Inside track on how Raikkonen and Grosjean gave Vettel a run for his money
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Strategy Report
Posted By: James Allen  |  09 Jul 2013   |  7:17 am GMT  |  166 comments

The German Grand Prix was a thrilling tactical battle between Red Bull and Lotus that led to a nail-biting finish.

This was brought about by upgrades to the Lotus making it close on performance with the Red Bull and by Pirelli bringing tyres, which encouraged some experimentation with strategy.

It wasn’t as interesting a tactical battle as it might have been had the safety car not been deployed after 24 laps, but it was still one of the best of the year.

Pre-Event considerations

The weather was good on Friday during practice allowing teams to evaluate the new specification Pirelli rear tyres, brought to this event as a response to the failures at Silverstone the week before.

Practice showed that the soft tyre was faster than the medium by up to 1.5 seconds per lap, but it degraded much more quickly. Estimates for the first stint of the Grand Prix were around 6-8 laps on the soft before they would need changing.

Ferrari went a different route from its rivals, choosing to qualify – and therefore start the race – on the medium tyre, as it felt it did not have the pace to challenge for the front of the grid in qualifying.

It was set to be an interesting race, with strategists facing a real challenge to manage the stop times and the use of the two tyre compounds.


Lotus challenges and almost beats Red Bull

The main battle in the race was between Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull and the Lotus pair of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean.

All three were starting the race on used soft tyres from qualifying. The temperatures were high, which slightly favoured the Lotus and when Romain Grosjean played himself into contention with a long opening stint of 13 laps on the soft tyres, he was ready to challenge Vettel for the win.

Lotus’ plan was to try to undercut Vettel; to force the Red Bull driver to stop earlier than he would normally want to, extending his next stint length so that his tyres would lose performance. The Lotus is known to be able to maintain tyre performance for longer stints, especially on hot days.

The plan was thwarted by the deployment of the safety car on lap 24, due to a Marussia that had rolled back across the track, having been abandoned.

This forced everyone into stopping immediately – once a safety car has been deployed a driver has to stop (unless he has just done so) as the others all will, so he will never get away from cars behind him on fresh tyres.

From then on, it was a three stop race for everyone and Vettel was able to manage his stint lengths and not run into tyre trouble. Grosjean pitted a lap before him on Lap 40, but unfortunately he had dropped off Vettel by a second at that point and so he wasn’t able to undercut.

Meanwhile Raikkonen was also in play for Lotus. He had stopped earlier than Grosjean, on lap 8, as Lotus felt his tyre performance was dropping off but it cost him as he got stuck behind Rosberg in the Mercedes. Raikkonen fell back from three seconds to 13 seconds behind Vettel in the second stint.

However he was given a second chance to attack by the safety car, which closed the gap up again. Lotus considered letting Raikkonen run to the finish on the same set of tyres. With 12 laps to go he had a 15 second lead over Vettel after the German’s third stop. But his tyres were already 16 laps old and there were 19 laps to go. 35 laps on a set of tyres seemed too much.

Painful memories of China last year, where Raikkonen ran out of tyres in the final laps and failed to score points, meant that they didn’t feel inclined to gamble and have him fall behind Alonso.

They left him out for eight laps after Vettel’s stop, to get into a window where he could use the soft tyres for an 11 lap late race attack. Lotus felt that this was the only possibility at this stage, as the softs were much faster than the mediums. Making him do any more than 11 laps on the softs at the end was a risk, given his performance in practice, where he had suffered worse degradation than Grosjean.

He lost a little time getting past Grosjean, who accepted that his team mate was on a different strategy and so let him past. But Raikkonen didn’t have enough pace on the soft tyres at the end to pass Vettel.


Safety car ruins it for Lotus

In fact, although on the face of it the safety car helped Raikkonen, allowing him to make up the time lost behind Rosberg, it actually hurt his race strategy, as it did Grosjean’s. Lotus’ strategists were planning to get him through the race on a two-stop strategy, so he would have come into play later in the race.

The safety car took away all the flexibility in the race and pushed most people onto the same strategy, taking away the element of surprise Lotus was planning.


Ferrari zig while others zag

Faced with another qualifying session where they were likely to end up on the grid behind Mercedes, Red Bull and even Lotus, Ferrari opted to try something different. The idea was to qualify – and start – on the medium tyre, run a longer first stint than their rivals on soft tyres, who would have to pit early and come back out into traffic. Ferrari would then take advantage of the laps where the Red Bulls, Mercedes and Lotus were cutting through traffic to build a margin and then jump some of them at their first stop.

This strategy was based on the theory that the soft tyre would fall apart quickly and the medium would be quicker over the stint.

It didn’t work, mainly because the Ferrari couldn’t get the medium tyre warmed up at the start and Alonso fell to 8th, behind Ricciardo in the opening stint. Massa got himself into a better position, sixth, but went out of the race on lap four. Alonso pitted on lap 12, which was a lap before Grosjean who was on the soft, so the plan was in trouble from the start.

Alonso was fast in the final stint of the race on new soft tyres and kept the Lotus pair honest, but in reality the Ferrari strategy was made to look more effective than it was by the safety car intervention. Before it intervened, Alonso was almost 20 seconds behind the leader Vettel.

When a car doesn’t have the pace, its unusual for gambles like this to work. Red Bull tried it with Vettel in China, where he didn’t have the pace and it didn’t work there either.


A word on Williams
The Williams team went into the German Grand Prix still without a point after eight rounds of the championship – an unprecedented situation for the team.

Although the car didn’t have much pace, which is why they qualified 17th and 18th, they tried a two-stop strategy, which required the drivers to manage the tyres while maintaining a strong rhythm and they almost pulled it off, with Maldonado in the points before his final stop. Sadly what let them down were the pitstops themselves where a persistent wheel gun problem lost both drivers time.

Unlike Alonso, the Williams drivers were able to stay out on their medium tyres at the start until laps 21 and 22. Bottas lost 13 seconds in his first stop, which dropped him back into traffic, while Maldonado was running seventh prior to his final stop, where the wheel gun struck again and he lost 16 seconds.

Had the stop been normal, he would have come out into a battle behind Hulkenberg, with Di Resta and Ricciardo, for the final points position with fresher tyres.

Tyre Strategies

Vettel: SU MN (7) MU (24) MN (41) 3 stops
Räikkönen:SU MN (8) MN (24) SU (49) 3
Grosjean: SU MN (13) MN (24) MU (40) 3
Alonso: MU MN (12) MN (24) SN (49) 3
Hamilton: SU MN (6) MU (22) MN (45) 3
Button: MN MU (21) SN (47) 2
Webber: SU MU (8)MN (23) MU (38) 3
Perez: SN MN (7) MN (24) 2
Rosberg: MN MU (16) MN (24) SN (48) 3
Hülkenberg MN MN (17 ) MN (37) SN (49) 3

Di Resta: SU MN (4) MN (24) 2
Ricciardo: SU MN (5) MN (18) MN (40) 3
Sutil: SN MN (5) MN (24) MU (43) 3
Gutierrez: SN MN (6) MN (22) MU (41) 3
Maldonado: MN MN (21) SN (50) 2
Bottas: MN MN (22) SN (54) 2
Pic: SN MN (4) MN (24) MN (34) 3
Van Der Garde: SN MN (5) MN (19) MN (38) 3
Chilton: SN MN (8) MN (20) MU (26) MU (37) 4

N=New; U=used; S=Soft; M=Medium

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

RACE HISTORY CHART

Kindly provided by Williams F1 Team

Note Raikkonen’s trace (in solid yellow) and compare it with other two stoppers like Di Resta and Perez – had Raikkonen tried to stay out on his second set of tyres, his performance would have dropped off and he would perhaps have been caught by Alonso.

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1

I think lotus should have been more 1 driver focused. Like the way Ross Brawn runs a team. Grosjean should have let Kimi through after the safety car. When Vettel had the KERS problem because he was pushed (so much that the KERS overheat). Kimi would be more confident in striking an overtake.

2

did webber pit at safty car period.

3

Webber pitted on laps 8 (disaster), 23 and 38.

Vettel got the fastest, 2nd fastest and 23rd fastest pit stops of the race.

Webber got the 18th, 21st, and slowest pit stops.

Go figure…

4

Pirelli now taking soft and medium tyres to hungary rather than Hard medium, should suit Lotus again

5

Yes, surprised that they can change the compounds in whatever way they want to nullifying their own earlier decisions even though it affects WDC so much.

6

Amazing article as always.

But you missed the point that Raikkonen’s lead fell by nearly two seconds before his final stop. That would have surely prompted Lotus to pit and avoid a repeat of China 2013.

7

Anyone knows what happened to Alonso at the end of the race and why he wasn’t penalized for not driving his car to the paddock?

8

This season is already done, thanks to Pirelli…no consistent title contender except redbull and vettel. I think webber should have stopped this year, he is only proving his decline by staying.

9

34 point gap with 250 remaining? Don’t blame you for giving up though, Vettel’s been almost impeccable so far 😉

10

Do you recall silverstone, maylasia, monarco,australia,canada.

11

whats with the points system. thats plain ridiculous!

12

Hello James, Vetel and Grosjean pitted on lap 24 but on your gragh they did not loose time for this.

Is that because of the deployment of the safety car?

13

It’s a shame that the Red Bull’s are so far superior to the rest of the field. How close and exciting would this C’ship be otherwise with Ferrari, Mercedes and Lotus.

This season is a write off already in regards to the WDC/WCC but I am fascinated as to who will come second, especially with the Constructors.

14

RBRs superior? Mercedes is the fastest car, only limited on full tanks. Ferrari and Lotus have same race pace as RBR, sometimes faster (like Lotus this weekend).

People will say anything to diminish Vettel’s performance, eh?

15

In a grand prix there are about sixty laps plus twelve or so in quail. If you average over all those laps and over the season, with the different weather conditions, you have a clear winner: Red Bull. And by quite a margin.

I know there are some hardcore Vettel fans here. I am not the one to disabuse you by saying he is not the best, as it is ok with me that you think so. But man, if his car is not the best, then he must be Superman or ALO and HAM incompetents.

So please, you are free to think he is the best, but do not despise his opponents by making skewed analysis.

16

@Bart

Nice to see somebody trying to give a balanced view, and trying to be unbiased. This said, you still are missing a bit. First five races of the season, it was pretty even. Red Bull superior regarding pure performance but not able to put it together in the races. Three races were Ferrari had advantage in race peace (Australia, China (slightly) and Spain), and two were the advantage was on Red Bull side (Malaysia (slightly) and Bahrein). However, Ferrari had to compensate from not very good starting positions, which is a big handicap. Then, in wet conditions, Red Bull miles ahead.

From then on (Monaco, Canada, Silverstone and Germany) Red Bull has had a big advantage over Ferrari. So as you can see, overall the difference is quite bigger than what you said.

Then regarding 2012, that Ferrari was way worse than 2013 Red Bull. A big difference there. Since Barcelona they were much better, but the first four races they where absolutely nowhere, probably one of the worst cars (not including Hispania, Caterham and Marusia). But it is true that in the wet the performance was much better.

17

@Yago – Indeed RBR have the slightly better car this year, but not by a big margin. Alonso is barely a win’s worth of points behind. That doesn’t make him incompetent, even if his car was equal.

Vettel’s been very consistent this year, and that has played a part in the RB9 looking as if it is further ahead than it actually is. A bit like Alonso’s consistency last year probably flattering the Ferrari (the RB9 this year is a bit better than the F2012 was last year, but still).

18

@SteveS

I will try to explain it so it is easy to understand, as some of you seem to choose those facts that bring you to the conclusion you are aiming for, instead of taking into account the whole picture.

Each team has two titular drivers. To compare the relative performance of two cars, you have to take into account the performance of FOUR drivers, not just three. As you only included ALO, VET and WEB your analysis is skewed. Try to do it again including MAS, and you will conclude Red Bull is the superior car.

But don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean ALO is better than VET, nor the other way around. I’m not trying to do that type of comparison, what I am just saying is something pretty clear for any UNBIASED fan with a minimum knowledge of F1: the Red Bull is the better car.

19

“If you average over all those laps and over the season, with the different weather conditions, you have a clear winner: Red Bull.”

No, you don’t. You have “Vettel”. Not “Red Bull”.

If the Bull’s were remotely as good as people like you keep suggesting, then the man in the No 2 Red Bull should be runner up every year. In fact it has not happened even once. And it’s not going to happen this year either.

20
Tornillo Amarillo

Oh James, if teams cannot swap tyres anymore, that means a death certificate for QUALIFY?

I mean, if teams used tyres for qualify and the same tyre in race but in the opposite side of the car, since this is ban from now on, who is going to put laps in qualify?

21

I disagree with comparing DIR and PER stints to RAI,s pace. For anyone who knows how to read a graph that comaprison shows exactly the opposite of what James argues. Sorry mate, no respect 🙁

22

I was curious about the early timing of Ricciardo’s first stop on the primes, he did just 13 laps on that set. Was there a particular problem that he had? That early second stop really hurt him when the safety car came out 5 laps later, allowing those behind him on tack to get fresher tyres, and ultimately costing him a point or two.

23
Ross McDougall

James why did seb (and Lewis )put on worn mediums when they still had a set of new mediums when when everyone pitted for the safety car, was this due to it being a short stint or so they had a new set to change to at their final stop in order to better fight the chalenge from lotus and Ferrari ?

24

Hamilton pitted one lap before the safety car, and Alonso was behind him. If he had the lucky to pit as everyone did, using the safety car period, he would be fighting with the leaders!

Alonso was close to the Lotuses, and Hamilton was lapping at the same performance than RB, Lotus or Ferrari at the end. So, I think he could get a podium in Germany.

Another interesting point, is that Mercedes can start to benefit more and more from safety cars, because they tend to be deployed from the begining to the middle of the race, and that compensates the time Mercede loses in high fuel. They need to think more about the strategies…

25

For a crash strapped team like Lotus, getting a big haul of constructors points is a lot more important than maximizing Kimi’s (rather slim) shot at the WDC. Their race strategy is going to reflect that outlook.

26

There’s no way of knowing whether Lotus would have been able to pull off a successful two-stop strategy, and thus whether that strategy was “ruined” by the safety car. Given that they were consistently lapping at the same speed as Vettel, it seems unlikely they that their tyre wear could have been much less. Usually the cars on fewer stops are noticeably slower than those doing more stops.

27

Is it sadly ironic that F1 is moving toward more sustainable engine technology while at the same time using tires, which are made from barrels and barrels of oil, at the rate of four every eight laps? Yes. Yes it is.

28

It isn’t about “sustainable engine technology”. It IS about “Race on Sunday, sell cars on Monday”. Nearly all of the F1 teams that produce road cars have gone to turbocharged engines and hybrid power for their super and performance roadcars – EXCEPT Ferrari, who are doing Ferrari-sourced turbo engines for Maserati but not their own cars AFAIK.

F1 is about marketing – and teams want that linkage to their road cars. In fact, Renault, Mercedes and even McLaren are DEMANDING it.

29

Actually, it is about “sustainable technology.” That’s been the line from the FIA from the get-go.

Regardless, the wastage of tires this year is an under-reported environmental blight on this sport.

30

I agree with you that has been the tag line in public, BUT the whole manoeuvring behind the scenes has been that Renault and Mercedes AMG have gone to turbos in all of their high performance cars, and the link to large, normally aspirated engines was gone. With McLaren powering their new road cars with turbo units as well, the power shifted from Ferrari, who were the last normally aspirated supercar left in F1.

Remember, it wasn’t that long ago that we had similar turbos, on small-sized engines, and there was NO mention of “sustainable technology” back when Senna drove one.

31
Seán Craddock

Great analysis as always James of what turned out to be an incredibly interesting race! One can only wonder if Lotus could have done it had the safety car not hurt their strategy.

Just one thing, this line should be changed. How many laps to go were there? Because if it was 12 with 15sec lead I would have liked to see Kimi try to go to the end.

“With 12 laps to go he had a 15 second lead over Vettel after the German’s third stop. But his tyres were already 16 laps old and there were 19 laps to go.”

32

Looks like the correct figure when Kimi was 15 secs ahead of Seb is 19 laps to go.

http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/2013/07/07/2013-german-grand-prix-lap-times-and-fastest-laps/

33
All revved-up

Love the Race History Chart.

Webber’s graph line must be one of the most unusual to-date.

34

For the second straight race, I think that the strategists at Lotus blew it again for Kimi. Kimi could have won the German GP if they didn’t pit him for the option tyres with 10 laps to go. He was ahead of Vettel by 15 seconds with 13 laps to go and Vettel wasn’t catching Kimi at more than a second a lap.

Yes, I understand that Lotus were having radio problems, but they could still hear Kimi at a few places on track. I think that Kimi wanted to stay out.

I know that asking the prime tyres to do a 35 lap stint seems like a lot, but Grosjean was able to do 13 laps on the option tyres with full fuel in the beginning of the race.

To me, that demonstrated to me just how good the Lotus is on their tyres.

35

You aren’t allowing for the fact that the medium tyres drop off a cliff in performance at a certain point

They had all the models telling them that they risked losing to Alonso in closing laps if that happened

36

So ferrari didn’t calculate the strategy correctly and or the car simply doesn’t have the pace. But the question is who said that this is the best strategy for the German gp, stefano? Pat? And who’s fault is ferrari doesn’t have the pace ? Stefano? Pat?

37

It was the strategy team in Maranello

They have a pretty good record on the whole

38
Danny Almonte

Lotus are pretenders. They will stick to their conservative strategy and hope for the odd podium or two. They need hot weather to perform like Mercedes seems to need the cold.

39

They are no pretenders at all. Yes they’re punching well above their weight but they should be taken seriously and given credit where its due.

I think MANY people would love to see Lotus become really successful.

40
Tornillo Amarillo

Sad for GROSJEAN, he had the upper hand in Nurburgring, but it wasn’t his day.

Ferrari, McLaren & co. should notice that Mercedes is fast in qualify and also in the last stint, it means in LOW FUEL, so we should take that into account regarding race strategies, shouldn’t we?

41

Just a comment to say thank you for this and all the other terrific posts. I thoroughly enjoy the insights and information — and that you respond to people who ask questions or make points. Impressive!

42

Webber’s trace looks like a very scary rollercoaster ride.

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