Making a plan and sticking with it: How Ferrari and Lotus came out on top in Spain
Strategy Report
Posted By: James Allen  |  14 May 2013   |  7:37 pm GMT  |  141 comments

This race may come to be viewed as a tipping point in the ongoing debate about whether the high degradation Pirelli tyres are good for F1 or not, as two of the three drivers on the podium did a four stop strategy.

Pirelli has indicated that they have been “too aggressive” with the construction of the 2013 tyres and will make changes from the seventh round, Montreal, onwards.

However against this backdrop, the strategy battle at the heart of this race was fascinating. And it showed that the teams who came out on top were the ones who had the best thermal management of the tyres and the clearest vision of how to execute their race strategy and who stuck to it.

Ferrari committed to four stops before the race began and likewise Lotus committed to three stops with the bulk of the running on the medium tyre, underlining their car’s gentle action on the tyres.

Other contenders, particularly Red Bull and Mercedes were washed away by not sticking to a clear vision of how to attack the race.

Alonso vs Raikkonen

In 23 years no-one has ever won the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona from as low as fifth on the grid, but Fernando Alonso managed it on Sunday, which tells the story of how much the Pirelli tyres have shaken up F1.

Alonso knew from studying the data from Friday’s long runs in practice that the car to beat on race day would be Kimi Raikkonen’s Lotus, as this had exceptional race pace and low degradation.

When Raikkonen qualified fourth ahead of Alonso, this made him the main target, even with Sebastian Vettel started ahead in 3rd. The long runs from Red Bull on Friday had shown that they were struggling with tyre degradation.

Ferrari’s assumption was that Raikkonen would three stop and that Vettel would probably four stop. So they committed to run four stops, with Alonso pushing hard in the second and third stints. They were right about Raikkonen, but not Vettel; this merely played into their hands as we shall see.

Lotus looked at the data and concluded that although a four stop race was three seconds faster on paper, it was also more risky because of the increased risk of traffic and of things going wrong in the stops. Lotus also gives away a second to Ferrari in a pit stop on average, they simply aren’t as fast. However Lotus was the only team able to do most of the race on used medium tyres. They found them faster over a stint than new hard tyres but with similar degradation.

Starting from the dirty side, Raikkonen lost the initiative to Alonso at the start and this was crucial to the outcome, as Alonso was able to stay ahead after the first round of stops, when the field opened out.

The Ferrari’s secret as a race car is its ability to push hard on the opening laps of a stint (see fuel corrected lap time chart below, Alonso in red, Raikkonen in black) without overheating the tyres or damaging them and Alonso’s second and third stints demonstrated this perfectly.

Look at Alonso’s superior pace on the laps after his first and second stops ie where the red line dips down around laps 10 to 13 and laps 22 to 24.

In his tight battle with Raikkonen, it was the second stint in particular where he set the platform for his win, by taking his lead over the Finn out from two seconds to seven seconds. When he came out of the pits after his fourth stop, he was eight seconds ahead of Raikkonen. So that second stint was decisive.

Raikkonen was also slightly unlucky to come out from his second stop behind Vettel, who was losing time to Alonso.

On lap 38, just after the mid point of the race, they were together with one more stop to make each. Alonso was on fresh tyres, Raikkonen on 12 lap old tyres. If the Finn had been able to hold him back for longer, or to stay with him once Alonso got past, then he might have had a chance to challenge for the win, but he didn’t quite have the pace.

Lotus would not have been any better off trying four stops as this would have put them on the same strategy as Ferrari but with slightly less pace, so three stops was the right way to go.

Red Bull get in a muddle

This was not Red Bull’s greatest Grand Prix from a strategy point of view. Vettel qualified third and had the advantage of track position over Alonso in the opening stint, but lost the race and finished fourth because Red Bull fell into the classic trap of Pirelli era strategy indecision.

Red Bull tried to do three stops, couldn’t manage it and were forced to stop Vettel a fourth time, which cost them hugely. The proof of this is that he was beaten by Massa. And his team mate Webber, who started seventh, finished just behind him in fifth place.

Ferrari undercut Vettel at the first stop to gain the track position advantage and then the Red Bull driver ran three laps longer in his second stint, losing a lot of time in the process, to Alonso, Raikkonen and Massa.

But the real problem stint for Vettel was the third one, on new hard tyres. He managed only to get to lap 39, which forced him to switch to a four stop, but as it hadn’t been planned, all the time lost by trying to run longer stints counted against him.

Could Mercedes have avoided their slide?
For the second race in a row, Mercedes slid alarmingly back from their pole position slot, with Nico Rosberg ending up sixth and front row starter Lewis Hamilton faring even worse in 12th place.

Despite knowing from practice that they had high tyre degradation, Mercedes went for a three stop strategy with Rosberg and he was forced to nurse the tyres, begging the question, could he – like Vettel – have done better if he had committed to pushing harder on a four stop?

In his case the answer is probably no, but not for strategy reasons.

The evidence suggests that the Mercedes’ geometry is such that the car generates excessive temperature in the tyre, which is what triggers its loss of performance over a series of laps. This would still have been the case even if they had divided the race into five stints rather than four.

All they would have done would be to add another 20 seconds for an additional pit stop. The strategists were hamstrung by the limitations of the car.

This is not an easy thing to fix; there are various devices around the brakes and rear wheels to control the temperatures by a few degrees, but not to control the kind of temperature spikes Mercedes is getting. The fact that this appears to be a recurring problem for the team on high energy circuits, like Barcelona, shows how difficult it is to know where to start.

Tyre Strategies, Barcelona

M=Medium; H=Hard; N=New; U=Used;

Alonso:MU HU (9) HN (21) MU (36) HN (49) 4 Stops
Räikkönen: MU MU (10) MU (26) HU (45) 3 stops
Massa: MU HU (8) HN (20) MU (36) HN (51) 4 stops

Vettel: MU HN (10) HN (24) MU (39) HN (51) 4
Webber: MU HN (7) HN (20) MU (36) HN (50) 4
Rosberg: MU HN (10)HN (27) HN (47) 3
Di Resta: MU HN (9) MU (19) MU (38) HN (53) 4
Button: MN HN (11 ) HN (28) HN (46) 3

Perez: MU HN (10) HN (23) MU (38) HN (50) 4
Ricciardo: MN HN (10) MU (24) HN(39) HU 51) 4
Gutierrez: MU MU (13) HN (28) MU (42) HN (54) 4
Hamilton: MU HN (9) HN (25)MU (36) HN (50) 4
Sutil: MU MN (8) HN (22) HN (36) MU (49) 4

Maldonado: MN HN (8) MN (20)HN (35) MU (53) 5
Hülkenberg: MU MU (8) HN (21) HN (34) HU(35) MU (53)

Bottas: MN HN (9) HN (25) MN (43) 3
Pic: HN MN (8) HN (23) HN (41) 3
Bianchi: HN HN (2) HN (16) MN (29 ) HU (46) 4
Chilton: HN HN (15) MN (30) HN(47) 3

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


Courtesy of the Williams F1 Team

Note Alonso’s pace at the start of second and third stints relative to Vettel’s; also note the erratic lap times of Mercedes after first stint.

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Torchwood Five

I am very likely operating on old information, but I remember in 2012, one of the F1 engineering analysts described how Adrian Newey’s car design was set so that for Vettel to pull ahead so dominantly at the start of a race, he needed to get his car into clean air within the first two (maybe three) laps of the race, which is what I watched for at the start of the Spanish GP. For me, Rosberg leading for 13 laps, is what compromised Vettel’s performance, more than any subsequent issue with this years’ tyres.


What would have happened had Kimi not been stuck for so long behind Hamilton on the opening stint and instead had been with the leading quartet all the way, and also if he hadn’t been stuck behind Vettel in the later stint?

Could he have then been to switch to a four stop? Despite not have new rubber like Alonso, I think he could have been closer to victory.

He really needs to work out a way to pass cars better. It is hampering him massively this year. That and the less than optimal starts…


@ Jame’s website developer

Completely off topic but could you please add lightbox or a similiar plugin.

One click on a photo opening a slightly larger version on the same page would be much simplier and rewarding then clicking through until your fingers bleed only to find the same size photo—ahhhhahha.



We’ll look at it. Thanks

Tornillo Amarillo

Hamilton is surprised because he thinks that fixing the tire problem in Mercedes is not “rocket science.”

After Spain, Rosberg said the fall of Mercedes in the order was “unbelievable”.

I think when the drivers take publicly such a safety distance from your team is because something very negative is underway there.



How likely will Pirelli continue to supply tires considering all the negative coverage? Your thoughts please.


I was wondering if there’s a chance for the drivers to decide whether they prefer long-lasting tyres to the current rubbish rubbers. May be they can decide in some sort of ‘referendum’?


Mr Allen, your Race Strategy Report in sweet

and short,is simply briliant.

Please don’t sell your site and you became

as a consultant to it, it would be a miscarraige of justice to the F1 followers.

Keep it up yes.



It is telling that Pirelli were able to say without a doubt how these tyres would have affected Mercedes. It is also coming to light that the current tyre format was basically brought on to rein in Red Bull.

What’s done is done.

Moving forwards, maybe it would be prudent that Pirelli not change the tyre compounds any more. Not by a single grain of rubber, sulphur or steel. Else F1 will play into the hands of the conspiracy theorists more than they have already. Not a good thing, that.

It is fairly evident that there is a specific tyre temp window that these tyres have to operate in and that changes from track to track, sometimes from lap to lap. Under current rules It is difficult to generate the meaningful data needed to devise proper race strategy.

If more time were to be alloted for testing under race conditions (or as close to it as possible), the players can develop more data to extrapolate from. Open up the Friday practise sessions. No time limit. Dawn till dusk. That way a semblance of fairness can creep back into the sport. I think there is enough variations in temperature and mu at the upcoming tracks to keep everybody on their toes. However if the teams are armed with additional data, maybe the strategy won’t be so keystone cops.



you say that Lotus would not have been better off with a 4-stopper because they have slightly less pace than the Ferrari.

But RAI qualified ahead of ALO, and the Lotus long runs on Friday also looked very strong. So maybe it is not that clear cut?

It seems that since 2012 the default Lotus strategy is to try to do one stop less than the competition. But who knows, RAI might have been able to challenge ALO for the win on a 4-stopper.


They wanted to run on used mediums for three stints and hards for one, because they felt they had more pace that way. If you look at fuel corrected race plots of RAI and ALO you can see that the Ferrari has more pace. It was close in the end, but the Ferrari pace advantage and ALO’s start told


But Kimi could’ve pushed more on every stint with the extra stop. At least he said so after the race.


I think Lotus used up most of their tyres in Qualy chasing a good starting slot


F1 in the classic era was as much a technical challenge of car design and manufacture as it was a driver challenge. During the era of unlimited testing and money, the technical challenge seemed to ‘go-away’, cars became very reliable. This high-tyre-wear era has introduced a technical challenge back into the equation and the team(s) that can crack it through design or strategy will have an advantage and good for them. Besides which technology that reduces tyre wear may well have practical utility in the real world outside F1.


Hi James,

Do you know are Lotus trying to improve their pitstops. It seems rather silly that a team fighting for the championship is so behind in this area. Surely it also hinders strategy? If you take Vettel or Alonso pitting right behind Raikkonen at the moment, they will always pass him. Are Lotus lacking resources in this area or have they simply been jumped?

P.S Really enjoy this blog.


Interesting to see where it went wrong for Gutierrez.

For the first half of the race he was matching Button for both strategy and pace, and had track position. But somehow he only got 14 laps out of his new hard tyres in the 3rd stint – despite having made used mediums last 15 laps in the second stint – and had to switch to a 4-stopper.

I had wondered if they ran out of new tyres towards the end, but that’s not the case as he had 2 new sets of hard tyres to use in the second half of the race, the same as 3-stopping Button. Looks like his car was just not working on the hard tyre.


It seems to me from that graph that Massa backed off from chasing Raikkonen too soon. If you use Alonso’s line as a reference it seems like Massa could have been challenging Raikkonen on the last lap or two with fresher tyres.

Do we know whether it was a team instruction to back off or his own decision?


I can’t remember but I thought Massa was on the radio saying the tyres were giving up..?


Hi James, could you do an article on Mercedes tyre issues, and the general thermal management tricks that teams use for tyres?

Mark Hughes mentioned in his Sky Sports article that Mercedes were bringing some ‘as-yet secret’ development to Monaco that would help them. Hopefully it will work!


A silver painted Lotus..?


Am I right in thinking that Kimi had a new set of tyres (MN) for the race? (BBC comms suggested this after Quali)

You show that he utilised only used tyres, does that mean they prefer them to have had a heat cycle?


This is the data from Pirelli. He had no new mediums but I thought he had a set of new hards


His last stint was a set of new hards James


I thought so too, but this is Pirelli’s data


How Ferrari came out on top? Thanks to Pirelli tailor designing the tyres for the 2013 Ferrari.

Everyone and their mother knows the Ferrari of the last few years suffered the most on harder and durable tyres and was much better on softer and less durable tyres.

Pirelli gave Ferrari the perfect tyre in 2013, while the rest of the field suffered because of it.

This is competition manipulation by the ITALIAN tyre manufacturer. More and more people on internet are talking about this. Everyone saw they went too far, so let’s see what will happen next.


The Pirelli-favours-Ferrari conspiracy theory is making a comeback I see. If you’ve been awake for the last few years you’d know that’s not exactly the case as Ferrari has been relatively less than competitive on this brand of tyre.


Wow, some fan are totally ridiculous. You do know Pirelli has been in F1 since 2011 right?

So according to you Pirelli have designed specifically for Ferrari this year after RBR has taken both championships in 2011 & 2012 using Pirell tires, utterly dominating 2011 when Ferrari struggled massively on the hard tire. They didnt change anything that year to help Ferrari.

This year and like the previous years, Ferrari and Lotus have been kinder to their tires but luckily have better pace than RBR. Now after 5 races, Pirelli will change the tires to assist RBR, who is “struggling” despite still leading both championships and likely taking away Ferrari AND Lotus’ advantage.

And you think Pirelli is favoring Ferrari and only Ferrari? Where have you been the last few years? I only wish they had “favored” their Italian compatriots from 2011! They’re quite late to give Ferrari an unfair advantage don’t you think?!?


I think you got this wrong.


So why are they still struggling in qualifying?

Also, Bernie and Luca have been at war for a few years, do you honestly believe Bernie would let Pirelli favour Ferrari? Jeez!!


‘So why are they still struggling in qualifying?’

Because Alonso doesn’t have the outright qualifying speed compared to drivers like Vettel or Hamilton. On race day, Alonso’s currently the fastest, though.


Alonso said qualifying is irrelevant and that is correct. Just ask Mercedes, lol.

The Pirellis fit perfectly under the Ferrari with their characteristics. It’slike they were made for Ferrari.

And looking at how Pirelli always talks bad about RBR and how they say in interviews and on their Twitter how they are stopping RBR winning a 4th title, it is easy to see the connection.

Bernie has been trying to change the Pirelli tyres characteristics for over a season now, what are you on about? He actually achieved it second half of the season and now he again is saying that Pirelli is doing it wrong and they did not ask for this. ANd what do you see? Pirelli changes it again.

But they will make sure it still benefits Ferrari. And this title will be thanks to Pirelli, not Alonso.


Bernie achieved it second half of last season… And what do you see?

Really! It needs spelling out? All of a sudden, Bernies favoured son had a dominant car again.



Red Bull were decisive. They were just as decisive as Ferrari/Lotus were.

They started WEB on 4-stop and VET on 3-stop as VET was thought to be better on his tyres). They committed to those from the start (from qualifying even).

They then had to adjust VET when it didn’t work as the tyres did not work as they expected.

So it looked like Ferrari/Lotus made a plan and stuck with it, because it worked as expected. It looked like RB/VET were indecisive because their chosen plan did not work. If VET had stayed with 3 stop it would have been worse – so why should they have been ‘decisive and stuck with their plan’?

That’s not a question of decisiveness, that’s a matter of execution (or randomness of tyres/temperature if you prefer).


I believe Horner said somewhere that their plan for Vettel was to use a different strategy to Alonso, as they could not beat him on the same strategy. Hence they tried 3-stop when they saw that Alonso is 4-stopping.

Of course, they should have kept an eye on Massa!


Best analysis (so far!).

But I think that Merc can’t keep the other guys behind them in Monaco. My guess would be 1-2 lock out in quali, then 3rd and 5th in race.

Lotus can’t pass them, but RBR and Ferrari will – also because ALO and VET are willing to risk more than RAI.


If Red Bull and Mercedes all of a sudden jump clearly to the top of the leader table by mid season I will be sincerely surprised and sincerely angry. If teams are complaining about the tires from a safety point of view then that’s fine but if they’re arguing purely from a lack of success point of view then that’s ridiculous. I’m not sure if any of the team principals have done any research into the history of F1 but tire management has been as much a part of reliability and pace as aero or engine or chassis design for as long as the sport has been around. Just get on with the racing. The races have been great so far this year and the championship is shaping up to be close and exciting.


I honestly believe that RBR are truly scared of Ferrari this year. If they were dominating even with “gummy” tyres, do you think we’d have had this fall out?

They are leading both championships because of Ferrari problems, not because of inherent speed. Other than China, when they decided not to run in Q3, RBR has started ahead of Ferrari but been beaten when Alonso has finished.



The past is the past, the team principals I’m sure know the history if F1 but they are bothered about right here, right now. Yes tyre conservation has always been part of managing performance, BUT not the the extent it has governed this season so far. The package needs to made up of 4 main parts in the correct quatities, say 20% strategy, 20% tyres, 20% car and 40% driver not 30% strategy, 40% tryes,15% car and 15% driver. The balance needs restoring.

Also of you think seeing and hearing drivers say “do I fight” or “i can’t drive any slower” is exciting racing then I must have misuderstood what F1 has always been about.




James, a lot of people are assuming that the upcoming change of tyres announced by Pirelli for Canada will hurt Ferrari and Lotus.

Is that what you really think? To me it looks like they have good tyre management and thermal management and it works for them now and will work for them post the upcoming change as well. Your thoughts pls….


Correct, they are good at it so why shouldn’t they be good with the new tyres?

The point is that the move back to 2012 construction will reduce the negative influence on their rivals of poor thermal management

Ie their weakness isn’t so significant any more


Any chance this will help Williams? They seem lost, but I’m not sure if its just the tires.


I suspect tyres are fairly irrelevant for Williams – it has got fundamental aerodynamic problems, probably at both ends of the car, with behaviour that changes depending on the corner speed.


James is that right I thought Raikkonens last pit was HN ?

Either way its mightily impressive he was the only guy to do 3 stops and all 3 mediums were used sets. Massa had 2 sets of New hards!- in fact most of the front runners had 2 sets of HN.

He is in a class of his own – no two ways about it


How is Kimi in a class of his own? The Lotus has been known to be good on its tires for the last 2 years. All he has done is exploited that as any seasoned GP winner or champion should. There is nothing particularly exceptional otherwise. When people speak of the top 3 drivers in F1… And I refer to polls of current drivers and team bosses also, he is not in with a shout for the top spot. He’s just knocking on the door of the top 3.. That’s about it.


Winning or finishing second at almost every race whilst your very quick team mate struggles to be in the top 10. Is one thing. His tyre and race management are second to none that’s how and even those on the podium acknowledge that.

Alonso and Hamilton have both said he is driving brilliantly atm. There is talk that more than one team are after his services.

No driver, including the above can do 1 less stop and be withinn eye shot of the top spot whilst still doing identical lap times to the leader and sometimes faster- in any car. He is as good or better than anyone in the field right now. The same people who you think are saying that wrote him off last year and this year they are offering him drives.

Just because he is silent and aloof doesn’t make him stupid or slow.I hope people like you keep underestimating him because it means they can focus on on the guys that beat on their chest and tell the world they are the best- while he comes through and wins.


It is very simple. Australia, Kimi won with a similar strategy. Ferrari was cought off guard there. In Spain they were ready to deal with Kimi because they focused on what he might do. Besides Lotus needs faster pit stops. They waste too much time. And Kimi needs to improve his start. He always loses his starting position. So he needs to climb back. In one race he can win despite that but not in all of them


The Ferrari is relatively faster than it was in Aus – thats the single biggest difference and has better launching clutch/ procedure than anyone on the grid. Still surprised because Lotus e20 last year take offs were among the best. Barcelona was not too bad given Kimi started on dirty side.

Sure Kimi had same solid strategy in Australia but he also had the fastest car too. The speed of his second last lap on very old tyres was proof in the pooding!

Clearly Lotus have improved pits stops by 1.4s over last year. But they have another 1 sec to make up now. Im sure their working hard but you have to remember Ferrari/ Red Bull can throw so much more resources than Lotus have- every time!


I, too, think that Lotus couldn’t have matched Ferrari’s pace even with the same strategy.

There are still some lingering ifs and buts, however. Had Räikkönen been able to hold Alonso at bay in the start and then decisively committed to four-stopping and undercutting Alonso at every opportunity, do you think he might’ve had a chance of taking advantage of the fact that even with DRS, passing was not a trivial ordeal without a considerable difference in pace?

While it’s surely impossible to give a definite answer, I think this boils down to whether Alonso would have had such advantage in pace at the beginning of each stint.


Lotus’ pit stop is beyond miserable…

They should undercut Alonso on the first pit stop…. and then try to run 4 stopper.

And they also need more downforce to improve their raw pace….

heinzman (Fan of ALO)

The changes should not be made off the back off a frantic Catalunya pit lane. There have been murmurings about tyres for 12 months.

It does not help with identities like Martin Brundle and DC demanding ‘I want to see racing’, and stirring the uninformed casual fanbase into a frenzy. Sadly they are a big audience these days, and Bernie wants their cash.

Remove tyres as the limiting factor and there will always be a team dominating. The line between what we have now and the Schumacher days is very fine.


To be fair I think Martin mentioned to the effect, the current situation isn’t great but he didn’t want to go back to the days where teams finished in exactly the same order they qualified (barring mechanical issues)


You actually called the people who want to see proper racing, with drivers pushing themselves and the cars to the limit without being limited by cheese tyres and driving to slow delta times ‘uninformed casual fanbase’?

Now I have read it all.


It is pretty popular on here and other sites to accuse anyone that does not agree with you as uninformed and casual.

F1 and for that matter any sport can’t survive without those fans.


That doesn’t change the fact that as well as the hard-core F1 fans, many more viewers are transient – call them what you like, perhaps casual and uninformed isn’t fully accurate but it’s close enough.


I think you have misunderstood his point.

The uninformed casual fanbase are the viewers who tune in because of pre-event advertising. They are fickle and need entertaining, hence the need for multiples passes.

People who have watched F1 for more than 5 years have a genuine passion for it, they may be angry with certain rules or drivers action but have formed the backbone of viewing figures before Sky ever got involved.

A few years ago, I read a report that American networks covering the World Cup didn’t want 45 minutes per half, they wanted to break the game up into 15 minute segments as it would be better for their viewers, ie more advertising revenue because they supposedly have short attention spans. It may also explain why short oval track racing is so popular there!

I once replied to a poster on another site regards Senna vs Vettel. I have no problem people having their own opinion about any subject, but she admitted she’d only been watching F1 since 2009 and had never even seen Senna race. This to me was the epitome of the uninformed casual viewer.


“will make changes from the seventh round, Montreal, onwards.”

They promised that for Barcelona too! They will make the same promise for Silverstone, and then, for Budapest… they will bring the perfect sets of tyres for Austin — just like last season.

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