Analysis: How Red Bull F1 dropped the ball on a day when Mercedes was vulnerable
Insight
Red Bull Racing
Strategy Report
Posted By: James Allen  |  29 Nov 2016   |  12:59 pm GMT  |  147 comments

The season finale was packed with drama and tension, especially at the end as Lewis Hamilton tried everything to change his situation and win the world championship.

His personal strategy was clear, meanwhile team race strategy decisions had a huge bearing on what happened behind him, with Red Bull trying to win the race using a different strategy gambit, but getting caught out by some excellent work by Ferrari.

The Scuderia beat Red Bull despite having a slower car, thanks to strategy.

Here’s the inside track from strategists involved in the race, on how it all happened.

XPB
Pre Race Expectations

With three tyres to choose from this year, many teams had prioritised the ultra soft for qualifying and the soft for the race. But having a new set of supersofts for the final stint of the race turned out to be a very beneficial strategy.

Red Bull decided to use theirs in the Q2 qualifying session, which meant that they would start the race on them. To do this and to forfeit the chance to have a new set of supersofts at the end meant that it was critical both drivers had a long and productive first stint.

Many teams’ strategy models showed that a one stop strategy was possible starting on the Soft and then using the Supersoft at the end, a luxury not allowed for the top ten, who had to start on their qualifying tyres.

To do one stop starting on supersofts was possible, but right on the limit. Max Verstappen pulled it off superbly after dropping to the back at the start. Daniel Ricciardo was left wishing he had tried one stop too after losing out to Vettel and Verstappen at the end.

Very stable conditions as always at Yas Marina led to ideal practice running for all teams and a clear picture of what the tyres would be capable of on race day.

Daniel Ricciardo
Mercedes vs. Red Bull vs. Ferrari

What made this race unique was that Red Bull and Ferrari could be certain of one thing about Mercedes’ strategy: it would have to be conservative and fair to both drivers as they were fighting for a world championship.

That meant a straight forward two stop strategy for both; ultrasoft – soft –soft.

Knowing this meant that their rivals could seek to exploit it and there was a certain vulnerability to Mercedes for this race, even if they still had a modest car pace advantage in race conditions.

Furthermore, it was clear that Lewis Hamilton would have to back his team mate Nico Rosberg into the pack at some point in the race, to try to get two cars between him and his rival and swing the points advantage his way. This was always likely to be towards the end of the race, when Rosberg would have no time or strategy options to recover.

Knowing that, Ferrari went into this race better prepared than Red Bull and this was a race and a podium that they took away from Red Bull, which is pretty unusual for this season. Normally it is the other way around.

Verstappen’s race was obviously compromised by the first lap spin he suffered and he had to negotiate quite a bit of traffic. He had considered a one-stop strategy anyway after qualifying a disappointing sixth on the grid, but the team went for it after losing so much ground.

After what happened on the opening lap, Ricciardo’s race should have been significantly further up the road than Verstappen’s but he finished behind him. Here is why.

Daniel Ricciardo

It started when he lost a position at the start to Raikkonen. The superior grip off the line of the ultrasoft will have contributed to that.

Red Bull then got caught out by the conflict between what they normally do well, which is to be aggressive in the first stint and undercut other cars and what they were set up to do in this race, which is run a long first stint on supersoft.

Ferrari spotted a gap to drop Vettel back into on Lap 8 when Kvyat and Button were fighting each other. Once that happened, Ricciardo needed to push for quite a few laps longer than the others he was racing against or he would have got nothing. Christian Horner said that a slightly flat spotted tyre compromised this plan, but Ricciardo played that down.

At this stage they had Verstappen one stopping and now in position ahead of Rosberg, Raikkonen and Vettel, which gave an ideal opportunity to have Verstappen hold back the Ferraris and Rosberg and make a gap for Ricciardo but instead of this, they pitted Ricciardo on Lap 9 and he lost all the advantage of qualifying on supersofts.

Verstappen’s performance showed that Ricciardo could have had much more flexibility in his strategy. He could have done a much longer first stint and then been prepared to attack at the end on fresher tyres, when Hamilton would be likely to hold up the field.

Sebastian Vettel

This is what Vettel did after a long second stint.

After that their only chance to boost Ricciardo was to undercut Raikkonen at the second stop, which they did manage to do. He finished fifth, whereas second or third could have been possible and this would have really put pressure on Rosberg at the end!

So you could argue that in both Brazil on Verstappen’s car and in Abu Dhabi on Ricciardo’s, Red Bull made strategy errors that took their cars out of the way and helped Rosberg’s cause, inadvertently simplifying his path to the championship. It’s another aspect that shows that his name was clearly meant to be on the trophy this season!

Looking at the whole strategy approach in a different way; knowing that the lowering track temperatures as night falls always play to the strengths of the supersoft tyres and knowing Hamilton was likely to slow everything down at the end; there was a good chance of an attacking end on supersofts paying dividends. Both ways up, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that Red Bull picked the wrong strategy.

The Vettel strategy, which was opposed to Ricciardo’s, was clearly the right gambit. That is especially clear when you consider that the underlying pace demonstrated in Verstappen’s final stint was the fastest of any car on the track.

So Ferrari beat Red Bull with a slower car; a positive way to end a very difficult season.

Fernando Alonso
Alonso and McLaren try to ‘do a Vettel’

There was an interesting little cameo in the midfield, where Fernando Alonso and McLaren had the same idea as Ferrari and Vettel.

It was another very strong drive by Alonso that didn’t get much attention. They were unlucky not to get past the Williams and Force India of Massa and Perez at the end as they also made the right moves with a long middle stint and an attacking supersoft stint at the end, like Vettel’s

This is another example of how it’s important to remember that every car in the Grand Prix has a different equation; depending on how fast it is, where it is in the field and what the risks are in making a certain strategy call.

Vettel was trailing the Red Bulls when he went for this tactic and Alonso was trailing the Williams and Force India. Both had nothing to lose by trying.

And that is an ideal way to end another season of F1 strategy analysis. We hope you have enjoyed it and look forward to next season’s action when the new cars designed to the more aggressive 2017 specification hit the track.

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

UBS

Race History Chart – Kindly Supplied by Williams Martini Racing Click to Enlarge

Look at the gulf in pace between the top three teams and the midfield (between the dotted red line of Raikkonen and the dotted orange of Hulkenberg)

Look at the parallel traces of Vettel coming back at the leaders on the supersofts which were in ideal conditions as the track cooled and Alonso doing the same strategy.

Williams Martini Racing

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1

Interesting read. Truly Red Bull have uncharacteristically made bad strategy calls in the past two races. Pitting Ricciardo so early when he was running supersofts was clearly wrong.

James, what's your take on Hamilton's tactics of slowing down the pack? I really don't get anyone who thinks it was "dirty" or the like. He didn't brake test anyone, he was just using his pace and the track to his advantage. Without Hamilton doing that, that race would've been a boring procession. Instead, it got some life through that. That's what we want (and need) to see.

2

Mansell, number 44 biggest supporter "i am a sportsman, no I would not do this, thank you" "this is wrong

3

@ Salvuborg....given that nigel has spoken publically of his disdain re hamilton's attempt to give ferrari and red bull a podium we also now have 'the little ballerina' accolade awarded to him from SJS...who also knows a 'little' bit about motor racing.

4

It was a brilliant race by Lewis Kenneth. No doubt the problem is its not Daniel or whoever else you cheer for.
Classic drive by the Brit.

5

KRB:
I couldn't agree with you more about Hamilton's tactics, of slowing down the pack.
That was the only thing he could do!
It was within the rules and didn't pose an existential threat to anyone.
Mercedes certainly DID NOT need to win, let alone get 1st and 2nd!
All the churn and fuss being made about what Hamilton did shows just how controlled and retentive the sport has become; it's pathetic.
As the pole-sitter and leader of the race, a driver may do whatever he wants with pace.
And I'm not so certain that Red Bull made any 'mistakes' inb their strategy; it looked more like collusion, and a favours trade between Horner and Wolff, for Horner to damp down the churn for Mercedes to manage the championship.
The season was so drab with the MMC (Mercedes Managed Championship), while I'm a fan of Kimi, I wouldn;t mind seeing RB challenge with their petulant and slithery drivers, just for some vestige of competition (or at least a reasonable illusion).

James, your columns (and the contributions of the usual suspects, you know who you are) were the most interesting, if not entertaining thing about the entire 2016 F1 season; thanks for all the chuckles!

6

I thought RBR made pretty poor strategy calls for much of the year, not just the final 3 races. Mostly affecting DR's side of the garage. Monaco being the biggest shambles seen in a while. They've split strategies all year, and it paid off for MV in Spain, at the expense of DR.
But mostly, they seem to be the team that can't help constantly "looking in the rear view mirror" at what their competitors are doing or RBR think they are doing, and make aggressive strategy calls out of it. It's actually how they lost Monaco. They had the fastest car and driver on the weekend and track position, and blew it by panicking about what other teams might be doing.
I think they need a massive re-think of how they do strategy.

7

There are a few drivers out there with the mentality to win, come what may. Lewis obviously fits in that list. But I think he may have missed a trick by waiting until the last race to do this. He could have started doing this from USGP onwards, the constructors was already settled in Japan. Agree that there would have been no surprise factor, but Lewis would have had 4 opportunities to catch Nico out. Wonder if he is thinking about it now 🙂

Brazil, given the conditions would have been another perfect opportunity to trip up Nico. I think Nico's drive in Brazil was a key factor in his WDC. If Nico had made a Monaco of Brazil, Lewis would have taken the title.

8

@ KRB I'm not a fan of Hamilton and was supporting Rosberg for the title this year......... but what Hamilton did was genius!!!! ....... & he did it fair.... 🙂

9

I would call it cheeky rather than dirty. Prosts move on Senna in 89 was dirty, Senna's move on Prost in 90 was even dirtier. Hamilton didn't come remotely close to that kind of behaviour, although he might have undermined his standing within Mercedes a little bit, which could come back to bite him should they have to decide to back one driver over the other if RB, Ferrari, Mclaren or Renault build a blinder of a car for 2017.

10

I would add Schumacher deliberately taking Hill out after crashing as dirty. Senna, Schumacher, and to a slightly lesser extent Prost all have one tainted championship IMHO. Senna and Prost cancel each other out though as they were against each other. I think the real team mate fireworks next year will be mostly in the Red Bull garage. Lewis and Nico seem to have settled down a bit and got used to each other winning.

11

Yep Max will be driver No.1
And
Daniel will be driver No.2
(The classic role for an Australian at Red Bull)

12

I think he has it all in his hands. If he is good enough, he will (imho) get a chance to become Champion.
Webber had quite a big chance too in 2010 (he started the race with a 7 points advantage over Vettel) but he, same as Alonso, had a terrible race ending up 7th. This bit about australians being treated as support drivers at Red Bull, not quite true, isn't it? Webber - and I've been on his side all these last years when he teamed Vettel - didn't manage to bring out the best in him when it was needed, he failed to do what Rosberg did this year, resist the pressure and grab his chance.

13

Update on those Best X of Y Results scoring systems, that work to negate, or at least lessen the distorting effect of uneven reliability in the driver's championship. All 3 would have seen Hamilton win.

Best 14 of 21 (2/3): HAM 319, ROS 315
Best 16 of 21 (3/4): HAM 349, ROS 345
Best 17 of 21 (4/5): HAM 364, ROS 357

The 2/3 system was the one used by F1 from 1950-1989.

14

Thank goodness F1 no longer uses such an arbitrary and counter productive system.

15

Is the current points scoring system not also arbitrary? Why are points paid out only down to 10th place? It used to be down to 8th before, or 6th before that, or 5th before that. What is so different between 10th place and 11th place, that one deserves a point, and the other doesn't? Of course it's all arbitrary.

As for counter-productive, I have no idea what you could possibly mean. The system now has an in-built hope that any unreliability (i.e. factors that are not about driving skill) evens out over the year. Such hope is forlorn, as we've just witnessed this year. In the systems I highlighted, the system actively works to mitigate their occurrence, and the distorting effect they can have. They work to keep the driving championship more about the driving, rather than the misfortune.

16

Who cares? Rosberg is world champion. Hamilton only made it close because he had three new engines down the stretch. He paid the price for them, to be sure, but it's not as lopsided as the [Mod] want it to appear.

17

Canadaf1fan (again) Lewis used 6 engines, Nico used 5.

18

So basically Ham wins the championship in all three of those scenarios because a) he wasn't penalised in Monaco and or b) he lucked lucked into the race win at Monaco courtesy of wet weather and a poor redbull pitstop.

19

Yep

20

What would he be penalized for? The thing with Ricciardo? It was investigated, and no action. Hamilton left a car's width, clearly.

As for b), when Rosberg let Hamilton through, he was over 13 secs back of Ricciardo. If Ricciardo-RBR just could've maintained that gap, then they could've absorbed the bad pitstop and still won. They blinked first, changed tires when they didn't need to, and then Hamilton-Mercedes got them to second guess themselves for that 2nd stop, when Hamilton had unexpectedly (for RBR) taken ultrasofts. RBR pitwall changed the call from softs to supersofts for Ricciardo, and that screwed them up. It wasn't an unforced error ... they were reacting to Hamilton-Merc's call.

21

Yep that's the facts.
Lewis is still the better racer.
On BBC f1 Autosport voted
Lewis best driver of 2016
Then Max V then Rosberg in 3rd.
That says a lot with how the bosses of F1 see things.

22

KRB there's a statute of limitation on false credit theories....it's passed!!

23

Or c: because his teammate obeyed the team and moved over for him

24

Get over it KRB. Nico Rosberg is the 2016 world champ. Let it go man......

25

@KRB
Hamilton's tactics of slowing down the pack...

If James will permit me to plug the competition - have a read of Joe Sawards blog. He has some forthright views on the matter and I suspect you will enjoy reading them (assuming you haven't already).

26

LOL, the stomping German. Some people just don't get the sport.

But hey, at least the team principals know what's what eh?

http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/127328/team-bosses-name-hamilton-2016-best-driver

Of course they did. By my math, at least 6 team principals had him as their #1. Could be more #1's, if other TP's had him lower than 2nd.

27

With regard to Rosberg's 3rd place in the Team Principal poll - how do you think that fits with the popular narrative that he has raised his game this season? It doesn't, on the face of it least, appear that the TP's are convinced. Although JYS is having his usual dig at Ham - after last years WDC I remember Sky interviewed him and he was moaning how Ham can't do anything but drive flat out and how he should learn a thing or two from Prost and take it slowly. What does he do at the end of this season - and JYS still isn't happy.

28

This is a tough one for me, because it is a race after all, and you want each driver to be able to take it at full pace. But obviously that just suggests that P2 should have overtaken P1. And this underscores the flaws in Hamilton's approach - he had to go quicker through the overtaking zones, meaning that Nico could do the same and defend against the cars coming up behind him. Hamilton's not my favourite driver, but I understand why he did it, and can't see much wrong with it.

29

Utter rubbish Canada F1
Have heard what the drivers are saying.
Sainz said he would have done the same.
So have others but the one who couldn't be ask you take full advantage is Vettel who didn't want to be involved in the fall out.
If that was Kimi he'd have taken Rosberg as would Max.
Lewis will be at Ferrari in 2019 and Vettel will be gone in 2018 from Ferrari. Marchionne wants Lewis. So Vettel is already falling fowl of his own failures to get results. Meanwhile Kimi will have his contract renewed next year.

30

CanadaF1fan
flaws in Hamilton's approach...

To be fair to Hamilton (not a likely viewpoint for many I know) he didn't really have many options. If he'd waltzed off into the distance and finished 30 seconds in front of everyone else then the anti's would be calling him a fool for not backing Rosberg into the pack. Additionally what would that have proved - it's not like it's news that he's a quick driver. So he did the thing which was most likely to give him the desired result - and the anti's all scream how dreadful he is and how he should have won by a mile. But it was always a long shot and on this occasion it didn't come off. But there was absolutely nothing wrong with what he did, nothing.
BTW - where about's in Canada are you from?

31

Agreed - to me it's similar to multi-21. Seb had won the championship in 2012 by just three points, and the team were asking him to give up 7 points in Malaysia 2013 against a slower driver. We can debate whether Webber saw it coming (although he did have plenty of time to turn his engine back up once it was clear Seb was trying to overtake), but I certainly don't blame Seb for doing it. It's racing, and sometimes you need to be ruthless to win. Even all the sacrificing of Massa for Alonso's benefit over the years was hardly "sporting".

I'm from Western Canada - in Calgary. Typically hockey country, but I make sure I can catch every qualy/race (albeit with a lot of early mornings). Made it to the race in Austin this year too - bit of a snoozer, but still great experience.

32

Mercedes and LH were always going to be in a no-win situation going into the weekend. It has always been Mercedes contention to secure a 1-2 finish and it really didn't matter to them who was first or second and they were free to race each other.
This was contrary to what LH needed for his personal goals where he needed to win and NR to finish 4th or lower. Programmed conflict of interest whereby LH doesn't win the Championship..
The question that really begs itself, as an employee, do you take one for the team, or do you act selfishly, clearly defy instructions from your Employer, who incidentally pays you MEGA $$ to drive by far THE best car in the field?
LH chose to defy his Employer's instructions, which is clearly disrespectful to all the people in the background giving him a great car, as well as a clear case of insubordination for which he would be rightly reprimanded in just about any organization.
LH might be the "Star", but even the Star can be replaced and has been replaced in the past, and will continue to do so in the future. Disobedience towards your Employer sets a wrong tone, even in F1.
So from a tactical perspective, unless there was some mechanical issue from either car, LH was really in a no-win situation, and backing his rival into the clutches was contrary to clearly defined team objectives and ultimately a loose- loose strategy for him.

33

"and ultimately a loose- loose strategy for him"

Not if Rosberg would have faltered under pressure...or if an overtaking attempt from the driver behind Rosberg would have gone wrong, leading to a last gasp Championship victory for Hamilton.
It's only about maximising chances, all this "company interests", PC bull [mod] should have not been present if Mercedes really wanted to give both their drivers maximum chances for the Championship - keep in mind that WCC was secured, no matter what happened in the last race.
Mercedec had a chance to score some points in the eyes of the fans, by keeping silent and let the race unfold, but they blew it.

34

i was disappointed with the whole "slow it down" thing. I think Lewis should have tried to take first place with the biggest gap to second he could do. that would have put the exclamation point on his season, win or lose (the championship). who knows? if he had done that, and left Nico to contend with the pack on his own, Lewis might have come out on top anyway! either way, both drivers deserve congratulations.

35

but even the Star can be replaced....

Of course he can but he would not be short of offers. And therein lies Mercedes dilemma. Do you want Hamilton driving for your own team or are you happy for him to drive for someone else?

36

@ Luqa...a clear and concise summary. well said.

37

"Kenneth in Anti Hamilton shocker"
At least youre consistent.

38

Lewis was not disrespectful, it was his only chance to retain the WDC, most people were pleased that the title challenge had gone to the last race. Mercedes should not have issued the instructions to Lewis, it was effectively handing the title to Nico. As it was Nico worked hard and drove extremely well to ensure he was on the podium and won the WDC. In any event Mercedes should not have been looking for a 1-2 finish in this race, because whichever way round the 1-2 was Nico would have been WDC, so effectively pointless either of them taking part in the race.

39

I think it is lucky for Lewis' reputation that his strategy didn't come off. It would have been a hollow victory and would have been very unpopular with fans. The reality is the championship was effectively over before the race (barring mechanical mishap). Once he knew that he should have done the team thing as there was no upside for him.

40

The upside was 4 X WDC

41

With a very big asterisk attached....

42

KRB - I agree with all you're saying, except where you imply that the race would have been a boring procession had he not. Whilst it may be true, its dangerous territory - the drivers job is not to entertain us, but to drive as quickly as possible. Every race this year would have been more entertaining if the lead driver had slowed 2 seconds per lap, allowing the rest to catch up, but surely that can't be what we want to see?

43

@ Redline...very perceptive and a point well made.

44

Redline, the drivers job is to drive fast enough to win the race. In addition to all other considerations of backing NR into the pack, there is also the fact that the faster you go, the more stress you put on the car. Consider this scenario. LH goes flat out for the entire race. Meanwhile NR has a failure or gets hit by a backmarker. LH then has the championship, but due to thrashing the car breaks down Malaysia style at the end of the race. Everyone then looks very silly.

Merc saying he was in danger of losing was wrong as I am sure LH was confident enough in his abilities that should enyone have got past NR, he could have extended himself to stay in front.

Good as it sometimes is to see someody smash the field by a over a minute, you get the same points for being 60 seconds or .6 seconds ahead of the guy in second, so looking after the car just makes good sense, especially when you have had as many mechanical issue as LH has this season.

45

@ScottK ... Fair point. The main point however stands: entertaining the fans not being directly part of the drivers brief, but a consequence of the racing that results from it. The day the drivers need to start thinking of entertaining the spectators, is the day that racing dies.

46

I beg to differ - you have inadvertantly highlight the real issue. When in a car capable of winning a race a driver shouldn't drive as fast as possible. Far too oftern history shows this is a recipe for disaster - even if it is what many fans want to see. The famous saying indicates the need to reach the chequered flag. In that respect Lewis showed magnificent control of mind and car. Personally I found it the best bit of the race. Look at other sports - Lewis' effort can be compared to the way Ben Ainslie's won gold at the London Olympics. He was in the same position as Lewis and his spectacular boat and mind control won hte day by creating a wind shadow that slowed his rival and allowed others past. Going fast is easy - slowing down and controlling a race shows far more skill. There will be many applauding Ben should he remain on track (!) and 'bring the (America's) cup home'.

47

@JonL... See above reply to ScottK. My original post was badly articulated. My main point was regarding the entertainment derived from slowing down, rather than the speed itself...

48

redline, not in a normal middle-of-season race, of course not. I'm not saying that that tactic per se is what we want to see. I'm saying that we want to see drivers actively trying to win a championship, rather than just passively accepting their fate. In those end-of-season races, we want that. When it's between teams, it's great to see each team's rear gunner attempt to help their teammate and/or hinder their teammate's rival. Of course I mean by driving within the rules, at all times. No Schumacher-esque punts of other cars, no brake tests, etc.

49

Good point KRB. You have to look at the context: last race of the season and all to play for. So a special situation rather than a normal race.

50

This WDC ending looked like a conspiracy to me.

Since it was revealed that Mercedes AMG granted some sensitive data to Ferrari about some KPI [Key Performance Indicators] about Turbo, ECU data/ratios when Ferrari was adrift in the championship, Ferrari stopped challenging Mercedes in the race strategy [chosing the non optimal].
We knew Ferrari would charge hard at the end of the race, since this site mentioned in the race-previe that the car was way faster on colder temps.
People that watch NASCAR knows the big effect on car performance when the race starts in the evening and ends at night.

About RedBull since Toto called the Verstappens and it was told to Horne, the team seems to - in practical terms - declined to challenge Mercedes too [interfere in the Merc intra-fight].
Of course Max spun at the start of the race, so we won't know the real picture of this event.

51

Isn't it astonishing how many people and teams [Mod] Lewis Hamilton.

Not only is the whole of the Mercedes team, all 1,500 or so, complicit in building an under par car for the saviour of F1, but it appears both Ferrari and Red Bull's organisations cannot stand Hamilton either.

So collectively about 4,500 people have issues with Lewis winning races.

Maybe the conspiracy theorists need to get a grip on reality and understand how ridiculous their beliefs are.

52

You are reading it with biased lenses.
I said that Ferrari and RedBull avoided to interfere in the Mercedes fight.
NOT that they were against Lewis.
...
I think RedBull wanted Rosberg to win bcs it would divide the Mercedes Kingdom and make it weaker and [inner] conflict bound.
Divide to Conquer.

53

I missed the part about Mercedes helping Ferrari! Is that true? When did that happen? Officially or under the table?

55

Hmmmm.... that there is a certain exchange of information across teams, as they share much of the supply chain, and staff move regularly is a given.

That Mercedes helped Ferrari explicitly... I'm not convinced. The Mercedes board would have to sign off on something like that, and I can't see it happening given the vast amounts of money they have spent on R&D. If they did, it would come with a high price attached (non $$$) and I couldn't see Ferrari accepting that either.

56

Remember that this is not only a sport, but also a show.
There is no atractivity for the global audience if Mercedes AMG is miles ahead.
There must be some competition from Ferrari and RedBull.
Whenever they are helping Ferrari, they are actually helping themselfes to get better marketing returns.
When Bernie complained at Mercedes helping Ferrari, he was actually saying "you have to help them more" for the sake of F1 audience.
Ferrari in exchange/gratitude lifted in some races, IMO.

57

Anything that Bernie and Mario wish to say I would take with a considerable amount of salt.

As to Wolff's comments, I would imagine that Ferraris hiring of a good number of ex-Mercedes engineers would probably have helped the engine department with information from their previous employer.

Following your example, if James Allison joins a team he won't be allowed to use knowledge of Ferraris infrastructure?

As to bias, I have followed F1 for around 40 years. Only one driver in that time has stood out for me. It's in my nick.

Being Italian I also support Ferrari but having said all that, if either entity behaved in a classless or dangerous manner, I'd be the first to call it.

In closing, it was you who wrote of conspiracy and gave examples of both of the other top teams...

58

Thanks for another year of fantastic analysis James & Co. This website is a really big part of F1 for me.

I just wanted to say something about Rosberg. We are all talking about whether he deserved the title or not. For me he wasn't the fastest driver, nor did he perform better, however he did improve his own driving considerably and riding his luck, he delivered enough to take the championship. Anyone who saw the tears on his wife's face and the look in Nico's eyes would have to have a pretty cold heart to say he didn't deserve it.

We should all be fans of formula 1 before any driver, we are always crying out for more variety, here it is! Something happened that we didn't expect. Next year we will have new, confident champion on the grid, a motivated Lewis Hamilton, and fingers crossed a competative Red Bull. Hoorah!

Congratulations Nico Rosberg.

59

Exactly. And while a lot of people will say Rosberg only won because of Hamiltons bad luck, no one ever mentions Rosbergs bad luck - having one of the fastest drivers out there as his team mate.

60

@Guy... A big thumbs up for your level headed opinion. Drivers come and go but Formula 1 IS the sport. Nico hung tough and was rewarded with the championship for 2016.... on to next year!

61

Yes, it has felt that the last few races have panned out to help Nico with other rivals failing to capitalise on opportunities. However, he got himself in that position, well done Nico, a worthy champion.
A slight weakness in the strategy analysis is that you can't properly analyse a car that isn't going as fast as it could, i.e. I expect that Lewis could still have outpaced all behind him, especially on his unstressed tyres.

62

Why wasn't Kimi put on the same strategy as Vettel? Why did Ferrari succumb to the Ricciardo undercut? It just didn't make any sense.....Ferrari could've had 3-4 instead of 3-6 by the chequered flag.

63

2010 repeating itself, I guess...

64

Look at the chart above its self explanatory. Kimi running in clean air was not holding up both Vettel and Riccairdo. Look at Vettel's pace after both Kimi and Riccairdo are out of his way. There is a marked impovement in his laptimes. Even on his inlap knowing full well Riccairdo would undercut him, he produced a sub par lap.

65

So many races this season Raikkonen has had sub optimal strategies. The only one I can remember off the top of my head that he benefited from was Spain.

66

It isnt about only Kimi getting sub optimal strategies, Ferrari has let down both drivers, Vettel more than Kimi as he could have had 2 easy victories and a long shot in Canada. At the end of the day just like yesterday Kimi's long runs arent impressive. Look his curve running in clean air and compare that to Riccairdo and Vettel. Vettel had so much grip and pace once he was out of their wake. Kimi might have improved his one lap pace but has sacrificed his long run pace and his ability to be gentle on his tyres. This isnt the only race its obvious in the charts. Most of the races even when Vettel is behind he is the faster driver you can check out all the charts looking at the strategy report or from the live timing archives. Good new is Kimi is much improve in 2016 than 2015 and he was better in 2015 than in 2014. Lets hope for his sake he'll be beating Vettel both on Saturday and on Sunday in 2017

67

Queue the long line of some LHFC still claiming Lewis as the victor if not for reliability issues.

Simple fact of 2016 is that he got beat by someone he considers below him and it is eating him up inside, no matter how he wants to claim it isn't. His words after the race say otherwise.

Even worse, his attempt to hold everyone back in the race (which isn't illegal) made Rosberg look like a hero in the car by holding off enormous pressure from drivers behind. Lewis was calm in the car in the last few laps but there's some claim to think Nico was even calmer. If we went for a balls out attack trying to overtake Lewis, he surely would've known Lewis was going to push him out of track into a crash or a spin to lose places to Seb and Max.

All in all, well done Nico. 2016 F1 WDC.

68

I guess Toto is in the LHFC then:

http://www.espn.com.au/f1/story/_/id/18162075/malaysia-cost-lewis-title-nico-worthy-champion

"This year, clearly, Malaysia cost Lewis the championship. It's clear." ~ Toto Wolff

It's just calling it as it is. Nico is champion, he scored more points. The decisive factor in him doing so was the unreliability suffered by Hamilton.

The same as saying that the great Jim Clark only missed out on the 1964 title because of unreliability.

69

Not just Toto in the LHFC - it would seem that all the team bosses are members. Lewis just been voted 2016 top driver by the team bosses in the annual Autosport poll. 51 points clear of 2nd placed Verstappen.

70

Yes C63...cling on to anything to support your man. He lost and i know the pain you suffer must be almost unbearable. A couple of whiskies and a sedative then an early night and you'll feel a whole lot better.

71

kenneth, I am rubber you are glue whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you .

72

I think they strike out any dnfs -which doesn't really make sense...
How Rosberg ended up 5th is beyond me.
Thank goodness for objective measures like the WDC.

73

Rosberg didn't end up 5th, he was 3rd - same as last year.
As for how it works - the TP's are asked to rank (anonymously) their top ten drivers for the year. I agree it's only subjective but I cannot help but feel the opinions of the TP's are slightly more important than what a load of key board warriors like you and I might think. I'm surprised you are so dismissive of it. It wouldn't be because your favoured driver didn't do very well, would it?

74

I must have been looking at something else -there was a list that ranked Nico 5th (I'm sure?)
My favoured driver did alright (thankyou very much!) -but my point was the discrepancy between the WDC rankings and the list -even at 3rd Nico deserves more credit than that -The sheer fact that he beat their favourite should attest to that. For Max to finish second overall, on a handfull of stellar performances leads me to think that the Team Principles are as much cheerleaders as some of the press are...

75

I guess time will tell whether the team leaders are just cheerleaders or whether they know a thing or two about race drivers. Personally I think Max is very rough around the edges but his ability is clear for all to see. He blew Ric away in Brazil (who claimed to have a steamed up visor - lol, the dog ate my homework) and, almost unnoticed, beat Ric again in Ab Dab - having fallen to last place on the first lap. That's the sort of thing which only the very best can pull off and I guess it's the sort of thing which catches a TP's eye. Think of him as a quick but unreliable car - it's always easier to fix than making a slow but reliable car a quick one.

76

That was the Sky Sports list, after averaging all ratings through the year (and yes, they only rate finishers).

Rosberg was 3rd in the Team Principals poll.

The points system does not always offer up the best driver in the end. Did Vettel drive better than Alonso in 2012? Most would say no (as the TP poll that year showed too), but he won by 3 pts because of a better car.

The points system can't equalize for reliability, and just reflect the pure driving results. There's an in-built hope that reliability will even out over each season. Most times it does, at least roughly. There's always the odd season where it does not, and 2016 was one of those seasons.

I have advocated for a return to a Best X of Y Results system, and have done for years, not just this season. Best three-quarters would be my preferred ratio I believe. There are problems with that system as well, particularly near the end of a season, but I think it's better than the current system.

77

More luck for Rosberg....

78

To quote Gary Player - one of the greatest golfers of all time "The more I practice the luckier I get" . I guess hard work and dedication wins at the end of the day.

79

"Luck favors the prepared". yep, indeed in F1 2016.

80

You make your own luck

81

That's not true and you know it.
If that is what you would tell to the families of the people that perished in a disaster, I would only guess you wouldn't say it again.

82

You can't, because there is no such thing.

83

make your own luck.....

If that is true, why has he waited until now to do so ?

84

Fascinating analysis, thank you! After so many occasions where Ferrari have got their strategy wrong, at least they have ended the season getting it right. Let's hope they carry it on into 2017 and we see racing instead of processions.

85

Thanks for that strategy analysis. I was stunned when they pitted DR after only 8 laps? That wasn't the strategy that was enunciated pre race. There really wasn't anything that DR could do. Another podium gone begging. Cest la vie i suppose.

86

@ken. ..cling on to anything to support your man. He lost a podium AGAIN and i know the pain you suffer must be almost unbearable. A couple of whiskies and a sedative then an early night and you'll feel a whole lot better 😃

87

Ultimately, as an Australian F1 fan, we're all too familiar with pitting too early in Abu Dhabi and not seeing just how far the tyres go into the race!

I wasn't too impressed when they pitted Ricciardo when they did: what was the point of going with that tyre strategy other than making a poor start to the nearby cars off the grid and not going deeper into the race? They blamed the flatspot, but I can't imagine Max's tyres would have been completely circular following that spin...

Red Bull have been a bit eager to hit the pit confirm button with Ricciardo all year: the extra stop in Spain, the stop for Inters in Monaco, the early stop in Mexico, and now Abu Dhabi... all of these came when he had decent track position and put him into races that he didn't really need to be in.

88

Ok but did Ferrari really get it right? Why do I have the feeling that this strategy was the result of a chance decision and not a calculated one...

Red Bull really did shoot themselves on the foot with DR's strategy, but I think that what Ferrari did was just to capitalise on Red Bull's blunder. I am sorry to say this since I am a Ferrari fan, but they are lacking so much in that department.

89

Yes it seemed Vettel and Ferrari were planning to come in initially, but once it was clear that Ricciardo had jumped him, they decided to go long.

90

Superb weekend from the Hulk in his last drive with Force India, and a great way to see out his career with F.I. with another mature, consistent display. My driver of the day. Things are looking up for the Hulk. Although Renault F1 have had a dog's dinner of a season this year, if they've done the smart enough, gave up development this year during the European summer to fully concentrate on the dramatic regs changes for next year, they could dramatically leap up the grid next season and, if not "do a Brawn", at least "do a Red Bull" and become a podium hunter? Renault have plenty of capital and resources, and some very gifted personnel............and an excellent driver approaching his peak with a wealth of maturity and experience to tap into. Reminds me of Mika Hakkinen in the late 90s.....

Like that old Ruby & the Romantics song - Hulk's day will come.............he'll share the joy...........spraying the champagne on the podium can bring...........

91

Gaz Boy:- Hulkenberg has been beaten in 2 consecutive seasons by Perez who in my opinion is the best driver in F1 atm. I have nothing against the Hulk and wish him well at Renault but Im sick of seeing the exaggerated praise he gets- seriously. I was cheering him on in Brazil in 2012 when he turned in & took out Lewis & "I thought what a goose". Destroyed a certain podium. & unfortunately when he gets close in battles he always clips someone or takes himself out.. Hes not that good - never will be !-- in a dominant car like the other Nico he can win but then so can most.

92

Who knows? I could be wrong, you could be right...........that's a rhetorical question that can only be answered with time.......

Is Hulk good enough? We'll we're going to find out next year aren't we!

93

The Hulk has certainly clocked a lot of races till now and still, that podium has been eluding him. Wondering as well why Ferrari did not sign him up earlier, if he truly is good? They had certainly access to all his race data at Sauber, so what did they see we don't know about in public. Look forward to 2017 where hopefully Renault will be able to deliver a decent car. And think this will be absolute last chance for The Hulk to show if he has it or not.

94

Hi James, it would be great if you did a season ending "Review Analysis" article which does a dive into some major strategy trends of the season and maybe this era of Pirelli tires (before we go wider). Or maybe another on top strategy calls and blunders.

95

Great idea from Jodum5! Given the importance of strategy it would be interesting to see some kind of full year points system for each team's strategy calls on a `race by race' basis through the year. Maybe allocate team strategy points for each driver as follows +1 if strategy advantaged a driver, 0 if strategy caused no gain/loss, -1 if strategy disadvantaged a driver. Team strategy score could be sum of the driver's scores. (Perhaps award a score of +2 for a strategy call that gains a podium so that if 2nd driver strategy was sacrificed for the podium the combined score is positive for the team?) The tabulation could provide a ranking for the each teams strategy prowess during the year (presumably not pretty for Ferrari in 2016), and could also show if a team's strategy calls consistently favor one driver over another.

96

Wow, how many posts will there be saying someone else helped nico? Salty as salt dude

97
Tornillo Amarillo

Yeah James, new session!
Canada has confirmed the GP!!!
Would it be a RICCIARDO's year?
Would it be possible a match between Rosberg-Hamilton-Ricciardo-Max- Vettel?
Will Ocon deliver thrilling races in the midfield?
Would it be Alonso el grande back in the game?
Would it be more difficult and longer the pitstop with those big tyres?

98

Next year Mclaren will definitely be much better than this. Hope its a 4 team battle at least between Mercedes, Redbull, Ferrari and Mclaren

99

Great and intriguing race this one. I was pretty much locked into the Hamilton Rosberg battle so it's nice to get this little reminder of what was going on behind. It had to be one of the more intense season finales I've witnessed and it's basically all down to Hamilton and his sublime if not unwitting sense of drama. Intentionally backing up Nico, blatantly refusing team orders. I thought he showed a real sense of character to stand up to all that pressure brought to bare (because you know he knew how it would play out. So all this social/MS media condemnation was waiting in the wings when he told the team to get knotted.) he stood up to it and committed a hard nosed, unpopular but necessary manoeuvre to try and win the title.

"Knowing that, Ferrari went into this race better prepared than Red Bull and this was a race and a podium that they took away from Red Bull"

How? when Horner knew full well Hamiltonz strategy seeing as he suggested it.
Could it be that they DID plan for Hamiltonz actions but executed poorly? Or does Horner not believe his own advice?

"Ricciardo could have had much more flexibility in his strategy. He could have done a much longer first stint and then been prepared to attack at the end on fresher tyres,"

It's notable that this strategy is exactly what DR used in 2014 for a lot of his success that year. This race however, Verstappen was locked into a one stop when he bounced off Hulk and spun out. So it was always an option to split strategies. DR pretty much went nowhere and a couple of moves didn't stick.
It's a bit like Spain where they covered off Ferrari and DR got the slower strategy. But this time he got ahead of The Ferrari he was racing. Verstappen, this time, lost out to his opponent. I think that lock up at the start was actually very significant for Ricciardo. A: he flatspotted his tyre and B: he didnt get the place.

"After that their only chance to boost Ricciardo was to undercut Raikkonen at the second stop, which they did manage to do. He finished fifth, whereas second or third could have been possible and this would have really put pressure on Rosberg at the end!"

As if Rosberg wasn't under some kind of immense pressure already. We can all say it together now... The 2016 and reigning WDC, Nico Rosberg. Makes me happy.
And again its great thanks to Hamilton for putting the flame to the forge where Rosberg proved his mettle. The pass on Max was insanely top drawer. Let's face it he's had plenty of limit learning practice lunges this year but when it really really mattered... clean and decisive, had me on the edge of my seat. As did the last 15 laps. Good on you Ham for bringing the theatre and good on you Nico, 2016 WDC.
And good on ya RB for stuffing up your strategy and letting Ferrari get a little end of season joy.
Props to Alonso (apparently), JB for reliving the glory days in a special helmet for a few laps, palmer for making sure Sainz [Mod], Kimi for clinching the quali duel at Ferrari, Vettel for having no part in a dirty tricks campaign and Massa.

100

@ Sir Tease: In terms of your last paragraph it seems to me that Hamilton's strategy fell victim to the law of unintended consequences. Having declared himself the 'moral' winner before the race thereby devaluing a Rosberg WDC in advance just in case, he set about making it his own which was fine and made a great spectacle. I doubt that he expected Rosberg to produce the drive of his life and resist almost intolerable pressure. The net result was a lot of added value to Nico's title.

101

PetaJ, I think you're absolutely correct when you say Hamiltons strategy (and Rosberg's resistance) gave value to Rosberg's title. People have been citing Rosberg's lack of an overtake on Ham as reason for him to be undeserving. But I think the way he dealt with Hamilton's actions nullify this qualm somewhat. And as I said, the required overtake on Verstappen was first class. Kudos to them both on that.
As for Hamilon's thought process and motivations during this last round, I can only guess at. I'm sure winning the WDC was the major motivation, but I wouldn't be surprised if somewhere in his thinking he knew it would benefit Rosberg if he prevailed under those circumstance. But then all this talk of moral victor and claiming un reliability lost him the championship (it may be so but it doesn't need to be emphasised the moment he lost whilst Rosberg is freshly absorbing his win) confuses me as to his true feelings an nature.
Hamilton's actions I applaud, his attitude I question.

102

@SirTease

Very well constructed post - I don't necessarily agree with all of your points, but a pretty fine post nonetheless.
BTW - what did you spend your winnings on?

103

Well thanks C63. I can't imagine what you'd disagree with...
Unfortunately my bookie was charged with running an illegal tote last week and had all his (quite considerable) assets frozen. So I'm actually in the hole about $800 on this championship. No winnings in sight. But I'm just glad for Nico's achievement, a heartwarming triumph of graft over glam. I'm also glad not to be listed on the subpoena.

104

No winnings in sight...

Lol - there's a lesson in there somewhere for someone 🙂

105

Thank you James and UBS for bringing us these reports after each race this season. They always add an extra dimension to the race weekend. I have even learned how to read and understand the graphs!

106

Thanks for the analysis James. I was stunned when Red Bull pitted Ricciardo with the rest of the ultra-soft runners. What a waste.

107

With the benefit of hindsight of course, I find it curious that Rosberg didn't choose to run a long second stint, as in that way he would have negated Hamilton's very likely strategy of slowing down. It tends me to believe there was a gentlemens agreement for Hamilton not to slow down, which Hamilton somehow disregarded, which also gives reason for why Mercedes intervened. Kudos to Nico for resisting under clearly high pressure.

108

@Raz "It tends me to believe there was a gentlemens agreement for Hamilton not to slow down, which Hamilton somehow disregarded, which also gives reason for why Mercedes intervened"
This is just ridiculous, what next? Claims that someone Hamilton sabotaged his own car this season no doubt. Oh, wait... we've already from some idiots. Talk about post truth, let’s just put some wild speculative idea out there which suggests that you somehow have insight into a driver’s mind. Plus, don’t you think that Nico would have mentioned the “gentlemen’s agreement” to anyone who would listen by now. Christ!!!

This is just becoming ridiculous, what next? Hamilton sabotaged his own car this season no doubt.. oh wait... we've already had that claim from some idiots. Talk about post truth, lets just make put some wild speculative idea out there which suggests that that you somehow have insight into a drivers mind. Jesus, just ridiculous.

109

@ Revilo....From your comment you obviously didn't see/hear the interview that brundle had with wolff, who confirmed that they were both told to that there was to be no 'backing one another up' otherwise the antagonist would be penalised by way of undercut! Hamilton knew what was expected and waited until there was no chance of an undercut before backing rosberg up.

110

The point I was trying to make is that there was another way for Rosberg to negate the risk of being slowed down by LH. And this option has been largely left out of the analyses I've read so far. Granted, it may have been riskier for ROS world have had to concede track position in case of, fire example, a long 2nd stint, and we have a championship lost because of this very fact (Alonso). In any way, the point I was trying to make is that there was another way to deal with it. Far from me to suggest I know more than what was published on this topic. You take it more aggressively than I think should be the case

111

Yes, hamilton has tried to drive slow before as well, ie. Hungary. And was told if he didnt pick up the pace nico would be called in for a pitsrop before him.

112

Very pleased to see Nico Rosberg win the WDC this season. After the drubbing he received at the hands of Lewis at Austin last year (and having the salt rubbed into the wound with 'Capgate'), he reportedly went off and partied in Austin. Came back and won the remaining races of the 2015 season, declaring at the end of that season that the 2016 season could start next week as far he was concerned. He wins the first 4 of 2016, plus Baku, and then another 4 after the summer break (possibly would have been 5 if not tagged by Seb V in Malaysia - great recovery drive there) to give himself advantage Rosberg. Drove a competent wet race at Interlagos. The season ending AbDab race was really exciting at the end. Don't blame Lewis for his tactics of slowing the pace in the final laps to back Nico into his rivals, which at the end of the day, enhanced Nico's reputation further as a tough cookie. Congratulations Nico! Job well done.

113

I like to believe Austin 2015 turn one was the moment of Nico's wakening. There was another moment in 2014 when Mercedes used him as a doormat. I can imagine how hard it was for him to come back, but he brilliantly managed it in the end. Luck? Of course, 2-1 for LH.

114

As good as this article is, it follows the continuous assault and slight dig at Rosberg every mistake by other teams does not equate to helping Rosberg or meaning his name was written on the title.

115

Which mud F1 driver said something like you should always win a race as slowly as possible?

116

It was the old rat Niki Lauda that said:
"The secret is to win going as slowly as possible."

117

I still think there were those on the pit wall that thought Hamilton might just go all out for the win. At least until the race actually started. Yes Kimi was hammered again by a bad strategy. So what do you suppose if Hamiltons backing up tactics would have worked? The furor would be immense! And for those supporting the backing-up concept, I think where it falls short is that you are setting the team up to have one of it's cars behind a competitor team intentionally. How could Mercedes be happy with that?

118

James, I'm not convinced it was 'excellent' work by Ferrari? More of a gamble as Vettel being at the rear of the pack and already lost any opportunity of an undercut. In hindsight I can not believe Red bulls didn't foresee how the race was likely to unfold. Also did Hamilton not breach a sporting regulation driving unnecessary slowly?

119

No Ham was within the rules

Vettel did well to beat faster Red Bulls and strategy did it so I'd say excellent work!

120

excellent gamble! i'll agree with that..

121

I understand your opinion james but why then did ferrari not use the same excellent strategy for Kimi.? im sure the data would have shown it was the slowest strategy for Vettel but a gamble worth risking with no threat of losing any positions.

122

I was appalled by Mecedez request to order Hamilton to concede the title. Pure Greed or favouritism.

123

Wait, what did I miss - when did they say that and what did they say??
I saw them tell their drivers to go out and race as fast as they can - but I must have missed the bit where they asked Ham to pull over 😉

124

Probably they saw it coming that Hamilton would have no chance with his slowing tactic and that it would be better for his reputation AND the team if he would win by 15s, then Nico and then 15s again.

Mercedes is not a small racing team. it is a big company. So Toto and Nicki can be under pressure themself if the bigger bosses who are no racers but managers think they have no control over the team and especially a certain driver.

125

good comment...
... but, there was a chance that Rosberg would choke under pressure, but since the next (remotely) competitive teams strangely never seemed to challenge Merc, Rosberg (despite all of the spin that was made of it) was in good shape to defend second with little real challenge.

126

James, I am not convinced about Mercedes vulnerability in this last race. In the end, the 1-2 order was meant to be, nobody on the grid really wanted to change the order, and I may be wrong, but I kind of think everybody wanted Rosberg champion, including the Stars. And what a wonderful way to end this year with a new champion and Nico's picture on your site for months till March 2017 (kind of justice for non-LH fans that endured his picture on your page for so long last year)

127

People can hate hamilton.....his speed this year has been better than previous years, he showed the grit of senna and schumacher on sunday, when prost won senna never burst out with joy....wake up people !!!!

Why is wolff so anti hamilton do they forget what ham brings and has achieved for the team, and this potential talk of sacking him...omg merc know if redbull are fast next year ham can win in a slower car......i have been reading the press this week and cant believe what im hearing

Please watch rosberg get demolished next year.

128

I agree with you.
I find the anti-Hammy spin as believable as the inevitable Hillary victory.
The media are very suspect these days.
Very!
I'm hoping that at least one team gets the measure of Merc, but I'm not holding my breath; the extent of their current advantage is very significant.
The most likely challenger will be RB, already with a comparable chassis, their engine overhaul (Mario Illien) will likely result in a very competitive PU.
While the MMC (Mercedes Managed Championship) worked so well with 1 second per lap at hand, it won't work if another team is within 0.2 per lap, and I expect RB to be there or better for 2017.

129

LH has brought much of the criticism he has received upon himself. He nearly had 3 WDCs in a row, has the best car on the grid and yet he continually makes out he is a victim of misfortune or some conspiracy against him. That is why so many feel he is a spoilt brat.
It's very notable when the drivers are driven around the track pre-race on the back of a truck, LH always separates himself from the rest of the drivers. That tells me a lot about his attitude toward others. Thus when the pit lane shows moral support for NR it is no surprise and possibly SV showed some measure of support on the night by refraining from overtaking NR..
The GPDA survey last year was very insightful when it indicated that Kimi, Fernando and Jenson were the most popular drivers.
We can't take away Lewis' very impressive winning statistics (thanks in no small measure to having the best car on the grid), but to me he wins and loses badly. Like with Schumie the way you win and lose determines your eventual greatness. Perhaps Lewis should take a greater responsibility for his behaviour rather than blame someone or something for his perceived misfortune.

130

Nick,
You've summed up my feelings toward Lewis as well. Historically the statistics will reflect his winning record, but there's more to greatness than just being fast.

131

I agree it was the wrong strategy to pit riccardo early in this race. It hasnt just been this race that redbull have had strategy problem.s for one example barcelona. But that's not it theres other races were i find the team putting there drivers less likely to win or get a podium position in to a winning or podium position when there drive most likely to get the better results is left loosing there advantage and i saw a lot of the same in Abu Dubai riccardo should of had the better position to attack at the end but redbull pitting early gave path to verstappen one stop strategy and great tyre saving into the better position. Hopefully redbull are more confident of sticking to there stratergy they probably work on all weekend and stop covering of ever threat from a different rival.

132

I don't understand why it is thought that Mercedes was "vulnerable". Please explain. LH could easily opened the tap and left them comfortably behind.

133

James,

I was waiting for this Strategy Report to get your views on whether Hamilton did the right thing by disobeying team orders on backing Rosberg when asked by the team to speed up as Vettel approached. [ The strategy and the driving was perfectly fine with me as i don't think it was dirty, but the fact that Toto and Paddy had told that no backing up was going to happen in pre-race interviews seemed to imply that Hamilton had agreed on not doing that]
This year's championship was effectively lost by then. (The Red Bulls on old tires did not have enough to get Rosberg even if Vetted did). If next year is going to be close with Red Bull, Hamilton might come to rue disobeying team orders as I doubt he can now count on Rosberg's support...
Also let us not forget that, had Rosberg not let Hamilton through in Monaco which put pressure on Red Bull and got Hamilton the win, Rosberg would have needed a 7th place and not a podium in Abu Dhabi.

P.S. I have not seen such heavily divided opinion on Hamilton on this forum before this event. It almost seems like we have a German Champion with "British values" ( A plodder who works hard, follows team orders and gentleman's agreements, never blames the team in public) and a British Champion with "German values"( Superiority Complex, Win at any cost, Little solidarity with the team pushing conspiracy theories and blame their way) and the fans don't know whom to support.

134

Well I would classify it as Superiority Complex and Victim Complex mixed into one person. Equates to being a Two Faced individual.

135

Tucholsky said:
Everyone has at least three reasons to be proud of:
To be a german.
To be a french.
To be a british.
Not to be a german.
Not to be a french.
Not to be a british.

So what a typical national value is depends where you live.
Read Tacitus about the Chattii that they were hard working people. The state Hessen (70 years old now) is named after the Chattii and Rosberg was born at its capitol. Nice press conference at Wiesbaden live at TV currently.
If a movie in germany has dandies and nobles it plays in england.
It are not germans who sing: Rule Britannia...

Good and bad, hard workers or lazy parasites, egoists and altruists,... can be found in any country.

136

That was one of Vettels best drives this year and I think he pushed for that middle stint to go longer as we heard him on the radio and sensibly like Ive said many times that harder compound is perfect in the middle of a race, it required careful management because of graining on the front right but once the fuel load lightened they cleaned up.

Im very disappointed that both Red Bull and Ferrari strategies were very reactionary in the case of Dan & Kimi. Like you said James when Dan stopped they killed the advantage they had on the SS and it was very clear they were catching Kimi as his ultras disappeared. But then Ferrari killed Kimis chances by stopping him early in that second stint- I know he was struggling but he just needed to tough it out with guidance from his team- he only had a used SS In the bank but it may have been enough for P4 at least. Red Bull definitely lost P3 for Dan he was very good on his long runs on friday.

Seems teams are continuing to "hedge their bets" in strategies where they really should use acquired long run knowledge from both cars collectively to find the best strategy for both. Ferraris mentality is whenever They change Vettels strategy they force an opposite strategy on Kimi which just kills his race everytime.

137

Just something I noticed from the race history chart, with regard to a previous article on this website: Alonso approaches Massa and Perez very quickly in the closing stages on supersoft tyres, as aptly pointed out in this article. One would wonder why Alonso was not able to overtake both of them, considering he was up to 3 s per lap faster than Perez. In that respect, on could also wonder if Vettel was really able to overtake Rosberg, or that he purposely stayed behind Rosberg, as argued in a previous article. I understand the reasons why Vettel would purposely hold station in the closing stages of the race, but I can't help to feel that to place an attack on Rosberg was not as easy as it might appear.

138

James,

Anything on what Mercedes will do next regarding Lewis not taking orders? I believe he an Nico received warnings from the Austria incident and I cant see how Mercedes will ignore this. You could tell Toto was quite annoyed after the race and during the interviews suggested that Lewis followed Christian Horner's advice and should be driving for him.

I see Merc giving Lewis some form of fine/punishment as opposed to race ban. I don't think the team can jeopardise he's need for next season, especially if Red Bull are up there challenging.

Merc also cant risk going in hard at Hamilton, after all he is global superstar and has masses of sponsoring and marketing that plays into Mercs hand, whereas any other drive on the grid at the moment couldn't do. I believe this is a significant event for the upcoming future, as Lewis wont take any form of punishment lightly. Perhaps a 2018 move the Ferrari could be something mentioned a lot from now to throughout next season?

139

My guess is that they, mercedes will put on their 'heavy duty angry master face' to show the 'common people' their concern but behind the scenes nothing will happen. What this really means is that hamilton will have successfully walked all over the mercedes management and showed then to be totally ineffectual and that they have no authority over their employees of which hamilton is just one. This is what happened to horner although he was legally bound not to prevent vettel from ignoring team instructions. Red Bull/Horner actually received a legal letter from vettel's lawyer according to mark webber. An accusation that has never been reputed.

I have absolutely no idea what the conditions of hamilton's contract are but hamilton would be, in a legal sense, a contracted employee of mercedes benz. Where he might be vulnerable is in carrying out activities to help/ assist a competitor in a manner deemed to be detrimental to mercedes best interests. Which, prima facie, he actually did. Who knows what will will or will not happen. Ultimately, my guess is what i said earlier, ZIP.

140

What's remarkable about the race history chart is how slow Kimi, Ricciardo and even Verstappen's pace was in the final stint. Hamilton was deliberately slowing by seconds in the final stint and the pace was still too quick for them.

141

That is a sign all racers, excepting the lost dude in front, avoided to mess up with Nico's championship.

142

Nonsense, are you saying Verstappen wouldn't have tried to overtake Nico?

143

Very interesting read and an interesting debate in the comments.

I do think the Red Bull strategy has been very poor recently, particularly to the disappointment to Ricciardo. I also think that Hamilton was fair in his tactics of slowing down the pack. If he could slow down the front pack and still retain the lead without any real chance of an overtake from Rosberg, then fair play to his racecraft.

However, I completely understand where people are coming from about Hamilton disobeying clear orders to pick up the pace, and this does bring up a massive issue:

Should Hamilton be criticised for disobeying clear orders or should Mercedes?

Yes, I know I have turned a clear argument against Hamilton on its head but please bear with me. It is true that the team comes first and in the hierarchy of Formula 1 the driver is not the boss. Hamilton directly didn't follow instructions clearly stated to him as such from Paddy Lowe. He clearly put himself ahead of the pitwall and in the process undermined them on a global stage with an open radio channel. Should they at least consider punishing him for this and potentially handing an easy Mercedes 1-2 away to a win for Ferrari by a resurgent Vettel? Probably.

However, is it Hamilton who deserves the punishment?

The problem is not Hamilton disobeying the orders, but the orders themselves. These orders to 'Pick up the pace' go against the Mercedes mantra we are all so used to hearing. What happened to 'Let them race'? Most people tuned in or logged on to see the culmination of a year's work; a tense battle to the end and conclusion to a close championship. A Constructors Championship won and WDC guaranteed in one of their cars, it was the time for racing. And, as soon as a threat of a battle to decide the title loomed, team orders reared its ugly head.

This is just pure contradiction to me. There was no risk in letting them race in the general perspective. It was the time when the mantra of letting the drivers race was at its critical point. To be honest, it should have been the easy part: let them go, make sure they race their own races, and whoever comes out on top in the grand scheme of things gets to be the winner.

The order to go faster SUGGESTS that the team put the race win above the championship. Given the circumstances, Hamilton needed to win, and a strategist would see that there would need to be a sufficient gap to any challengers for the lead, and the lack of speed was not necessary to win the race. But Hamilton did not just need a win to obtain the title. Lets be honest, both Merc drivers were racing for the title, not the win. It can also be summised that, although this is probably NOT the intention, a rise in pace would have given Rosberg a safe margin to secure a podium, and win the title.

The problem is that we were told that Rosberg and Hamilton would be allowed to race for the Championship since the very beginning of this season, yet when it reaches its final epic conclusion, they suddenly intervene. I believe that Mercedes must be held to account for this. However, this should be only a criticism that Mercedes should really reflect on, not something that should come with any punishment.

In summary, Mercedes baked us a delicious pie in letting Hamilton and Rosberg race for the title, but faltered on the last hurdle, trying to stick their fingers into the middle to stop a small corner from potentially burning. Thanks to Hamilton for not letting their fingers slip into the pie, it was delicious even if it wasn't the flavour I wanted it to be (well done Rosberg).

144

I am not convinced that Red Bull made an error as Riccardio flat spotted his tires on lap one and even though he played it down, it is the only possible reason to pit him so early. There had to be a reason for RB to change strategy and the flat spot is the only reason that has been made available to the public. Above all, the strategy people are logical, there HAS to be a reason to change!

145

What was exposed in Abu Dhabi was the ridiculous advantage Mercedes cars have over the other teams, Hamilton showed that he could run his car on cruise control and having sucessfully held up Rosberg so Ferrari and RB could catch up and even then Ferrari and RB still couldn't beat them. Hamilton also showed just how easy it was for him to win the last two titles, in effect, he only had to beat one driver to take his titles showing us all how much a big fat joke F1 has be come. Alonso was correct with his GP2 radio message earlier this year, indicating the gap between his car and the winning Mercedes at the front.

146

kudos to seb for keeping out of the championship battle.
he kept max at bay and rode shotgun for nico.
seb is not only a great champ, but also a great person.

147

This is one of the reasons I appreciate so much this site, the post race strategy report is always one of the things I look forward to, professional, excelent quality content.
For this I thank you, James and your parteners, and hope to get to read more fascinating race reports in 2017.

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