How strategy calls led to Vettel/Webber clash and Mercedes team orders
Strategy Report
Posted By: James Allen  |  26 Mar 2013   |  5:37 pm GMT  |  373 comments

The Malaysian Grand Prix provided some extraordinary talking points with the dispute between Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber the main focus.

Although this was primarily a dispute over trust and team orders, some curious race strategy decisions created the circumstances for the Red Bull drama and the Mercedes team orders, as we shall see.

Pre-race considerations

After the practice sessions the feeling among team strategists was that tyre degradation would be very high, while wear was expected to mean that medium tyres would last 15 laps with the hard lasting 18 laps. But the decisive data would be the degradation (cost in lap time of performance dropping every lap) this would decide how long the stint lengths would be.

Degradation turned out to be very high, as much as 0.4secs per lap for some cars, which is why the stint lengths were so short and there were multiple stops. For some cars, staying out over 10 laps meant losing four seconds. To manage this problem, many teams told their drivers to drive to a prescribed lap time, with the result that some team mates found themselves in artificial situations.

The Vettel vs Webber battle

The controversial battle between Red Bull team mates for the lead in the closing stages of the Malaysian Grand Prix was triggered by earlier strategy decisions. Vettel had driven qualifying with the goal of saving three sets of new hard tyres and two sets of mediums for the race. This is because he expected the Red Bull to be hard on its tyres. He was clearly planning a multi stop race with a fast final stint to keep the Ferraris and Mercedes at bay.

The race turned on a very odd decision: In the early stages of the race, as the track dried out, the team’s decision to pit Vettel early on lap five to change onto the new medium tyres was very much out of character. Red Bull has traditionally been conservative on changeover situations from wet to dry and the way they handled Webber was more typical of their approach. The Australian pitted two laps later than Vettel, with the result that he took over the lead of the race for the second stint.

Webber controlled the race from here. The pair were forced to anticipate their third stops to cover Lewis Hamilton, who was only two seconds behind when he stopped on lap L30. Webber was given priority on Lap 31, with Vettel a lap later.

But having done all of that, at the final stop something very unusual happened; having been given the stop preference throughout the race, coming in a lap earlier than Vettel for the second and third stops, Webber was then disadvantaged at the final stop.

He was brought in a lap later than his team-mate who pitted on Lap 42. Prior to this Webber had enjoyed a 4.2 second lead. However after exiting the pits on new hard tyres on lap 43 he found that Vettel was now 0.5s behind him on the faster new mediums. If Webber had stopped first he would have increased his lead.

So by stopping Vettel first, the team artificially set up the circumstance for what then happened, with Vettel choosing to attack and pass. The money in F1 is all in the constructors’ points, not the drivers’ points, so with 43 points for a 1-2, there was no reason for the team to want any risks to be taken by letting them race; plus racing each other, as they did, damages the tyres.

Despite the fact that the team had every reason to want the drivers to hold station after the final stops – and instructed them to do so – the circumstances led Vettel to see an opportunity, which had been created by this strategic decision. He wanted to redress the earlier strategic mistake, which had cost him the lead at the first stop. The rest is history.

Mercedes: Were they right to keep Hamilton ahead?

Another fascinating team-mate duel appeared to be going on at Mercedes with Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg disputing the final podium position. Here too, things were perhaps not quite what they seemed.

Hamilton had qualified ahead of his team mate and was ahead in each of the stints of the race up to the final pit stop. Both drivers did a short third stint on new medium tyres of just nine laps, Rosberg pitting a lap after Hamilton throughout the race.

Mercedes had concerns about the fuel consumption of both drivers and asked them to save fuel in the second half of the race, Hamliton’s being the more critical. So in the final stint, when Rosberg closed up to Hamilton and asked for permission to pass the situation was again somewhat artificial. There was no reason to let him past as they were not going to catch the Red Bulls and at no stage had Rosberg been ahead of Hamilton.

The positive was that Mercedes were competitive again for the first time since the middle of last year. And they could even say that an opportunity had gone begging as Red Bull was not on top of its game in Malaysia, with lack of pace and poor tyre life. It seemed that on Saturday they perhaps sacrificed some pace for better tyre life.

So there was a chance there for Mercedes to put some pressure on Red Bull and Hamilton was doing just that, but the fuel shortage put paid to their challenge.

It was surprising that they opted to cut it so fine on fuel; the gains from running two or three kilos under-fuelled are around 1/10th of a second per lap, or 5/6 seconds over a race distance. With variable conditions – a wet track at the start and a track that is ramping up in speed, it is difficult to get the fuelling right. But a chance went begging for Mercedes in Malaysia.

Alonso comes away empty handed

One of the more remarkable stories of the race, was the decision by Ferrari to leave Fernando Alonso out on track with a damaged front wing. They did it for strategic reasons, but again it was an uncharacteristically rash decision as the wing failed and Alonso took no points from the weekend. It went against their philosophy of being consistent over a long season.

They were being extremely optimistic that the wing would hold; at 180mph on the pit straight the broken wing was subjected to loads in excess of 500kg.

They left him out because they were trying to delay the pitstop for a couple of laps until the track was ready for slick tyres. This would save them 21 seconds, compared to pitting him for a new nose on lap 1, at which point they would have been forced to leave him on intermediate tyres and then he would have to come in again at the changeover point to slicks, which was laps 5-7.

So what would have happened if they had pitted him on lap 1?

It was clearly set to be a long and chaotic race, with multiple pit stops, so even if Alonso had dropped to the back of the field, there was every chance that he would have been able to score points.

With these high degradation tyres, race consistency is the most important factor and that is something at which Alonso excels. On top of that there were several cars like Hulkenberg’s Sauber and Perez’ McLaren that had good intermediate pace but poor dry pace, the Lotuses were struggling for pace on a three stop strategy and there were also setbacks for the quick Force India cars and Button, which dropped them out of the points.

So in all likelihood, on a track where overtaking is easy, Alonso would probably have finished behind his team mate in sixth place, ahead of Romain Grosjean, taking home eight points and maintaining the gap to Vettel at 14 points, instead of 22.


Vettel: IN MN (5) HN (22) HN (32) MN (42)

Webber: IN HN (7) MN (19) HN (31) HN (43)
Hamilton: IN MN (7) MN (21) HN (30) MU (41)
Rosberg: IN MN (8) MN (22) HN (31) MU (42)

Massa: IN MN (5) HN (20) MN (33) MU (47)

Grosjean: IN MN (7) MU (20) HN (35)
Raikkonen: IN MN (6) MU (21) HN (34)
Hulkenberg: IN MN (7) MN (21) HN (34) HN (44)
Perez: IN MN (7) MN (22) HN (33) HN (54)

Vergne: IN HN (7) HN (26) MN (43)
Bottas: IN MN (6) MN (22) MU (40)
Gutierrez: IN HN (7) MU (22) MN (36) HN (51)

Bianchi: IN MN (6) HN (17) HN (29) MU (43)
Pic: IN MU (7) HN (20) MU (32) MN (43)
Van der Garde: IN HN (6) HN (18) HN (28) MN (42)
Chilton: IN MN (6) HN (19) MU (31) HN (41)
Button: IN MN (7) MN (21) HN (35)
Ricciardo: IN MU (6) MN (19) HN (33)

Maldonado: IN MN (6) MU (13) MU (32)
Sutil: IN MN (6) HN (22)
Di Resta: IN MN (6) HN (20)
Alonso: IN

I = Intermediate tyre

H = Hard compound
M = Medium compound

N = New compound
U = Used compound

The UBS Race Strategy Report is written by James Allen, with input and data from several of the leading F1 teams and from Pirelli

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What a shame JB had his pitstop issue, or that might have forced Mercedes hand. I'd heard rumours that Rosberg had considerably more fuel than Lewis, hence Wolf and Lauda not liking the way Brawn handled it. Some suggest that perhaps Ross held Nico back given the mistake with fuel on Hamiltons car was a team error.

What's your view on Rosberg vs Hamilton so far James? I thought it was going to be very close, and it's looking that way. It's looking like Button all over again, Lewis has the edge in the final qually run, but race pace wise Nico looks quick.


Strange that Ross was blamed for such a great decision.


+ 1


Hi James,

Yes, rainmaster JB really sneaked his way into contention - and could have forced the pretenders to move thier number 2 drivers out of they way and unleash thier faster drivers.

This "show" should be rebranded WWF-One..

It certainly should not be classified as sport.


What makes me laugh is how these so called experts seem to know better than the team principle who is in possession of all the data, rather than listening to heresay around paddock. If the cars had been allowed to race and they failed the FIA test at the end then one can be critical, but Ross Brawn knew exactly what he was doing, and did the right thing.


Are you, Richard, a Team Principal?



Loved that!...


Richard does not need to be a Team Principle - current or former - to have an opinion on the actions of a Team Principle.


How did you guess?


The problem is Rosberg made it clear he was not critical on fuel.

Tornillo Amarillo

So Rosberg should have be allowed to pass Hamilton and then obey orders not to chase the Red Bulls. In such circumstances, Hamilton should have been OK with P4, he said that after the race.


On RTL or Sky not sure which, Rosberg "I did not have to save fuel. Everything was alright. I will sit together with Ross to rethink whether this was really the right decision"

Rosberg also says "I don't know if I would have got to the Red Bulls. But I felt good at the time. I was doing well and would have liked to see how far I could have gone"

The written quotes are from

There is also the same type of stuff on Auto Motor und Sport in German.

Rosberg was quicker the whole race after loosing a lot of time at the start being kept out a lap extra on the inters, then obviously loosing the undercut every time to Hamilton.

Check their lap times and differences here


And how was he to know? The cars don't have a fuel guage. Only the engineers and Brawn know.


F1 cars don't have fuel gauges.

It is the team that knows how much fuel is in the car.


The drivers have no fuel gauge in the car. How should Rosberg now he has no fuel issues? He probably had a little bit more than Hamilton, but I don't think they could have challenged the Red Bulls, neither do I think that the tires on the Red Bulls would give up if they were being chased by Nico. Letting both drivers fight could have resulted in zero points. Nico wasn't faster in Q3, neither did he lead Hamilton in the race or was he able to overtake him and make it stick, so in the end a team order seemed like a sensible decision.

They both deserved third and fourth place.


Where and how?


I would hope that Toto and Niki at least had some idea before commenting. Granted the rumours about fuel levels were just that, but based on said comments it would suggest that rumour to be at least semi-accurate.


Lauda would be beating a different drum if the team had let LH and NR race to the end and one or both had run out of fuel. It would seem Ross can do no right at the moment!

Every time Lauda opens his mouth he lets himself down - grate racer in his day and loads of respect to him for that, but what does he actualy do with Merc, do they pay him to talk rubbish?


I understood that Lauda's comments were similar to Bernie's that no team orders should be given this early in the season. But, both orders were given for conserving fuel or tires. Thus, one could argue that there's currently too much conserving going on.


I would expect these comments from Niki but Toto should know better, Ross is in charge of the race strategy and it's his call and it was the right call for the team. Did they think Hamilton would let Nico pass unchallenged, or did they expect Ross to ask Hamilton to move over? How would that be any different to asking Nico to stay behind? If I wanted advice on F1 race strategy and the choice was to ask Ross, Toto or Niki I wonder who I would pick. The one with the proven track record, the one that has very little experience or the brain donor?


As Ross Brawn has had considerable success in running an F1 team before and has the data in front of him I would expect him to make an informed judgement when the need arises. I'm not particularly concerned about what Wolff and Lauda have to say as they are relatively unproven in team management. They would do better to keep their opinions to themselves if indeed it is them and not the press.


Yes, good job by Nico so far. He drove well on Sunday. Weakness seems to be Q3 after the first two weekend, I'd say.


James, check it out!

Australia Fox Sports has just decided to "recognize Vettel's Sepang achievement" by created an award in his name. The Golden Vettel! Sounds prestegious. 🙂


James, what's your thoughts on LH having some sort of #1 driver clause in his contract?

Martin Brundle touched on this during the race and said he thought it highly likely - he usually seems to have his ear quite close to the ground.


Mmmm. I'd be surprised, but he was in a very strong position when he negotiated that deal.

It is a damaging thing to have in the public domain though, bad for Rosberg and not great for Mercedes


The quality of Nico at the moment seem high, it will be interesting to see if he can get ahead of Lewis in few races, just ahead and see how the team focuses on that when it comes to order of finishing??


James, I'm still not clear about the fuel question. Were they both fuelled drastically short, or just Lewis ? If so why ? How could they be so wrong ?


wouldnt Nico have saved quite a bit of fuel running close behind Lewis so so many laps? this would explain why Nico could try harder than Lewis over the last few laps.

Also if Lauda was miffed with Ross's decision not to let the drivers race to the end it should be clear to the team that he should never be let near a pit wall! Ross has a reputation for good judgment calls and is a top team principle.

Lauda would be a disaster!! - Still can't work out what he does with the team....???


This wasn't the first time that Mercedes has fueled short. It happened many times in previous season also.


Both fuelled a bit short, Hamilton used more in chasing the Bulls early doors


Hi James,

It seems like Hamilton is driving with more maturity now - Insead of going hell for leather on every lap through quali and practice - it seems like hes not pushing maximum at every session...hes seems to be doing enough to get himself through and then banging the laptimes in the final sessions where it counts.

Which is why rosberg seems to be quicker in every session apart from the session that really counts.

Also Its all so easy to forget that Hamilton is currently driving a car which has not been designed for him...but more designed for Nico given that nico has been there last year and the year before.

So considering that...Nico is probably driving more closer to his peak whereas Hamilton has still plenty of pace to show/come.

I think Lewis has done astonishingly during testing and GPs so far. So I can see Lewis still yet to unleash his true skill and pace the longer he works on the car & engineers.

As for the team orders thing at Merc - Surely Rosberg had quite a few opportunities to overtake Lewis himself which he did - but Hamilton came back and re-took. Had Nico been more clever about it he couldve got infront and stayed in 3rd esp due to his pace but didnt. He then requested for the team to get involved.

Its for this reason that I feel Lewis deserved 3rd more - bottomline is that if you want have to go get it.

Would you agree or disagree with any of the above points James?


I agree.

The Rosberg Hamilton thing is a bit silly all things considered.

At no point in the race did Rosberg challenge the RB's, while Hamilton was actually racing them, splitting them at one point whilst keeping pace with the leading RB in dry conditions - this time last year could merc have wished for more?

all things considered Hamilton could have won the race - the possibiltiy was there, if the fuel for it was not.

10secs off the leaders deciding you can maybe catch them, when you could not make a pass stick on a team mate told to conserve fuel....prrrft

I hope things don't get sour at Merc, but already the signs are there imo. Ross made the right call.


Exactly!! I agree with you 100%...

It's just the second GP that Hamilton is driving this car, having to adapt to a lot of new things (inside and out of the car), and he qualified twice in front of Rosberg, and finished ahead in both GP too.

And rhe final point is true as well, Rosberg did try to gain the position from Lewis twice, and Hamilton re-took the position in both ocasions. That's why Risberg did ask for help calling Ross.

In my opinion Hamilton was a true teammate! He did nothing wrong, and the chat betwen Rosberg and Ross just "tainted" Hamilton's podium...


The car was designed for Schumacher and Rosberg so wouldn't be an issue as Hamilton himself said at the start of the season.

Maybe true about the Q3 but with the wet/dry mixed up qualifying it's doubtful. Need a few normal qualifying sessions to see.

For someone who can speak 6 languages fluently, turned down an Aeronautical Engineering degree and achieved the highest score in history in Willliam's Engineering Aptitude Test, don't think cleverness is something Rosberg is lacking.


My comment above referred to post 3.


I think what James means is that Red Bull wanted to give Seb the chance of winning, so gave him the final undercut (even though there was no threat from 3rd). When Vettel didn't manage to take the lead through the pits they didn't want him to collide and therefore hold station.

So there's a contradiction in Red Bull wanting Seb to win and being angry he did (but not in the way they deemed suitable)!

So from Vettel's point of view you can see his confusion upon meeting the team: 'Hang on, you're angry? But you tried to get me the jump on Mark! You wanted me to win!'

And from Webber's side he'll be angry for:

a) 'We agreed we wouldn't be fighting at the end Seb. Where's the trust?'

b) 'Oi you, the team, Horner, etc, why did you allow me to lose a 4s lead through the pits? Where's the team support in that?! None of you love me!!!'


You are correct. It was clear that Rosberg was faster for various reasons. But, one thing for sure is that Hamilton won't relinquish the position easily. He will definitely try to get back. This back and forth squabbling would have definitely cost the team; 1) they could have crashed into each other 2) tyres may have dropped over the cliff 3) Since both were running under fuel management, they could have ended up short of fuel at the end.

Considering all this, Ross stepped in and requested to hold position. Very tough on Nico, however from a team's perspective, its the right call. Also, it was gracious of Hamilton to be state what he did in podium - that was cool.


Some good points definitely


Yes I would agree with that, but Hamilton is probably not fully up to speed yet with the car, and systems. As Hamilton approaches the the top of his learning curve, and the Mercedes car improves at about mid season we'll see how they compare then. One should also bare in mind that Hamilton's outright speed is curtailed by the tyres as he so elequently explained using the analogy " it's like being given £100 so spend it wisely" rather than having durable tyres and racing full on throughout.


Lewis driving in to the McLaren pit box-Priceless. At least they had a leading car in their pit box albeit briefly. 🙂


It's so funny when people judge the Lewis/ Nico partnership by saying Nico is doing well. If Nico is doing well, then Lewis is doing Mega! Counting all of testing, free practices, quali, and races, Lewis has only had approx 12 days in the car, compared to Nico's 3 yrs, and he is beating him, so far irrespective of the margin - on quali position, race pace, and points. Yet no one says this, only pointing out Nicos's performance as relative to Lewis.

How about Lewis position relative to Nico's, in a new car and a new team??

The same attitude was used to judge him against Jenson - a teammate with 7years experience over him. It is always mentioned how it was "close" between them and how they had similar "race pace" or how he didnt "blow" Jenson away as expected. Who expected this? Certainly not Lewis....

If he beat him, why can't simply be acknowledged? Why the hair splitting? How is race pace similar if you are lapping your teammate? Or outqualifying them by 3/10ths regularly??

It is like a different standard is used to appraise Lewis. If he beats his team mates....then it's no big deal ...oh well, he beat them, but didnt blow them away as everyone expected. This attitude that a driver has to "blow"away his teammate before his performance relative to them can be appreciated is strange to me. Contrast that to the noise surrounding Banchi at the moment.

As someone once said, it seems "Lewis Hamilton pays a 30% Lewis Tax for every performance of his - a 10/10 performance is only worth 7/10"


No team orders were about low fuel not lost time. The pit box error actually cost very little in terms of time, a couple of seconds maybe, and nothing in terms of position.


Hamilton is also not 'quite up to speed' with the location of the Merc pitbox ! if he had got that right he would have been far enough ahead of Rosberg to negate the need for team orders.


Why would the team decide on last round of pitstops to put Webber into clutches of Vettel on faster tires? They didn't know what would happen when you put matches to a stick of dynamite?

Anyone who thinks that a 3XWDC and Webber are equal on that team are looking to the wrong team for equal driver treatment this season.

So far this year infact, it is Ferrari who are proving how to treat drivers equally. Who would believe it?!?


It's in Ferrari's DNA to have a favoured driver and a number 2 driver.


Which is why it's so amazing that Massa is making it happen. Sure, Alonso DNFed. But still, he's out qualified Alonso so far this season and is ahead of him in standings.

China will be extremely interesting for a number of reasons. Most interesting for me is the internal pressure Alonso will place on himself to qualify better than Massa and to regain the point standing higher than Massa. You know he doesn't find his current positino acceptable. We may see some serious fireworks here.

So far however, there is little to indicate that Massa is not given equal hardawre or equal opportunity. Let's watch the all important China GP closely and revisit this situation.


I disagree with the statement that Massa doesn't find his current position "acceptable". No, really.

Ferrari - and by that I mean Dom and Alonso - really stood by him for over 1.5 years of sub-optimal, at times poor, performances. 90% of F1 fans demanded his head. Or rather his seat.

Now, he is BACK. And he isn't, at this stage in his long career, Alonso's equal. But he does know that he can show what he can do, he knows that he will be allowed to be fast - but he can't score just in front of Alonso, at least down the stretch. And will take gearbox penalties when needed. But his car will be equal, his chances in quali equal, and his ability to race every car on the track bar one will be equal.

I fully expect Massa is quite, quite OK with that...he is repaying loyalty, in the Spanish/Italian sense of the word. And I think all three of the principles involved get that fully.


What kind of race Massa had in Malasya? A bad start. He lost a fews positions then he was nowhere near the RB nor the Mercedes. He missed the best chance of his life to put himself several points ahead of Alonso. I don´t think he helped himself in the eyes of the Ferrari bosses.


I think mark said he preferred the slower prime tyre, Seb preferred the option. It was driver preference, and played over team radio.


Your right Paul, however it's the timing & the order of the pitstops here that is under question.


Indeed. If Webber had pitstop preference at the final round he surely would have come in first - especially as he chose the harder tyre.

Maybe there wasn't a choice given and Vettel's engineers chose to go for it and bring him in before Mark without a consultation. They would do this knowing it was their last chance to regain the lead due to the policy of holding station after that. It nearly worked with Vet & Web side by side out of the pits but Webber held on. But then the chance was still so agonisingly close that Vettel couldn't back off.

Vettel was probably thinking, "Yes I hear the call to back off but I've nearly got the move done, then it'll all be settled and calm and you (Red Bull) will be happier deep down I've got the maximum points!"... But that wasn't their reaction!

And if Vettel had have undercut Webber in the pits cleanly you can be sure Mark would be fuming as to why he suddenly wasn't pitted first!

Perhaps the real enemy in this is Red Bull the team themselves?!!


I'm sure the FINAL call to the pits will not be made by the driver's race engineers - to avoid the possibility of both drivers coming into the pits.

It will come from team principal, I guess. In this case, it was a strategic decision to get Vettle ahead of Webber in the pits as it is the safest way. The earlier radio to Vettle along the lines of "the race is a long way to go" suggests that the team asked Vettle to maintain patience while they try to get him ahead.

Webber anticipating this, drove his socks off when Vettle pitted and maintained the lead. After this, RB din't want to take any risk and requested team to hold position.


No brainer; the team wanted Webber behind Vettel after the last pitstop and hence the switch in preference (Vetter ahead of Webber).

However, once they found that Webber was ahead after the pitstop, they din't want to risk anything and issued the "hold position" team order.


Correct. Though the "hold position" was agreed before the race. Vettel took matters into his own hands. He knew (or assumed) this was his intended position. All down to poor leadership at RBR.


We've reached the 5th and final stage - acceptance.

Joel, you and a few others got there quicker than some. We now have closure.

FYI: Vettel reached acceptance first, right after the GP ended.


I believe Vettel may have reached acceptance on the way into turn 1 as he made the pass. I also believe Joel here is spot-on with his assessment.


Really? What about the 'unexpected' pit stop in Aus that allowed Alonso to leap frog Massa? Even mentioned at the time by Sky's team that it was odd at that stage. One thing Ferrari is NOT, is equal.


I am still willing to attribute this to a driver call of Alonso wishing to come in early to find a way around his team mate.

I know that Alonso's recent error is the reason for his WDC standing behind Massa. But I say with the quali results and points standing Massa is allowed to stretch his legs and do some nice work so far this season. I'd like to see him on the podium. I think we will soon.

I think Alonso is feeling some pressure from being out qualifed and is over driving the car at starts to make up for it. If that continues to be the case, we may find more and more Alonso errors with those risks and a very interesting situation may develop at Ferrari.

Let's say this Youngslinger. So far, it's not too bad for Massa and I think quite fair looking at Ferrari. Let's keep watching and come back on the subject in a few GPs.



No doubt about it. Sepang was Alonso's mistake. That's the case anytime you hit a car in the rear under those circumstances.

To be honest, I feel it was Alonso's intention to spin Vettel out of the way.

He paid the price.


To call an Alonso's mistake what happened in the first lap is a bit overreaching. We see this type of contacts in a lots of races and nothing happen. Unfortunately, last Sunday the front wing broke. Massa had an opportunity to prove himself in this race, and he didn't in my opinion.

It seems to me Massa is fast during qualy, a bit less during races. It was the same when he has other team mates, except when Kimi decided to be slower than Massa.

It's a long Championship and I'm glad Massa is driving better than the previous years. Can I see him as a title contender? Well, if he is going to drive like the last Sunday the answer is 'no'.


Agreed. At this stage of the championship, it wouldn't make any sense for Ferrari to continuously sabotage Massa to benefit Alonso.

I'm not that fond of Ferrari, but I respect their decision to stand by Massa, even after his accident and during his performance slump in the first half of 2012. It shows an incredible amount of loyalty and confidence in a supposed No.2 driver.

And it's paid off - Massa's been in top form lately and is a genuine title contender. I would be pretty happy if he won the title.


Man, why unexpected? Imagine you and me drive for the same team...we both have same tyres and a similar strategy. I am ahead of know that in this track it is impossible to overtake...

So...what can you do? You need to take the risk and ask the team to pit earlier...there is nothing else left for you. This is what Alonso did.

Some people see evil in everything....


Because the norm is to let the leading driver pit first. This is accepted fair practice.

Ask yourself this question. If the roles were reversed would massa be allowed to pit first? Alonso would have kittens!!!!

I don't criticise Ferrari for this but to try and say they are equal is a myth.


Unexpected? Really? After having been stuck behind Massa for 2 stints, I would say it was a gamble and the only one that Alonso had at his disposal. And guess what? It worked!

In the end everybody believes what they want, but so far I see no reason why not to believe Alonso, Massa and Ferrari who all said the same thing on top of everything being done in the open.


You must be naive to believe whatever you are being told to believe by the drivers and teams. Of course, no one except the team's principal & race engineers (sometimes not even driver may be) knows the truth. So you and I can be excused in believing whatever we want to.


Considering Ferrari, Alonso and Massa all lied through their teeth about Hockenheim 2010, I certainly don't put a lot of stock into what they say regarding such issues.


Perhaps the team were trying to switch them in the pits. They probably figured it would be close and gave Vettel the softer tyre to get him every edge they could.

I can't help but wonder if Vettel perhaps counted on this, and that in turn influenced his later actions.



Perhaps the team were trying to switch them in the pits. They probably figured it would be close and gave Vettel the softer tyre to get him every edge they could.

I agree with this analogy. I believe the plan was to get Seb out in front of Mark after the final stop. They very nearly did too. If they knew Mark was going to be in front, they would most likely have put Hard tyres on Sebs car for the final stint, the same as Mark.

It's now Wednesday night here and I've moved on.

Bring on China!


I agree. I'm also suspicious that when Webber did come in for his last stop that he made the call, not the team. The pit crew were very late coming out as Mark came in, even Brundle commented on it at the time...


Looking past the possibility that they would have taken each other out (which was not going to happen), what is more important?

That Vettel go for 4th? or that Webber (who let's remember is on a 1 year contract) get his first WDC?

Webber is certainly not in a pretty spot at RBR, but surely he should know well what the pecking order is, and what the desired team result is.

In the end, the whole thing played out OK, with plenty of press and exposure for F1, for RBR, for Vettel and Webber.

However, let's remember. Nothing illegal happened here. Vettel made a clean pass for P1. Chance of 4th WDC in a row is not a position drivers find themselves in often. It is by far the most important goal for RBR that Vettel achieve it this year along with WCC to put RBR into Dynasty category of F1 Teams. Webber should know this. RBR sure as heck know it. The outcome of Sepang was correct. The drama was fun. We burned 2 or 3 days on it.

I'm sure Mark is drinking a bee-a-r, grilling some prawns on the baarbie beach side with his #1 gal and knows exactly what a great job he did for the team. He is one smart driver, as you need to be in that situation. In fact, he is so good there, RBR would be foolish not to retain him for 2014.


I think the problem was that Vettel broke a pre-race agreement

If you have an agreement to race until the last pitstop you are, if you're smart, going to plan your strategy accordingly. Who knows if Webber and his engineer would have done anything different with that knowledge - they would certainly have been more wary to get Vettel within DRS distance.

And even if I agree with you that the tactical outcome likely was good for the team, i think the strategic situation suffered greatly: Horner was shown to have zero authority and agreements are meaningless and can be broken without warning.

I look forward to see how RBR handle this. For me it's not about 7 points either way or which engine mode was used. It's about the breakdown of management, and for whatever reason I find that interesting.


I think this is pretty spot on Seebee - RB are on a quest for an exceptional statistical info set with a car designer and a favoured driver in the positions they are to deliver it. If MW is not sure of this and his place as a support driver to this end, then maybe he is exhibiting the naïveté that he quite often references to the outside world to that of the inside world of F1... or maybe he forgets all that in the heat of battle on any given F1 day until the flag falls, when he becomes recogniscent of his true role within the team again. If MW 'still enjoys' this, then take the pay. Otherwise, for his own sanity, call it a day.


you´re right! Red Bull wanted Vettel win and that´s it. don´t blame to Vettel, its your Red bull. They knows were wrong: themselves Red bull managers, well support to Vettel. to treat even triple world champion, the champion don´t deserve these public attacks in the media! Webber brazil 2012 !!! What a aportman !! This is ridiculous! a team order for a champion? oh please come on!


I don't think that's the right conclusion. I think there is a contradiction here.

They set up the situation through strategy decisions, but didn't want VET to risk losing 43 points by colliding.

Remember ALL the prize money in F1 is in the constructors' points, not drivers'


James, indeed the money goes to the team based on constructor points. Looking at the bigger picture, these controversies can only damage the Red Bull brand and that is worth billions.

It is obvious, every time this happens, that there are leadership and communication issues at RBR. (it also seems that Mercedes is heading there, as well).


I think the contradiction was versus an agreement made prior to the race. This is what I believe happened:

RBR wanted Vettel to win, and tried the best they could to undercut Webber in the pits. However, Webber won that round and Vettel was still behind.

Prior to the race, an agreement had been made to hold stations after the final pitstop, what with the tire situation and all. Webber thought the agreement would hold, but Vettel broke it, and that was that.

This is also the crux of the problem: that there was an agreement. The issue is not whether team orders should be allowed, nor wheter drivers should heed them. I think most people are ok with, or at least understand, drivers ignoring orders that come out of the blue. I think most viewers prefer no orders and all-out competition.

However, just about nobody likes a backstabber that does not keep to his word. This is learned early: a man is only as good as his word. And once that credibility is lost it is very hard to rebuild.

I believe it was that dissapointment that I saw in the faces of Horner, Newey and even Marko after the race. They didn't look worried as much as almost hurt, which I found extraordinary.

It will be interesting to see hiw RBR handles this. At the core RBR is a marketing operation. What kind of values are they associating with their brand right now? Backstabbing ruthlessness? Weak leadership? Or maybe just the kind of overspeeded impulsive nervousness you actually get from drinking Red Bull.


"I believe it was that dissapointment that I saw in the faces of Horner, Newey and even Marko after the race. They didn’t look worried as much as almost hurt, which I found extraordinary"

I agree with you Mazirian. If they wanted Vettel to win, they certainly didn't show it. The pit wall looked like a 'wake'. They all looked devastated. I have never seen Marko so glum when Vettel has won. No celebrations, no nothing from the team.

There is a lot more to this than we know...and guess what... we will never know.


I don't think Vettel thought of himself as a back stabber at the time. As a racing driver he saw an opportunity being on fresh mediums and went for it. Poor judgment in the heat of battle but that's why he was apologetic afterwards.

Btw to those who still say Webber had turned down his engine, it seems a bit incongruous to me that for the 2-3 laps where they battled their pace was very close, so I doubt that during the battle Webber's engine was turned down.


I like the last paragraph! Although somewhat unlikely for at least a few years, what if someone else with more natural talent enters the team alongside SV, becomes the new annointed one, and SV starts pulling this stuff against that driver? Mr Bianchi, perhaps? I can see the entitlement tantrums already... and that's not a good look for someone who would be approaching 30 by then!


Ok so RB wanted to avoid a de javu of Turkey 2010. But Vettel asked them long before the last pit stop to take Webber out of his way. Why didn´t RB react to Vettel´s request earlier?


I don´t know... The way I see it if RB wanted Vettel to lead and win the race they should have put Vettel ahead of Webber before the last pit stop. I think that was what Vettel wanted and the reason why Vettel was asking them to take Webber out of his way.


When Vettel asked the team to move Webber out of the way it was because the Mercs were closing in and he didn't want to directly race Webber at that point (pruning all plan was to jump Webber at the final pitstop). In the end Webber got the message and picked up the pace.

Wilma the Great

They did. Mark was told to go faster and was therefore out of the way.


because webber was faster, as soon he wanted he put a gap between him and seb


Because Webber was easily able to pull away from Vettel!


And that's why we're in this situation.

Grand Prix started out as a single championship to decide the best driver in the world, not that the car he was driving wasn't acknowledged to the manufacturers benefit.

Driver and Manufacturer championships will always be mutually exclusive of each other and since, as you say, the money goes to the manufacturer, the driver and his fans will remain a secondary consideration.

I was very disappointed by the Malaysian Grand Prix and can't imagine what F1 would be like if this was a glimpse of things to come.


@ mhilgtx: As an American transplant, I fully forgot the lesson you raised about NASCAR, even though I knew it. Thanks for jogging my memory. Time to re-watch Days of Thunder. Or maybe not.

But to your point, F1 is probably HEADED THAT WAY....due to the rise of "pay drivers". Which (unless your name is Max) is really about captive sponsorship, not paying to drive. It would be very easy to see F1 developing into the NASCAR model, where teams basically collect drivers with captive sponsorship under an umbrella team that produces the cars. In fact, in some ways it would be fairer than the current situation, where loyalties are very mixed.


Also if u want to be a pureist about a WDC shouldn't we be following a formula where they all drive the same car. I can only see formula racing with multiple manufacturers having at its centre the WCC as the critical element. We may like the drivers, but ultimately its about the cars.



This is how it is done in America, and teams in NASCAR often have 3-6 drivers. They also have several different title sponsors. The different title sponsors keeps team orders to a minimum in a sport where you often need help to win. Actually drivers from other teams often help one another as the race develop since drafting is a premium.



Absolutely. But if the money followed the driver, would there be even more 'Team orders', giving even more of a bias?


James, then I do not understand you-) If they did not Vettel to win over Webber, why would then they pit Vettel before and therefore reduce the gap from 4 sec to 0.5 sec?

Yes, they wanted to have 43 points, but with Vettel leading. Maybe, I do not know.

All in all, what matters most is that Vettel made a decision, took the lead and nothing will happen. So....


OK, I will speculate here, as we all do, but, is it possible that RB wanted Vettel in front of Webber and thought that if Webber turns down the engine and taking into account that Vettel is on softer tyre he will overtake easily. However, the things didn't go exactly that way. Is there any chance that RB would take such chance at that stage of the race?


I think I am correct in saying Red Bull if not all teams generally have the policy that the driver in the highest position gets the preferential (i.e. first) stop. Why would they reverse this? Hamilton was pretty close to Vettel before the final stops and he stopped the lap before Vettel. If Red Bull stopped Webber first like their normal procedure dictates then Vettel would have stopped a full 2 laps after Hamilton and thus ran the risk of loosing the place to him and possibly Rosberg too. As a side effect it also gave them the (benefit?) of Vettel possibly jumping Webber.

Im just speculating here but I think Mark would have assumed he was stopping first and picked the prime tyres as he prefered them. He had no reason to pick the faster tyre as he should have came out if anything further ahead of Vettel and assuming that the other general rule of hold position after the last stop would apply. From there he could cruise to the finish with tyres he was happy with and were highly unlikely to wear out.

However it didn't they came out neck and neck and the rest is history. I do believe that Red Bull wanted them to maintain order but the way they went about it was weak and lacked authority. Vettel felt he lost the place to Webber due to a poor decision so he was going to have that place back regardless.

James, do you know if all the radio transmissions are avaliable? I'm assuming there is much more than we heard although I'm guessing some of it may be a bit colourful for broadcast but it would be very interesting to hear or even see transcripts of.


You have a point. A very good one.

The only thing I am trying to understand is why Horner didn't ask Vettel to give the place back once the pass was completed? And I think Mark will have asked the team the same thing once he found out there was no request from the team.

Makes me think Horner knows he has no power over Vettel and that they think of him being bigger than the team. No race bans will be given. They don't want to upset Vettel and don't want to lose valuable constructor points either.


Red bull actions speak louder than their words. May I suggest the intention was for Seb to jump Mark in the pitstop. When this didn't work they tried to reign him in. Unfortunately Seb was in the zone and couldn't be stopped.


RB wanted Vettel to win, no doubt. Hence they switched the pitstop preference (Vettel b4 Webber). However, after realizing that Webber is still leading after the pit stop, they wanted all to hold position.

I also don't know why was Webber requested to turn down his engine; For some reason, the whole RB team looks like a charade...


Exactly, there's a contradiction here


By your explanations, James, it's clear the team wanted VET to perform the undercut and regain the lead at the end of the round of pit stops. However, as we saw in the race, WEB only marginally succeeded to stay ahead.

At that point, the team decided wisely to instruct their drivers to hold station... to no avail, obviously.

Marcus in Canada

Great analysis.

Yet more info. wrt the Red Bull battle that we could not have known before. Without this knowledge people are debating in a vacuum: all opinions, little facts.

As usual JAonF1 to the rescue!



Did you see comments from Lauda?

Seems he's a bit envious at all the press RBR are getting thanks to Vettel's move. He wishes he could get a piece of that press, so he came out against Toto's and Ross' statement and said they should have let them race.


Also, Flavio decided to chime in.


"The race turned on a very odd decision: In the early stages of the race, as the track dried out, the team’s decision to pit Vettel early on lap five to change onto the new medium tyres was very much out of character."

The team's decision? I'm sure I heard Vettel's race engineer ask his driver to tell them when he felt he was ready to change from Intermediates.

Giving Vettel the final undercut did put the two drivers very close but wasn't it done to protect Vettel's second place from Hamilton? A decision made to help him was taken to the fullest by Vettel when he refused to play the team game.


No, Hamilton had fallen back to 7/8 seconds behind by then.


Because he was in fuel saving mode.


What about katederby's first point, James? I seem to recall Vettel's engineer asking him to let them know when it was ready for slicks, too - was the first pit-stop gamble actually instigated by Vettel, rather than simply begin a bad call from Red Bulls?

It puts a different slant on it - if Red Bull made the first gamble, Vettel may feel aggrieved that he lost the lead due to a team error. That'd explain why he 'went rogue' and took matters into his own hands.

But if going to slicks was Vettel's call (perhaps he felt the track drying out and was a little too eager to change) then it makes his decision to disobey team orders the ruthless, look-out-for-number-one decision everyone currently seems to think it is.


It's a collective decision

And my point is they've always been conservative


Great report James. We could be forgiven in thinking RBR tried to manipulate SV into the lead by reversing the stop order and coupled with CH's meek radio message (compared with RB's to NR)when SV attempted the pass. All this speculation and post race analisis has been far more interesting than the race! And here's my point:- Without support there is no sport. None of us want to watch racing at 8 tenths, one hand tied behind your back, saving fuel, saving tyres, team orders. It's not racing so come on Bernie have a word and lets get back to F1 racing again!


James with nursing tyes being so critical - why was hamilton told to push as hard as he liked on them during the first phase of the race please?


In past the medium and hard compounds have been quite durable as indicated last year, but as the construction and compounds had changed for this year there was a question mark over how long they would last, however it should be remembered that Sepang was the first time at elevated temperatures so none really knew. Mercedes I think had to get a bit of a yardstick for how competative they actually were and it will have been an excellent data gathering exercise as well as good points haul.


They were going for the win, as they should. It just didn't pan out they way they wanted.

Still, it's encouraging to see them looking stronger than they have recently.


Very interesting read as usual. I think lots of people are very quick to critisize Vettel or Webber depending on their preferences but to me there are a lot of unaswered questions about what exactly happened inside the Red Bull camp in Sepang. Not having very clear radio messages like the ones of Mercedes didn't help us understand the situation either. I have a feeling that Red Bull tried to get Vettel ahead after the last stop but it narrowly didn't work. After that one can only guess. Did they really told both drivers to hold positions and Vettel disobeyed or did they just told Webber that is was all over so that Vettel would overtake? I know it sounds a bit like a conspiracy theory but it's F1 we're talking about, we've seen worst. The only thing that could answear all those questions would be the radio messages. But I seriously doubt Red Bull with its "behind closed doors" policy would give those to the public...

p.s. Even if Vettel did disobey the order or had his engine turned up I'm not sure what to make of it. In F1 there are winners and there are whiners. Senna, Mansell, Schumacher would all have done exactly the same...

p.s.2 I can understand Ross Brawn for giving an order but why on earth did Rosberg ask for permission to overtake Hamilton in the first place? What kind kind of a racing driver asks for permission to overtake a car that is clearly slower? I would have gonne for it without even thinking about it..


He did go for it, but each time Lewis IMMEDIATELY took the position right back. Each time it took Rosberg several laps to make a move on Lewis, on the other hand, it only took Lewis up to the next corner to resume normal service... So Rosberg cried out to the team. 🙂

Drivers like Lewis, Hulkenberg and Kimi simply don't have the time for such piffle.

After about the third ding-dong, Ross Brawn had his head in his hands and ordered both drivers to hold position.


Totally agree. People completely forget that Nico had taken some shots to pass Lewis and that they had a couple of 'battles'. THAT's when Ross said 'Enough Nico, this is going to cost us'.


Perhaps after Nico's initial overtaking attempts (why he didn't wait till the second DRS I don't know!) Ross got on the radio to tell him to cool it. Maybe after that is when WE heard the messages of him asking to go through?


It was strange that some drivers preferred to use the 1st DRS zone. Quite evident that the 2nd one could be (and was) used against them.


No it was not clearly slower, it was running to a lap time under team orders something Rosberg couldn't seem to grasp initailly.


The one thing that impressed me about this race is the fact that Brawn is still savvy when it comes to making the right strategic calls.

I remember Lewis jumped Vettel in the pits after his second stop and had begun giving Webber the chase but alas, we had to go into fuel saving mode from there onwards.

So yeah, Brawn is still the man and I expect more of the same from him for the rest of the season.

Right, the Red Bull strategy calls look pretty odd indeed, it's like the first pit stops were made by the driver i.e. If the driver felt it was dry enough for slicks and hence you had Vettel coming in first whilst Webber wanted to keep his Inters a little while longer.

As for Red Bull's last pitstop, well, if the team was under the illusion their drivers were going to cruise to the finish (as per agreed), it didn't occur to the team that the small time gap between Webber and Vettel might lead to temptation on Vettel's part.

Regards Alonso, I really can't see how he could have made his strategy work from the back of the field for this race showed overtaking was pretty tough as shown by Webber-Vettel, Rosberg-Lewis (before team orders), Kimi-Perez etc.

Yes, lots of drivers even with DRS were finding it hard getting past because of the dirty air.

Also this Malaysia track layout favoured different teams for instance Lotus and Ferrari weren't as fast as they were in Melbourne whilst teams like Mercedes, Red Bull and Mclaren were more competitive.


Lets imaging a situation where Vettel had lost his wings and then out of the race... I would have loved to hear Alonso's engineer in radio to Alonso... "VETTEL OUUT OF THE RRRACE, AGAIN, VETTLE OUT OF THE RRRAACE". I love that accent - can someone give some nice imagination to what the radio would've been?


Trulli's race engineer at Toyota was good also.


I imagine it's also pretty hard to overtake when you're sitting in the middle of a gravel trap 😉

Brawn has always been good on strategy; Mercedes would be fools to let him go.


Ross Rocks. He probably vies with Frank Williams as the most respected man in F1, IMHO.

But they will let him go. Lauda's little tirade about team orders was just setting the table for that...


Couldn't be more right.


Yes I think Mercedes will get there, and if they made a mistake it was under fuelling the cars. Had Hamiton been given more fuel he could have given Red Bull a run for their money in the later stages as he did earlier, but it wasn't to be.


Mercedes can definitely win in China.


Maybe that was what Rosberg was thinking of with his "remember this" quip.


James, non-native english speaker here. When you say "the team artificially set up the circumstance for what then happened", do you suggest that they secretly wanted Vettel to overtake Webber?


No, it is contradictory really. They didn't want any risks for the end of the race, but the decisions led Vettel to a place where he took some!!


So now RB doesn´t trust their drivers? Vettel is a 3 times champion and yet RB was afraid both driver could crash if they had fought for the lead in the final 10 laps. I hope all the other top teams don´t have the same mentality. I can understand if Lotus feels that way because we all saw last season that they can´t trust Grosjean but other than that. All the top teams should trust their drivers.


I know but after 3 years after that incident you could guess that as professionals and experienced drivers they both could develope better skills. And fight on the track with as much small amount of risk as possible


Turkey 2010. After that, why should RB ever again trust their drivers not to tangle?


That's is the way 90% would feel that the mistake came with pitting Seb prior to Mark. Agree with JA.


Was it a mistake? We'll never know for sure but it's an unusual mistake for them to make...


I'm curious about why Webber went onto hard tyres for the final stint. With only 11 laps to go and the car at its lightest, you would have thought he would go for the faster tyre.

He ran I think 3 stints on the hards, and only 1 on the medium tyres. Seems a strange decision.


He didn't have any left

Grayzee (Australia)

Haha, good one. A nice short answer to the point. Some posters here really do drag on.....

Keep up the good work, mate.

Oh, and nice to see you working for our channel 10 tv coverage here, too!


And I think that's an important point - Vettel felt that, since he had managed to save a precious pair of fresh options, he was entitled to use them. If it was clear from the start that he would not be allowed to pass his team mate after the start, why save the tyres to the end?

Webber's entitlement to the win was probably due to the fact that he let Vettel pit early on the final stop, when Hamilton threatened to catch him - Webber expected that in exchange for his right to pit first, Vettel would hand him the victory.

Two drivers with a sense of entitlement, but only one top spot on the podium - clearly, one had to feel disappointed. However, I think some of the hatred and vitriol expressed towards Vettel (not on this site, but in some comments) is taking it a bit too far.


"He didn’t have any left"

That is not true. Webber was asked which tyres he would like and he said "hard". You can hear it in the team radio.


To my mind, Nico Rosberg held up his hands and accepted he is the #2. Sebastian Vettel took the decision out of Mark Webbers hands.


Not true,I believe Nico will have plenty of chances to prove you wrong.



Earlier reporting indicated Vettel himself chose to pit early to get off the inters; I think Christian Horner confirmed this in his interview with Suzi Perry.

If that is indeed the case, the decision to pit Vettel ahead of Webber at the final stop, reducing the gap significantly when it wasn't necessary to do so given Vettel's gap to Hamilton, remains an odd choice.

My bias is obvious, but after watching Webber control the majority of the race I couldn't understand why Vettel was given priority for the final stop. They must have known the Mercedes were no threat - the world feed had been playing the fuel situation for all to see. It's hard not to wonder at the motivation behind the call in the absence of any obvious logical need.

As an aside - has this issue generated a record level of comments for the site? I can't recall many instances of multiple threads with more than 1000 comments! I really enjoy the blog, required reading for any F1 fan.


Agree with that


Hamilton move to Mercedes also generated 1.000 + comments last year...


I'm usually not a big fan of Hamilton, but I think it was quite big of him to acknowledge after the race that it should have been Rosberg on the podium.

It does beg the question, though, why Mercedes did not order HAM to let ROS by, if he was able to go quicker / was not constrained by fuel saving, as is acknowledged by HAM's post-race comments. Surely, other things being equal, the correct strategic decision would have been to let ROS put pressure on the Red Bulls. One plausible explanation could be that HAM does have quasi - number one status?

(although who knows what sort of tantrum HAM would have thrown if he'd been ordered to let ROS by...!)


HAM dominated his team-mate the whole weekend. He led ROS the entire race. ROS caught up and challenged HAM's position because of a startegic error made by the team by significantly underfuelling the car. So maybe this was Brawns way of saying he deserves the podium more than you nico. Would ROS have been in that position to challenge if HAM had his engine turned up? I dont believe so. Also i dont believe this instance is the sign of a clear #1 #2 role. I just think it was a fair call made by management.


You never know if HAM would have been that much faster than ROS if he had the correct fuel in his car. But you can believe whatever you would like to.


Yes I see what you mean a sort of poetic justice, but I expect he made the decision on common sense and hard data.


Rosberg was never in a position to put pressure on the Redbulls.

In fuel-saving mode, this was an obvious impossibility.


Ross Brawn did the right thing because Rosberg and Hamilton already had some overtakes, and the risks of that plus the low fuel just were too high. Ross is a canny character and I think he was fair because had the situation been reversed the same order would have been given for Hamilton to stay behind. In my view it is the case that Mercedes did things correctly and Red Bull messed up in terms of team orders.


That's the point, there was nothing to be gained from letting Rosberg through. The Red Bulls were too far ahead and 5th place was way back.

The team made a mistake with the fuel, so they took the decision that neither Rosberg of Hamilton would benefit or lose out because of a team error.

If there was any chance of catching or being caught then Mercedes wouldn't have hesitated in letting Rosberg through.


'The Red Bulls were too far ahead' - I can't see how one could safely reach this conclusion: it would have been obvious to all the teams that the Red Bulls were pretty marginal on tyre wear and who knows whether they had fuel-saving issues of their own (as indeed they probably had, given that both Red Bull drivers had been told to turn their engines down, although only one obeyed...!).


Did you watch the race?

The Red Bull ordered the engines to be turned down after the final set of stops, when they were nearly 10 seconds ahead of the Mercedes and fully aware of their fuel issues.


It is difficult for teams to administer these sorts of team orders fairly.

For example, it is very much in a driver's interest to burn fuel up early for track position if he feels assured that in the later stages of the race, the order will be to hold track position. This penalises the driver who takes the strategically better course of ensuring that he does not have to dramatically fuel-save at the end.


This was an unusual race as the Red Bulls and the Mercs were way out in front with the following pack not able to challenge. It would be expected that normally the competition would be much closer and team orders would not save you from the mob. For this reason your strategy would not work in most races.


Good point that.


It lends credence to my opinion that RBR management made a mistake on Sunday regarding how to manage their two drivers. Is there a split in the actual team? SV gets the preferential pit-stop slot and gets the medium compound tyres put on. Did he have hards left? And would there have been a good reason not to put him on them if he had any left? If I was SV I would have found it hard to hold station especially considering I was going to be faster engine turn down or no engine turn down, I was right on MWs rear wing and I had led for most of the race. Anyway no one died and MW is no saint and his bad-tempered lunge at the end should have him warned at least by the team and maybe the FIA. The full facts about the whole situ would be really interesting to know though 🙂


"...and I had led for most of the race." Err, might want to check your facts on that one. Webber led for most of the race


Nice article, James, but you are missing an important point: RB told Vettel to be patient, clearly implying that he would have the oppotunity to overtake Mark later in the race. And in the end, they didn't give him that chance.

And he took the matters into his own hands, and rightfully so.

RB have only themselves to blame for the mess.


You are correct. RB wanted Vettel to win; just that they din't want to be caught doing that.


I concur. The team screwed up big time. All the tut-tutting and winging by the team rings as hollow as SV's apology.

Just goes to show old men behind the scene are pulling the strings of their marionette drivers- something that is contrary to RACING. When things go well no one notices, but when things don't go to plan because of a team mistake, they should "man-up" and admit it and allow their drivers to race.

I was though roughly disgusted by the Mercedes call. Very poor form! I can only say my respect for LH has risen acknowledging his gifted podium- however if he was a real man, he would've waved NR through.


OK, Nico passes Lewis, Lewis turns up the engine performance again and retakes the position just as he did several times during the race. They keep doing this until they crash, they destroy the tyres or they run out of fuel. The other way would be for Ross to tell Lewis to let Nico past and not to race him. We then have Nico on the podium that was gifted to him. Ross had a choice to make, it really was a no brainer, Lewis led from the start therefore no reason not to let him bring the Mercs home. The only consideration that would have changed this is if Ross had believed Nico could have taken a position from one or both of the Red Bulls. Ross had all the data at hand and did not think this was remotely possible. The End.


I think you need to study ALL the facts a little more closely regarding Mercedes then perhaps the penny will drop and you'll understand why Ross Brawn made absolutely the right call.


NR was in the green regarding fuel all the time whereas LH was in conservation mode.

Lauda and Wolf expressed second thoughts about that decision to the German press.

Are you referring to the fact LH needs to be kept happy in his new team? I don't think LH ego is that fragile. Could you please elaborate which fact(s) you mean.

I still think LH could've waved NR through- which he didn't, so just as selfish as SV..

Alberto Martínez

Hi James,

After rewatching the race and doing some lap time analysis I was surprised with several things.

1) Massa and Button had roughly the same pace of the Red Bulls. Most of the time was lost in the first laps of the race with the intermediate tyre (Lap9 Button = 17.2s, Massa = 22.6s // Lap 30 Button = 15.6s & Massa = 25.4s). So the pace of the Red Bull wasn´t as mighty as it could seem on the dry, although in the wet they were clearly the fastest (2-3 seconds faster than any other car except the Mercedes).

2) Both Mercedes were clearly the fastest cars in the race in stints from lap 9 to lap 30. On average Rosberg was 0.5s faster then RB which seems incredible (lap9 = 12.6s -> lap 18 = 7.5s // lap 23 = 8.1s -> lap 30 = 4.0s). But from lap 32 onwards they start to lose around 0.5s on average so this quite odd to me because it seems too much decrease in pace due to only fuel saving procedures. What is your point on this?

3) Knowing before the race that the track was drying quickly and that most of the water was in Sector 1. Didn´t it make sense to stop Alonso on lap1 to put dry tyres besides a new nose?



I wonder if that's the real motivation behind Vettels "selfishness" if Mclaren and Ferrari have similar pace, then Seb knows Alonso is a massive threat this year.


Interesting about Red Bull flying in the wet. I guess in the dry they had their tyre wear woes and couldn't push as hard as their package may have allowed. In the wet though they could push their aero hard, giving a big pace differential advantage to the others.

Goes to show why Red Bull dislike the tyres. Like last year, they'll soon exploit them and well have 1 stop races. 2 to 3 is best I think. But you do want a driver to be able to push for long stages.


No it was too early. Very wet in T3


Ross Brawn made the only decision he could.

He had all his sponsors top brass at the track in what for them was their "home" grand prix. Had Nico shot ahead and either car then ran out of fuel it would have been hugely embarrassing, especially as the sponsor Petronas, is an oil and gas company ! (and McLaren need to replace their main sponsor for 2014)

Any sensible CEO of a company in a similar position would make the same call.

It's going to be a long hard season, banking those points was also very useful for Mercedes at this stage of 2013.


++1 Ross is a hugely practical and data driven man. He GETS it...what ever it is.

Not a huge Lewis fan, but both Ross's continued brilliance and Lewis's uncharacteristic selflessness on the podium may have me re-thinking my allegiances this year.


Absolutely spot on!


Sensible point of view!


When talking strategy, we must congratulate Jean-Eric Vergne.

Faster than his teammate in all 3 practice seasons, Q1 & the first run in Q2 before his second run was compromised by traffic.

3 stopped with all around on 4 and lost 20+ seconds through a team pit error and still scored a point.

He's looked very good so far this season.


JEV RBR 2014


Quali performance?

If you had Ricciardo's quail speed blended with Vergne's race speed you'd have an RBR driver


I didn't see JEV battling with the Lotus's in the top 10 like Daniel did....Then his car broke again.


Agree ! Vergne seems to have found the right balence between attacking and managing the car throughout a qualy lap. It's looking very good for him so far



Vergne - 1.38.778

Ricciardo - 1.39.042

Malaysia: Q1 lap 1:

Vergne - 1.38.663

Ricciardo - 1.39.031

On the second run he was sandwiched stuck in traffic and ended up 18th.

Vergne has been qualifying far better since the flyaways at the end of last season.


I think Vettel was right in overtaking Webber. It seems he planned on having the medium tyres at the end of the race or else why save all these tyres and not use them in qualy. What's the point of having a strategy only to be told you can't carry it through. But then, i also understand the team not wanting to risk all those points. Tricky Tricky!


His strategy was ideally to be ahead through the pitstop though!


What would you you think if you were in MW's position and vice versa in Seb's? It's very easy to make a decision when typing in front of a PC. Please don't think i just picking on you this is really just a general question that i have asked myself...


I've done this.

From Webbers point of view, I'd probably feel the same.

From Vettels point of view, I may have done the same thing.

From the teams point of view, I would have definately pitted Webber first. Vettel was in no danger from Hamilton. They created this mess but I can't see them doing anything about it.


The thing is that RB switch priorities out of fear. Their main priority at the end was the constructors points not Vettel. So with Webber ahead they still had their 1 and 2. So they thought that if they let them fight to the end they may crash and with a crash good bye points for RB. RB was too conservative at the end they showed lack of trust in their drivers


I would like to see the FIA have an occasional Judge Judy style F1 courtroom tv show, to interrogate the drivers and teams, and give fans more insight and a clearer understanding of the exactness of what why how.... "this week on Judge Todt"....


For me the key detail is, when exactly did the "Multi-21" message go out.

Usually this kind of orders are delivered *after* the last round of pitstops, to freeze the positions for the sake of the team. But with Webber coming out just in front of Vettel, there was no time for messages as he went immediately on the attack...


I find that reasoning astonishing. These guys are the best in the world, they change setting and brake bias between corners and make split second decisions. They would have understood that message as soon as Webber emerged in front after the stops.

If someone chats to you whilst you're driving, do you have an accident? Of course not because what you're doing is second nature.


I'm not talking "brain capacity", I'm talking "time to put orders into play".

Having said that, you should remeber some occasions in the past when top drivers have complained over the radio for being talked to during a hot lap.

The pre-race agreement definitely seems to match with the bad-blood levels after the race.


it was prearranged & agreed upon in RBR pre-race briefing.

They follow the same playbook everyrace - Who ever is in the lead after the final pitstop takes the win.


Vettel had 1+ laps behind Webber. Plenty of time to understand the instructions. Another contributor in one of the articles yesterday linked to a sequence of Red Bull messages including one where Horner said to Webber...'yes, he has been told twice'.....

Another great article James tryig to break down all the information from Malaysia. And well done to your team in getting so many posts moderated. How many hours in the day??


There's only one car quick enough to live with SV and that's the sister Red Bull. At least it will make for a decent season now the gauntlet has been thrown down.

Lets remember how we were all outraged at Ferrari telling Massa to move over. I'm no Vettel fan but I'm glad he did it if only for the health of the sport. I am a Lewis fan, I applaud his stance that NR should have been allowed to pass and the decision to prevent it harks back to the Brawn Schumacher era.


We weren't all outraged at the Massa call. To anyone that's not anti Ferrari, it was the only sensible decision. Alonso was the only one in the fight.

In their 3 years together, Alonso has stood on the podium 33 times (inc wins ) Massa just 7. That's not favouritism, it a fundamental difference between the 2.

Incredible, this time last year, Alonso had just won a GP in which Massa finished 16th!


I think the one thing that hasn't been talked about too much because of all the other obvious talking points is that 4 stops is too much per race I think. 9 laps stints is pathetic. 2-3 stops are ok. 1 is boring and 4+ is a joke. I want drivers to push and also have to look after tyres. With 4+ stops its more about looking after tyres than pushing. I know one of the stops was from inters to wets but if q3 was dry and the front runner started on mediums with at least 3 laps on them they wouldn't of done much more than 6-8 laps anyways.


Sepang is possibly the worst track in the world for degradation.

High temps, rough surface, high-speed corners. And enough rain-threat to make teams set up with some downforce.

it would be a mistake to judge the rest of the season from this alone.




Why was Alonso not black flagged for having an unsafe car?


A bit pointless?

Had Alonso gone on for another lap or two, then yes maybe, but it didn't even take another corner on the following lap for Alonso to take himself out with the wing crunched up underneath the car. So why should FIA still black flag him when the car and driver are out of the race?!


It was over too quick for the FIA to make a decision, lol


They would have assumed he was pitting...I know I did. He then crashed out at turn 1. The first real opportunity to show him the black flag never came.


Great read as always James..I also think Massa suffered from stopping too early for dry tyres..the same lap as Vettel..I see no reason as to why he wouldn't have chased The Mercedes cars to the finish..think he could have had 1 less pit stop...also think a few cars where set up for a wet race..same as Hamilton..which made the performance of some cars poor..i.e lotus..


Whilst i understand what pirelli are trying to do, and what they have been asked to do, i think its becoming clear that it isnt really working. Exciting races perhaps, but is it really all an accurate picture of driver and car ability?


The joke is that drivers are being told what lap time to do. "Target lap time: x.yy" --> your car can go faster, we know you're capable of going faster but do the lap time we've told you and we believe your tyres will last. Chasing down other cars or defending must only take place within the prescribed lap time, otherwise forget it.


What Pirelli are 'asked' to do, I've always believed that's BS and it's just a cover up for their inability to produce a good tyre.

The 2009 rule change in body work was sufficient in bringing fights back to drivers rather than having processional races. We don't need these stupid fragile tires. They came back in to F1 after such a long period away from it, not knowing how to make F1-spec tires so needed some sort of excuse to have time in getting up to speed, which so far they haven't.


"Inability to produce a good tyre"? This is Pirelli, are you kidding?


To be fair it's probably a lot more of a technical challenge for them to develop tyres to last for a prescribed distance / number of laps to generate an average of 2 stop races than to make bullet proof ones!

You might not like the tyre philosophy but Pirelli should be saluted for achieving the feat on a technical level.


How do you explain the one stop races at the end of 2012?


Btw James, I re-watched the 2005 Suzuka GP just now, one that you commentated on.

Now tell me you didn't enjoy that race, especially the fights between Alonso v MSC and Raikkonen v MSC respectively, plus the end where Raikkonen overtook Fisi on the final lap where you went over the moon on that amazing move.

For sure the tyres these days definitely cannot allow the drivers pull off moves like those, plus we cannot see drivers push like madmen just to get that win they really really want because the tyres cannot allow them to. All the tyres we have these days can do are artificially allow another driver to creep up and take the win, not like what we saw in that amazing 2005 Suzuka race. It's nuts to call today's racing 'racing'.


That was one of the best races

But that's because we had three fast cars starting at the back of the grid. Would it have been a classic if ALO/SCHU/RAIKK had started at the front


If they were to last a race with one stop only, it doesn't take the whole season for teams to find out and adapt themselves to, it'd have been easily adapted to by teams early on. The fact that it needs an entire season in order for one stops to become possible is due to teams got on top of the tyre problem, but that doesn't mean the tyres are durable. It's still a farce teams had to cruise to the flag, as evident from the most recent Grand Prix in Malaysia and also notably Monaco GP in 2012 just as prime examples.

Like said, 2009 rule change on body work was more than sufficient to crunch the team back together in terms of competitive lap times, making the tyres crumple like that is totally unnecessary, unless they are incompetent.

The most recent race already clearly demonstrated that drivers can't push despite their wish to do so, which isn't 'racing'.


I was watching formula 1 at the Bbc the other week. Showing rare footage throughout the 50's.

one if the legendary races was 1957 German GP which Fangio won after a slow pitstop meant he'd fallen behind the 2 Ferraris by 45 seconds.

The interesting line was not only the need to refuel but he had to change the tyres which were destroyed.

This from a legend of the sport, still considered top 3 in F1 history... Oh the irony


Kimi's disappearance in Malaysia points to a lottery....


Kimi also complained losing downforce throughout the race so that was a factor. That made overtaking harder.


we will soon know about this if lotus go on to have tyre deg issues for the next few races, as mclaren did after button won in australia last year..


Not sure I'd say it indicates a lottery. Keep in mind Kimi had an awful first lap (not even in top 10 by turn 4) and a few off-track moments. It certainly wasn't his finest race, even Grosjean finished ahead of him.

The pace and strategy of the 3 stoppers at the Australian GP was compromised by Sutil, and, flattered Kimi's race pace.

With the longer straights of Sepang, it is much harder to keep a quicker car behind, so their 3 stopper didn't have the same benefits as the 2-stopper did in Austrlaia.


Different cars are going to be strong at different tracks and in wet and dry etc. Lotus were at the top in the hot dry practice. Their race pace was decent too later on but they suffered in the wet and getting caught in the pack early on.


It may be a surprise for now but that doesn't necessarily mean it's random and unfair. It's a case of them needing to learn about something that is currently new and unknown. It was the same last year.

In 2012 there were many complaints of randomness but in the second half of the year, the teams had generally understood the qualities of the tyres and races developed into fewer stops with less talk of degradation issues.

There's a balance to be sure, but giving the engineers difficult challenges is part of the competition too I think. And you only hear them complain when they don't understand something (like anyone in life really haha)!

As I say, there is a balance because you don't want a generally good car unfairly handicapped by a single parameter but I think it's largely been the case the good cars have always won through. The grid is so much tighter in this modern age too, so performance swings of half a second can have dramatic influences on grid position.


Exactly, it's just a beautiful surprise to the team when they get to a track (in certain conditions), and somehow the tires favour them.

Redbull are surprised their tires held up in Malaysia....


I'm glad you made the point because today it is all about tyres, not car and driver. As Lewis Hamilton so elequently put it "it's like having £100 to spend" and when it's gome it's gone. It's really quite a farce with drivers pussy footing around conserving tyres as work them too hard up goes the degradation and they've spent. In other words totally useless for proper wheel to wheel racing. In my view we need durable tyres and refueling so we can get back to proper full on racing. If you don't believe me look back to when they did it properly and the difference is such a stark contrast.


Indeed, no-one can argue that the outcome of this race, the team orders and the furore afterwards relating to team orders was all down to the tyre issues. Its a fantastic idea to have tyres which force teams to make pitstops, but if that is the goal then why not make a rule about fuel tank size or simply have 3 types of tyre all of which have to be used during a race, or even more simply you must make 3 pit stops per race... It has to be better than tyres which make the drivers drive to a prescribed lap speed rather than flat out.. Im sure they could come up with something better.


(apart from Hamiltons issues which were more likely down to merc thinking theyd be on wets for longer..)


Proper tyres like Bridgestone? Fitted to a Ferrari driven by Schumacher. Won 5 WDC on the trot, won 9,9,11,6,13 races over those 5 seasons. Oh yes, I'd love to return to that era!!

One of the greatest races in history was 1979, at Dijon between Villeneuve and Arnoux. It lasted 5 laps at the end and was only possible because the Renault had fuel pick up problems and the Ferraris tyres were in poor condition. Incidentally they were both using Michelin. But those 5 laps are breathtaking.

Something more recent? Mansell vs Senna at Monaco 1992.

Again one car on new tyres, the other on race worn rubber but the excitement, unbelievable.

I think people need to get some perspective here. If RBR can't make the tyres work on their car but others can, it's not the tyres fault, it's theirs. After all, it's only Red Bull complaining.


RB didn´t want the sequel of the Villeneuve and Arnoux duel Why? Because their priority was to secure the constructors points. They didn´t want the risk of a possible accident between Vettel and Webber.



it is already obvious that there is nothing wrong with these tyres , they are performing to specification ie 2/3 stops per race [ under normal circumstances ]

so it is up to the teams who are complaining to learn how to use the tyres properly


I was thinking the same, but then I stood back and looked and the order is pretty much the same.

It's going to take a few races to teams to fully understand everything.


Vettel did the right thing. He is now in the same league as Senna and Schumacher. Good on him. I did not respect him that much before Malaysia but now to me he is better than the rest because he showed what Senna, Schumacher had. Killer instinct of a special kind.

This is why they are multiple champions and guys like Webber, Rubens and Rosberg will never win a title and keep whining like little girls.

All these people jumping on the bandwagon of hating on Vettel are or the outright haters of Vettel or in the closet ones who now think they have a legitimate reason to show it. The British media is spreading so much BS at the moment, it is unbelievable.

You know, the same ones that appluaded Webber for ignoring teamorders. Hypocrisy is not a virtue. It shows the hidden agendas all around.

History will be on Vettel's side, not yours.


Ooooh, a strong case of "I root for the ruthless, strong one, and therefore by association _I_ must be ruthless, strong, and rich."

Not buying it. When even Marko comes out against you, and you are his favourite, you are DEEPLY in the wrong.

And your supporters doubly so - because you didn't make your decisions in the heat of battle...but rather to prove how you would like to be perceived personally.


Is that why he apologized after the race to EVERYONE, including Webber's dad? I don't think the apology was sincere though.

Senna would NOT have done that... you Sir, are looking for excuses to put Vettel in the same league as Senna... Nope.


What a world we live in when people like you applaud bad sportsman ship. Sad.


I guess you think Senhna is sad for driving Prost off the track at 200mph?

There are winners, like Senna, Schumacher and Vettel, then there are losers like Irvine and Webber.


Except Senna and Schumacher never went against a teams orders. They may have made everyone in the team revolve around them, but they were employees.

I have never doubted Vettels killer streak, you only have to watch him pushing Alonso on the grass at Monza last year. It was ruthless and pre meditated, he left him no room, whereas Alonso did.

Better yet, he swerved into Webber in Turkey 2010, yet made the crazy sign and didn't accept any blame.

Still we all see things differently


Because the entire teams of Sernna and Schumacher were all orchestrated to make sure they had the best positions in each race, so there was never need for it. Don't play naive.


+1 on all your points.


I shuddered when vettel pitted before mark on the final stop.

RBR racing imo made an error in risk management when they allowed seb to undercut mark - doing so put their 43 points into the hands of battle.

I just watched horners' post race interview and found the questioning and his responses too friendly and weak.

I would like to know why seb pitted first. And why would they tell webber race over... when it 'seems' like their was no radio confirmation from seb that he wouldn't attack - is it too much to ask a driver over the radio "do you understand this message seb?"....

Or does RBR need Ross Brawn to send out radio messages?


Ross Brawn would've made sure Webber wasn't within a Red Bull's roar of messing with Vettel's 4th WDC.


Ross Brawn for President! He can get some things done!


James, wondered if you've had any thoughts on a couple of points below regarding the Merc team orders situation?

What seems to have been missed is - the two drivers traded positions for a few laps using the DRS zones before Ross decided to stop it knowing it would go on all race. Why oh why then did Rosberg not twig this after the first attempt and wait until the second DRS zone to make the pass?! Surely he'd have been out of sight by the next lap and made the pass stick? Thus removing the need for the team to step in. I'm sure Lewis' would've done that, seems Nico lacks a bit of race craft to me.

That said I did find this team decision strange. Nothing to gain? not in Rosbergs mind, a podium was up for grabs! No way would Lewis be happy to sit behind Rosberg knowing he was faster. It doesn't make any sense, by the end it looked like Nico had to slow down to not hit Lewis...

At the time i thought, maybe the team realised they messed up the fuel, it wasn't Lewis' fault and so, as the front runner, were trying to 'play it right' in his favour. But I don't think they'll do it again now knowing Lewis' response. I think Ross was playing it safe with a new driver he really wanted to bring to the team and doesn't fully know yet and was probably over-thinking it.


I've just read Ross Brawn explaining the decision in the team de-brief. He used the analogy of a man in the desert with a cup of water, and the need not to spill a drop if he were to survive. - Such was the need to conserve fuel, and not expend it by pointless overtakes. They needed to get back with enough fuel to pass the mandatory FIA test.


Yeah i read that too, makes sense. Still think Rosberg could have avoided it all by using the second drs zone to pass at the second attempt simple as that. But yeah, Ross is so much better a Team principle than Horner. he reasoned with Rosberg, whilst staying in charge. all Horner came up with was "this is silly" then i heard he told Brundle he didn't ask him to give up the position because Vettel wouldn't have listened! Totally in control there aren't ya Horner? Jeez.


Using the DRS zones with both cars benefitting was actually a clever way of fuel saving for a given lap time....

Think about it.



Yes i agree, but I'm talking about before Rosberg was told to hold position. So when they we racing for 3rd spot. He tried the same thing at least twice. In canada or australia that's fine cos you get both DRS zones, but in Sepang it swops back again, so only the second zone will make a pass stick.


Agreed, seems like there was a lack of thinking going on - if I was in that postion I would have just used the first DRS zone to get right behind for the 2nd activation point and then actually pass on the pit straight.

Funnily Raikkonen was also trying to use the first DRS zone for a couple of passes



I thought it was Lauda who wanted Hamilton..


That's the bit you're comments on, Really? OK, yes Lauda wanted him for a while it seems (even when he was bashing him in the press apparently) But as soon as talks opened Ross wanted him., I'd suggest as much as 'really wanted' him...

I think the DRS use is a much more interesting talking point, but there ya go.


Great summary of strategic aspects of the teams versus drivers ambitions and instincts. I think this gives quite fair picture what happened and why.

No evils on track nor at pitwall, just human beings tryng to make wise decisions with too many moving parts and with a burden of frustrating wrong calls made before and earlier during the race.

Intresting to see what is waiting for us in China!



It looked like Webber knocked Alonso's front wing off. Even though it was already damaged surely this classifies as causing a collision as Alonso would have been able to continue without the contact. None of the media have reported this, was it just a coincidence that the wing broke at the same time Webber moved across the track.


If you listen carefully you can just hear Webber alter his engine rpm to exactly coincide with the fundamental frequency of the Ferrari front wing causing it to oscillate wildly thereby destroying it.

Mark definitely should have had a drive through penalty.


Expert opinion is that the turbulence from the Red Bull floor as he passed in front of ALO will have upset the Ferrari wing and caused it to collapse


I looked again and webber gets very very close to Alonso's front wing. Its impossible to tell if there is an actual contact but it definitely breaks when webber is closest. If they didn't touch it is more likely it was the spray front Webber's wheel which caused the break as the air flow from the floor is no where near the wing. It may well be a coincidence but he was so close at the moment of break I'm surprised no one even mentioned it.


Good to know I thought it was Alonso breaking hard for the turn.


This just shows how mischievous and clever Webber is. Breaking Alonso's wing without a contact.



Webber could be an undercover Jedi Knight. He can break a wing by using the force



I think as Mark moved in front of Alonso, the dirty air off his car changed the airstream over Alonso's wing and it broke there. After all, Alonso had completed the lap after damaging it in the second corner, had been through all the high speed turns and also raced up the back straight without it breaking. The straight before the pit entry is faster than the one past the pits, so I can only assume that's why it broke.

I've watched those two head into Eau Rouge side by side, they wouldn't be hitting each other


It was probably not just dirty air, but also spray, as the start-finish straight was still wet at that point. That would definitely have finished the wing off.


The media didn't report it because it didn't happen.


Webber's pass may well have caused the wing to finally break off, due to the abrupt change in the air flow. However, that wasn't Webber's fault. Ferrari is to blame, since they calculated to send their driver on another lap. Fernando was probably busy driving his car, but his engineers had almost an entire lap to make a decision, and they made the wrong call. They were lucky that Alonso did not cause an accident when the inevitable happened - there are a few places even in Malaysia where you don't get away just driving straight on.


No you need to look again; there is no contact


Maybe the turbulent air from the back of MW's car helped finish it off?


Thanks for putting up this analysis. This is much better and neutral analysis than previous article where Vettel was criticised and given names for his overtake. This gives a good explanation why he did it to anti-Seb fans.


Presumably Merc underfilled Hamilton as they banked on there being a safety car period at some point, or a longer wet period at the start, both of which would save fuel. A shame as Hamilton had the pace and the tyres to challenge, I think fuel was the critical point forcing him to slow down.


Yes, but I can't see that Mercedes had different fuel levels for their two casr (unless they know that through driving style one driver always uses more fuel), and Nico did a better job being right behind Hamilton but with more fuel left in the final stint. We didn't hear any radio teling him he needed to save fuel - just Hamilton.



"There was no reason to let him past as they were not going to catch the Red Bulls and at no stage had Rosberg been ahead of Hamilton."

We don't know for sure that Rosberg couldn't catch the Red Bull's and he seemed to think on team radio he had a chance.

Rosberg was never ahead of Hamilton because Hamilton kept getting the undercut with the extra lap on inters particularly costly.


Correct you don't know if Rosberg could catch the bulls and pretty sure that neither could Rosberg- the only that could would be Brawn who had all the telemery and it was his call. He says they couldn't, both you and Rosberg need to deal with it.


Hamilton was ahead of Rosberg precisely because he was faster. Its hard to understand how else he could have gotten ahead.

Lewis also got short of fuel, because earlier in the race, he'd been told to sacrifice everything to get the Red Bulls. If Rosberg had attempted the same, he'd soon have been on prison rations for fuel too.

In any event, except by miracle, Rosberg would not have been able to get the slightest sniff a the Red Bulls. They were too far up the road by then, the only guy with a chance was Lewis, and he got burnt trying.

I wanted Rosberg to be allowed through to, but the team had their own ideas and Rosberg wouldn't have done it on merit, anyway.


I think you need to have a look at the race data if you think Hamilton was way ahead chasing the Red Bulls with Rosberg way behind.

Rosberg was slightly faster throughout after being loosing time at the start being kept out the lap longer on inters.


In most teams the driver who is ahread if his tea mate gets the best possible call during the pit stop so don't be surprised about the 'undercut'.


I know, was just emphasizing how it wasn't possible for Rosberg to get ahead that easy.


James, A very nice summary. Really liked it. Maybe at the end of the day RedBull could gain from this situation. They have been asking Pirelli to revert to the 2012 tire specs as the 2013 specs seems to have high degradation. In effect the Sunday Fiasco for RedBull, Mercedes and to some minor extent Ferrari proved the point that these oversensitive tires had made the racing very artificial. The drivers are now driving on prescribed lap times instead of the actual maximum speed they can drive to. This has taken the thrill out of racing and everybody seems to be suffering badly from the tire degradation. This might a tipping point where FIA and Pirelli might sit down and consider a little more longer life tires for the future races although returning to 2012 specs might be impossible.


2012 tyres also made the racing artificial - just that Red Bull know how to use those now as they had the whole season to figure it out - of course they would want them but then where's the challenge in that?


James, what would have happened if it wasn't wet at the end of qualifying and the start of the race? Do you think teams would have been forced into another stop?


Thankyou james for finally addressing this strategy by Red Bull. First website ive seen to do so! This is why ithought what Vettel did was so wrong. He was only in a position to overtake because red bull pitted him first when webber had priority. If webber had pitted firs,t like he should have if they were racing, webber would have been 7 seconds up the road!!


Totally different subject but just seen Jake Humphrey presenting a load of junk Channel 4 programme talk show about kids that wont sleep, did he really quit the BBC f1 presenting job for this? #What a load of twaddle


Well, give him time. Maybe his next load of junk channel 4 programme talk show could be about F1 drivers that won´t obey team orders



Who cares. Suzie Perry is 10 times the presenter, 10 times better looking and 10 times more knowledgeable.


I would agree with James that Vettel's early pitstop to go on the dry tyre was very out of character for RBR. I wonder why they did that?

Vettel had about a 3 second advantage to Webber in 2nd at that stage, so even of some driver further back decides to change to dry tyres first (it would have been Massa in that case), RBR would have had the chance to react the next lap without taking any risk. They could have even taken Massa's sector times to decide on when the cross-over point was reached.

So I would expect any driver in a similar situation to wait until someone else blinks first, even Button (who would usually be one of the pro-active ones).

As regards Vettel's last pitstop, I would agree with what other people posted here: RBR really wanted Vettel to win. Maybe that is also the reason that they did not clearly tell Vettel to not overtake. Compare Ross Brawn's "Negative Nico!" with Horner's "Seb, this is getting silly!" But they cannot be happy with the outcome they have created now.


Brawn's negative had such authority in it. Funny moment. Vettel was ordered by the team on lap 42, the lap that he pitted. So he was fully aware of the situation.


The timing of the first stop was Vettel's call. The team asked him when he wanted to pit.


Vettel knew he wasn't meant to overtake.

It was prearranged & agreed upon (that whom ever was leading after the final pitstop would take have the win) by the team/drivers during RBR's pre-race briefing.


I really feel Ferrari were, for lack of a better word, stupid at this race. I can't say it's the first time. They have the best driver on the grid at basically his best performing track, just pit him on the first lap. Do they think after 2 missed titles that they suddenly became the lucky combo? The lucky combo is Vettel and RB. They can crash into cars and sign boards and come out fine. No excuses here, but who makes such a daft decision? I know you explained the reasoning James but it was apparent to the average fan and commentators that he should pit... The only person unaware was Domenicali.

The Red Bull issue isn't surprising, they've been hypocrites this entire time criticizing Ferrari. Why would Vettel do this? I feel the answer is simple James, because he has been conditioned to get what he wants within the team. Just like a child doing wrong, with a parent saying "don't be silly". It's human nature. If he was conditioned by a team where the team came first this would not have happened. These are professionals used to contractual obligations. What we saw was an insight into how the family is run. Which is why Webber said "protected as usual". I lost respect for Red Bull long before this, when they jumped on the bandwagon and criticized Ferrari for being honest regarding team orders, so nothing changed for me this weekend. James, how many families correct an errant child all of a sudden? Few, so things will stay the same.

The one that really bothered me was Mercedes, simply because they've set the tone now for the year. I feel Hamilton will get preferential treatment. Why this year only James, when over the last two years Schumacher n Rosberg banged wheels several times? They could have gone the Mclaren route saying fight fair and both drivers could have played nice. The sheer disregard for fans who spend significant time and money on this sport is quite surprising...I don't know off the top of my head any sport with fixing of results 2/3rds of the way in. Oh well.


To be fair, MSC and Rosberg only really banged wheels on opening laps. I don't remember any other time when they were close together on track


It is most likely that Alonso took the decision not to pit himself. Afterall, the Ferrari team had readied a new nose and were waiting for him, but instead of pitting, he zoomed by.


I heard a rumour Hamilton only went to Mercedes knowing he was the no.1 driver.


Hamilton himself has said that he doesn't want preferential treatment.


To Tim: Well, at the same time he's a racer and a good one 🙂


Hamilton himself has said that he doesn’t want preferential treatment....

Why did he accept it then?

It seems to me that LH is being somewhat disingenuous stating that he does not want preferential treatment from the team. If that really is the case then, surely, he would have asked them to let NR pass.

Actions speak louder than words 🙂


Martin Brundle believes this to be the case but I'm not so sure. Here's what I believe the situation is (my guess is as good as any so hey...)

There is no preferential treatment at Mercedes at the beginning of the season, HOWEVER, Lewis would have been wise to negotiate that team orders would come into play if he was leading his team mate by a significant margin say, half way or three quarters of the season in. About the same time we were all asking if McLaren would be backing Lewis when it appeared that Jenson was out of the running last year. Rather than waiting until it's *mathematically* impossible to call rank, I think Mercedes will be more open to calling rank when it's *realistically* only possible for one driver to win.

In fact he may not have even needed to negotiate. I'd imagine that would be a Brawn team's philosophy anyway.


Personally I suspect Martin Brundles comments, regarding LH having a clause in his contract for #1 status, are correct. Mercedes were very keen to get their man, as can be seen from the size of the pay cheque. This gave LH team the upper hand in negotiations, it would therefore be relatively easy to have insisted on the #1 driver clause as part of the package. From Mercedes point of view it costs nothing to impliment and has a distinct advantage - it avoids the possibility of an own goal if their new star signing is beaten by Nico.


Merc under fueled Hamilton, so team error.. They didnt want Hamilton to suffer for it, by loosing his 3rd pos to Rosberg.. and it didn't make any difference for the team points!


"he has been conditioned to get what he wants within the team."



I think Mercedes probably 'rolled the dice' and planned for a longer 'wet track' duration or a safety car during the race. It's a pity since it is good to see Hamilton and Rosberg challenging for wins. Whilst they are getting closer i don't think more podiums will be scarce for them. Hamilton seems to have settled very well there.

With all the controversy surrounding Red Bull, i believe the biggest story in the end maybe leaving Alonso out. I couldn't see any justification with leaving a car out with such a 'clearly' damaged front wing. Interesting to see that the wing 'broke' just after Webber passed, possibly the result of additional 'turbulent' air across it..


You are right, what on earth were Ferrari thinking? I am no expert, but it seemed (to me) inevitable that the wing would break and jam under the front wheels.

It's quite surprising how often the teams manage to shoot themselves in the foot in similar ways. They have a set up that would not look out of place at mission control in NASA, staffed by some of the brightest minds on the planet.

Yet, despite all the resources available to them the teams still miss a strategy call that the race commentators have spotted in an instant.I appreciate that it's different when the decision is accompanied by responsibility, but even so it does seem to happen quite a lot.


Has anyone been able to ask Red Bull about the pit-stop switch? Their response would be interesting.


I agree, great question.


It looked like Hamilton, with his pit stop, was threatening to undercut Vettel (but not yet Webber), so RB decided to pit Vettel first. Webber probably thought that, in return, he would be handed the win. In the end, Hamilton was no real threat due to his fuel problems, but probably RB did not want to take the risk.


Can anyone help me... If the Mercs had had the necessary fuel in the car to get them to the finish without mental fuel saving, would the extra weight penalty have outweighed the lifting and coasting. In other words, if Merc had fueled them normally, would they have been closer to the Red Bulls?


No way to be sure but without the fuel saving you would have expected the gap to remain fairly constant. Hamilton got to within a couple of seconds at one point. Problem is the Bulls were pacing themself to minimise the tyre deg. and probably could have upped the pace as necessary to stay ahead and keep Merc out of the DRS.

The Merc did not have the same race pace as the Red Bull and it would have been very costly on fuel and tyres trying to pass on track.


Based on Hamilton's interview after the race, yes.

He said that when he was in second chasing Webber, he started to save fuel and did need to slow down a lot. So, Vettel re-took the second position, and Rosberg could close in him.

And based on Ross interview, both Merc cars where short on fuel at the end, but Hamilton was the worst case because he had a shot to try o win the race, and actually was doing pretty fast laps chasing Webber. But if Rosberg continued to force on Lewis, and both cars started to overtake each other, would have a chance to both not do to the finish line. What other reader of James Allen's site pointed out, would be a shame for a team that is sponsored by a fuel company.


There are too many variables to answer that question with certainty. If you believe that the fuel saving was worth about 5 seconds, but meant that Hamilton could not drive at maximum speed for half of the race, it probably was not worth it. However, lifting and coasting also helped him to look after his tyres better, so it is hard to know how much faster he could have driven within the window that his tyres allowed.


If you try to calculate the 12secs gap at the end of 58 laps gives 0.2secs loss every lap. I don't think which team could have been ob top but most likely hamilton could have splitted thr RBs.


i have always suspected that the f1 found the weakness in one driver and have tried hard to exploit it by introducing those tyres. they are trying as hard as they can to manufacture a great champion but unfortunately the fans do not acknowledge him as a great champion and now they are trying all they can to persuade the fans with all sorts of media stories and now this. dragging his reputation even further back.

i think it's better to allow nature to take it's course rather than trying to manipulate history.


It is obvious that RBR was clearly hoping to jump Webber with the final pitstops.

I don't think you can deny it.

However most importantly, @RBR's pre-race briefing they were all very clear that whoever was in front after the final pitstops would have the win.

Vettel clearly unable to control his ego, defied the pre-race briefing & team orders.

re: Vettel, I was watching old replays of Vettel last night, particularly Germany 2012.

When Button made a legitimate pass for the lead & Vettel starts waving his hand in & out of the car like a lunatic, as if Button had down something wrong.

I've seen that behaviour from him on a number of occasions.

It says a great deal about his character.


Perfect post andrew

That race germany 2012 alone showed who is vettel exactly


I made a mistake, I think it was actually Hamilton who passed Vettel, but yes it really showed his character.

I've seen he do similar & we've all heard his radio messages when things don't go his way.

Cheers 🙂


All good work, but shame there's no analysis for McLaren.

Were McLaren following a strategy forced on them by the weaknesses of the car?

Could JB have really done a 3-stopper? If he did, I assume he'd have been ahead of the 2 merc's when they came out of their 4th stops... so could they have caught him? And passed him? And would Brawn have let Nico through to fight *then*?


It is utterly frustrating as ever with mclaren. Not only do they over complicate their car they still can't put wheels on a car properly. Last year they cost Hamilton a chance and now if they get things sorted out they have cost Button a minimum 10 points. There will be more though I guarantee it!

This is probably why mclaren were not analysed because they are a mess!


Yes, really disappointing for Jenson, I was pretty confident he was looking at a podium until that pit stop...



In 2007 the English F1 fans dreamed, after having expected to find their messiah, the time has come for their idol sweeping everything in its path. Suddenly, a young German boy has emerged, and with a wave of hand(or finger), blotted out all these dreams. So let's destroy this young German who dared.

PS : Google translate.


Red Bull weren't ready for Webb at the last pit-stop, had he been told to stay out another lap?



Do you think that Red Bull were caught out by Webber's performance on the laps that matter around the pitstops?

It seems that Vettel was give one last chance with the undercut on the final pitstops, but Webber was just too good on the day.

With that they begrudgingly called the now infamous 'Multi 21' and an aggrieved Vettel took matters into his own hands knowing that nothing of substance will happen to him.


OK. I am old school - VERY old school when there was NO team championship. everybody was focused on the drivers. I understand that times change, but I am not happy with it. in today's world, I guess what Seb did was reprensible. in years gone past, I guess it was a brilliant move by a Champion. I guess we will never know the total truth by any party, but I am not so critical as some for the move by Seb...


Probably everybody forgot the inboard message of Vettel's engineer, saying to Vettel something like - when Vettel asked to get Webber out of the way - : "the race is just halfway through"

So it seams to me that this all has been created by the team and they blame Vettel for it.. Rather strange?

Or maybe something really different, does the team want Webber to become WDC to not loose Vettel to Ferrari, because his value will drop because of it?


James thank you very much for this well done piece of analysis.

I have been trying to piece much of what happened together but I just don't have the experience or the information.

More and more this sounds like a communication problem. I sounds like once Vettel could not pass Weber coming out of the pits there was no firm order. I have been having the growing feeling that Vettel might have been confused and I think I feel more so now. Hence his surprise after the race.

I still stand by my over all feeling, Vettel was wrong but not so evil as many are making out, Weber was wrong in the way he acted and now I add to it that RBR at the least sent more mixed messages and teenage girl at a school dance.

I also thought Vettel took a sting on 4 lap old tires but it looks like that is not the case. It is pretty obvious though that Vettel very wisely made sure he had enough medium compound tires and Mark for whatever reason did say he preferred the Hard.


1) Vettel - Webber. RB plannesd strategy to overtake Webber in pits but it failed. I'm still waiting radio message to Vettel.

2)Hamilton & Brawn. Rosberg did a better job in his race but Ross Brawn didn't pay him off dividends. Hamilton was totally "disarmed" because he was off of fuel. A clear case of "nothing important happened" for the English lobby. Great job "journalists".

3)Alonso decision. Well, to be or not to be? What a silly question.

Conclusions. Hey replier don't mess around, the judge, the jury and the excutioner we are fine as we are! At least this is F1, not very important things. Can you imagine the world of media?


regarding the Merc team orders. I get that the stakeholders want results. I also respect loyalty which shouda been given Nico, IMHO. I guess one has to choose between believing Nico in saying there was no fuel prob, vs Ross saying both drivers were in a fuel-saving mode... kudos to Hammy for his comments. not one of my favs, but he gained a whole bunch of respect as a human being. I wish him and Nico well this season...


hi James,

first time commenter. i had a question on the red bull situation which i have not really seen discussed elsewhere. often, teams allow their team member to fight it out until the final round of pitstops between themselves, and then after the final round the team calls the teamates off from trying to overtake each other. what i found odd about this situation was that it was AFTER the final pitstops of the race and as far as i can remember i have never seen teammates battle after that period.

is this an 'unwritten rule' of sorts that vettel has broken? surely teams must set out with the understanding sometimes that after the final round of pitstops that is it for fighting amongst themselves. and would you think that to be more surprising to the other drivers in the pitlane that Vettel did this given that im sure many teams have the same or similar policies.