How Maldonado won while Lotus and McLaren lost the Spanish Grand Prix
Strategy Report
Posted By: James Allen  |  15 May 2012   |  2:40 pm GMT  |  179 comments

The Spanish Grand Prix was a perfect example of how a race can be won or lost on the finest of margins and on a good or bad strategy decision. Pastor Maldonado beat Fernando Alonso and won the race for Williams due to planning and to a good strategy call half the way through the race, while Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen again had the car to win, but was a fraction off due to race strategy and conditions and he ended up third.

There were several key moments and decisions which decided the outcome of this race. The main one was the early second stop of Maldonado. But there was another before the race had even begun and it eliminated the favourite for the race win.

Hamilton’s race to lose
Lewis Hamilton should have won this race comfortably for McLaren, with a 0.6second per lap car advantage. But a mistake by the McLaren team when he did his final run in qualifying ruined his chances.

Due to a refuelling error, Hamilton’s car did not have enough fuel in it to complete the lap and be legal at the end. Team boss Martin Whitmarsh has since admitted that he should have told Lewis Hamilton to abandon his hot lap, as the team had realised by then that it had not put enough fuel in his car. Had he done this Hamilton would have started the race from 6th place, with a time set earlier in Q3. Instead McLaren did not act, Hamilton completed the lap, switched the engine off and then the team tried to argue force majeur for the error. The FIA Stewards sent him to the back of the grid from where 8th was the best result achievable.

Hamilton made up four places at the start from 24th on the grid and managed to get his tyres to last 14 laps in the first stint, the longest of any front-runner. He had climbed to fourth place when he stopped and rejoined in 14th place. He made his way through the field with a combination of overtakes and a two stop strategy which meant he did 21 laps on his second set of tyres and 31 on the final set, both of which were the hard compound. He lost time in the second stint behind Massa, otherwise a better result might have been possible. He got ahead of Massa when the Brazilian served a drive-through penalty on lap 29 for using DRS in a yellow flag zone.

By extending the stints, Hamilton was able to make up places when the three stoppers made their final stop and he kept the tyres alive for 31 laps, losing only one place at the end to Vettel and almost getting one back from Rosberg. It was a fine drive, but he and McLaren know that his first win of the season was there for the taking this weekend, had they made a different decision in the heat of the moment in qualifying.

Getting the planning right
On Friday practice, with track temperatures above 40 degrees, the soft tyre was working well as a race tyre. However expectation before the weekend was that the temperatures would be lower on race day than the rest of the weekend.

This led some teams to plan to save three new sets of hard tyres for the race, as these have a lower working temperature range than the softs and would therefore come into their own in those conditions. This turned out to be the correct thing to do; the track was at 44 degrees on Saturday and this dropped to 32 degrees on Sunday and the hard was the faster tyre. Williams and Maldonado did this, Ferrari had only two new sets for Alonso. Red Bull were also one of the teams to save three sets.

However the plan didn’t quite work out for them as they didn’t have the pace in qualifying or the race. Sebastian Vettel was forced to use up all his soft tyres just to get through into the final part of qualifying. This meant that he had no new sets of softs for a run in Q3 and was only 8th on the grid. Both cars required a front wing change during the race, the team combined it with a tyre stop but it wasn’t ideal timing tactically. Vettel also had a drive through penalty so he did well to finish ahead of the McLarens in 6th place.

Maldonado beats Alonso through strategy

The cars are so close together this year, winning is all about getting out the front of the pack early on, as Vettel did in Bahrain and Rosberg did in China.

The race was again fought out between the two cars on the front row of the grid. However Spain was only the second time in five races (the other was Malaysia) where the car leading the first lap did not go on to win the race. This was all down to strategy. Williams believed that they had a pace advantage over Ferrari and expected the challenge for the win to come from Lotus. However they knew they were vulnerable to Alonso’s excellent starts. Maldonado duly lost the start to the Ferrari driver and then Alonso had enough pace in the opening two stints of the race that Maldonado wasn’t able to get close enough to attack.

Importantly, however, the Williams had better tyre life at the end of the stints and at the end of the second stint, Maldonado closed up on Alonso, from over three seconds to half of that. Williams pitted him two laps before Alonso for the second stop and Ferrari allowed their driver to stay out and run into slower traffic. This is something they have allowed to happen before.

The call to try the undercut (pitting earlier than opponent and using pace of new tyres to get ahead when he stops) was made by Williams’ head of strategy Mark Barnett. He brought Maldonado in on lap 24 when he was 1.5 seconds behind Alonso. Having saved the sets of new hard tyres, Barnett calculated that he would then have the tyre life to do 42 laps with one more stop to make without losing pace at the end.

It was brilliantly executed; his in-lap was 0.4s faster than Alonso’s, the stop was only 0.2secs slower than Ferrari’s, but crucially on new hard tyres his out-lap was 2.6 seconds faster and the first flying lap was also a second faster. With Alonso losing time behind Pic, Maldonado had done enough to take the lead from the Ferrari when it stopped to laps later than the Williams

However as Alonso pushed hard in his wake to stay with him in the final stint, we got a graphic example of how following another car speeds up the degradation of the tyres, Alonso wasn’t able to stay with Maldonado until the end, as the degradation caused by running in traffic was more severe than running in clear air. Alonso’s tyres had done three laps in qualifying, so were the same age more or less as Maldonado’s.

Lotus and McLaren – what might have been

Although they had the fastest car in race practice simulations on Friday afternoon, were third and fourth on the grid and set the fastest lap of the race on Sunday by over a second, Lotus didn’t win. Why not?

Temperature has something to do with it; the drop to 32 degrees on race day took the edge off their speed (so fine are the margins now!). They also made a strategy mistake at the first stop, putting the cars onto a set of used soft tyres, rather than the hards. They pushed the stints out to make sure they’d have a chance at the end. As the temperatures rose towards the end of the race we got to see what the Lotus could do. The Lotus set the fastest lap of the race, over a second faster than the nearest car. Raikkonen’s final stint was 18 laps, Alonso’s 23 laps, Maldonado’s 25 laps. Alonso was vulnerable to attack from Raikkonen in the final laps, but he ran out of laps. Perhaps if he’d stopped one lap earlier he would have passed Alonso for second at the end.

Starts are a vital part of race strategy and we saw the experience of Raikkonen over the nervousness of Grosjean at the start. Although the younger man was ahead on the grid, Raikkonen was ahead in the opening lap and Grosjean fell behind Rosberg, whose pace was much slower and so held him up. The Frenchman lost 8 seconds in the first 9 laps. Worse still, Mercedes pitted Rosberg first as a defensive move and he stayed ahead in the second stint, so Grosjean had to pass him on track.

The first win for Lotus this year is surely not far away.


This is the Race History chart from the Spanish GP, kindly provided by Williams F1 Team. The chart’s main use is to show track position and also gaps between cars. The zero line is best viewed as a “ghost” car which is setting the average lap time of the winner (his race time divided by 66 laps) and you can see how the lap times evolve relative to it. Note Lotus’ pace relative to the leaders in the final stint, for example, when the temperatures went up and they set the fastest lap of the race.

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Why didn't Ferrari pit Alonso on the following lap after Maldonado had a problem with his rear left during his pit stop? Wasn't that a chance to get in front? Because as it was proven by staying out on slower tyres they lost every opportunity to pass the Williams.


I believe the gap from maldonado to alonso before the pit stop was 6+ seconds. the complication with the rear tyre cost about 2-3 seconds (in addition to the normal length of the pit stop) so it is highly likely that maldonado would have still come out infront, and alonso would be on similar tyres and thus have no opportunity to pass down the track


Are you sure the gap was 6 secs? Because I think Alonso was pushing hard and closing in on Maldonado at the time.


It was (about) 6 seconds. Maybe down to high five. In any case, it would have been not enough. During the race first I also thought why they didn't stop but then I realised that they tried to get some quick laps in to close the gap a bit. But I didn't work out.


What tyres did Alonso and Maldonado use for their second stints ?

If they were on primes, the Lotus managed to run just as long on used options, which is a testament to the qualities of the car, but a pretty silly strategy.

Running the second stint on used options looks to be an obvious blunder. Looking at the graph, it seems the Lotus could easily have run a couple of laps longer than either the Ferrari or Williams on new primes, and possibly run fast enough through the stint to overtake both of them at the second lot of pitstops.

Don't they look at your strategy calculator ? 🙂


The calculator was really great, I agree!!


Do you find it useful?


It is useful but James, is anyone in the paddock able to get their heads around the tyres at the moment?

I'm totally perplexed at the difference from Red Bull between Bahrain and Barcelona the most to be honest!


I very much doubt even Pirelli understand them, i just pray that soon people realise these "great for the fans" tyres are making a farce of the the team's engineering brilliance and the sport's credibility.

Richard Foster

I think the calculator is fascinating



Looking at the Friday practice reports, I wondered if it was correct in showing a clear preference for the prime during the race.

It was.

Presumably the teams have something like your calculator, only a bit sophisticated so they can add in their own practice data ?

I can only assume that some teams showed a preference for the option in Barcelona out of habit (it having been the best tyre for previous races this season).

Why anyone thought it was a good idea to try the prime in Q1 is beyond me. They just wasted a fresh set of tyres.

Even Hamilton, who clearly had the fastest car all weekend, had to run again on the option (though ironically his first time on the prime would just have been good enough to scrape into Q2).

If you remember, I laid out the best qualifying strategy before the race (options all the way through), and it proved exactly right, I think:

"...If your calculator is anywhere near accurate, the best strategy seems to be three stop using three sets of new primes. Not only is it the fastest race strategy, it also leaves the most tyre margin if the driver needs to push during the race. In addition it allows using all three sets of options in qualifying.

The leading teams should definitely run Q1 on options (not the prime as they normally do), but try not to take too much out of them – they ought not to need to push too hard to get through to Q2.

Then do a first run in Q2 on the scrubbed options fairly early, as getting to Q3 with two sets of new options is then possible – if not there’s still a clean set of options for a late run if necessary.

Q3 is then one or two runs on new options. You don’t want to run in Q3 on scrubbed options, as it’s possible to be quick (as Hamilton has shown), and you really don’t want to start the GP on tyres three laps older...."

Do you think I could have Sam Michael's job ?



Yes, it does. really impressive.


Maybe, but it proves that the tyre model in the calculator is accurate, doesn't it?


Alo Used Hard, Maldo New Hard


James ,

Used hard in the sense,He just did a lap with those right?During practice


Yes, one lap on each in FP3


Would Hamilton of had the race pace to keep up with the front runners of the gp? We know he's got the one lap pace, still think Mclaren's ture race pace hasn't been shown yet!


Don't forget any 'expert' will tell you that Hamilton does not look after his tyres.... Seems a bit illy now doesn't it? And this isn't the first time he has show he can look after his tyres every bit as well as Button. But commentators love to patronise us by pigeon-holing drivers. Driver A is a master of tyre preservation. Driver B is a 'natural' talent. Driver C is a one lap specialist etc etc. Really, half of these guys have actually driven F1 car, but it seems as though as soon as they get infront of the camera their IQ drops considerably and they forget the thousand other factors that change day to day.


You saying that Hamilton is now all 3 types of driver now?


Good debate guys! Only the rest of the season will tell us all the answers to our questions. Bring on Monaco!!!!


What? I am trying to say nothing of the sort. This post was about commentators' trying to sell us cheap generalisations. Nothing more.


He always was /is. !. Lewis always stood by this and I think circumstances forced all the dummies to see it. Hello! Of course Lewis is going to burn his tyres quicker if he is 3/10 a lap quicker and chasing down/ or fighting wheel to wheel with Red Bulls who are quicker again.


Hamilton has every skill that Button has, and even more so than Button due to Hamilton's raw pace, race craft etc.

What Wayne was saying is these drivers are branded by media, not true to what the drivers actually are.


He's trying to say Hamilton is an all rounder and best driver in F1, which is a load of nonsense in my eyes anyway, Vettel and Alonso are the best drivers in F1 and Lewis isn't quite there, all he's got is 1 lap pace abd done decent overtaking moves.


Great writeup as always James, do we know why the Red Bulls had to change front wings?

Also, is it possible to change the y axis on the graph to show the front runners a bit more clearly? I mean no disrepect to DLR, PIC and GLO but with them finishing a long way back means the other lines are very squashed up the top and we don't get to see Hamilton's two stop strategy, what happenned to Massa, etc. Maybe -150 to 10 would look better.


If you watch the pit stop when they changes Webber's wing you could see the left side lifted above the mechanic's head. The extra winglets could be seen flapping about as their inner edge was no longer attached - there was a definite structural failure which would have meant a significant loss of downforce.

Andrew Carter

Why did Lotus go to the soft tyres in the second stint? By Sunday everybody had been talking about the hard tyres being the ones to be on for the race so it seems like a strange decision to me.



Clearly, they could have won the race if not two laps behind Pic and a smarter pit stop from Williams.


Alonso was soundly beaten, and was controlled by Maldonado. Ferrai's mistake was not reacting to [Williams stop -? Mod], whilst Maldonado set his fastest middle sector on the first lap out of the pits and put in a new fastest lap the very next lap. Pic cost Alonso a bit of time, but if he had not, it would have made no difference.


Hi James,

Your usually excellent analysis is somewhat flawed here. If you look closer at the 2nd and 3rd stints for KR you will see that the 2nd stint laptimes are significantly quicker (fuel corrected). New primes were fitted for the 3rd stint as I wanted to push longer to give a short 4th stint. In hindsight it could have been better to run softs for this final stint but then wear may have been as issue.

We didn't win because ultimately we weren't quick enough but hopefully it won't be long!!

All the best and see you in Monaco




Wow, I am speechless... Insight from team personnel themselves. Thank you Alan for that. This just made my day.

Greetings from F1 fan all the way from Namibia.


I've spoken to him today and he's happy to have been able to interact here.

He's right about the fuel corrected Stint 2 vs stint 3 times.


The Lotus team always seem to run a different strategy from the other top runners. This was most obvious in China but was evident here also. This was fine last year when the car didnt have the pace, but this year they have a car which is up there with the rest. So this kind of risk seems unwarranted esp when they have a champion driver like Kimi who will maximise all the opportunities. Kimi seemed to lose lot of time at the end of his stints over the laps Alonso and Maldonado were on fresh tires having stopped earlier.

Also I am surprised they tought Alonso and Maldanado might need to stop for a fourth time although they had run a similar amount of laps during their third stints on heavier fuel loads as they would need to on their fourth stints.


Hi Alan,

Really good of you to drop in here. I'm hugely impressed by Lotus this season, and looking forward to both of your drivers reaching the top step of the podium.

All the best for Monaco.

(Still slightly puzzled by that second stint, though - would the prime really have been slower ?)


We all appreciate an input from a Team member!

But I wonder if I'm alone in getting annoyed every time someone says "We didn't win because we weren't quick enough"...

Kinda stating the obvious!! 😉


Hi Alan,

First of all, great to see you on here! I guess James was right when he mentioned that some team personnel visit this site 🙂

Thanks for your input on the thinking behind Kimi's strategy. It so nearly worked out! Was still brilliant seeing him on the podium once again and only 12pts off the lead. Not many expected that eh?! I'm sure that win for the team isn't too far away now.

How do you think the Lotus will perform in Monaco? The car seems to have a good front end so Kimi should be able to exploit that.

All the best!



am I the only one that thinks it is cool Alan Permane is on here talking as well? very cool!


agreed. It's brilliant. Thanks Alan.


+1. Good luck, guys.


No, I was just thinking it's pretty cool to see team members engaging in this way. It says a lot for the quality of James' analysis, and perhaps the knowledgeability of many of the fans on here!


Woah pretty cool that even the teams read this analysis, keep it going Alan, Kimi looks good for a win soon!

Now I know hindsights a wonderful thing, and its easy to say this afterwards from my armchair etc etc but one thing that puzzled me from the race was why Raikkonen wasn't stopped a few laps earlier. One can understand the caution after what happened in China, but the front four were so far ahead that at the very worst Kimi and Grosjean might have swapped positions. The drop off in pace after Kimi was overtaken by Maldonado and Alonso was pretty stark - the graph shows he lost roughly the same amount of time as he was behind at the end, and longer on the new tyres would have been further time gained when there wasn't much to lose. Unless the plan was to try and hold up M and A on the old tyres for a few laps?


Excellent analysis Jack.

Perhaps Alan will snap you up for consultancy before McLaren personnel take a serious interest… (!!)



You're pretty much spot on here. The aim was to hold up MAL and ALO and then minimise the last stint. And yes China was very much in my mind!!




Wow thanks for the reply Alan, heres hoping Kimi's excellent race strategy in Monaco gets him up that final step of the podium ;). Could be pretty fun at the front if a midfield runner decides on a 1 stop...




hey Alan...keep up the good works~~!! All eyes on you guys snatching the win with kimi =)


Not sure if I will get a response to this.

Alan, who makes the decision regarding the tires in Lotus. Is it Kimi or you or is it a team-effort? Kimi suffered in China, Bahrain and Spain mainly due to pit-stop strategies. He could have been leading the WDC now if that were not the case. But the same holds true for all the teams as everyone had their fair share of mistakes this year.


I agree China was a risk that didn't pay off but I don't think Bahrain and Spain could have gone any better. It's ever so easy to do the race strategy on a Monday......!!


Alan, Thank you for the response. Yes it is always easy in hindsight. Good luck to you and to your team. Hopefully Lotus will be in top-2 in both championships by year-end (if not win at least one or both). Keep it going!


Hi Alan - firstly, incredibly insightful having you participate here.

Fully agree on 20/20 hindsight. But I do think the Lotus pit wall could have been more proactive in both Bahrain and Spain.

In the latter stages of both Bahrain and Barcelona, (i) RAI was comfortably ahead of teammate GRO, and(ii) GRO had a comfortable gap to the rest of the field. In both these races, because of (i) and (ii) above there was zero risk for the team in attempting an aggressive undercut with RAI to go for the win (final stint in Bahrain and second stint in Spain). At worst, GRO would have swapped positions with RAI, but more likely Lotus would have had a fighting chance to have two race wins under the belt.

I get the feeling that Lotus is playing its pit strategy to a pre-determined plan and not reacting to the race as it evolves. For example, it was clear watching on TV that it was great strategy to try to keep ALO and MAL behind as long as possible, but when it was clear for all to see on lap 46 that ALO was close enough to definitely overtake RAI on the start straight -- I simply could not fathom why RAI was left to complete another lap and lose more than 2 seconds. And this was not strategy analysis in hindsight, but when the race was live!

Oh well. Here's hoping that the Lotus team is building up to peak at the right time. It's the big time again guys -- after 2005 and 2006 -- All best!


Thanks for making it exciting Alan! You guys got really close at the end once again. Assuming you only had scrub options left Your hindsight may have been correct. The gap back was massive with all the trailers on older tires.


im sure if you pitted kimi 1 lap earlier for last stint...he could at least snatch 2nd~~~


Anything is possible with hindsight =)


Thanks for the note. Cheers Alan! See you there.


Hi James,

The more I read comments from Lotus F1 team personnel, I get the feeling that people are CYAing too much. The response from Alan Permane here is a clear example: your post was spot on that bringing RAI in a lap earlier in the final stint would have put him in a much stronger position to overtake Alonso -- but instead of acknowledging that Lotus could have been slightly more proactive on pit stop strategy, the E20 is slated as being not fast enough -- presumably car performance is the responsibility of James Allison. Neat shift of blame!

Another point on race strategy in Barcelona that has gone unnoticed -- why was Kimi (the lead Lotus) brought in a lap later than Grosjean on each of the first two pit stops? I would venture this was to reduce the deficit that GRO had to Kimi to make his performance look better. As a result of the later stops, I believe that KR lost about 5 seconds on the leaders - add to that the extra lap on worn tyres on the penultimate stint (where he was losing 2.5 seconds a lap to ALO), and we are looking at approximately 7.5 seconds of lost time, and three extra laps to attack ALO and MAL at the end.

- Timothy

PS: James -- your contribution to F1 journalism is top notch. The best.


To be fair on Lotus, they did have a more aggressive tire strategy when Kimi fell on worn out rubber in the last stint at the Chinese GP. So perhaps they where a bit too conservative knowing that the temperature had dropped.


James, do you think Kimi is a contender for the Championship?


Everyone seems a contender at the moment: Hamilton, Button, Vettel, Webber, Alonso, Raikkonen, Grosjean, Rosberg, Maldonado - none of these look incapable of the championship right now, especially if Williams randomly good form continues. Even Schumacher or Senna could be a shot if they stop crashing into each other. And Perez? Kobayashi? If they can put together some of their good qualifyings with some of their good races then why not? It will probably settle down eventually. But personally my moneys on Karthikayen...


If he gets a win or two soon, yes


Why did no-one start on hard tyres? I was surprised no-one did, given that it was cooler, and drivers starting quite high up had the option of doing this, either by choice (Vettel, Schumacher) or luck (Kobayashi, Button). Pérez was quick, and had a long run, on the hard tyres after changing his puncture on lap 2.


don't you start with what you qualified with? or is that old rules by now?


top 10 start on the tyres they qualified with in Q3, unless of course they didn't take part in it.

Anything below top 10 can start with whatever tyre they wish.


That could be because the H tires were the general faster choice and the track doesn't have much room for overtaking, even with DRS. Maybe hard tires could be a better choice for low traffic conditions, what is not the configurantion at race start. Thoughts?


Yes, I fear Lotus has a "midfield team" mentality... They need to act like they have been there before as the saying goes.... This is 2 races in a row Kimi could/should have won... China also cost Kimi a ton of points on strategy errors or he would be near the top in the standings


I agree, and maybe Kimi does too. It's great that Alan Permane's writing on here, and I'm in no position to tell him how to do his job, but...what on earth was a short final stint going to achieve?! The Lotuses were the quickest cars out there at the end, with life left in the tyres. They needed time to catch up again, plus at least 5 laps to find a way past Alonso, who's no fool... as you say Daniel, well done Williams.


If you look at top speed in qualy, Kimi was 7.6 kph faster than Alonso without DRS (9.4kph faster than Maldonado), so it would fair to assume that he would sail past the Ferrari. On top of that Alonso was sliding around quite a bit during the last laps. They were probably only one lap short of second place but probably five laps short of winning.


Exactly, looking how Williams was reacting it was apparent they know a thing or two about winning. Lotus seems a little bit like Sauber in Malaysia, hope they will be more aggressive in the future.


Yeah sure!

2005 and 2006 championships were won by Williams....


You mean Renault don't you?



When I saw the 2nd & 3rd stop of MAL and his rythm I said to myself: "If ALO wants to win this race he needs to do something different". IMHO he should cover for Kimi by staying out longer before his 3rd stop, and then hunt down MAL like RAI did to him...the difference was that ALO had 10+ secs in the bag more than Kimi.

Can you please comment on this? I mean when ALO did the 3rd stop his times were not that bad...if I recall he was even faster than Kimi.



James I totally agree with this, do you have any feedback? I don't get why Ferrari brought Alonso in early after Maldonado stopped first. To me it was obvious the Williams was faster. I felt they should have left Alonso out rather than changing strategy, then on the last stint he would have had fewer laps and possibly pressure Maldonado.



this is precisely what I meant , and the more I look into it the more sense it makes. Alonso didnt seem to have reach the end of his tires when he did his 3rd stop. I would like to have your view on this, probably Im missing something here.

Thanks F1Fan4Life...dont see anyone else talking about this, so probably we are really missing something, 🙂


Yorman Hernandez

Strategy was important, but without a fast, mistake free driver, who also takes the curves with finesse in order to make his tyres last more than his rivals', there would have been no win for Williams.

The article kind of minimizes Pastor Maldonado's role in the win.

But we Venezuelans are already used to Pasta being underestimated.

Lets see what comes out when MAL wins Monaco.


The tires kind of minimizes Pastor's role in the win. The team got him the place back he lost at the start FTR.

Yorman Hernandez


Please read Peter Windsor's description of the differences between Pastor's and Alonso's driving during the last laps in Spain.

Maldonado's way of taking the curves in order to conserve tires, was a determining factor in keeping his tires in better shape than Alonso.

Pastor won 7 GP2 races in a row when he won the championship, because he knows how to balance tire wear and speed at the right moment.

Great strategy by the team, but with the slow last pitstop, almost made him lose the lead, also.

So, this is a real victory of the whole team!

Senna with the same car hasn't been able to match Pastor's pace. So it is not just about car ans strategies.

In Spain, a fast mistake-free maturing driver, combined with an improving car and brilliant strategy, came together and produced a fantastic result.

"Pay driver" no more!!!


Yes he did drive well despite the slow start and lucky pole.

James Clayton

To be fair this article is a strategy report. Maldonado has had his praise in the 'driver of the day' article.


You made a brief mention of it in your article, but I really think we're seeing a new emphasis put on passing, and passing quickly. The longer you stay behind another car, the quicker your tires fall off (overheat). I wrote more about it, linked above, if anyone's interested.

You can't wait around to find a weakness anymore... you have to pounce as soon as you possibly can, otherwise you'll end up like Alonso, just falling back.


Yer but the problem is, these tyres don't let you pounce or fight. Maybe you get one chance but that's it.

Hence the voice to make these tyres more able to fight.


...but they do. Look at Kobayashi. He'd get on the wing of another car in Spain and pounce within a lap. Alonso couldn't make it happen and killed his tires.

You can fight with these tires, but you just can't abuse your tires the whole race like you could with Bridgestone.


Yes. that is right. Raikkonen also stayed behind Massa for some time in China and then he suffered as tires gave away.


I'm curious if anyone has heard more about the Red Bull wing failures. Is there more information available?


PS. The graph shows what I mean reasonably well. See how Alonso would catch up, then fall back a bit, then catch up again, only to fall back again? He'd overheat his tires, fall back, cool them off, and try again. You can only do that so many times before your tires say enough! That's when Kimi made huge ground and almost got him.


As soon as Lotus kept both Kimi and Grosjean on soft tyres at the first stop I felt they had made a mistake.

I've also seen a quote from Kimi somewhere that he was trying to go around the outside of somebody at the first corner, but couldn't couldn't because the engine was on the limiter in 5th.

Such things decide the outcome of a race this year, as you say.


He was talking about the start if I recall. I took that as Räikkönen admitting he'd made a mistake at that point. As in, he was saying if he'd shifted in time, he might have been able to squeeze past while as it was, he lost just enough momentum for the gap to disappear.

That's why I like Räikkönen. He doesn't mince words and he's honest, about his own mistakes as much as anyone else's.

And it might be my imagination, but I think it's looking like it's rubbing off on Grosjaen as well. If he's going to copy his experienced teammate in anything, there's worse traits he could mimic imho.


I agree in all respects, except I think that if he had changed gear he would also have lost momentum, so really he needed a taller 5th gear, but then maybe that wouldn't have worked elsewhere on the circuit.


Hamilton should have won this race easily. He will regret this end of the season.

Alonso didn't lose much time behind Pic. The lap times confirm this. Alonso was behind Pic but not close enough to overtake. During the second pit stops Maldonado was faster both before and after the pit stops. In other words, Alonso was not fast enough and the damage done by Pic was minimum. Let's not forget that Maldonado had a problem in his third pit stop as well.

Alonso cooked his tyres in the third stint not simply because he was running too close to Maldonado. He was not looking after them. He was frequently running wide and locking the tyres. Hamilton too was running very close to Massa for a long time and still he managed his tyres well.

I wonder if they ever had a strategy for Massa. He finished just ahead of the Caterhams one lap down.


Not convinced HAM would have won even from pole. For all the brilliance of his quali performance, McLaren's race pace is not up to scratch. He did well to pass all the mid-field guys but gave little sign he was pace-competitive with those at the front.

James Clayton

To be fair, was he even in clean air and on fresh tyres at the same time? As I remember it he always came out behind slower cars, which would have slowed him down, and by the time he ever got a bit of clear air his tires were a) old, and b) needed looking after for a lot more laps. Therefore we just don't know what the actual race pace of that car really was (we unfortunately can't look to Button for help in that area this particular weekend!)


So you saying it's Ham's fault that his car was short-fueled?


"Alonso cooked his tyres in the third stint not simply because he was running too close to Maldonado. He was not looking after them. He was frequently running wide and locking the tyres. Hamilton too was running very close to Massa for a long time and still he managed his tyres well."

We do not know how difficult Ferrari was to drive fast enough to stay in touch with Maldonado.

Alonso may have cooked his tires because that was the only way to stay within a chance of overtaking Maldonado.

Chris Newnham

It's interesting to see the enormous effect fuel load has on the tyre degradation. Managing the moving target of stint length is the biggest strategical challenge at the moment.


If Mclaren had placed enough fuel during qualifying then yes they could have and should have won and dependent on the pit crew. The car had pace and was setup well for the race on tyres eaters car. Hamilton set his car for long runs for this GP and if Mclaren acted well then they would have won. Mclaren need Ron Dennis back, then they will dominate this championship. I have spotted him visiting GP's lately in the padock. With Ron Dennis and withmarsh on the pit stand then only the results will come. Maybe Mclaren need to advertise a new pit crew as they are a nervous wreck.


hello james.

do you think that maldonado can be the first back to back gp winner this year?

if somebody see that lap charts of maldonado from the first race until now then it is to see that he has great race pace and he was very bad luck.just see what he did into bahrain until he get off from mechanical problem 🙂


Question should be. Do you think McLaren will find another way to lose it for Hamilton and if so do you think that maldonado can be the first back to back gp winner this year?

I would give MAL 1 in 8


I think McLaren will find others ways to lose it for hamilton.

and when will not be because of Mclaren, Hamilton will lose on his own.

Watch and learn....



Who do you fancy for monte carlo ?



Seriously great analysis a few races into the season! Even the professionals are getting involved -- if this is any indication about how fine the margins are.

I will therefore (in my non professional capacity) go out on a limb and look for some very angry drivers going into Monaco... plus the next few races.

Rosberg wins in Monaco.


Andrew C.


Hamilton, Raikkonen, Maldonado


How far Maldonado has risen. After the Belgian GP last year, people were wanting him taken out of F!, he was a pay driver, he was...

Even after Australia this year he was criticised.

Yet I saw In Maldonado more potential than I saw in Hulkenburg, both GP2 champions. He was ahead of Rubens far more than the over-rated Hulk.

I'm curious why Alonso is not being considered for Monaco. The way he's driving at the moment is jaw dropping, or is Ferrari still that bad?


I think the Ferrari isn't too bad, but really tricky to set up. Massa seems to have great difficulties adapting to the car this year.

Seems like Alonso is learning to drive around the problems. Would be super interesting to see another driver with a similar skill for adapting have a shot at the Ferrari.


Look, I still do not like Maldonado after what he did in Spa. It just confirms the kind of character he has. Driving talent is there, that was proven last race. But I fear when things are not going his way, will he resort to side swipe someone again since he cannot control his anger?

Speaking about Alonso, I think he is flattering the car and making it look way better than it is. It is almost sorcery what he does with that car.



Do you see Ferrari struggling in Monaco? I sense their car has poor traction out of corners and that may well prevent Alonso having a sniff.


Great Post James.

Why is Jenson 'kind to tyres' Button not doing as well as I hoped?


Being too kind to tyres it being enemy to self 😀


GOOD question!


James, I think Lotus are not so good in low speed and traction. I think they are the best in high speed corners as shown from their sector 1 pace at Barcelona, but in sector 3 they were down on some other cars. Most impressive in sector 3 was McLaren and Red Bull, and then Maldonado.

I think it will be Hamilton, Vettel and Maldonado in the top 3 in qualifying.


I'd fancy Hamilton for this one if McLaren can hold it together.

Hopefully Alonso can wrestle another performance out of the F2012 and make it difficult for him.



Hamilton or Alonso. Qualifying is not there for Renault. Drivers are not experienced enough for Williams. Redbull's are slow.


Alonso is a great driver, but is the Ferrari well suited for the track this year?


Ham 37.5%

Alo 25%

Rai 12.5%

Mal 12.5%

I think Q and start decides this race.

We will see, I hope you guys are spot on it's awesome seeing Frank winning again and Maldonado seems to be a class act.


Maldonado is a Monaco specialist. Don't forget his excellent performance in a dog of a car before Hamilton punted him out of the race. I would therefore not count him out, but ultimately it will be who dials in their tyres the best.

Yorman Hernandez

Well Jim. Maldoando has won Monaco 3 times, with a total of 5 podiums there in lower categories.

Last year he did an exceptional job there driving a dog of a car until Lewis hit him.

I think he does have enough experience to win at Monaco.


Wow! Based on the graph, we can clearly see that Lotus lost 2nd or might even 1st on the first stop.


James, Hi!

Pastor Maldonado drove a magnificent race; he and Williams F1 thoroughly deserved their win. But given the variety of winners and surprise performances one could wonder if one batch of tyres for each GP is sprinkled with magic dust. Whoever scores that batch gets to have a great weekend, maybe a very special race-day. Could you explain how tyres are delivered to teams? For example, does each driver get allocated his own batch of tyres before the race weekend. Are the tyres (& drivers) picked randomly? How do we know the tyres are 'all the same quality' for each driver?


toto wolf told on austrian tv, that they knew alonso couldnt get them in the end, because the same happend to maldonado on his 2nd set when he pushed the tires very hard at the beginning of his stint - they were gone at the end. So it was a great move from williams then!


.. now we have another "half" austrian team on the grid 😉


If Lotus had brought Kimi 2 laps earlier he would have easily challenged Maldona for the win. I think Lotus are over cautious after the China incident and its time for them to hire a good Strategist

James, wondering why Lotus put Kimi in soft in the first stop, instead of hard? Didn't they had enough fresh Hard tires?


James, how do Pirelli allocate tyres during a GP weekend? What if the tyres distributed at a GP weekend are not the same for each driver? Someone somewhere creates One Set of tyres, the cast lots behind the scenes for which driver gets them et voila!

HRT, Marussia and Caterham will get luck too to get the magic set but those Cars are so bad, it would not make any difference. Just a thought!!!


I had exact thoughts. How can we be sure if all tyres are same? the way we get switch-on and swithc-off effect on these tyres when changed shows that they could as well be different tyres. How can we be sure that all the tyres have been standardized and tested?


Hi James,

you suggested Hamilton had the pace to win if he had started from the front. If so, wouldn't it have been better to do a three-stopper anyway? Although I agree with all the praise he received for making his tyres last longer than anyone else, he did lose a lot of time in his last stint compared to the leaders (around 20-30 seconds), and he even lost out to Rosberg, who was hardly on a roll: Rosberg was behind Hamilton when Lewis made his final stop, but was significantly ahead after he made his own final stop a few laps later.

What I would have suggested, in hindsight obviously, is to do a 17-18 lap stint on the new set of primes and push hard, and then put on whichever set of softs was in best condition for the final stint, to charge like Raikkonen and Grosjean did.

It does depend, of course, on whether the McLaren really had the race pace, of course. Maldonado and Alonso managed to do 1m27s and low 1m28s laps, and the Lotuses even 1m26s and low 1m27s, whereas Lewis in tyre preservation mode barely got below 1m29s, and increasing to 1m30s for the final few laps. Even both Caterhams had faster fastest laps! I also find it a shame because I enjoy it more to see Hamilton on a charge than seeing him preserve tyres.


You cannot overstate the importance of running in clear air at the front. Drivers say it sucks you along at higher speed with less tyre deg


In the 21 dry races that we've had with Pirelli rubber since the beginning of 2011 (i.e. discounting Canada and GB last year and Malaysia this year), the winner of the race has been either 1st or 2nd at the first corner in 19 of them. The other 2 times, the winner was 3rd at the first corner (Button on both those occasions).

James - surely this suggests that it is worth doing a lap time and getting towards the top of the grid in Q3 rather than saving tyres and starting lower down, as clear air/lapping at the leader's pace on tyres that have done a few qualy laps seems to trump fresh tyres but stuck in traffic??


That would depend on whether or not you have a realistic chance of getting pole.


Hi James. It may have been stated already somewhere but I would like to know what kind of time gap would be required for a car to be considered in 'clean' air if it is racing behind another car. 1sec, 5sec, 10sec?


Puzzle is why Senna fared so badly, all weekend, quali and race. while Maldonado did so well?

In anticipation of a good Williams race, I put a wager on Senna! It seemed then, that if Williams were going to achieve anything, Senna was the more likely to do it.

I'm still baffled [and out of pocket]


Baha..! & you will keep loosing on Senna. Pastor knows his Williams better than Bruno!


You don't rate Alonso's chances for Monaco, James?

Also, you mentioned some time ago, reference the Massa situation, that the name you'd heard in the frame wasn't Sutil's. Is there any chance that Domenicalli is keeping up to date with Trulli's fitness levels do you think?



No chance for ALO, or no chance of replacing Massa with Trulli?


I believe the chances of them using Trulli are, somehow, actually less than zero.


NO chance for Massa to win and NO chance for Trulli to replace Alonso!


Ahh.. but what if ALO DOES win? 😀


Can anyone shed some light on why button went onto softs for the 3rd stint. did he not have enough decent hard tyres? can't for the life of me understand why they done this.


A Kimi win next time out will blow the championship open even more.


A HRT / Virgin MotherRussia / Caterham Lotus Renault thing winning would make a real surprise + makes everyone a genuine contender for the WDC 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀


Hello moderator! None of my posts are appearing here anymore after I submit. Could you please e-mail me to let me know if the issue is at my end or with the website? I hope I haven't been blocked! 🙁

Lachlan Mackinnon

Great analysis James and also good to see Alan jump on and throw in his two bobs worth. All I can say is lets hope Monaco is as hot as hell and Lotus is able to get a good quali position. C'mon Lotus.....give us a six different team/driver winner for the year!!


No strategy for Maldonado's rivals could overcome his Sunday Tyre Advantage.


James - what's your take on Ross Brawn's absence affecting the psychology of the team, MS in particular. I hope he is fit and well again soon, in time to take the new concorde challenge on.

Keep up the good work, I am impressed by the amount of time you put into personally replying to so many comments. Are you a workaholic? 😉


Peter M of Oz

While many are claiming the tyre unpredicability is wonderful there are many more who believe it is spoiling the possibility of really great racing. With Red Bull not being so dominant this year and a few others improving it would be good if the tyre aspect was not so much of a lottery. What do otehr s think?

Great to see Williams have a win after too long.


Hi James,

A long time follower of your website but this is my first post. Before I ask what I would love to know of you, please let me congratulate you on this wonderful site and I look at it few times in a day for any new article.

One article that I have been expecting and you promised, in one of the previous posts was about your assessment of Ferrari's progress after / up to Spanish Grand Prix. Very keen to know your views on this.



Yes. Will get to that



Isn't Pirelli committing a marketing/publicity suicide introducing its least durable tires? Even if they are doing them on purpose, everyone seems to associate Pirelli lately with tires that don't make it to 3 km.


it's all publicity!


I don't agree, they seem to be on top of it. Nothing stopping them from creating a nondegrading tire if they choose.

Pranav Haldea

IMHO...Hamilton lost a possible top 4 or top 5 finish (maybe even a podium) by getting stuck behing Massa for over 10 laps on relatively new tyres(Lap 18-Lap 29). Had he overtaken Massa at the right time, he could have really made the 2 stop work.

The time it takes for penalties to be handed out really does need to be investigated (it took over 6 laps from the time when the penalty was under investigation to the time when the penalty was eventually handed out!). This...when there was not even any subjective element. It was a clear cut case of the driver using DRS under Yellows...Is anyone listening?



Could it now be possible to back a winner entirely on the weather forecast? Looks like if it is hot & dry - red bull, lotus, medium heat & dry - mclaren, williams, sauber, cold & overcast - mercedes, wet - ferrari. It's such a lottery, I think that's as good as any!


James, did Charles Pic serve his drive-though penalty efore retiring, and if not will it carry on to Monaco?


I believe if he wants to serve the drive through at Monaco he must block someone in free practice or qualifying.


No, he retired so that's that


Well, let me get something straight. Didn't Lewis have another fresh set of hard tyres available? I think that if he pitted some...14-15-16 laps before the chequered flag and changed to fresh hards, he would probably have enough laps to challenge even for 5th. Kimi showed at the end that fresh tyres were miles faster at that point.


No, he didn't. He used one set of Hard tyres in Q1. He started with used options, and then had 2 sets of unused primes, which probably explains why McLaren went with a 2 stop strategy for Lewis.


Still, even a used set of hards would be way faster than what McLaren did! 15 laps before the end, Lewis' tyres were 15 laps old! If he changed to 3 laps old tyres(the used ones), his pace would be skyrocketed!


That's true, BUT you have to factor in that a pit stop (assuming McLaren didn't muck it up) would take around 20 secs. Lewis would have to make up that 20 secs in say the last 15 laps, just to return to where he would of been if he didn't stop. Anything extra would then be a bonus.

So for Lewis to have benefited from stopping again, I would suggest that he would of had to gain around 30 seconds, which would of been a tall order over 15 odd laps, on used tyres.

Remember Kimi only managed to improve his time by 20 secs after his stop, and he still didn't make it pass Fernando.

I do think doing a 2 stopper was the right call. It was getting stuck behind Massa that didn't help, otherwise he may of been in a better position to pass Nico towards the end.

Matt Devenish

I feel cheeky to ask, but would it be possible for future analysis to include a graph or list of the tyres used by each driver, in each session and for how many laps? F1Fanatic have a list of race tyres used, but this doesn’t show how many laps old the used tyres were when fitted to the cars in the race.

I didn't previously consider the tyres Alonso took in the final stint were as old as the used tyres Maldonado took in his. I think it also goes someway to explaining why Ferrari waited the extra 2 laps before pitting Alonso (and after being held up by Pic), instead of reacting immediately to the Williams stop, because otherwise Fernando would have run out of tyres before the end of the race completely.

I'm enjoying the strategy of the 2012 season, but I'm now starting to see the negatives raised by Schumacher more clearly and from a fans point of view I'd argue that allowing teams (or restricting them, which ever way you want to look at this) to use a mixture of new and used tyres during the race is as confusing as the days when fuel levels were kept secret before the start.


This is actually a good point. My negative feelings about Pirelli aside. You have to admit you didn't need this information back in the Schumacher-Hakkinen era because the only thing the tyres were about back then was that you knew it was just up to the drivers to use them. Soft was quicker than the Hard but the Hards lasted longer.

They were never in question before, and shouldn't be questioned today, because you had two of the greatest drivers in the world going incredibly stupid fast on them and waging war with each other every two weeks.

It was sensational! It's true when Hakkinen quit some of that magic went away, but it wasn't like something was wrong with the tyres.

Today you would need all this detailed tyre information just to understand the performance collapse of some teams and drivers that is perplexing.

I'll watch Monaco if only to see the reality check Maldonado gets when he tries settings that worked for him in Barca's tight bends only to see they "betray" him in the Principality.


Mercedes didn't complain about the tyres when they won in China..

Have you considered that when people have a bad race they blame the tyres? It's an easy excuse..


TOTALLY AGREE! Now fans are whinging so much its becoming real irritating.

Whatever complains drivers have it will reveal how well they can control the tires now.


James, you think its good PR if Schumacher complained about the tyres while the team were celebrating the victory?

Truth is everyone's talking about tyres, rather a lot; if that was the aim then it has been achieved. I personaly don't enjoy all this tyre discussion and the importance of luck and really don't care that 5 races have been won by 5 people. I don't understand why this should matter to me.


Tyres have always been fundamental to strategy, even back in Fangio's day!

In refuelling era it was tyres and fuel loads, then in 2010 when refuelling was banned it was tyres, but they lasted all race, as was saw graphically with Alonso stuck behind Petrov in Abu Dhabi. So no-one overtook (4/5 overtakes every year in Spain)

Now I agree there is too much talk about tyres, the balance is too much that way. But it's not new that tyre considerations are the basis of strategy


These are the very fine details, like the fact that Alonso's stint 2 and stint 3 tyres had one lap on them and his final set had done a Q1 run. This info is not available from Pirelli, you have to get it from deeper sources.

Matt Devenish

Is this because the teams or Pirelli want to keep the information private?

Thanks for the excellent analysis


It goes to the level where Pirelli cannot divulge team info. So one needs to have team sources.


James, many thanks for an excellent post (others too). From the stats those front 4 teams were very consistent. I'm particularly impressed with Saubers 2nd stint. Thanks to Alan Permaine for feedback I was thinking Lotus wanted a short last stint.

My guess for Monaco will be HamIlton, Raikkonen, Alonso

, Grosjean. Can't wait for Kimi to win ! I just think mechanical grip on corner exit will suit Mclarens slightly.

Alan or James do you see Sauber a stronger threat now than say Mercedes ?they are consistently quick



Any idea, why Lotus thought Maldonado and Alonso should pit again? Wasn't that a huge blunder on part of Lotus?


I am dejected after watching todays f1. I feel like there was never a driver championship and never will be.

Am I the only one?

It's almost as if it's irrevalant to discuss about who is the better driver.

It's a bit like Ronaldo vs Messi. Just because his team won doesn't mean he won the footballer championship against Messi.

I guess MMA is slowly winning me. The champion is the best, period.

And the UFC business model is something Bernie might want look into. They create so much content and fights happens every week.

And if I want to watch a fight from the past I can pay 2$ and watch it straight away.

With f1, if I want to watch a race, it just not possible.


Formula 1 is a team effort delivered through the driver. This year it would seem that the driver has a lot more influence on the outcome than in the past.

To see 24 fighters (12 fights) you would pay 24 USD? Sounds expensive for such a simple production.


It may be simple in terms of production but it's real.

The fighters compete with different skillset and the best man always wins. F1 spends so much money on a lot of things but they ended up creatin artificial racing.


James, why don't Lewis go for 3 pits, with faster pace.

1 more pit, he lost 20-21 second more

In order to preserve the tyre, he has to run I think at least 0.5 sec slower pace from what he could push more. Run 2 hard set at 21 and 31 laps, this 52 laps he lost at least 25 sec

Why don't do another pit and lost 20-22 sec at most, he should be gain at least 5 sec and should be more from faster pace. I know that he might have some traffic but I think it possible to have the higher finish. Let see Kimi, he was behind Pastor and Alonso before his last stop, with new tyre he catch them quickly.


Hi James,

Wonderful insight into the race once again and it was great to see Alan giving his thoughts on the race.

Correct me if I am wrong here, after Spanish GP, Vettel is on top of the championship as a result of the count back but I am sure Alonso (5th,1st,9th,7th and 2nd) has finished every race in the points and Vettel(2nd,DNS,5th,1st,6th) missed out on points in Malaysia. Considering they both have had a 1st, 2nd and 5th place finish, it depends on the remaining 2 results, of which Alonso has a 7th and 9th place and Vettel a 6th and 11th place. In that case shouldnt Alonso be leading the WDC?


No because the 6th place is the highest next finish after the podiums



Since the time Lewis was penalised for stopping on track at the end of qualifying and made to start at the back, I've been wondering why the same rule doesn't apply at the end of the race. We've seen several drivers pull over at the end of the pitlane (including after winning the race) owing to a lack of fuel as explained by the BBC commentators and the drivers themselves in post race interviews (e.g. "the race pace was higher than we anticipated", etc.). Why haven't a single one of them been penalised? Isn't the FIA interested in getting a fuel sample post-race for the same reasons as post-qualifying, or are there different rules for qualifying and the race?



There were over 500 comments on this issue in earlier article by James. Please go through them, you will find your answer.



so you mention temperature in this article having cited it as a key differentiating factor in performance.

Mark Hughes in a column on sky sports also talked about the massive influence temperature is having.

We now have fluctuating track temperature as arguably the single biggest cause for swings in performance between teams.

How can you then support the pirelli tyres, and say that the team who wins are ones that do the best job?

Its arguably more of a lottery because no one can predict what the weather is going to be like on a Sunday at 1pm. Its akin to just randomly applying ballast to a team, picked out a hat.

The only argument you could make is that the teams then have to build a car that works the tyres in a wider operating window.

But then building and designing the car starts way back the previous year, they couldnt possibly have factored the nature of these pirellis in, and now air temperature is defining their performance on the day.

None of this is conducive to a well rounded championship finish. What happens if we go into the last round with 6 drivers all with a chance of winning it, and due to a step up in track temperature, Williams outperforms others and Maldonado wins the championship. Did he win on merit?


Well first of all I'm not supporting Pirelli tyres; I agree that there is too much about tyres at the moment. They dominate the conversations and the commentaries.

However there are a lot of misconceptions out there. In Bridgestone and Michelin days temperature fluctuations had an effect. But these things are a lot more sensitive for sure.

Don't forget however that you have some teams that aren't getting the results at the moment, who are blaming the tyres. You can draw your own conclusions.

Let's not forget that Red Bull won the titles last year on Pirelli tyres, which degraded faster than these ones....


Last year I did not hear this word "thermal degradation" that much (or perhaps never). Did you mean actually the wear of the tires was more last year?

I think the physical wear was more last year than this year, but thermal degradation is entirely new this year and surprisingly not many teams could foresee it in pre-season testing!

I do agree that we have given up all discussion on other components of car and onyl tyres are the focus for all season.

Every year, some technology is the focus - for example double diffusers last 2 years etc. Whichever car has mastered that tech, usually runs away ahead. This year no one has mastered the tyres (or as the original post put it, it was not foreseen during the design). No other tech is in focus. So no one can really run away with the Championship. So what is wrong with this situation? If it was OK with some specific tech to decide a Championship, the same holds true for tires also as it is also a piece of the car after all!

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