How Raikkonen nearly won in Bahrain
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Strategy Report
Posted By: James Allen  |  24 Apr 2012   |  8:06 am GMT  |  183 comments

The Bahrain Grand Prix was another example of close racing with uncertain outcomes, dependent on race strategy, which has already come to characterise the 2012 F1 season.

Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull became the fourth different car/driver winning combination in four races, showing not only how closely matched the teams are, but also how delicate the balancing act is in getting the strategy right on the Pirelli tyres.

In just four races we have already had eight different drivers on the podium, more than in the whole of 2011.

Bahrain’s Sakhir circuit provided the sternest test yet of the tyres, with plenty of high energy corners, hard braking zones and track temperatures around 40 degrees.

Tyre degradation was very high, especially due to the heat. Degradation is a measure of the decline in lap time performance, whereas wear is the consumption of the tyre.

Strategists briefed on Sunday morning that the wear was not a problem – it would be possible to do a whole race distance on one set of tyres – but the drop-off in lap time was severe over 20 or so laps on the medium tyre and 14 on the soft.

So it was a question of being reactive. It was essential to have a plan in mind, whether that was two stops or three stops, but to be prepared to change it, reacting quickly to pit once you saw degradation affecting the lap time. There was also a huge benefit in having new sets of tyres, rather than used sets.

Pre-race expectations were that most drivers would do three stops, with a few trying a two stop strategy. In the event, among the top ten finishers, only Force India’s Paul di Resta managed to do two stops.


Lotus takes on Red Bull

There were many surprises in this race. The poor performance of McLaren on track and in the pits, for example. But the biggest was the way the Lotus cars of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean took on the Red Bulls. They managed to beat Mark Webber fairly easily, but Raikkonen couldn’t quite do enough to beat Vettel to the win.

Lotus has had a good car at every race this season, but hasn’t quite got the strategy right before. In China, for example, they tried to do a two stop race with Raikkonen, but timed the stops wrong and on worn tyres he was vulnerable to the three stoppers at the end of the race, falling from 2nd place to 14th.

In Bahrain they got it almost perfect. The strategy planning began in qualifying, where the Finn did only one lap in the Q2 session, intending save a new set of soft tyres. Here Lotus made a small mistake, which turned out to be a benefit as they sent him out too early and underestimated the track improvement at the end of the Q2 session. Raikkonen failed to make the top ten shootout, where Ricciardo’s result shows that a 6th place start might have been possible for the Lotus. But to do that would have used up more tyres.

It wasn’t their intention to miss Q3, however the upside was that by failing to make the top ten, it meant Raikkonen had two new sets of soft tyres and two new sets of mediums, so he would do the whole race on new tyres. He also had a free choice of starting tyres. Vettel, in contrast, by going all the way to the end of qualifying and taking pole, used all his tyres except for one set of mediums and was forced to start on used softs.

How much was the gain from this on Raikkonen’s side? Every new set you run compared to your rival on a used set is worth around 8 seconds for a stint. Here’s how the strategists work it out: Degradation is 0.3 seconds per lap, so after 3 laps in qualifying on a set of a tyres they is 0.7s per lap slower than a new set.

So for Raikkonen compared to Vettel, in the first three stints there was 24 seconds available to him, provided he could make use of the new tyres and not lose time with mistakes or in traffic. It’s what got him in the game and almost won him the race.

Lotus went for the soft tyre for the start, because it has a higher working temperature than the medium and free practice had shown the car worked well on it with high fuel. They thought they were the fastest car on Friday.

We’ve seen how the start is crucial in strategy terms and Raikkonen made a great start, showing the advantage of new softs tyres off the line, up from 11th to seventh and ahead of Rosberg and Perez. He made a mistake on lap three and let Massa past, taking a couple of laps to get back past him again. During this time he lost three seconds to the leader Vettel. But more significantly he damaged his front wing and so had to deal with some aerodynamic loss, which also cost him for the rest of the race.

Thanks to the new tyres he passed Hamilton, who was struggling, and he managed to extend the first stint to lap 11. By doing this he got ahead of Alonso, Webber and Button. Now he was a contender for the win.

In the second stint on new softs he was the fastest car on the track until he caught his team-mate Grosjean and it was here, arguably, that he lost the chance to win. Vettel was not getting away at the front, Grosjean was on used medium tyres and Raikkonen was caught up behind him. He passed the Frenchman then set off after Vettel.

On new mediums compared to Vettel’s used softs he caught up quickly, but couldn’t pass. With some clear air instead of the four laps he spent behind Grosjean, he might have had the platform to jump Vettel in the final stops, but instead he made his third stop on the same lap and with Vettel using his only new set of tyres in the final stint, Raikkonen had no further tyre advantage to play and had to follow him home.

Raikkonen was disappointed after the race. He had a chance to win, just as Perez had a chance to win in Malaysia. The strategy was good enough to give him a chance, but not perfect. Perhaps with a little more ruthlessness by Lotus, moving Grosjean aside, it could have been perfect.


Tour de Force by Di Resta and Force India

After a trying weekend off the track the Sahara Force India team got a great result on Sunday with Paul Di Resta finishing sixth. As the Scotsman said afterwards, this felt like a win for the midfield team.

He did it despite having the slowest car of the top 12 qualifiers, with a pace offset of 8/10ths of a second per lap to the Red Bulls and McLarens and 3/10ths to the Mercedes.

Again the strategy planning began in qualifying; the team had taken the decision not to do a lap in Q3 but instead to save tyres for the race, knowing that he was going to try to do a two-stop race. This gave him two new sets of soft tyres and one new set of mediums for the race.

The ideal two stop race was to stop on laps 19 and 38, but even though he had new soft tyres at the start, he couldn’t get further than lap 14 before the degradation became too great, relative to the three stoppers, and he had to pit. He was the last of the top ten to do so.

With everyone around him three stopping, Force India knew their driver would be vulnerable at the end of the race on worn tyres to three stoppers on fresh tyres, but Di Resta drove a masterful race, keeping the tyres alive at the same time as keeping the pace up.

On new softs at the start, he lost two places off the line and lost time behind Senna. However, by extending his soft tyres to lap 14 he was able to get ahead of many of the three stoppers, including Rosberg, whom he was racing for final position.

Traffic is less of a problem for a two stopper than a three stopper, but Di Resta still lost time at various stages of the race, particularly the second stint where he was faster than many three stoppers, despite looking to do a 19 lap stint compared to their 13 laps. If there was a place where he lost the opportunity to finish ahead of Rosberg, it was probably here.

With a final stint of 24 laps, he was vulnerable at the end of the race, to Rosberg, but was helped by Button’s late race retirement and the fact that Alonso didn’t quite have the straight line speed to attack in the final laps. Using KERS, Di Resta could defend and hold his 6th position, equalling his career best F1 finish.

The UBS Race Strategy Report is written by James Allen with input from F1 team strategists and from Pirelli.


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1

Raikkonen for president!

2

I have a bad feeling about this. I feel this was LOTUS best chance this season, which Boullier bungled up. If Boullier was not content & conservative with finishing 2nd and 3rd, 1st and 2nd would have been possible for these reasons: 1) Kimi would have pushed vettel harder for much longer making him burn more fuel (remember vettel parked the car immdtly after the race) 2) After some fight/chase vettel would have settled for a conservative engine mapping, thus making him vulnerable to Grosjean, whose pace was same as kimi at that time.

James, what are your thoughts on Boullier’s action/inaction? What would have happend if Todt/Brawn/Flavio were at the helm? Wouldnt they have asked kimi to hunt vettel till the last lap?

3

I’d say it was a learning experience..

4

I think the key element here with Lotus is that they have two great drivers and I do not think that development was that bad last year. I think Heidfeld and Petrov were not great drivers and Nick not really setting the world on fire. Here you have Kimi who has proved over and over that he is quick and I think Lotus have better drivers that will extract more from the car and that can give them better feedback in terms of development

5

G’day James,

Thanks for a good insight to the strategies, a real eye opener, I look forward to these posts very much. I particularly liked the full explanation of why the first two stints chewed up the new tyre advantage that Kimi had.

I have a question. I note you said temps of 40C which was the case on Fri/Sat but my data shows track temps of 29C to 33C on Sunday, which is correct and if my data is correct how would the lower temps have effected particularly the Macca and the Redbull?

Thanking you in anticipation,

build

6

I read it in another site which reports F1 news:

“Grosjean held on for a couple of laps while Raikkonen urged his team to take action, telling them “I have to get past”. By lap 24 he was through, Grosjean not fighting him for the place at turn one.”

Why is there no hue and cry about this whereas there was a witch hunt for Ferrari’s position switch?

I didn’t watch the race and can only go by what I read in the article?

Seems like every team has got a No 1 and 2 drivers in them.

7

Because when Ferrari switched it was illegal. Nowadays it’s not

8

Usually the drivers look to go through the pit crew for overtaking their team-mate as they don’t want both of them to end up non-scoring due to a tussle. It is always better to go through the pit-crew as that way the team can decide what to do based on the strategies – in this case clearly Grosjean was slower as he was on harder tire and he had to stop anyway sooner than Raikkonen. So there is not much sense in keeping Raikkonen fighting with Grosjean in the real sense of the term – it is loss for both the drivers leading to potential crash and no points for either of them and also the team with no winner at all.

Ferrari case in 2010 was different: First, it broke the rules as James pointed out, second Massa and Alonso had equal chance to win and third it was the exact place where Massa suffered the accident the previous year and a win there means much much more to him and F1 fans.

9

Sorry. That was a mistake. They are different places.

McLaren passed coded messages – true. I guess Ferrari missed that art.

10

um no Massa had his accident in Hungary in 2009. The team orders were in Germany. Not “the same place”

11

I think Massa was injured in Hungary and this happened in Hockenheim. Also he is a grown up man and should have understood the reason behind it. If this has shattered his confidence then he is too fragile. He saw it coming and should have acted accordingly.

Also McLaren tried to hold fort by using ‘save fuel’ coded messages during the season. It wasn’t as if Ferrari were the first ones to use team orders that season.

Ferrari makes everything special I suppose. Be it a win or a criticism.

12

It’s quite clear from this data here how close Caterham are now to the mid-field battle. Undoubtedly once they up one small notch they will get a point or two 😀

Good luck to them 8)

13

I’m becoming increasingly disillusioned with the artificial nature of F1, whether it be DRS, having to conserve the tyres or the qualifying format where cars dont even bother to run. It is killing true competition and making it harder for the best drivers to shine, becoming more and more of a tactical lottery. It may be more exciting for the casual observer, but is dumbing down the sport in my view.

14

James,

Is Kimi in a tough spot with Romain being managed by Eric Bolier and being French? Post race I saw Ted Kravitz and many others ask Eric why on earth they made Kimi work to get by Romain when it was clear he was so much faster and Eric refused to answer almost acting as if there was still a rule on team orders. Is Romain the golden child at Lotus?

15
Tornillo Amarillo

Kimi is no worry by anybody…

Boulier sais “Grosjean can be champion” and I don’t think Kimi is worry about it, certainly the have the same car so far.

But it is true Grosjean is really good, I was saying his starts are amazing, and then he looks very consistent, and with good speed for qualifies also. Better than Petrov, it’s look a good choice with this insight after 4 races (so my mistake for choosing Petrov in those early days, sorry).

Knowing what’s going on now in the grid, what would be happenned if Hamilton would have change to Red Bull this year???

16

Not really. I think they were reluctant to move him over, knowing a stop was coming up. But it was vital time lost

17

“Not really. I think they were reluctant to move him over, knowing a stop was coming up. But it was vital time lost.”

It is much more the reason to move over Raomin as the stop was anyway coming up and he was not racing Kimi then (being on a different strategy). Somehow Lotus have lost belief that they could win a race and do have this attitude of mediocrity. So their approach reflects that belief (for example trying to be different with third stint of Kimi rather than following Vettel exactly). Perhaps now with the confidence that they can win, they’ll be more aggressive.

If they do spoil more chances like they did in the first three races, then the strategy team must be fired (perhaps including Eric Boullier).

18
Richard Le Tessier

Great to see Ricciardo do so well in quali. What the hell happened in the 1st few laps? His start wasn’t great, but he appeared to have absolutely no pace.

19

All very fascinating for the strategist, but again tyres almost determining the outcome, certainly the higher performer given a good car, and driver. The trouble is it’s not a constant with the environment impacting on the performance of the tyre. Great for strategist, and perhaps the winning driver, but ultimately demoralising for other drivers. The idea that the tyre will last the whole race is rubbish because nobody will drive that slowly to get the energy levels down low enough for that to happen.

20

James — Thanks for your excellent report.

Any moves to make the tyres less abruptly degrade? When they go – they go in the space of one lap, but if there was a more gradual tail-off of grip over maybe 3 or 4 laps that would allow a great driver to hang on, and allow teams more choices in strategy.

I still want them to go to low-profile tyres and give the car designers a lot more influence 😉

21

Pratice 1 to 2 were in 40degree temperatures on track. Practice 3 and race were in 30 degree temperatures and falling. Anyone take this into account in their comments. There is a 25% change in track temeperatures. RB fast on Friday and “slower” on Saturday. Lotus not as fast Friday and Merc definitely slower yet on Saturday with tyre temperatures down things changed.

22

If I remember correctly, did the BBC crew mention it had rained overnight before the race?

Usually this make for a green track, would this have made a bigger difference to the used vs new tyres connumdrum?

23

The hole “tyre” think is tiring me. I think one should scrap one of those stupid rules which forces the top ten qualifieres to use the same set of tires. I don’t see an advantage for position 7,8,9,10 have over 11. Yet 11 hat an advantage to start with the tyre of its choice. Please change these rules, and bring back refueling! The fuel strategy used to make the qualifings and the race very exciting.

24

Driver managers taking a cut of their performance based salaries should not be allowed positions in or near to F1 team management. Bye bye Eric and Helmut, why not join Flavio in the pasture.

25

Hi James!

I think you have misunderstood what they told you. There is no degradation of 0.3s / lap over a stint. Maybe the first of the laps then it declines. Vettel would have had a 5.1s degradation over his last stint(17 laps) minus fuel. 4 laps is about 0.4s so then total laptime loss 5.1s – 1.6 = 3.5 seconds. Compare Kimis first and last laps on that stint and you will see that it does not add up. If he would gain 24 seconds in pace every team would save tires like there is no tomorrow but that does not happen. Implication, your analysis in this case is incorrect.

But of course every other team will blame the tyres and claim that is why they got beat by Kimi. In total it is a little less than 10s he gained on fresh tires.

26

Hey I guess u r right that the degradation is not steady 0.3s per lap and that it declines after a few laps. However I think that the 24 seconds James mention should be correct. If a new tyre is 0.7s quicker than old tyres then 8 seconds are just 11-12 laps.

If you think that everyone would go for that 8 seconds then you just have to check the difference of the seventh car and the first after a few laps int he race. It is usually well over that 8 seconds. So not using a set of tyres and qualifying tenth would not make sense most of the time.

I am not sure under which circumstances it would. Probably if the degradation is high in a circuit and also it is easy to pass then it could make sense on some circuits. Comparing the numbers would be the way to go

27

As was mentioned in another website Lotus could have just pitted kimi a lap earlier to make the undercut and pass vettel before the final stint. That could have probably sealed the win for kimi as well, depending on if vettel could pass him in the last stint.

But I wanted to ask more about the maths you presented. You said that the cost of degradation per lap is 0.3 seconds. Then you say that after 3 laps the old tyres are 0.7 per lap slower than the new ones. As naturally 0.3*3 = 0.9 I was left with a question. You say 0.7 because the in and out lap are slow laps and therefore do not degrade the tyres so much? Or for another reason?

Then again you say that Raikonnen had 24 seconds from this effect on the first 3 stints. If I can recall correctly kimi used:

New softs X2 and new medium X2

while vettel used:

used softs X2, used medium X1 and new medium X1

since both cars pitted on lap 39 that would make

39 *0.7 = 27.3 seconds.

As u said 24 I believe that most likely u had another parameter in mind. Would you like to analyze this point further?

Thanx

28

James, any insight as to how McLaren could be so fast in practice and qualifying yet have so little pace on race day?

29

Great report James, fitting for such a tense race. The season is certainly shaping up nicely.

I agree with others that something should be done about qualy 3, all 10 cars should be given 1 extra set of the Options, and that set must be returned after Q3. At least then we should see all 10 cars go out.

30

omg! Say it isn’t so!

Do NOT tell me winning had anything do with team strategy, or taking care of your tires, or qualy strategy!

No dont tell me that! *Thats not racing! Racing is only about who has the most blinding flat out speed!

Everyone knows this.

31

You should call a certain Mr Alain Prost and explain to him the intricate details of what everybody knows as the definition of racing.

32

Just to give a though on the strategy, if it was the other way, Vettel 11th with new tyres and Kimi on pole with scrubbed, it was easy victory for Kimi.

First, because Kimi is the best on F1 when we are talking about recovering positions (many experience in 2005 with that Mercedes V10.

Second, because this track is easy on overtaking if you have good straigh line speed, wich Lotus had.

I think after all, if Kimi was on Q3, it would be his race to win.

I´m so glad too see him back him F1…

33

James, thank you for your report.

To the rest of those commenting here, is it just me or, are you also, after only 4 races, just a little bit tired of the word “tires/tyres?”

34

Massa isn’t exactly a priority at the moment for Ferrari. No matter how much Ferrari say they are behind Massa, I believe they”ll always back Alonso. It isn’t nice to think that, but I believe it’s true. I don’t think Massa’s race was a disaster either. He made up about 5 positions and the end of the race compared to his starting position.

35

James, what you think of Raikkonen of 2012 to Raikkonen of 2009.

Do you still think he lacked motivation back then. or could it be that ferrari never really backed him as compared to massa. Its a similar sort of scenario we are seeing in ferrari these with massa being nowhere close to alonso in terms speed.

36

Just look at his results after Hungary when Ferrari had to listen to Kimi again. And this with a car that Ferrari had stopped developing.

37

yea exactly that’s what I have been pointing to…that ferrari never really supported him. I think kimi seems really comfortable in lotus environment compared to his mclaren and ferrari days. hopefully the car is good as we might see the best out of iceman

38
Tornillo Amarillo

Excelent report.

Kimi was great and it seems to make forget Alonso, Hamilton as best drivers.

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