How the safety car changed the game in Valencia: Analysis
Strategy Report
Posted By: James Allen  |  26 Jun 2012   |  3:09 pm GMT  |  162 comments

Formula 1 finally got its first two time winner of the season in the eighth round, after a fascinating race, in which Fernando Alonso came from 11th on the grid to win.

His victory owned a lot to an excellent start, where he made up three places, to some fine pitwork from the Ferrari mechanics (Alonso’s first stop was two seconds faster than Raikkonen and allowed him to jump the Lotus) and to race strategy. He also rode his luck when the safety car was deployed on lap 28, one of the race’s defining moments.

He had several slices of luck in fact; Sebastian Vettel was running away with the race when his Red Bull car stopped with an alternator failure and a similar problem sidelined the second fastest car, the Lotus of Romain Grosjean. And another pit stop problem for McLaren, moved Lewis Hamilton out of Alonso’s way at the crucial second stop, under the safety car.

It had looked a very unlikely win after qualifying, where Ferrari made a tactical error in not sending the car out early enough in Q2 and then not using a second set of soft tyres to ensure that he made it into the top ten shootout. They were trying to ensure that they had two sets of new soft tyres for the Q3 session, but misjudged the competitiveness of the field and missed the cut.

So although his starting track position was poor, ironically this qualifying error also helped on race day as Alonso had one new set of medium tyres and two new sets of softs to play with. It meant that he could use new tyres for all three stints in the race and as everyone’s tyres were fading at the end of stints, ultimately it was the thing that kept his nose ahead.

By making a great start and taking all his opportunities to overtake and gain positions, Alonso gave himself the chance to win the race.

Pre-race expectations
Before the start, the feeling was that one stop was slower than a two by 16 seconds, which is almost an entire pit stop, but that the one stopper would be ahead after the final stops and that track position could prove significant. A new Medium tyre was expected to last 25 laps and the soft 20 laps.

Most teams looked at the tyre degradation figures from Friday practice and concluded that it would not be possible to do the race competitively on one stop.

What the teams are looking for is the point in the wear cycle where the degradation becomes so bad that the tyre performance drops off a cliff. What makes this so tricky is that it varies from circuit to circuit. At some venues it is when the tyre is 70% worn, at others it’s later in the tyre’s life. You don’t know until you get there. On hotter tracks it tends to be closer to the 70% level.

Some teams felt that one stop might be possible; Force India’s Paul di Resta and both Mercedes drivers considered it and started the race with that as the plan. But only Di Resta saw it through. Arguably he would have been better not to; had he opted to cover the late second stops of the Mercedes drivers and fitted a set of soft tyres as they did, he could have finished ahead of his team mate Hulkenberg.

A strange race tactically speaking

In the past at Valencia, overtaking was always very hard and therefore track position in the race was everything. But with this generation of Pirelli tyres and the DRS wing things have changed.

A perfect example of this was the way that Michael Schumacher, Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg’s races evolved in the final 20 laps.

Webber and Schumacher qualified outside the top ten; Webber had a technical problem and qualified 19th, while Schumacher was 12th. Both men started on the medium compound tyre, which made a one-stop strategy a possibility. Mercedes planned to do this with Schumacher, but once again the predictions based on the tyre performance in Friday practice turned out to be wrong on race day. The rear tyres were overheating on some cars within the first five or six laps, so one stop was a major challenge.

Rosberg was also planning on one stopping, but his pace was very slow and by the time Sebastian Vettel made his first stop, Rosberg was already 32 seconds behind him. But the safety car helped bring him back into the pack and he too made a late switch onto soft tyres and he ended up sixth. Di Resta was 2 seconds behind Hulkenberg and 27 seconds ahead of Rosberg after that late stop and should have covered it by pitting himself. He would have stayed ahead of Rosberg and, looking at the relative pace on new tyres, would easily have overhauled Hulkenberg for 5th place in the closing stages.

From lap 46 onwards Schumacher and Webber were a second a lap faster than the leaders and so could make progress through the field towards the podium, which Schumacher eventually got.

The front runners all made their second stops when the safety car was deployed on lap 28, meaning that they had 29 laps to go to the finish, of which five were at low speed behind the safety car. Webber and Schumacher had been helped by the safety car closing the field up and they were able to pit ten laps later and on new softs to cut through the points positions towards the podium. Nico Hulkenberg, for example, was 16 seconds ahead of Schumacher on lap 42, but he was passed by the Mercedes driver on lap 56.

The safety car always changes the game from a strategy point of view. In Valencia it did a number of things. First it put all the front runners on a lopsided strategy, whereby the middle stint had been shorter than planned; they intended to go to around lap 32 and the safety car obliged them to stop on lap 28. So they were committed to a long final stint on medium tyres. This provided an opportunity for Mercedes and Webber. It also provided an opportunity for Di Resta, but as we’ve seen, Force India didn’t take it.

Second it led to a shake up of the order at the front as another McLaren problem pit stop for Hamilton dropped him behind Alonso and into a pack of cars. Had that stop gone smoothly, Hamilton would have been ahead of Alonso in the final stint, would have avoided the collision with Maldonado and would have fought Alonso for the win, arguably having to settle for a podium as his tyre wear was clearly not as good as the Ferrari’s.


Alonso : SN, SN(15), MN(28)
Raikkonen: SU, SU(14), MN (28)
Schumacher: MN, SN(19), SU (41)
Webber: MN, SN(19) SN(38)
Hulkenberg (SU, MN (14), MN(28)
Rosberg: SU, MN (20), SU(46)
Di Resta: SU, MN(23)
Button: SU, MN (10), MN(26)
Perez: MN, SU (10), SN (25)
Senna: SU, MN (20) DT (24)

Ricciardo: SN, SN(14), MN (37)
Maldonado: SU, MN (14), MN (28)
Petrov: SN, SN(13), SU(25), MN (28), MN (47)
Kovalainen: SN, SN(12), MN(27)
Pic: MN, SN (11), MN (28)
Massa: SN, MN (11), SN (27), MU (34), SU(53)
De la Rosa: SN, SU(14), MN(28)
Kartikeyan SN, SU (15), MN(29) DT (39)

Hamilton SU, MN (13), MN(28)
Grosjean: SU, SU(16), MU(28)
Vettel: SU, SU(16), MN(29)
Kobayashi: SU, SU(14) MN(29)
Vergne: MN, SU (17)

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

Kindly provided by Williams F1 Team

Notice 1) How strongly Vettel was driving away from the field; 2)The speed of Webber and Schumacher on their new soft tyres in the final stint, relative to the other leading cars. Note also the drop off in pace of Hulkenberg and Di Resta.

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Hi James, just wondering do you think Alonso is driving some of his best races in probarly his best ever season? I think he has been mega this year. In a car that was not quick to begin with he has won two races and just done the Alonso thing of getting on with it and getting the best result he can. Rooting for him for the championship as really feeling like he should get it over anyone else at the moment.


Undoubtedly. I think most right-thinking people in F1 say that he's on a higher level than he was in 2005/6. Some really remarkable performances.


I have to agree. While I didn't ever think much of Alonso in the past, what he has done this year is absolutely extraordinary. It is Schumacher '96 stuff - taking a sluggish and difficult to drive car and outperforming in it.

The fact that Alonso has scored 111 points in the F2012 and is leading the championship, while Massa has only managed 11, reminds me of Schumacher at his height too. Barrichello, who is no slouch, would usually score the amount of points that reflected the car's true speed, while Schumi's genius would enable him to add 20 or 30 points more to his tally.

If there was a People's Choice Award for the Championship, my vote would go to Alonso, and so would that of any objective F1 fan this year.


I agree,

With alonsos 4 closest challengers dropping out -- and the safety car handing him 20 seconds - how could he not win.


I have to agree with you on that one, the Mclaren is over hyped, I think the car needs some sorting out as it has some potential. The Ferrari has been consistent in the race with bags of pace. True Alonso is a good driver but we can not overlook the retirements and safety cars, also I saw marshals pushing a car on track with no safety car being called out...even Brundle was saying this is the sort of stuff we shouldn't be seeing. With the situation this year, it seems things are so unpredictable and so many things are at play. expect to see more miracles in terms of surprises. You just can't afford to discount anyone..I watched the Senna documentary and think he is an all time favourite, a driver that raced against the establishment and thats what I call a true legend. On merit Schumi cleans the plate, its the Championship that counts and I will reserve my opinion for another 3 years..LOL!


I know this will draw howls of derision, and I'm not saying this to run Alonso down, but what exactly is so sluggish about the Ferrari now? I'm asking from the viewpoint of am I missing something? I think the Ferrari was quicker than the McLaren during the race. So does Gary Andersen.

The McLaren seems more of a conundrum than the Ferrari. Very respectable in qualifying but a nothingness in race fit-out. Button's labourings show how much of the proverbial 'dog' can be found in that car. If anyone is outperforming their car NOW it is Lewis. Or am I totally wrong?


Mr Allen a well said,I am unashamed to say

in F1 Alonso is my hero,a bit of Alain Prost a thinker a true grit driver when necessary,just imagine where Ferrari would be on today F1 clasification without Alonso?.

To drive a two seater and lead the drivers

clasification that is just above ordinary it takes some doing.

Thank you for a superb article, keep it up



I would agree, luck (or Kimi Raikkonens lack there of) in 2005 won him the championship, Schumachers stuttering start to won him 2006. I think he was better in 2007 than he was in his championship years suffered with a poor Renault in 2008/9, I dont think he was at his best in 2010 either although he was undoubtably strong. He hauled that pig of a Ferrari to places it shouldnt have been last year and he is doing it again this year. Form of his life.


Agreed, there is no-one better in F1 right now. I'd like to think he is where Hamilton will be by this time next year but that might just be wishful thinking from a Hamilton fan! Still Alonso has displayed petulance and impatience in the past and has now risen above it, perhaps Hamilton can do the same - he's made a good start this year.


I think Webber is missing on the graph?

Seán Craddock

nope, he's there, just hiding behind Schumacher's line 4 most of the race 😛


That's the problem - I think he was happy to hide behind Shumi in 7th & 8th - but by the time those two realised they were in with a shot for the podium, it was too late for Webber to attack Michael.


I doubt MW would have been happy to "hide" behind Schumi but the problem was straight line speed of Merc and lack of for RB. The only passing places were at the end of straights either turn 12 or turn 2. Merc staright line speed meant MW was too far behind to overtake in to those corners.


He is there, shadowing Schumi.


Slightly worried about vettels pace. Hope it's not the start of a 2011 type run for him now. Hopefully it's just circuit dependant and that it remains as close as it has done. Looking at Barcelona the McLaren was clearly the class of the field on one lap and silverstone layout is similar.


When he lead by 20 secs it was déjà vu. I sure hope not this year.


Every reason to be - the graph speaks volumes!


If that's the case then Hamilton should seriously consider leaving McLaren for Red Bull. It seems like whatever upgrades they have turns to gold.


Hamilton should have come out ahead of Alonso and might not have suffered the tire wear he did because he would have been running in clean air and Alonso might have suffered higher tyre wear trying to fight past...

Great report though. I love finding out more about the guys who come through on slightly different strategies.

This was one of the first races when i felt DRS was spot on. It allowed people to fight in the braking areas without letting them sail past but also allowed the likes of Lewis and Schumi to defend properly. DRS was perfect here.

Love f1 even more 2012 style!


From what I remember Hamilton was in clean air for most of the last stint as Alonso was 3.5-4 seconds ahead.


I wonder where the Caterhams would have finished if not for the issues they had during the race. They were doing really well.

Kimi spent too much time stuck behind Hamilton. Otherwise the end results would have been different.

Massa also had the same tyre choice as Alonso and this was a perfect opportunity for him to prove his worth. But he ended up being lapped outside the points. Doesn't look good as they have already started looking for another driver.


would have been better for HAM's championship if he'd let Kimi by soon as he arrived at the last stint, then he would have won: ie: 7 points less for Alonso at the top.


And Raikonen 7 points closer behind, remember he is not far behind Hamilton in the standing. It is a two edged sword!

tom in adelaide

That's the kind of assessment McLaren should be making in real time. It was obvious that Kimi was going to get past. Let him past and as you say, he might deprive Alonso of 1st place, or better yet, they may tangle and end up with punctures etc. Obviously they shouldn't always be thinking with such a negative attitude, but in this instance everyone could see that Kimi was going to get past eventually.


That could have worked, as alonso with his championship thinking would probably let kimi past without too much fight...

Seán Craddock

U have to look at the bigger picture though! While Petrov was running well before he was involved in the incident. He had a good track position which was helped by the safety car, the safety car that was triggered by Kovalainen's incident...


Caterham doing well on race that day with Valencia Upgrade Package. more to come in Silverstone package


Let's be fair to Felipe- he would have had a much better result without having to limp back to the pits for a new nose following Kobayashi's attempt to overtake. I think we should reserve judgement on Massa until the end of the season, the car us clearly more driveable now and as he is the epitome of the confidence driver a good result could still see his season come to life. He's still as good as anyone who might replace him for 2013, but he does have a lot to prove.


True, he was hit by Kobayashi and after his pitstop to get a new nose, he just dropped of the radar. I do remember him getting passed by a Caterham...


I am not so sure about Felipe. I really think he is done at Ferrari. Even if your team mate is driving great, the gap between them is huge. It might just be confidence (internal politics) or maybe he will never race to the level he previously did. Either way, how can the scuderia keep loosing points (and money) by waiting to see if he improves?

I think if you look at grosjean, it is easy to believe they could find someone good. In fact, how about Heiki? Maybe he has recovered enough confidence to again be a valuable player in a top team?


He was also unlucky to lose out by pitting right before the safety car, as were Button and Perez.


Love the new graph layout. Makes alot more sense now 🙂

That's 2 races in a row that Force India mess up the strategy for Paul. That's a shame.

Also, any more news on the McLaren pit crew? Are they going to do any other changes or will they continue as they are and hope for the best?


Er, the chart is the same layout as its always been!

McLaren have changed things. They actually had the fastest stop ever so deserve credit there. But they'll need to redesign that jack.


The chart changed. Now the 0 line is not right at the top like it used to be.

Even if the jack failed, the second guy didn't lift the car properly. The guys on the right left wheel could not fit the wheel due to enough clearance..


No it is the same, but the mid race safety car caused the race pace to slow to such an extent that the pace of the first section of the race was faster than the winner's average pace even with the high fuel loads (i.e. the 'ghost' car).

Maybe you're not fully understanding what the graph is showing if you thought it was different?


It's still the same chart layout. The difference for this race was the long safety car period which means most of the cars were going faster than hypothetical zero line driver early in the race.


The crew did a good job to be fair and set a new fastest ever time. The problem with Hamilton's later stop was that he hit the jack coming into the box which caused the release mechanism to fail.

It was a new style jack and had had problems in practice (so why race with it?), so I'm not sure you can blame the crew for the incident.


Surely all drivers either always hit the jacks or occasionally hit the jacks. I can't imagine McLaren designed a jack that fails if the driver hits it. Why did the second one appear to fail as well?


What did he do, reverse into the jack at full tilt? Are people/McL trying to blame Lewis for poor pit stops as well now?


The best drivers hit their marks exactly, the rest don't. Look back to '95 and Herbert driving down the pitane with the read jack still on the car. The team said publicly that it happened because Johnny as usual was not exactly on point - and that Schumacher -always- was...

Seán Craddock

I think they have to since there was a problem with both the jacks!


Thanks for the analysis James. For some it won't matter a jot for their one-eyed glance st the world.

Anywas, I have to slightly disagree on one point. That is the last part about LH probably having to settle for a poduim as FA had better tyres. The fact that LH had to battle back from 6th (due to no fault of his own) must have played a major role in prematurely wearing tyres with respect to that of FA.


You're forgetting that Vettel left Lewis behind at a second a lap right from the start before Grosjean passed him and left Lewis behind.

I just don't think the Mclaren was working that well in Valencia.


Though they may have been in a little better condition, on reflection Lewis struggled so much at the end that I think he wouldn't have been able to hold on to the lead regardless.


Lewis didn't had to battle anyone except Kimi on lap 34 after the Safety Car in a very easy and clean way. Next one in front of Lewis was Riccardo on very worn tyres. Riccardo went wide a lap later and Lewis cruised past.

After that Lewis had Grosjean in front which he could not catch. Alonso's job was easier, since he overtook Grosjean at the restart.

I think Lewis's tyres got worn while defending from Kimi, but even at that stage, he didn't had the pace to catch up on Alonso.


seems my keyboard is also falling off the cliff. Apologies for typoes;)


James, I would love it if you made a blog post explaining how to read a race history graph. I know they're very useful, but I get lost. What is the "time difference" measured against? E.g. On lap 28 Vettel was 100 seconds from what?


As far as I'm aware from reading older strategy reports the zero line is the race winner's average lap time (which is the race winner's finishing time 1:44:16.649 for ALO) divided by the number of laps (57 in this case). The values on the graph are the difference between the drivers lap times and the average lap time of the winner I believe. I'm sure someone can clarify if I'm wrong!


You are right. The best way to understand it is considering the 0 line a shadow car that is lapping at exactly the winner's average lap time, the graph shows the accumulated time difference with that shadow car after any number of laps.


Measured against the leader.


James, do you think that Vettel's and Marko's claim that the safety car was necessatated more by need to spice up the show rather than to clear debris from the circuit has any basis, or is this more a case of sour grapes?


That was the first thought that came into my head when the SC appeared - and how come there was no safety car when the marshalls were pushing Vettle's car off track ..that was highly dangerous!!

I think we should stop calling it the Safety Car and refer to it as the "Car to Revitalise the Attention of the Public" - or C.R.A.P.


I think there was too much debris, strewn over too great a distance. Verne wrecked car speeding back to the pits!

They've put out SCs for less.


I found it strange that Vettel's car was removed without the safety car. The poor marshals were scared and looking behind to make sure no one hit them when they pushed the car away.


To be honest I didn't think they needed a Safety Car at first, but then I noticed there was a bit of metal from Kovalainen's wheel rim on the track.

I would think that a sharp bit of metal is very dangerous. I don't even want to imagine a car going over it and throwing it in the air in the path of an uncoming car.


Or into the crowd


James, the lotus car may be soft on tyres, but it seems to suffer from getting heat instantly into the tyres after pits and SC~~ both kimi and romain overtook by lewis and alonso after the restart~~~ could you looks into this issues pls?? kinda worrying given how cool silverstone is right now!!



What is your take on Vettel and Marko's comments about the safety car issue. They have been accusing the stewards of undoing their perfect race. How could anyone know the renault engines will overheat? It looked like a certainty that Vettel will pull away form everyone else after the restart. I think it's an absurd suggestion from RBR and once again shows Vettel in poor light as a sore looser. This also brings into question Charlie Whiting's integrity. Any comments about how neutral Charlie is compared to the previous race director?


They has their own protege JEV to blame for this own . He first caused a silly accident and drove back agressively to the pits dropping debris all over the place.

Serves them right for dropping Jaime Alguesuari at the last momemt not giving him any chance to explore other options. Amazingly he came into his first race weekend aged 19 never having driven an F1 car but was so mature with his racing and hardly ever caused silly accidents.


Agreed +1


Like I said above, the SC was very much needed to clear that bit of sharp metal from Kovalainen's wheel rim after the collision with Vergne.


It cuts both ways, some times it goes for you, some times against


Its really funny to see RBR reactions after this race. Vettel and Marko's statements apart, Honer has joined the show with predictions of misfortune for Alonso! With a car as dominant as theirs, I would expect them to shut up a get on with the job ahead.


Also wasn't great from Red Bull with the yellow flag Schumacher carry on (pushing their agenda on BBC forum) when they surely knew their own driver Webber was way faster in that yellow flag sector.


I believe that the safety car contributed to the Renault alternator problems in that while RPM loads are reduced, the current loads combined with reduced cooling might have well contributed to the failures. Also, the safety car deployment was puzzloing. It was deployed for ages for a piece of debree, yet was not when marshals were in obvious danger pushing the Red Bull off the track!


indycar does it better - lapped cars drive through the box (drivetrough)- so they are slower than the rest behind the safetycar and finaly they are at the end - much better than an wavethrough they use now in F1

it takes a lot of time till they reach the end of the field again.

with the "pass though box" version, the even stay lapped 🙂



Keeping them lapped is an interesting point. If you are on the lead lap you get everything but the field spread back, but if you drop a lap to one car, you lose a lot. Hypothetically, you could have two cars, one on fresh tyres after a pit stop just over a lap down and one on old tyres when the safety car comes out. The normal reality would be that the car on new tyres would end up ahead, but now it is locked in a lap down. IRL isn't shown in Australia, but does it close the pits in this instance to stop free pitstops?


I wondered about that-how come a piece of debris warranted AGES behind the SC, but a few laps later, there were the marshalls pushing a car on the OUTSIDE of the bend!?

How on earth can that not require a safety car??


Maybe track folk being FA fans was a factor.


The new rules state that lapped cars out of position can unlap themselves under the safety car. As they have to drive slowly to regain position this results in the safety car being out for longer than is required. This is good in a way in my opinion because when the race restarts, the leaders are not stuck behind the slower cars.


The rule this year is that when the safety car in deployed, the racing order will be restored before the restart. That adds a few extra laps to the safety car period (blame the backmarkers). I think that this is a good rule, Alonso and Hamilton overtook during this restart. If not for this rule, they would have been busy overtaking backmarkers, while the leader will pull away from them.


Just make lapped cars go through the pitlane


I like this idea


Naaa... it's far more likely to be a conspiracy involving FIAT owned Mageti Marelli.

Or not.


James - love the strategy report as always.

Have you thought about changing the graph so that rather than using an image you show an interactive graph where the user can turn drivers lines on and off for better clarity?

I'd love to know how the graph provider works out the lap times for the first lap as the FIA press releases note them as being over 14 minutes long which I assume starts as soon as the car leaves the pit lane for the grid?


I had the same problem. The graph on this site lets you remove unwanted drivers.

Hope posting a link here is ok:


Yeah, that graph's very good. Though I don't like the colour scheme. Hurts my eyes!


It's done from the Race History data.
Yes I have thought about an interactive graph and it's one of the things on the To Do list, along with a lot of other stuff!


Yeah interactivity would be good. Making them in Excel is easy (I've done it before - in fact I've made these exact graphs to make race histories for the xbox F1 game for an online league, hehe!). Don't have the skills to convert it to a web app though, alas. Maybe that's my to do list!

Also, request your designer to allow you to select the axis limits so we can zoom in to see greater detail (of the leaders, say). For example, in races where the latter runners are a long gap from the leaders, you'd ideally want the time axis to be trimmed when not showing the 'stragglers'!



Your pre-race and the post-race summary are brilliant and insightful. I learn a lot from these and look forward to them during each race. Though I found your blog only recently, I am happy I did it! Thank you very much.


Surely, Alonso rode his luck with the introduction of the safety car and probably he would have finished fourth more than third but he did some extraordinary overtakings on the outside - things we haven't seen in F1 for ages. Sometimes things come your way, sometimes they don't. What's important is that you're consistent and score points. Better to accept defeat and come in 3rd 4th 5th or 6th than crash in a wall or worse having reliability problems!

Tornillo Amarillo

So it seems Alonso's strategy was more luck, doing no errors.

No tyre management there, just put the new tyres and go, bring the car home!


I think it is worth mentioning the number of overtakes that Alonso did: three at the start, three for position to cars with the same tyre conditions (HUL, MAL, GRO), and four for position but to cars with older tyres in a different strategy (WEB, SEN, SCH, DiR).

Fantastic racing!


totally agree +1

And what about Alonso's overtaking show?


Yup, Alonso makes his own luck.


I don't entertain the ideas of any conspiracy much but believe safety car should be what it is called "a safety car". As previously mentioned, it allows order to be reastablished and backmarkers to unlap thenselves. But why should the leader, irrespecytive RBR, Ferrari or HRT lose hard earned advantage? If the backmarkers are stuck between the leaders, thats what it is, they would have to be lapped in race conditions wouldnt they.


Hey come on, safety car has always been a gamble. Some people gain while others lose out badly. Just accept it as an integral part of F1.


There are true racing fans and sore/whining fans. Win some lose some. Mario is a p****.


Let's not forgt that RB weren't moaning when the safety car gifted Vettel the second place in Australia. That was the flukiest move under safety car conditions I've ever seen.


And how the safety car kept Button in the race in Canada last year? Din't help them there


...Or Monaco last year!

Seán Craddock

James who won the prize for guessing Alonso would be the 1st to win 2 races this season and what was the prize? (I guessed Hamilton but oh well)


It will be announced in next day or so.


I know I won't win, but I guessed correctly so am happy with myself for that, haha.


I think 1 of the biggest losers of the safety car was Massa. He pitted 1 lap before the safety car and that left him in a bad position at the restart. He seemed to struggle from that point on.


sorry. Sort of off topic ... But can you imagine how exciting it would be if they brought back re fuelling in the current tyre era?!! Assuming they scrapped the rule that says you must use both compounds of tyre in the race. I could imagine wildly different strategies playing out where different drivers/cars driving one or two longer stints on the harder tyres, or many short qualifying sprints on the soft options... We could end up with races like Schumacher and Hakkinen at hungary years ago.


What was the reason they gave for scraping re-fueling?


Cost savings, IIRC.


to save money, apparently


For safety reasons too.


with the added bonus that passing moves are suerly easier now than they have been in the past


An interesting article. Alonso was indeed very lucky on reflection, but at the same time, you make your own luck in this sport. Since joining Ferrari (and indeed rejoining Renault before) we've seen a different Alonso behind the wheel. It's a joy to watch him out on track.

I was very happy with the race result on sunday. Three of my favourite drivers on the podium, proving that the old guard still have a thing or two to show the younger drivers. I'm loving this season - I cant wait for the next twist in the title race!


It is very surprising for me that some people seem to be "discovering" Alonso in the last couple of seasons, why do you see a different Alonso behind the wheel since he rejoined Renault?

His first stint in Renault was stunning grabbing two WC and his year at McLaren was pretty impressive to ending just one point off the WC.

I really don't see your point here, clearly he is at his peak now, but his entire F1 career so far has been absolutely brilliant IMHO.


I agree. Basically, everyone on the podium gained from those retirements. In fact, everyone in the race gained from the retirements since they all happened at or near the front! Just part of racing.

What's remarkable about Alonso is that he was there to take advantage of those retirements. His passing was sublime and very opportunistic. Great race craft on display. His pit crew also displayed great work to help him up the order. Only blight on Alonso's weekend was qualy I think.

Schumacher and Webber did great work with their teams to change strategy and then make their way forward. RBR's post-race comments about the safety car are a bit awkward too considering how much it helped out Webber. Still, forth ain't bad for a number two!

Perhaps Kimi's race is the most disappointing of the finishers in terms of what could have been. His pit crew lost him position to Alonso, and out on track, he couldn't get past Hamilton quickly enough to put him in better contention for the win. And was it just me, or did the Iceman look like he was melting in the post-race interview!


Speaking of post-race interviews, why do they bother to ask Kimi any questions anyway? They should just congratulate him, smile and move on the others who actually say something worth hearing. Borrrring Kimi!!


Looking at that solid purple line, it would appear to me that the 2nd half of this season will be nothing like the 1st.


Completely agree with you. It appears like its going to be 2011 all over again.


I don't wish to take anything away from Alonso's famous victory. I'd just like to ask a question:

here we have this new racing strategy Ferrari used in Valencia but was first used by Lotus and Kimi in Bahrein.

- If you find you won't make the first 5 spots on the grid, let's miss the cut in Q3. Why start p9 with SU only left if you can start p11 with all news.

- if it's a track with SC likely once or more than that will help

- the charge from p11 to the podium will flatter the driver and wow the fans

My question is

which of the remaining tracks this year is this strategy most useful at?

[I can think of Singapore, for example]


I strongly disagree with you.

Alonso set his time on his single run on Soft tyre and he was only 0.218s slower than P1.

I know F1 is all about numbers and thousands of a second, but to know what times the other 17 cars will do and then just do a time that will keep you out of top10 is just impossible, expecially that it was the most competitive Q2 that people can remember.

When you are in a car doing close to 200mph with concrete walls on both sides, I think we can agree that is pretty much impossible for a driver to control the laptime you claim they wanted to achieve to keep them outside top10.


true, but you can work out late in Q2 that others are just faster on that saturday, for whatever reason, so.....

do you use up another set of tyres with probably no improvement, or, do you decide let's go for plan B?


it may work out as a plan b, but in the cases you mention for Alonso and Raikkonen it was not planned, but dictated by circumstances.

At least, thats how it seems (!)


Alonso's run on the soft tyres was his second run in Q2. There was no more time for him to go again on another set of softs..


Here are some response from your "questions"

"If you find you won’t make the first 5 spots on the grid, let’s miss the cut in Q3."

It may be a shock to you but most teams(especially top teams) always aim to make it to Q3. Alonso did not make it to Q3 because he wanted to have 2 sets of Soft for Q3. The gamble didnt payoff.

"Why start p9 with SU only left if you can start p11 with all news"

It may be a shock to you but you don't have to set a time in Q3. So you can start at worst from the 5th row of the grid with a new set of soft.

"the charge from p11 to the podium will flatter the driver and wow the fans"

It may be a shock to you but no team in their right mind would like to start p11 on purpose, at Valencia of all places!!!, hoping to wow the fans.

"which of the remaining tracks this year is this strategy most useful at?"

It may be a shock to you but what you described was not a strategy. It was a poor attempt at taking away credit from a driver who won in a very impressive manner.


wait. My admiration of Alonso should be clear from the post, so no slight intended.


Well didn't aim for p11, they screwed up.

Also, Vettel had the race in the back with the best performance and strategy if his car hadn't failed. I think you still want to be up the grid. Alonso's car was out of position in qualifying.


Yes but I think it's a bit risky as alot of things have to 'go your way' in order for this strategy to work. Not surprising that it worked for Alonso and nearly Raikkonen in Bahrain as they are well seasoned drivers and can make the best of this strategy. Even Alonso has said, track position is still king.


James, could you provide some information on Red Bulls raft of changes which seem to have catapulted them into a league of their own? Is it all going to remain legal, and what are competitors thinking... Will they even be able to compete? I was more impressed by Vettel's finger when he flung his gloves against the fence than when he wins in a car that is literally a half second faster per lap than any other teams.


Can anyone explain to me why Mr. Whitmarsh criticized Hamilton for crashing with Maldonado? I mean, I also thought Lewis should have conceded to Pastor, but his own boss talking negative about him is a different matter -- specially after the team continues letting him down miserably race after race. The worrisome thing is neither Mr. Whitmarsh nor other responsible McLaren representatives seem to officially accept all the mistakes their team is producing at and behind the pitstop.


I sense that LH is no longer with McLaren as from end november 2012


I think so too..Could be a wild guess but Norbert Haug has been singing his praises for a while now


I Agree Methusalem. I thought it rather odd. I sense he was a bit tired of defending Lewis to the media. Which in my opinion Lewis did nothing wrong! & your dead right even if he did the team should stand by their driver.He should have been more circumspect and said ..."well the stewards have made their decision .. " etc I don't think it's contract negotiations I think Whitmarsh was frustrated they lost so many points !


I'd rather not hear the usual PC/PR bullsh** from the teams. I'd rather they just say what they mean. Everybody and his dog knows Lewis screwed up. What's the point in sugar coating it?


No he didnt


Contract negotiation.


I am always surprised by the comments of vettel, when he is not up there. The guy doesn't seem to be talking like a double world champion. If at all he thinks that he s the biggest looser, then look at Hamilton, who was the biggest looser of the day and yet refused to blame anyone. It seems that Hammilton has matured a lot and vettel can learn a few from him.


I thought both of them acted like spoilt little boys, throwing their gloves and steering-wheels.

I know that in both cases their race was wrecked by outside events, but they have both been in motorsport since they were young boys and should be used to disappointment as well as the highs and should know how to react!

It was quite a pathetic display from both of them.


Hendo, so what do you expect them to do, smile @ the TV cameras for the fans, give it a break, these guys race @ over 300 kmph speeds and put their heart and soul into it, and hence nothing wrong in venting their frustration which is a natural reaction.

My post was referring to the post race interviews.


Nonsense. It's call Passion. I want to see the drivers show that they care. Not enough emotion is shown these days.


It's called a dummy-spit.


For me the key part of Alonso’s comeback, obviously apart from the safety car, was the stunning row of overtakes he did just after his first pit stop. He managed to pass Webber (!), Senna, Schumacher (!) and Di Resta in less than two laps, while Raikkonen took a much longer time behind that group.

I saw the race again last night and I have to say it one of the best I can remember.


Yeah, definitely a scary solid purple line but what was just as scary was how precise that RB8 was in quali- I cannot recall anything doing exactly what the driver gave it at the limit the whole lap -unbelievably sweet. Perfect harmony- car and driver! & we all know once anyone -especially Seb is in,front how hard he is to catch!

In the race you had to tip your hats to the Used Soft runners in the first stint doing 14 or 15 laps with 150kgs of fuel in traffic. Especially Kimi who made two places at the start, was blocked & shuffled back to 7th ,repassed Hulkenberg, and Maldonardo in that stint alone. The final stint everyone was doing 30 +laps! Says a lot about the effect of all that fuel weight on the tyres! That Graph is like two separate races !Refuelling please!!or Maybe with the 2014 engines expected to be 30% more fuel efficient they will carry 45kg less at the start ! Not quite so much Turtoise & Hare stuff. !


Too much SC talk from RBR.

Vettel won his first wdc thanks to a SC period in the last race of 2010 season.

The only driver who can really complain about a SC period is Massa, i think there is no need to remind what happened during 2008 Singapore race.


There is more to winning the world championship that just one race.


What about Alonso? Arguably He has lost 2 WC thanks to safety cars, Canada 2007 and Abu Dhabi 2010


Thanks for this James.

I find it funny because I have to admit that at times I think the tyre situation has gone to far this season. Then you have a race like this and you have to ask what is better because Valencia before was shocking and this race was fantastic. I still would like to see a bit more durability and maybe mix it up at the poorer circuits?

The one great thing was the DRS was spot on and it did exactly what it should do.


Alonso is a remarkable driver always making up ground from a relatively poor qualifying position. While good fortune has played more than a significant part the Ferrari seems to lend itself to quick starts, and good race pace. When Alonso had his troubles with McLaren I thought he handled himself poorly, but since that time, particularly with Ferrari he has demonstrated just how good he is on the track. - A very very capable driver. That said it is looking ominous because Adrian Newey has tweeked his RB8 such that it is the most capable car on the grid particularly at elevated temperatures. - This could be Vettel's third championship looming.


Hi James,

Thank you so much for the fantastic report!

I have a couple of questions.

1) Redbull are so competitive suddenly. Vettel had a very fast car in qualifying and in the race. Is it their new double floor, which gives them this extra pace/advantage? or it something else?

2)Which tracks, in the reset of the season you think suits the Mercedes car?

Thank so much Jemes.


A lot of the performance can be attributed to 2 small holes that were discovered in the floor of the RB at Monaco. Once they plugged them up the car turned into a jet.


1. It's a combination of rear end upgrades, aero, suspension etc. the car is very fast now
2. Hard to say, they've been a bit all over the place. Don't think they'll match RBR, Lotus at the next few

the pimp's main prophet

Vettel's and Grosjean's cars broke down!!! The safety car coming out was irrelevant in that respect, wasn't it? Alonso benefited from the safety car only through Hamilton's slow pit - Vettel losing his 20 seconds gap is irrelevant as his car would stand still shortly after anyway, same as Grosean's! Given Hamilton's tyre degradation it seems fair to assume that Alonso would have taken him rather sooner that later.

Reliability was crucial to the races outcome, not the safety car.


We don't really know if the safety car was irrelevant in the matter of Vettel's and Grosjean's cars breaking down. It is more than quite possible that they broke down due to reduced cooling effect of driving at slow pace behind the SC.

the pimp's main prophet

Ok, the previously unknown fact that on this circuit tyres and DRS have shifted priority away from track position was also crucial.... Still, that would not prevent Vettel's and Grosjean's breakdowns. Actually it only proves Alonso's sharpness to always give everything - in what a skillful manner! - for who knows what may come across. In Canada it went backwards, but also there he made the most out of it by not fighting lost battles against mad Maldonados...

So Pirelli tyres are throwing up a new unknown mixing up teams databases and records hopefully for some more circuits... One might think that this additional challenge really adds up to racing's purity, doesn't it?!


As I understand it the safety car period made the Renault electrical system overheat and thus created the failures on Vettel's and Grosjeans' cars. Or such claims are conspiracy theory....

Anyway, Red Bull and Vettel sadly come across as sore losers.

Thanks for the exquisite thinking and fine analysis behind your strategy reports, James!

the pimp's main prophet

Can somebody please discern, quantify and summarize what passes were due to difference in tyre wear and/or DRS (and/or a combination of the two)and what passes were pure muscle (apart of Alonso's on Greasjean)?

Thank you in advance!



Given previous Valencia GPs have been really boring, and yet overtaking was possible this year. In fact the overtaking was not easy stuff, but was quite hard and well fought for.

Is the feeling it was really just the tyre wear? Or was something else also an important factor. (I am surprised by the overtaking considering how close the cars were in pace during qualifying)



The drivers championship is epic with at least one driver from five different teams in with a shot. The same can't be said for the constructors championship. Redbull have dominated the constructors in the previous two years, and this year even with Vettel getting no points from the last race still lead the constructors by 39 points.

My question is do Ferrari and Mclaren want to win constructors titles?

It seems with both teams, when one driver is on his game the other is not. Redbull drivers seem to be able to push each other maybe they both have a never say die attitude. Even when Vettel was untouchable in 2011 Webber still finished third in the championship.

This year Button and Massa both are dragging their teams out of any chance of winning the constructors. Last year it was Hamilton on the slide.


I think the drivers are set in stone for Mclaren as Button has signed up and Hamilton is their favourite son.


I feel for Massa he was a great driver, unlucky in 2008 but ever since the accident in 2009 he is not the same driver.

If Ferrari want to win the constructors the will need one of the drivers from Redbull. The need Webber.

Thoughts James.


Yes of course, because the constructors is where the money is!

I thought McLaren would win it this yearvbutvButton's problems are costing them at the moment


And the pitstops...


I find it interesting that Marks speed at the end in the graph shows a similar steep climb as seb's at the start..looking forward to Silverstone.. shades of 2010?? Great Analysis James!



They need Webber


James - do you think that, reliability permitting, Vettel now will resume his 2011 domination? I thought it was scary that Vettel could be a second a lap faster than Grosjean while having similar tyre life (both first stopped on L15 or 16). In effect - they were both the quickest and had the best tyre life of all the front running teams.

Or will the FIA find a reason to ban the revised sidepod design of the Red Bull?

Cheers James.


Of course, Webber could have a say as well. He is even ahead in the WDC at the moment.


I think he will be very hard to beat over the summer and McLaren, Lotus, Ferrari and Mercedes all need to find something big to stay with RBR


One swallow doesn't make a summer.

Not sure about Vettel James. There is no doubt he is quick when he qualifies on pole and gets a good start.

Sure he was quicker than Hamilton at Valencia but Hamilton was holding up quite a few drivers at the beginning. Think of the pass Grosjean had to make on him even though he was considerably faster than Hamilton once he passed. More an indication that it is still hard to pass at that track.

Even though Webber was carving up the field (who were on old tyres) he couldn't get pass Schumi in a car slower than his Redbull. There are still many variables to consider for Silverstone.

My prediction is rain for Silverstone and the for silver arrow of Schumi to shine!!!

PS; am in Australia so what is the weather forecast for next weekend in the UK?


Agree. On the other hand Alonso made 13 passes.


18 degrees, some showers on Thursday. No info beyond Friday at this stage


Hi James

I dont think Hamilton would have finished on the podium regardless of his pitsop issue even if he didnt have the pitstop issue judging Alonsos pace he would have got passed him in anycase and Kimi would have too since he already did which would have left hamilton fighting maldonado in anycase.

As for his tyre wear it was what it was regardless of anything his tyres went off because the mclaren just couldnt look after its tyres.

As for Alonso theres nothing furtunate about Vettel breaking down because all teams have to make sure that they have a reliable car! Yes its not Red Bulls own engine but they chose their engine supplier!

Besides it was no luck that Alonso made upto second place and was in a position to benefit from Vettels retirement.

One last thing!

Im not sure if you read Vettels and Red Bulls comments about the safety car?

Personally the fact that they think the safety car was sent out to destroy their race is a sign of deep and supreme arogance.

Who is to say that vettels car would not have broken down regardless of the safety?

Their comments show their desperation and even though the Red Bull was so quick it shows they not all that confident for if they were they would know its no use crying over 1 race when they have 12 left to win.

Beside it was one of their own drivers who caused the safety by been a moron and led Vettels race to go sh** is he so claimed.



So Ham would have finished ahead of Schumacher on podium


It was def great to see Fernando,Kimi and Michael on the podium it really was like old times!

Although it was great 2 see michael there it was really sad because we want 2 seem him winning races and fighting for the title and not people praising him for coming 3rd.

I think schumi def has lost some of his raw speed and thats hurting him the most but as a driver i still think his much better then nico!

He still has better race craft and Nico is abit like Truly he can pull off a decent qualy lap but then most often then not goes backwards in the race sunday was a typical example!

What do u think James?


Trulli i mean lol! 🙂

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