Why the Indian Grand Prix was not like other races in 2012
Strategy Report
Posted By: James Allen  |  30 Oct 2012   |  5:27 pm GMT  |  100 comments

The Indian Grand Prix was an interesting race by recent standards in that, for once, the teams didn’t have to worry about the tyres wearing out and their race strategy was not decided by that. Instead they could focus on pure pace, the drivers able to push to the maximum throughout the Grand Prix.

So there was little opportunity for drivers starting outside the top ten to make the kind of progress into the points which we have seen this year from Sergio Perez or more recently the Toro Rosso drivers in Korea.

There were two reasons for this: to a certain extent the teams have now got wise to the 2012 Pirelli tyres and know how to get far more out of them now than six months ago, when we saw seven different winners in the first seven races.

But the main reason was that the tyre choice from Pirelli for the weekend, soft and hard compounds, was too conservative. After the race the Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery conceded that using the supersoft tyre instead would have made the race more like the other races we have seen this year with two pit stops and encouraged a variety of strategy options. But this underlines a trend we have seen in the closing stages of the season of Pirelli being more conservative as the championship reaches its climax.

On Sunday almost everyone went for a single stop strategy, as the tyres suffered little degradation or wear.

The proof of this is that the four fastest laps in the race were all set on the final lap, so there was plenty left in the tyres at the end.

Pre race expectations

The weather was benign and stable all weekend in Delhi, so the teams were able to do extensive running on Friday and Saturday morning and had a very complete picture of the way the tyres would behave in the race.

Before the race the strategists were planning to make one stop around lap 25, as one stop was showing as between five and 15 seconds faster than two stops.

Race pace looked evenly matched between the Red Bulls, McLarens, Ferraris and Lotus cars from practice.

Looking at the grid, then, it was clear that for the McLarens on the second row of the grid, they had to try to pass pole sitter Sebastian Vettel and his team mate Mark Webber on the opening lap when they would both be vulnerable down the long back straight. Once they got into the faster corners of sectors 2 and 3 the Red Bulls would be gone.

Likewise for Fernando Alonso starting fifth on the grid, he had to get past the McLarens at the start to be able to push the Red Bulls and hope they made a mistake or hit problems. The strategy worked out pretty much as intended for him, with a second place finish, but not for the McLarens, which came in fourth and fifth, one place lower than they started.

For the midfield runners, the chance to effect any major position changes through strategy were limited, but there was the chance of overtake at Buddh and with mistakes quite likely on the dusty track, there was scope to make some progress through the field.

The Race: Tough to make moves

In the opening stint Vettel was able to push very hard and to open a gap which gave him control of the race, but he found it tougher on the hard tyre as the Ferrari and the McLaren were slightly faster on that tyre (see Race History Chart). Ferrari was consistently fast on both tyres, while the McLaren was slower on the soft but stronger on the hard tyre.

In Vettel’s second stint his pace backed off by between 7/10ths and 1 second per lap, which was also partly due to running the engine lean and managing the gap to Alonso, once he had passed Webber.

Four drivers started the race on the hard tyres; Grosjean, starting11th; Ricciardo, starting 15th; Kobayashi, starting 17th and Schumacher, starting 14th. All of them gained two or three places except for Schumacher, who retired. In most cases this was not enough to get into the points, but Grosjean managed to get two points for 9th place, despite losing one place at the start to Maldonado.

The key to the final points positions for the cars running behind Rosberg in the opening stint was dealing with the Mercedes’ lack of pace. Rosberg pulled back everyone behind him, opening up the possibility for a 9th and 10th place finish for anyone who had a workable alternative strategy.

Everyone behind him, who was on the standard one stop, didn’t manage to clear him, but where Grosjean’s strategy worked well was that he ran a longer first stint and was able to clear Rosberg.

Grosjean ran a long first stint on the hard tyres, stopping last of all the runners on lap 36, for the soft tyre.

His plan in running longer on the hard tyre was to let the others who had stoped earlier age their hard tyres, so that the time delta when he came out of his stop on new softs would be greater and he could come through the field on new soft tyres in the final 24 laps.

It was thwarted as he came out behind Nico Hulkenberg, who managed to hold him off on a new set of hard tyres.

Grosjean was unable to maintain a gap to Hulkenberg prior to his stop and missed out on emerging from the pits ahead by 4 seconds. But one cannot say that he might have gained the place if he had stopped a lap or two earlier as he lost only 1.7 seconds to Hulkenberg in the three laps preceding his stop.

It was a shame that Lotus could not fully exploit its pace on Sunday. In Friday practice it was as fast as the leading cars, but Grosjean’s poor grid slot and Raikkonen being stuck behind Massa meant that they didn’t get the result the car’s pace deserved.

Raikkonen managed to undercut Massa on strategy, by pitting a lap earlier, but lost the place back again due to having too short a top gear on the straight.

It was odd that Massa had problems with fuel load, however he wasn’t able to run a full race test on Friday and they may have go their calculations wrong as a result. He was 35 seconds behind Alonso at the end, so working backwards, Ferrari would have started him on less fuel than his team mate as he was over half a second a lap slower. But without seeing the difference in fuel consumption on a race simulation run, due to spending longer on the straight at full throttle (without DRS), they ended up critical on fuel.


Vettel: SU HN (33) 1 Stop
Alonso: SU HN (29) 1
Webber: SU HN (30) 1
Hamilton: SU HN (32) 1
Button: SU HN (25) 1
Massa: SU HN (28) 1
Räikkönen: SU HN (27) 1
Hülkenberg: SN HN (28) 1
Grosjean: HN SN (36) 1
Senna: SN HN (26) 1
Rosberg: SN HN (27) 1
Di Resta: SN HN (28) 1
Ricciardo: HN SN (27) 1
Kobayashi: HN SN (36) 1
Vergne: SN SN (1) HN (33) 2
Maldonado: SU HN (27) HN (30) 2
Petrov: SN HN (31) 1
Kovalainen: SN HN (32) 1
Pic: SN HN (28) 1
Glock: SN HN (31) 1
Kartikeyan: SN HN (26) 1
Schumacher: HN SN (1) SU (33) 2 DNF

The UBS Race Strategy Report is written by James Allen with input and data from several of the teams’ strategists and from Pirelli

Kindly provided by Williams F1 Team

Note how Ferrari and McLaren were a shade stronger than Vettel’s Red Bull on the hard tyres; Vettel’s opening stint was what won the race for him.

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James, you say:

“…Everyone behind him, who was on the standard one stop, didn’t manage to clear him, but where Grosjean’s strategy worked well was that he ran a longer first stint and was able to clear Rosberg…”.

But Senna started 13nd and overtake Rosberg with 1 pit.


Getting back to the original theme, James is absolutely right that the tyres determined how the race would turn out. And I reiterate that the decision of what compounds will be used should not be Pirelli’s choice but rather a decision made by the teams. So they should be able to choose from a range of compounds that suit their car. And if there was more than one supplier, then they will usually sponsor teams to run their product thereby making progress and making it CHEAPER for the teams not more expensive as Craig sugests. I don’t see how this competition between suppliers woul create a “war” but rather healthy competition, so Craig I would thank you for not putting words in my mouth for me. Getting back to compound choices, if it were open, you might even see teams trying soft on the front and hard on the rear like we often do on bikes. All I want to se is real racing, not the artificial stuff that Bernie and Pirelli are dishing up. F1 is supposed to be the pinnacle of motor sport, so let the teams rise to the occasion on their own.


Kobayashi’s pace on his soft tyres – wow!


Lewis Hamilton’s comment said it all that the Indian GP was the best race of the year because they could really push, although I expect it was limited to a degree by fuel saving. Indeed the McLaren’s came alive on the hard tyre when given the all clear to push, unfortunately for them the soft tyre did not suit the car so well which is why the Red Bull, and Ferrari were faster in the opening stint. In my opinion all races should be like this as we then get a clearer picture of whose car is performing the best. I still do not like the narrow operating window of the Pirelli tyre, and as such has a harmful effect on the relative quality of proper racing we see.


James, you raise an interesting point with “due to spending longer on the straight at full throttle (without DRS), they ended up critical on fuel.”

Is it known what burns more fuel? With DRS there is less drag but higher revs, and without DRS you have more drag but at lower revs.

I’m sure there are a few variables such as how long the DRS zone is and such but is there some kind of rule of thumb?


Hi James, just how good is Maldonado? Sometimes he looks like he has some raw pace but is that the car flattering him or vice versa?? As a Williams fan (and huuuge Webber fan!) I feel that Williams missed a trick in not signing Raikkonen or another genuinely fast driver (keeping Hulkenburg wouldve been a good start).

With any luck Bottas is promoted and follows the footsteps of Hakkinen/Raikkonen.


He’s definitely very quick. Needs a bit more composure in race situations, doesn’t always make the right decisions but he has potential if he can channel his speed

Massa did


Maldonado has potential and so as Senna, regularly the quicker Williams driver in races and the man who set the second fastest lap of the race in India!

The qualifying issues Senna had this year will be fixed next year if he stays with a good team, as he will no longer lose 15 FP1 and 2013’s tyres will suit his style more. Remember Button also had the same kind of problems Bruno had this year. Remember Button did nothing better than Senna in his former years in F1. Remember Button won his first GP in his 7th season, while Bruno Senna is still in his first with a decent car and not yet in equal terms with his rivals, as he loses all those FP1.


just great.. Vettal is born legend:)


Hi James, Would love to hear from you your experience in India where you have been for the second time now. The organizers have come under a lot of Flak for asking the Import duty to be removed and the attendance has dropped significantly. In a Cricket mad nation F1 has become another event meant for the elite rich and the local media was not too interested to cover the Excitement leading the Indian GP. Would like to hear from you how you enjoyed your stay in India and the Event in itself?.


I enjoyed it, love the track and the people there are very enthusiastic. I’m sad to hear you say its for elite rich, certainly there were plenty of empty seats and the pricing seemed too high to me – over £100 for a seat.

Apart from that the other negative was the fact that the air quality was really terrible and the smog hung in the air, which you can clearly see on the TV pictures and in photos.

Sujith Radhakrishnan

That is the climate of New Delhi at that time of the year. Unlike most of the other tracks we’ve been to, this place is nowhere near the sea.

A Grand Prix somewhere in the Indian city of Mumbai would be a totally different story though. With that, you’ll get another hot one like Singapore and Malaysia.

Sujith Radhakrishnan

And James, something off topic. Are tyre warmers going to be banned in 2013? If so, how is it gonna affect tyre warm up? Can you shed some light into that? I am not a regular reader of your blog. So I don’t know if this was covered earlier..

Thanks James 🙂

Sujith Radhakrishnan

I am an Indian. So my opinion might be biased. But I say no racetrack is to be blamed. We all were so quick to slam on Velencia for its lack of overtaking. But this year, we had a wonderful European Grand Prix. Frankly I am not a big fan of tyre strategy. Let the teams choose the compounds that suit their car and driver. And I want fuel strategy to return to Formula 1 as well. The processional nature of F1 will not be a problem if we have well placed DRS zones on a track. All said and done, all of this is not gonna happen in the future. So in the spirit of enjoying with what we got now, I want to ask, why did Pirelli made the same mistake again? Last year they were totally new to the track so they wanted something that would stay on if the track turn out to be super abrasive. They learned their lessons in 2011 and they could have done the noble thing and would have gone with Softs and the Mediums or Softs and Supersofts. Are they deliberately being conservative?


DRS should be allowed from the start of the 2nd lap. Vettel had clear air in a high downforce car while Alonso and the McLarens were tripping over each other losing time. If Alonso had DRS available to use for lap 2, he would have been able to get Webber straight away, then at least have a chance to get Vettel. That additional lap without DRS is more than enough for the lead car (especially a Red Bull) to get out of the 1 second striking distance.


“Raikkonen being stuck behind Massa meant that they didn’t get the result the car’s pace deserved.” – for the fifth race in a row, sometimes I’m not sure what is going on in that Lotus team.

What lack of straight line speed are they talking about when they were bouncing on a rev limiter ever since Spa? I would understand their decision if they were 75% sure of getting the pole, but honestly……


It was a bit like other races, in which the pole-sitter won and there were just two main place changes among the runners up.

If you see this James – are 2013 car regs exactly the same?

Are there any rumours or even slight possibilities that anything will change or be tightened up?

For example as they tried to tighten some 2012 mid-season (allegedly to stop RB running away with it… which didn’t work!)

Surely a certain old man is aware that if RB are 0.3 / 0.5 seconds ahead from Australia 2013, commercial activity may be altered for the year?


Not any significant changes for 2013, a few things like ban on Merc style DDRS,

I see 2013 being more like 2011 for RBR, looking at performance advantage they have now as season does to an end


How about an article on what its going to take for McLaren or Ferrari or Lotus or Mercedes to pull us out of the boredom that is Red Bull dominance?



How you can just glibly write off a whole year!

Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooo, say it ain’t so!


Because Mercedes’ DDRS has given them a HUGE advantage. 😉


Valencia has produced the most interesting race of 2012.More than the tracks,it was the tyre performance that made races interesting, in the early part of the season.

Why is Pirelli making such conservative tyre choices now? Options lasting 33 laps, primes lasting 36 laps etc..

Also starting with Korea , we have 4 Hermann Tilke tracks in a row : Korea, India, Abu Dhabi, and now Austin. These tracks have a sameness about them and are producing boring races. They could do well to shuffle up the races in Asia and put Singapore and Suzuka in the middle of the Tilke track races.

But then hardly any chance of that happening as Bernie thinks all the Tilke tracks are great…


For the record, Austin wasn’t designed by Tilke. From what I’ve read, the layout of the Austin track was actually designed by Tavo Hellmund and another person who’s name escapes me. Tilke’s company was brought in as advisers to make sure the track met F1 standards and other minutiae.

It looks to be an epic circuit, but we’ll obviously have to wait a few weeks to see if it’s really as good as it looks.


Why on earth some people want to see a wet race ? Do many laps behind safety car, red flagged races, poor visibility both for driver and spectators. Absolutely ridiculous. Hope it net rains again!- boring as batshit!

I like to see some changes to the rules- like making changes to the car before the race – it would have given teams like Lotus a chance to correct mistakes and create a bit of mystery. I think you should be allowed to run whatever tyre you like at the start of the GP as long as you race only one new tyre.


Elie, where were you when we had a wet race last time? Ferrari were strong in wet conditions. That’s why everyone wants a wet race.


Here’s a suggestion: Why doesn’t Pirelli just make ALL the compounds available at ALL the races. The teams can choose whatever tyres they want and focus on strategy that works for their cars, drivers, and equipment.


I don’t know if Pirelli has “magic rubber”, but if they can influence the final GP’s to be as unpredictable as the first 7, then I say go for it. The first 7 races had 7 different winners. I pray the final 7 don’t have 1 & the same winner.

Don’t care who wins, just want gripping, hammer & tongs dicing all the way to Sau Paulo.



Title decider goes to Brazil, and it’s a wet race. That would be fun. Oh, and just to cap it off, because it’s wet, Schumacher puts in a stonking drive, and gets a podium on his last race.


Two lines in the graphic of RAI and MAS glued together for almost the whole race. Massa’s only directive from Ferrari seems to be to block Kimi however he can, protecting Alonso’s back from a Kimi charge. For at least two races he has succeeded admirably.

This time I think he could have done better for himself than just be a spoiler for Kimi and I wonder if he was purposely short fuelled to give him a weight advantage….

As James says, “It was odd that Massa had problems with fuel load.”

Tornillo Amarillo

James, can you explain, even if it were in two words:

1. why McLaren couldn’t race well with the soft?

2. if Button pitted on lap 25 for hards, with 2 DRS zones, why he did not get more positions?


Thanks James on the great insight. It was nice not to see tire klag all over the track. Korea was horrendous for that. I was getting sick of seeing the teams race against the tire instead of each other. It’s like, you guys spend xxx millions on building a car and it’s all decided by a crummy tire?


The weather was benign and stable all

weekend in Delhi


I believe that’s what is killing off the 2012 season more than the conservative tyres and the teams getting to grips with the 2012 Pirelli raw eggs i.e. The fact that the rain clouds have dried up.

We saw in Europe what a wet practice did for the action i.e. Not only did it deny Red Bull pole but it also threw a number of strategy options up in the air.

So I think, we seriously getting cheated out here for never have I seen a season such as this were we have only had one wet race i.e. Malaysia.

Now contrast that with a true classic season from back in the day —> 2008 where we had at least 4 wet races.

So until the global warming epidemic halts in it’s tracks, I can only envision a Red Bull domination carrying on for a couple of decades.


It doesn’t if it rained at every single race of the season. The pansies in charge of race control would not let the drivers race until the track was bone dry. Otherwise it would be “dangerous”. Motorsport is not checkers, it is inherently dangerous.

It’s a shame because I do agree that wet races are always more interesting than dry ones


Lets hope so mate


maybe start a campaign for the 500m viewers FOM claims f1 to have – to all use double deodorant and boost those greenhouse gases


One of the few boring races in an otherwise great season. Note to Pirelli: please, please, please don’t give in to the pressure to make the tires more durable and predictable! You have changed this jaded old fan’s opinion that F1 was stuck in a rut of processional races forever.


I’ve watched every season from 1992 onwards, and I can tell you this season is one of the most boring ones I’v ever had the displeasure of seeing.

The current rules are terrible and make overtaking a thing of the past. And no, drs does not count in the same way that breezing past a lorry in the slow lane does not count


“The current rules are terrible and make overtaking a thing of the past.”

WHAT?! Are you serious? Have you been watching the same races the rest of us have? Even without the DRS passes there have still been way more passes this year and last than any any of the previous 3 seasons. “For many years, a Grand Prix in Barcelona was synonymous with almost no overtaking – there were an average of just two overtaking moves per race between 2008 and 2010. That all changed last year: not only did ‘normal’ (i.e. non-DRS assisted) overtakes increase by a factor of ten – with a total of 22…”:(http://www.formula1.com/news/features/2012/5/13319.html)


James (or anyone), a bit off topic…

After 10 years I feel sudden need to play video games again (F1 especially) and I was wondering what F1 drivers think about modern F1 simulators like Codemasters’s F1 2012, rFactor, iRacing… is some of them a real thing or are they all crap.

I heard Lewis likes to play one of them with his brother…

Do you have some info on that?


Vileneuve was a fan of the simulators too if I remember.


Don’t quote me on it, but if memory serves correctly I recall iRacing as the game Lewis likes to play with his brother.

That said, here’s my take. F1 2010 and 2011 (I haven’t tried F1 2012 yet) are pretty awesome games. They aren’t super realistic, I would call them a nice balance between simulator and arcade styles. For pure simulator type racing, rFactor is as good as it gets. The plain vanilla program has a small selection of cars and tracks, but there are tons of cars, series, tracks, etc that can be added (all free) but it does take a bit of fiddling sometimes. If you are decent with a PC it shouldn’t be an issue. rFactor 2 is currently in beta, and can be purchased. It takes rFactor to new heights IMO. I haven’t tried iRacing, so can’t comment there.


This season is in desperate need for a wet race

Unfortunately it is probably not going to happen before Brazil


have more races in England then

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