Insight: The key decisions behind the F1 US Grand Prix and why Williams were left cursing
Insight
Start US Grand Prix 2016
Strategy Report
Posted By: James Allen  |  25 Oct 2016   |  12:32 pm GMT  |  96 comments

The US Grand Prix was not one of the most exciting races of the season, but the strategic side was very interesting, with Red Bull continuing to probe Mercedes in a chess game; they might have split the two Silver Arrows had they had more luck with a Virtual Safety Car, triggered by one of their drivers to the detriment of the other.

Meanwhile further back some important results were achieved for Fernando Alonso and Carlos Sainz by a combination of brilliant driving and decision-making.

So why were some of the key decisions taken as they were? What was the race behind the race?

Lewis Hamilton
Pre race considerations

After last year’s rain affected US Grand Prix, it was a thankfully clear weekend. The forecast for race day was for the warmest day of the weekend, but cloud cover early in the race changed that, cooling the track and tipoing the balance towards the medium tyre as the one to be on for many runners, as it copes better with the cooler conditions.

This took the edge off Carlos Sainz’ result as his car is less effective on the medium and that ultimately cost him the fifth place to Fernando Alonso’s McLaren. There are very fine margins at work here on the details.

Red Bull again rolled the dice on strategy; they split the strategies on Saturday, qualifying Daniel Ricciardo on the super soft tyre for the opening stint of the race while Max Verstappen copied the Mercedes drivers in starting on the soft.

The idea with Ricciardo was to get ahead of Mercedes at the start, given the Silver Arrows’ regular weakness in getting off the line. The risk for Ricciardo was coming out into traffic after his first stop and losing momentum and track positions as a result. It was very aggressive by Red Bull once again.

Team sources have confirmed that part of the reason for this is a dress rehearsal for next season, when they expect to be racing Mercedes for wins and the championship each weekend. They are learning how the Mercedes strategist James Vowles thinks and makes decisions under provocation.

Daniel Ricciardo
The Red Bull vs Mercedes chess game

Red Bull’s idea was to keep Mercedes guessing and try to catch them off balance by being aggressive. They perhaps sensed that Rosberg was in championship mentality rather than race winning mentality and that was certainly true after the German driver lost the start to Ricciardo,

At a couple of points in this race it looked like Red Bull’s tactic might be working and if the Virtual Safety Car had not been deployed on Lap 30/31 then the Australian would have had track position over Rosberg, who would be forced to overtake him in the final stint.

Ricciardo had a strong opening stint on the supersoft and pitted on Lap 8. He came out behind Alonso and Sainz, but the good news was that he did not have Hulkenberg and Bottas to clear as both had been taken out of the equation at the start. They had been one of his concerns.

Daniel Ricciardo

On fresh soft tyres he quickly cleared Alonso and then Toro Rosso pitted Sainz at the end of Lap 10, so he didn’t lose much time in the opening phase of the second stint, which had always been the risk of his strategy to start on supersofts. He had taken some of the upside of the risk by splitting the Mercedes at the start, gaining track position over Rosberg. So on balance the strategy gamble worked.

Ricciardo getting ahead of Rosberg at the start had effectively decided the win for Hamilton and meant that Rosberg was on a recovery strategy to get back to second place by the end.

Having started on the softs, Rosberg and Hamilton had more strategic options available, but with Ricciardo in good form on new soft tyres, the Mercedes strategists realised they needed to pit both cars. Stopping Rosberg first they put him onto the medium tyre to give him a longer middle stint.

Daniel Ricciardo

The idea was to put him on a different strategy from Hamilton and Ricciardo; Mercedes knew that their car worked well on mediums and in fact Rosberg was able to lap at a similar pace on the tyre to Ricciardo on softs. It was a low risk mentality, given that Rosberg was leading the championship and clearly wasn’t getting sucked into a more aggressive approach, such as Ricciardo was taking.

This was very evident at the second stops; Ricciardo and Red Bull went ultra aggressive with a stop on Lap 25, leaving him 31 laps to the finish on mediums. The message to Rosberg was clear; if you want second place you will have to overtake us on track.

Mercedes again did not bite. They left Rosberg out on his medium tyres and lucked out when Max Verstappen’s car broke down. As the car was stuck in gear and would not move, a mobile crane was needed to lift it and post the Jules Bianchi accident in 2014 that means a Virtual Safety Car.

It was ironic that an incident for his own teammate should cost Ricciardo the chance of second place.

With a 10-second gap between its cars, Mercedes was easily able to pit both of them on the same lap and retain track positions first and second.

Without the VSC Rosberg would have done another four or five laps and then pitted onto new Softs around Lap 35. He would had a deficit of around six seconds to Riccardo and 16 laps to catch and pass him on track. With a championship at stake and clearly in a conservative mood on the day, Red Bull calculated that there was a fair probability he might not try a risky move.

In the end Rosberg’s luck with the VSC was Ricciardo’s misfortune. To win a championship requires a little luck even for the very best drivers and the VSC in Austin, combined with Hamilton’s engine failure in Sepang give one the impression that luck is on Rosberg’s side this year. That is not to take anything away from his driving, which has been on a higher level this year and he has rarely given much away to the opposition.

Sainz, Alonso

Sainz and Alonso shine. Massa and Williams left cursing

Carlos Sainz finished sixth in Austin last year, although he was later demoted to seventh for a pit lane speeding penalty. This year he got his sixth place, but it could have been fifth, but for a slight weakness on the medium tyres.

This pushed Toro Rosso into a strategy where he was obliged to go longer in the second stint to try to shorten the third stint, given a likely scenario where Toro Rosso expected others to go for medium tyres, but they knew that they themselves had to go soft. Sainz was the only driver not to use the medium in the race.

This pushed them longer in the second stint than they would ideally have wanted. However on this occasion it turned out very well with the VSC, which got him ahead of Massa, who had stopped just before the VSC. But then the flip side – being on the softs and running out of tyre performance at the end of the race – cost them fifth place to Alonso.

Massa had been unlucky with the VSC timing, but Williams will be unhappy that he did not pass Sainz for a potentially crucial extra two points in their championship battle with Force India.

He had more pace in the previous two stints and a fairly substantial top speed advantage (333km/h against Sainz’ 316; the slowest car on the straights) with a Mercedes power unit against a wheezy year old Ferrari. Sainz was also nursing soft tyres. Massa had got himself close enough on many occasions but didn’t try a move.

It is often the case in F1 that if you don’t take the opportunity to go forward you become exposed to someone else going forward at your expense. That is exactly what happened here with a very competitive Alonso coming up at a second a lap faster.

This is an indication of Massa’s situation with three races to go to his retirement. But in a finely balanced championship battle, where both Williams and Force India can expect to score around 6-8 points maximum per race, it is unfortunate for Williams.

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 & Tyre Usage Charts

Kindly provided by Williams Martini Racing – click to enlarge

Showing the gaps between the cars and the relative pace. An upward line is good pace, a descending line is poor pace.

Look at Ferrari vs Red Bull on soft tyres in middle stint, which is relatively positive but on mediums the relative weakness is exposed.

Williams Martini Racing

Williams Martini Racing

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96 comments

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1

Status of F1 in US of A. Note it was in national network TV and it was free OTA.

>
The Formula 1 United States Grand Prix had a 0.6 overnight rating on NBC Sunday afternoon, down a tick from both last year and 2014 (0.7) and the lowest for the race since it moved to NBC in 2013. The race pulled a lower overnight than its lead-in, Skate America in the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating (0.8).

2

Austin is a great town and COTA is a great track, but that race did little to showcase F1 in the US.
#USGP was trending on twitter all over the world except the US.
Hamilton on Ellen just isn't enough. Maybe Kimi should do The View.

3

The best way for F1 to break through USA would be for Liberty Media to pay ABC to install Lewis Hamilton as "The Bachelor".

4

Lewis on The Voice!

Article on American's experience at COTA.
>
US Grand Prix was, as my brother-in-law put it, was a "56-lap victory parade" for Team Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton. The starting order, as settled by the prior day's qualifying rounds, mostly remained intact.

5

Maybe Keeping up with Kardashians was the show to go on? Although considering that Figure Skating had higher ratings I'm not sure Ellen appearance helped much.

6

Excellent report James
The Mercedes Red Bull fell apart when the Virtual Safety Car happened after Max dragged his car around hoping to get to the pits and failing. Ricciardo said he was ready to defend against Rosberg even if he had the pace and better tyres. But that all went Gaga after VSC and Mercedes got a freebie Pitstop, because of Max V.

7

On another news item,
James what do think to Malaysia rethinking if they want a GP ?
Low spectators at the circuit and viewing ratings going down. The head of sport in Malaysia stated that the lack of free to air TV viewing will be a huge problem also. So they make decide not to renew their contract. Bernies speedy dash for cash and selling sole TV rights to Sky is already biting. This is an early shot across the bows from a Government deciding the value of F1 is too expensive.

8

Not a problem: "Vlad" will add another Russia GP for every race that drops out.

9

BK flamer, F1 either sticks or it doesn't. Trying to introduce the sport to a country like that with zero motorsport heritage is always difficult. As the Malaysian minister says, they really need a driver of their own to spark any interest. Singapore being less than 200 miles away hasn't helped their cause either....

10

"When we first hosted the F1 it was a big deal. First in Asia outside Japan. Now so many venues. No first mover advantage. Not a novelty."

By contrast, organisers of last weekend's United States Grand Prix say a record crowd of 269,889 attended over the three days at the Circuit of the Americas.

Interestingly enough, that total 3 days COTA attendance is pretty darn close to actual viewership figures with the race being on national network OTA free to air television.

11

Just under 270,000? That's great news, Nascar and Indycar would kill for those kind of numbers as their own attendance figures continue to plummet!

12

Don't fall for that trick, that's 270,000 over the 3 days, which could very well mean only 90,000 people attended each day. Compared to say the Indy 500 where 300,000 people attend on one day.

13

Gary, I'm aware that it is a three day figure, but it is still a good number, and still a new record for what is a relatively new event. It seems unlikely that the 270,000 would be split equally between the three days doesn't it? I would have thought it would be well over 100,000 on race day.
The Indy500 has had over 100 years to build a following, hardly a fair comparison, and it's a bit like the LeMans 24 hr race being part of the Sports car championship, a stand alone event that dwarfs all other races in that series. I have tried finding some numbers for attendance at other Indycar rounds, but as with Nascar they have stopped publishing these figures due to their continued downward trajectory.

14

And there you go again needing to be corrected. NASCAR pulls that in one day, not over 3 days.

15

Sebee, How do you know how many attendees Nascar gets? They stopped publishing that data 4 years ago to hide their footfall collapse! What Nascar race gets 270,000 in one day? The Daytona 500 gets 250,000 maximum, the brickyard used to get those kind of numbers but is more like 80,000 now. If you are going to try and correct me, at least try and get it right.....

16

How do you know how many attendees Nascar gets? They stopped publishing that data 4 years ago to hide their footfall collapse!

Hope you don't mind me asking but where then are you getting your numbers from?

17

Sars, I don't mind at all, as I said the real numbers are kept secret, but there are plenty of articles around describing the poor attendances at both Nascar and Indycar events. Heres one about the Brickyard 400. http://uk.businessinsider.com/nascar-brickyard-400-attendance-2016-7. I posted a link on the Mexican preview post about F1 attendance figures, all interesting stuff and surprising that Nascar in particular has being having these problems.

18

How that logic works in your head, I don't understand.

If USGP represents a top attendance F1 weekend, compare it to the top attendance weekends in NASCAR and you'll see crowds twice or thrice the size of F1 on race day at NASCAR. If you're going to compare lower attendance races in NASCAR, compare it to lower attendance races in F1. You know...logic. Apples to apples.

Why are you replying to me anyway? You were doing so well!

19

Like I said Sebee, where are you getting these numbers? Is it your position that Nascar and Indycar, apart from their primary events are not going through a crisis of low attendance? Are you saying that many small ovals are not ripping out seats and replacing them with advertising hoardings because it is pointless having them?
Here's some logic for you, the biggest event in Nascar is the Daytona 500, the attendance for this years race is a secret, as are all the Nascar attendance figures, but back in the good old days they used to get 250,000. This is not more than 270,000 as you originally stated, and is probably not the real figure. The Brickyard 400 used to get 400,000 and now only scrapes around 80,000, so maybe the Daytona figures are down to? We do not know as Nascar won't tell us.
You want to compare apples with apples? The USGP is well attended, but I doubt they got up to the 140,000 (thrice that is 420,000!) Silverstone saw on race day, or the 350,000 that are expected to turn up over the three days of the Mexican GP this weekend, so my original point stands completely uncorrected. Sorry. Either come up with some actual numbers to back up your case, or quit replying to me.....

20

Alonso totally deserved the panalty.

It was not given for "political" reasons, to throw Honda a bone and let them keep the top 5 in US Grand Prix.

21

Alonso deserved a penalty more than some people who have been given them recently. Personally I'd prefer to see the threshold for a penalty moved up: ruin someone else's race and you get DQ'd. None of this 5 seconds for making someone go outside the white lines. At the moment it varies too much. A conspiracy to look after Honda is a bit much though.

22

Look at the P5 pride from Hasegawa. Imagine it was taken away be stewards as you agree it should have been?

"It was good to see such strong driving, and undying racing spirit from both. Fernando pushed hard until the last lap, enabling him to finish in P5 behind the Ferrari, and a brilliant push from Jenson saw him gain 10 places to finish in P9.

"A double points finish is a great result to bring momentum back to the team."

23

I'm not "Agreeing it should have been". I'm saying that other penalties were given out which should not have been, if judgements were consistent (wrong, but consistently so) then Fernando should have been given a 5 second penalty. And let Honda cry. I'd prefer the consistency to that Fernando didn't deserve a penalty so nor did various others.

24

Can't agree with disqualifying someone for ruining someone else's race - this is very grey and we'd probably lose half the field! At the end of the day, the slow car in front has a choice over whether to fight for their position, and if they leave a door halfway open or if there is a marked difference in performance in a given sector they could be asking for trouble...

25

It's grey, but so is the awarding of penalties now. And because the Penalties can be small (5 seconds added to race time) it encourages the stewards to give out small penalties for minor offences.
"You made someone go the wrong side of the white line". Boo hoo, poor them. "You crashed into someone, wasted a huge amount of that team's money and effort, and cost them a points finish and perhaps significant prize money". Sit out a race or lose a good result of your own.

26

How much longer do you think Honda will put up with this? And then there is McLaren uncertainty before the year is out. Honda will continue to suffer next year. And passing will be harder too. Honda needs all it can get to cheer them up, and they know it.

27

Given Honda's Hokie-Kokie approach to F1 (you put your engines in you pull your engines out .... put a whole team in, pull a whole team out). I would say they're in for 10 years if they start winning and 5 years if they don't

28

OK, that made me laugh so hard. I need you to finish these James. In this case, I'll do it for you as an example.

You put your engines in
You pull your engines out
You put a whole team in
Then you pull it aaaaall out.

You sit on the sidelines
As the team win without your brand
That's what it's all about

You make your hybrid wait
You make your hybrid late
You take Alonso on
And he gets blown by the wind

You do the hokie poke and you kick Ron Dennis out.
That's what it's all about.

29

'not given for political reasons' please tell me you're joking because that's complete crap

30

Look, Honda is unloved child. The under achiever. Used to keep you happy and proud but now just a disappointment who can't find a groove. Can F1 afford to keep pointing this out, and shame it, or do they need to help build Honda up and give them some confidence? You know...throw the kid a bone. Watch out for that, because Honda is >< that close to lookup up at you with a sad face and a sorry look looking for some love. How do you think F1 will have to play it? Especially since there is no way Honda breaks into top 5 in 2017 in my view.

31

I retract this statement. I've been softened by these penalties and my brain felt this is just not permitted! Meanwhile, it was some good hard racing we need more of. Forgive.

32

Could Red bull have tried a Singapore like 10 lap dash on the supersofts at the end? Seb was 3 seconds a lap quicker than the Mercs on his....

33

James: what do you think about Ferrari strategy? For the sake of me I did not get why they pitted Kimi early (to cover Ric ok but their relative pace was still good) and left instead Seb in on the first sting so long while he was clearly losing time compared to the others....

34

Ferrari don't have a clue. Prepare to say ciao to Arrivabene as someone will have to take the blame for this season, and I doubt Sergio will sack himself!

35

Twice in a row Ferrari have caused their faster driver to under achieve.

Last time out a gearbox problem materialised after quali, bringing a grid penalty. This time a routine pit stop was too much of a challenge.
you might be forgiven to think they just want their other driver to shine a little.......
who would have thought Seb in his prime is second fiddle to Kimi in his swan song?

36

Vettel might also be wise not to take the racing line at the first corner without considering other cars nearby - not the first time he has been involved in an incident like this (Brazil 2012, Spa 2016)

37

"Ferrari have caused their faster driver to under-achieve"

I agree with that. In fact I think it is more than twice. But I got confused when you said "who would have thought Seb in his prime is second fiddle to Kimi in his swan song" By fastest driver, I thought we were obviously talking about Seb, but you apparently think it is Kimi?

Kimi is behind Seb.

Qualifying is 10/8 in Seb's favor.
Points are currently 177/170, Seb leads Kimi.
Seb has missed out on four races compared to Kimi at three, so the gap could possibly be bigger.

38

Looks pretty even to me, certainly not enough to call one faster than the other. With a tiny bit of luck and the pit stops falling differently it could easily be the other way around. Whereas no one would have predicted where it is right now at the start of the season.

39

Last year was Vettel, this one is Kimi, both good drivers. Seb may suffer of lack of motivation, he is that type of guy especially if he gets [Mod] from Arrivavene publicly. Even so, no excuse for the money he gets

40

Top notch drive from Fernando Alonso, absolutely superb. There's no questioning his motivation or determination. One of the best stand out performances of the year - up there with Romain Grosjean in Bahrain and young Max at Barcelona. He maybe in his mid 30s, but he can still teach the yoof a thing or two about driving consistently quick.

Like George Best, the Stone Roses and Robert Kubica, unfortunately he is destined to be remembered as a wasted talent, certainly in his 30s.

41

I enjoyed his charge up the back of the Massa / Sainz battle, reminded me of the Fernando of old. It's such a shame that this current formula locks teams and engine suppliers into providing substandard equipment to drivers of this calibre and keeping them out of the title fight.

42

Kind reminder to James for the VSC article 😉 Any update on that ? Thnx

43

I believe RedBull is doin it wrong.
After the successful experience of Barcelona and Suzuka, Verstappen should clearlly focus on long runs and therefore prioritize the White MEDIUM tires is COTA.
Ricciardo is dreaming if he can pip both Mercedes at the Grid Start, even with softer tires.
Mercedes and RedBull are different animals.

44

Well, if Hamilton had one of his customary dodgy starts, it could have put him into the lead where Ricciardo could run at the pace that he wanted. That could have at least mixed things up a little more...

45

You refer to "key decisions" James so what about the lack of them from the RB Pit Wall when Verstappen's gear box failed. So instead of him wandering around on and off the track for quite some time like a lost sheep why didn't they have him pull over at the first opportune place that would't have triggered a VSC. Surely with all the brains on the Pit Wall and their access to information they would have known that a VSC would have compromised Ricciardo's race. To me Horner looked a little shell-shocked when interviewed post race and merely said that Daniel probably wouldn't have been able to keep Rosberg at bay for the last stint. Perhaps so but Horner never gave Daniel a chance to defend his position. Poor management by Horner in my opinion.

46

The only way to guarantee there would not be a VSC was get back to the pits. Does it really matter where Max pulled of the track, if the marshals could not move the car due to the drive train issue it was always going to be a VSC

47

Jakethesnake: I'm sure I heard the Sky Commentators say that Max passed several access/egress points that he could have used to exit the track without triggering a VSC. Of course we're not privy to all the radio communication between Max and the Pit Wall but it seems that they didn't know what to do with his terminally sick car. Max can't be blamed for this lack of quick decision making but perhaps a more experienced driver may have taken the initiative to pull over earlier.

48

It does actually matter where you stop as a driver. VES passed several open gates, where he by himself could have rolled the car completely out and off the track, so no VSC would be imposed. Instead he stopped on side of track at minor access path, where Marshals are needed on track to take the vehicle out. That will always trigger a VSC event. As the marshals will be on foot either to roll the car back out or, as this time with car stuck in gear, hook it up to the truck to lift it off and out.

49

It was reasonable for RB to expect one or both Mercs to have a poor start going by previous experience.

50

I was watching this race with headphones, and you could tell from the car noises that the issue was terminal - something definitely was knocking around back there! Why would you risk breaking more things in the car just to save a short walk, then be able to pull everything apart and know exactly what happened? Lack of experience from both driver and pitwall on that one.

51

@ Big Haydo....ditto

52

Actually Max parked in a spot where he could've been taken off track without much trouble. Only the gearbox decided on its own to play donkey. I guess RB had no idea what was wrong with the car in the first place, and not knowing a cause is always scary if you have a twin running around.
The sound could've been anything mechanical, and I guess all sensors picked up vibrations. So I think they hoped Max would be able to get it in the pitlane to examine what went fubar

53

Max has his ways, not sure if it his youth or some inherited features. Marko said that no team can fix a truble with a car that goes fir pitstop uninvited.

54
Tornillo Amarillo

Rosberg now drives like a Vicepresident waiting the nr 1 gets a heart attack...

55

I like this review with mention of Ferrari only in the last sentence as if they didn't even exist on the grid. Shows how important have Ferrari become for the race outcome!

56

I do not think there was anything RBR could do to prevent a Mercedes 1-2 at COTA. On the medium tire, Nico was able to pull purple sectors on Daniel and Lewis even though he is supposed to be in championship mode. Admittedly Lewis was most likely managing the engine at that point, but Nico's pace in the last stint was very impressive. So while the VSC did prevent a "fight", I suspect, that "fight" would have been rather tame since Nico was 2 or 3 tenths faster than Daniel in sector one when he was pushing and that time difference included the DRS straight into turn 1.
Further more assuming Lewis has now solved the start issue that plagued him all season (and he seemed really confident about that development on his Saturday talk with Martin Brundle), I am now expecting an easy Mercedes 1-2 for the rest of the season. The only question is how much Nico is willing to fight for wins. Right now he has a five point cushion if he finishes 2nd for the last 3 races. Lewis needs to win and hope for "intervention", but I have to say as a racing fan, a last minute "reliability volcano" would only serve to put a big "✱" next to this years WDC if it impacts the standings. The only true redemption for Lewis in my opinion must come on the track from Nico having one of those Germany like races between Mexico and Abu Dhabi (BTW, I now someone will mention Nico in 2014 Abu Dhabi but my excuse is we were dealing with the abomination of double points that year so it did not count 😀).

57

I agree.... the only race that can bring more surprises is Mexico in the sense that I expect DNF there... high altitude means that turbo is stressed more (has to run / being engaged all the time the bigger the turbo the better) ... heat dissipation is more difficult both for cooling off engines gearbox and brakes (3 heavy breaking zones there). The wings will be high incidence because the density/pressure altitude (drag is reduced - good test to see whereas Ferrari has an aero problem or a suspension problem - I think is the latter). In other words: if there is a fragile part on the car it will be exposed there. ROS has just to arrive second all the time to be champion... HAM has to win all the time and hope ROS has some bad day.

58

An asterisk? Are you serious?!? Lewis has had 4 unreliability-related issues that seriously impacted four of his race results. He's lost 51 pts to Nico in those races. That's before even factoring in that he likely would have won in China and Russia (he won both in 2014 & 2015) if he had started from the front row.

I get that many want Lewis to continually "prove himself" by having to fight with one hand behind his back, but it gets a bit ridiculous at times.

59

If the driver breaks the car then he has no right to complain about reliability. To finish first, first you must finish.

60

The driver didn't break his car. Please drag yourself into 21st century F1 at your leisure.

61

Gary, that is true. But none of Lewis' car failures this year were his fault.

62

Here is Lewis season so far (please correct me if I am wrong):

Mercedes mechanical failures - 3 1/2 races
Bad race starts - 5 races
Race wins - 7 races
Belgium Engine Penalties - 1 race
Poor performance - 1 1/2 races

I share a race problem between him and the team in Baku because he did under perform in Baku but his performance problems were then impacted by Mercedes having engine issues during the race. I also gave him sole responsibility for his poor performance compared to Nico in Singapore. Looking at that record so far, I could come to the conclusion that Lewis lost the WDC this season due to the 5 bad starts in 2016 - BTW all but one from Pole position. Last year he was able to capitalize on those poles easily. Race starts are the drivers responsibility, as Lewis indicated to Sky this weekend, he found a setting in his race start sequence which he guaranteed would eliminate his problems. That tells me his side was missing something earlier in the year. I like Lewis F1 approach, I believe he is a better racing driver than Nico by a long mile, I never buy the common conception (especially in the fickle English media) that he is not disciplined or focus on F1. BUT I have to admit he had an off year in 2016. Did Mercedes hurt him at times, yes but add back the potential points he lost from bad starts this year including Suzuka (where he was faster than Nico on the preferred hard compound all weekend) and he should be leading the championship even with the mechanical DNFs.

63

A fair analysis of Lewis, so now please do it for Nico's season. You can't just pinpoint Lewis' bad starts as the problem, when Nico has had bad starts (HUN, GER) that have impacted his race results.

The MAIN differentiator for the season so far IS the difference in reliability ... there is no point at all in glossing over that fact. In the 4 races where unreliability or its after effects have hurt Lewis, he's given up 51 pts to Nico (90 to 39 pts). He would be leading by 25 with equal reliability.

For race starts, are we saying AUS, BHN, ITA, JPN ... what's the 5th? Of those 4 I listed, he finished 2nd, 3rd, 2nd, 2nd ... from his initial grid slot, he lost 31 pts. From Nico's 2 bad race starts, he lost 20 pts. If you throw Canada in there as well, then it's 28 pts. Pretty much a wash with Lewis' lost points through starts.

64

Lewis bad starts - Australia/Bahrain/SPAIN/Italy/Japan. You missed the biggest one - Spain! Pole to Zero points for Lewis. I do not consider Canada a start problem for Lewis since he recovered to win the race, and like the Charlie Whiting, I consider the first lap driver standard a fair part of the game in F1 as long as you do not destroy your car or your competitors car. So the idea Lewis should have simply waved Nico through like a gentleman is rubbish! The main point I am trying to put forward is reliability is part of F1 and over the last three years of hybrid domination, it's impact on both sides of the Mercedes garage even out. The main difference at the end of the day are the issues a driver can control. Starts/car set-up/race performance etc. Again, I am not sure why this is perceived as a slight to Lewis, and not a reflection of the state of every F1 driver's season over time. In 2016 Nico Rosberg has been the more consistent driver. Consistent performance wins WDCs. 2015 - Lewis Hamilton prior to Singapore 11 poles and 8 victories. After Singapore (where I still contend Mercedes altered the car's suspension geometry and it affected Lewis more) 2 victories. The result he won the WDC. That first half of ruthless consistency against Nico, gave Lewis the cushion he needed to win last year, it's absence this year is why he is behind his teammate.

65

"In 2016 Nico Rosberg has been the more consistent driver."

On the face of it, this sounds like a plausible statement. I will show you how and why it's wrong.

Consistency comparisons need to be made from the same or similar starting points. So let's look at how both Lewis and Nico have fared this year when starting from the front row in races. With their car advantage, you would expect that gaining a podium at each race finish - after starting at the front - would be a formality, right?

Podium Finish per Race Finish with Front Row Start Percentage (PFRFFRS percentage):

HAM (10/10): 100.00%
ROS (13/16): 81.25%

3x Nico has started on the front row this year, yet been off the podium. Lewis has always finished on the podium.

If you include top 3 starts, then Hamilton is 12/12 (MCO & SIN).

If you only include the top 3 starts where both started in the top 3, you get:

HAM 100% (11/11); ROS 75% (9/12)

Ergo, when they start near each other, Lewis gets a podium while Nico misses out on it a quarter of the time. Telling ...

Frederick, if you equalized the reliability in previous seasons, it was never enough to overturn the finishing order between Lewis and Nico. This year it clearly is enough, and has overturned their order in the table. That's why it's been the crucial factor this year.

Lastly, I don't consider your post as a slight against Lewis. Not at all. I think you've been quite reasonable. I just think your reasoning is wrong.

66

I consider consistency to be your overall race performance regardless of your teammates. In believe every F1 driver performs at each race based on how you setup the car and if it is good enough to win you win the race. For me that consistent performance this year is why he has the lead he has. I gave him an A Grade in 10/18 races, B in 1/18, C in 3/18 and a D/E in 3/18 I did not rate Barcelona since that to be a 50/50 Lewis and Nico racing incident.
In my grading system I do not penalize Nico for mechanical problems suffered by Lewis unless someone can prove either his or Mercedes fingerprints are on a smoking gun. In 2016 Nico has just held his head down and focus on his performance. Even when he buckled in the middle of the season and I thought he would fade away under pressure from Lewis, he held his ground and even showed complete dominance at some races. At the end of the season, you can compare your performance to the car next to yours, but race by race those comparisons do not help you much.

67

Hmm, so if Mercedes was a 1 driver team (Nico) these past 3 years, I guess he would indeed be Mr. Consistent, as there would be no one to challenge him with that car advantage.

If Lewis didn't have Nico as a teammate, he might well be on 70 wins now instead of 50.

It's silly to not factor in the level of competition faced by a driver in the races. Nico's had effectively no competition for the win, before the lights have even gone out, at three races this season. He did the job in those races, but the job was also considerably easier.

68

You are making speculative arguments. Mercedes could have dropped Nico and added Verstappen, Button, Vettel or Alonso, etc and Lewis would not have won 70 races! He may not have won 2 championships. We will never know because that did not happen. What we know is that over the last three years Lewis has been consistently better at translating pole laps to wins, but this year for whatever reason he has under performed and that is a big reason why he is not in a competitive position right now. We knows that from the break, Nico has definitely stepped up the performance and it shows on the results table. Are there external factors that have influenced the results absolutely, but those factors are random events. Unless we discover either Lewis was responsible for the mechanical problems or Mercedes was negligent in the maintenance of the engines we can only look at the results as they happen. He may have done the job easily (in your opinion), but he has still consistently done the job. The rest is speculation not facts.

69

My example was a 1 driver team, either Nico or Lewis.

They might be random events, but they have disproportionately hurt Lewis. If you think that Lewis can power through from P21 and beat Nico starting P1, then your assessment of Lewis' ability is far higher than mine.

Without the 4 races impacted by unreliability, Lewis would be up 7-6 in wins, 12-9 in podiums, and most importantly 25 pts up in the standings. Those are the facts. I guess that would signify a slight improvement from Rosberg over 2014 & 2015, but only a slight improvement.

To just look at the current table, and take from it that Rosberg has improved considerably, is indicative of a lazy mind.

70

The problem with your argument is that the 4 races DID occur. Everything else is conjecture on your part - and conjecture are not facts, but suppositions. Finally, I know the internet has created this new phenomena, where people have a desire to "personalize" every discussion, but remember you are offering your opinion NOT FACTS. Neither of us are any more privy to the nature of what Mercedes is doing, so lay off the ignorance about my "lazy mind". People who have to resort to that type of argumentative behavior in a discussion of opinions are normally childish fanatics, mentally immature, and/or poorly educated and you don't come across as any of these.

71

Are you sure you understand what conjecture is? It's making conclusions based only on superficial appearances, and not on empirical evidence. To look at the standings, and just conclude "oh, Nico has really upped his game" just because he's leading, is conjecture.

When I highlight the points earned in the 4 races affected by reliability, that is a stone cold fact.

If we are in two minds as to what a fact or conjecture is, then I won't waste yours or my time any further.

72

Frederick, the inverse to the poor start removal is also true though, if Lewis' car hadn't failed in Malaysia then he would be two points ahead of Nico, even with the poor starts, qualifying failures and the back row start in Spa that they caused.

73

Lewis has had the Loin's share of realability issues at Mercedes this year, had it not been for Lewis' DNF at Malaysia the Championship lead for Rosberg would have been 13 or so point at his stage.

74

Al, if Lewis' car hadn't failed in Malaysia then he would be leading Nico by 2 points in the championship.

75

I'm surprised that there's been nothing ado about Max's low speed tour. It seemed to me to be a dangerous situation that went on for quite a time. Aren't there rules about getting a stricken car off the track in a timely manner? Anyone?

76

Yes! Watching him swerve across the track at such low speeds seemed dangerous. I thought there was cause for a black flag.

77

You forgetting that Max is very adept at watching his mirrors - just ask kimi or lewis!

78

I was at the Australian GP in 2009 when Red Bull wanted Vettel to stay out with 3 wheels on his wagon behind the safety car, and they were promptly penalised for that. It's not like Verstappen was stuck for options with removing himself from the circuit, although an exit point that a car could drive directly into without marshall intervention might have been more ideal in this scenario, particularly since the car couldn't be put into neutral.

79

Fernando & McLaren, best of the rest, who'd have thought that ! Great result , next to beat : Ferrari.

80

1. Ferrari seem bent on 3rd place in the constructors, and ensuring that Vettel is their top scorong driver.
2. RB and their loud wunderkind manage to snatch 2nd place for DR; what's up with that?
3. Rosberg benefits from bizarre (and out of pattern by several standard deviations) Red Bull fails, and strengthens his position as champion-in-waiting in the MMC (Mercedes Managed Championship).

Looking forward:
i. The Max will cause a major accident (yes another one) , in which he will not come out totally unscathed (maybe with his team mate, who, eventually, will retaliate)
ii. I like the narrative of Rosberg getting a DNF in Mexico, and some kind of problem for Lewis which he will have to overcome to capitalize on the available points, (or not).
iii. Kimi wins Ferrari's first and only victory in 2016 and 2017 (I'm hoping for more in 2017, but it is definitely NOT looking good)

Back to reality (relatively), I'm happy to see a team, any team, getting int othe gears, even a little bit, of Mercedes, though I fear it is only happening becaus ethey are gangbusters on their next generation car, to try to stay at least one generation ahead of the closest rival; let's hope they CAN'T do that!

81

1: BS: Ferrari tries to score maximally, but any error has to be paid in full.
They don't care who's bringing the points, as long as they get them...
2: Same as 1: but multiple issues caused a VSC at the worst of times.
3: MMC? If you mean the fact that they will end up 1-2 in WDC again, and 1 in WCC, you're right. If you mean they are pulling WDC for ROS you're mad in first degree!
i: of course Max will cause an accident: all pilots on the edge will end over the edge a few times
ii: I guess you would prefer to see only one driver in the Mercedeses
iii: I hope Kimi and Seb win a lot more. I'm glad Kimi is proving all the critics wrong: He's still the fast, efficient guy we saw in the Lotus, but has a rather narrow optimal operating window.
May the Best/Fastest/Smartest win!

82

James, why was the exceeding track limits completely ignored in Austin? It must be the widest track on the f1 calender!

83

It was deemed that there was no advantage to exceeding track limits

84

Which was a ridiculous conclusion from whoever arrived at it. As Martin Brundle said "If there's no advantage[to exceeding the limits], then they wouldn't be out there"

85

Martin Brundle has described this phenomenon as "Authorised Cheating". If they can rush a rule about moving in the braking zone, I'm sure that this could be clarified with similar urgency.

86

The TV coverage made for a more interesting race than it truly was, Credit has to go to the directors these days as they look back through the grid for the best action.

Williams are so frustrating, we want them to feature but they seem to be squandering their potential. The team is just so bland even Smedly has become bland. Something or things are just not working from aero, grip, strategy and driving - time for some major changes in team members to get this baby where we want to see it.

87

JA,

Great analysis as usual. Do you ever sit back and get the impression the strategists are "over-strategising" to the detriment of the overall goal?

Just reading that line about RBR attempting a risky strategy to attempt to read the mind of a Merc strategist 12 months from now, seems a little over the top.

I'm sure the Hemet Markos or Nicky Laudas of this world must exist to remind theses teams that with the fastest car, driver and track position, strategy is really something to leave for other teams to worry about!

Particularly with RBR who I'm a fan of especially with DR driving, I think they look into strategy just a little too much and also tend to look too much into the rear view mirror at times even when they have the best package and track position. Monaco this year being the perfect example.

88

No I think you over read that line

They are going racing, but taking more risks because they can - not in title fight this tear

But they do learn more about responses etc from these situations that they can use next year when they are racing fir wins and the title each week.

They know each other pretty well already,mom course

89

Isn't this the second time a VES "indicident" cost his own teammate a good position, if not a podium? I recall the first time was when Ves collided with Vet on the opening lap and Ric was a casualty on that their coming together...?

90

Not sure if there was another time Seb and Max came together at the start, but Spa was Seb's fault, and Ricciardo benefited from the collision.

91

"That is not to take anything away from his driving, which has been on a higher level this year and he has rarely given much away to the opposition."

I'm going to bang the drum on this every time it comes up - he's not driving at a higher level this year, he's winning because of the skewed reliability between the two drivers. If reliability were equal between Rosberg and Hamilton he'd be anywhere from one to two race wins behind in the standings, just like 2014/15.

92

It really annoys me that pretty much everyone thinks Nico would be a deserving champion.

But if you were to ask them the same question had Nico performed the same, but Lewis had no reliability issues, they'd somehow give you a different answer.

93

It is a known fact that to win WDC it needs two factors: a good driver and a good car. The weight factors could be different based on how good the car is. If a car is like current Merc, then the driver capabilities will be of little less weight (or importance). So in a way, both Merc drivers are "undeserving" because it is the car that is actually that good that all they have to do is drive and they will win the race. I am sure if this Merc were in hands of some other good drivers on the grid, they would be doing the same what both Merc drivers are doing currently: beat them all.

However, you still need to drive and beat the competition - so you are deserving in that sense. For the rivalry within the team, as they say, "you win as a team or lose as a team" - driver is only one facet of that team. There is pit crew, strategy team, design and manufacturing team. All these have to perform well for a driver to do well. In Lewis' case, there have been flaws from the team along with some driver errors during race starts. Nico's team did a better job in that respect and hence he is "deserving" than Lewis. Again talent-wise Lewis may be better, but if his team's performance does not come up well, then he will be lagging which is what the case is.

94

I think it's clear to all that the car's performance makes the WDC a battle between Nico and Lewis. Now which of these is more deserving? When the unreliability is so skewed in one direction, then it detracts from the title battle. Is Lewis a better driver than Nico? Yes. Is he so much better as to be able to beat him even with losing 51+ pts to him through unreliability? No.

If Nico were to DNF in one race, and have to start the other two from P21 and P20, do you think he could win the title? Says it all really.

95

The simple fact is that the points difference would be pretty much reversed had there not been skewed unreliability. That's it.

96

James, in the lead up to this race Wolff said that the drivers were free to race, because the WCC is won, and the WDC will be a Mercedes driver. It sounded as though "the Bible" was no longer in effect, or not all of it. Would Rosberg and his engineer be able to decide his stops and tire compound, even if they were running second?

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