Raikkonen vs Hamilton and Vettel’s gamble: The inside track on race strategies in China
Strategy Report
Posted By: James Allen  |  16 Apr 2013   |  10:44 am GMT  |  189 comments

The UBS Chinese Grand Prix was another tense race and the outcome was once again decided by race strategy. What made it particularly interesting was that there were different approaches among the leading teams, forced by the disparate performance levels of the soft and medium Pirelli tyres. Team strategists had to find a way to do the fastest race, which meant spending the least amount of time on the weaker tyre and running in clear air as much as possible.

Here, with the help and input of several team strategists as well as JA on F1 technical adviser Mark Gillan, we analyse the key decisions which shaped the outcome.

Could Mercedes have kept Hamilton ahead of Raikkonen?

Kimi Raikkonen had another terrific race and could have challenged for the win had he not suffered two setbacks; a poor getaway from the startline due to a wrong clutch setting which cost him two places and damage to the front wing from a collision with Sergio Perez. Lotus estimate that the damage cost him 0.25s in lap time loss, but took the view that changing the nose at their next pit stop would cost them 10 seconds and drop Raikkonen into traffic, so they left the nose on.

The next challenge was to get ahead of Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes. The Lotus strategy team did this with a classic undercut on lap 34. Raikkonen pitted first, but Mercedes did not react to cover the stop. The Lotus had been just over a second behind when it pitted. But Mercedes left Hamilton out until lap 37. When he came out of the pits Raikkonen had done enough on fresh tyres to get ahead. They stayed that way to the finish, second and third. So why did Mercedes not react and could they have played it differently?

Lotus challenged them by coming in on lap 34, knowing that they had better tyre life than the Mercedes. There were still 22 laps to go to the finish. Hamilton had the pace to react; on lap 35 he did a 1m 41.8s lap, which was quicker than the previous laps. So he could have reacted on lap 35 and retained the position.

However the reason they left Hamilton out was because they knew that he would run into trouble with tyres at the end of the race if he stopped at this point. It was a real Catch 22 situation for them.

With Sebastian Vettel set to be very fast in the last five laps on new soft tyres, it would have cost Hamilton the podium had he reacted for a short term gain. This can be seen from the way Hamilton’s pace tailed off in the last two laps, indicating that even on a 19 lap stint his tyres suffered.

It’s a tough one for the team, but that’s why Ross Brawn said at the end to Hamilton, “We are not quite there,”

Lotus played their advantage very cleverly, but Mercedes did the right thing. It’s also worth pointing out the double pit stop they pulled off on lap five, which cost Rosberg just 2 seconds in the pit lane (their stop times were identical at 3.3 seconds). This is a sign of a group, which is confident and mature in its decision making and its execution. That could have gone horribly wrong.

Where did the race swing towards Alonso? And what happened to Massa?

Analysis of Fernando Alonso’s winning drive shows that the key moments were the start, where he got ahead of Raikkonen; the run up to the first pit stop, where got ahead of Hamilton; and then the second and third stints of the race, where he was the fastest car on the circuit.

It was a victory which was meticulous in strategic execution. Ferrari had done their homework during Friday practice and knew the best way to manage the long runs on the tyres. They spread the stops fairly evenly, with 17 laps in the second stint, 18 in the third and 15 laps in the final stint, so Alonso was never at risk of running out of tyre life and crucially they managed to get him into gaps in traffic after his second and third stops so he could make use of his fresh tyres. After the second stop he quickly passed Vettel and Hulkenberg, who were out of sequence, losing little time in the process and he was able to run in clear air.

Strategists say that in terms of energy damaging these tyres, between running a stint in clear air compared to behind another car the difference is as much as 20%. So you can see how vital it is to find the gaps.

As for Felipe Massa, who followed his team mate in the opening stint, he fell away because he was made to stay out an extra lap before his first stop and came out behind Raikkonen and Webber. He was now in traffic and struggled to get the medium tyres to work as well as he had done the softs. This lost him time, so he fell prey to Vettel and the two-stopping Button. A very tentative second stint meant he missed the opportunity to keep Vettel behind him after Vettel’s stop on lap 32 and to get ahead of Button at his final stop on lap 49.

To illustrate the point, in that second stint, between laps 24 and 35 Massa went from 10 seconds behind Alonso to 27 seconds behind!

Did Vettel’s strategy gamble work?
For a team that has been used to winning in quite a conservative way in the last few years, Red Bull has now taken two big strategy gambles in two Grands Prix with Vettel, when not really under pressure to do so. In Malaysia Vettel pitted too early on a wet track for slicks and lost the lead to Webber, while in Shanghai Red Bull took a gamble which gave Vettel a huge amount to do on race day and ultimately failed to bring him a podium.

For once Red Bull knew that they did not have the pace to challenge Ferrari, and Lotus for the win in China. So they took a different approach from qualifying onwards. Vettel did not run in Q3, leaving himself the option to start the race on new medium tyres. Vettel had saved two sets of new mediums and one set of new softs for the race. However by doing this he put himself in ninth place on the grid, and therefore in traffic, with drivers like Ricciardo and Grosjean ahead of him.

The reason why this plan failed to bring a podium was because, unlike Alonso, Vettel was stuck in traffic for much of the first half of the race. His first stint he lost time behind Hulkenberg and in the second he was held up by Perez. This hurt his lap times and sitting behind other cars also took more out of the tyres.

This sense of “edginess” at Red Bull is also illustrated by the error strewn weekend Mark Webber suffered; he was underfuelled by 3kg on Saturday for qualifying, which is a lot given how rigorously the process is tested and checked, but the best example is when he pitted in the race for a front wing change on lap 15. This process slowed the stop down to around 8 seconds from the usual 2.5 seconds and yet the right rear wheel gun man failed to secure the wheel and it came off. It’s very strange to have an error like that when you have a spare six seconds to play with in a stop. It’s almost as if they are putting pressure on themselves and at the moment it’s not working.

Worth a gamble: Analysis of McLaren’s strategy

In each of the three races so far McLaren has known that it does not have the pace to race its usual rivals. So the team has taken some big gambles on strategy to try to get a better outcome. Some have worked and others have not. Sergio Perez is yet to see a good outcome from his bold strategies, for example. In China he was one of only two drivers to try a short stint on the soft tyre in the middle of the race, rather than at the end. It didn’t work out.

Jenson Button, however, managed to get a fifth place finish, which the team was happy with, by making one less stop than the opposition in China.

The pre-race data showed that the first stop on this plan would be around lap 18, but starting on used mediums, Button managed to get to lap 23 still setting competitive lap times, comparable with Alonso’s at that stage. From lap 20 to the end of the race, both drivers had two more stops to make and they were together on the race track. Button looked like he had a chance of a big result.

However his second stint of 26 laps was less effective and, mindful of the need to protect the tyres over the longest stint anyone would do in this race, his pace dropped off, particularly around laps 35-42. And that is where a better result got away from him.

Race Tyre Strategies

Alonso: SU MN (6) MN (23) MN (41)
Raikkonen: SU MN (6) MN (21) MU (34)
Hamilton: SU MN (5) MN (21) MN (37)
Vettel: MN MU (14) MN(31) SN (51)
Button: MU MN (23) SN (49)
Massa: SU MN (7) MN (19) MN (36)
Ricciardo: SU MN (4) MN (23) MU (38)
Di Resta: MN MN (14) MN (32) SU (53)
Grosjean: SU MN (7) MN (23) MU (37)
Hulkenberg: MN MN (14) SN (29) MN (36)
Perez: MN SN (24) MN (31)
Vergne: MN MN (15) SN (37) MU (43)
Bottas: MN MN (16) MN (34) SN (51)
Maldonado: SN MN (7) MN (23) MN (39)
Bianchi: SN MN (6) MN (16) MU (32)
Pic: SN MN (5) MN (17) MN (33)
Chilton: SN MN (7) MN (21) MU (33)
Van Der Garde: SN MN (6) MN (20) MN (37)

Rosberg: SU MN (5) MN 19) MN (20)
Webber: SN MN (1) MN (15)
Sutil: SN
Gutierrez: MN

S= Soft tyre
M = Medium tyre
N = New
U = Used

The UBS Race Strategy Report is written by James Allen with input and data from several F1 team strategists, from Pirelli and from JA on F1 technical adviser Mark Gillan

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What I want to know is, if Webber was under-fueled by as much as 3 Kgs (a/c to the article above and which is a significant amount and not touch-and-go, wouldn't the Red Bull guys have seen that on the pit wall and asked him to abort the lap straight-away or something similar like cruise to the pits - Outlap itself. Can they not see that?

Other points:

1) Mclaren are trying to do a 2012-Ferrari by picking as many points as they can when things are supposedly not going good for them (they wont BE the 2012-Ferrari though)

2) It would have been a close one between Lotus and Ferrari for the win but for those two incidents for Raikkonen. Just think Alo would have still won it but would have been close.

3) Lastly, I think it is great the Bulls are having to think to race races and not simply having a car advantage. Much open C'ship, well atleast SO FAR.


I believe the issue with Red Bulls strategy this weekend was that they have about the slowest car on the grid in a straightline. That makes overtaking very tricky, see Hamilton vs Schumacher at Monza for that one.

RBR did however have to go with the counter strategy, as I don't think they had the one lap pace to challenge the Mercedes, Lotus or Ferrari cars. If Massa, Rosberg and Grosjean did as good a job in qualy as their team mates RBR would have had 7th and 8th in China (had Webber not had technical issues etc).

Thus, the counter strategy of going on the harder tyres wasn't really a massive gamble in my eyes.

I did spot in the race that towards the end of each stint that Kimi was fast, Lewis slow. That points to tyres going off, and as soon as Kimi pitted earlier than Lewis it was game over for Merc, as Kimi could maintain a higher pace at the end of a stint.

Ferrari, with Alonso, walked this race. The margin of victory was pretty huge given FA wasn't really trying.

So it looks like a pattern is emerging, with the best Race cars proving to be Lotus (which wing permitting had race winning pace in China IMO!) and Ferrari (would have taken the fight to RBR in MAL), whilst the best qualifying car appears to be the Mercedes (I think a dry Aus would have seen them possibly on pole!).


We have seen VET not trying the last few years. Now, maybe, its ALO's year


regards your 1st point, they won't be an Alonso/ Ferrari combination. More likely a Massa Ferrari combo.


I agree they are trying to do 2012-Ferrari but with due respect to Button, they do not have a driver like 'Alonso' who is on another level. Hope they will be able to sort their problem out as soon as possible and challenge the top!


...they also don't have a car that's as good in the race as the Ferrari was...


You are bang on, on the "So Far" bit. With the compounds to change, I am guessing they will move closer to last years compounds. I hope reverting to last years tyres doesn't give the edge back to Red Bull.

Their main problem this year has been their tyre wear and with harder compounds they just might drive straight to the front and Lotus could lose their edge.


Can you imagine any of the top teams allowing the compounds to be changed and giving an advantage back to RBR.

One site I read, I believe it was Gary Anderson, stated that if they had run medium and hard tyres in China, it would have been a one stop race. Something that Pirelli was asked to change for this year.


I read that as well. I don't understand why just a single step difference in compound had such a huge difference in durability. If the mediums could last 18 laps on a full furl load the softs should have lasted at least 12 to 14 laps (and accounting for the qualifying lap at least 10). Perez in his middle stint couldn't manage more than 8 or 9 laps.


Similarly why on earth did Red Bull attempt to get Webber to drive nearly a whole lap back to the pits with a 'broken suspension'. If this was the case he was never going to be able to carry on and should simply have pulled safely to the side of the road asap. Or did they know the wheel was loose all along and were hoping to just sneakily reattach it and carry on. Either way it was incredibly dangerous for the other drivers and grossly irresponsible... seem to remember Renault getting absolutely hammered for pulling the same trick a few years back, but this time no-one batted an eyelid. Curious.


Yes, it was Fernando Alonso in Hungary 2009. His wheel came off and he got an entire race ban for it! This was then overturned to £30,000, but still - I would like to know how and why red bull have not been punished for this one.


Thanks everybody for informing me they were fined! I wasn't aware 🙂


RB has special privileges 😉


...they might have been punished if Vettel was a second further ahead when Webber's wheel detached - it only just missed him. Oh, the irony!


Red Bull were punished for not attaching the wheel properly


Red Bull were fined


Pretty sure the cars don't have fuel gauges in them.

It's my understanding that the teams measure the fuel remaining in the tank by subtracting an amount used each time the cylinder fires from the total pumped into the car.


So how do you explain them being able to ascertain fuel levels during the race? We saw in Malaysia instructed race pace because of low fuel levels - how do they know if they don't have a fuel gauge? I suppose it could all be guess work based on projected fuel usage but really you think that in a pinnacle of motorsport they would have at least a cheap fuel gauge to tell how much fuel is left?


Yeah don't agree with the idea that it has anything to do with weight but it certainly may have something to do with working out how to do it in a complex fuel cell subject to extreme G-forces. Still considering that it has cost valuable points for quite a number of teams I would say its an area worth investigation.


The fuel cell has a complex component, not just a simple tank. On top of that you have massive g-forces. There is no such thing as a simple way to measure how much fuel is left. If they could they would.



A fuel gauge adds unnecessary weight, simple as that. They really are that obsessed with weight. It is simple math if they know exactly the amount of fuel added.


Its interesting that every time Hamilton changes tyres he is way faster than the car in front, and soon catches them.

By doing this, is he really impacting the tyre life, hence why he then struggles later on? By being smoother and more patient, do you think he would gain better tyre life?

However, having said all that, I do wish these tyres were better. Much prefer to see the fastest drivers in the fastest cars driving the car on the ragged limits. Too much like Sunday driving by the OAP's at the moment. Whilst it might be unpredictable, it isn't the pinnacle of motorsport in my book.

Looking at the tyre-debris off the racing line, it makes me wonder if its going to take a huge accident (when someone is off-line to overtake) before Pirelli are forced to change the tyre dynamics.


Also, Hamiltons pit stop was longer to change tires, but at the end result was a faster stop than his rivals...

James, could it be that he stops better, or let say, he looses less time while driving to his pit work.

Hamiltons pit 3.3 seconds to change tires, and 20 seconds for the entire pit stop... while Ferrari has a better stop, 2.6 and a longer 20.3 stop.. some inside James?


Agreed. It is a sad day indeed when a world champion has to ask their team if they should "race" or conserve their tyres. The emphasis has swung way too far towards tyre management at the expense of true racing. F1 should be all about the fastest car/driver combination, not who can make their tyres last the longest.


Taking care of your tires is a part of racing, but only over a complete race distance on a single set of tires. These disintegrating, short life tires are ruining F1, along with the stupid video game invention DRS.


Great report, great to see Red Bull under pressure. Sadly Vettel has the 7 points he has stolen last race, but maybe other people will manage to win it in a honorable way. Hope so:-)


Vettel won it fair and square by racing.

It does not matter how many times the British media/fans use the words stolen/honor, like it has any place.

Because if those things counted than drivers like Senna should not be shown any respect.


It wasn't racing though. Webber wasn't expecting Vettel to attack and so didn't defend.


How is it fair and square if you need your teammate to turn down his engine for you to win?


Fair and square?

Is that why Rocky said on team radio, " you have some explains to do"

Is that why Vettel only apologised after seeing Newey and Webber in the post race room?

Is that why Vettel apologised to the media, team and factory? Something that annoyed most people because it seemed dishonest.

Is that why after 3 weeks, he claims its payback and he would do it again because Webber didn't deserve it?

Ultimately he disobeyed team orders, and as the BBC showed, last year they had variations of multi12 and multi21 which he understood perfectly!


Senna still cops a lot of criticism from some fans over his behaviour.

Btw - a lot of people seem to be under the mistaken apprehension that British fans automatically favour Aussies and vice versa. Nothing could be further from the truth - England and Australia have an intensely competitive sporting rivalry in all sports. Witness the schadenfreude in the UK over the recent travails of the Australian cricket team, for example.


The problem is, Vettel got the preferential pit stop strategy (normally given to the car running first) with the understanding that he wouldn't race Webber. Mark had a large gap before the stops that was completely removed. I do think people are kidding themselves if they think Mark wouldn't have done the same though.


SV got this pit stop because the team acknowledged they could loose place to Merc and the points too, just not to favour SV but this played SV's card itself.


The problem is this the problem is that, let it go man blah blah blah... Yepp heard it all before and I'm sorry but while I may not completely agree with what he did, this sort of action has been part of the sport since the beginning and so it shall be forever. It's all just so subjective and it's pretty obvious the media in general prefer Webber over Vettel (lets not start about the British fans who idolize Webber and bash Vettel for being alive). If you ask me my dream championship result would be Vettel winning it from Rosberg by 2 points. That would get so many people mad!


Why did Lotus pit Kimi on used medium for last stint??

I thought they had 3 fresh medium tyre??

or did they used extra set in Fps James?? So weird.


I had the same question. There are others too: Chilton, Bianchi etc. They all did over 20 laps on used medium. Of course the fuel is lower. But how come others had new mediums while these didn't? Did others use used medium in quali while Kimi etc. used all new there?


no idea. maybe they used too much tyre in free practices..

Kimi also qualified in Q1 with used option.....


Alonso & Massa had both overtaken Hamilton on the track, the lap before Hamilton's first stop.


It's interesting that if you have a car that is good on its tyres, it's actually not worth staying out longer than others as you will suffer the undercut. Instead it's better to pit in very early and follow it up by running a long stint, which you can if you're looking after your tyres well.

Kimi pitting early against Lewis and Alonso's very early stop in Australia allowed them to undercut other drivers but also didn't punish them as they could still run long stints with controlled tyre drop off.


To ensure a truly competitive GP weekend; all cars should be compelled to run at least one competitive lap during each qualifying session. Failure to do so, incurs at the very least a time penalty. Enough of the professional foul to gain an unfair advantage!


So when RBR does something tey are cheaters, but when other teams did the same in the past, they were being clever strategists?

Blame the cheese tyres, not the teams.


I find it interesting that you assume the post was aimed at the RBR team - no mention was made of them, nor were the only team to use the strategy of not setting a time in Q3.

Still if the cap fits.......


Aaand precisely. I find it interesting that whenever a number of teams do something that is not viewed favorably by the public, as long as one of the teams is RBR all you can see on forums is people [use imagination]-ing about them and ignoring the other teams. Case in point, number of teams complaining about tyre deg---> what you see on forums "RB trying to change tyres!!! Hate them what cheaters!!"<---BTW I think the tires should not be changed, modifying technical regs in season is the worst thing that can happen to F1!


The finger is not being pointed at any team in particular, but at the arrogance of all teams that exhibit their contempt for the paying spectator for Saturday qualifying, by not providing the optimum performance on the day.


Surely the teams are only interested in winning.

It's the FIA and the track owners that are interested in the paying spectator?


Until the teams are given Q3-specific tyres that they are not obliged to start the race on, I disagree with you.


Although an integrated part of the GP weekend, Saturday qualifying is sold to sponsors and on-track spectators as a stand-alone package, with its own specific and attractive dynamics – the knock-out stages of Q1 and Q2, climaxing with the “edge of your seat” Q3 shoot-out to determine the best single lap racer on the day. Are sponsors and paid spectators therefore not short changed if they do not get what it says on the tin?


It isn't a stand-alone package and hasn't been for some time. If people are selling it that way then they are misrepresenting the product.

The "qualifying" period we were used to 10 years ago is unrecognisable in the modern day format: There are no longer any qualifying spec tyres, parc ferme conditions mean setups for qualifying must be used for the race, high-revving, short life, "hand grenade" engines are gone. The six sets of tyres available for qualifying must be used for the race and they have a limited durability.

Qualifying is essentially the race's prologue. By not participating they will start down the order, that is the penalty. You cannot compel a team or driver to participate.

DRS and limited-life tyres have made it easier to move through the field from the rear of the grid than in previous years. If you want to see drivers giving it everything in qualifying, we can go back to 2010 spec tyres with no overtaking aids and drivers knowing that wherever they qualified will probably be where they finish the race.

I'm not one of those people.


Brilliant article, bringing up a lot of massively important details that aren't readily available elsewhere.

What I still find confusing is the difference between performance and tyre maintenance. RBR often seem off the pace this year and Merc are "not there yet", even though they have the speed. Ferrari and Lotus look good. Is this a matter of speed, or degradation?

Is the paddock working on speed or tyres?

Is the difference in qualy vs race simply a matter of tyre management?


Agree, the 107% rule could be applied to each session?

Q1 - Over 107% of 1st you can't race on Sunday

Q2 - Over 107% of 1st (here there is no advantage to not putting a time but let's be harsh anyway) 1 place grid penalty.

Q3 - Over 107% of 1st 3 place grid penalty.


If that was the case you'd have mid field and back marker teams incentivised to try and stay out of higher qualifying sessions. They would be inclined manufacture a weak performance, or have face being out of the 107% rule for the next session and get a grid penalty (even though they were faster than the cars from the previous session!) It would foster a culture which would produce results exactly the opposite of those you were seeking to promote.


I don't follow your logic. 107% of the best lap time allows for a margin of around 6 seconds. None of the teams who get into q3 would be that far off the pace under normal circumstances. I think Ben is just trying to provide a deterrent to any team who sits out a qualifying session in order to save tyres.


The leading drivers were fortunate in a way because the cars on different strategies were worried about the soft tyres so couldn't risk wearing out the mediums too soon and so where much easier to overtake.

After the first pit stops, that's when Alonso showed the pace of the Ferrari (thanks to the promised big upgrade) for at one time he and Lewis were neck and neck only for him to stretch his legs whilst Lewis couldn't make it past the cars that hadn't pitted.

I think in China Ferrari were easiest on their tyres (both soft and medium) and this greatly helped their chances for victory. It's just Massa probably didn't set up his car well so as to get the best out of the mediums.

Now seeing how quick Vettel was on the softs, this shows Red Bull had the speed for qualifying. This then leaves us with the explanation that Red Bull just wanted to try something different with the hope of making up a lot of places in the dying laps. For if Red Bull really didn't have pace, they would have gone for a two stop just like Mclaren.

As for Jenson, he sure did pull that rabbit out the hat especially his first stint on the mediums where he seemed to make them last forever whilst still going fast.

Yeah, Kimi's start is what denied him victory for if he had-had a perfect start, he would have pushed Alonso.

Regards Lewis' Mercedes, it appears he wasn't racing Kimi after all but rather the future danger presented by Vettel.

Good foresight by Brawn once again for if Lewis had taken Lotus' bluff, he would have been overtaken by two cars towards the end.


...and Mercedes want him out so some guy from McLaren can take his place ...and we all know how Mclaren go racing. Everyone sits on their hands afraid to make the tough decisions just in case it goes wrong..yikes.


Sam Michael, need I say more..


Very much agree. Typical big organization decision making by committee who have never run an F1 team.

I have no ability to judge Brawn's car development organization skills. But his trackside strategy is one of the very best. With a track record dating back to the Schumacher days.


Bennetton days even.


I agree, Brawn is really showing his brilliance. It would be great if we had this information during the race though, it would make the races that much more amazing.


We did have this information during the race - Brawn was on radio a few times to Lewis around his last pit stop warning him of Vettel's threat while the commentators were scratching the heads 🙂


I think it was being stuck behind Kimi that caused his tyres to go off towards the end. Therefore, if Lewis had come in on the lap after Kimi pitted, he would probably have come out in front of Kimi. Whether of course, he could of kept Kimi behind him to the end of the race, is another matter. It would certainly of been a good contest to watch. A bit like Hungary last year.


You're clutching at straws mate, Hamilton got out driven by Alonso and Kimi with a broken front wing, and was nearly done by Vettel on a terrible strategy (look at Button), and before you say the Mercedes was a slower car in the race, look at Massa, Webber and Grosjean, face the fact Hamilton didn't cut it and will probably never win the title again as long as Seb and Fernando are in F1.


Gazza, you got it right.

For comparison, after their first 3 races for new teams:

HAM 2013 - 40 pts with Mercedes

ALO 2010 - 37 pts with Ferrari

BUT 2010 - 35 pts with McLaren

ROS 2010 - 35 pts with Mercedes

VET 2009 - 25 pts-eq with RBR

MSC 2010 - 9 pts with Mercedes

And this in the 3rd-4th best car ...


Its amazing that when it comes to Hamilton some people expect so much.

Its his 3rd race with the team, anybody else would be given a little time to settle in, but no not when it comes to Hamilton.

You expect him to come straight out and blitz the opposition and win the WDC in his first year with his new team.?

Its a fact that Hamilton is rated so highly that people criticise results, that if achieved by anybody else would be viewed in a totally positive light.


I do not see Vettel's strategy as such as big gamble. Of course, with hindsight we all know better. But given that data that RBR had, it made perfect sense to go for the MMMS strategy.

Ahead of qualifying RBR must have thought that they cannot achieve the one lap pace on the softs of Mercedes and Ferrari. So effectively Vettel would have been fighting for P4 or P5 on the grid. From there it would have been difficult to fight with the Mercedes, Ferrari and Lotus cars.

Instead, it was quite possible that the used softs of the top seven cars, which had already done a hot lap in qualifying, would only last 2-3 laps and then force the front running cars into an early pit stop. They could have then come out behind all the mid field starters on the medium tyre, which would have been only 3 laps older! So they would have found it much more difficult to get through the traffic, while Vettel could have extended his lead at the front.

Of course, in the end it did not work out. And still Vettel almost came third. So I would say that while the gamble did not quite yield what they wanted, it was well worth it.


Would Vettel have not got the 3rd place if he had pitted 1 lap earlier? All the front running cars manager 6 laps with a full fuel tank so why could Vettel only manage 5 laps with a near empty car?


Vettels final lap was already slower than his last lap on the worn mediums - they were truly gone - he risked not finishing at all or a very slow last lap if he was on them any longer.

It was the right call - just not good enough.


The commentators were saying the Soft tyre doesn't work on the cooler temperatures (towards the end of the race). Maybe that was one reason why the Soft on Vettel's car did last as much of those who started on it, when the temperature was higher..


Well, based on tire durability I'd say had Vettel pitted one lap earlier he wouldn't have finished the race at all...


I feel the same way. On hindsight given the tyre performance, SV could have driven the medium tyres harder and pitted one lap earlier.


James, didn't Hulkenberg also use the soft tyre during the middle of the race as well, before switching back to the mediums for his final stint?

Alberto Martínez

I think so. Also Vergne did a 6-lap-stint before changing to Mediums.


With so much to loose on these tyres, particularly the softer compound at the beginning of the race, surely other teams will start to do Mercedes stacking approach.

Other teams did do it when coming of the inters at Malaysia and Merc didn't which cost Rosberg massively at the start so guess that's why they changed the plan.

James, do you think if Vettel stopped one lap earlier at the end for the softs could it have worked against Hamilton??


I thought they got their final pit stop timing pretty good- it hasn't been mentioned much that Vettel's last pit stop wasn't the usual smooth and quick stop from Red Bull. If I recall correctly, the front jack got stuck, which slowed them down by about a second. I think the BBC data suggested the stop was 3.4 seconds, so about a second slower than their normal time. If he had that second in hand, and hadn't made a mistake or two on the last lap, he'd have been on the podium.


I agree, I think they maximized the timing of the final stop pretty good. MAYBE they could have done it a lap earlier, but I think the spectre of Kimi's tire drop-off last year in China still haunts F1. It's clear that everyone still elects to play it super-safe when it comes to tire wear toward the end of races.

What I don't hear many people mention, is Vettel's qualifying on Saturday and his failure to maximize his qualifying position using the Medium tire strategy. When he decided to go for a lap on the Mediums, his sector times compared to Ricciardo on the Softs were:


Seb - 25.336

Ric - 25.316


Seb - 28.966

Ric - 28.818


Seb - locks up going into the Turn 14 hairpin and abandons his lap

Ric - 41.864

Vettel was down by about .17 seconds heading into the 3rd sector, so he certainly had a chance and could have done enough to come out ahead of Ricciaro and slot into 7th place instead of 9th. At the very least, if he finished his botched lap, he would have been 8th above Button. It's only a place or two, but could have made a huge difference when it comes to traffic and opportunity for free air in the race. He would have only needed a small amount of found time to put him in a better position of passing Lewis at the end instead of only catching him. (And yep! The 1-second lost at the final pit stop also would have helped too!)



but he locks up and abandons his lap due to some brake problem...


From the articles analysis, it is clear that Vettel lost far more time due to flaky tyre strategy than he did to pit stops. In my opinion, if he hadn't tried to gain unfair advantage by skipping Q3, Vettel would have ended up first or second, or at least on the podium. The turmoil in Red Bull seems to be affecting them quite badly, so many errors in a single race.


I'm not sure it would have made a difference, don't forget he had a brake problem on his qualifying lap anyway so I don't think he would have qualified particularly highly even on the soft tyre.


Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying their overall strategy was right, just that their timing of the final pit stop was right, given that they were already committed to the MMMS strategy. I fully agree the strategy perhaps wasn't the best one, but it's maybe a bit too soon to be bringing out the Red Bull In Crisis articles, as some outlets have. The car is still clearly very quick, after all...


James ,

Nice article as usual.

Does your analysis suggest that had Vettel been put on the same strategy as top 3 qualifires ( running in Q3 with new softs ) then he would have been able to claim the final podium place ? Or were they thinking that on same strategy as Ferrari & Lotus , they would have even lost out places to in-form Massa and other Lotus of GORJ.




Interesting analysis James, and I had wondered why they had not covered Raikkenon, but it's obvious enough and good to know they did the right thing to bring Hamilton in third despite the close shave with Vettel. So Mercedes need to do two things to give Hamilton a chance of a win. - They need to reduce tyre degradation a bit further, and generally improve race pace most probably through improve aero efficiency. Here's a question - What makes Ferrari's so quick starting as Mercedes powered machines these days don't seem to have such immediate acceleration from the start. The other interesting question is that had Raikkenon not damaged his wing and got a good start could he have won the race?


I agree. James can we please have an article on how the Ferraris are so quick off the line? It cant be just the acceleration as the Saubers would be lightning off the line too, but they havent been. It must be something else theyre doing, Id love to know what.


+1 me and my dad was talking about this yesterday. they must have some sort of launch control. but dont worry Ferria fans Todt will sweep it under the table!


Do you remember the Renault starts from the early 2000's, they were even better than the Ferraris now.

I'm not saying its something Alonso has engineered, but maybe something about his start pattern allows the team to change certain parameters to benefit this?


+1 Please do james!



I'm searching for this answer for quite a while, unfortunately couldn't yet find a convincing answer.


One thought I had was that it is the characteristics of the Ferrari engine coupled with the appropriate gearing. If the engine develops higher torque at relatively low engine speed as compared to the Mercedes unit then that could be the answer. It is strange but remember Hamilton's lightning starts he did in the early stages of his career! - I put it down to the need to preserve these silly tyres, but maybe it's more than that.



Especially now that the Ferraris begin to qualify near the front, their starts will become a real talking point.


I think suspension, clutch and KERS timing has something to do with it.


It must be some F1 launch control, similar to that on the road cars! Imagine if Massa and Alonso were to qualify 1st and 2nd.. 🙂


Pirelli tires are pulling all the strings here to create a bit of chaos so that there are 3 different winners in 3 races.

I think DRS itself is a great thing that solves the lack of overtaking in F1. The Pirellis just made it too easy.

Back in 1998 and early 2000s F1 cars were so fast, you really can't 'catch them' with your eyes. Unless you're ready with your eyes set upon the car well before the corner.

I was at the Melbourne GP last month and I was surprised at how easily it is to follow each and every F1 car around the track. F1 is slower than ever before.

To uphold my point all you have to do is look at all the lap records. None of them are set by the current generation of cars. Plus, look at the current driver's neck muscles, they are small compared to David Coulthard's glorious neck muscles when he was driving in F1.

F1 should get back to its roots of pulling incredible Gs at high speed corners and just let the engineers do their magic. There are over 500 employees in a team, so shouldn't their collective effort results in success, rather than randomly picked by Pirelli tires?


Costs too much apparently.


Keep in mind that these days the cars are fitted with rev limited V8's and not unrestricted V10's as in the good old days.

Here's a tip: go to you tube and look for Barrichello's qualifying lap record at Monza from 2004. Have a listen for the engine note before the gear shifts. We have become so accustomed to the 18k rev limit that when the engine revs out to +20k it sounds like it is going to break.


That's right. Goes to show F1 has gone soft and slow.


There are two glaring factual errors in this piece:

1) Alonso passed Hamilton on the racetrack, not during the first stops;

2) Vettel did run in Q3. In fact, he ran TWICE; first at the start of the session when he did an out-in lap on (I think) the soft tyres, and the second time at the end of the session on the medium, but he locked his brakes at the hairpin and aborted his lap. That was why Jenson Button decided to cross the finish line after crawling round on the medium, and hence started ahead of Vettel.

Alberto Martínez


I think people are overreacting a bit to Pirelli tyres - It´s true that the "Soft tyre" don´t last and lacks consistency, but on the other hand I think the "Medium tyre" is quite good, consistent and provides around 15 laps with high fuel and easily 20 laps with low fuel which in my view is quite good. The same can be said with the "Hard tyre" used in previous GP .

So, in my opinion Pirelli maybe should revise the Soft tyre but not the Medium nor the Hard. What´s your view on this?


If the weather had been cooler, maybe the soft would have behaved differently. Pirelli decide the tyres weeks before the race.


Agree: much ado about nothing. Fans need something to complain about or would be bored. I thought that the plan was to have much bigger steps between tire types at each grand prix and this has most definitely been achieved. Refuelling would help, I don't like fixed fuel all that much, nor did I like when teams had to declare fuel. If we had these tires and refuelling, drivers would have much more strategy options, by being able to match fuel weight with tire degradation. Less driving to a pre determined time to preserve tires and fuel. Its going to be more of this with the turbos next year.


Did RedBull incorrectly estimate their driver/tyre-wear by not taking the risk of pitting a lap earlier OR may be they didn't think Mercedes of Hamilton would drop its speed that badly in the end (or both)? Pitting Vettel one lap earlier would have given him a podium.


Vettels last lap on his softs was already slower than his last lap on the worn mediums so they were well and trul worn -one more lap and he could have fallen off the cliff and not even finished.


If he pitted 2 laps earlier he would have won the race. That is how ridiculously scammy these tyres are.


So in 2 extra laps (on tyres with very limited life) he was going to pass Hamilton AND Raikkonen and THEN make up 15 seconds to Alonso AND pass him.

Just a slight misunderstanding/exaggeration there.


I think that might have been quite a big ask - he finished 12 and a bit seconds behind FA. The advantage of the new soft tyres was about 3 seconds or so per lap. He would have required at least 4 extra laps to make up the ground.That's assuming he overtook each car without losing any time, and the tyres held up - neither of which is likely.


Or his tyres would have gone off and he would have gone backwards. I don't think the tyres would have lasted much longer.


"the reason they left Hamilton out was because they knew that he would run into trouble with tyres at the end of the race if he stopped at this point. It was a real Catch 22 situation for them."

It nearly did work out for Merc, because the Lotus pit stop was among the slowest [3.9], and KR came out just ahead of LH. Don't know the comparative lap times after that but if there was any way LH could have got past, he would have.


Lotus strategy is improving and was pretty flawless in China, but two things let them down: 1- Start calibration mix up, and 2- slow pit stops [though not crucial in this case].

And of course a meandering mobile road block in silver and red.


Funny description of Perez.

Although the contact was Kimi's fault.

On the US broadcast they felt that either Vettel's tires were going off, or that he had picked up some of that slag rubber going a bit wide in one of the turns. I forget which. This they felt prevented him from catching LH.


Probably a bit of both.


Perez failed to leave a cars width between himself and the edge of the track. They showed it quite clearly in post race analysis on Sky. Can't see how KR can be blamed for that.


It seems strange to me that when Vet came in for his final stop, he was only 4ish seconds infront of But and Rai, but in 5 laps managed to nullify the pit stop and close the gap up really close. I understand that the tyres wear out quickly, but maybe (as shown by Vet- given another lap or 22 and knowing that he was still at least 2 seconds a lap quicker after 5 laps on softs) that it is worth pushing on the tyres, dropping the lap times and doing an extra pit stop? It was frustrating at the start to see the cars 9-10 seconds a lap slower than their quali pace (and yes i do know this had a lot to do with fuel load).

Also, one other quick point, when we stopped re-fuelling in the raceses it was done for safety; however i believe this is hurting the racing too, causing this massive time differences when fully loaded (not to mention the added stresses on the tyres with the extra weight in the car). As a simple solution, go back to re-fuelling during the race, however make the regulations state that fuel must go into the car first (before the car can be lifted to change tyres), then and only then the car can be lifted to change tyres (Note: the fuel hose has to be removed prior to the lifting). This stops the cars from driving away with fuel hoses still in their cars. Just a few thoughts


Stopping re-fueling wasn't done for safety reasons, it was economics.


The mistake Red Bull did with Vettel was, the last pit stop was one lap late. Had they brought him in a lap earlier, he would have got both Kimi and Hamilton.


Vettels last lap on his softs was already slower than his last lap on the worn mediums so they were well and truly worn -one more lap and he could have fallen off the cliff and not even finished.


Look at Vettel's lap times on soft, the gap would been way more than 0.2sec if he did pit earlier.


James, any insights on why Maldonado, Bianchi, Pic, Chilton and Van Der Garde ran such short stints with Medium New during their second stints?


" .... in that second stint, between laps 24 and 35 Massa went from 10 seconds behind Alonso to 27 seconds behind!"

Massa has improved dramatically in qualifying this year, but I get the impression that when he's in traffic he suffers. I'm sure some is tires, as James mentioned, but I wonder if he doesn't, subconsciously, still think of that accident in Hungary and not mix it up with the other cars they way he should?


Massa seems to get less heat into his tyre than Alonso, which maybe hurt him once he switched to the Mediums


The timing of the safety car also played into the hands of the leaders, who pitted at that time.


What safety car? Which race you are referring to (or watching)?


I don't remember being a safety car. Just yellow flags being waved. 🙂


What Safety Car????.... Did you watch the race, there wasn't a safety car period.


He's talking about the race the other year.

Tornillo Amarillo

What's worse for Hamilton's fans, leading for McLaren and have reliability issues, or leading for Mercedes and go backwards due a fundamental design of the car?

We've never saw Hamilton starting on pole and being overtake so easily by the Ferraris, without fighting, boring indeed. Same feeling when Vettel was catching him up, IMO it hurts Hamilton's image.


I thought it was a fantastic job done by Hamilton. He qualified pole. He fended off Vettel at the end of the race.

Plus, he did it in an inferior car.

Moreover, he won't even be on the podium if he is in the rubbish McLaren car now.

I think he is way better now than when he was at McLaren. Like Kimi who a proper F1 star but McLaren never gave him the tools to win. You could almost argue that Hamilton and Raikkonen was robbed of WDC at McLaren.


I'm an Hamilton and now Merc fan - and have to confess so far he is driving superbly. Whats impressive is what he appears to have brought to Mercedes about, 0.5 of a second.

he's brought the team from the midfield to the sharp end (Nicos misfortune aside) seriously who expected Merc to be wollowing in the midfield by this stage considering how they finished last season or overtaking Button/Mclaren on track.

12points off the leader.

great season so far.


Yes Hamilton has redesigned the car, trained the mechanics and with Lauda and Wolff have revamped Mercedes.

One word of caution, Mercedes started last year strong and fell away over the season. If any of the engineers feel Brawn is on his way out, they won't stay with Lauda


sympathy for HAM fans, but it was a beautiful Ferrari double take in the same moment. ALO went outside, MAS went inside, and HAM was the filling in a pizza sandwich. This can't ever happen on most tracks, [Hungary for exmple]. There's just so much width of road in China.


That Merc didn't belong on the podium. They clearly weren't as fast as the Ferrari and Lotus in race trim. If it wasn't for Lewis incredible pole which gave him a chance in a bit of clear air and be ahead in strategy, Vettel would have been on the podium. Massa, with the same car as Alonso, should have been there, as well. Lewis' pole gave him that podium. Well done!

Watch out for Jenson when the Mclaren gets sorted. With this year's tires he will hook that Mclaren up and contend.


So what you're saying is that only the fastest cars deserves to be on the podium?

I think its more a balance between a great car, great driving skill, a great qualification result, tyre management, luck and good strategy.

This is why Massa and Jenson didn't get the podium.


If Raikkonen had a clean start, he would have been the one to pass Hamilton and scamper off in the clean air.

I'm not a fan of these tire preservation processions. Perhaps all teams should be forced to do at least four stops and use both compounds intermittently.

VP of Common Sense

Alonso would have caught and passed Kimi before or after the first stops. Lotus were not faster than Ferrari in Shanghai.


I still think one of Vettel's and Red Bull's big mistakes was not setting a time in Q3. They could have had Button's 8th place on the grid which could have given him a better chance in the first stint. Button set a time some 20 sec off the pole time and so didnt take any life out of the tyres.


Its not that they didn't set it, its that Vettel stuffed it in the final lap ( they claim it was a brake problem? ) and didn't have enough time to do another lap.


that cost him for or 5 secounds. something he could have caught back I think


No chance you could have recovered 5 seconds with only a 2 corners left to the finish line.

Its typical of what sebastian does at every qualification runs, leaves it all the last minute and has to rely on a perfect lap with no mistakes - usually works out for him, didn't this time.


It seems Lotus has good pace..raikkonen posted his best lap 1:39:955 on lap 51 on used medium tyres for 17laps and vettel did his best lap on lap 53 1:36:808 which is 3.187 slower. and take into account the broken nose and the endplate breakage..

raikkonen sure is in contention for bahrain and wdc


Still 4/10th down on the times that Alonso was doing and if you believe what he said he wasn't pushing- no chance that he would losing that much time with a broken nose.


To the experts on the forum - how difficult is it to redesign a very fast car to be easy on the tires? Is it a fundamental flaw that cannot be eliminated if the car is too hard on the tires? I would like to see Red Bull and Mercedes come back in the fight for race wins.


There are no experts on this forum, only fans with opinions, half baked at best and usually ruled by emotion rather than fact; nature of forums. James A is very well informed and experienced, and has with expert contacts, but not a full fledged expert. That sort of praise falls to the Brawns, Byrnes, Neweys etc.


As I see it in the Bridgestone days where we had refuelling but incredibly durable tyres, the problem was that a car couldn't push past the dirty air of a car it was following even if it was a couple of seconds a lap faster. Nobody can un-invent aerodynamics, so the solution was to have DRS as a tool to allow the following car to push through that last crucial second behind someone, to counteract the disadvantage. When we lost refuelling Pirelli were asked to keep the strategy element alive and avoid processional racing by providing tyres with differing grip levels that degrade at different rates.

The problem now is that all the artificial elements that have been added need controlling and tweaking ad infinitum, so we either have incredibly complicated races or incredibly un-satisfying races. The tyres are now so fragile that a car in dirty air is still being penalised massively by having the tyres chewed up. DRS is not doing what it was set out to do: it is not giving the faster following car a fair chance of an overtake but it is guaranteeing that the following car will zoom past - a wholly un-satisfying thing to watch.

We have ended up with the same problem - cars can't follow other cars - but now we have the added problem that no one wants to go out and qualify as well!

Solutions are harder to find, but bringing back refuelling, having tyres that last more than 6 laps, having qualifying and race tyres as separate allocations and letting cars start on whatever tyre they want to would be my solutions to the problem.

I am begging to think that I'm I the only person that enjoyed the races at the end of 2012 rather than the beginning. I though Austin was one of the best races of the year, with Hamilton and Vettel going full-chap for the entire race and and a few incredible overtakes, yet Pirelli were roundly criticised for having conservative tyre choices in the latter half of the year.

Great site by the way James!


+1 good post


You're not the only person. 🙂 There were some great races towards the end of the year...Austin is a perfect example. What made it special was two drivers at the top of their game lap after lap, until a variable in the form of a backmarker created a tiny opening which Lewis emphatically grabbed. Far more satisfying to watch a race win earned in this way through skill, rather than by Vettel's tyres giving up one lap from the finish. We also need races like this where the best drivers can show why they are the best, without being forced to drive slowly in the hope that their tyres last. Defending against a faster car on old tires used to be an art, but with today's performance "cliff", you have no chance, so everyone has to be especially cautious so they don't reach the cliff.


I recall that the reason for removing refueling was to save the financial costs of hauling fuel rigs around the world.

Personally I find 2 second pitstops very exciting and entertaining. Makes it a team sport - the mechanics changing the tyres are part of the race performance.



What was the logic of Webber only doing one lap on his new softs at the start? Was it purely to put him in absolute clean air. Seems odd to me that he did not run on the SN for 5 laps.


I'm guessing the plan was to pit him straight away before he wasted time trying to fight through the pack. Everyone else keeps going, he comes out basically 20 seconds (or however long a trip into the pits takes in China) behind the pack, free to run for a while on the primes in clean air. Possibly before he'd even caught the back of the pack, or maybe not long after, the guys running options (who would have been fighting along the way, or at least just trying to hold position in dirty air) would have to start making their stops.

So with a good few laps of free running on the better tyre, he'd jump a fair few guys when they came in to get off the options, without even having to waste time battling them on track.


I don't understand either - it had nothing to do with putting him into clear air because it put him into traffic anyway. I would assume the options were already buggered after only 1 lap or at least lapping slower than what he could do on the prime which is a real worry.


The amount of time he'd have lost having to overtake the back of the field wouldn't have been more than the doing slow laps at the end of a longer stint, having pitted earlier than others.

He was ahead of Vettel after he'd pitted so he had brought himself into a solid points chance.


I guess starting from last, get rid of the softs quickly, he just loses pit stop time, but no places

If he drives for 5 laps, he has to fight tail enders first and then again after the pit stop


I disagree that stopping early would have harmed Hamilton's chances for the podium, James. Part of the reason why he had no tires left on the last two laps is because he (presumably) pushed a little harder during the last run to have a go at Kimi. If he came out ahead of Kimi, it would have given him a little more flexibility to manage his pace, and it would have made Kimi force the issue a bit- maybe even to back off due to his front-wing problem and the effect it was having on the front tires. On top of it, Hamilton had a little more pace on the opening laps of a stint. I think Hamilton would have finished second if he had reacted immediately to Raikkonen's stop.


Your assessment is based on hindsight. Based on their free practice long runs on the medium, the Merc engineers probably concluded that Hamilton could not do as many laps as the Lotus regardless of track position. So they concluded that it was likely he'd lose a place to Kimi regardless, but also be driving on dead tires for 2 laps longer, which would risk falling prey to Vettel. Not an easy decision without hindsight.

As we saw, the tires barely held on, and they wouldnt have been helped by following Kimi. We don't know how hard Kimi was pushing to stay ahead of Lewis, since it was obvious he was not going to catch Alonso. It's possible he would be able to go faster still, were he to find himself behind the Merc. Given the variables involved, 3rd place seemed like the best possible result for Merc.


It was said that a car following another is doing more damage to its tyres than when its in front. One could assume that if Hamilton reacted to Kimi's pitstop and remained in 2nd he could have treated his tyres better? Its possible that Hamiltons tyres were as worn as they were simply because he was behind. Guess we'll never know.


Mr Allen.

Slightly of the subject but being an old

petrol head from way back, in my hey days

I done few laps with the Alfa Romeo Giulia

Sprint GTA,I feel to know somthing about

Motor racing which brings me to say the

Ferrari F-138 is a Class of a grid so far in

2013 in Alonso hands,statistics shows he

raced in two races for a 2nd and the 1st.and

may I say he has a top (chic)does he not?

good luck to him.

Mr Allen you run a top site and I salute you

Sir,the best in the business, unfortunately

to many (would be's and could be's)that are

shooting from the hip with non constructive


Once again keep it up.


I adore that Alfa. Be it the humble junior, to the mighty GTA, they are sublime.

I watched my father rebuild a 1750GTV from the ground up, bare metal re spray, blue printed engine etc.

I'd sit in it for hours just dreaming.

When he passed, I inherited it and after a couple if years, sold it on.

My ambition to get another some day soon. Magical


I thank you for your coment.

Being an Alfa Romeo Dealer for many,many

years and may I say the very first BMW

corporate image dealer in Australia, I have

had many memories in Motor sport.I agree

with you the 1750GTV was simply the best in

particular 1971 the last of a series.Had a

1971 Dino-246 to,for me the 1750 was more

enjoyable to drive then Dino,the 1750 had

gear box second to none,

As I walk towards sunset the memory lingers

on,I thank you again to believe as I do.



I felt it was quite odd that if Red Bull had planned to not run in Q3, and to come through the field in mediums, that they did not gear the car for higher top speed. That would have helped SV do an Abu Dhabi 2012.


Vetel didn't do an Abu Dhabi 2012 because it's Hamilton he needs to overtake, not Button like in Abu Dhabi 2012.


Hi James, did Romain having the same updates as Kimi. Its such a shame that all the criticism he got last year seems to have affected him big time.


He seems to be finishing more races this year.


he got exactly the same car since melbourne. Except in Mal when Kimi had the rush update on exhaust.

Dont blame it on pressure...every drivers have pressure.

Romain said himself he struggle to setup the car to his liking. And it seems that E21 is very sensitive to setup change.


James another one off topic. Looking to go to Spa in August. Where would u suggest sitting for the best view, what corner/grandstand would be best for the race on Sunday.


Pouhon is good, Eau Rouge obviously, Bus Stop chicane


I think one of the best things that happened in China was having Vettel pushing like hell on the Softs at the end of the race, and showing the pace he was able to produce. It'll hopefully make people forget Sutil's failed attempt to do something similar at Australia this year, and show that it's indeed possible to run a counter-tire strategy to see benfits at the end.

The downside-- it may encourage more 'sit out of Q3' strategies from drivers, but I'm willing to accept that to see the kind of excitement that Vettel's final laps produced.


It was only exciting because he was the only driver that was given the opportunity to push like Hell ( Button was taking it easy ). I think you'd find that if a lot more drivers chose the Softs as their final stint it wouldn't have been so exciting. There wouldn't have been such a difference between lap times.


James, with all the controversy on Q3 in China, I've been wondering if we even need Q3 nowadays.

Q3 used to determine the starting grid in relation to fuel and tire strategies. They have always run with the least amount of fuel and the fastest tyres on Q2 and that's why before the refueling ban, the fastest times were usually set in Q2 anyway. People might qualify in the front because they had less fuel as they wanted an aggressive strategy (ie. - Alonso in Hungary 2009. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

Now that there is no more refueling, what is Q3 for? If they are really cost cutting shouldn't they just skip Q3. Think about it...Q1 eliminates the slowest from 17 up, Q2 eliminates the slowest from 11 to 16. What is Q3 for? To find the order of the top 10? You could do that in Q2.

What do you think?


I've always thought that WDC and WCC points should be awarded for qualifying. Not many, perhaps for the top five places, say 5 for pole down to 1 for fifth.

Perhaps this would encourage more participation and give Q3 more meaning?


I think one of the main reasons they introduced the 3 qualifying sessions, was to ensure some on track action for the whole hour of qualifying. It was to avoid a repeat of a wet session, where all the cars sat in their pits for about 55 minutes waiting for the track to dry.

Mind you, I might have made that up in a dream 🙂


Great article as always James and as I have mentioned before I have been going through your archives attempting to catch up on F1, great job.

First my thoughts on the race:

While many see the Ferrari as the class of the grid, I think with the news today that by Barcelona we will have more durable tire compounds we can through China's results out the window as far as predicting the future.

On thing we do know for sure is that RBR has their hands full and while I see ton's of support for Ferrari and Lotus I think Mr. Brawn's Mercedes will benefit the most from this. As the year wears on it will be dominated by Lewis and Vettel with Ferrari's Alonso in a close third. Kimi needs the tires to remain in their current state even more so than Ferrari but good Ole Mr. Ecclestone took one look at qualifying and realized he can't charge almost a billion bucks a year for that kind of TV. It looks like we might have additional sets of tires as early as this week.

Vettel's strategy was nearly flawless and had he not had a couple of issues would have pulled it off. On the US broadcast they pretty much felt like Vettel would be able to get a podium if things went well so the anticipation of Vettel storming back after his last stop was palpable for the whole race.

I don't see how anyone can honestly look at this GP and say well this proves it Ferrari is the best car, when they have not been the most consistent. Last race it was RBR by far and the first it was Lotus due to tire wear.

The one thing I am baffled about is how seemingly intelligent posters can issue statements like "Vettel's unfair advantage" and Vettel cheated/stolen points is really beyond me.

Not posting a lap in Q3 is allowed by the rules, how is following the rules unfair? Vettel didn't steal anything in Malaysia, he won a race fair and square, Mark gave plenty of defense.


We get it, you're a Vettel fan. You guys are a dying breed.



I think there are 2 left but alas we are both males, so breeding seems limited. 🙂


That was funny, love it


I totally agree your website is gggrrrreat mr.Allen,

This report is right but wrong in my eyes. Its right when you look at what happened after but wrong in what could have been. I personally think that DRS was the turning point and the reason it turned out this way, If hamilton had streched out 0.1 second more in the 3rd lap, Alonso (massa also but through Alonso) would not have got DRS and hammy would have stayed in 1stvplace all the way toothe pit stops,

1. end of lap 2 ham - alo .745

2. start of lap 3 ham - alo 1.059

hamilton goes a touch wide turn 9 and alonso got drs

3. with drs lap 4 .ham - alo .400

and so on untill alonso and massa with drs take Hamilton to the cleaners,

Mercedes had planed to pit lap 6, if Alonso didnt get DRS I think Lewis he had the momentem to go on and win this race. Who knows?


To make Q3 relevant, why doesn't the FIA consider giving out 1 point for Pole Position? Very simple Solution to get drivers to compete rather than run to a time.

OR, give drivers the ability to use the option tire only in Q3, but nominate the tire they start on before the race.


If points are given for qualifying, the championship could be decided on a Saturday which is not something fans would like.


10 points for pole

9 for 2nd

8 for 3rd

7 for 4th

6 for 5th

5 for 6th

4 for 7th

3 for 8th

2 for 9th

1 for 10th

If nothing else it would stop the press confrance's most said answer "no points for today". In this sinerio you would have to push for pole.


Agreed - there should be points for Pole, just as I think there should be a point for fastest laps and even points for fastest pitstops - maybe even points for the amount of gap at the finish - perhaps even extra points if your team finishes on 1 and 2. It would encourage and reward for overal team work.


James, I noticed that half of my comments are not being posted. I do not think it is moderation as they are absolutely normal, nothing that disturb people (just discuss strategies, drivers, etc). Maybe it goes to your SPAM or something? I think there were cases like this reported by other people. Thank you for checking.


Not sure how many "half" is

You posted three or four unpleasant comments which were deleted in last few days, but nothing in spam folder etc

Please be polite and constructive in comments and remember the rules about no slagging people off so the sake of it

We're tightening up a lot on this - Mod


Thanks, James. I indeed was not very fond of what Vettel did, but do not think I showed lack of respect or anything. Anyways, I agree that there are other topics to talk here. Thanks for a great blog and content.



What was different between Alonso - Vettel situation 2012 in Monza. Vettel was penalized for not leaving space. Compared to Raikkonen - Perez battle in Shanghai?


Interesting, so what you are saying is that according to the FIA a driver must make room for the following car? I would have thought that the leading driver was entitled to the racing line. Webber even said that about his incident. The rules on passing seem a little too complex maybe.



while accepting that Mercedes might not "be quite there', if Hamilton had stopped on lap four at the beginning of the race, might he not have successfully undercut Alonso.

It would have been very interesting to see how the car might have benefitted from running in clear air as Alonso managed to. As it was, Hamilton didn't seem to find any gaps at all, running most of his race close behind another car.

Even in the last stint, if he'd covered Raikkonen's stop, might not his tyres have lasted the extra laps had he been in front ?

It is quite difficult to compare the race pace of the cars unless you allow for the traffic effect:

"Strategists say that in terms of energy damaging these tyres, between running a stint in clear air compared to behind another car the difference is as much as 20%. So you can see how vital it is to find the gaps..."


This might be off topic a bit but when Pirelli was asked to produce high-degradation tyres, my first thought was that hmm... Maybe Button could use 1 less pit stop and Hamilton will have to make do with more but can drive around faster so that they could end up next to each other at the end of the race.

Reality: It does not matter who drives what, those tyres simply go off like a ticking time-bomb. Every driver ends up driving JensonButton's style and hope the tires last till the end of the race.

The car set up that suits tyre-track-weather on the race day is able to go faster on that day. The result is that he will win the race. Drivers are not able to bring their talents to the fight.

Seriously, this has to be fixed.


I thought it was interesting the different approaches of Lotus and Red Bull, regarding their damaged front wings. Sure, Webber was missing more than Raikkonen was, but it's not like it was hanging off the front of the car like Alonso's in Malaysia. They asked Webber how the car felt and he said, "Not too bad", and yet they responded straight away for him to come back into the pits. Why not at least give it a lap or two to see how the times and data look? Maybe it would have been competitive enough until they hit their next pit window. Why even ask Webber if they were just going to bring him straight in regardless?

Raikkonen indeed stayed out with his damaged wing and went on to finish with a great result. Even when he did come in for tyres, they not only didn't bother changing the wing, but they didn't even bother to quickly slap a bit of tape over the tip of the nose that was lifting up.


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