How close Lotus came to winning as Hamilton held on: Hungary strategy analysis
Strategy Report
Posted By: James Allen  |  31 Jul 2012   |  7:40 am GMT  |  135 comments

The Hungarian Grand Prix was far from being a thriller in terms of on track action with hardly any overtaking after the first laps.

But it was a very interesting tactical race which leaves a lot of questions to answer, like could Lotus have won the race if they’d done things differently? Why did Button and the Red Bulls make three stops? And how close did Hamilton come to not winning?

Pre-race expectations,
On Sunday morning most of the strategists were saying it would be a wet race. The forecast had not changed for five days and rain would fall between 1pm and 2pm local time. But as the day went on the bad weather moved away from Budapest and it was hot and sunny with the chance of rain receding. In the end a giant storm came in around 7pm local time which only succeeded in delaying teams’ flights out of the airport, but didn’t affect their race.

Rain on Friday afternoon during practice had reduced the amount of data teams had on long run performance so once again it was a bit of a stab in the dark as to how to approach race strategy and tyre choice.

Three stops looked to be faster than two stops over a race distance, but the problem was that a three stopper would be behind the two stoppers after his last stop and would have to overtake.

The feeling was that Hamilton would drive away from the rest, using his apparent pace advantage of around 4/10ths of a second per lap. The soft tyre was considered to be up to half a second per lap faster than the medium, based on Friday practice but after 10 laps the lap times on the medium were expected to be stronger than the soft. But could all the teams make it through 70 laps competitively on just three sets of tyres?

Once again the picture turned out to be slightly different from expectations.

The challenge for victory by Grosjean and Raikkonen

The opening 10 laps told the story; Lewis Hamilton had dominated qualifying but he wasn’t able to pull a gap on Grosjean’s Lotus. This was going to be a close fight.

Further back Raikkonen had let himself down in qualifying by not matching Grosjean’s pace and started fifth on the grid, which became sixth when Alonso passed him on the first lap. He lost around 4 seconds in that opening stint, sat behind the Ferrari. This didn’t cost him the race win, necessarily, but it meant that he wasn’t able to jump Vettel at the first stop, which he would have done otherwise. This would have set him up for a clearer track in his middle stint and then it would have been interesting to see how close he and Hamilton were after the final stop.

Grosjean in contrast, looked comfortable in second place. Lotus was of the view that the soft tyre was faster and they would do two stops with a soft/soft/medium strategy. They stuck to their plan.

Other teams were worried about getting through 70 laps on two stops and so favoured a soft/medium/medium strategy. This was a race tailor made for Lotus with its easy action on the tyres.

Lotus had two players in the game: Grosjean lost his chance of a win by taking too much out of the tyres at the start of the middle stint. This meant that at the end of the stint he didn’t have the pace to stay out longer and try to jump Hamilton at the second stops. By this stage Vettel had pitted on lap 38 and with a margin of just three seconds to play with on tyres which were spent, Lotus had no choice but to cover Vettel by stopping Grosjean.

Contrast this with Raikkonen’s execution of the strategy: He ran a 20 lap first stint and easily jumped Alonso at the first stop. This brought him out fifth, around 4.5 seconds behind Vettel, (where he would have been had he not lost a place to Alonso at the start). Facing a long middle stint on soft tyres (it was 25 laps in the end) he made no effort to close this gap, instead nursing his tyres for around 8-10 laps before then slowly reeling Vettel in before the German’s second stop on lap 38. At this point, in clear air he let rip; 1m 25.7 on lap 41, 1m 25.9 on lap 42. As Vettel and Grosjean got their medium tyres up to temperature, Raikkonen took almost two seconds a lap out of them. He would easily jump them at his second stop.

The strategy worked perfectly, the question now was whether he could get Hamilton too. The burst of speed had taken the edge off the tyres – he did a 1m 26.6 on lap 43. Meanwhile on lap 44 Hamilton on new mediums did a 1m 26.3. He’s just too quick, so Lotus pit Raikkonen to consolidate the gains over Vettel and Grosjean and then see what Raikkonen can do to Hamilton in the final stint with tyres that are five laps fresher.

He tries to pass, but cannot and has to settle for second place.

Had Grosjean matched Raikkonen’s technique of nursing the tyres for six or seven laps at the start of the second stint, sitting out of his dirty air and then attacked Hamilton at the end of the stint, he could have jumped him and won the race. Such is experience. I’m sure he’ll look at Raikkonen’s performance and learn from it.

Not a day to stop three times
Pre-race predictions about three stopping proved prophetic: it was faster on paper but required overtaking and despite the DRS system, overtaking at the Hungaroring proved elusive. Last season’s race was rain affected so we never really saw how little difference DRS would make on a track that has always been almost impossible to pass on.

Button did three stops, his tyre life not as good as Hamilton’s in the opening stint, his rear tyres going off more quickly. But what wrecked it was after his second stop, which was 19 laps into a stint on new mediums, he came out behind Bruno Senna, who had similar age medium tyres to the ones Button had taken off. He kept Button behind him until his stop on lap 42. However during this time, Button remained around 6 seconds behind Hamilton, the same margin as before Button’s second stop. But he had not had the opportunity to use the pace of the new medium tyre and this allowed Vettel to jump him at his second stop. Alonso then jumped him when Button made his third stop on lap 45.

He was the first front runner to pit at the first stop on lap 15, which was still within the two stop window and he reported that the second set of tyres was still fine when he made the early second stop. There wasn’t a possibility to undercut Grosjean at that stop as he was almost six seconds ahead of Button. It was just the wrong call to go for three stops, but clearly they felt that they couldn’t do the race in two, despite Hamilton holding on and doing just that in his McLaren.

Meanwhile Webber stopped three times because his differential had problems and this led to higher tyre wear, while Vettel switched to three stops near the end after losing time in the opening stint when he lost third place to Button, who was not on the same pace as Hamilton and Grosjean. Vettel went for a new set of softs for a final sprint to see if he could claim a podium, but he had to delay the stop in order to get enough of a gap over Alonso behind and this left him with not enough laps to catch Grosjean for third place.

Hamilton: SU MN (18) MN (40) 2 Stops
Räikkönen: SU SU (20) MU (45) 2
Grosjean: SU SU (19) MU (39) 2
Vettel: SU SU (17) MN (38) SU (58) 3
Alonso: SU MN (17) MN (43) 2
Button: SU MN (15) SU (34) MN (45) 3
Senna: SU MN (16) MN (42) 2
Webber: MN MN (20) SN (39) SU (55) 3
Massa: SU MN (18) MN (43) 2
Rosberg: SN MN (16) MN (40) 2
Hülkenberg: SU MN (15) MN (39) 2
Di Resta: SN MN (16) MN (38) 2
Maldonado: SU MN (15) MN (41) DT (52) 3
Perez: SN MN (21) MN (47) 2
Ricciardo: SN SN (14) SU (34) MN (47) 3
Vergne: SU SN (12) SU (30) MN (46) MN (64) 4
Kovalainen: SN MN (17) MN (36) SU (56) 3
Kobayashi: SU MN (8) SU (40) 2
Petrov: SN MN (18) MN (35) MN (51) 3
Pic: MN SN (20) MN (39) 2
Glock: MN SN (18) MN (40) 2
De La Rosa: MN MN (22) SN (41) 2
Kartikeyan: SN MN (18) SU (39) 2 NC
Schumacher: SN MN (1) DT (4) MN (32) 3 NC

S=Soft; M= Medium; U= Used; N = New; DT = Drive thru penalty

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

Kindly supplied by Williams F1 Team

Note Raikkonen’s pace in the middle stint relative to all the other cars in that phase of the race. Note also how his tyres start to drop off at the end of that stint and how close Grosjean and Vettel are after Raikkonen’s stop. Had he stayed out another lap he would have been behind them.

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Hi James,

I heard in one of the forums that Kimi might be swapping seat with lewis. Just wanted to check with you have you heard any news like that


Don’t see it myself, but never say never.


Come to think of it, had it not been for Alonso holding up Grosjean and Vettel, Kimi would have rejoined in 4th place in that last stint, he’d have been stuck there, finished 4th (assuming Red Bull would not throw away a podium for Vettel) with Grosjean finishing second, about 10 seconds behind Lewis and we would not even be talking about Kimi or Lotus.

There is no argument that Grosjean and Vettel lost a few seconds behind Alonso before his last stop, enough to allow Kimi to jump them!


Speaking of Kimi’s experience, there’s been a noticeable difference in his approach this year. He was an all-or-nothing driver even after his championship year. Barring the lunge in Bahrain on Vettel earlier this year, he’s been reeling the points in without taking a lot of risks.

What’s your take on that James? Experience from missed opportunities (2005 season, parts of 2008 season – Spa 2008) or something taken on from rallying?


All very interesting thank you.


hi james,

bit off topic, but are you commenting on any olympic events? I keep hearing Jonathon legard on the volleyball!


No, I’m an F1 specialist. I know a but about cycling, but very happy to enjoy the Olympics as a punter (went to the Eventing yesterday and it’s Beach Volleyball at the weekend 🙂


As everyone knows, it is teamwork, what is interesting is all the focus that the drivers get.

Now it will prove to the leader who emerges!

Eric at Lotus is very strong,getting stronger, have had both of their drivers to believe in themselves. The big question is Red Bull, Christian is a politician, how can you keep Marko? I think they will lose so much on his whining!

Ferrari, feel sorry for Masa, how can one perform when we hear mixed messages.

The three best drivers right now, Alonso, Hamilton and Kimi, the rest are behind!


That’s rubbish. Ferrari are one of the best teams on the tyres this year. Probably 3rd after sauber and lotus. And the hard tyre was used in 2nd half of last year. India. Fernando on the podium again.


I second that. In fact, I believe that Ferrari’s pre- season struggles helped them gain a better understanding of the tyres than most of the big teams, except Lotus who were good on tyres straight out of the box, probably thanks to theirs and their drivers’ partnership or involvement with Pirelli in testing.

The problems Ferrari had were in the end a blessing in disguise as they forced the team to evaluate and re-evaluate everything, including the tyre behaviour. Ferrari’s, and in particular Fernando’s better understanding of the tyres allowed him to score consistent points at all races, regularly outperforming the car as people say while the other title contenders were struggling to understand the tyres. You can’t outperform a car while trashing the tyres.

As the other teams get a better understanding of the tyres, like Hamilton appears to be doing, Alonso’s early “tyre” advantage will diminish and disappear unless Ferrari can make the car faster. The pressure is on!


Are they?

Maybe Alonso, because he actually uses the nut inside his helmet, but Massa hasn’t proved that at all.

Look at both Saubers or both Louts drivers, each has proven their cars look after the tyres.

In Canada, Grosjean and Perez proved how good their cars were, when they blasted past a tyre handicapped Alonso at the end.


That should be away up higher responding to someone’s response to my original comment about the tyres.


Look at pitstop times, what killed Lotus’s chances for victory was really slow pitstops. Look how much time they both lost there!


The gun for Grosjean pit stop was not working properly at the first pit stop. They changed it for the second pit stop.


Hi James,

From what you’ve seen so far, which cars look the strongest through medium/high speed corners and who holds an advantage in the slower corners?


It changes, for example Red Bull improved a lot in slower corners through June/July (although some of that was maybe mapping 😉 )

Williams has been good all year on high speed corners, McLaren also. Ferrari now pretty good all round, Lotus too


Nice recap, James. May pipe this page through a grepper and counter the number of “tyres” 🙂


I still cannot help but think that the tyres are having too much of an impact, their operating window is too small. I want to see more laps that showcase car speed, driver skill and racing and less laps focused on tyre management. Yes its an important skill too manage by drivers and team, but they need to be more predictable.

cheers John.

Adrian Newey Jnr

Great analysis James.

All of this suggests that regardless of tyres/DRS/anything, track position is the key. The cars still work best in clear air. Therefore the teams would be best off concentrating on positioning their car to take advantage of this.


Yes on a track like Hungaroring where it is so hard to pass. Raikkonen would have won this race if it had a straight like Hockenheim, given the same situation relative to Hamilton.


Except that on a track like Hockenheim, McLaren would probably have run a different strategy, with either a middle stint on the softs like Lotus, or three stopping.

You can only race the track you’re on.


And except that the same Lotus car was not that quick at at track with a straight like Hockenheim just a week before!


Well spotted John different air intake-outlet ! Just had a look


Hi James. Can I ask you a Lotus based question……..I recently saw a picture taken by Sutton images. It was a shot of the two cars nearly touching as Kimi squeezed Romain wide into turn one after his pitstop. I noticed some striking differences between the two cars, starting at the top KR’s car has a very flat topped roll hoop while RG’s is very triangular in shape. secondly KR’s bodywork seems much “tighter” than RG’s. And thirdly the tapered back ends of bodywork are very different in shape. Are all of these differences through driver’s choice or is it the team gambling with aero designs rather than placing identical designs (again KR’s being much more tightly packed). I’d be interested to hear back from you or anyone else who has an in-depth explanation. Thanks, John


Kimi had body work to support their new “Super-DRS” system, refer to the ears on the sides of engine air intake. But they did not use it for the race, you would wonder Kimi had more drag 🙂

I also hope Lotus review their targets and back up Kimi as number one driver for World Title. Grosjean in fast but he put himself into this situation by having a back start this season.


james now that pirelli have announced their tyre choices for spa who would you say this favours

for the win ?


Will be between Raikkonen and Vettel , I reckon


James, is that an all whether prediction or a weather dependend one? Based on their pace in cooler conditions at Silverstone and Hockenheim, I am not convinced Lotus have a race winning car in cool to warm conditions.

All the races that Lotus have been very competitive at this year have one thing in common, they were baking hot (Bahrain, Canada, Valencia and Hungary).

I doubt Spa will be that hot in which case their pace in Hungary may not translate to Spa.

Tornillo Amarillo

I think Hamilton and Grosjean have the upper hand in qualify and excelent cars right now on Sundays…


Similar, Raikkonen-Hamilton-Vettel. Still think Hamilton has more pace in those updates. Really hope the Lotus DDRS gives them a bit more. Can’t wait!


If rains then I would say Alonso Hamilton Vettel.. Oh & bring your umbrella !


But what happens if it rains, as I’ve heard it does in the Ardennes?


James, what if Lotus had split the strategy for the middle stint for their two drivers making it soft-med-soft for kimi. As you said after 10 laps, the medium is as good as softs and we know he spent those 10 laps of middle stint behind Vettel saving his tyres.

Gary Anderson said on BBC website that lotus could have left kimi out for a few more laps to see if there was anything more he could squeeze out of the tyres and if that didnt work out, he would have come out behind Grosjean and lotus would have still had their 2nd and 3rd place finish.

In light of what Gary said, do you think soft-med-soft was an option they could have tried James? Also is Alan Permane the guy who makes the calls for Lotus?


Kimis strategy was absolutely perfect. If he stayed one lap longer he would have been passed by Grosjean and line ball or under attack from Vettel


p.s James, thank you very much for getting Giorgio Piola on board for JA on F1 innovation. His 3D graphics are absolutely fantastic.


I have never seen someone making so many mistakes like Schumi die last Sunday. Him stopping in the wrong grid slot was very amusing. Anyways, even the best of the branch make silly mistakes, they’re human, after all! I was just watching another Michael (Phelps) making another silly mistake by touching the wall later at Finish while he was ahead of South Africa’s Chad le Clos who won Gold by 5 seconds.


my fav article / analysis after every event!!

thanks James.

Tornillo Amarillo

James if you have to take ONE factor, the key one, for Hamilton holding Kimi and Grosjean, what would be?

The McLaren being faster?

The KERS in the DRS zone?

And other question, Vettel gained nothing with the 3rd stop, should be better to stay just behind Grosjean to push him in an error and take P3? (actually Grosjean was wide in the end)


I don’t think we should overlook the balance of the car. Hamilton set his car up really well which provided even tyre wear allowing him to control the lead.


Great analysis, very clear and to the point!


James, do you think a 1-stopper would have worked in Budapest? Given the difficulty in overtaking


No, you’d have to get to lap 30 minimum on 1st stint


The thing that surprised me in the beginning of the race was that Webber with his new mediums came in so soon after the others that were on used softs for the opening stint. I know that he had the issue with the differential but if I’m well informed that issue only came up in the second part of the race. When looking at the graph it even looks as if staying out could have given him the lead or at least very good track position which in Hungary is quite crucial and which would also have benefited Vettel?

Grayzee (Australia)

Yep. Agreed. See the first post on here and the replies. Any further info on this form anyone would be appreciated.


Love the analysis.

I’d also like to see the derivative (ie. differentials) of the graph data.

That would highlight the changes in racing pace.


The chart gives me the impression that Vettel could have changed tyres on lap 56, still come back to the track ahead of Alonso and get 3 extra laps to catch Grosjean.

Did he really not have the gap before lap 59? Vettel and Alonso’s lines look almost parallel for those laps.


Great review James, thanks again.

One main point however. Webber, post race, made no comment about the diff issue in what i read or saw. His only comment was about a mistake by RB in trying to do something different. RB brought Webber in very early for his last stop before vettel (4 laps) which was a change from the other two stops. why?. In another four or so laps he would have caught him with the times he was doing on graph.

If they left Webber out he would have been in front of Vettel with no signs of tyre degradation at that stage. Pitting him early certainly made sure Vettel and Webber would not have been together on track. And more importantly Vettel would have a clear track to produce the steep curve you show on graph.

Webber would have had track position which he lost in doing a third stop which hurt him greatly. Even if they left him out another three laps, the times he was doing from FIA would have meant he would have come out in front of Senna.

There was no way Webber was going to get back three places.

It seems a continuing battle for Webber at RB with his strategies over the years. I AM NOT a conspiracy monger however geez he gets some bad calls at times. I can’t count how many times he has come out in or behind traffic.

Did you speak to him after the race about the issue? Or was it mainly Horner that raised the diff issue?

The 6 lost points will hurt him come year end.


Yes I spoke to him and it was also said by Horner. We knew about it during the race on 5Live as our pit reporter Jennie Gow picked it up from the team radio


Thanks James. I see you mentioned that you will be doing a mid year report on the drivers. That will be interesting but more so will be your crystal ball gazing on the remaining races. I see only 5 drivers ‘in the hunt’ now. Lotus seem to have the best on Sundays and just need to improve their Saturdays. With Spa and Monza crucial to them i see them as the dark horse.


Kimi is awesome at Spa too…


James I said this too u last week and we had the worst race of the year by far in hungary. The medium should never Of been near hungary. Pirelli are being too conservative. And I’ve seen the news for the next 2 races there bringing hard and medium to spa and monza. I think that’s terrible decisions. The hard tyre lasted 20+ laps a stint at silverstone and Barcelona which are both harder on tyres than spa. It means strategy will be easy there and monza has never been hard to tyres. That looks like a one stop to me already. Pirelli should be going soft and medium at least in these races in my opinion.


It is up to Ferrari what they bring.

Last year when Ferrari could not heat up the hard tyre it got banned for the second half of the season and this year when they chew them up Pirelli have gone very conservative for the last races and for the rest of the season.

Hungary always has the same tires as Monaco and some other venues but 2012 they went 1 full stepping harder. Not even a halfstep(medium+supersoft).

They should choose tyres for all season right away and let the teams change it if something weird comes up.




Or soft and hard, so we have a real difference between both tyres…


Daft question maybe…but why can’t they just use the softest two compounds for all the races?

Do they gauge it for two-pits stops as a reference….?

Seems that Pirelli can have too large an influence here with their decision!

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