Analysis: Lewis Hamilton’s foiled plan to beat Nico Rosberg in Monaco pit stops
Strategy Report
Posted By: James Allen  |  27 May 2014   |  5:10 pm GMT  |  212 comments

The Monaco Grand Prix has triggered plenty of debate after the controversial incident in qualifying where Lewis Hamilton was denied a shot at pole through the error on the last lap of his Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg.

It meant that in the race, having lost the start to the German as well, Hamilton’s only shot at winning was to jump him in the pit stops.

However, a Safety Car during the pit stop window changed the game; after both drivers had made their stops on the same lap, Hamilton was heard to complain to his team about the strategy call.

So could he have won the race if things had been done differently?

Here with input from several leading strategists is our analysis – the UBS Race Strategy Report.

Pre-Race Considerations

As always at Monaco, the teams had less knowledge than they would like going into the Grand Prix, this time because of a wet FP2 session, so limited long runs.

However with the Pirelli tyres this year being harder than before, it was clear that the race was a one-stop, the question was how early could you pit and make it to the finish on your second set of tyres?

And conversely, for a counter strategy, how late could you leave it on the first set and make gains by stopping later? And what effect would a safety car have on the race?

In the end we got a safety car and a race of high attrition, with many leading cars eliminated. It was a day for staying out of trouble, as points were there for the taking, as Marussia’s Jules Bianchi proved.

Could Hamilton have beaten Rosberg on pit stop strategy?

Lewis Hamilton was not a happy man going into Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix and he was even less happy after he was called in to pit on the same lap as race leader Rosberg, meaning that he had no chance to try something strategy wise to beat him.

He was heard to question the decision, also suggesting that at McLaren he would have been allowed to pre-empt the safety car and come in early after Adrian Sutil crashed heavily on lap 24.

The first car to pit was Jenson Button. Mclaren always brief the drivers that there is a “Safety Car window”, where they can pit at their discretion if they see an accident or “SC” boards, before the team see it and if they are in a late phase of the lap.

They were very clear on this and it’s something that other teams have been encouraged to try and copy. This is not a policy in place at Mercedes. This is what Hamilton was talking about when he referred to McLaren.

Mercedes run a clear policy of leading driver stop preference in races, something which Hamilton has benefitted from in the previous four races this year, which he has won.

Here, the situation was that Mercedes had a 1-2 and a margin of 12 seconds over the third car, Kimi Raikkonen. Hamilton was in Turn 13 when the TV cameras revealed that Sutil had crashed heavily, so there was time to call them in.

However there was no guarantee a Safety Car would be deployed, as later incidents like the Gutierrez shunt proved. This was an exercise in managing probabilities – it was 90% likely that a Safety Car would be used, but there was 0% risk to Mercedes of losing positions by by doing an extra lap and waiting to see if a Safety Car was deployed. This is because in that situation, all the cars are obliged to run at a set Safety Car speed, which is 140% of the normal lap time.

If Hamilton had pitted and there had been no Safety Car he would have been behind the Ferraris and could have been vulnerable to Ferrari deliberately leaving one of their cars out to block him while the other built a gap. Given that the “blocking” car would be Alonso, this is doubtful, but you never know.

Incidentally, Button didn’t gain any places by diving into the pits, because everyone went at the same speed once the “Safety Car Deployed” signs went out. It only works when someone does something wrong or unusual – in Australia Button gained two places with this trick because Alonso stacked up the cars behind him. Here there was nothing there for the taking.

But still, it can bring a gain and Hamilton will have remembered that he lost places to Vettel and Webber in this way under the Safety Car in Monaco last year, a painful memory so he felt it was worth a try.

The point is that, from the Mercedes’ point of view, there was no obvious gain for Hamilton in making a stop after Sutil crashed, but there were some risks. Mercedes has a single head of strategy on site and his job is to deliver a Mercedes 1-2 finish. However he has also been tasked with giving his drivers a chance to race.

And it is here that Hamilton’s real frustration lay, because there was a plan in place..

As Rosberg the leader had stop priority, the only way for Hamilton to beat him was to wait until Rosberg had stopped and then push like mad on the supersoft tyres for the next lap. At the same time, Rosberg would be on an out-lap with new soft tyres, which were quite hard and took a long time to warm up. This would have been Hamilton’s opportunity; to offset himself against Rosberg, then pit and hopefully emerge ahead of the German, if he had struggled with new tyre warm-up.

To pull it off he would have needed to have been more than 6/10ths of a second faster on old supersofts than Rosberg on new softs on that lap.

But because the Safety Car came out in a pit stop window, he never had the chance to try it.

So he was immensely frustrated – on top of his resentment at the manner in which he felt Rosberg had gained the advantage in qualifying – and this is what came out over the radio and after the race.

Counter Strategy helps Hulkenberg and Bianchi to strong points finishes

Two standout results in Monaco were the Force India of Nico Hulkenberg, going from 11th on the grid to 5th at the finish and Jules Bianchi going from 21st on the grid to 8th on the road, 9th after a 5 second penalty was applied. This gave Marussia a breakthrough first points finish.

Both did the same strategy: start on the soft tyres and then take the supersofts at the pit stop under the Safety Car. This called for them to do over 50 laps on a set of supersofts. Most teams had budgeted up to a maximum of 45 laps, but Force India has always been able to try these strategies because it can look after its tyres.

In Hulkenberg’s case this was a masterstroke, because on new supersofts he was able, at the restart after the Safety Car, to overtake Magnussen who was on the harder tyres and struggling to warm them up.

However the surprise for Force India was that tyres were dropping off badly in the closing stages, unlike Bianchi’s which still had good pace. Hulkenberg was however able to hold off Button to the flag.

Bianchi’s pace was something of a revelation and this result was well deserved. It was a shame that they drew an additional penalty for taking their original 5 second penalty during the Safety Car period, rather than just adding it on at the end. The Marussia was able to hold off Grosjean’s Lotus comfortably enough in the closing stages and his lap times were comparable to midfield cars.

Another driver who tried something different was Massa in the Williams. He did not pit when the Safety Car was deployed, at which point he was lying in 11th place. It was an unusual call and a roll of the dice really, perhaps hoping for a race stoppage or a track blockage to give him a gap to pit into. With everyone doing one stop there were few other obvious ways to gain.

With attrition and problems for other runners this meant that he was fifth in the second stint of the race, with a stop to take.

He took it on lap 45 and dropped back to 11th again. But with more attrition, he rose to 7th at the flag.

The UBS Race Strategy Report is written by James Allen, with input and data from several teams strategists and from Pirelli

For an interactive graph, which can isolate any particular driver for analysis or compare a number of drivers, click here INTERACTIVE MONACO GRAPH

RACE HISTORY GRAPH, Kindly Supplied by Williams – Click to enlarge
Note how the field is held up in a train behind Hulkenberg in the final third of the race.

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So qualigate roles on.

Was interested in kimi’s graph, but for misfortune he would have beaten Alonso pretty comprehensively.

Wonder how they’ll fair this weekend


so, here’s my 2 cents…

Lewis has a sense of “entitlement” which grates me…if he doesn’t win then it’s everyone else’s fault besides his; he questions the strategy but politely forgets that in previous races Nico was faster but did not get the 1st call on stategy; statements made about the telemetry and what he “swa” smack of Spa when he tweeted the traces whilst at Mclaren.

No-one expects Nico and Lewis to remains BFFs whilst competing for the most coveted title in motorsport, but at least Lewis can be civil and treat his rival (and I expect the same of Nico) with respect, nevermind the media and the world watching…

and about yellow flags…the rules are there. if you go out last on the last run you run the risk of a yellow flag upsetting your run. If Lewsi was so far up on Nico’s time as he suggested, why could he still not beat polem considering how close he was on his 1st run. A waved yellow does not mean you cannot improve your time – all that was needed was that he show he had backed off in that sector…

We’ve had plenty waved yellows in the final seconds or minute of qualie, and its never been an issue, but now, because Lewis didn’t get pole at Monaco – now its and issue and they want to possibly change the rules in qualie and add a minute extra…stupid really…anyone remember a certain Mr Senna putting his Mclaren into a spin at the last corner of Magny Cours to get pole…i think he crossed the line going backwards…nothing was said then, if i recall correctly (James help me out if my memory is faded or jaded, please)

my advice to both Lewis and Nico…move on to the next race and focus on the next battle. do your taliking on track and stop playing as if it’s primary school…”its unfair, he did this, you did that” all seems a bit juvenile. If Lewis is really that good – and i do belive he is – then he can beat Nico in a straight fight to the title…

However, i’ve noted more ranting via radio from car Lewis than Nico – showing me that one is getting on with the job (and winning on the day) whilst the other throws the baby out with the bathwater whenever he doesn’t get his way…

my 2 cents…


Lewis Hamilton has become a spoilt brat. He needs to grow up to realise the talent he has and WORK within the team and stop believing he has a god given right for everything to go his way


Its a bit silly by rule writters really, to think that giving certain drivers who have provisional pole the oportunity to create a yellow flag in the last few minutes and take pole.

We see it in many other sports where the play gets stopped for the incident and then gets resumed once its cleared. What about extra time in most field sports or tie breaks etc.

The list goes on. The clock should pause on a yellow or red flag and then resume afterwards, then cheating affairs like this wouldnt happen.


Nico drove a faultless race. Lewis stuffed it up with his side of the garage, but blames only them for it….publicly on radio. Nice, what a great team player.


Matter of time Lewis and Nico will take each other out somehow, just a feeling. Unless either one is a few cars ahead ahead for a clash. Well as Nikki said one has to be a b*****d in F1, I totally agree with him.

Steve Baumgartner

Does anyone know if Lewis stopped at one of the health aid stations to have his eye flushed? It’s obvious that Lewis was not at the drivers posts in a timely maner, at the very end of the race. Nico and Recardo had to wait for Lewis to show up. But, he did have his helmet on still. Would he be required to drive up to the finish poles with his helmet off?

If he had stopped at the first aid station?


James, I am little curious about Williams. During every race this year, they seemed to have the best fuel consumption among the whole grid. Have they compromised the sheer speed and power that Mercedes-powered cars are enjoying to benefit from better fuel consumption? If yes, are they getting anything good out of this approach?


I was standing between Saint Devote and Tabac and I was surprised that there wasn’t a single attack in St Devote. I think HAM need to respect other peoples wins, since he’s not completely innocent either. 50% of what happened is to blame his crew and team for.

A shame that Chilton ruined RAI’s race. RAI kept RIC at distance except just before the pit-stop (SC). ALO could not keep up with the pace of RIC during the race, he was always way after. Good job from Bianchi and Ericsson.


Off topic:

Anything about the accident Rosberg had when doing Mercedes ad’s with the german soccer team?

Read they were doing the ad on a road closed for public when tourists either were on the road or did something not exspected.

Rosberg reduced speed and the follow up car driven by DTM racer Wehrlein tried to evade and hit the tourists ???


Hi James,

A bit late to the party and not sure if someone has mentioned this, I read some calculations that showed that had Hamilton stopped before the safety car, he would have lost time to Rosberg instead of gain.

This was put down to the others running at racing speed while he pits, and then him running at the safety car delta speed while everyone else pits. So in the end the outcome would have been the same, but as you say the risks were greater.


I have been working through scenarios as to whether time can be gained or lost. The net effect assuming all else stays the same is zero however the potential is for Rosberg to have lost time in the pit lane due to the number of cars stopping at the same time and having to avoid an unsafe release.


Ferrari also follows Mercedes’s policy for pitting the lead man first (Except for Spain, I guess they had their reasons)

But yeah, if they had the McLaren policy of responding to an “SC” we would have seen a different race at Melbourne for Kimi. As soon as Bottas brushed the wall at turn 10 and broke his wheel, we saw pictures of the wheel rim on the racing line, then we cut to the start finish straight where Kimi was driving past the pit entrance! I was screaming at my seats for Ferrari to call him in. It did not happen. They could have avoided the double stacking there and saved Kimi the 2 positions he lost.

They should have anticipated an SC, seeing where the debris was on track.


It seemed unfair to me to have the pitwall telling HAM which turns ROS was coasting into. Sharing information across the garage is fine, but I don’t think HAM would be OK with the pitwall sharing his strategy with ROS. Nobody has mentioned it, so maybe it is just me, but it seemed dirty during the race.


Where have you been all along? Mercedes does this all the time – both ways!


james, what if hamilton tried to stay on track during safety car… ok rosberg would catch him but you also mentioned that bianchi and hulk did over 50 laps on super softs… so if hamilton also had done the same, rosberg tyres would also start graining so maybe he could have beaten him if he thinks he is really a fast guy…


Thinking about Massa’s strategy, I initially thought there was no point. However the Williams was out of position and being held up by slower cars. By not pitting Massa during the original safety car period, they gained track position and were able to run at the pace of the leaders (the Ferraris, Mercedes and Ricciardo) thus gaining time over their competitors in the midfield who would’ve been held up by slow cars. The flaw in this plan was that a second safety car was always likely and ultimately bunched the pack up again, gaining them nothing.


good spot!


Hamilton played mind games prior to Monaco comparing his upbringing with Rosberg’s, which was unfair. Rosberg cannot help how he was brought up. And let’s face it Hamilton exaggerated the poverty of his childhood (he didn’t come from the ‘gangsta’ backstreets whatever he likes to have his fans believe. That aside, Rosberg did his talking on the track and beat him fair and square (he was cleared by the stewards) and won the race. Move on!


Very good explanation of HAM’s race strategy, and why it failed.

Could do with the same depth of analysis of the ROS/HAM Q3 incident, as it was pivotal to the outcome of the race.


James, I’ve heard several drivers talk about how hard the tyres are and the warm up times. How do these tyres compare to the tyres from the tyre war days. Can the driver push them for quick sprint or are they too hard? Do they still wear out quickly even though they are hard??


I think the whole controversy over the pit strategy stems from the fact that Lewis Hamilton really needs to grow up. And a big part of growing up for him is that he needs to let go of his ridiculous insecurity. He behaves as if he must be ahead all the time or his image would be tarnished, as if the opinions of fans or journalists mean a damn thing to determine who wins and loses. If he gets beaten by a teammate, the excuses really do flow from him as if he feels he has a reputation he needs to uphold.

What separates Lewis Hamilton from the two guys who have accomplished more in the sport- Vettel and Alonso- is that he gives a damn what you think, and the other two don’t. The other two will forget a bad race before it’s even over and be back next time for the kill. I think that in this context, Sebastian Vettel especially deserves a lot of credit for how he is handling his situation. He is not throwing his toys out of the pram at being beaten by Ricciardo or questioning the team or anything. He is playing a team game, he is working on his own deficiencies right now, and he is focused on being back on top no matter how long it takes. Lewis can really learn a lot from Vettel in this respect.


Yes – Vettel is not throwing his toys out this year as Renault haven’t given RB the equipment to challenge Merc.

In any event, SV threw his toys out from 2010-2013 at the expense of Mark Webber


I never knew that “throwing toys out the pram” was a euphemism for comprehensibly outclassing your teammate.


What separates Lewis Hamilton from the two guys who have accomplished more in the sport- Vettel and Alonso- is actually the equipment they’ve had at their disposal so as to accomplish more 🙂


You sound like the Mercedes would be no match for the RBR and the Ferrari?


Lewis have nothing to learn from Vettel. If lewis drive alongside Dan Ricciardo in the current RBR he will easily see off ricciardo and would be never in position of 5-1 down after 6 races in qualifying. If anything fans can learn more about vettel now and realise that he is not good enough to have 4X WDC titles. Vettel WDC titles are free hierlooms presented to him by Newey, webber and horner Co.


“If lewis drive alongside Dan Ricciardo in the current RBR he will easily see off ricciardo ..”

That would be an impressive trick indeed, if his car had serious issues in five of the first six GP’s as Vettels has.

Outside of this particular site most people have already acknowledged that Seb has been terribly unlucky this season.


Lewis can learn from Vettel how to win. His stake is one title against four.


“…Vettel WDC titles are free hierlooms presented to him by Newey, webber and horner Co…” you forgot TRACTION CONTROL, last year he had it inveded in the KERS system, (look up singapore engine sound) and that is why last year RBR had so many issues with the alternator blowing up… now this year Vettels car has broken down several times due to the Traction Control not co-existing well with the new engine/techonology but soon they will, and Vettel will win races this year, of course illegally … I wish there was more youtube videos of ontrack engine sounds, specially coming out of the corners…


Have you heard Vettel’s radio this year? ‘he’s too slow’ ‘tough luck’ ‘this is ridiculous’ and so on. Some people have selective hearing and some broadcasters have selective broadcasting.

kenneth chapman

@ aezy doc….exactement mon ami. i have a friend who was at monaco and he has friends of his in the mclaren team where he has spent a lot of time over the past 10/12 years. they tell of stories about vettel behind closed doors that dispel any theories of how accepting he is of the current situation within the team.

did you notice how horner never said one word about how good and rewarding ricciardo’s drive was on sunday? his ommission was blatantly obvious. daniel is contributing to the teams benefit in a major way.


Poor little whinging hard done by rich boy. Lewis needs to read the life story of Sir Stirling Moss and learn what being a sportsman is all about.He has already been judged a liar and a cheat by the FIA. In TV interviews his demeanor borders on the blaise to the arrogant. He has fits of jealousy and pique towards most every co-driver he has ever had. In the past, everyone else has always been to blame, Massa, Webber, Alonso, Rosberg, McLaren, Ferrari. The failure to answer Suzi’s after race questions at Monaco were typical of the Prima Donna he is becoming.


Well then thank your lucky stars there is someone you dislike so much in the thick of the championship battle. It gives you someone to cheer against.


If it’s too hard to read the story of Sir Stirling, LH can just sit down to a copy of “Roary the Racing Car” on DVD – Sir Stirling commentates it…


I looking forward to Montreal . It’s a great circuit, and the new found distrust between Nico and Lewis will only add to the drama.

There are a lot of other stories waiting to unfold as we get deeper into the season at Red Bull and Ferrari. So even if Merc have it in the bag constructor wise there is lots to play for.


The most likely way that Mercedes will be beaten this year will be when they take each other out.



Couldn’t agree more, lots and lots and lots to play for at Merc F1.


Hi James,

Can’t see sebs line upto when he retired.


I count three knowledgable F1 journalists reporting that most drivers in the grid believe Nico [mod]. Mark Hughes, Joe Saward and Peter Windsor concur. That it’s not a scandal just because there was not enough evidence to punish Nico doesn’t mean he is innocent. These are the times I feel I’m being takenfor a ride by the sport and should just find another way to occupy myself. I wonder what the Mercedes board really thinks about their [mod].


F1 is a fairly dysfunctional sport IMO (behold the ridiculous double points), and journalists can’t risk alienating themselves from the sport’s big figures, so they become part of the system. I have seen many journalists use arguments that “if it didn’t get caught by the stewards, then it’s ok to have done something” (Peter Windsor appeared to admire Nico’s execution of the act) or “Hamilton chopping across Rosberg in Bahrain in wheel-to-wheel combat is equivalent to Rosberg ending qualy for 9 drivers who could improve” (courtesy David Coulthard). Lewis Hamilton is unpopular with a lot of the media because of the meaningless things he says and because he is generally not a smooth operator. According to Gary Anderson, payback on track is acceptable for barbs in the media! Who knew? In the aftermath of Monaco, very few media personalities have stuck their necks out, and many have preferred to criticize Lewis for being displeased with what happened. A lot is being made of his statement about strategy, and his cryptic comment on handling things like Senna would. I didn’t see anything wrong with his driving though. I wish people would focus on what happens between those white lines more…Lewis would do best to take a leaf out of Kimi’s book. He has no friends in the media and he shouldn’t worry about what other’s think of him…

Mike from Colombia

Mark Hughes does not believe Nico. Read his article.

Peter Windsor is the David Frost of the F1 world. Completely averse to controversy or strong opinions. Wants to be everyone’s friend and will never take the risk of upsetting any drivers.




Sorry about the commenting rules violations, James. Ironic, no? I should have said that many current drivers privately think Nico deliberately caused a caution, and that I additionaly wondered how the Merc board of directors might feel about the conduct of their employee, Herr Rosberg, given the prevailing sentiment.


We missed out on potentially a great battle for the win, Hamilton had the speed to close up to Nico before the safety car, it would have been interesting to see if stopping out and hammering some quick laps in would have been enough to leapfrog Nico.


Honestly, Hamilton would not complain if the pit stop strategy was the same with him leading. Would he want Rosberg to get a better strategy with Ham on the lead? No.

I think Hamilton shoul accept he can lose some battles, but he is lacking wisdom that he needs to win the war.


Exactly if the roles were reversed he’d be screaming blue murder if Rosberg had the call on the pits.. Its all “a storm in a tea cup” bought on by capt hollywood. Fastest driver but too much of a sooky baby– still- unfortunately!

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