Could Daniel Ricciardo have won Singapore with a different F1 strategy and Raikkonen’s lost podium
Insight
Daniel Ricciardo
Posted By: James Allen  |  20 Sep 2016   |  6:27 pm GMT  |  113 comments

This year’s Singapore Grand Prix was one of the most interesting races of the season from a strategy point of view. It showed that when the performance of the leading cars is closely matched, the strategy possibilities created by having three different tyre compounds make for unpredictable racing and close finishes.

There was a great deal of variation in the decisions made before and during the Grand Prix and some big decisions to be analysed, which gained places for some and cost places for others.

It was a great battle at the front, while in the midfield the finely balanced strategy was decisive for the results of Fernando Alonso, Sergio Perez and Danill Kvyat in particular.

Could Daniel Ricciardo have won the race with a different strategy and did Ferrari fall for a Mercedes’ trap at the final stop and cost Kimi Raikkonen a podium? We are here to get to the bottom of it all.

Daniel Ricciardo

Pre race considerations
Everyone was pleasantly surprised by the way the ultrasoft tyre performed this weekend. The only new tyre in the Pirelli range this season, it benefits from newer technology and works better, in some conditions.

It was a good qualifying tyre in Singapore and also lasted quite well over 15-17 laps in the race. The difference between the ultra soft and supersoft tyres was quite small this weekend and the projected life was only a couple of laps longer for the supersoft.

On paper three stops was faster than two, but track position is king on this circuit, so a number of teams had a plan in mind to stop fewer times than their rivals. Mercedes’ two stop plan was very obvious from Friday onwards, while Force India’s rivals feared that they would try to do an effective one-stop strategy, should an early safety car offer them the chance to get off the ultra softs. That is exactly what happened as we shall see.

Daniel Ricciardo F1

Could Daniel Ricciardo have won with a better strategy?
This was the closest Red Bull Racing has been on pace to Mercedes since the Monaco Grand Prix. The race pace was pretty much identical, but the qualifying pace a shade slower. Nevertheless, it was a race they could have won and afterwards felt they should have won. So why didn’t they?

The answer comes down to two things; on his 200th GP start, Nico Rosberg had probably his strongest weekend in F1 with the best qualifying lap he has ever driven, certainly in the view of his Mercedes team and then a measured drive to the race win on Sunday. He had to survive a late scare after a strategy move by Mercedes on Lewis Hamilton’s side almost backfired and cost Rosberg the win.

To gain a place for Hamilton on Kimi Raikkonen in the closing stages, Mercedes triggered a sequence of stops that allowed Daniel Ricciardo to come within 0.4s of beating Rosberg to win the race. Mercedes did not expect Ferrari to pit Raikkonen in response and it almost led to the biggest own goal of the season!

Ricciardo had wanted to stop again in the final 18 laps as three stops was the faster strategy. But he didn’t want to lose track position to Raikkonen.

Lewis Hamilton f1

Hamilton’s Lap 45 stop – which was a ‘free’ pit stop as there was no immediate threat from behind – triggered Raikkonen into stopping.

Ricciardo gratefully took the opportunity, afforded by Ferrari’s unexpected move, to stop for new supersofts. This allowed Ricciardo to catch Rosberg. Without Hamilton’s initial stop, that sequence of stops would probably not have happened.

The second reason Red Bull lost to Mercedes was their decision on Saturday to qualify in Q2 on the supersoft tyres and to use them as the starting race tyre set. The difference in performance and life between the supersoft and ultrasoft tyres was quite small.

screen-shot-2016-09-20-at-14-34-03

But the telling difference in the Rosberg/Ricciardo battle came at the end of the first stint, where Rosberg was able to pull a gap on second place Ricciardo of seven seconds – see illustration above, the gap increases from lap 10 to the end of the stint between dotted blue line [Rosberg] and purple line [Ricciardo]. That proved the foundation of a race-winning gap.

Had Ricciardo used the ultrasoft, he would have been right with Rosberg and the Mercedes strategists would have had to always think defensively about covering the risk of an undercut. That’s not to say that Ricciardo would have won the race if he’d started on ultrasofts, but Rosberg would certainly not have had as large margin in the last few laps so Ricciardo would have caught him sooner on fresher tyres.

screen-shot-2016-09-20-at-18-16-33
Did Ferrari throw away a podium for Kimi Raikkonen?

Meanwhile many pundits were quick to criticise Ferrari after the race for costing Raikkonen a podium finish when they reacted to Mercedes’ ‘Plan B’ move to pit Hamilton at the end of Lap 45 for a set of supersofts. At the time he had been 1.8 seconds behind Raikkonen.

After Hamilton pitted, Ferrari had some time to think about whether to leave Raikkonen out on his soft tyres or to pit him. At Singapore a decision on whether to stop must be taken by 36 seconds before the car comes to the pit entry line. The problem with that is the main performance boost from Hamilton’s new tyres would only show in the final sector of his outlap, when they were fully up to temperature. Ferrari would not have that data before the 36 second cut off.

Teams rely on modelling for that and it’s surprising that Ferrari’s model didn’t tell them clearly that Raikkonen would be undercut. He questioned it but followed orders because the team has the data in front of them and he doesn’t.

Sebastian Vettel

Another data set they were relying on was how long Raikkonen’s soft tyres would last and that was based on the performance of Sebastian Vettel’s soft tyres in the first stint. He had managed 24 laps on a new set of softs, but that was after carrying 100kg of fuel and working through traffic.

Most teams reported that on the night, the tyres were lasting 2 to 3 laps longer than predictions, so Raikkonen would have easily managed to get to the finish on 28 lap old soft tyres without losing performance. If Hamilton caught him, then he would have to pass him on track and as soon as the Mercedes driver came up behind other cars, it was clear that his brakes started to overheat.

So taking all the above into account, when calculating the risk vs reward of staying out, Ferrari’s decision to pit was flawed and also ignored the standard wisdom of those situations, which is ‘do the opposite of what the other guy does’ – they pitted Raikkonen and he lost the podium as a result.

Sergio Perez
Midfield battle very finely balanced

With all the attention focussed on the Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari stories up front, it was easy to overlook a wonderful strategic battle in midfield between Force India, McLaren and Toro Rosso.

Fernando Alonso was a strong candidate for driver of the day with an outstanding drive to seventh place, helped by flawless McLaren strategy calls. On the third lowest engine sensitivity track of the season (in other words least engine power dependent) the team brought Alonso in at precisely the right moments, especially Lap 34 when they judged the gap perfectly to bring him out just ahead of the one stopping Sergio Perez.

Alonso managed to stay out of reach of Daniil Kvyat, who had a strong weekend for Toro Rosso, in which he said he rediscovered his love for F1 again after a difficult year.

Kvyat’s race was frustrated by Sergio Perez’ effective one stop strategy (he pitted on Lap 1 to get off the ultrasofts and one stopped from there) and the greatly superior straight line speed of the Force India.

With DRS the Toro Rosso was 9km/h slower and without DRS it was 14km/h slower than Perez’ car, so basing the Mexican driver’s strategy on track position, rather than the faster multi-stop strategy worked well for him staying ahead of Kvyat, who had no power to overtake and Perez’ strategy blocked any chance of an undercut.

Perez felt that his race would have been even better and he could have beaten Alonso if he had not come out behind Estaban Guttierez in the Haas F1 car. Being stuck behind his fellow countryman for most of his first stint and particularly the early laps of his second stint, meant that Alonso was able to come out just ahead of him at his second stop to take the seventh position.

It was a night of fine margins in midfield and the decisions and timing of them were critical to the race outcomes of those three drivers.

UBS
The UBS Race Strategy Report is written by James Allen with input and data from several F1 team strategists and from Pirelli

Race History and Tyre Usage Charts – Kindly supplied by Williams Martini Racing – Click to enlarge

Look at the end of the first stint of Rosberg vs Ricciardo. Rosberg on ultrasofts is able to take the gap to Ricciardo on supersofts up from an uncomfortable 3.5 seconds to a more comfortable 7 seconds by lap 15. That won him the race.

Look at Alonso’s stop on Lap 34, perfectly judged to bring him out ahead of Sergio Perez’ one stopping Force India

Williams Martini Racing

Williams Martini Racing

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1

Paddy lowe himself said that they wouldn't have pitted Kimi if they were to make a call 🙂
That says it all, how clumsy pit call from Ferrari it actually was.
sigh, another podium lost....

2

To be fair, Mercedes did almost make exactly the same mistake the lap after Danny pitted and called for Nico to "Box, box, box" followed by "Abort, Important, stay out". It was a pretty tight call to make with not much time in which to make it. But still......track position is king here, don't know why anyone ahead of Lewis would have bothered pitting at all (well except Danny who basically was given a free one by Ferrari).

3

Pat, good point. Strategy is always easy from your arm chair, hours after the race has finished.....

4

I didn't see the race live ("ERS failure") but reading the dallies on Monday morning made interesting reading, not least the fact that Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton in particular was in severe problems with brake issues. Surprising really, given that Singapore is well noted for being very hard on discs, and that it being such a slow average speed running bigger brake ducts is not a massive drawback as the extra drag generated by them is not such a penalty on a such a sluggard layout. Could this be why Lewis Hamilton was so off form - i.e struggling with his brake setup?

If Mercedes went marginal on brake cooling - just speculating - it is strange, but if that is the case, there could be issues the world is not privy to. Having said that, it is somewhat telling - Merc F1 limping around on worn tyres and suffering from retardation issues, and, yet, amazingly they still win and come third! If that's an off day, you'd surely take it.

5

I am not sure if the brake issues were Hamilton specific - both Hamilton and Rosberg were told in the race that their brakes were hot, critical was the word used to Rosberg. The only difference between them really was that Hamilton was in dirty air and Rosberg clean air.

6

@gaz boy....'hamilton in particular was in severe problems with brake issues'? what were those issues? paddy lowe said that they didn't have any brake issues!

7

Kenneth, but throughout the race he was saying the opposite to his drivers!

8

Yep. Reckon there was a couple of big stinky rats stuck in those brakes and maybe one in Verstappens clutch. Another fine weekend for RIC. I get the feeling he was foxing the young padawan through free practice. Miraculously finding the times in quali. Dan.... if youre reading this. Next time youre on the podium, take your hat off for the anthem mate. Its just etiquette.

9

He normally does, I think this time was just an honest mistake due to how exhausted he was. All the drivers looked fairly spent after this race

10

So Liberty wants into F1 and plans to grow the fan base. Well this strategy report is a perfect example of why that may be difficult. F1 is not NASCAR and it is far more sophisticated and nuanced. I consider myself a reasonably well informed fan of F1 and I have to admit that it is complicated to understand these modern races as they unfold. With three tire choices it becomes seriously challenging to know where things stand at any point in time. You need to know what tire, when they stopped, the lap times and what tires remain for the final stint to even begin to venture a guess what might happen. On top of that things are ever changing as James's report makes clear. The commentators here in the U.S. generally have no idea what is happening in the race and are all but worthless in terms of explaining what is really going on.

Frankly I don't see how you make it interesting to a wider audience.

11

A first step would be to bring back the full free live timing. When Bernie took that away it became impossible to follow those mid-field strategy battles, unless you're willing to pay an extra £20 a year for the premium timing service. With the amount I'm already paying Sky to follow F1 I don't think I should have to pay extra just to be able to understand what's actually going on.

12

I fully agree with that. I am in the same boat and i refuse to pay for the live timing.

13

If you go to the F1 live timing/crappy blinking light page and move over to the comments page instead (still free), there is a column on the left with each driver's gap to the leader that seems to update 10 or 12 times a lap. It won't tell you how fast anyone's lap actually is but it does let you track who is gaining or falling back in battles down the field until the first lapped driver - then everyone is just down 1 lap, or 2 if they are having a bad day 😉

14

All these problems stem back to the real problem which is that the cars cannot follow each other closely and overtake. The different compounds of tyre were all introduced to create an offset which allows overtaking. The problem is that they don't unless there's a serious difference, like there would have been between Ricciardo and Rosberg at the end. Its unnecessarily complicated. That combined with all the teams and their models and pre set strategies, F1 isn't really a race in the true sense, they aren't racing whats in front of them, the drivers are driving to pre-defined pace which has been optimised for tyres etc that will result in the shortest time for the race. The other cars are just a minor inconvenience in their models.

It's difficult to know what to do, letting them get on with it and charge flat out for the whole Grand Prix didn't really work either, as the latter days of the V10 era and the pre Pirelli V8 era didn't have much overtaking either, although the cars were visually and audibly faster and more impressive to watch. Races then were decided by pitstops too, although "he's got less fuel so is faster but will have to stop again" is a bit easier to follow than "he's on the faster tyres but he'll have to stop and put on the slow ones because reasons, but they shouldn't be that slow because he didn't make Q3 so had some new ones left for the race"...

15

@Robert NYC- If you ask the average person they dont even know what F1 is !. It has been blindingly ignored from exposure for decades-
- This is the first thing Liberty must do- it must find a way to put it in front of people more often .Cable deals kill off half that may be interested. Make it viable / accessible and people will start asking questions. Put it on tele, get people talking about it more on racing shows, get the drivers there more often. Maybe Summer break when their back home! Some will ignore it, others will be interested
- 2nd thing it needs to is allow people to access it easily and learn more themselves.
- Give people a "hook in". why not televise FP & Definitely Quali- Especially Q2,3. It could be a great half hour just before the news etc..It does not need 2hrs to catch peoples attention. That Onboard Rosberg Pole lap Singapore is perfect finish!
- Definitely the cars could be more wow.
Maybe 2017 will start to do this. Essentially the cars are good now.
- finally get people onto the track, into garages like other formulas.

Once people take the bait they will learn- I knew nothing in the early 80's but within a few months I knew everything about it. Yes its complex but if you look at an App now it has 100times more info than was available when we first watched F1 alone- & its accessible in seconds. People can learn / engage so much faster now.. the only thing Liberty has to do is Sell it better for starters- the other things with the racing will come in time but essentially you can understand why they bought in-it is a fantastic product with a massive global followiing that still has a significant upside...Its a product waiting to be sold !

F1 takes in about $1.6 billion atm. I can easily see it doing 2b when all the digital media, extra tv, deals, are in place & rather than charge the almost $1b hosting fees to circuits - it could half that and get twice as many people through the gates through better ticket prices then those same people start watching it on their device and so it grows.

16

"F1 takes in about $1.6 billion atm"

And a big chunk of that is Kimi's wage packet!

Actually, Mr Raikkonen is actually a pauper in the year of our lord 2016. Fernando Alonso's wage packet is over 40 million Euros - "poor" old Kimi has to make do "only" around 15 Million Euros, although he does get points based bonuses. Sebastian Vettel has a salary of around 50 Million Euros..........

I believe in free market capitalism as much as the next free market capitalist, but I also believe in "value for money".You have to ask yourself, as a hard headed capitalist, why would you pay a driver over 3 times as much as his team-mate, when the lesser paid driver - upto Singapore - has scored 4 podiums and has 148 points, while the man paid 3 times as much as Kimi has scored 6 podiums and has 153 points? Is that triple amount justified by the results? The answer to that is.............no!

Or to put it another way, those 5 extra points and 2 extra podiums upto Singapore work out at a cost of 17.5 Million Euros Per Podium, or 7 Million Euros Per Poin - [Mod]

17

Vettel is not getting 50m I saw somewhere 27.5m. Kimi on 11m +bonuses. Just think respective points position if Kimi wasnt taken out in China & Spa-by that sauerkraut & we all know what he likely would have done in SPA. Singapore just proved Ferrari wont allow Kimi to get too far ahead under any circumstances, its not "scripted that way" which is really sad for the sport.

Alonsos money is the biggest joke 40m for sitting in a deck chair watching mechanics fix his Mchonda with fries, & the argument hes "dble wc" dont cut it with me because 2005 was one year that "belonged" to Kimi- yes it still cuts deep especially after Suzuka.
Buuut.. people will still mock him and try to unravel his achievements as much as they can... jealousy is a curse anywhere you go

18

He's paid achieving 4 titles which is 4 times more than Kimi. So earning only 3 times more money is still underpayed in comparison to Kimi.

19

The issue is that Bernie took the path to more revenue from paid TV because they could pay it. OTA won't pay as much, so you potentially reduce revenue by going to masses. Also, they OTA will try to recover costs with ads, which we don't like. So on one hand you'll gain viewers, but at the cost of something else. All the paywall stuff was for revenue reasons and nothing else.

You say Liberty has to sell it better, and to be honest with you I just don't see how they can. I don't see how there is more revenue here to be sold or gained. Bernie took all he could for FOM/CVC. He took sponsors from teams, fees from tracks, every penny he could from TV, and let's be honest - there is tons of stuff that can't be monetized on the web. They know how much they got form the F1 app for example. I would love to know how many people actually paid for that app. What the revenue was. Anyone know the total? The ranking?

And one last thing Elie. We're the geeks here wasting our lives on this F1. But we're the foolish few. People don't want that and don't have time for it. Majority want to tune in, see it, enjoy it, and punch out. They don't want to sit with a laptop on their lap and a phone in their hand pretending they are impacting the decisions at the track. Pretending they are Horner or Wolff. They want to see a good script play out, that's all. Or they want to see exciting cars that look cool and sound cool. You want to engage them and flood them into this over information and complexity for complexity sake and make them pay for it? I bet you most of them don't want that at all. How can you know? Just compare viewers to users of the app for starters. FOM/CVC have that data and they can see the % of veiwers exactly that care about this. If this was a huge percentage, they would boast about it. I used to look at the app, and eventually I said to myself, this it pointless. It's only so I can know key info few seconds before commentary tells me about it anyway. I'm not draining my phone battery for this, and that's how the F1 app didn't get installed for 2016. Besides, who needs an app? Mercedes pole, Mercedes win.

20

@Sebee- Its all about balance and price. Some dont want ads but millions more dont care- how many millions do you think it lost when it went off FTA?-if its on FTA millions will watch & regularly. If you add more content, testing coverage, etc on pay tv with no ads you will still retain most.
The reason many dont use the APP is its expensive and yes not everyone are geeks but then whats the harm in having it for those that are!. It has different subscription levels just add more, add the actual racing on it for a bit more, keep the stats only for a bit less. Right now the choices are limited.
You cannot pidgeon hole people -they will go elsewhere and they have... we already know that.

Your absolutely right people want a good script played out, but whats the plot?. Who are the stars??, how do they engage with the audience???. This is what liberty needs to sell. The sport is good- it can be better but you must put it in front of people and explain it to them.

21

Agreed, practice and quali (bar the last minute rush) are dire. This is again caused by the regulations, they want to do as little running as possible to conserve engines, gearboxes, tyres. They should be doing as much running, flat out, as possible because it is fun and makes for good entertainment.

22

@ robert NYC...you could start by only making three compounds available, Hard, medium and soft with each compound able to be 'leant upon' for longer. that could be coupled with allowing all teams to run whatever tyres they choose in both quali and race with no specific tyres mandated for use at any specific time. the next thing they could do is make sure that qualifying, as a specific and individual event, carries points on 3/2/1 basis. This would ensure that we'd see some really hot quali sessions because teams would not be forced to start on Q2 tyres in the race. There are many tweaks that could be done that aren't predisposed to the need for a university degree to in order to understand.

23

Agreed, but one solution, which hopefully Liberty will implement, is to make those information live, transparent, and freely available to the viewers on PC, phone, tablets, TVs, as if the viewers are actually on the pitwall. These days we are overloaded with information, and who aren't watching TV while holding another device or two in their hands?

24

I'm not. Turns out my human eyes can only look at this screen or that. Even my ADD means I don't want to set up a workstation area when I watch F1. What you ask for is a small minority of viewers.

Think of it this way, smart phone exploded when Apple gave us the one button. Simple wins. Every time. 10 years from now, it's all electric and automated anyway. Simple. Wins.

25

It was informative and a pleasure to have James Allen as guest commentator. I usually have a hangover early Sunday morning, so I need all the help I can get. I was even surprised that James could get amped up, as I always regarded him as very British, not prone to hyperbole. His description of Ricciardo as a pirate with a knife in his teeth was classic.

26

Evidently he's an excitable media beast when he gets excited! hahaha Love the ricci description.

28

I'l be calling Dan Capt Jack Sparrow from now on

29

I know what you mean, and actually hiring knowledgeable commentators is going to be crucial to expanding the audience. I used to dread the national coverage of the Canadian race, I remember one guy going on at some length about sometimes the gas tanks were on the left and sometimes on the right. With a web based distribution system hopefully all regional distribution deals will go away and we get quality coverage everywhere.

30

"The commentators here in the U.S. generally have no idea what is happening in the race and are all but worthless in terms of explaining what is really going on."

What are you talking about? Steve Machett and David Hobbs are extremely well informed -- and James Allen himself was on tap to provide the trackside commentary this weekend. (Not to a take anything away from Will Buxton).

Jame's excellent analysis is written with the benefit of hindsight -- for instance, as he notes, Ferrari made what turned out to be a poor decision based on incomplete data, but it was a decision they were forced to make in a matter of seconds...

31

I like Hobbs and Machet and yes they know the sport but they seem to frequently lack real time information and understanding of how the race is developing. If I want to really follow a race you have to have the data as well as the visual information. Personally I refuse to pay the grifters at CVC a penny for their app so I am left with the commentators and the U.S. announcers do a very poor job of incorporating the data in their commentary.

32

Plain and simple, they have to make the racing better. Change the aero rules so they can race, and actually pass without having to worry about ruining the fronts following the car ahead. And get rid of the DRS. There's nothing compelling about a DRS assisted pass on the sitting duck in front. Close, competitive racing will get people interested.

To your comment regarding the announcers, I found James' commentary on strategy during the race on Sunday very interesting. I hope we'll see more of him on NBSN.

33

"Raikkonen's Lost Podium(s)".. podii?

Ferrari need a new strategy line up if the slim hope of catching RB in the Constructors' is to be realised. This is not the first time this year that a podium has gone begging. How long will Big Marchio put up with buffoonery?

34

Agree with this, their strategy calls this year have been really bad throughout most of the races. They really need to have someone on that pit wall that can call the strategy on the hop - this last race showed that sometimes there is no time to make the decision, so they need someone who is experienced at making the call quickly and decisively. I am pretty sure all of us at home were shouting at Ferrari not to bring in Raikonnen as he had the track position and the tyres were clearly going to last - I'm still bemused why they brought him in.

36

A shame Red Bull didn't go for the three stop strategy and risk losing out to Raikkonen earlier. Is it worth risking losing second place to go for the win? I think so.

37

Yes fair call Tim. But then we know Mercedes were planning to react anyway & had it not been for traffic when Dan came in they would certainly have covered. It would have been interesting in so far as it may have forced Ferrari to jump first and undercut Lewis- a likely possibility because Mercedes would not have brought them both in same lap! This scenario would likely have brought all three much closer

38

Ellie, yes it was all pretty frenetic stuff, I just wish the teams would be a bit braver with strategy sometimes. It seems that settling for a guaranteed second place has become the norm in F1, when it used to be about rolling the dice and going for the win. I'm not a rose tinted specs wearer, but sometimes they can be too sensible!

39

Not a certainty to beat Merc no matter what Wolff keeps shouting at the top of his lungs every weekend (Merc has weaknesses, we have issues, RBR is the favorite etc....)

40

And another thing, Ultrasoft tyres good for 15 laps?! Not really the point is it....

41

i reckon that the Ultra and Super Softs are exactly the same except for the colours of the markings. every race race its "the Ultrasoft lasted longer than expected".

42

The ultras should last for 5 laps maximum, they are supposed to be s qualifying tyre!

43

Yes the harder compounds are fast becoming obsolete

44

Ellie, there isn't enough of s gap between them is there? Why put hards on that could do 100 laps when the mediums will do 75?

45

Yep they should have gone for the 3 stop earlier. But wouldn't that have given Mercedes the chance to get Rosberg into a pit window also.
Plus then you would have Lewis in the mix also having pitted early on.
Could have made it even more interesting if Kimi had not pitted and stayed ahead. He can make his tyres last longer than most drivers. Then it would have been a 4 way race.

46

Probably wouldn't have helped too much. RIC stated in the post-race interviews that his tires were already slowing down in the last couple of laps. Also, getting close is one thing, but passing is a whole new thing. But, if there's anyone who can make a pass stick that's RIC so you never know I guess.

47

Not surprising really. At this moment I almost expect Ferrari to mess up their strategy. Funnily enough I think that Ferrari is fundamentally a pretty quick car. Sure the one lap pace and their understanding of how the tires behave with the car needs to be looked into, but overall race pace is good, and better than RB IMO. But their race strategy always make their cars look slower.

48

Very nicely done in making a superficially boring race, in a outright boring MMC season.
But in the end, the strategy report is better than the actual race; now that is a compliment to our host, but also...
Agree that strategy at Ferrari has not been equal to the top teams; and at this stage of the season, where they had a definite machinery advantage to Red Bull, for more than half of the season, the key differentiator looks like lesser strategy.
While RB speak of having a difficult time achieving another win on the season, they are consoled knowing that Ferrari will have a very difficult time catching them for the constructors 2nd place and the third place driver. Regardless of whether Ferrari, as Kimi mentioned, hardly diiferentiate between 3rd and 4th, with target locked on victory, not getting 2nd in WCC and third in WDC is going to hurt badly, in the belly, nonetheless.
It is not often that RB out-strategize themselves, as this article suggests, having taken the risk to differentiate themselves on Q2 supersofts, they just could not let the option go, even though it seems to have been a significant, if not decisive, factor in DR not being able to really challenge for victory (he just got to the point of challenging, as the race was won by NR).
Question James:
The way Q2 and tire choices work, did Red Bull have the option of starting the race on ultrasofts, or were they locked into starting on supersofts?

49

I'm not sure I either understand, or agree with the premise being put forward that if RIC started on the Ultra, it would have brought him closer to victory at the end. ROS pulled out a 5s gap that you can clearly see increasing on the graph before the end of the 1st stint. This is versus RIC on the SS tyre, which in theory would have had better performance relative to ROS toward the end of the stint. It seems counterintuitive to me that if RIC was on the Ultra, he would have had better performance than the SS toward the end of the stint. Even if the Ultra made RIC quicker earlier in the stint and he was pressuring ROS, the dirty air he would have been following in would have made his tyres scrub out even quicker than the SS's and the performance would have been even worse at the end of the stint.
James what am I missing? Why do you think the Ultra would have made the undercut work for RIC at the end of the first stint? If he did get in front of ROS, do you think he would have been able to keep him behind when ROS would have had a DRS and a couple of further opportunities for his own undercut?
I acknowledge that the unknown in this is what impact the increased early pressure would have put on ROS's brakes (if that really was a thing?)
Secondly, I think the thing that is completely discounted in this theory is that from the radio messages to ROS in the final stint, they waited until late in the stint for ROS to turn up his engine. This seemed to be at around the same time they hit the back markers, so it isn't clear cut, but in my view ROS was simply managing the gap to the end (as much as I would have liked RIC to have mown him down!)

50

Yes they had the choice just as others had the choice to use s/softs

51

thank you all for the clarification.
driver starts on the tire he sets the fastest time in Q2.

52

James, do you have any information why RBR didn't use ultra soft tire in the race on either car?
Last stint for Ricciardo would be faster on US, with lighter car, and knowledge of previous stints from other cars, US choice was no brainer.

53

He didn't have any new US for the race from memory, but a couple of sets of new SS

54

I think dean is asking if RBR, even though they set their best time in Q2 on supersofts, could then run the ultrasofts at the start of the race. To which the answer would be no. You start on whichever tire you set your best Q2 time on. Of course they had the choice in Q2 of which tire to attempt to set their best time on.

55

Yes but they set their fastest times on SS so they're locked in to starting on those. Aren't they?

56

No James I think he meant once you've set the time.
You must start the race on the tyre you set your fastest quali lap in Q2- In Dans case it was Super Soft. You dont have a choice once the time is set.

57

Ferrari seriously surprises me...no matter what the team is saying, I no longer believe they have what it takes to win. The team is moving backwards....

58

They need the big bear back. He would bring a world of calm to their overly reactive, panicking pit wall.

59

I think we have truly seen the last of Brawn in F1, but I agree, he gets buy-in from near everyone. I would have been good with Hamilton going to Ferrari when Allison was there, but not now. If Brawn was there, then it'd be attractive again. It's been too long since the last English driver at Ferrari, to build on the legacy of Hawthorn, Surtees and Mansell.

60

I don't and didn't understand why Red Bull didn't use ultrasoft tires in the race. They had 7 sets, so it wasn't as if they didn't have any.
Okay, maybe on Saturday they were thinking SS is better, but after the first stint it was clear there's no advantage in having SS over US.
So in my mind they lost the race at the last pit stop for not using US.
Maybe Ric would still be second, but at least he would have a proper shot at 1st for couple of laps, since he would have catch Rosberg sooner.

61

i agree, i couldn't believe it when they put Supersofts on Dans car. he surely had a set lying around. Only 3 other drivers didn't use Ultras during the race, Vettel, Nasr and Palmer.
Even with Ultra softs, could Dan have won? I don't think so... as Murray Walker used to say, catching is one thing, passing is quite another!

62

You mean Verstappen didn't use them, Vettel did.
Also Perez use them for only one lap, since he switched to effectively one stop strategy at the SC period.

63

As per WDC points, for Mercedes logic:
P1+P4 < P2+P3
ROS P1+ LEW P4 < ROS P2+LEW P3
If the race ended w/ Lewis in P4 the WDC points gap would be 11pts pro-Nico, instead of 8pts.

It just shows again-and-again that Merc AMG is focused on Lewis.
Race strategy should protect the best placed car, that this time was Nico in P1.
That means no change to Plan B and a boring race to the end.

Plan B meant to shake things up and - possibly - Ricciardo changing tires to pursue Nico.
However at a pace 4-5 sec faster than Nico, in a few laps it wasn't safe anymore to Nico make his stop.
In a worse case scenario, if the Pacecar was deployed within 14 laps to go Nico would be caught with older tires and Ric, Lew, Rai with fresh one.
That means the race would end P4 to Nico and P2 to Lewis.
And for the first time even in the Singapore GP no car crashed on Turn 18, before passing under the grandstands.

To get things worse, afterwards, Toto said he was "surprised" Nico could resist the Ricciardo attack... really?
So was he expecting Ricciardo to catch and overtake Nico?

decom_(((Toto_meme 1_57e1b99210509.jpgdecom_(((Toto_meme 1_57e1b99210509.jpg
64

And Toto complained afterwards that Gutierrez blocked Ricciardo xD
I know the gap to Nico didn't drop when Daniel was behind Guti, but I don't know how much Nico lost.
http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/126279/gutierrez-wolff-unfair-to-make-fun-of-me
Guti is a very spoiled guy.
Does he want a Team Boss to look after him? Really?

65

What a load of "Deweb hokum pokum". Utter Rubbish !

66

DeWeberis - Merc didn't expect Ferrari to react to Hamilton's stop. If they had played perfect strategy they would have left Kimi with track position to battle it out on worn tyres. Ferrari reacted and gave RIC a free shot at the win.

When you say Toto 'complained' about GUT....you should put that in context. He mentioned that GUT held up RIC for long enough that RIC didn't have a chance to catch Reverseberg.......but hey, you keep the blinkers on.....It gives you something to moan about 😆

67

"It just shows again-and-again that Merc AMG is focused on Lewis."

I'm sure they recognise that he's their faster driver. I don't think it follows that they would jeopardise WCC points to help out one driver over another.

Whatever happens, Merc is going to win WCC and WDC this year. Is there more marketing collateral in having two world champions, or in having one four-time world champion and one also-ran? I dunno.

68

More value for Mercedes if Nico wins. If Lewis wins he will run 44 again next year but there is still every chance that should Nico win he will proudly run the no.1.
The marketing department will love that

69

If Toto and Mercedes always protect the lead driver, and always favour Lewis, then tell me what was going on in Austria? They kept Lewis out forever on his ultrasofts, pitted Nico early, and allowed him to do a prolonged undercut on their lead driver. As a "makeup" for this, they allowed Hamilton to try a 1-lap undercut on soft (the hardest compound for that race) later on, which was never going to work.

Pitting Nico early was fine, but once he's closing in on Lewis' pit window, to be fair they should've pitted him then, instead of leaving him out for another 3 laps.

That was the catalyst for all that happened after, in that race. It reeked of Nico favouritism, and still does.

70

I disagree.
I've posted there too.
Merc made the last round of pits to benefit Lewis.
First of all Lewis pit first, but Nico was ahead in P1.
The axiom of pit stops in F1 says, best placed car pits first.
They have designated diferent tires.
Lewis made a mistake in his pit out lap going wide in one turn a loosing lots of time.

71

deweberis, they have done the same thing for Nico before. If the gap between the two Merc drivers is big enough that there is no danger of an undercut, then there is no reason not to.

72

Or they did that to appear to be doing something for Lewis and to not make their desire to have both drivers be Mercedes WDCs obvious. A little cover for their push toward that goal. In the end, they knew Nico would hold position, and even if not, he was going to be ahead of Lewis.

73

Are you suggesting Mercedes perhaps want Nico to be WDC this year?

74

Well, Lewis has been on the back foot pretty much from the get-go. The blown components in Q1 and Q3 in China and Russia, were and are strange. Having said that, a DNF would've created any points gap more easily. Having him finish, but instead in lower positions while Nico gets a free ride out front, perhaps gives the impression that Lewis did get an equal crack at it, which of course is false.

I know you say with a Nico WDC they get two champions in the team. However, at what longer term cost? Next year the leading cars could be a lot closer, a situation where the driver can make more of a difference. Would Mercedes want Nico to lead the charge, when he's shown his clumsiness in wheel-to-wheel combat at CAN, AUT, GBR, and GER? So why even risk demotivating your better driver?

I do get the sense that many at the team, like Vowles and Shovlin, like Rosberg and would like to see him win, because they would feel bad for him otherwise. He joined in 2010 at the start, went through the lean years from 2010-12, and then Lewis has sorta nipped in and taken the laurels when the car finally came good. So yeah, I'm of the mind that a Nico WDC would go down well with certain sections of the team, mostly those that have been there with Nico since the Brawn days.

However, in the long, long term, a Nico WDC detracts from the future symbiotic excellence of the Hamilton-Mercedes pairing. In 20 years, when great driver-team pairings are recounted, Mercedes would want Hamilton-Mercedes to be recalled alongside Schumacher-Ferrari, Senna-McLaren, Clark-Lotus, Vettel-RBR, etc. If Rosberg-Mercedes is in there, it will dilute the future reflected excellence of Hamilton-Mercedes.

In 20 years, when a picture of a 2014-16 Mercedes is shown, you want people to instantly think Hamilton, of his successes in those cars, and the company behind those cars. You don't want to have people looking for white or teal gloves, or a '6' or '44', to figure out whether it's Lewis or Nico in the car. If they do that, then the moment of subconscious reflected excellence is lost.

Wow, I wrote a lot. Sebeesque enough for ya?!? 😃

75

Nice thoughts but here's where you are wrong:

Merc didn't count on FERRARI being incompetent enough to pit Kimi. That's what caused Ric to pit. Which then threatened ROS.

76

You know... I was joking about the stats in the Singapore review.
I said if stats were to be taking so seriouly nobody would want the pole position, since the pole sitter always falls back at the start.
Maybe Mercedes knew Ferrari was going to take the wrong tactical decision due to the poor showings this year.
I just don't know why Kimi re-signed Ferrari.
Kimi became the Barrichello of modern times.
The team is always screwing him in several ways and Vettel is always crashing into him at the races.

77

James,
I made the argument that Vettel's ability to pass several cars on the softer tire influenced the Kimi decision once Lewis pitted. Could Vettel's performance have influenced the pit wall decisions.

78

Most certainly, Vettel was stunning on the Ultra-softs. Unfortunately Ferrari forgot that Kimi is a has-been and would never be able to match him (0.8s slower! Albeit on used Ultras vs new.)

79

Unfair comparison. Seb's ultra softs were brand new and most importantly he was running in free air in that last stint of an intelligent strategy that he executed perfectly. He wasn't defending his position nor running behind other cars which allowed him to get the best out of those tyres and set the second fastest lap.

Kimi who had brilliantly earned P3 battling with Lewis had to give up track position when he was suddenly switched from his original strategy to make an additional and ill timed stop which forced him to hunt down Hamilton with used ultrasofts and running in dirty air which as you know destroys the tyres at a higher rate.

Vettel is king in Singapore as his results show year after year, but Kimi was undeniably quick all through the weekend and they both got the best out of the package of the SF16 in the race.

A 'has been' wouldn't have been able to keep up with Hamilton & his Mercedes and be at the right place and time to take advantage of his brake issues to close the distance and overtake in a clean move. A world champion like Kimi in a lesser car managed to do just that.

80

So the difference between new and used then.

81

It shouldn't have because Vettel was not passing Mercedes.

82

I really hate your decision prior to qualifying compromised the race strategy like in RBR's case here. It just robs fans of even more thrilling battle at the front all through the race if the teams were given brand new set of tires to work with in race so they can thrash their qualifying tires as much as they want.

83

Red Bull have a conundrum, do they chase race wins when there is a possibility in doing so that they lose 2nd place in the Constructors' Championship to Ferrari with a gap of only 15 points.. There is also the possibility of Ricciardo losing 3rd place in the Drivers' Championship to Vettel with a gap of 26 points.

From memory the difference between 2nd and 3rd in the Constructors' Championship is a bit over $10M. That's a pretty strong reason to take a definite 2nd rather than chasing a possible 1st and ending up 3rd. There's no prize money for drivers, hence no risk of loosing a $fewM, so they want the race wins.

Which makes for a very interesting dynamic.

84

James - it seemed like Vettel had great pace in the race too. Any chance that he could have threatened the top 4 if we had a safety car around lap 40-45?

85

A savety car just when Vettel would have changed from yellows anyway would have been interesting. Other cars on not new tyres and close together and Vettel a ultrasoft ultraquick dolphin. They call him flipper, flipper, faster than lightning... killing all the wannabe sharks in front of him.

86

Rosbergs first stint + Raikkonens 2 & 3 - Brilliant!. After the race I was/am praising Ricciardo, Vettel & Alonso.When I look at that graph now You realise how perfect Kimis pace and consistency actually were- especially given he was stuck behind Lewis for so long- It is an illustration of getting the absolute most out of your tyres whilst racing on the limits. Almost like 2005 on those Michelins.

Malaysia is a vastly different track and the hard compounds wont help Ferrari, but if Kimi can find the right set up he usually goes well there (won his 1st race in 03 with Mclaren). Ferrari seems to be far less affected by the turbulent air compared to the Mercs- I just wish they can get in front at the very start, it would make a very interesting race- fingers crossed.

88

I shouted at the TV twice for Ferrari pitting Kimi twice in the wrong time. Why'd they pit Kimi right at the lap he overtook Hamilton? In the second one, it was obvious to me that Kimi could make it to the end on softs.
I have a theory that Ferrari is trying to avoid being overtaken on-track by Mercedes at all costs, even if that means throwing the strategy out the window.
Lastly, which is the second least power dependent track? Monaco first, Singapore third...second one?

90

Hungary, may be ... ?

91

It wasn't your TV's fault! 😉

92

If I had the Ferrari pit wall a few meters in front of me, I'd shout at them 🙂

93

It is understandable and good television but also a shame that Kvyat fought with verstappen. I'm not sure how much this hurt Verstappen but it did hurt Kvyat, he effectively lost to Alonso due to that.. bit silly.

94

@ Jaap... so kvyat is supposed to lie down for verstappen? you have very little knowledge about F1drivers if you think that is the way to go...plus there was a little bit of 'payback' involved in that minor tete a tete. Whn the shoe was on the other foot verstappen was not the almighty that a lot of people have attributed to him. Yes, he's fast and daring but sometimes that is not the way to go about competing in the bigger picture.

95

Can someone explain to me why the very specific 'Kimi must be told whether to come in 36 seconds before the pit lane entry'?

96

The meaning of that particular sentence does seem unclear. I got the impression that some part of the sentence is missing, but I could be wrong. Perhaps James could provide some clarification on whether your interpretation of it is correct? The only way I could make sense of the situation on track is as follows:

In Singapore, the time between the sector 2 timing line just before turn 14 and the pit-entry line is 36 seconds. Once Raikkonen passes the S2 line, Ferrari are on a clock. Either they tell the driver to pit within 36 seconds or Raikkonen does another lap automatically.

Because Hamilton was behind Raikkonen, Ferrari were never going to have any sector 3 timing data on Hamilton. Ferrari had to make a decision to pit based on the time difference between the two cars at the S2 line. I understand from the tv coverage, that the difference was 27.2 seconds. If that time is correct, then Ferrari did have about 8 seconds to decide not to stop before Raikkonen reached the pit lane, but they chose not to. Contrast that with Mercedes a few laps later who made the decision to pit and then aborted Rosberg's stop at the last second when they realised the gap to Ricciardo was gone - a decision they presumably made based on the S2 time difference.

There is the need to allow the pit-crew sufficient time to get into position in the pit-lane. However, I doubt that takes 36 seconds. If you look at the end of lap 1, Force India made the decision to pit Perez when he was practically in the pit lane. On the tv pictures there's an overhead shot of the cars passing through the pit lane at the end of lap 1. It tracks along the pit lane. If you watch it then just after you see the Williams mechanics waiting for Bottas, two garages further down, the Force India team are running out to get into position for Perez. They probably only had about 10 seconds between the call for the pit-stop and Perez arriving at the garage. If they can react that quickly to a late call, I would have thought Ferrari could as well.

Other than that, I can't see any other factors which would require Ferrari to make a decision to pit that far from the pit lane. Although if I'm wrong about that I'm happy to be corrected/enlightened.

97

Ferrari are and have been a mess since Brawn and the gang left, (and were a mess before they hired them) It's great to watch. They have done nothing to deserve that special payment.

If you don't like what I say, "sue me as I have the time and money".

Vettel must be looking crazy for another drive.

98

Hi James, could you do an investigation on the lap times LH and NR did after the "manage your brakes Nico, seriously" radio message. Lewis was also told to manage his brakes around the same time.

However, you should see a massive difference in laps times which allow Nico to pull out a 7+ second gap in about 7 laps following.

My point is that when the Merc drivers were asked to manage their brakes "seriously", LH was compliant and slowed down, whereas NR sped up and pulled out a major gap.

Theories:
1. Nico is the new Professor and knew that message would be relayed to LH and that his teammate would slow down - so he took advantage of this and did the opposite.

2. Someone in the team wants NR to win the WDC and allowed him in on the secret code. This could be their new way of throttling Lewis - by telling him he has some issue and needs to slow down so he can't attack.

If it is the second theory - which still needs to be proven, this is a major scoop!

99

One of them was racing in clean air while the other was following a car, the Merc seems to be more sensitive when in traffic and it was also the hottest track of the year so there is the difference explained.

Also to say "someone in the team wants NR to win the WDC" to make it sound like there is a anti Hamilton conspiracy is funny. So if its only one person who is pro Rosberg in the whole Merc Team, do you mean everyone else is on Hamiltons side ? So basically you say 999 people are working for Hamilton while there is only this one guy who works for Rosberg. Do you know who this one guy is ? Could it be Nico Rosberg himself ?!! LOL

100

That one person could be Toto, and what he says goes....

It warrants an investigation because after the radio message, Nico went 0.5 seconds faster than his previous best lap time (forget about Lewis's laptimes). Whereas logic would suggest NR should slow down. You can see this in the graph where Nico's line graph takes a greater slope around lap 8, whereas hammys is shallow and constant . Anyhows, eliminating the conspiracy theory, this is an investigation into how NR responded.

101

Or, Hamilton was in dirty air and Rosberg in clean air which is what made the difference. Everybody has speculated for a while that the Mercedes car does not work as well when it is following other cars closely. If they really wanted to "gift" Rosberg the WDC as you suggest, they wouldn't have bothered bringing Hamilton in for another stop in the race when he was behind Raikonnen, they would have let him finish 4th with Rosberg winning, putting him further ahead in the WDC.

102

Ricciardo was right behind Rosberg when he pitted, and slightly faster on tyres that were only a lap or two older. I wonder whether he would actually have had a better chance of winning if he'd stayed out. This isn't debated in the report, unfortunately.

103

Hi James,
Just wondering what you made of the strategy Red Bull chose for Verstappen? Even with his poor start, to finish the race behind Vettel in a car that should've been at least as quick seems a little odd. Do you think they were too focused in trying to get ahead of Kvyat and completely neglected to consider where Vettel might end up? Perhaps putting the softs on at his first stop? Or was that not an option as he would've simply ended up stuck behind someone else further down the road?

I have to admit I wasn't paying a great deal of attention to his strategy but do find it a little strange that he ended up finishing behind Vettel.

104

A very interesting analysis - thank you James. However, it is a great pity that F1 has been reduced to tyre and pitting strategy when what we really want to see is the drivers actually racing each other. Undercutting is all very well but can't compare to overtaking. Of the four leaders Kimi was the only one to overtake anyone and he ended up fourth. I rest my case.

105

Am I the only one on here that thinks RIC could have taken Nico if it wasn't for Esteban Gutierrez?

I am starting to believe that Esteban is color blind. Not the first time he has done this (not moving out of the way on blue flags) with other drivers on the grid and for sure, not the first time with RIC.

Again, no penalty or warning for Esteban and he drives off into causing the same in the future, almost certain.

106

Ferrari should have looked forward to Ricciardo rather than back at Hamilton. Kimi could have possibly caught and passed Ricciardo aswell as keeping LH behind.

107

I've rewatched the race "as live", and I don't think there was much chance for Ricciardo to overtake; 0.4 seconds is misleading as Nico slowed a lot in the final laps managing his pace to the flag, especially the final lap.

Also, still no mention of Magnussen? Going from 17th to 10th on a track where overtaking is really hard? In a car that's struggled to get out of Q3 all season? DOTD for me.

108

@ andrew...rosberg's slowdown may well have been due to his tyres going off! I very much doubt that mercedes would've allowed him to reduce his lap times as a result of their confidence that he would easily win. Four tenths is terribly close at that stage of the race.

109

It's possible, but I just don't think it fits the profile. If Rosberg's pace was enforced, cliff-style drop off, he surely would have been having more trouble controlling the car than he was (see Kimi China 2012, Bottas Singapore 2014). Subjective obviously, but it looked a lot more like a regular last lap cruise to the flag.

110

I agree with you Andrew, also the remark of the team to Rosberg, you have more freedom at the end of the race, backs your theory up... I thought he is doing a "Verstappen"..... ( what Verstappen did to Raikkonen in Spain)

111

Max who?

112

Mosley, i think?

113

James-thanks so much for another excellent strategy report. Each of these is another page in my book of knowledge and helps greatly when watching the live races.

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