Analysis: What Malaysian GP tells us about how Red Bull will manage future Verstappen, Ricciardo battles
Insight
Red Bull F1
Strategy Report
Posted By: James Allen  |  04 Oct 2016   |  1:02 pm GMT  |  123 comments

One of the best Grands Prix of the season featured close racing, heartbreak for Lewis Hamilton with a late race engine failure and a fascinating strategic battle at the heart of it, as Red Bull challenged Mercedes in a war game.

For the second season in a row the dominant Mercedes team did not win in Malaysia, as Nico Rosberg fell to 21st at the start and Red Bull split the strategies across its two cars to attack Hamilton.

There is much to digest and analyse in our deep dive into the key decisions that shaped the 2016 Malaysian Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton

Pre-race considerations

The resurfacing of the track greatly increased grip and meant that the lap times were close to record pace. Although Sepang is a tough circuit on tyres, the teams found that the soft tyres were lasting particularly well during practice.

While few thought a one-stop race was possible, there were some teams considering two stints on softs, followed by the mandatory stint on hards at the end. The forecasts were that the hard tyre would last around 30 laps, but not much more.

Red Bull cast the first stone in the strategy game on Saturday by saving a new set of soft tyres in Q1 for both drivers. Having set his Q1 time on medium tyres, like teammate Ricciardo, Verstappen went out at the end of the session on a set of softs, but only did a slow lap, so they were effectively new for the race. Ricciardo’s saved set was brand new and this would count for a lot in his final stint battle against Verstappen, as we shall see.

Daniel Ricciardo Max Verstappen

Red Bull splits strategies and what it tells us about the future battles of
Ricciardo vs Verstappen

Did Red Bull believe that they could beat Lewis Hamilton in Sepang, without the engine failure? Up to the point at which the drivers moved onto the hard tyres the answer is yes.

Once it became clear the pace Mercedes had on the hard tyres, Red Bull’s focus shifted to preserving second and third places ahead of Rosberg and Raikkonen. But the way they went about it tells us a lot about what how they will have to carefully manage the internal battle between Ricciardo and Verstappen in future.

The early stages of the Grand Prix saw two periods of Virtual Safety Car and at the second, on Lap 9, Red Bull rolled the dice and split their strategies, bringing Verstappen in for another set of soft tyres.

They did this because it made it very difficult for Mercedes to cover both strategies with only Hamilton in the game at the front. Had Mercedes been first and second they would have done the same thing, because there were a lot of unknowns about how the tyres would perform later and what other incidents may occur.

Red Bull’s philosophy was to take the risk with the tail car, which is why Verstappen was pitted. As it turned out, it gave him the better strategy.

Red Bull F1

Interestingly this is the opposite of what they did in Barcelona (above), where they took the risk with the lead car, Ricciardo, and it cost him the race win.

Verstappen fitted his ‘as new’ set of softs at this stop and re-joined. Ricciardo had stayed out as had the leader Hamilton. On new tyres, Verstappen was quickly into Hamilton’s pit window, meaning that the world champion would drop behind Verstappen when he made his stop.

Hamilton pitted on Lap 20 for hards, with Ricciardo covering that a lap later with the same move. Although Ricciardo radioed in that he felt the tyres would go to the end, realistically both drivers were going to need a late race stop for a set of soft tyres; Mercedes were certainly planning that.

So there is no question that Verstappen was on the better strategy and had Hamilton pulled into the pits to retire on Lap 40, rather than stopping out on track triggering another VSC, then Verstappen would probably have won the race. Ricciardo would have had to stop again and would then have tried to make up the 24 seconds his stop had lost him, in the closing stages on soft tyres, versus Verstappen’s hards.

Lewis Hamilton

Once Hamilton was out, Red Bull did the sensible thing and pitted both cars under the VSC. They did this not as a form of team orders, but to cover off Rosberg and Raikkonen, who could have beaten them if there had been a late race Safety Car. They had a 30 second gap back to Rosberg so it made perfect sense to use it and take on fresh tyres, which Ricciardo was now in need of in any case.

Ricciardo fitted his new soft set, Verstappen had to use one of his old qualifying sets, which had done three laps including a hard lap. And thus, with his strategy advantage neutralised and inferior tyres, it was always going to be a struggle to beat his team mate. Game, set and match Ricciardo.

However the really intriguing phase was just before Hamilton’s engine failed, when Verstappen caught Ricciardo, who had pitted on lap 21 for hard tyres, six laps earlier than his teammate. At this point Hamilton was 20 seconds ahead, but lapping over a second faster than Ricciardo.

Ricciardo, Verstappen

Common sense would suggest that Red Bull would allow Verstappen through without delay, as he would then once again be in Hamilton’s pit window (i.e. less than the 24 seconds Hamilton would need to pit and re-join ahead). But at the rate Hamilton was going, that opportunity would be lost in a couple of laps time.

Switch them immediately and the Dutchman would have the track position when Hamilton stopped again. The Mercedes would have to try to pass him on the track at the end. Although Ricciardo had told the team he could go to the end on the tyres, the reality is that both he and Hamilton would need to stop again, so Ricciardo had little chance of winning the race, as things stood.

However what is significant is that Red Bull had conceded that Mercedes were too fast on hard tyres and they were not going to beat Hamilton. Thus their focus was on consolidating second and third places at that point.

They did not instruct Ricciardo to let Verstappen through because they were racing each other for position, not racing Hamilton.

That did not stop Verstappen from insisting on the radio that he be allowed through. We saw him do this a lot in the Toro Rosso days with Carlos Sainz and it’s clear that there will be some difficult moments in the future dynamic between the Red Bull drivers where these kinds of calls will be made. The data shows that Verstappen was the faster Red Bull driver all weekend in Malaysia and he had the better strategy before Hamilton’s demise.

Daniel Ricciardo

What Malaysia showed us is how the team handle the situation when they don’t think they can win the race and they favoured Ricciardo here; bearing in mind how they let him down in Barcelona and Monaco, this was clearly payback. With Hamilton’s misfortune it turned into an victory payback.

However, if the Red Bull drivers, perhaps next season, were in a position to win if the team moves one driver over to give the other a better shot at beating another car, would Ricciardo or Verstappen yield if requested? One can imagine the respective answers to that question and it will be fascinating when that situation arises next year.

Valterri Bottas

Bottas and Alonso shine as Button misses out

Valterri Bottas and the two McLaren drivers provided a couple of other interesting cameos.

Bottas had a strong race doing a one stop medium-hard strategy that very few people foresaw. It was bold by Williams and the kind of thing they need to do more often.

Starting 11th after a disappointing qualifying session, the Finn did a superb job to get 29 laps into the race on the mediums and then reach the finish on the hards, maintaining track position ahead of the Force India and McLaren cars.

Due to the new track surface no race strategist had a clear idea of the best order to take the tyres, “you had to be dynamic and on your toes this weekend, reacting to things.” said one.

Fernando Alonso had another astonishing afternoon, starting at the back of the grid after his engine penalty; he was already 12th at the end of the opening lap. Making up places at starts has always been one of his strengths, but it set him up for a strong result here. He too pitted under the Lap 9 VSC and took the hard tyres. He saved around 10 seconds by stopping under the VSC compared to a normal stop.

He then undercut Hulkenberg at his second stop to finish in seventh place for the second race in a row, showing the steady progress McLaren Honda is making as the season progresses. Alonso also set the sixth fastest race lap.

Fernando Alonso

The Spaniard has definitely got his bounce back; he is driving well and the car is making clear progress.

Button had a great start too and was sixth on the opening lap. He was racing against Bottas for fifth place, but was caught out by bad luck when he pitted just before the final VSC for Hamilton’s breakdown. This allowed Alonso and Hulkenberg to get a cheap pit stop under the VSC and come out ahead of him and both separated him from Bottas ahead.

Sometimes there is nothing you can do if Lady Luck isn’t on your side, however good your strategy planning!

UBS

The UBS Race Strategy Report is written by James Allen with input and data from several of the leading F1 teams’ strategists and from Pirelli.

RACE HISTORY GRAPH & TYRE USAGE CHART, Kindly Supplied by Williams Martini Racing – Click to enlarge

Key: Horizontal = Lap number; Vertical = Gap in seconds

Look at the pace of Verstappen as he closes on Ricciardo around Lap 38/39. Had Hamilton’s engine survived both he and Ricciardo would have needed to stop again, leaving both to pass Verstappen for the victory. Had Hamilton retired in the pits Ricciardo would have had to pit again before the end and Verstappen would have won the race by a margin. Holding Verstappen off on Lap 39 and then Hamilton stopping out on circuit triggering a VSC won Ricciardo the race.

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123 comments

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1

I've read in a few places that Red Bull expected to win the race even without Lewis's engine failure.

If Lewis had made that stop, surely he'd have had enough of a pace advantage on a fresh soft tyre to beat Ves, even if he'd rejoined the race a second or two behind him?

2

Red Bull would say that after all
Horner is full of [Mod].

3

I don't think RB felt they could win the race. If they did, they would surely have told Ricciardo to give up his position to Max because Max was the only one who could possibly had challenged Lewis for the win, at that time, given the fact that both Lewis and Ricciardo still had to pit.

RB settled with the idea that they could not beat Lewis and let the two cars battle for second place.

4

Both red bullies and Colgate kid were certainly gifted that race win.
As to the spice man controlling his drivers he seems to have found a way after the finger ridiculed him like never before, he just lined them up in the pit box one behind the other, and after that he told them to have a drink.

5

Looks like Verstappen made an investment for the future here...

6

The young bull versus the slightly older bull...a storm is brewing out at sea

7

I have the same feeling.

Would not be surprised if RB is going to try having Max pass Kimi and Sebastian in the driver's championship and deal him some favours in the races to come.

8

Everyone with a few braincells knows Red Bull gifted the win to Ricciardo and that doesn't matter as there is nothing on the line but I am surprised to read that Verstappen asked to be let through, when was this?

9

Cant't find the radiotransmission on youtube and I didn't hear Max asking . I think it was Just a mix up by James when Max told the pitcrew before the virtual safetycar that he could take the fight with Lewis. Or James got this from Red Bull.

10

"Braincells". Hmmm. Did you read the article. Merc gifted the win to Ric. Just as they would have gifted the win to Max had he managed to pass Dan. Would Max have yielded. Not bloody likely. Nor should he. Dan caught some well overdue luck. The win has been described as 'deserved'. I dont necessarily subscribe to that word but he has been extremely consistent and he gave himself every chance to capitalise. Well done RB for letting them go at it. Some have the opinion that, had Dan yielded, Max had a realistic chance to take Ham and win on 'merit'. Mine opinion is, he needs to pass Dan first. Ill hold the same when the time comes that Dan needs to get by Max.

11

"Some have the opinion that....max had a realistic chance to take Ham"...its those same "some" that think he is a future champ, and all should bow down before him....lets take that cart and put it back behind the horse!!!

12

I'll second that. This article and some of the comments make out that Verstappen was instructed to stay behind Dan, but he wasn't. He was on tires that were 7-8 laps newer than Dans and couldn't pass him. They went wheel to wheel in a fantastic battle and Ricciardo came out on top.

I think we need to give credit where it is due - Ricciardo was ONCE AGAIN given the worst strategy of the two and still came out on top due to his fantastic driving! Was the VSC after Hamilton lucky? Yes, but that all happened after Ricciardo and Verstappen went wheel to wheel!

13

You're wrong. verstappen ended on the right strategy because of the racing incident. He tried to overtake ricciardo and failed. This caused ricciardo to get the first pit stop. There were no team orders. just how was ricciardo gifted the win.

14

i don't see it that way. Verstappen was give the the better strategy split here as he was in Barca. They stacked the cars in the final stop rather than let Max stay out as they knew RIC would catch him on fresh tyres. So the team did everything they could for Max to win. I think RIC won despite the team strategy not because of them.
Was Max told not to challenge RIC? more than likely ... he closed up from 5 secs gap to under 2 in about 3 laps but then he maintained the gap so by then team politics took over from team strategy.

15

I think stacking the cars really played against Max tbh. This was a gift for Ricciardo and rightly so after he was cruelly denied in Monaco.

Max took it well, probably better than most expected. I guess he knows the real war begins in 2017.

16

Verstappen had the batter strategy. Ricciardo won because the only thing that could swing it his way, happened - Hamilton stopped out on track triggering a VSC

17

No kidding

18

Do you think that Max's strategy and Lewis needing to get a 24,s gap on the Red Bulls found a chink in the Merc armour - Rosberg was made wind the engine mode back even though 3rd was at risk.

Also we have seen Red Bull ask a driver to let the other one though if they can gain a place and then make them relinquish the spot if they dont.

19

Did the "batter strategy" end up being a "crepe" one more due Verstappen being unable to over take Ricciardo as if he'd managed it, he would've been the first of the two to pit under VSC?

20

And that would not even have been a problem had Hamilton managed to keep his engine alive for 1 or 2 extra laps. Max was way faster at that time than Daniel and he would have made a second attempt stick, giving him the advantage at the stacked pitstop.

21

Like the first vsc gave max the upper hand. I heard Jenson after the race said there is a 15 second difference in pitting under the VSC compared to race pace. So he actually got the best strategy here as well.

22

Is it so certain that even without the second VSC Ricciardo would have finished behind had he stopped again? He would have lost, yes roughly 24 seconds. But Verstappen had a lot of deg and Ricciardo's final run after the VSC was super consistent showing basically no deg. His lap times were multiple seconds faster than what Verstappen was running prior to the VSC too and thats not taking into account further degradation on Max's tyres.

I really think that even if Ricciardo pitted again at full race speed he would have had the time to catch Verstappen when his pace was 2-3 seconds per lap faster.

23

Jeff, I was like everyone else who was pretty confident that Max was on the winner strategy, that was until I read Helmut Marko's recent post race interview where he clearly states that Max's tyre deg was a lot higher than expected and higher than Dans! Now, we all know that Marko is clearly Max's No.1 cheerleader and wouldn't baulk at the opportunity to publicly broadcast his confidence in Max's potential to win the race, but there was nothing from Marko to suggest this which is very interesting. Makes me wonder if Max might have had to stop again on the hards no matter what?

24

Marko was referring to the degradation on Max's last stint on the used softs, when he was pushing to reel in Daniel, and got into dirty air. Max's tyres were already 3 laps older and the dirty air didn't improve it.

Had the VSC not occurred, Max would have been able to finish on the hard compound without too much trouble.

25

Do you have a link or maybe know who the interviewer was for the Marko post race comment you are referring to? Would like to read/view it myself.

26

elbo, there are various links but this is one:

http://www.pitpass.com/57442/Marko-We-forced-Lewis-to-engine-failure

and the quote I was referring to is:

Other than Hamilton's engine detonation, Marko believes another major factor in the outcome of the race was tyre strategy.
"It played a big part of our success, as the tyre degradation was immense. Max was very fast, but also hard on the tyres so he had more than the anticipated degradation and that played a bit to his disadvantage. We told him; 'If you continue with this speed your front tyres will give up in the next couple of laps and your sure P2 will be gone, and you will probably end up empty handed'.
"But in the end he knew about his tyre situation himself," admits Marko, "because he felt, of course, that he was losing grip with every lap. So there was not an issue for him keeping position.

Now, I immediately assumed he was referring to the stint on the hards, but it's not clear and it's very plausible he was referring to the final stint on the softs, so I might be basing my intrigue on false assumptions?

27

I believe Marko was referring to the last stint. When Max and Ricciardo were fighting in lap 39, Max's tyres were perfectly ok.

Also, Marko said:

But in the end he knew about his tyre situation himself, because he felt, of course, that he was losing grip with every lap. So there was not an issue for him keeping position.

That situation only occurred on his last stint.

28

cheers mate - i found the interview on the official site: https://www.formula1.com/en/latest/interviews/2016/10/helmut-marko-red-bull-hamilton-malaysia-engine-failure.html
Yes - interesting indeed that he notes specifically that Max had bad degradation. Wonder if he would have hit the "cliff" without the final stop onto the softs. Not even sure if the cliff exists anymore or whether all the teams are much better at managing it now.

29

Laptimes drops with less fuel. VES laptimes would have dropped to. So your comparison is a bit more complicated. VES did the better laptimes consistently during the weekend. And last but not least. defending your position was successful as shown buy the intra team battle earlier.

30

People keep saying Red Bull handed it to Ricciardo, how?

Verstappen was given the better strategy early on in the race. When the second VSC came out they had no choice but to pit Verstappen too, if they didn't pit him he would have been a sitting duck and passed by Ricciardo well before the end of the race with how much faster the soft tyres were.

Red Bull gave Verstappen every chance to finish ahead, but he couldn't make the pass on track.

31

Oh my, people need to get their panty's out of a bunch and stop being so defensive.

Gifted as in Lewis retiring causing the VSC handing Daniel the win. Never said it was a bad thing, it is part of racing just like the failed stop in Monaco was.

32

Jeff.N Agreed! To say that RB “handed” the race to Ricciardo is nonsense. Putting the alternative strategy argument aside which becomes irrelevant anyway as a result of Hamilton’s engine blowing Verstappen had two opportunities to win the race. Firstly, on lap 39 if he had made the pass on Ricciardo he would have entered pit lane first when RB double-stacked under the VSC and exited with track position to fight off Daniel to the end. And secondly, even considering things as they were he couldn’t get within DRS range (less than 1 second) to attempt an overtake on Daniel in the closing stages of the race. 1. 2 seconds was the closest he got. They both put on soft compound tyres at the last stop and while Daniel’s were unused Max’s I think had only been used for an installation lap in Q2. And they were both given the same engine modes so there was no favouritism either way. Sure time-wise Ricciardo benefited from Hamilton’s engine failure but its situations like this that make Formula 1 a bit of a lottery at times. Fortuitous for some and frustrating for others. Just ask Hamilton.

33

Max's tyres were 3 laps old, including a hot lap. He used the "As good as new" softs earlier in the race. (2nd stint)

34

bs63: Your right. My bad. Thanks for the correction.

35

@ Jeff N That is my belief also.

36

Before the race RBR agreed the driver who was leading after lap 1 would benifit the optimum strategy, that was Ricciardo.

Verstappen was closing in rather fast after the start, he said (on the radio) 'I think I can take on Lewis'. At that moment Verstappen was faster then Hamilton, but got stuck behind Ricciardo that's why he pitted this early.

37

"who was leading after lap 1 would benifit the optimum strategy, that was Ricciardo"

Um...it was clearly VER who had the better strategy, favored by RB again where they pitted the SECOND car for the better strategy in case of a VSC (very much unlike Spain...)

So yes, VER is RB's golden boy.

38

@ Matn....Firstly your opening comment....Do you have an impeccable source that confirms that agreement? I have not seen or heard that comment before so i would really like to see it confirmed. When verstappen closed up on DR and he requested that DR be told to move over, why didn't he simply put the pass on ? Likewise when the two finally caught up after hamilton's demise why didn't verstappen pass ricciardo? All senior personnel confirm that there were no team orders.

39

The VSC effectively destroyed Max's ability to race Daniel for the win so that's why there were no more passing attempts.

They both pushed very hard that last stint and Max's tyres were 3 laps older so he basically could no longer bring the fight to Daniel anymore.

Had it not been for the VSC, i am pretty sure Max would have passed RIC on lap 40 or 41. The difference in grip was just too much for Ricciardo to keep defending against. He almost lost position in Max's first attempt.

40

Kenneth: Agreed! Verstappen had two clear opportunities to overtake Ricciardo (on lap 39 and after the last pit stop under the VSC) both for track position and the lead but couldn't manage it. Read my response to Jeff.N above when it is posted. I also think that Max was somewhat overly ambitious in requesting that he be let by Daniel to take on Hamilton. This is in no way to put Max down because I believe he's a super talent and with Dan the best pairing in F1. Their battle on lap 39 was epic and it shows the respect they have for each other which seems to be replicated off the track.

41

Spot on Kenneth, Ves was handed everything on a plate but couldn't pull off the moves. I am fed up with the max [Mod] as being the golden child. Ric owned him well and truly with the exception of Brazil where max was amazing in the rain despite having a very lucky spin escape. Ric is clearly the faster more consistent and mature driver, just read the head to head stats.

42

Plsss...1 try and then luck fell into Ricci's hands. Had Lewis finished the race...Verstappen would have passed Ricci with 2p laps to go. He was faster...and everyone knows that Max is very capabele of overtaking.

43

In the laps before the intra-team battle they had. 36 or 37, i guess.

Max was on his last stint and still within the pit window of Lewis when he arrived at Ricciardo's tail and he figured he could battle Lewis for the win.

RB decided Lewis was too fast and had almost secured a free stop so they let Max and Ricciard battle it out.

Perfectly understandable.

44

i do not think RBR intended tot let RIC win. Just as in spain they split the options and one of those options will prove right.
In spain VES did the job in malasia RIC did it.
The difference in this clash is the simple fact it's nog about a WC, or at the moment it happened it was running for the the second place.
Another difference is the character difference between HAM/ROS as a pair and VES/RIC as a pair.
I guess RIC and VES are better equipped for intra team battles 😉

45

A curious thing, the intra-team battle going on beyond the inter-team competition that all the teams are chasing. How often does it get in the way? It certainly hasn't hindered Merc despite MANY a rivalry induced skirmish into the gravel. I can't recall any season where teammates clashing has deprived the team of championship position.
So the question is, what is there really to manage?
It's like evolution. They both want to win so they're both going to try and stay on track at least. They obviously do not suffer any kind of nemisal-proximo clumsiness, so keep dangling the carrot and the drivers will be fine.
Horner's actually got it pretty lucky because the situation is self organised. Team roles are clearly defined. DR is established team leader, Max the young gun, out to learn but everyone knows he's fast enough to win. I think Daniel has clipped his wings a little... Quali has been a trouncing and add to that races of late (potentially all season if not for errors and decisions) have been basically owned by DR.
So managing the situation is kind of taking care if itself really. Put a flame under it though!!

46

Danny is not only fast, he's also smart. He's not too proud to look at what Max is doing and learn from it, and for the moment he remains better at conserving the tyres and generally finding a tenth or two in qualy. Max will always be on the radio trying to get him to moved over, just as Vettel did back in Mark's day, but I think Horner is now wise to it, and will only do that if he's convinced; that's the line in the sand this weekend, I think.

47

You seem to have missed the quali this time then 😉
The quali battle is something you should look at later in the season. VES has to adjust to the RB car and he is getting things on the road now.

48

@ Evert...With all the hoo har about the magic of verstappen , you seem to conveniently forget that he's now had 12 races with the team and should be on top of everything. 'F1 is not a finishing school'.

49

And the last races seem to prove it.
He already is on top of everything.

50

Undoubtedly Ricciardo had the better tyre management strategy during practise and qualifying. He may well have sacrificed qualifying pace deliberately to keep 2 sets of brand new softs available for the race. Whereas Verstappen had one set that had done an installation lap and the other set had done 3 laps at qualifying pace. The race is won on Sunday but often it's what you do on Saturday that's important. It wasn't luck that Ricciardo had 2 sets of brand new softs, it was a deliberate strategy and it paid off.

51

You guys are funny!!!

When Ricciardo qualifies first, it is Ricciardo who had the upperhand in qualifying and when Max is faster in qualifying, Ricciardo saved his tyres to his own benefit in the race.

so predictable...

I bet when Max wins again, it is because of bad strategy or Ricciardo saving his tyres for the next weekend. 😉

52

@ Gary...yes, you are so right. This was mentioned after quali was finished on saturday but it seemed to go, mainly, unreported.

53

Yep. Max is coming.

54

@ Sir Tease...he certainly is and there will be some good racing ahead. Who will come out on top is pure speculation ATM but i do expect it to be entertaining provided that RB stay out of the picture and let them race. They are both hotshoes and given a top car they will, hopefully, take it to mercedes next year. That said i fully expect mercedes to stay on top but with the 'others' closer to their performance.

55

"I can't recall any season where teammates clashing has deprived the team of championship position."
Are you Teasing?
Or is your experience only after 2007?
The McLaren debakle certainly allowed another driver (all be he taking 100% advanbtage of every opportunity) to win the world championship; and, surprise, surprise, lewis was in on that one, too (though not the prime [Mod] disturber).

56

Mclaren were excluded because of spygate. Otherwise they had enough points to win the constructor's.
Next...

57

I had to read the section on Max and Danny Ric three times to make sense of it.

The first time, I tried to be impartial and stayed neutral between Max and Danny Ric and the article just didn't make sense. i couldn't follow the sequence of events

Then I tried to read it as an Australian, as a fan of Danny Ric, and it still didn't make sense.

Then I re-read it for the third time, this time from the point of view of the scheming Dr Marko, who did not smile once when he was below the podium, not once while the rest of F1 warmly acknowledged the winner- and suddenly your article made sense.

I hope there is another team manager in F1 who will back Danny Ric to win a championship in their car, because its clear no-one at Red Bull wants that to happen if Max is coming second.

58

Mr Squiggle: I’m also an Australian coming from Ricciardo’s home town of Perth and found your comments interesting although I can’t quite buy-in to them. Not yet anyway. If body language is anything to go by its difficult to know what Helmut Marko is thinking at any given time because he’s such a dead pan humourless looking character and barely gets out of first gear when he talks. However, what we do know is that being in charge of the Red Bull Junior Driver Program he made or was involved in the decision making process that promoted both Danny and Verstappen to the senior team at the expense of Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniil Kvyat. Two correct decisions that are producing great results although Danny certainly established his reputation by outperforming Vettel in 2014. As to what Marko’s responsibilities are during qualifying and on race day I don’t know. I assume he’s there as an observer (on behalf of Dietrich Mateschitz who owns the team) and hope that operational matters are left to the engineers, strategists and Christian Horner on the Pit Wall. I would hope that he stays unbiased and objective.

59

"...and hope that operational matters are left to the engineers, strategists and Christian Horner on the Pit Wall. I would hope that he stays unbiased and objective"

Baaaa ha ha ha ha....yeah...hmmmm...good one. I expect he lets Horner get right on with his job, no interference at all...oh, now look, I've just spat my tea all over my keyboard laughing again!

60

bibby: I guess you've been sharing notes with Mr Squiggle!!

61

No, just watched Marko over rule Horner at every turn for the last 6 years or so. He is a ruthless shark who couldn't care less who he steps on. Bright bloke, but dangerous. And it's not Bibby, its bippy by the way. American slang for arse. Which I generally am.

62

bippy: Apologies for the misspelling. No disrespect intended. Obviously you've got inside information about Herr Marko that I don't have. I don't have an axe to grind about him one way or the other. Not yet anyway. Just to satisfy my curiosity perhaps you can give me an example (just one will do) of where Marko has overruled Horner. Presumably you have witnessed many during the last 6 years. I tell you what would have irked him (and perhaps Horner too) is that it is my understanding that Webber negotiated his contracts directly with Mateschitz.

63

they don't want the second coming, coming second? oi vey!

64

Did you miss the hand shake between Marko and Daniel on the start line as everyone was leaving the area. I don't think Marko smiles a lot.

65

You clearly didnt saw the celebrations as Marko was all smiles

66

Yes...i too saw that and when marko smiles it is worth noting.

67

Yep Alonso had a great race.
I can see some serious battles getting raw between Max and Ricciardo. Sooner or later they'll be a mega falling out. In the words of The Highlander "There can only be One",
In the end .

68

Lewis engine blow is up good for F1.
Last time when I was very upset about the lead car failure, that season went on to be a blockbuster.
Mika and Kimi would be thinking why so much fuss about a Mercedes engine blow up when lapping a second over others?

69

yes. I was thinking that too. Mika and Kimi. They presided over some massive ka-bloo-ees!

70

Great article!!!
Christian Horner is much better at managing his thoroughbreds than Herr Wolff.
Split strategy is one thing, but there seems to be more going on, behind the scenes. Can anyone now imagine MV not aggressively going after any other driver, besides his teammate at RB?!
NO WAY!
So, there is some deal there.
But, I think we'll have similar fireworks, if one driver perceives unfair support; I think it is inevitable.
But, we'll see; especially if RB are there, as much as I think they will be, next year.

The fight will be much, much closer next year with the RB chassis matching (despite likely variations in conceptual designs) the Merc, and my expectation of much closer power unit delivery from the Renault/Mario Illien 2017 spec PU.

I'm still hoping for McLaren to get in the mix with some large step in PU.
And holding out hope for a lightning strike at the RED team, as well.

But the rest of the year will be the MMC drama, with increasing relevance of RB, taking points from MB drivers, when they have any weaknesses.

71

"matching" .......... clearly the Red Bull chassis for all of this season has been noticeably superior to the Mercedes. Based on the sector times the McLaren has a strong claim to being the 2nd best chassis. With the Honda engine package getting ever closer, next year Mercedes could easily find themselves in 3rd.

72

Gary: your point is well-taken; but on the whole balance of the season, I believe that they match, in that, the Mercedes is a beautiful package, and at half the circuits, I believe it was as good, or better in chassis than the RB, this year.
Just becuase of their apparent PU superiority, I don't discount he beauty of their chassis, as well.
But, I agree with you that RB may now be there, or better; but I don't expect Merc to stand still, and therefore, with a different (likely) conceptual design, I expect them to be very strong in the chassis for 2017.
Agree with McLaren, iteritively getting better and better with their rising star aero designer, but I don't think they're at the plateau of Merc or RB yet, but very competitive with Ferrari, maybe better.
Anyways, next year is a whole new ball of wax, and Ferrari are a team that can pull one out of the bag, yet (I hope).

73

"Christian Horner is much better at managing his thoroughbreds than Herr Wolff."

Thing is though, this was a race win that had no world championship implications, unlike, say Austria 2016. When you've got 2 drivers within the same team fighting tooth and nail for a title............well, let's see how Mr Horner manages the situation next year if the RB is an aerodynamic supercar that enables his charges to campaign for the championship. Trying to win the odd race with no massive consequences [i.e out of the title running as RB are this year] is one thing, but trying to contain 2 super competitive racers within the same stables.........that can lead to Turkey 2010 or even Suzuka 1989.

74

Do you know what is the only thing that's funnier than "one of the most prestigious luxury automobile brands in the world" beating a sugar water maker to the ultimate prize in motor sports?

Sugar water maker beating the luxury car brand in 2017 on merit!

Here it is boys and girls. Mercedes AMG V12 naturally aspirated super car defeated by a $1.99 can of yellow liquid. Motorsport competition at it's best! Welcome to modern Formula 1. Maybe if we're lucky we'll see Ferrari win against toothpaste maker next?

75

Haven't you seen the new Adrian Newey / Red Bull Technology collaborated Aston Martin?

76

So you think Red Bull products have anything to do with that? I know DM is a marketing genius, but don't think Red Bull is an automotive product. It is sugar water, that's all.

77

@ Sebee....So why is it that people continue to diss on RB as just 'a fizzy drinks/sugar water company'. The drinks company provide the finance that is all. RB Racing is a top flight racing team equal in status on track as to any other team...and very successful. Other teams take sponsor money for a range of diverse products so what's the difference? I don't hear you say disparaging things about williams being supported and largely sponsored by 'martini' just another drinks company'!!

78

End of the day kenneth it is sugar water money vs. automotive money. It's an automotive sport, and there is more alignment with an automotive brand to be on top. To have non-automotive money come in and whip automotive money is funny, because it shouldn't happen.

Think of it this way. Kelloggs cornflakes make a phone that's better than iPhone. That's what's going on here in F1 pretty much, and it's funny.

79

Also it is fair to ask, how will Mercedes handle that, if they are beaten? Prestigious brand beaten by $1.99 sugar water? How is that brand building for Mercedes?

80

Pointless debate - as we all know, in most cases the name on the car is only the depth of the paint.

81

In the next issue of Car and Driver, new Mercedes AMG Hypercar vs. Red Bull Sugarfree - instrument tests and first impressions.

82

Exactly Mike.

But here is the thing, we fans have an interest in this series. We invest our time here. They took away the sound, the lightness/nimbleness of cars, the extreme forces we loved watching. They keep taming the car to some lap delta with fuel limitations, weight, PUs, and all in the name of some road relevance argument claims.

I am sick and I am tired of Formula 1 being road relevant. [self mod] road relevance! I want Formula 1 to be the most road irrelevant thing in motorsport.

If I don't agree with you, we don't go into the octagon and pound our brains until someone needs to be taken out on a stretcher. UFC is not "life relevant", is it? You don't see pressure to have UFC fighters go into the ring and work it out peacefully with conversation, right? Stick the road relevance right up the wastegate of these PUs!

83

Totally agree on the road relevance point.

84

Nice analogy there Sebee. I do agree that F1 does not need to be road relevant. For if it truly wanted to be, next gen -ABS, active suspension, traction control, ground effect and other things we havent even heard about would be the talk around here.

On an unrelated matter- just saw replay on F1.com of Gutierrez's wheel coming off and again was impressed with Kimi seeing and dodging the wheel nut well before the wheel came off- explained why he reacted so quickly when it did- he was expecting it.!

85

Very nice Sebee, I can feel the anger in your post, I couldn't agree more.

86

That sebee is a fine post. well said.

87

here! here! bravo! them's fighting words Seebee and I'm with you 100%. My Celica has all the road-relevance I need in my life...I want F1 cars to be fire-breathing dragons that I wouldn't personally have the kahunas to get in. quit saving fuel! I'm saving enough for the lot of us!

88

And yeah, I know that's not a V10 in the MP4/4 or whatever that is. Point is, it's not muffled by some ERS, etc.

89

I let the V10 loop autoplay, eventually I got to this video. Look at this, people coming just to hear an F1 car rev. It doesn't even move. What will it take for these "leaders" of F1 to realize how frikken important this was to F1? You think people will ever do this to a PU car? No way!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3QG8V5BkME

90

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rSd8IWGKxMQ

You tell me if you would be willing to basically strap that on as a backpack. And the BMW P84 went to mid 900HP and 95kg weight. Sick!

Oh, and they are not saving fuel with these PUs. I don't believe it at all. Anyone who does a bit of back of napkin math can see that at best it's same. It's all front loaded and moved to the jets that are moving all this extra PU hardware weight around. We did some math here in the comment section and figured they wasted 7000Kg of jet fuel, deposited right in the atmosphere back at Russian GP just fetching him a part.

91

Is it my imagination or is there some concerted effort to avoid any discussion of the penalty for Vettel. I for one think the penalty is fine. He took an aggressive and flawed line into the corner and paid the price. Fine, but the inconsistency of the stewards is appalling. Max did almost the exact same thing in Spa and there was not even an investigation.

92

James, can you please say some words about this ?

Why no one talking about this, because Vettel has more [Mod] than Max ?

If that [Mod] say something about Vettel they would get a comment about Max at Spa, right ?

93

Max did lots of things at Spa that warranted investigation.

I would love to see the back of Derek Warwick and a complete review of how the stewards operate.

94

Adrew. I guess the difference is in Belgium Max took the inside line, but held that line, in Malaysia Seb ran wide from that line and hit Rosberg.

95

You think that Vettel didn't keep his inside line ?
That's more for Max not to keep the line.

96

in spa, the collision happened AFTER the turn and was deemed a racing incident. In Malaysia, Vettel just speared into Rosberg.

Different situation and perfectly reasonable penalty.

97

May I give a suggestion?
I believe the "race history" graph is too polluted and doesn't supply a good visualization.
An interactive graph where we could select/tick the boxes of drivers we want to compare the performance would be ideal.
Kind of a Java graph.

About the HAM dnf there are some considerations to make:
HAM was complaining that amongst all Merc engines his was the only one to grenade.
1> It was said in the press that HAM had a most advanced version of the engine with some more tokens spent to develop it.
So his engine was different from all the other ones.
Also that Merc was delaying to release it asap to avoid ROS getting it beforehand [HAM].
So maybe HAM paid for the new spec - more powerful / less reliable - engine.
2> Remember that Malaysia is one of the hardest races in terms of air temp and moisture, so maybe Merc should have been a tad more conservative there.
Note how HAM race suit was covered by sweat.
3> As predicted by this blog - lap times would be similar in race pace.
However HAM managed to open a 20+ sec. gap to the RedBulls on the same tire spec.
Meaning that HAM was really pushing hard under extreme conditions.
Maybe HAM should hv been focused on finishing ahead of ROS in P3, but it's easy to say afterwards.
HAM always races for victory.
4> Even though there were 8 Merc engines in the race.
Throttle usage is always different.
Williams engineers used to say that Mansell's engine used to consume 5% more gasoline than Piquet, under close lap times.
So since the goal of F1 drivers is using the biggest % of open throttle in a lap and that HAM had been consistently the fastest driver on the track, HAM was straining the engine more than all other Merc mates.
Once Merc AMG has the best chassis among Merc powered teams, HAM was the one able to accelerate earlier and for longer on the straights [late braker].
...
So in a few words, HAM was the Merc rider straining the engine the most under extreme weather conditions.

98

You should fact check more, before running with theories.

Hamilton’s 3 new engines were a new spec, that both he and Rosberg took at Spa. Rosberg has run that engine for 4 races (unless he ran a prior spec in any of ITA, SIN, or MAL, which is doubtful).

Hamilton was metronomic in Malaysia. He wasn't ragged or pushing hard, just relentless speed. It was the same for him in 2014 there.

The team had no warning of any potential breakdown. They would know if it was in a higher strat mode. Seeing as there was no need for that, I doubt it was. Seeing as Rosberg had to ask the Merc pitwall for permission to use strat 3, I'm sure the same would hold for Hamilton.

In a few words, as per usual, you're trying to stretch the facts onto a preconceived narrative.

99

HAM was under pressure to extend the gap to the pitwindow.
He probably used quali settings to reach this goal. When ROS needed more power they allowed hem to do this for only a few laps. Merc already suspected the engine could blow using the strat 3 to long as HAM probably did.
It was the RBR pressure that ruined the engine as a result.

100

@ Evert...wolffie more or less confirmed that hamilton was pushing very hard to build the gap. What they haven't said, and will not say, is 'how hard'. They are unlikely to say, if they were using a more aggressive mode, we overstepped the limits. They are in denial ATM and i very much doubt if we'll ever get the 'dinky di, true blue' truth of the matter.

101

But in the interview afterwards, Hamilton said he hadn't been in a high-performance mode.

For what that's worth.

102

'it's worth nothing really'

103

Are you quoting someone? Who?

104

@DeWeberis: re: Hamilton engines. Nonesense, F1 engines don't work like the Mansell era ones, the engine manages it's own stress levels within the power setting it's been given. You might as well say that Lewis crashes the gearbox too much...
However, you stick with it if it makes you happy

I remember Mansell grenaded one engine by missing a gear change on his last lap when he was leading and waving to the crowd.

105

@ neilmurg...how does the team prevent a driver from using the 'aggressive' mode if he chooses to do so? I was under the belief that there are no pit-to-car controls apart from verbal comments which can be and are fully monitored at all time by the FIA.

106

kenneth, the team can't stop the driver selecting a higher mode, but they know instantly if he has. Radio communication would follow telling him to switch it back, these communications are available and would surely have surfaced by now if they had happened. It is unlikely in the extreme that Lewis would have risked switching to a more aggressive engine mode when he clearly had the pace to win without it, and even more unlikely that Paddy Lowe would have denied that he had done it after the race.

107

I was there for that one, I think Nigel just stopped paying attention while waving to the crowd and stalled it 😉

108

l don't believe Lewis would have had much problem passing Max had RB asked their drivers to switch positions. Not the way he was driving in that race. I am not is biggest fan by any stretch but when he is on as he was, he is nearly unbeatable. Driving a Mercedes way ahead of the rest of course has a bit to do with it. lf as many seem to believe RB is closer to Mercedes next year, l can see both teams taking side within their drivers. Sadly no more, you can race each other as long as... still sounds much better than what we have had since 2013. Who will RB favor in this case will be interesting to see. l have few doubts who it will be in the Mercedes camp. l still have hopes that Ferrari will come and play as well and while at it why not McLaren as well. One can dream no? Anyways, plenty yet to look forward to this season yet. A last race decider would make up for the lack of inter teams competition as well. Marc

109

Anybody know why RAI only used his first new set of hard tyres for 12 laps? It looked like an unneccessary pit stop to me.

110

Ricciardo was only 3rd favourite for the win right up until the point Hamilton's engine let go. I'm surprised that Verstappen complied with the order to pit without making it known that he was effectively gifting the win to his teammate. THAT is radio chatter that we would really be interested in hearing..

111

Under the VSC, Ricciardo would only have lost about 13 seconds on Max and on fresh tyres, Max would have been a sitting duck, waiting for Ricciardo to reel him in.

It was the course of events that cost Max the race, not the pitstops.

112

Max only has the best strategy (after a gamble, not a conscious RB award) because he overcame the time loss by driving faster. This got him to be on RIC's tail with tires fresh enough to finish. A full extra (albeit VSC) stop.
And he had to overcome the T1 scrap, more traffic, plus the stacked pitstop.

Without the first VSC I don't think Max would have been brought in quite that early. Then he could have had even fresher tires in the closing stages, and there would be more pressure on RB to have him let by RIC to make HAM's life really hard. Would it slow them both down enough for RIC to cat up? Likely not.

Max lost the race by, to his high standards, the half-arsed overtaking attempt on RIC. He left so much room there.
Without HAM's blowup, the GUT wheel loss would have ensured that RIC won anyway, that would get them to pitalso, just a lap later.

113

Masterful team strategy by Red Bull in pitting Verstappen and keeping Ricciardo out, a perfect example of splitting the strategy. It put Hamilton under pressure, thereby forced him to push hard which created the environment for a mechanical issue. If Verstappen doesn't stop Hamilton simply maintains sufficient gap, drops the engine mode down a few and cruises to a race win. Put the pressure on to maintain a pit stop gap, in those hot and humid conditions and wait for the driver error and/or mechanical mayhem.

This race demonstrates that Red Bull have very strong faith in their cars and drivers being able to run hard for the full race. More so than Mercedes who have shown some weaknesses recently, not just mechanically but one driver in particular seems to have been making a number of mistakes that previously weren't so evident.

If Red Bull can maintain the pressure for the remaining races I expect that this won't be the last time that the Achilles heels of Mercedes are exposed.

114

I think RBR has form with its strategy and trying to be too cute with it. They too easily forget when they are in front, that strategy is largely for other teams to worry about. They tend to fiddle with an eye on other teams, when they don't have to.

Spain - leading driver, leading the race is pitted to split strategy & put him on the untried and unknown (risky) strategy which blew up in their faces.
Monaco - leading driver, leading the race pits to replace inters with slicks, and second place Merc stays out and gains track position. Blew up in their faces again, and with a "get out of jail" free card with lead driver being able to pull the gap to still fit the second stop in and win, they dropped the ball completely with a botched the stop.
Malaysia - They took the risk with second driver (which unfortunately turned out to be the better strategy) and through luck, the lead driver pulled off the second best strategy and just won the race over his teammate.

I don't think it's playing favourites (yet) but it is simply an unfortunate coincidence that all three mistaken calls have gone against DR. Shows the caliber of driver he is when his highly rated teammate has been the beneficiary of the better strategy a number of times, yet DR has fairly comprehensively shaded him so far.

115

The split strategy was a masterful stroke Red Bull, pitting Verstappen early forced Hamilton to push harder than he would have otherwise had to. The result was mechanical failure, which the Mercedes do appear to suffer from when pushed, especially in hot and humid conditions. To offset that chassis deficiencies (particularly compared to Red Bull and McLaren) they now have to run the engines harder for longer in the races. Previously the chassis deficiencies were offset by a much larger power advantage than is currently the case. They would simply utilise more down force, sacrificing drag, knowing that the power advantage was sufficient. This is gradually diminishing as the other teams catch up in the power race.

116

Ricciardo winning Malaysia was sheer luck. Hamilton blowing up 1 or 2 laps later and the podium would have been Verstappen on 1, Ricciardo on 2.

117

wow. verstappen out qualified ricciardo by 4/100. prior to that he's been clearly dominated except for 1-2 races. Anyone with a brain cell can tell that ricciardo was quicker in the final stint. verstappen's tyres were a couple of laps older. wow. that makes a big difference (sarcasm). Do people really think that verstappen just sat back and let ricciardo win. they need a history lesson on verstappen. he was soundly beaten and a little unlucky with strategy. Rubbish article really.

118

Bedore the summer break, Verstappen had the pace edge on Ricciardo. From Spa onwards, Verstappen had problems getting away from the grid due to clutch problems.

I think them two are a lot closer to each other in performance than you give them credit for.

In qualifying, Ricciardo has had the upper hand but the difference in qualifying pace is marginal on both sides the last 4 or 5 races. I expect qualifying to be a 50/50 battle fom now on until the end of the season.

119

Verstappen should do a hot lap in the 'reasonably priced car' on the Top gear test track.
Then we'll all know who's the fastest...

120

...in a Suzuki Liana. Hardly a basis for comparison with such a small performance envelope!

121

Great article, good read and so much more insight than you see anywhere else. Thanks.

122

I think both drivers know their teammate is a tough opponent. My feeling is that MV did the sensible thing by not taking maximum risk in overtaking: for him it is important at this point in time to repay the trust the team has had in him. Part respect, part investing in the future.

123

I haven't seen Rosberg and Hamilton race wheel to wheel like Ricciardo and Verstappen did at Sepang for a long long time if ever. The Mercedes cars are supposed to be identical so why don't we see closer clean racing between them? I applaud the two Red Bull drivers for giving us a great exhibition of racing fiercely but fairly.

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