres to overtake him


I don't think it's right to say that Alonso would have been so much faster than Massa for the whole race. He said afterwards that Massa didn't hold him up because he "wasn't that much faster" than Massa until the last stint. In fact, he was slower than Massa when they were in clear air after passing Rosberg. I think Alonso was telling the truth when he said he was only really fast in the last stint, although that was an incredible stint, generally 0.7 seconds faster than everyone else every lap.


Webber vs Hamilton:

I believe it would have been nip and tuck even if Webber pitted a lap later. The analysis is based on the premise the Webber was only 0.5 seconds faster than Hamilton. We don't know that for sure because Webber was always tucked behind Lewis. If he had clear air, his times may have been much faster, maybe a second. It would have depended on fuel load and the life of the tyres at that point.

Even so, pitting after Lewis would have been a better option (than at the same time) because at least he had the opportunity (however slim) to pass Hamilton through the pits stops. By entering on the same lap, his chances close to zero, relying on McLaren to botch their pitstop. A mistake from McLaren would still have given Mark the lead even if he pitted a lap later. Furthermore, Mark's tyres would have been one lap fresher than Hamilton's after the stop, giving him a better chance at attacking. Button was too far off in the distance to have to cover him.

Whether it was a stuff up or a dummy that went wrong or simply a conservative option, it was such a disappointing call from RBR - especially to MW fans.


How different would facts, mental approaches be if Ferrari didnt blow it big time last year.

Alonso could have been champ last year- and then the pressure would have really been on Vettel this year.

Instead Vettel is easily in his stride, and has momentum.

I dont like him, but I want to see Alonso in the best car next year- he is wasting his talent away is poor cars.

Hope he doesnt live to regret the Mclaren years followed by the Renault years.



In the end the supersoft turned out to be a far more durable race tyre than expected and pre race predictions of three or four stops were revised as the race went on and strategists and drivers were thinking on their feet.


haven't you had this comment in every single race report? By now, you'd think the engineers would start just assuming the tires are going to last longer than they originally thought.


No. Many races it has been as expected, some it was less stops some it was more stops


Hi James,

I think I heard Christian Horner saying (probably on the BBC forum) that they were planning Webber to undercut Hamilton but unfortunately, Hamilton decided to come in at the same time.

scottie doesn't know

Just wanted to comment to agree with most of the sentiments here about Mark Webber. He was robbed of yet another race win yet again.

I'm still recovering from Spa when Red Bull deliberately put webber on the slower tyre on his last stint to ensure Webber could not challenge Vettel. Then their silly strategy in Japan. And now this rubbish in Korea when they compromised Webber again, just so Vettel can win again.

Webber lost the title last year because of red bull, specifically the way they stuffed him in Australia, Turkey, Canada, Valencia, and Italy. Not because they want him to lose, but because they don't want him to take points off vettel. Forget about Korea 2010, it was red bull that cost Webber.

Rather than being rated as arguably the greatest driver of all time, because of Red BS he will arguably be rated as the worst race winning driver of all time.


BS. Webber cost himself the title in 2010. Sure, Vettel hit him in Turkey and he had a five place penalty in Canada, but he didn't do anything in the race to make up for it, except make up 2 places at the start for once (because Liuzzi and Massa crashed). He bordered on the embarrassing in Australia. Likewise Valencia. Spun out at Korea. Ridiculously slow in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi. The list goes on.

He lost the title to a 23 year old who was crucified for his mistakes and had much worse car reliability. The "greatest driver of all time" still finished 4 places behind Vettel when his engine failed in the 2010 season opener.


I don't think RBR are deliberately compromising Mark's chances. That just doesn't make sense. For sure they want Mark to succeed. There cannot be any doubt about that.

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