In Depth insight: Behind the scenes reading of the Australian GP
Insight
Strategy Report
Posted By: James Allen  |  18 Mar 2014   |  5:02 pm GMT  |  204 comments

The first Grand Prix run to the new 1.6 litre hybrid turbo formula featured some fascinating strategy details, some inspired decision-making and plenty for the drivers and strategy engineers to work with.

This season with the UBS Race Strategy Report we will continue our groundbreaking analysis of the key moments of the race, but with enhanced co-operation from teams, to bring an even more in-depth review of the key decisions, to help bring fans closer to the race action.


Aborted start
The original start had to be aborted, as the Marussia of Jules Bianchi failed to get off the grid. This was important because it stretched the teams into procedures that hadn’t been used for quite some time and very few of the teams, especially those with pre-season test problems, will have practiced an aborted start procedure. So this will have put quite a few people off balance and led to several cars having less than ideal starts. This was an early example of reliability dominating the racing at this stage and forcing teams into starting in a less than perfect way having prepared the cars for initial start.

Early in the race Lewis Hamilton, who had lost two places off the start, retired his Mercedes and world champion Sebastian Vettel retired the Red Bull. This meant that two strong competitors were taken out of the equation, creating opportunities for others to get a strong result.


Safety Car plays a decisive role – Button makes big gains

As we spelled out in the pre race UBS Race Strategy Briefing, Melbourne has a 60% likelihood of a safety car, due to the difficulty of moving damaged or stranded cars on this walled circuit. But some teams raised that likelihood to 80%, factoring in reliability concerns with the new technology and also the difficulty of driving these new generation cars, particularly on corner exits lined with walls. All weekend we saw cars clipping the barriers as drivers struggled with power delivery.

On lap 10 a hard charging Valtteri Bottas hit the wall, puncturing his tyre and leaves debris from a damaged wheel rim on track. This caused Race Control to bring out the safety car. At the moment it was deployed, Jenson Button was 6 seconds away from pit lane entry and he made the decision, in quick conference with the team, to come in for a tyre stop. He was fighting the three cars ahead of him, Raikkonen, Vergne and Kvyat, none of whom took the same decision to stop on that lap, but instead did a costly extra lap at the reduced safety car speed limit.

By being first to stop, Button jumped all three of them, moving from 9th to 6th and setting himself up for a strong result after a poor qualifying.


Bottas benefits from his own error

Ironically, Bottas caused the safety car, but also benefitted from it. He dropped from 6th to 15th due to his puncture and was 106 seconds behind the race leader, but because the safety car closed the field up, he was only 8 seconds behind the leader at the restart and able to easily pass the cars ahead of him to rise back up to 6th.

Another key point about the Safety car was that it allowed the cars to enter fuel saving mode, which helped them to get to the finish on this high fuel consumption circuit without problems.

Raikkonen lost out in this phase due to the Ferrari stop arrangements, as he had to back off to allow Alonso to pit and for the mechanics to reset, ultimately losing 2 places under the safety car to Button and Vergne. Sutil and Maldonado stayed out, but the strategy didn’t bring either of them a result.

After the restart, we saw the pace advantage of the Mercedes, as Rosberg set about rebuilding the lead he had lost due to the safety car. He pulled away from Ricciardo at around 1.3 seconds per lap, a greater than the margin Vettel had over rivals in the final part of the 2013 season.


The tyre graining phase

In the second stint, from lap 25 onwards, the left front tyres started to grain. This meant the lap times dropped a bit for many of the runners. They did recover, but crucially some drivers were able to close up some gaps in this time. Alonso closed on Hulkenberg, for example in their battle for fourth and fifth places. Bottas in 9th took over 3 seconds out of Raikkonen who was clearly struggling with the handling of the Ferrari, especially in the braking zones.


Mercedes makes the most of its margin over the rest

A graphic illustration of the improvement of the Mercedes in all areas came in the run up to the second stops. Last season Mercedes often found that it wasn’t able to dictate strategy due to overusing the tyres in races. But Rosberg was able to manage the gap to his pursuers and had the luxury of delaying his second stop. It takes just over 22 seconds to make a stop in Melbourne and his strategy team was monitoring the second place car, Ricciardo, relative to Raikkonen, waiting for Raikkonen to be more than 22 secs behind Ricciardo at which point they knew that the Australian would stop; he wouldn’t do it before as he would not want to be held up after his stop.

Ricciardo get the margin and duly stopped on lap 36, so Rosberg could then pit safely and still retain lead even if there was a sudden safety car.

This is a perfect example of the reactive strategy approach, where a team monitors the car behind relative to other cars that are within its pit stop loss time and reacts to its moves.


Melbourne proves difficult for overtaking

A graphic illustration of how hard it is to overtake in Melbourne, particularly late in the race, came from the Magnussen and Ricciardo fight. From lap 50 onwards, Magnussen attacked Ricciardo. The gap came down to 0.7 secs, but the McLaren could not pass the Red Bull, despite having a straight-line speed advantage of 24km/h. On lap 51, for example Magnussen went through the speed trap at 309km/h to Ricciardo’s 273km/h. At that stage there were a lot of tyre marbles off the racing line and there is the perennial problem of Melbourne being a narrow track, with most corners having a single line into them.

This should not be a problem at the next race in Sepang, which has many multiple line corners and two consecutive long straights. Given this and the variety in straight-line speeds we are likely to see a lot of overtaking in Sepang.

Ferrari makes a mistake on strategy

Although they played a good hand in their battle with Force India to get Fernando Alonso ahead of Nico Hulkenberg, Ferrari failed to cover Jenson Button at the second stop and as a result Alonso lost an important fourth place to him, as it turned into a podium with the disqualification of Ricciardo for fuel flow irregularities.

Button pitted on lap 32 and Ferrari did not cover it with a stop, but instead left Alonso out until lap 35. They did this was because they did not think that they could reach the finish on lap 58 on a set of medium tyres from lap 32. In fact that proved not to be difficult.

This raises a very important point at this early stage of the season: tyre testing is limited on Fridays now due to restrictions on engine mileage, as each driver has just five engines. This means that tyre simulations are even more heavily relied on than ever and this episode revealed that McLaren’s model was better than Ferrari’s.

It must also be noted that Ferrari said that they were managing an electrical problem on both cars throughout the race, which meant that they were down on maximum power.

The UBS Race Strategy Report is prepared by JA on F1, with input and data from several F1 teams, from JA on F1 technical adviser Mark Gillan and from Pirelli

RACE HISTORY GRAPH

Courtesy of Williams Martini Racing

[Click on graph to enlarge to full size]

The zero line is the average lap speed of the race winner, expressed as a constant reference point. The graph illustrates the changes of position, but also the gaps between cars. The pace advantage of the Mercedes is very clear.

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1

Sorry to go on about the fuel issue again but do we know roughly what was the offending flow rate during the race? It has been reported that several teams had issue, were they all affected equally? Were they all the same engine supplier.?

2

I have been watching f1 since 1996 and first time i feel sorry for the guys competing there. I really don`t want to feel like this because this is not my problem, but i really liked f1 and there was something very extractive to me. This is not about the noise as majority of the people think. There was some kamikaze effect and now it`s gone. May be life just looks for the middle ground and extreme competition is the thing from the past but this i see in my everyday life enough to not to absorb it more from f1.

Journalism is just the side effect and it is natural for them to make headlines big. This is in correlation to their paycheck.

New technology is super, i`ll love it. That`s the way to go but there are too many people having a say about how the racing should be.

4

I read those fro Toto, but I hope Hamilton’s emotions get the best of him and he says, “To hell with it!”

5

The graphs usually flatter the winner, with some of the other runners backing off when the game appears un winnable. But in this case the superiority of the Brawn car is underemphasised by what appears to be holding back after quickly establishing a decent lead.

They have the same engine package as many others but appear to have eliminated the errors of the past season. That they have such a large margin over McLaren gives them plenty of room to adjust their race strategy if this is the pattern for the rest of the season. While the rest have to drive flat out, it appears that Nico can roll along with his elbow on the door and keep his engine unstressed.

Red Bull always use a lot of aerodynamic downforce to allow fast cornering. You can’t get downforce without adding lots of drag, so speed is lower on the straights. To compensate they need lots of power, so that may explain why the FIA noted illegally high levels of fuel use just to keep up with being second best.

How much more would they have needed to get on level terms?

It’s probably time Red Bull ditched Adrian and called in Ross.

Talking of ditching, it’s not too soon to give Perez his cards after yet another pointless and dismal race, and apologise to DeResta.

6

Fantastic report James and crew. Did anybody notice that during pit stops most teams had two guys one on either side of the car who put their hands on the air intake box above the driver’s head? In slow motion review they do not appear to be cleaning anything – just holding onto that part of the vehicle. Does anybody out there know what they are actually doing?

7

Yes, I saw that too.

I expect they are both pushing against each other to keep the car steady, to make it easier for the wheel changers to do their job.

8

Thanks OzHerb – Your explanation makes good sense to me. Let’s keep an eye on it for the next few races.

9

Why is the fuel consumption so high on this track? It isn’t that much of a “stop and go” track is it…

10

Totally un-related to the topic of the post. But James, do you have info on what is gonna happen to the Nurburgring? I heard they sold it to an automotive group called Capricon. Do you have more info on that? Maybe sometime when we’re covering the German Grand Prix weekend this year?

I love The Ring and I am particularly sad with how things are developing with it. And all of this is happening when I am finally moving to Germany!!

Thanks in Advance.

11

I’ll look into it

12

James do you really think Alonso could have got ahead of Jenson in the final pit-stop?

Ferrari’s pace was very por from lights to the finish and Mclaren looked very strong in the final stint. I think alonso or Ferrari would have never stood a chance to fend off jenson even if they had chosen the correct pit-stop window/ timing?

Your thoughts james?

13

He was ahead of him anyway…

14

Have Ferrari made any comments about Raikkonen’s DRS? I noticed a couple of occasions when he could have used it but didn’t. Was it broken, and if so was it a significant disadvantage?

16

RIP FORMULA1:-(

17

As always great analysis but your graph has blown my theory out of the water that Ricciardo was punished because he turned up his engine at the end to defend against Magnusson. You can clearly see that the new McLaren super star backed off to try and recharge his batteries before a final push at the end. I wonder if more work needs to be done in the simulator to ensure he doesn’t back off to much in the future as this seems to be how he did not get that extra position.

I think it is obvious that red bull new exactly what they were doing with regards to their disqualification, it’s a shame ricciardo was punished but as they say you win as a team and you lose as a team!

18

I seem to remember hearing McLaren telling their driver to harvest some more kinetic energy in readiness for a final push for second place. It didn’t leave enough laps for that to happen, but as it emerged, there was no need.

This is one of the newish strategic considerations for the teams. I understand each driver can use over thirty seconds of 160hp electric motor each lap, but that is a great deal of power and takes a lot of harvesting.

Cars should, in principle, be able to do this without compromising speed and lap times, given forward planning, but if you miscalculate, you can easily find yourself with a depleted battery just when you need full power.

It nicely spices up the mix.

19

Now that it is, more or less, certain that the Merc engine is light years ahead of the Ferrari engine – are we to expect already that it is over (before it really has started)? F1 will be a race between the four teams running Merc engine? I mean, the difference IN RACE TRIM between ALO and ROS was so huge (>1 sec), that you would need a GOD (a real one! – I am still inclined to believe that ALO after all is human) in that thing to make up for it.

As the rules forbid teams to upgrade their engines for performance, then this has to be the case?! Yes, it still is possible to change components for reliability/safety reasons, but that does not solve this huge performance problem in time does it? Sure, changing a component here and there for “reliability” reasons (implicit cheating I would say but given the “rules” there you go…), may give you SOMETHING performance wise, but in order to remedy such asymmetry you will probably need to do some heavy/big modifications to the thing(?). Especially If the reports suggesting that the Ferrari engine is significantly down on power AND is significantly heavier than the Merc engine (given that fuel usage is very strictly limited).

I really really hope I am wrong in majority of what is mentioned above. If not, this semi-sport we have now, will for sure have to apply for a new name. Formula 1 -> Show 1…or why not Show 1.6T Green.

20

Hi James,

Excellent analysis as ususal and the graph at the end is the best info one can find.

I have a small request. If it is not too much ask, would it be possible to make the graph interactive? As in being able to mark and/or mask particular drivers. It will greatly improve the readability and really help comparing teams and drivers.

Thank you

21

We will be linking to an interactive graph with my input soon

22

Accept all the new rules and understand how the fuel flow works with so much info since Ric’s disqualification.

James, one very important question, Bernie wants the sound to be much louder but don’t you think it’s too late?. Sound booster is the only way but sounds kinda ridiculous and should not happen at all as exhaust will be real big.

Do you think FIA will find a solution as I suspect they’ll lose a lot of fans visiting races this year. TV viewers will be okay though.

I’m already not going to the Singapore GP but will be at Sepang to experience the real thing, disappointed or not I just need to hear how soft the volume will be for the heck of its as tickets are very affordable.

23

Sound is being lost because it’s wasted energy. The louder the sound the less efficient the engine.

I love the new sound of F1, it’s sounds techy and futuristic. Like it or not the internal combustion engine is the past and electric/hybrid engines are a step towards the future.

If a racing formula is the pinnacle of motorsport then does it really matter what the motor is? as long as it’s based on the best technology.

Give it half a season for us all to get used to the new sound, and the TV soundpeople to figure out the best way to setup their sound gear to capture the sound better, let the cars get a little better understood and more reliable and it’s going to be a cracking seasons racing I think.

24

Good one Mark.

F1 was in danger of becoming irrelevant to the automotive industry, and understandably having difficulty attracting power suppliers, whose corporate decision-making systems correctly evaluated potential entry into F1 as a break-even proposition at best, and an unmitigatable reputational risk; I’m thinking most specifically of BMW and Honda’s last foray.

The fuel flow rate restraint is part of the formula to make it a positive business case for manufacturers to enter the sport, by making it relevant to road cars.

Honda is rejoining in 2015, and I expect other manufacturers will announce applications to enter the sport within the next 18 months.

Why?

Because the forced development of this hybrid technology will give automotive manufacturers a critical technological advantage in their core business!

I too was disappointed with the race, having yet again, one competitor clearly in a category above the rest, yet it is early days, and there will likely be dramatic changes in comparative performance for the entire year (or until they start to develop the 2015 cars).

Hang in there, true believers, if the competition was better, I doubt the noise issue will continue to be as harped upon as it is now.

25

Well said. Glad to see a lot of positive review. It sounds nice and futuristic.

26

I agree with him. The sound is being lost because of the harvesting of energy from Turbo etc. They’d have to look at that MGU -H again

If one of the manufacturers sees a possible edge from doing it you can see them lobbying and the ones who are happy as things are will resist

‘Twas ever thus in F1!

27

It would be ludicrous to increase the noise level. Noise is power that is being wasted. Nobody should want that.

There was more spectacle from Roman chariot racing than we get from F1, but that wasn’t noisy at all.

I miss the scream of the V12 engines, but time marches on, and we should too.

28

Besides, Suzi Perry has a very soft and melodious voice and I would rather hear her than some grumpy Caterham rumbling past.

29

James,

Regarding Hamilton’s engine problem.

Does it mean that he is 1 engine down already or will the engine be allowed to be modified?

Could you please clarify the situation.

Thanks.

P.S: A big Hamilton fan and a bit concerned.. thats all 🙂

30

Depends if it can be re-used. They haven’t said yet

Caterham is already one engine down from Friday in Melbourne!

  • 31

    I remember last year there was a debate over whether Vergne or Ricciardo should get the step up to from Torro Rosso to Red Bull.

    JEV had had a wild moment under pressure when he lost 7th. A few laps later, he gave up 8th position.

    By comparison, RIC held of the challenger and withstood the pressure.

    Dr Marko would feel vindicated on his choice.

    32

    Its just a shame Ricciardo’s race pace is weak. Vergne more than often beat him in the races, whrn Vettel is up to speed with a healthy car he will make Ricciardo look very ordinary in the races.

    33

    Hoping for the rainy next ten races without safety car.

    34

    James – you mention the teams won’t run much on Fridays due to the engine rule but I thought that Fridays was classed as a test day and teams could run a different engine that wasn’t part of their normal allocation (I’m sure last year teams only fitted the race units in for Saturday fp3 onwards?)

    35

    No, it has to be one of the 5.

    Last year they changed engines on Sat am, that’s true, but it was still always one of the allotted 8 that had raced and qualified earlier in the year that went in

    36

    What an anonymous weekend Sauber had in Melbourne? More like last year too.

    37

    Typical of the midfield teams really:

    Test day: Woah! 🙂

    Race day: Oh… 🙁

    38

    Yes 🙂

    39

    A bit like the end of the 2008 Brazilian GP when Massa and his crew thought they had won the WDC. “Yes, Felipe Baby you’re champion!……….oh, hang on a minute, Lewis is fifth………”

    40
    Ward Hargreaves

    So the first race of the new season with the new “power plants” is in the books. Impression(s)? I watched this on my TV and found myself attempting to identify the missing component…and there was something definitely missing!

    It did not take long to discern the absent element – F1 engine noise! Plug in a bigger battery, dumb the engine down to 6 cylinders, take away three thousand RPM and blow it all out the back in a Massey – Ferguson exhaust system and what do you get? Kart racing with the sound of Honda water pump engines! Dumb planning!

    41

    You may be confusing noise with power.

    A five-thousand horsepower electric motor driving the QE2 liner was much quieter than your average five horsepower lawn mower.

    As Beethoven could have told you, louder is never better, unless you are going deaf.

    42
    Ward Hargreaves

    Michael: appreciate your comments. However, to back my point, please refer to Oz organizers who are contemplating suing F1 due to the dumbed down noise…or Luca Demontemezzello who has e- mails covering his desk on the same topic. Apparently I’m not the only one, Michael! No one mentioned power; the familiar F1 noise is the issue. It’s like attending a race for hopped-up Toyota Prius’.

    43
    Ward Hargreaves

    Michael: methinks you are integrating driver noise with car noise -or, in my view, lack of same. I have yet to attend an F1 race where fans were enthused by the excited verbal emissions of any driver; and the only screaming I hear coming out of Maryland is the anguish of Redskins fans…and rightly so. At the risk of being termed a “backslider” or one who does not embrace every change as positive, I believe it best for you and I to conclude that we agree to disagree on the issue of current F1 engine noise and leave it at that. Regards…

    44

    I once drove a Tesla Roadster in Maryland, and it was the noisiest car ever, not the electric motor, but my screams of delight as it accelerated like a bat out of hell. We kicked dust in the face of every noisy muscle car we could find.

    Don’t worry about the Australians, or the other backsliders, every step forward is met with an avalanche of derision. It’s not long ago I was being assured that mobile phones would never catch on.

    I liked the ‘new’ sound of a GP, that previously inaudible whistle being blown as a car enters the pit lane. Next year, as I understand it, driving through the pit lane will be using the (160hp) electric motor alone. For most motorists, 160hp is a great deal of power, after all.

    And the engines will have to be started at the exit from the pit lane by the electric motor. Wow, just like the rest of us do it!!! What a giant leap forward. Just wait until the backsliders hear about that one.

    45

    That Ross Brawn built one hell of a car! I would have loved to see him at Williams to get it up the factory Mercs… but alas

    46

    Looks like Whitmarsh did the same, but don’t expect much acknowledgement of that round here!

    47

    Even Ross needs a break. He took a risk with his reputation in going to Honda, and got away with it. Every man’s career ends in failure (I’m watching you, Bernie) so it’s wise of him to have gone out on a resignation rather than wait for the chop.

    I claim to be the reason for Williams demise. I went there on a jolly organised by a computer company who were their sponsors. They had just, a week or two earlier, won their last championship, and were at the pinnacle of F1.

    During the day news came through that the computer company had been taken over, and most of the chatter turned to worries about job security.

    So there, perhaps I was the Jonah that did for both Williams and Compaq in one day. Sorry about that.

    I’ve never been invited back.

    48

    James. Other sites ( bbc) state that red bull yet again have more downforce than any one else by how they are most stable in the corners. How long will it take for

    Them to catch up with merc. How much horsepower less can they run and beat the merc? Is there any idea who has the best fuel consumption while maintaining the most power as rosbergs car was never really put under pressure in Australia ?

    49

    The car looked great, that’s for sure.

    The bit that is lacking is out of their hands to a large extent. It’s Renault’s bit.

    50

    Not sure if that was supposed to be funny, but lol anyway 🙂

    51

    At least the lack of noise from these cars, teams can quietly go about some private testing this year, knowing they will never be heard. Ferrari could be driving Marnello 24/7 and know one would ever know!

    52

    If Lauda and his cronies utterly dominate this year at least we can look forward to an intense dual to the death between Hamilton and Rossberg.

    53

    Toto was talking about have tough and talked to the drivers about implementing team orders “in certain situations”, already before the first race of the season had started – so do not get your expectations too high.

    And, even if they did not use TOs, I believe majority of the fans are not here to watch a ROS vs HAM fight every race…boxing is more exciting in that case, and you will be certain of exclusion of any kind of team orders in that case.

    54

    Yep, boring…

    55

    Not really. The precedent has already been set last year when Nico was told NOT to overtake Lewis.

    Do you really think MB will jeopardize these two guys taking each other out. They will drive to orders, just as they have in the past.

    56

    Or they’ll turn down the PU remotely to suit their needs.

    57

    If we have a Mercedes duel to the death I put $5 on Lauda 😉

    58

    My money is on Paddy Lowe……

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