When planning goes out of the window and reacting is everything
Strategy Report
Posted By: James Allen  |  27 Nov 2012   |  11:38 am GMT  |  154 comments

The Brazilian Grand Prix was a rollercoaster of a race, with positions and fortunes changing from lap to lap as intermittent rain caused chaos. Sebastian Vettel managed to survive a first lap collision, a broken radio and four pitstops to fight back from 17th place on lap one to sixth at the end to secure the points he needed to win the world championship for the third time.

Fernando Alonso, meanwhile, went from seventh on the grid to second at the end, but did not have the pace in the Ferrari to challenge Jenson Button for the win, which would have given him the points to clinch the title.

With conditions so hard to predict and so changeable this was a day when the strategists were reacting to events and working on instinct. For some, with nothing to lose, it was worth taking a gamble on a tyre choice. For the two title contenders it was all about being certain to be there at the chequered flag with as many points as possible.

The race fell into three distant phases. The early laps when it began to rain and a decision needed to be made whether to pit for intermediate tyres or stay out on dry tyres. A middle part of the race when everyone was on dry tyres, and then the final 20 laps in the rain, when everyone moved to intermediates.

Pre-race expectations

Rain had been forecast for race day all week. However, in the hours before the race the chance of rain was receding from 80% to 40%, as teams faced up to the possibility of a dry race and very different conditions from practice and qualifying.

The key factor was always going to be the temperature, it was cool on race day, but if the temperature kept rising it would mean more thermal degradation on the tyres and therefore more pit stops.

There were three cars out of position; Maldonado in 16th after his penalty for missing a weight check, Grosjean in 18th after hitting de la Rosa in qualifying and arguably Rosberg, who had overqualified in the Mercedes in 9th place and was set to fall back in the race.

Indications were that teams would go for a two stop strategy with the first stop around lap 20-25 with a middle stint on a new set of hard tyres and then review performance before deciding whether to switch to used mediums for the last stint or another set of new hards.

However the track conditions before the rain began were different from Friday practice where the track temperature was almost 50 degrees, compared to less than half that on race day. So even without rain, teams were set for a reactive strategy.

Once again Pirelli’s tyre choice had been conservative, the Italian firm opting for the hard and medium tyres because of several high energy corners. The hard tyre was well out of its optimum working range in the 50 degree track temperatures during Friday practice and there were signs of blistering. But on race day with lower temperatures, the hard tyres were better suited.

Going into the race, only Di Resta of the leading cars had a new set of mediums left, while Ferrari only had one new set of hard tyres, compared to the two new sets of Red Bull and McLaren. The Ferrari also had a deficit of around 0.3s to 0.4s in pure car pace to deal with. The team had split its long run tests on Friday, with Massa running the medium and Alonso the hard tyres, so they had plenty of data on which to base their strategy. It was clear that they favoured the medium tyre on race day as they and Lotus were the ones to move onto it in the dry.

Button and Hulkenberg take a chance

The conditions in the early part of the race were difficult, but the teams were ready to react as far as strategy decisions were concerned. The key strategy call was to stay out when rain started to fall in the early stages with the dry tyres, but few teams were able to do that, as they could not generate enough temperature in the tyres.

Several teams split the strategies at this point, around lap 10; putting one driver onto intermediates and leaving the other on slicks. Red Bull put Webber onto intermediates, for example and then switched Vettel onto them a lap later. For McLaren Hamilton went onto the intermediates, but Button resisted.

There was a brief moment in this phase when it looked like Button and Nico Hulkenberg were on the wrong tyre, with the slick. But then drivers who went onto the intermediate tyres too early suffered from graining. So it swung back Hulkenberg and Button’s way and when the drivers who had switched to intermediates were forced to pit again around lap 18-20, it left Button and Hulkenberg over 40 seconds clear of the field, having made no stops compared to the two made by the others.

It is worth noting that Force India has something of a track record on tricky wet days like this of copying what Button does, as he has an uncanny knack of being on the right tyre at the right time and there have been several occasions when Force India has matched his moves and got a strong result.

In this instance both Button and Hulkenberg were able to get sufficient temperature into the tyres to deal with the water on the track, although there was a thin dry line for most of the early stages of the race. This made overtaking difficult because off line there was no grip and several cars went straight on instead of out-braking their rivals.

It was only later that the track became fully wet, after lap 50, when the whole field went for intermediates.

The decisive moment of the race was the deployment of the safety car on lap 23 due to the debris on the track, which had led to a puncture for Nico Rosberg. This greatly helped Hamilton, Alonso, Vettel, Webber and others who had lost ground early on through pit stops and spins. It wiped out the lead of Button and Hulkenberg and brought Hamilton into their battle, which ultimately led to the collision between Hulkenberg and Hamilton.

The pair had no choice but to pit under the safety car and retain their lead, but with a bunched up field behind.

Incidentally, in phase two of the race, around laps 18-20, when everyone moved back onto dry tyres, Ferrari and Lotus went for the medium tyre while most went for the hard. For most, this was a hedge in case they needed to go to the finish on that set of tyres, with over 40 laps remaining.

Lotus were prepared to go to the end on the mediums, given their better tyre usage, but Ferrari would have struggled as they suffered obvious graining on the surface of the front tyres.

Most F1 strategists said after the race that it was relatively clear what was the right move to make at each phase of the race, but what prevented more of them from copying Button and Hulkenberg was confidence that they could generate the tyre temperature.

Button is a past master at these situations, but it was interesting to note, once again as in Brazil qualifying in 2010, that Hulkenberg has the knack too. It was regrettable that he lost control of the car trying to pass Hamilton later in the race – and took a drive through penalty as a result – as it overshadowed an otherwise exceptional performance and great strategic reaction.


N=new:U=used;M=Medium;H=Hard;Dt=drivethrough penalty

Button: MU HN (23) IN (57) 2 Stops
Alonso: MU IN (10) MU (18) IN (56) 3
Massa: MU IN (15) MU (19) IN (55) 3
Webber: MU IN (9) HU (19) IN (55) 3
Hülkenberg: MU HN (23) IN (57) DT (58) 3
Vettel: MU IN (10) HN (19) MU (52) IN (54) 4
Schumacher: HN HN (5) IN (8) HN (17) IN (54) 4
Vergne: MN IN (15) HN (20) HN (29) IN (56) 4
Kobayashi: HN IN (8) HN (18) IN (54) 3
Räikkönen: MU IN (5) MU (19) IN (53) 3
Petrov: MN IN (14) HN (19) IN (54) 3
Pic: MN IN (13) MU (20) IN (55) 3
Ricciardo: MN IN (9) HN (19) HN (51) IN (56) WN (61) 5
Kovalainen: MN IN (15) MU (19) HN (37) IN (56) WN (59) 5
Rosberg: MU IN (9) HN (18) HN (20) IN (50) 4
Glock: MN IN (14) MU (19) HN (31) IN (56) 4
De La Rosa: MU IN (14) MU (19) HN (50) IN (55) 4
Kartikeyan: MU IN (13) HN (20) HN (51) IN (55) 4
Di Resta: MN IN (10) HN (18) IN (57) 3

Hamilton: MU IN (10) HN (18) 2
Grosjean: HN 0 NC
Maldonado: MU 0 NC
Senna: MN 0 NC
Perez: MU 0 NC

RACE HISTORY, courtesy of Williams F1 Team

Note: The dips in the middle and at the end of the graph are the safety car periods. This raises the average lap time of the race, hence why many of the dry racing laps are above the zero (average) line.

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Incredible race. Days like that are why I watch F1.


I enjoy both the straighforward dry speed contests as well as the rain races. This is what makes an F-1 championship worth winning.


While it is great for TV and those who want wacky races, such races reward the lucky as much as those who respond with skill which when compared to a race where those deserve to win do so, this is not a good ouctome!


I tend to agree, WJ, but only to a point. Every season needs a bizarre race - and some are truly exceptional with deserving winners, such as Button's Canada victory - because changeable conditions should be tested during the year alongside full wet circumstances and genuinely different track configurations, of which there are too few these days, but for me Austin was the real thing, a cracker in its own right.

Unpredictability is good for the show but I would prefer it to be achieved most often by smart sporting regulations producing close racing between (reasonably) evenly matched cars and the best, most talented, professional drivers than by intermittent sprinkling - by Bernie or anyone else!



Don't forget that a wet race or two, sometimes more than that, are as much a part of the season as a dry race in Hungary or Monza (usually).

It's also a fact that safety cars are a part of the season and some drivers are going to be disadvantaged by those safety cars, it's inevitable, unavoidable unfortunately.

You don't name a driver after your "reward the lucky" comment. If you are thinking about Button, don't forget he had a forty-something second lead, which was hard won because he made the right choices to deal with the conditions, Hulkenberg did too.

BTW I don't like the safety car rules either, but I think we have to recognise that there is no perfect safety car system.



I think there is a certain skill in keeping slick tyres up to temptature, the car on track and not going with the masses and pitting to stick on some rain tyres.


Hi James,

Great report and very insightful as usual. I would like to know when deciding on tyres in difficult circumstances who actually decides the strategy? As you mentioned Button always seems to be on the right tyre at the right time. Does he make that call himself? Out of the two mclaren drivers it always appears button chooses and hamilton is told what to do.


I did notice on the McLaren dashboard that the team did ask both drivers (or at least JB) what they wanted to do about tyres. I think at the end of the day the driver has to make the decision as they are the only one that knows how the car is feeling on the track. The team will also provide them with data about how long it is going to rain for and the intensity.


Interesting account. One thing I would say is that a track temperature of 25 degrees celsius is not 'half the temperature' of 50 degrees. If you look at the absolute scale (Kelvin), 50 celsius is 323 Kelvin, and 25C is 298 Kelvin. For the temperature to be half of that from Friday, it would have to be MINUS 115.5C. Since the race happened in Brazil and not Antarctica, this was clearly not the case.


At one stage, some boffins tried to tell us that the 1st day of the new millennium was 1st January 2001 (& not 1st January 2000).

Technically correct, but totally irrelevant. You would have missed the action by 12 months if you waited.


Er ... come again ...


Wow, an Antarctic Grand Prix, that would really test Pirelli! Their podium hats could be designed to look like penguin heads!


Don't listen to the detractors! A perfectly valid point. Thanks.


that's absolutely right 🙂 but in F1 nobody uses absolute temperature for tire range, perhaps for engine piston expansion calculation.


James, I can see why you get frustrated, this absolutely irrelevant point gets raised as something worthy of highlighting? Don't fret, keep up the great work!

DMyers, while your calculation on the Kelvin scale is correct, it is completely irrelevant to James' comment as his was celsius based and in that context (and for that matter in the REAL world) also correct. In your haste to prove your intelligence, you have demonstrated the exact opposite, dare I say 'polar' opposite...on many fronts.

Please allow me to point out your error, as one of your esteemed intellectual prowess would have it no other way. In actuality, you would have to be outside the earth's atmosphere to observe a temperature of -115.C, as the Antarctic does NOT get that cold.




“If you look at the absolute scale…”

No thanks Professor. We’re talking tyres here man. In terms of the operating window of the tyres 25C may very well be half the temperature. If the tyres are out of the operating window and have zero performance at -12.57C, then they also have zero performance at -95.68C! Try to understand what he’s getting at here. I would guess James doesn’t think it wise to get into the finer details of the temperature scale in the interests of the layreader. And those clever monkeys in the know such as yourself should know what he means by it, but anyway, thanks for pointing it out…


haha pedantic much? half the number of degrees then...


Potato, Patato


Celsius degrees are equivalent to Kelvin on a 1:1 relation, however Kelvin temperatures are offset 273 degrees from Celsius.

Seems like someone needs to go back to Physics 101 🙂


No Adam, the 273 degree offset is significant as zero Kelvin, is actually scientifically significant - the point at which molecular motion stops, while zero Celsius is an arbitrary point, significant only as a state change of water, but not suitable for applying things like the ideal gas law a very important law to basic Physics and Chemistry. 🙂

You can add and subtract Kelvin and Celsius the same way, but when you multiply or divide, the location of the zero point is crucial. DMyers' analysis holds under any temperature scale based on absolute zero. But JAllen's comment of the temperature halving from 50 C to 25C does not convert to Fahrenheit where 122F and 77F is only a 37% drop because both Fahrenheit and Celsius have arbitrary and different zero points.


Button holds his nerve and makes race winning tyre choice, ok Hamilton had been crashed into, but he does seem to continually end up off the track by putting himself in harms way, interesting stats, over the 3 year of Button and Hamilton at Mclaren Button 672 points Hamilton 657 !!


What the stats highlight to me is the differences between Jenson and Lewis's driving styles.

Button is a wonderfully consistent driver and needs a car that he can drive within his comfort zone. Unfortunately, and as he stated himself, the MP4-27 wasn't a car that responded well to his "easy on the tires" driving style, and his one-lap pace suffered accordingly.

Hamilton is a driver who likes to push the car - to constantly find an edge, and the MP4-27 seemed to respond better, especially in qualifying.

The result of this is that Hamilton consistently qualified higher up the grid (seven poles for Lewis versus one for Jenson - his first in three years), which unfortunately made Hamilton more susceptible to the midfield "one lap wonders" who qualify high and lose it in the first corner. Button, qualifying lower, generally managed to avoid any first corner melee, with his two retirements coming from mechanical failures.

I don't think it's fair to criticize Lewis for having fantastic qualifying pace, and call it "putting himself in harms way...". Personally, I think Lewis wants to push all the time, and Jenson wants consistency. I believe it's why Jenson's staying at McLaren, and why Lewis is leaving.


It's interesting as far as any stats go but it does not come close to telling the truth does it? What about a qualy head to head - Hamilton has wiped Button off the map but that does mean he is a better driver either. Retirements this year alone have cost Hamilton something like 120 points - and i'm convinced that's why he is leaving (at least partly) no point in a fast car if the team do not give you the chance to use it.

The reall telling 'stat' is that pretty much EVERYONE inside and connected to F1 Talks of Hamilton as being one of the best 3, many talk about him being the fastest - no-one mentions Button in the same breath - they just don't. Mercedes havwe just offered Hamilton more than any other driver is being paid..... They must know what they are doing.


The fact remains that, statistically, in three years Hamilton has failed to stamp his authority over Button in the one thing that really matters, the WDC. Had he been a markedly superior driver, this would have been a foregone conclusion. We are therefore talking about very small degrees of skill being a differentiating factor and the mere fact that you feel the need to justify Hamilton's alleged superiority says it all. I am not saying that Button is a better driver, but he is a great driver who has pushed Hamilton more than anyone thought him capable of.


I agree, Scott - however "very small degrees of skill" are all that seperate the 'best' from the 'worst' in F1. F1 is all about "very small degrees" so no suprise there.


"They must know what they are doing"...Surely they would have put some of their knowledge to use over the previous three years? I still see Ross Brawn as the best man-manager in the business, but Mercedes do not appear to know what they're doing! It's time for them to cement themselves at a front-running team. If they don't, I see Lewis going into one of his moods.

You're right that Lewis is the faster than Jenson, but very few F1 books that i've read and commented on the runner-up in any detail, history will tell us the Lewis Hamilton was outscored by Jenson Button over their time together.


Not sure it will, History tends to record season by season not as a summation of points scored of x period of time.


Wayne, to your point:


The problem I have with this is the over-generalization; "Button is the master" of changing conditions. What does the record **actually** show?..lets's see the breakdown of JB versus team mates in qualifying conditions and races in the wet over the past 5 years. His much vaunted win in Canada is a prime example; Lewis was **much** faster in the wet before he tangled with JB. I dont for one second believe JB is a quicker driver than Lewis, dry, wet, or changing conditions..But I stand corected by the data.


Vinola & Rach - the other telling factor is when Lewis and Jenson are wheel to wheel- it's no contest really Lewis wins almost every time. Make no mistake Canada last year Jenson moved over to block Lewis in an "Oops I didn't see him there moment"- he knew Lewis would pass.

I think Jenson sets his car up better in changeable conditions and makes slightly better strategy calls for tyres etc.. This is the only time he is better.. In the same set-up in the same conditions whatever the track Lewis catches passes and/or pulls away.


I agree with what you say but what Hamilton needs is the little bit of feel that Button has when thing get tricky. Button has proven over the years that he just has a sixth sense and is able to make the correct call. Button isn't necessarily the quickest but if you are on the correct tyres then if your a couple of tenths down it doesn't matter.

I agree about his win in Canada, he was holding up Hamilton and admitted later in the BBC review of the year that he knew where Hamilton was and put him in the wall. Button has built a good reputation on the back of some great wins. What I really want to see is him under pressure at the front (rather than chasing) and see how he copes. We got a glimse of that in 2009 and he struggled until his great drive in Brazil.




Points are just one part of the equation. Perez and Kobayashi are separated by just 6 points, but one's headed to a top 3 team and the other is on his way out (unfortunately).


That´s maybe one of the best comments I´ve seen. I didn´t think about the points separate the two. And how different their future looks. I guess when you have the richest man in the world as your sponsor you move up in the world. In fairness to Perez he seems promissing but he still has much to learn. And Kobashashi had a great race in Japan but not much more. Due in part to his own fault, like for example the pit stop in Silverstone this year.


Button was just lucky, that Hamilton had been taken out of the race.. Otherwise Button would have never won.

Also, during practice, Button choose the wrong rearwing and therefor he was slower than Hamilton in FP. Only because Button later chose to copy Hamiltons rearwing configuration, made him able to challange for pole and the win..

Would Hamilton not have been there, than Button would have chosen the wrong rearwing (Spa version) and he wouldn't be that far up the field anyway.


Surely thats what I said "Hamilton was crashed into" and Jenson inherited the lead, but partly due him staying out on dry's.....or have I missed something ?


Both points are inaccurate.

Button was testing a different wing,possibly with an eye to 2013 car - if it was only practice how could he "choose the wrong one?" That's what practice is for! It's quail and race where the choices matter!

Hamilton was lucky to have a second chance to challenge after making two stops in the first 20 laps. He was over 40 secs behind Button when the safety car came out, which cut Button's lead to zero.


Button had already lost the lead in 'normal' racing conditions. HAM was lucky to get another shot and BUT was lucky that Hulk took himself and HAM out out of the equation or he was on for third.


You mean cut Hulk's lead to zero.


Force India are suggesting the Safety Car was brought out to spice up the show! I am tempted to agree with that.

It was interesting to note that Lewis struggled in those intermittent conditions, not able to keep pace with Button, and yet complained of his inters going off and yet in more predictable dry or wet conditions he's incredible. seems there is a thin line in his range of skills that can occassionally catch him out.


Button has always been strong in changeable conditions throughout his career. Hamilton has proven himself to he strong in full wet conditions (Fuji 2007, Silverstone 2008)


Possibly a bit unfair on Hamilton. He might not have impressed relative to Button there but he was doing a better job than most of the rest of the field. He was on for a comfortable podium without the safety car, and had a sizeable lead over all the other runners on intermediates by lap 22. I don't think there's any particular gap in Hamilton's wet weather skills, it just looks that way when compared to the one guy who is really exceptional in these circumstances.


I´m afraid Force India is wrong. There was debris on the track.Nico Rosberg had a puncture in one of his rear tyre. The SC was needed to clean the track.But teams usually complaint about the SC when their car is leading and they end up losing the lead once the SC is gone.


It always seems a little odd to me, in that respect, that Jenson is supposed to be a great driver when the car is perfect for him, and that he struggles when it isn't set up quite right, whereas Lewis has raw pace whatever the car. Not quite sure how that fits with the opposite observation when conditions are changeable...


Nice job of recapping a very confusing GP, James. During the race, I had trouble keeping track of who had which boots on and when! As you point out, getting the optimum tire temp. is all important, no matter which set your on. And Newey's down-force packages are so clever he turns the Pirelli rubber into Black Magic on the RB. Thanks for the summation.



James, good article, but I still not agree about the safety car (the first one) benefitting Vettel in any way. With Vettel 1.5 seconds behind Alonso and Alonso far away from the top 3 place he needed, closing up the gaps meant Alonso got a shot at the podium again.

Vettel, on the other hand, had about 3 seconds advantage over Kobayashi before the safety car. Closing the gap meant Kobayashi could pass Vettel (the RBR not having enough speed to defend properly on the dry) and Vettel lost a lot of time as a consequence.

I don't think the end result was altered that much by the safety car, but it was not beneficial for Vettel.


Yes ... I too agree. It was not beneficial to Vettel.



Definitely agree - that first safety car did not benefit VET at all...he was much better off beforehand in most ways (ahead of MAS, gap to KOB etc) other than the gap from him to the leaders (BUT/HUL) but he wasn't concerned about that and preferred ALO to be way back.

It was mainly good for both MAS and ALO.


+ 1 it made Seb race more complicated in traffic and under attack by those who had less at stake... Moreover Webber was not ver helpful squeezing him at the start on the inside and with the 3 abreast banzai move on turn 1 with Kamui. Alo had a fantastic teammate in Massa that allow him to keep hopes alive on the last 3 races, should Webber w/o team orders be his teammate he would have lost the title some races ago...


I agree that the safety car did not help Vettel.

However, the safety car altered the end result quite dramatically, as we would not have seen the HAM - HUL incident otherwise. So Alonso is unlikely to have scored a podium without the safety car.


For "Button and Hulkenberg was confidence that they could generate the tyre temperature."

Is it not a case of having nought to lose for Jens and Hulk, whereas Seb and Alonso did not have this luxury ?


No, it's about the car and the way it's driven


Nonetheless Vettel should have been given a drive through, for colliding with Senna in the 1st lap..

Also a penalty for overtaking under yellow..

It is clearly visible that the lights at the track were blinking yellow.. at the moment of Vettels pass on Koba, down the main straight.

For me it is clear why he didn't get them.. it's a better marketing for F1 to have the youngest tripple WDC in your current driversfield.. That, ofcourse, is history in the making.


May be a penalty for the collision. The yellow light is a different thing; it was reviewed and Vettel was not found guilty. Either way that wouldn't have made any difference. He would have been up there in no time. It took him only a handful of laps to get into points after spinning and dropping back to the last position.


This guy proves that Vettel did pass under yellow, but not the Sauber, it was the Toro Rosso.



Boozie, I can't reply directly to you, but I zoomed in on that picture and don't see any flag, let along a green flag.



And this picture shows that there was a marshall waving a green flag comfortably before he overtook at the post next to the pitlane exit.


non issue!


YES...Seb should never have won the championship


I agree he coild have gotten the first penalty, but the "yellow flag" overtake has been confirmed as a red/yellow slippery track flag by the stewards; it's a non-issue.


Its gonna be a long winter (off season) for fans like this how many times would this yellow light incident be explained?


Forget the Sauber pass, than look at the Torro Rosso pass,..

Also why did Hulkenberg get a DTP, for his collision with Hamilton.. But Vettel not for his collision with Senna etc..

I cant't explain..


Now you have to ask the stewards about that but for the Toro Rosso pass There's a Marshall on the left waving a green flag thus supersedes the light you need to read the rules before jumping into conclusions.

Also I thought the DTP for hulk was harsh as he was on the racing line also where was Hamilton going was he gonna drive thru the Caterham? hulk slid a little but unfortunately not enough space to recover the car.


Vettel overtook ne Toro Rosso under clear yello flags no red and yellow or anything, flashing yellows. But stewards didn't see, ofc...


This is strange. Alonso would also have been the youngest triple WDC if he had won the title :-).

That would have been better marketing in fact, given that next year Hamilton & Vettel could have a go at the record. Especially Vettel, since he continues in Red Bull.


How could Hamilton become a 3 time world champion next year?!?!?! He's only won one!


Blinking yellow is the slippery conditions warning (yellow flag with red stripes when done with the flags), non-blinking yellow is the yellow flag (no overtaking).


Sorry, got these backwards (of course). Solid yellow is slippery conditions, blinking is a yellow flag.

In the sections leading up to the overtake the yellows are blinking, they then enter a green section which is when Vettel moves to overtake, as he proceeds to pass another yellow is visible but it's solid so he is still OK to overtake.

Luckily there are plenty of despondent Ferrari fans uploading the video to youtube in hope so that you can go watch for yourself.


I watched the race on the UK's Sky F1 and they showed a clip of Vettel (possibly) passing Kobayashi under a yellow flag, yet I've not seen any mention of it in other news outlets.

James was there any news in the paddock if this was looked at or not? It seems like it could have had a big impact on the title race.


It was a flashing yellow/green apparently (or supposed to be) meaning 'slippery track' if I recall correctly.


Sky F1 got this one completely wrong because they both missed that it was blinking yellow and that he passed a board that was green before the actual move.

I know they stuck to their guns on this throughout the entire telecast but they were completely wrong.


As elsewhere I got this slightly backwards, the key bit was that they entered a green sector as the overtake occurred and then it was immediately followed by a sector that was yellow but *not* blinking.


During the race it was looked at and no action taken


James, have you been able to establish WHY no penalty was given to Vettel?

Were there extenuating circumstances to which the viewer was not privvy as SV also appeared to overtake Verne under yellows.


Inconsistency from race control. Vettel passes the incident and a green flag is waved, however, the electronic board after the marshal's post is still yellow (when it should be green).


Vettel did not overtake any driver under yellow. Not Kobayashi, not Vergne.

The pass on Kobayashi has been explained enough: it wasn't a blinking yellow so he could overtake.

The pass on Vergne was also legal: there was a marshall waving green flags at the beginning of the straight. It was only after that Vettel began his manoeuvre.


actually Pat Fry (Ferrari's technical boss) clarified this issue by saying that the waving flag was actually yellow and red! which means it s a warning to drivers about treacherous track conditions. that was confirmed later by alonso when asked about the matter by saying "there was some kind of hope when he (button) told me there is some yellow flag problem but then i think it was not ture".


Yes, on the Kobayashi pass it was yellow/red, but on the Torro Rosso pass it was clearly yellow. It also indicated yellow flag on his dash.



The problem with this stems from skysports F1's coverage Alan McNish making the biggest mistake in analyzing the situation and almost stating, had he been the driver steward would have given Vettel a penalty, hence most people jumping on it without realizing the rules.

Personally I think he should apologize for misleading the audience.


James go onto YouTube and type in vettel yellow flag. There is 2 incidents where you could argue he overtook under yellow flags separate to the kobayashi incident. He makes moves on a hrt and a toro rosso. The toro rosso one is completed in green flag zone but it is definitely started in a yellow flag. No question at all.


The two incidents that were picked by Sky involving the HRT and Kobayashi were both legitimate. However, some new footage has emerged from the onboard feed involving a Torro Rosso which is very borderline. Watch from 9:45 onwards http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LFER0esusF0&feature=youtu.be


Tha's clearly illegal


I love Schumacher but did anyone else feel that the lack of effort in letting Vettel through was a poor move for the integrity of the sport. You see how hard he fights others when he is clearly the slower car.


Yeah it was a bit obvious how Michael let Seb through. But this scrap between Michael & Kimi was Sensational. Of course the Iceman is too good !



Wow. What a difference in performance of BUT and HUL form the rest of the field between laps 15 - 22. And look at where MSC was during that period (and a bit earlier) and where he ended up in the end. Fantastic race.

All this analysis of strategies and statistics and graphs is like the thrill of the race is extended for a couple of more days. Great work James once more.

Alberto Martínez

So James, with hindsight can we conclude that the Ferrari strategy of using the Medium tyre would have been a big mistake in case there were no more rain?

Also I realized that in the early laps of the race Massa tried replicate the strategy used by Button and Hulkenberg, but with no success as he had to enter for intermediates. Was it related to tyre temperature?

I don´t understand how the Ferrari was so good in wet race this year (Malasya, Silverstone, ...) and they were nowhere in this race. Seems like the upgrades made by Ferrari changed the ability the car had to heat the tyres. Could you research on this please?


We'll never know, but I think others would have gone to the finish so they would have had to try it.


Great article. I like the comment about Force India tracking Button - makes a lot of sense in those conditions. The only problem is that they didn't take quite enough notice. If they had commanded the Hulk to follow a bit more precisely he would have finished on the podium!

By that I don't mean in Button's tracks precisely but that of Button's willingness to lose a place rather than risk retirement by being slightly too aggressive. Hulkenburg would have had many more much safer chances to overtake Hamilton whilst backing out of confrontation would still have given him a better result than most believed possible. Button's risk aversion is what gave him a deserved victory.

Come to think of it is there any other driver who gets near Button's ratio of wet to dry race wins?


I also liked the Button-Force India comment, definitely something to watch in 2013.


Most wins in rain-affected races since the end of the era of Schumacher/Ferrari domination (i.e. 2005 on):

6: Button

4: Alonso

3: Raikkonen

3: Hamilton

3: Massa

3: Vettel

1: Schumacher

1: Webber


haha - very funny about Panis!

However... I wrote ratio - as in one thing compared to another - so I don't think a zero for dry wins makes for a legitimate comparison.

Using your figures above gives:

Button 6 15 40%

Alonso 4 30 13%

Raikonnen 3 19 16%

Lewis 3 21 14%

Massa 3 11 27%

Vettel 1 26 4%

which as I expected means Button is way out in front for wet weather skills... with Massa next and Vettel last.


Olivier Panis springs to mind!


The takeaway for Pirelli for 2013 should be: pick very aggressive or very conservative tyres because they have produced some awesome races.


....and thank you to formula1.com for their live timing as without it we would have had headaches trying to workout what was going on.

I love when sport makes you nervous like the race did on Sunday. the only other one that does that for me is football in tight finals or david vs goliath games like Barca v Celtic recently. However F1 can do it multiple times a year.

God bless Formula One!!!


I think the Force India team is only complaining because they lost the P1 which by the way they were fortunate to be in.

With the amount of debris on the track, i dont think a mere yellow flag can slow the cars down for the marshals to clear the track considering poor visibility. I believe it was a good call by the stewards.


Vettel passed JEV under Yellow flag (this is NOT the red/yellow/slippery surface flag-Sauber pass that has already been incorrectly identified as pass under yellow)



Andrew Benson says he is shortly to write a story on the subject of a possible Ferrari protest



To all,

Vettel's overtakes are clearly explained in the thread Steve provided earlier.

Read the whole thread: http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/groups/f1/forum/topic/youtube-analysis-vettels-yellow-flag-overtakes/


As users have pointed out in the vids comments, there's a marshall's post right after the pit exit. That marshall is waving a green flag. Light posts don't have precedence over flags.


"Light posts don’t have precedence over flags"

Please provide a link to this rule, I'm interested

The yellow flag is clearly displayed on SV dash as he passes Verne


Fireman, thanks for the link, however just read and I do no not agree with your conclusion:

"Signals are given in daylight by different coloured flags, which may be supplemented or replaced by lights"

if the man waving the green flag existed (I have not been able to find him on lap 4) then, if you assume that Vettel was able to see him but not the yellow lights on the circuit or his dashboard, the question is still out there, what takes precedent!?


Signal lights are supplementary as Appendix H describes: http://www.fia.com/sport/Regulations/f1regs.html


Incorrect. That marshall was there on lap 3 but not on lap 4, which is when the incident took place.


Blah blah blah. Forget about lights and flags. Teams know the rules better than all of us. Why did Toro Rosso leave a gap of 17+ seconds behind the SC? THAT explains it all. If anyone finds a reasonable answer to the 1Million dollar question then we are good. If not, this will be remembered as a shameful season with an illegal winner. Full stop.

PS1: Fans here in the US are shocked to see a sport with different rules and marshall decisions depending on your nationality/sponsor. F1 is no longer a sport, but luckily there are other motor sport options.

PS2: Ferrari's Austin decision was legal. As legal as the million of times a Toro Rosso ("Red Bull" in Italian, so funny) lets another team pass them. Team orders are also legal.


No, he's there with green flag also on lap 4.


I don't know or care where he was. He was not there when Vettel passed on lap 4.

The rules are valid for everyone, right?


So that marshal just vaporized in between laps?


It is pretty clear and was mentioned during live commentary so I'm baffled why it wasn't investigated at the time. I'm even more amazed that none of the rival teams, Ferrari in particular, raised an objection. Apart from the overtake, it is quite clear that Vettel made no attempt to lift for the yellow. As a marshal, I take a very dim view of drivers who ignore yellow flags; has someone got to get killed or injured before they are enforced more strongly?


The pass being referred to in the video as being illegal (not the first two which the poster clears and the FIA has already looked at) was not mentioned on the telecast as far as I know.

I know the sky guys ran with one of those for pretty much the entire race before admitting they were wrong.


P Alliot, thanks for the footage. I think you are right about the FIA flag/lights rules and clearly Vettel overtakes the third time under yellow lights conditions...illegal pass!

Certainly the FIA didn't look at the matter and anyone complained in a timely matter. Even a post-race penalty (9.4s+20s=29.4s) could have move Vettel down to 8th behind Vergne (+28.6), leaving Seb with just 4 points to add to his tally. Wow, that could have meant a different 3-time WDC!!!


Without taking anything away from the great driving ability of the young 3x champion, it's quite remarkable to see how many cars are keen to jump out of his way.

This is mainly evident from watching SV's onboard footage. The two STR cars, Timo Glock and MSC are particularly noticeable.


At the end the only way for Alonso to win the tittle was for Vettel to crash out for good, think about it, Vettel had 3 other team mates plus the german contingent (Glock,Schumacher and potentially Rosberg), asumming he is able to take over the HRT, Marussia and Catherham, that makes it 12 cars already behind him even before he starts, a couple of other cars having incidents (maldonado, perez, etc) and he is already scoring points... not much to be proud of.

Why everybody focuses on Alonso getting help from Massa and nobody looks at the Red Bull / Toro Rosso / German conspiracy...


It doesn't matter really. No matter what he did in that race he wasn't going to get a penalty, otherwise they would've given him one for being completely unaware & chopping across Senna.

Having a championship like this one decided by a drive-through would reflect badly on F1, something the stewards were obviously acutely aware of.


Nobody cares to explain, even James.


JEV slowed down substantially. No issue.


The Torro Rosso is clearly slowing with an apparent "problem", I believe passing is permitted under that circumstance. I'm sure Vettel wouldn't have been aware that Vergne's "problem" was Helmut Marko screaming in his ear 🙂


The person who wrote this post notes: "As I say I may have this wrong ..."

And he does.



He passes the marshal's green flag before he overtakes anyway.


As pointed out on the comments to the video the board where he makes that third pass is actually green, the two in the previous section were blinking yellow.


Oh and there is a marshal on the left waving a green flag at the start of the straight to boot, hilarious.

Maybe there will be a fourth incident upset Ferrari fans can dig up to claim Vettel overtook under yellows?


I am an Alonso fan, but in Vettel's defence, as I highlighted in a post above, this is merely down to an error from race control. Vettel enters the yellow flag zone and then passes the incident on the outside of turn 3. He then passes a marshal's post which is waving a green flag, however, the electronic display board after this is still yellow. To my knowledge, flags take presidence over the electronic signs, so therefore no penalty (However, whether he could see the flag in those conditions is questionable).


The sporting regulations don't mention the dash lights at all, they are just a drivers aid - the regulations all refer to the marshal's directions as final.

The marshal on the left is waving a green flag.


I'm not a Ferrari fan, Steve. Quite the opposite.

When SV passes JEV the lights on SV dash clearly indicate yellow flag.


Look at his display. He has yellow leds=not overtaking, so the pass was illegal. End of story.


James - can you clarify the rule regarding Maldonado's penalty? Why would the FIA weigh someone in the middle of a qualifying session?


Great race report James, possibly the best yet. I rarely watch an entire race through twice but I did this time and the article really adds depth and understanding.

Little seems to have been made generally of Grosjean's off and the footage I have seen is not great but it seemed quite a big impact and probably self-inflicted. Do you think Lotus' patience could now be expiring and does Valsecchi perhaps have an outside chance after his impressive test?


Davide Valsecchi is Italian.

Grosjean is French. Éric Boullier (Lotus team principle) manages Grosjean. French oil company Total sponsor Lotus.

The back-story from JA is here


Warren Groenewald

Lotus are powered by French engine manufacturer Renault ....


I recall the story you cite but, with respect, it is over a year old. Lotus now has an entire season of Grosjean's services upon which to reflect, nineteen races of more recent, first-hand and potentially unpersuasive evidence upon which to base its decisions.

Boulier is only part of the Lotus decision-making structure and Total only one of its stakeholders. Coca-Cola, for example, is now a bigger player. Also, Total will have a French driver, Pic, on board next year via Caterham.

Grosjean's speed is undeniable and he has an agreeable public persona but his accidents, though not all his fault, are damaging in terms of points, finances, image and relations both within the sport and with its governance. Lotus surely has to be looking at its options.


Guys, can you help me understand, how many cars did Sebastian overtake in the race?

I am puzzled:-)

So his best overtaking maneuvers (just personal opinion) where on Webber, Vergbne, Ricciardo and Schumacher.

I actually love the article (interview with Horner) on how Sebastian fought for P6:



Perhaps Dietrich Mateschitz should really sell Toro Rosso away 🙂


Jenson once again demonstrates supreior nous in racecraft and skill: he thinks of the bigger picture, unlike some others including Hamilton and Vettel - who get involved in unnecessary incidents. Especially for Hamilton who has had three incidents this season: an improvement on last season but needs to iron out this weakness if he wants to be a mulitple world champion. In this respect, he's nowhere close in racecraft/strategy compared to the likes of Button, Riakkonnen, Alonso and not even Vettel.


For those who still doubt Vettel, you have to hand it to him in this race. He did after all drive part of the first lap backwards and still won the championship. 😉



You mean Vettel did great because he overtook 2 HRT, 2 Marussia, 2 Caterham, 2 toro Rosso,2 Germans (schumacher + Glock), plus 5 cars that crashed (Hamilton, Maldonado, Senna, Grosjean & Perez). So who did he really overtook? Rosberg and Raikkonen destroyed their own race, so that leaves Kobayashi and Di Resta (who also crashed). In the meantime he was hesitant at the start of the race, he may be responsible for the first lap crashand overtook with yellow flags. That's what I call a worthy champion.



Was it wet enough at the end for full wets?

I'm thinking maybe if Ferrari had gambled around -12 laps they would have found themselves eating up Button's lead in big chunks. Of course Jenson would have covered if it worked but...

Just a fantasy. After Abu-Dhabi 2010 they were never going to take such a bold gamble.


Ricciardo was apparently on full wets. Did not work.


Hi James, I've just read this and I really can believe the Red Bull double standards:

Red Bull thanks 'gracious' Schumacher for giving Vettel sixth http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/104626

Can you please tell me what your view on this is?

People (Red Bull included) is always bashing Ferrari for taking their strategic decision within their own team. Meanwhile we have the Toro Rossos giving way to Vettel at every opportunity, and now we even have Michael Schumacher, a 7 world champion who drives for Mercedes, a rival team of Red Bull giving way too. Red Bull not only denies it but even publicly say thanks for the "gesture". What is the view on this? In any other sport (Football, Olympics, whatever) this would be called game fixing. Is the FIA going to take any action?


It's up to Schunwhatnhendoes. He didntbwantbto get involved, he said. RBR didn't ask for it so where's the "fix"?


I cannot agree with you here James. He didn't want to get involved? Well, this is supposed to be motor RACING and that is what he is paid for by Mercedes right? To try as hard as he can to get as many points as possible, even with defensive driving if needed.

Same applies to the situation with Toro Rosso. We sit in front of the TV to watch these guys race, not to watch a charade. What if Petrov had done the same in Abu Dhabi 2010 and said afterwards that "he didn't want to get involved"? What would have been the reaction then?

Anyway, I can agree it is a thin line, but what I cannot accept is Red Bull giving lessons of racing purity with that holier than thou attitude and claiming "dirty tricks from others" and then being hypocrite to the point of saying thanks to Schumacher for his nice gesture. I cannot understand how Ferrari gets some much criticism and Red Bull gets away with this kind of things.


MASSA, Why are you crying, why are you crying... in fact you Felipe Massa, should be ashame of your self, you are not a Formula one driver, shame on you.... playing the role of support, or team member is not a racer, you don't have a gram of diginity in you, Alonso is faster than you, will follow you for the rest of your life.

Now Webber in the other hand did a much better job, protecting his position at turn one, even if it meant to block his own team mate, he is a reacer, it may cost him his job next year, but a person has only his dignity, his word, and nothign else, of course money can not buy those things... Massa will be remembered as a poor man with Zero dignity, and shame on FIA for allowing this parody... and I may be out of line here, but money can't buy me.... it can buy Massa, Toro Roso and some others.. and in this case, Mclarens are a team with some integrty (my opinion)


Fully agree


@James Allen: right, then I would like to know what your view is.

@Steve We cannot know if they asked for it, or even if it is something prearranged. But my point is: did you see the Brazil drivers press conference and the questions that Alonso had to face from British media about "tainted results" for the gearbox saga in Austin? It was exactly the same after Germany 2010. That for Ferrari decisions within their own TEAM (that is why they are called teams).

What is beyond my comprehension is why Schumacher, Toro Rosso and Red Bull do not get at least the same criticism for favoring one competitor in detriment of another. For me that is just not fair racing.

@Warren Gronewald: that is exactly my point, then why Schumacher is not slammed in the same way? Not even he is not, he is publicly acknowledged by Red Bull, appalling.

You are spot on, a very bad taste in my mouth too, I love F1, but these are the kind of things that from time to time make me wonder is this so-called sport is worth following.

Warren Groenewald

Very true about Petrov, but then he most likely would have been slammed afterwards for letting Alonso through.

Watching so many drivers basically fall over themselves to get out of Vettels way though left a bad taste in my mouth.


It's kind of a difficult situation to do anything about though. I mean you can't really penalize Red Bull because they didn't ask for it and what are the FIA or Mercedes going to do to Michael, suspend him?


I'm just stating what he said by way of explanation. I'm not expressing a view on it


You are perfectly right, James. There is nothing wrong with this- Schumacher can choose to fight for position (force Rubens on the wall) or graciously allow another car to pass by. I was thinking about it during the race - what if Button did the same to Alonso? It would have never happened, I know...but it is important, apparently, to have many friends in F1 and not many enemies.

I do not know teams and drivers and their relationship and so I cannot tell who has more friends and more respect - Vettel or Alonso. Maybe even Vettel for what Alonso did in the past (crash gate, spy gate). I think the reason why Alonso cannot win the title despite being considered a better driver is because of what he did in the past. There is something beyond mechanical and aero grip...


well glock let hamilton through in 08 and he won his championship...this sort of thing is bound to happen in championship deciding races.


James does the timing not point to the possibility Button and Hulkenberg were running more wing than the field. It looked to me in the very early running Hamilton was able to make the pole work for him but as conditions deteriorated Button and Hulkenberg were able to catch and pass Hamilton. This would also explain the why he was not able to get the inters to work for him as he was not confident in the car setup. After the SC when they were all on hards it appears the less tricky conditions again suited Hamilton and with his confidence restored he was able to pass both driver. Again looking at timing as conditions changed for the worse Hulkenberg and Button were again able to catch Hamilton fairly easily. It would have been nice to see the three of them on inters to see who would have won that match up. I suspect Hamilton would end up third with Hulkenberg on the top step.


James is there a chance u can explain to us what went wrong with mercedes in this season? and why they were good in qualifiying and so bad in the race? is it all related to the double DRS and the extended use in quali? i read plenty of articles trying to figure out the main reason behind this issue but i couldnt get to a conclusion! Ross B said once that Mercedes shall work out a better "infrastructure" for 2013!? is the impact on tyre performance was mainly related to the aerodynamics of the car? or things like weight distribution, suspension and driving style are the upper hand impact... what was really meant by infrastructure???


Thank you James for another year of informative, intelligent commentary and articles.

Looking forward to 2013 and your column.

All the best and have a nice break from the mayhem !


Great analysis

You could see the pressure with the unusual amount of mistakes so many teams seemed to make

Ferrari though (while disappointed), must be somewhat happy that they managed to avoid any massive strategy blunders like 2010


See how wide Daniel went to avoid Vettel?

The bubonic teutonic Helmut risk factor at work.


I don't get this Button 'mastery' in changing conditions. He makes 'a call' usually at odds with the other drivers purely because he might as well take a chance. It'll not work most likely as often as it does. It may have been luck that brought HAM back into play after the safety car but I distinctly heard BUTs radio message to the team "It's stopped raining" which suggests that no sooner had many drivers switched to inters, the rain stopped. It could have gotten heavier, but it didn't so my argument is, if it's luck that bought HAM back into play after the safety car, it's also luck that the rain stopped just after HAM and others had switched to inters.

I know there's a place in F1 for consistent drivers just as there is for racers but I can't help thinking that BUT tends to profit only when others suffer misfortune or a throw of the dice that, when it pays off, looks like a supreme strategy call.



Since Hulkenberg was ahead isn't it Button who copied his strategy and not the other way around?

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