The game has changed: Analysis of the big decisions that shaped the F1 Australian Grand Prix
Sebastian Vettel
Strategy Report
Posted By: James Allen  |  28 Mar 2017   |  5:07 pm GMT  |  246 comments

The first Grand Prix to new regulations and with wider, more robust tyres brought about a complete change of approach in race strategy. With stronger tyres Melbourne is a one-stop race and that was the case for most runners this season.

But strategy is still critical to race outcomes; at the front the race victory was decided by a strategy call from Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, who wanted to make an early stop and as he came out behind two cars and not into a gap, he lost the race win to Sebastian Vettel.

Further back, track position proved to be the most valuable thing of all and overtaking proved hard, as Fernando Alonso managed to hold the Force India of Esteban Ocon behind him despite being 27km/h slower on the straights!

2017 Australian Grand Prix

Pre-race expectations

It was clear from practice that the 2017 tyres have very low degradation, so much so that both the supersoft and soft tyres were capable of doing most of the race distance. There was little chance of building a tyre offset to another car, which defined the strategy and racing in recent times.

Whereas last year five or six laps fewer on a tyre would mean enough of a performance advantage to overtake, this is not the case this year and there was nothing teams could do to generate a sufficient offset in performance. To illustrate this, Daniil Kvyat managed to cover 34 laps in the opening stint on ultra soft tyres and was on a similar pace, before his stop, to Felipe Massa ahead who was on new supersofts!

So most of the front-runners planned the same strategy, which was a first stint on Ultra softs and then a second stint on Supersoft.

2017 Australian Grand Prix

Further back, we saw some teams split strategies; Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer started on Soft tyres, Lance Stroll on Supersofts.

Sauber for example, started one car on soft and the other on supersoft, hoping to have a chance to use one car to hold the field behind it, to allow the sister car to gain positions as rivals pitted earlier than them. This is the kind of strategy one sees at Monaco and which can be very effective in putting two or three rivals behind your lead car.

Another reason to employ an approach like this for teams at the rear of the field is that Melbourne usually has one of the highest attrition rates of the season. As the first race, many cars drop out with reliability issues and there are usually accidents and safety cars. So a smaller team can score points here, as we have seen many times in recent years.

This year just 13 cars reached the chequered flag, but five of the six front running cars finished, as did a Williams and both cars from Toro Rosso and Force India. So there were no points for cars at the back of the grid, like Sauber that tried the “Monaco approach”.

Antonio Giovinazzi

Ferrari vs. Mercedes – What were the differences between them and what turned the race?

Last year Ferrari led 34 of the 57 laps of this race, but failed to win it due to poor choices.

This year they started in second place, but picked up the lead after Mercedes stopped earlier than planned, losing the lead in the process.

This was more a case of Mercedes yielding the win, rather than Ferrari taking it off them, as they could have done last year. But nevertheless they played their hand well and maximised the strengths of their new car, which works well on the new tyres. Unusually Mercedes ran into trouble on the tyres and would have lost the race is all likelihood even if they had stayed out, while Ferrari had similar pace on ultra soft tyres and was also fast on the softs.

Sebastian Vettel

The Mercedes enjoyed its usual advantage on extreme engine modes in qualifying to get the pole. But there were also signs that the Mercedes operated better when there was cloud cover, while the Ferrari was stronger when the sun was out, raising the track temperature. It was only a small difference, but these factors all add up.

Hamilton qualified ahead of Vettel and won the start; with Vettel following in second ahead of Valtteri Bottas.

Hamilton tried to shake off Vettel, but the Ferrari persisted in its pursuit throughout the opening stint. The Mercedes was running with slightly less wing angle, so the straight-line speeds were among the fastest, while the Ferrari had slightly more downforce and its top speeds were around the middle of the field.

The Mercedes, in Hamilton’s hands, at least, was sliding more and this took the edge off the tyres. Hamilton radioed that they were overheating at one point and then on Lap 14 he had a small excursion, which cost him a second.

His lap times returned to the mid 1m28s, but he was onto the team asking to be allowed to pit for new tyres.

This is one of those situations where a team has to evaluate whether to heed its driver or just tell him to carry on. Teams further down the grid tend to overrule the driver, but a three times world champion needs to be listened to.

Lewis Hamilton

On this occasion it was the wrong thing to do.

Mercedes was trying to build a 22-second gap to Raikkonen in fourth place, who was racing with Max Verstappen. The second Ferrari was not on the pace of the lead car, but neither was it dropping off at a sufficient rate to open a gap for Hamilton to drop into.

By Lap 16, the lap before he stopped, it was just 16.2 seconds. Hamilton needed another six or seven laps to clear Raikkonen in a pit stop. But he came in at the end of Lap 17 and dropped back out behind both Raikkonen and Verstappen. He was put onto the soft rubber, rather than the supersoft, because there were still 40 laps to go to the end.

Sebastian Vettel

This was a gift to Ferrari, for whom Vettel now needed just to open the gap over Hamilton to 22 seconds to be able to pit and take the lead.

Hamilton’s pace on the soft tyres was strong but he soon caught Verstappen and lost time behind him, handing the opening to Vettel to pit at the end of Lap 22. Ferrari covered Mercedes with the soft tyres, despite being only 35 laps from the flag.

The only risk there was that if Hamilton were to do a Plan B strategy and switch onto supersoft or ultrasoft tyres later on and then get lucky with a Safety Car deployment, this would leave Vettel vulnerable to attack in the closing stages.

But Ferrari knew that Vettel’s pace on soft tyres was strong and that overtaking would be hard even with a tyre offset, so the risk was therefore manageable.

Sebastian Vettel

The only problem was that, despite having a safe gap to pit, Vettel had a slow in-lap, due to coming up behind Lance Stroll. He lost almost a second, so when he emerged from the pits he was only just ahead of the Verstappen and Hamilton battle. It took a few corners to warm up the tyres, but he managed to hold on.

Mercedes toyed with the idea of the Plan B, but as the laps went by they didn’t see enough of a performance advantage in the other tyres to make the plan work.

Also it would have required Bottas to move over and let Hamilton through, which would have been an unfortunate gesture to be asked to make on his Mercedes debut.

Alonso performs miracles ahead of Ocon, Hulkenberg

Few commentators, or McLaren team members, would have given you odds on Fernando Alonso sitting in 10th place with ten laps to go of the Australian Grand Prix after the problems the team has had with Honda.

Fernando Alonso

Alonso’s car was 27km/h slower on the straights than Ocon’s Force India and yet he managed to keep it behind from the start to Lap 52. Nico Hulkenberg started ahead of both men, but fell behind them at the start and had a very frustrating afternoon as a result.

Ocon tried the undercut on Lap 15, pitting for new soft tyres, but the slower warm-up of the softs meant that when McLaren reacted with Alonso and brought him in a lap later – putting him onto supersofts for faster warm-up – the Spaniard was able to hold onto his position. Sadly he had to retire on lap 50.

Sergio Perez tried an undercut on Carlos Sainz and although that didn’t pick up the position in the pit stops, he got by after Sainz came out of the pits and was struggling with the tyre warm up.

Sergio Perez

The UBS Race Strategy Report is prepared by JA on F1, with input and data from several F1 teams and from Pirelli.

Race History and Tyre Usage Charts – Kindly provided by Williams Martini Racing – click to enlarge

The Race History chart shows the gaps between the cars and the relative pace of the cars. The more upward the slope the greater the pace. The zero line is an imaginary car setting the winners average lap time every lap.

Look at the massive gap between the fifth placed Verstappen and the sixth placed Massa. This is set to be a feature the season and makes life very easy strategically for the top three teams as they will have a gap to pit into after as few as 12 laps of a race this year. It makes life very hard for midfield teams to get a podium or a strong result with little to do on tyre strategy.

Look at the end of Vettel’s first stint on ultra softs – his pace is still very strong and he pits because he has the gap he needs over Hamilton. The tyre degradation which shaped the strategy and the racing is a thing of the past.

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Outstanding analysis, I see the race a bit different on... Tuesdays 🙂 Thx James


Outstanding comment. All other analyses are ruined for me. I will never be exited as this anymore, thanks!!

Paul Richardson

Great analysis, to me the teams strategists should have an algorithm which identifies how often drivers complain about their tyres and whether it is relevant to the degradation when they come off the car, if might just be me but Hamilton complains a lot about tyre wear but on more than one occasion it does not always turn out true.


should have an algorithm...

I should imagine the teams look at the lap times as a rather more reliable barometer of tyre wear - the drivers always want more grip.


I would say nothing till China, not sure if Mercedes kind of intentionally gifted Ferraris. I don't trust the 'Greeks' (Austrian Wolf & Co; remember what Brawn said in his recent book)


I'm unclear about something, and perhaps you could comment.
The Strategy Report fairly clearly identifies Lewis-Merc coming in early, as the defining strategy move of the race.
So what if the Lewis' tires were cooked, how would that scenario have played out?
Had Vettel moved to a 'safe' distance behind Hamilton, to mitigate longer term disadvantage due to following dirty, hot air behind Lewis, was he just biding his time?
Was Lewis' lap-over-lap times showing a consistent pattern of slowing?
Let us just assume that he had degradation that was slowing his car.
The undercut would not have worked for Vettel either, from that far behind Lewis, he would certainly have got behind Verstappen, and lost seconds per lap.
If Vettel continued to follow at a safe distance, then Bottas and likely Kimi would have narrowed the time gap.
Vettel's maximizing option was always to outlast his main rivals for tire wear, then go in.
In the Lewis staying out scenario, he might have further jeopardized his finishing position, potentially behind Bottas, who was maintaining his tires better, in a worst case sceario, also behind Kimi.
So, the early stop doesn't look to bad.
In hindsight, we can see that Ferrari may have a tire degradation advantage, which may be critical to the campaign.

Going forward - what shall we look for:
1. Ongoing tire degradation advantage for Ferrari
2. Following/passing capability differentials, i.e. from the three different conceptual design/approaches of the triumvirate (Ferr, Merc, RB), does one of them have an advantage following, i.e. less disrupted, and thus advantage to potentially pass a competitor?
3. We've seen in the past that the better aerodynamic cars / more powered PUs can run higher wings settings, and thus gain advantage in medium-low speed corners, save tires, and thus go longer - this is an interesting observation on Lewis' lighter wing settings (apparently also in comparison to Bottas), resulting in, it seems, greater tire deg, and in Melbourne, likely the loss of the race
4. Hamilton getting what he wants, even if it compromises his race; is this part of the speculated 'reset' between Lewis and the team? If so, it's not working out so good, so far.
5. Paddy?!? Could it be that previously, the input/decision making difference was benefitting from Paddy's presence on the pit wall (we remember him talking on the radio in the last race of 2016 telling Lewis to stop backing up the train); is Paddy's departure going to show in race?

Thanks for the chuckles.


Watch this video. Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport Chief Strategist James is explaining that Mercedes based its strategy on the assumption that Verstappen would pit earlier than he did:


Thank you Apollo.
Of course, it is published by a key stakeholder, Merc, and I expect that it is presented in such a way, so as to promote their best (profit-maximizing/points-maximizing) interests, even if it is only slanting metrics, or delivering their on-message fluff around the metrics.
But it is what it is.


Great vid, thanks!


You probably know, but you can subscribe to emails from Merc and they send you the link to a post race analysis after each race (they also send you some behind the scenes type of vt as well).


Apollo, I saw that earlier, its very interesting, as you say they assumed that Ferrari would leave Kimi out in order to slow Lewis, but assumed that Red Bull would see the opportunity to punish Ferrari for sacrificing Raikkonen's strategy and bring Max in. Strange that Red Bull didn't react, maybe they had an alternative plan and stuck to it, but they could have got Max into fourth.


Another thing to look for could be team orders. As track position will be key it would be beneficial to put your number 2 driver at a strategic time zone on the track. That way you can mess up the pitstop timing for the driver ahead. In other words, Kimi needs to haul points fast.


Jason, are you suggested they told Kimi to hold station there, at a certain minimum distance behind Lewis, so his post pit-stop pace would necessarily be compromised?
Very interesting.
It's very plausible to me.
Placing Kimi specifically a minimum distance back, subject to pursuit constraints, of course, but Max was never going tobe able to pass Kimi at Melbourne with the comparative performances of those two cars, was he?

So Kimi could go precisely to a target distance, to impede Lewis' progress post pit stop, and also slow down Verstappen, to enable a gap large enough for Vetel to get out ahead of.

That fits what happened. Exactly!


Not quite.

If Verstappen had pitted to undercut Kimi ( which Merc were hoping would happen) Hamilton would have been a few seconds up the road when Vettel pitted

Look how close it was when Vettel came out ahead of Max and Lewis

But yes what Kimi did was stay in Hamilton's pit window


But hamilton's pace was not slower than bottas or raikkonnen. he was still pulling away, slowly and slowly, despite his complaints of tire deg. so in a way, the early pitstop was not keeping in mind the other mercedes or the other ferrari. they were keeping only vettel in mind. and i wonder how vettel could've undercut hamilton if he too were to get stuck behind verstappen. i think mercedes got pressured into the pitstop because of hamilton. it was a move based on diplomacy with hamilton. remember, he had already been complaining about tyre wear for a while before the wanted to come in to the pit. so if mercedes didnt heed his advice and then hamilton lost the race, the blame would have been placed squarely on mercedes' shoulders.


If Hamilton had stayed out 4 laps more, he would have had a pitstop in hand over Ves and Rai. The gap was still increasing. As the lead Merc he had first call, so Bottas not an issue. If Vet had pitted before Ham he would have come out behind Ves and been held up.


VET did six more laps and still came out behind Kimi. You really saying Lewis could have cleared both cars in 4 laps, are you sure? Did he have the grip for those laps at that pace?


I admit, 4 laps is a bit optimistic! Let me do the maths. At the time Ham pitted he was creating a bigger gap between himself and Rai at a rate of 0.5 to 1.0s a lap. Hams pitstop cost him 21.7 seconds. When Ham pitted the gap as they crossed the line previously was 16.2s. Ham needed 6 seconds. 4 laps definitely not. Maybe 6 IF the gap progression remained similar or higher. As for Vet If you remember (or look it up) he was 1.3s behind Ham as well and that could have been the difference between emerging ahead or behind Kimi. Ferrari may well have seen the danger and asked Kimi to up his pace (if possible) to ensure the gap to Ham stayed under a pit stop but i's all speculation of course. The certainty is that by pitting as early as he did he ensured that he would come out behind Ves and Rai. If the gap was till increasing (as it was) then I'd have stayed out until either VET pitted, or RAI pitted and I'd cleared Verstappen.


What you've said as well as the following from James' analysis suggests the win was lost by Merc:
"Ocon tried the undercut on Lap 15, pitting for new soft tyres, but the slower warm-up of the softs meant that when McLaren reacted with Alonso and brought him in a lap later – putting him onto supersofts for faster warm-up – the Spaniard was able to hold onto his position. "
Merc should have waited for either Vettel to pit or have a sufficient gap to RAI before pitting Hamilton.


By letting the tires last longer, Vettel made sure that, after pitting, he would not be too long behind any rival, because all of them would have already pitted or will do soon. He came back behind Bottas and Raikonnen only, but even those pitted soon thereafter.


srikanth, I haven't checked it out, but if you are right about the Hamilton/Vettel cluster still pulling away from the Finns at the time of Hamilton's pit stop, I totally agree with you.
While I am not saying that this would have changed the race outcome, I think that it would have changed the likelihood of the Hamilton/Merc victory favourably.


Interestingly I think Hamilton knew in hindsight he'd made a bad call on the tyres, for afterwards he accepted complete responsibility for losing the lead.


Apart from the sweaty muggy jungle heat of Sepang, there's a striking analogy between Malaysia 2015 and Australia 2017...............Lewis Hamilton takes pole, leads away, however is a bit marginal on rubber, makes an early pit stop, gets bogged down in traffic, Sebastian Vettel takes the lead, nurses his tyres, retains decent pace and by the time Hammy has clear air is 10 odd seconds behind the German..............

The striking analogy is LH and Merc F1 give away track position a bit too easily in both cases. And paid the penalty.


Gaz, I think we're seeing the follow out from ... whatever happened last year at merc, which lead to Rosberg winning, leaving, and Hamilton none too happy about it, renegotiating his decision-making position within the team, the team (at least temporarily) capitulating, and what seems like the wrong in-race decision being made.
It seems my analysis got it a bit wrong, as someone said that Hamilton/Vettel were still pulling away from Bottas/Kimi when Hamilton came in.
Emotional/cognitive weakness?
I don't know, but I do think on pure in-car capability, Hamilton is likely second to none, and the Merc machinery at Melbourne 2017 seemed capable of winning with track position.


Yeah, totally agree. Giving up track position with the best defensive driver in the business - see Bahrain 2014 - does seem.............idiotic TBH.

Track position is king. Why give it up without a fight?


The same "best defensive driver" is the one who instigated the early stop...


Nothing comparable about both years the Ferrari made a stop less inn '15 both Mercs tyres was evenly affected.

But here the race pace of the Ferrari forced Mercedes hands here, as I believe and as JA alluded to as well, if Hamilton had stayed out I believe Vettel would have passed him on track.


Rockie, if Lewis had stayed out then Seb would have come in early, fitted the super softs and undercut him.


@ Rockie...but we've been told that passing is 'impossible' by none other that a three times WDC.


Well Perez managed to pass without being 2s faster so maybe just maybe.


Did Vet have a 2 second advantage (which is what would have been needed for an overtake) over Ham at any point? Would he have done over the next 4 laps? I doubt it. The gap to Rai and Ves was increasing, 4 laps more Ham would have emerged ahead on new tyres and cruised to victory. If Vet had pitted before Ham then he would have been the one held up by the Red Bull. Marc pitted too soon. 4 laps more and they'd have won the race.


Where do you get the 4 laps? My guess is it would've been closer to 8-10 laps, or not at all if the tyres were done, or hitting traffic before a target of 22.5s. At L16 RAI was 16 s behind, and losing .85 s a lap. If Lewis waited till an undercut from Vet, who upped his speed, closed in with .2s a lap, which could mean an imminent pitstop, he would have to make sure he didn't get traffic on his inlap, or being undercut. So, coming in before L24 is getting stuck behind RAI, after L20 is risking an undercut from VET. Coming in around L20 would've made VET's life more difficult, but he could've staid out till L3* while RAI could've kept HAM slower than 1.29's. Difficult decision to make, IMHO


Yes I agree. I rechecked the numbers and 4 laps is optimistic! coming in Ham was guaranteeing traffic. By staying out there was a chance something would happen. Of course the other option was to slow down and decrease the gap to Ves. That way he would have had clean air when coming out and vets over cut wouldn't have worked.


Ferrari would have used the faster tyre just like Redbull did with Max, like he cruised in his first stint.


Rockie, I appreciate your input, however, at this stage of the campaign (of course I could be wrong), my estimation of Vettel's ability to have passed Hamilton is that it would have been incredibly difficult, if at all possible, and may have jeopardized his race by hitting his degradables, i.e. tires, and even fuel, engine, etc.
We've yet to see a real chase down and pass, which could be coming, but there is just about consensus that it will be more difficult than last year.
While I would love to it.....


Well like you said you could be wrong, Vettel was able to keep his tyres alive following Ham so nothing is impossible.


What i really wanted to see was bottas race hamilton. He closed him down to within 1.5 secs then threw the anchor overboard! No one really tried.


What you didn't add is that in both situations, the Ferrari of Vettel was matching his pace or better. That changes the whole scenario


as I have mentioned to Rockie, above, this year the 'cost' of following within the degrading efflux (I don't think that I have EVER used that word before, and it's a beaut), where was I, the efflux plume from the leading car is worse than it was last year, and/or more disruptive on the following car.
So, even if Vettel could have reeled Hamilton in (I'm not totally convinced it was possible):
a. would he have been capable of passing?
b. what cost of travelling in Hamilton's efflux, and the subsequent cost to the remainder of his race?

I am very respectful of Vettel's smarts, so he at some point, was aligned to a strategy of matching Hamilton, behind the worst of the efflux, pressure him, and go when Hamilton came in to pit, relying on his estimation that he would have more laps on the first stint, than Hamilton, and the window to create enough of a delta to pass him in the pits.
It was close, I admit!


I am not sure if I would call the new F1 as disaster or boring. I grew up watching Michael Schumacher battling McLarens.
I use to enjoy the cat and mouse game that were going on with strategies.
Moreover, I would say this F1 is better than last couple of years of ridiculous tires. I considered that as boring. Overtaking was way too easy and anybody on old tires was almost helpless to defend.
The tire offset was way too big.
At least with these tires following car can run closer to the lead car for more than couple of laps without worrying about degradation and overheating.

Jury is still out and will be for next couple of races.
But personally, I liked it and enjoyed it.


Yes agree with this. The current tyres are excellent as they are. This is something F1 should definitely not change and go back to previous years high degradation tyres.

Only thing they need is to SIMPLIFY AERO to the point the front wing is just a flat panel, rear wing so simple it looks like a rectangle Ikea coffee table, remove rear diffuser and get rid of the other small aero peripherals.

Then and only then, NATURAL OVERTAKING using driver skill will come into effect.


Then we'll hear moans about how slow F1 cars have become...


Rockman, that would be a seriously slow Formula one car!


I think everyone will be enjoying the racing so much that no one will care that the cars are going around 10secs slower.


Rockman, with no diffuser and virtually no wings, it would be more than 10 seconds. F2 would be quicker.


@Rockman. Agreed!. Get rid of the aero stuff. What we have and are in danger of making worse is the temptation to 'fix' things by going down the road of RealityTV F1, what Disneyworld is to our real lives. Examples are Berie's artificial 'it's raining' idea, aero stuff, DRS, and tires worse than the ones on my car.
On a previous article someone posted concerning the difference between true racing and entertainment. I just used the Reality TV metaphor. I could also write, MacF1 or FastFoodF1. I think/hope that most here would like real F1.


And give them a manual gearshift - that used to spice up the action and sort the greats from the goods


Manual transmission would be good but it's not entirely necessary. All we want is proper overtaking not the artificial stuff created by DRS which in turn was created due to over complex aero.


Last years' overtakings were boring because they looked superficial and too easy.
No battle, no fun !


What about this year's slipstream being longer and cars not able to follow as closely as possible like last few years? Most of the drivers said overtaking will be difficult - perhaps this is similar to what we saw in 2000s where a rare overtake was cherished and remembered while no one remembers the numerous "easy" overtakes of last few years.


There were some absolutely brilliant and very memorable overtakes in the last few years especially from the red bull drivers


A bit off topic but watching the Ch4 replay, around Lap 40 Alan Jones looks a little too much like one Hannibal Lecter


Interesting because some people love to point out that the Ferrari was the fastest car and therefore should have won. Based on this report seems to put the blame squarely on Mercedes losing the race primarily through a strategy call which was made by you know who. For me I stand by that, I think the Mercedes has no disadvantage to the Ferrari, Sebastian just did a much better job all around.

I would be impressed by Alonso except he does this kind of stuff the majority of the time, what's surprising is he's doing it despite the abysmal Mclaren. Stoffel just came out and said Mclaren are the slowest car in the entire field and pretty much criticized Honda... and he hasn't even spent 3 years there and he's already frustrated. I really think this is going to get worse.. China is going to expose just how poor they are. I wonder what Honda are saying to Mclaren.. James do you have any insight? I mean, what can they even say?

Hoping for a Renault resurgence at the next race, but once again I wonder if we'll see the Renault powered cars get dropped also by Ferrari and Mercedes in China. Renault surely must have thought they will at least be competing with Haas and Toro rosso but..


Cheesypoof, you don't need to be coy about criticising Lewis, as long as it's warranted. Hamilton probably could have done a better job of tyre management in the first stint, but he was trying to build a gap to Seb and took too much life out of the tyres in doing so. It does say in the article that he would have been likely to lose the race even if he had gone longer, Jock Clear was interviewed after the race and said they had superior race pace due to their car being kinder on the rubber, and if Lewis had gone long they would have undercut him anyway. Vettel drove very well and deserved the win, but the fact that Kimi got fastest lap, and Seb got the second fastest tells it's own story.


Ferrari could not (really) have undercut Lewis. Here's how:
Merc could have pitted Lewis the lap after VES came in allowing him to maintain the advantage over VET for longer as well as the benefit of giving VET less free air to pump in the times. Now:
1. If no one pitted, Lewis was continuing to extend his lead over VES/RAI battle (while maintaining a steady-ish gap to VET) and based on the data available he only needed a few more laps to have enough in hand.
2. If VET pitted before Lewis during that time, he would have come out behind VES and suffered the same fate as Lewis ended up with.
I know RAI would have complicated this equation somewhat, BUT this was a much better bet than the option Lewis chose.
Now, seemingly this was Lewis' call, so he really deserves to be somewhat criticised.


PB, that assumes that Lewis could have maintained the pace he was running at on the tyres he started the race on.


Well, yes - but the lap times leading up to HAM's pit stop didn't really indicate that he wasn't going to be able to maintain the same relative pace in comparison with the main protagonists (who were all on tyres they started the race with). This is backed up by the well accepted view that track position is king, so at the end of the day, it was relatively foolish decision making by Merc/HAM.


You forget about one important thing: Traffic. If Lewis and Seb played a game of who dares to wait longest, one moment Lewis would've arrived at traffic, giving Seb the possibility to undercut, or still go for the overcut scenario when Lewis blinked first. Ferrari waited to pull Seb just long enough to clear him over Verstappen, but we don't know how much longer he could go. I guess, quite a few laps, giving him the tire offset needed. If Lewis's tyres were cooked, there was no way to keep in front of Seb AND make the gap to clear Verstappen. Ham was accelerating upto L8, and between L8 and L13 he kept a near constant speed, between L13 and L16 he went about .25 s/lap slower (compared to other drivers within 15s window) VET kept going faster upto L19 and kept a steady pace upto L22. BTW, what happened at L13? All personal bests on the starting tyres, for the top 6 exept VET.


Pb, we can't know how long Lewis could have gone on delivering decent lap times, he certainly seemed to think that set was finished so we have to assume that his times would have dropped off. The strategy would have kept Lewis ahead of Seb after the stops if Red Bull had spotted the opportunity to get Max track position ahead of Kimi. Overtaking isn't impossible in Albert Park, you just need a decent performance advantage and a car that can run behind another car. Brundle mentioned in commentary that the Ferrari seemed less affected by running in dirty air than the Mercedes and with Max running lap times in the low 1m29s to high 1m28s range, then Seb would have had a good chance of getting by him. Seb was running 1m27s lap times on the soft tyre immediately after his stop with no reason to push, so he could have gone even faster than that if he had fitted the super softs, which they would have done if they went for the undercut. The superiority of the Ferrari in terms of tyre usage and the better race pace that brought made staying ahead was always going to be very difficult for Mercedes.


2nd fastest race lap was Bottas 0.055s behind Kimi, then Vettel in third.


Msta, yes that's correct, I missed that one from Valterri, probably because number 77 is last on the fia lap analysis chart, the main point around Ferrari having superior race pace still stands though.


The Ferrari was the faster race day car. I think this passage, and James' subsequent comments, make it clear that Ferrari had the pace advantage:

Unusually Mercedes ran into trouble on the tyres and would have lost the race in all likelihood even if they had stayed out, while Ferrari had similar pace on ultra soft tyres and was also fast on the softs.

I would have expected Seb's Ferrari, if equal on pace to Lewis' Merc, to suffer increased deg being in the dirty air for the entire first 16 laps, but when Hamilton pitted his times were just as good. If the roles were reversed, Hamilton would not have been able to stay with Seb, and Seb would've pulled away.

Stoffel was just echoing what Alonso had said a day or two earlier, that McHonda are the slowest.


Yeah right ,Hamilton should have stayed out because the pitwall are the Gods of accuracy and beyond reproach, because when it comes to Hamilton, it is convenient for you to think that way..Did they not cost vettel and Ricciado a certain victory in Australia and Monaco last season? Did they not tell Hamilton to pick up the pace in Singapore while he was managing his engine and the car caught fire because they were greedy for a victory. Did they not cost Alonso and Webber a possible world tittle in 2010? What about them leaving a 21 years old inexperienced rookie to twist in the wind in China 2007 because again they were naive,overconfident and too greedy for a race victory. Inspite of all their degrees and gizmos, they make countless mistakes. Many of these people are failed former drivers. Bottas confirmed the Mercedes tyre problem on British channel 4 when he said he went backwards in the first stint because his tyre were behaving oddly.Ignore the consensus that the Ferrari was the fastest car in this race all you want.We have seen tyres give up instantly with zero warnings from all their gizmos. Hamilton made absolutely the right call based on what his car was telling him in real time.


By your "logic", and I use the term loosely, everyone makes the right call. Of course every driver makes the best call based on what the car is telling him. The difference is in this case the driver overruled the pitwall. It was the wrong decision. You get plaudits if you pull it off and similarly you get the spoils if you don't. You trying to justify it in paradigms doesn't make it the right one. By the way, it is a team sport at the end of the day and a pitwall strategy definitely helps more than hurts on average.


Everything we have heard so far are rumours and speculations and not facts.Mercedes have released a video on YouTube in which their chief strategist,James Vowles has taken responsibility for a well thought out strategy call he made which didn't succeed. Nowhere did he say Lewis was unable to do what they asked of him,or that he asked to come in.


Cheesypoof, the driver didn't overrule the pit wall. he requested a stop, and they agreed thinking that Red Bull would react and bring Max in.


The driver would have been told the ideal strategy. He chose his own call effectively overruling it. He admitted later it was his own call. What is this, semantics to protect the driver or your own egos? What a waste of time.


Cheesypoof, the driver overruling the pit wall involves the team telling the driver to stay out, and then he comes in anyway. This is not what happened in Melbourne, the team made the decision based on a number of factors, including Lewis' input on the state of the tyres. Did you watch the video that Apollo shared a link to above? It's very interesting and will give you an idea on Mercedes' thought process.


But Hamilton said afterwards that it was his not the team's fault he lost the lead, Insh. The graph at the end of the article shows Vettel did not pick up speed after he was released by Hamilton, so his tyres were slowly falling off, too.


@ Quercus...not necessarily so. I suspect that vettel eased off as he knew that hamilton had packed it in and wouldn't challenge.


Quercus I believe is talking about Vettel's speed in his first stint after being released. It was still a good pace, considering all the time he had just spent in dirty air.

Definitely at the end Vettel was just cruising.


Inshallahuura.... There's no need, in this instance at least, to be so precious and protective of HAM. You are right... he made what he perceived to be the right call at that time... with hind sight it looks like it wss maybe the wrong call but hey... thays racing. I think Seb just about bested him on race day is all.... no harm... he will back next time out. People with any sense know HAM is a great racer. Just an observation on my part.... I may be wrong


We can all post our comments without being patronized. He made the call, and iin hindsight it was the right call.As James stated below, he was in troubled on tyres, comfirmed by Botta's experience on the same tyre , in the same stint. If some people think it is their right to incessantly attack any of the drivers ,right or wrong, others are free to reply within the rules. By the way, I am not accusing you of that.


JA, 'The Mercedes enjoyed its usual advantage on extreme engine modes in qualifying to get the pole.'

Do you still maintain the Ferrari was the fastest car in qualifying??


was alonso's car identical to vandoorne's or did he have updates which were absent on vandoorne's.
am surprised there was no mention of ocan passing alonso 3 abreast just befored alonso decided there was something wrong with his rear suspension, which maclaren will report from their investigations no doubt. if we don't hear anything, we can safely assume there was nothing wrong with alonso's car but his ego.


@aveli I wonder how he bruised your ego.. your constant thinly-veiled rants on him tell a tale. Every time he speaks he can count on you to bark back.


Cheesypoof, "constant thinly veiled rants" against your favourite driver? How awful for you.......


what wrong have i done for you to refer to my posts as barks? why are you being so disrespectful when i have not addressed you in any way? is this normal behaviour or an onset of cns disorder?


Likewise you with regards to Hamilton.


Alonso had some updates that Vandoorne didn't have. Bargeboards was one aspect. I heard 0.35s/lap difference.


Alonso drove that car into a finishing position it most certainly didn't deserve and yet according to you the only thing he achieved from the race was a bruised ego. Um, okay then....


Alonso claims it as one of the best races of his life. A part of me thinks he likes being in a crap car and outperforming it, rather than being up front. No pressure, and nothing at stake. Still goes down as a DNF in the end.


I very much agree KRB.
He drove that car ragged, wringing the absolute life out of it. Watching him come tearing through 14 twitchy as, using every millimetre of the kerbing, was heart in your mouth stuff.
He didn't finesse that car around Albert park on Sunday, he BLUDGEONED IT (I think that]s a word, maybe C63 can help)!!!


Bludgeoned is certainly a word - not sure it's the right one in this instance, but it is a word. Hope that helps 🙂


This! I don't understand why he enjoys it.

The record books won't remember that!


He must have said that after about half the races last year. Andrew Benson loves it.


i felt that way as well. once alonso was out of the points, there was no way he could've clawed it back. might as well shut shop then.


Lewis confronts Sebastian xP


Vettel touching Hamilton's car before the race: Annoying.
Hamilton not being able to touch Vettel's car during the race: Even more annoying 🙂


I am glad they didn't touch the other's car with one's own during the race.


Half of me says you're right, but the other half says that it might have livened things up a bit if they had 🙂


I'm sure I read in one of the articles last week that Melbourne and China would favour Mercedes due being 'front-end' circuits whereas Bahrain and Barcelona would favour Ferrari being more rear biased.

I'd this still the case and in fact Melbourne was a nice gift from Stuttgart?


Yes, I also read it. Also, higher temperatures will suit Ferrari more


i try to avoid those who live in the future.


Your future predictions didn't turn out so well after you claimed before testing that Ferrari were going to have to watch out for McLaren and then before the 1st race you kept saying "watch out for the bulls".


wishful thinking. i didn't predict that. i only said they shouldn't forget to look out for mclaren in their mirrors. i don't do predictions..


That's okay, they try and avoid you too 🙂

Softly aveli, softly...


what's with the hostilities random 79?
you'll have another chance to enjoy the racing next weekend..


Easy aveli, like I said, softly.

Nothing hostile about it (see the 🙂 ?), just a standard response I have whenever someone says they're trying to avoid a certain group of people 🙂

And somehow I doubt that China will be live on FTA in Aus, which means it will likely be weeks before I get to enjoy my next F1 race, but I could have worse problems 🙂


softly does it?
that's what you get for living upside down..


There you go 🙂


How long are you going to exist in this F1 vacuum? Give in, you are only upsetting yourself unnecessarily by refusing to take the Foxtel pill. Go on up.


Nah, I prefer a pill free existence 🙂


$ 60 gets you practice, qualifying, the race and teds pit lane round up.
All in HD. And if you hit record you can watch Lewis winning over and over again.


$60 for all that? Not a bad deal.

$0 still gets me half the races and more time to do other things: Better deal 🙂


You'll get your moneys worth Random...
OK, not!
But you'll at least be able to catch up on the Great British Bake Off and re-runs of Law and Order SVU!
You can also lean on a friend and get their Foxtel Go device password -although I'm not sure they show the F1 on the device version? Anyone?


Great British Bake Off? How on Earth do I live without it? 😉


Random, don't diss the bake off man!



To clarify, you believe that had IHamilton waited to pit after Vettel's Ferrari, Hamilton would have won?

That even on worn tyres, Hamilton should have been able to keep a faster Vettel behind him during the first stint?


No I think he was in trouble and would have lost either way


verstappen was the obstruction. hamilton needed to pass him and couldn't do that so if he'd putted at a time he wouldn't be stuck behind verstappe, he'd have kept the victory..


James, then I am not clear how can you say it was a strategy error.


The two are not mutually exclusive. Hamilton may have stayed out till later and Vettel with an undercut/overcut might have still won the race because he had unbelievable race pace ( which is what James suggests in the article).
However the decision to pit early was a strategic blunder as it made things much easier for Ferrari, they just had to go longer , build a gap, and take the win.
A similar example would be that Kimi might have finished 4th even if he had driven a good race given how the Top 3 drove. But as he himself said, and even the strongest Kimi fans would agree, he had a horrible weekend.


It was a strategy error to give away track position at a time when you knew you were going to come out of the pit stop into traffic. Especially on a street circuit where it is difficult to pass at the best of times. Staying out for as long as possible may have pushed Ferrari into attempting the undercut which may or may not have worked, at least it would have been worth trying. I think James is saying that ultimately, Vettel's race pace was better than Hamilton so it is more likely that Vettel would win. But handing it to them on a plate through a strategy error was the big mistake, Ferrari should have been made to work for it.


That sums it up very well.

Especially as Hamilton was behind Raikkonen and if he caught him, Ferrari could sacrifice Raikkonen's race to advantage the lead car of Vettel.


So, to summarize, a vague consensus is forming around the fact that the timing of Hamilton's pit stop was NOT the deciding factor in the race, though his coming in BEFORE the delta to the Finns started getting narrower, did further undermine Hamilton's probability of winning.
The critical factor emerging seems to be that the tire degradation delta between the Ferrari and the Merc WAS the decisive factor.
Is that it?


It was a strategy error because it dropped Hamilton behind Vettel, even if Hamilton would have lost anyway.

An inconsequential strategy error is still a strategy error.


Car sliding ,and he went off a bit.So he should try to hang on for a few more laps, while being chased by a faster car with better tyres and he gambles and throws the car away like Ricciado.Most will not be here commending him for pursuing some strategy for victory. It will be one of James's largest posts slamming the guy.


The point is, the strategy he took -being the first to pit -took away any other options for him and the only way he could win was to get past Verstappen (as confirmed by the MB pitwall radio instruction). If he stayed out and went longer...
a/his tyres could have settled down and come back in-(Kvyat ran 36 laps with very little deg);
b/ there remained a very high chance of a safety car which would have equated to a free pit stop
c/if vettel went for the undercut, he potentially could have come out behind Bottas and Bottas could have done a Verstappen to Vettel
The 3 alternative options would have put more pressure on Ferrari than the option they took -Ferarri can be prone to mistakes when under pressure...
If you were framing an odds market on the probability of any of those things happening i would say the "pass verstappen option would have the lowest probability.
I think Vettel had him any which way, but i think his odds would have increased if he went long.
I still can't believe that there wasn't a SC!


i got the impression from the article that hamilton loss the race because he made the call to pit, which resulted in him being stuck in traffic.


The two are not mutually exclusive. Hamilton may have stayed out till later and Vettel with an undercut/overcut might have still won the race because he had unbelievable race pace ( which is what James suggests in the article).
However the decision to pit early was a strategic blunder as it made things much easier for Ferrari, they just had to go longer , build a gap, and take the win.
A similar example would be that Kimi might have finished 4th even if he had driven a good race given how the Top 3 drove. But as he himself said, and even the strongest Kimi fans would agree, he had a horrible weekend.


what am sure of is that no one knows what the outcome would've been. all we know is what actually happened.


Isn't that the point of strategy calls and strategy reports - To make the best calls based on assumptions that may or may not be right. It is only later that you analyse the data to see if you made the right call, and be better prepared the next time. Next time this happens, I don't think Mercedes are going to be so quick in bringing Hamilton in, which in my book makes this a mistake.

An interesting update is that Mercedes have basically said that they were assumed Verstappen would pit because Ferrari would leave Kimi out to block Hamilton ( ) but they were proven wrong.


that is the point of strategy, you're right but if you're drawing conclusions about temperature changes influencing results isn't it a good idea to at least know what those temperature differences are? after all teams use sensors to measure temperatures. there are so many other uncontrollable variables influencing the outcome that the difficulty.


I agree with you on this one, especially in a sport where so much data is captured, nothing gets shared and people are always guessing blind. I too would love to have teams share data ( FIA controls the ECU and there is only one tyre supplier), but that has not been forthcoming, though one hopes that Liberty Media may change a few things.

In the absence of such information I would prefer to have the guesstimate that the Ferrari is ~0.05 sec faster for every 5C rise in temperature ( (even if it comes with a 25% error) when i sit to watch the event over the weekend, or understand the team's strategy post facto, than have no insight at all.


the excitement of not knowing the likely outcome is what drives me to look forward to the next race.....


Great race, back to the good old days with tyres that allow drivers to push to the max and best overtakes done in the pits. Reminiscent of the noughties, but we need to get rid of DRS so that those pit passes cannot be ruined with on track action.

On a more serious note though, I do love the look of the new cars, especially from behind. They look mean. The on-board shots also seem pretty impressive.


"we need to get rid of DRS so that those pit passes cannot be ruined with on track action"

Good grief, for a second there I thought you were serious! 🙂


If the slipstream is large this year with following a car being difficult, DRS has been rendered obsolete.


If you look at Lewis's graph line, after his pitstop to the end of the race, it wobbles all over the place with inconsistent lap times. One lap on a slope, the next flat, the next back up to speed on a slope again.

Looks like they needed their world champion back to have won this race 😉

Kimi's second stint is poor, like he was pacing it too much, then he goes and sets the fastest lap at the end! I bet he would have been better going ultra then super. Just look as Max closing Kimi on the super and how long they lasted for Massa.

Did Ferrari not bother pitting Kimi because he was so slow that if Max pitted he could have slowed Lewis up?

And what about that Honda!! Look how Ocon is stuck behind a consistent but slow Honda Alonso and check how Hulk catches them in the second stint. 27k slower than a customer Merc that itsellf finishes a lap down is a complete joke. Time to step in NOW Ross!


Clarkes, and Valterri's line wobbles around as well, it was caused by them lapping slower cars.


fair point Tim, plus it's easier to see inconsistency wobbles on the solid graph lines more so than the dotted lines.
Getting stuck behind Max did it and may have affected his tyre quality later on when Bottas caught up.
Would be interesting to see if Lewis could have done the second stint on super softs like Massa.
Would be really interesting to see how Seb would have done if Ferrari had undercut and pitted early.


Clarkes, seeing as the Pirelli supersoft are somewhere between Granite and cast iron in terms of hardness, I think they could have done the whole race on them! I think Merc have goot used to being cautious on strategy over the last three years, they have to shift their mindset towards more aggresive and risky calls unless they want to get mugged again. They should have put both cars on the supersofts, and then when it became clear that they were not going to catch Seb, put one or both of them on ultras at the end.


Time. .. don't feed him for God's sake. 😀


Australia is rarely a representative race and one should not drive too many conclusions from what we saw last Sunday. A different team won, so a slight relief for the sport rulers, but the pressure is there - will we not see races being ruined, billions of dollars wasted for the simple lack of overtaking?

Many questions with no answers yet:
1. Would Vettel still won if not for Verstappen's helping hand?

2. What is Mercedes doing in qualifying that makes them much faster than the rest whereas they are more or less equal with Ferrari?

3. Qualifying will be more critical than ever as it is impossible to overtake, so I assume in 80% of races whoever wins qualifying will also win the race

4. China might be the race that Mercedes will win easily due to cooler temperatures. But Ferrari might be better in Barcelona and Bahrain. Will be see a trend? Hot-->Ferrari, cool-->Mercedes?

5. Mercedes was struggling with tires more that any other team. Surprising. A one off case and a set up mistake or a trend?

Personally, I do not see Ferrari winning. Last race was luck because of Verstappen. Ferrari was falling behind when it comes to development in the recent years and their strategy was very questionable on occasions.

Still think it will be Hamilton and Mercedes.


If people want constant overtaking like Moto GP or NASCAR then watch that instead, I don't think you will ever see that kind of thing in F1.

But saying that there were almost no overtakes so therefore a race was boring is also missing the point. We have had races in the past where there have been only a few overtakes but the racing was still exciting because at least overtaking attempts were made. Two cars, leaders, mid-field or back markers, having a good ding-dong with each other can be exciting for the continual attack/defend manoeuvres even if ultimately the order doesn't change. I didn't see that in this GP. There seemed to be no real attempts, especially from the top drivers in the fastest cars - isn't that their job. The procession continued round and round with just the car to car gap changing to indicate on-track "action". Although it is just one race, I think there is a pattern emerging.


You said it yourself, Australia is not a representative race. How can we assume no overtaking will happen after one race?
Qualifying is important but so is how well you launch from the starting grid. Vettel had a poor start and did well to hold Bottas off or else he might have been looking at 3rd place instead of 1st.
Hamilton had no dirty air on which to blame his tyre degradation so maybe a setup issue or Hamilton jumping the gun on the pitstop call.
Still not sure on the Mercedes having a distinct advantage in qualifying. Vettel outqualified Bottas and his entry onto the main straight wasn't as tight as could have been so he might have been within a tenth of Hamilton's P1 time if he hooked up his lap properly. Engine mode or just Hamilton's great qualifying ability?


Yes, Australia is not representative, but you can see trends clearly:
1. Only 5 passes this year vs 37 last year in Australia
2. Hamilton not able to overtake Max while being around 2 sec quicker
3. The time you loose following and passing backmackers


Thanks for the stats. Hadnt seen them before as I just got home after a few days in Melbourne. Finally, after 6 visits I got to see a Ferrari victory 🙂
Let's hope those stats are just a one off but doesn't sound overly promising.


James, 2016 edition I don't remember it as Ferrari making bad choices. I remember it as Ferrari in perfect position to win, then Alonso crash brought out the red flag at an unfortunate time and Mercedes got their free pitstop under red flag, which gave them the win. Another words, 2016 it fell back in Mercedes lap after they attempted to yield.

I absolutely fully totally agree that Mercedes yielded the win here in a big questionable way that I simply cannot understand. It's as if we're supposed to believe that they didn't know where their car would come out. And I do not believe it was accidental that they allowed it.


Ferrari could have opted for the same strategy, but instead opted for an extra stop yielding the win to Mercedes. Big strategy mistake from Ferrari.


A bit hard to plan for a red flag. Until that point it was going to be a Ferrari win.


If Ferrari was going to do the same strategy (SS-SS-S) last year then they would've lost anyways, w/o the red flag. Mercedes were always going to go SS-M.


Entirely possible. Red Flag was at 1/3 point and there was plenty left. Seems that Ferrari had the gap, were up front and also it seemed like Mercedes were content to lose that race with their "slow start". Simply, once the were handed the lead back and fresh rubber after the red flag, there was no way to yield that race back to Ferrari without being overly obvious. It's just my feeling.


are you suggesting the engineers wanted to show hamilton that strategy is best left to them:?



Especially if Mercedes was looking for a way to not win and here was a way to achieve it. And then there is Lewis making Mercedes brass look silly on a few occasions, so it could be a payback to Lewis of sorts. 2 birds with one stone scenario? 🙂


I'll simplify this article: Hamilton and Merc screwed up.

Right, onto China.


James, what do you make or Mark Webber's comments that Alonso would most likely take the year off instead of not being happy driving a (sad) doggy McLaren-Honda.
Do you think it's a possibility or would he wait for the upgraded engines after 4-5 long races and then take a call.

Also do you believe Honda (and McLaren) can reach the top of mid-field (4th best team overall) by end of this year?


Alonso said he had the best race of his career down under.


All options are open

I wouldn't want to second guess Alonso - he likes to do the opposite of what people think


Well, in that case I think that Alonso will never drive a competitive car again or win a 3rd WDC.

Best of luck Alonso 🙂


Perhaps that's why the world's fastest beard is a brilliant poker player!

With TAG McLaren International contracts, if he does a Montoya and quits mid season of his own volition, then he won't get paid his full wages for the season and considering his salary is the highest in modern day Formula 1 at around an eye watering 40+ Million Euros, walking away from 20 Million odd € is a very brave choice.............or idiotic.


Idiotic would be to store away maximum coin only to realise you can't take it with you. Brave - courage in the face of fear, refer to Hero's comment.



Let's assume that as the world's fastest he's averaged 10 mill a year in income,

I'm guessing he's accumulated at least 100 million of those gold and silver coins into his account.

Where's the bravery in giving up 20?

To cap it all, he's a global superstar in perfect health. He has a legacy in F1 which has placed him in the pantheon of the greats and if he left he's brave?

Brave are the boys and girls who risk their lives in combat. Brave are the people who work two or three jobs to keep the family safe.

Brave is not a sport where everything is done for you and they pay you to serve you...


I read on some Forbes list a few years ago that both Alonso and Raikkonen had well over £100m in the bank.


@gaz boy: exactly.
I would add that Alonso's weakness has been his desire to be the most paid.
It seems he prefered 40 M€ / year rather 10 M€ and third world title.


@Oim that is a ridiculous comment... do you have any facts to back that up? Given that Alonso has been at the top of the paylist post 2006 and it was definitely more than 10 already.. where would he gave gone for less?

160 we are delivering factual accounts of alonso's psychological profile! One thing that you need to learn Oim is that people with nine figure bank balances do things that ordinary people cannot fathom.


His time in a competitive car is over, except the Mclaren becomes competitive.


How can you be so sure? Has he told you that?


He does not need to it's obvious!


I think he is on 30 Million as is Hamilton


$40m USD.


Good if you can get it


Great insight as always. I'm a bit confused with the graph, as the zero line is based on the winner's average lap time should the winner not always finish at zero?


I think it's to do with the aborted lap at the start which counted as a race lap but is not considered in the average.


the winner doesn't lap at the same rate every lap.


@aveli: ok, hence the line being either above or below the zero line.
But in the very end, given the zero line is the average of the winner, then winner's line should be at zero, no ?
Just asking genuinely.


Correct Oim. That's a good point aezy_doc, it might be something to do with the start like if they counted the first lap towards the race time but not the lap count when calculating the graph. Just thought it was a little odd, I remember when James first started publishing these graphs a few years ago I explained to quite a lot of folk in the comments how you read it and now I'm puzzled myself!


i think it depends on the final lap time..


@aveli: I have check reports from races in 2016: they all end up with the winner's line touching the zero line.

So there is a mistake in this one.
Example: VET line ends at almost -30.
It would mean VET finished 30 seconds before the winner.

I think it would be good if James (or Alex) could give an update of the way to analyse this chart, with examples.


in that case am more lost than you are.
i thought it simply mean vettel's last lap was slower than husband average laptime..


James,I don't really think that just staying out for 7 more laps would have been sufficent for Hamilton. Vettel still had a ~3 second gap to RAI after his pit stop.

If they would have stayed out for so long and Vettel would have followed him so closely Vettel would have simply undercut him on SS.

Considering that actually both strategies were equally risky it makes sense that they did what Hamilton wanted. Overtaking a red bull seamed at least easier than overtaking a ferrari in that race.


Great analysis, thank you!
P.S. Daniil's last name is Kvyat, not Kyvat


Recall Mark Weber after he retired from F1 saying he was enjoying racing on tires that lasted over a couple of laps. Have we now seen how the single supplier tire idea should be retired? I never tire of exposing tired regulations that have run the course.


Even though not much happened at the OZ GP, I still enjoyed it. The racing just felt more real - you could visibly see the drivers pushing more and definitely felt the extra cornering speed on TV.

We just need Ross Brawn to put some things in place to equalise the field. Part of the reason for lack of overtakes is that the field was so spread out...


James, at time of writing your Race History vertical axis needs realigning -- the zero line is about 30s south of where it should be.


I honestly think that both Mercedes and Ferrari are just about equal with each other, with the differences between them decided mostly by conditions.

Mercedes tends to be stronger in cooler conditions, possibly with some cloud cover, and Lewis Hamilton also had a bigger advantage over Valtteri Bottas when the conditions suited the Mercedes, compared to when the conditions were hotter.

Ferrari were the complete opposite to Mercedes, having an advantage in hotter conditions, especially when the track is bathed in sunshine. It is also clear that during the weekend, Sebastian Vettel had a clear margin over Kimi Raikkonen of about three or four tenths per lap. Whether that is a consistent trend or not remains to be seen.

However, Mercedes has got a real fight on its hands to retain its standing as the best and strongest team in the sport!


why make such conclusions after a single race?
very unscientific. a robust, repeatable, reproducible and sensitive tests need to be carried out to ensure that no other factor influences the relative performances but temperature.
if any of your claims are of any value, ferrari would win all the sunny races and mercedes will win the night and cooler races, unlikely.


But not impossible...


My takes from the race itself and Jame's excellent, as always, post race summary.

Mercedes used to have a power advantage during the races such that they are able to mask their inferior chassis with higher level of downforce, sacrificing some drag. That power advantage has disappeared and they can no longer afford to run the higher levels of downforce (evidence Hamilton's rear wing angle).

Mercedes still have a power advantage in qualifying, which is quite substantial possibly as much as 30 bhp average over the single lap, giving around 0.5 seconds. That's not the same as a maximum 30 bhp advantage, the maximum is possibly around 50 bhp. That appears to be a lessor % of ICE and a higher % of ERS, as the maximum ICE power is ultimately controlled by the fuel flow limit. It would not surprise me if Mercedes are utilising a different storage methodology during qualifying. Which, due to the FIA issued storage pack, can't be used for the race distance. It is also likely that they are utilising a much leaner air fuel ratio in the ICE for the one qualifying lap that facilitates more rpm that results in more horsepower, up to the fuel flow limit of course. But which compromises the engine cooling hence can't be used for the race distance.

A couple of questions for James, I know that F1 teams utilise frequency mapping to identify the RPM that their opposition is using, any chance that you can elicit some confirmation of the Mercedes using more RPM in qualifying? My son, who was there, also noticed a rather "different" smell emanating from the Ferrari exhaust. Any incites James?


Great post. Found it hard to believe that merc had the best power unit and chassis, i was at spain last year and the red bull looked miles better through the corners than the merc. The merc could just vault off the exit and down the straights to gain time. I also believe the tyre wear on merc was also not as great as peopled thought.


@Gary, great insight, thanks, really enjoying your balanced and knowledgeable postings, got used to look for them.


I this kind Merc has more potential on the engine in races

I to smelled something very strange in Ferrari fuel, your son is right! A new additive maybe, but clearly a legal one as FIA is super hot on fuel


James, it was mentioned in the Sky commentary as they walked up the pit lane that the ferrari had a different odour, are all the other teams desperately trying to employ one those "super nose" guys that work for the big perfume makers to try and figure out what it is?


Listening to Sebastian Vettel's onboards, it sounds like's he's being powered by a squirrel mincer.

That's maybe what the additive is - chopped up and diced squirrels.


GazBoy, it was good enough for Elvis....


RE TimW: I think the squirrel mincing sound is the turbine in the turbo, especially on partial lift off throttle. It certainly sounds comical!


10% ethanol, i'll bet!


So, Daniil Kyvat managed to cover 34 laps in dirty air, on a good pace, yet, Lewis Hamilton only managed 17 in clean air. The world upside down! Why do I have this feeling that everybody wanted Ferrari to win -- as many F1 crybabies threatened to boycott the season after Friday's practice.


I looks to me as though no matter how you slice the cake, the odds were on Vettel's side. I really believe he had superior race pace and showed tremendous stability while in the turbulence coming off the Mercedes. He was able to push Hamilton which was bound to result in some sort of favorable outcome. In this case, it was the panic to pit early. I think we are seeing a fairly evenly matched set of cars.


"but a three times world champion needs to be listened to"
Listen okay, obey? Uhm no. If the driver trusts the engineer, then he'll listen to his engineer. Just explain it, we need to gap Kimi and Max, or they'll back you up and let Seb by.


Great analysis James. Regardless of the ifs and buts, congratulations are due to the boys from Maranello. As Ross Brawn once said: "There are some very very clever people at Maranello." And now without the interference of 'superstars' like Fry, Tombazis or Allison, they have done a superb job. Keep it up Ferrari.


I still have no confidence on Ferrari strategy team just because they were good in the last race. They have ruined many races before in last few years, so it takes many more races to get their reputation back.

Tornillo Amarillo

Vettel was strong behind Hamilton, but he couldn't overtake... even he didn't try.
So the first pitstop was Hamilton's error and Vettel overcut.
If Hamilton had waited for 3 or 4 more laps, undercut/overcut had not worked for Vettel, I just guess.
So Hamilton error means he lost 7 points that could be necessary at the end of the year for being crowned Champion (he lost from Rosberg for 5 points only).
At this level you cannot make this kind of mistakes.


Mistake would have been arriving Sunday morning to the wrong circuit. As you don`t now how other solutions would have worked it is impossible to assess the situation and compare it.

PS! Rosberg thought that best quality time with his family is to watch F1...? Even my reporters from my channel made a joke about Rosberg calling his wife from kitchen to make a photo. Very sad champion.


Do you think Lewis would have won this race if Nico was his team mate? He would have never dropped nine seconds behind Vettel and hence Seb would have had the threat of losing P2 if Max had boxed earlier. While Bottas finished right behind Lewis the reason I think is more due to Lewis settling for P2.


No I think Vettel was in good shape


"Unusually Mercedes ran into trouble on the tyres "

Or a return to when they always ran into trouble on the tyres?


Exactly. They were like this is early 2010s. Qualify very high and fade very fast in the race due to tire-wear.


Qualify high but go backwards was 2013. Their tire wear was likely at its worst in 2012 though.


Are we already in the position of believing China and likely Bahrain are already must win races for Mercedes? Also, will Bottas need to pick up his qualifying pace to help protect the Mercedes from Ferrari?


Trouble with that is, despite distance gained the even number grid slots can have dirty side of the track issues, though it varies from track to track.


Great call Lewis. That's why you aren't a 4,5 or 6 time champion by now.

Snap-chat weekend, (whispered)


You know who, go on then i will bite, you think Lewis could have won another three titles? What years?


I'll bite on your bite.

2007 (If not for the idiocy in China)
2010 (If not for some quite erratic driving from Monza onward that cost him points, and right after he took the championship lead)
2012 (Mechanical failures and goof-ups all over the place)
2016 (Malaysia)

So yeah, the argument could be made that he could be a seven-time champion by now. Just like the argument can be made that Kimi should perhaps be a three-time champion (two misses in 03 and 05 not really of his doing). It's completely hypothetical, but it would have been possible nonetheless under a different turn of events. For anyone who remembers thoe seasons, Lewis clearly had championship form in those years.


Paige, I think the strangely unresponsive "you know who" was trying to suggest that Lewis made a bad pit strategy call in Melbourne, and he could have been a seven time WDC if he hadn't done that so often in the past.


Great article, what I'm missing though is why Mercedes didn't put BOT on supersofts but on softs. He seemed to pick up some pace at the end (he was faster than the struggling Hamilton) and it may have been enough to put pressure on VET.


Because if they did that, he'd be attacking Hamilton

Look back over the last few years, they do not like giving one car an advantage over another. They will sometimes give both a different middle tyre to try something at the end, but never stack the odds for one car, which is what your suggestion would have done for Bottas.


And that... is why.. they are the most ... exciting... team on earth.


So if every Grand Prix in 2017 will be one pit stop... that means Merc won't give one driver an advantage over another? So effectively they won't be racing each other.


So james, what you are saying is that bottas was hobbled and mercedes weren't going to race for a win. If they are free to race why didn't they give bottas a chance after all hamilton was a dead loss where he was. If the opposite had been the case what would they have done? Are you saying that hamilton would've been denied the opportunity for a race win? What is wrong with mercedes saying to hamilton that Bottas is faster than you hahaha. As if...


First line = *groan*


Kenneth, talk about putting words in people's mouths! James said that Mercedes don't like giving one car an advantage over the other, so neither driver is hobbled.


Plus, I believe Lewis realized the race was lost when Vettel came out in front of him and Verstappen, so from that point he was driving for 2nd.
Bottas would never have been able to cleanly pass Lewis without risking an episode (which Mercedes would be stupid to allow at the first race of the season).


Bottas wasn't fast enough to consider that - look at the race history for the first stint and the start of the second.


Except for Austria'16, bcs different tires for both cars made Lewis in P2 overtake Nico in P1.
"it was better for you" was what Mercedes told Nico.


Hmm, after Mercedes had done all they could to help P6 Rosberg jump P1 Hamilton in that race! Talk about unequal strategies!!

At the end, who was on the faster tire? It was Rosberg with the SS, Hamilton on the Softs. It was down to which new tires they had left in that case. Of course you know that, but are just being deliberately obtuse.

Still don't know how Rosberg wasn't given a drive-through penalty, or even DSQ'd, for what he did last year in Austria. It definitely was Schumacher-esque. A 10 second penalty was nothing for deliberately spearing into your only title challenger.


I don't agree that Mercedes yielded the win rather than Ferrari taking if off them as the Ferrari was able to push the Mercedes & could stick with it as Vettel was managing the gap & not allowing it to blow out. Hamilton stated that he only came in 1 lap earlier than their plan as his tyres were gone. If he would've stayed out he still would've lost as was stated above.

I see it that Ferrari took the win as they had the quicker car that was gentler on its tyres plus can follow another car in the dirty air better than what the Mercedes can. Ferrari pressured Mercedes into pitting earlier as they had the faster & better car. They deserve the credit for winning the race.


Thanks for the analysis James.

Although a 3 time world champion cannot be ignored surely they should make it clear - "if you pit now VET will be ahead of you as he will stay out an overcut". Then he can make an informed choice.

I think merc have become so accustomed to inter team battles only they are a little rusty in terms of clear communication.


They will have said that of course. Maybe he thought he'd be able to pass Max. But with Kimi there Ferrari could sacrifice his race to help Vettel, so Hamilton was always going to struggle.

This is not a move Mercedes would ever have made in the past, but here they were in trouble on tyres


James I think the Kimi factor is what a lot of people are missing out here, as people think he only had to pass Max forgetting Kimi upfront!

The Grape Unwashed

James, I thought Hamilton sounded surprised when Bonno told him he had to overtake Verstappen to make the strategy work. It didn't sound to me like he'd been properly informed about the implications of pitting early.


It would seem that Mercedes have gone back to their tyre shredding days. Ferrari have mostly been light on their tyres. Hopefully this should provide a cat and mouse scenario over the season. Mercedes should be looking at reducing their tyre wear otherwise I think Ferrari will keep on just beating them like this. It would be interesting to do a direct comparison of tyres used on both Mercedes cars and see how they fared and ended up when taken off the cars. Bottas was renowned for his sensitivity to tyre wear whilst lapping in the Williams'...

The Grape Unwashed

"This was more a case of Mercedes yielding the win, rather than Ferrari taking it off them"

Hi James, sorry I can't agree with this analysis. Below are my quibbles!

"The Mercedes, in Hamilton’s hands, at least, was sliding more and this took the edge off the tyres."

At that point in the race Hamilton was trying to break free of Vettel. With hindsight it's easy to say he should have sat back and attempted to keep Vettel bottled up behind him, but no-one knew that at the time: not Hamilton, not Mercedes, not even the C4 commentators (who mentioned the disparity between the top two and their teammates). The point is, the Ferrari proved the faster car on Sunday; had Mercedes known that beforehand they could have devised a defensive strategy, but how could they have known?

"This is one of those situations where a team has to evaluate whether to heed its driver or just tell him to carry on. Teams further down the grid tend to overrule the driver, but a three times world champion needs to be listened to. On this occasion it was the wrong thing to do."

Two points: (1) Hamilton pitted only one lap early, so that hardly changed the outcome; (2) the team should have known he would have come out behind Verstappen. On the second point, the driver cannot see the whole picture, if the team allows him to determine strategy (quite rightly, in my opinion), they need to apprise him of the situation, otherwise he can't make an informed decision. Now, Mercedes didn't know when Verstappen would pit, but they ought to have told Hamilton that he'd come out behind Verstappen and would be stuck behind Max until either he overtook him or Max pitted.

"Mercedes was trying to build a 22-second gap to Raikkonen in fourth place, who was racing with Max Verstappen. The second Ferrari was not on the pace of the lead car, but neither was it dropping off at a sufficient rate to open a gap for Hamilton to drop into. By Lap 16, the lap before he stopped, it was just 16.2 seconds. Hamilton needed another six or seven laps to clear Raikkonen in a pit stop."

Here's the nub, you're basically saying that Hamilton needed to wait until the other top 3 or 4 cars had pitted in order for the win to be on, but the Ferraris weren't eating their tyres at the same rate, so the longer Hamilton stayed out, the more the gap to Raikkonen would reduce. And this is the clincher, because it would have allowed the Ferraris to stay out after the others pitted, using Raikkonen as a blocker to allow Vettel to build a pitstop sized lead - a favour which Vettel would be able to return to give Ferrari the possibility of a 1-2.

In my opinion Mercedes simply didn't have the pace to win, whichever route they took.


If fans want GP3 style close racing in F1 then maybe the powers that be need to look at that series - very simple wing suspension design or bite the bullett and adopt aero wheel covers like Formula E and Indy Car...


I enjoyed the race, not a classic but interesting. As mentioned in the previous article if Pirelli brought some tyres that had compounds as soft as the name implies, there would be more strategic options for the teams, but the Ferrari's gentleness on the rubber will always give them the upper hand in these battles. I'm hoping for a close championship with the balance of power shifting down to track characterisitics, a bit like 2008. The race may not have been that great, but there were some priceless quotes dropped in the surrounding analysis, my favourites are as folows.
Jolyon Palmer, "The brakes were terrible, the balance was horrible and the traction was terrible"
Fernando Alonso, "We should be last"
And this little nugget between Martin Brundle and Pat Symonds,
MB "He (Stroll) needs a driver coach"
PS "He has one"
MB "He needs a different one then"


That's a funny one from MB. My all-time favourite banter from the post-race show has to be from Russia last year. It was either China or Russia, and it could've been post-qualifying. Anyways, it was Simon Lazenby, Johnny Herbert, and Ted Kravitz, talking about Hamilton's continued run of bad luck at the time.

TK: "I mean, how many kicks to the you-know-what's can you take, and still keep your chin up?"
SL: "Should we find out now?"
(much laughter ensues)


KRB, Ha ha, Hamilton bashing just got real!


Hamilton is the more sure footed in wheel to wheel action, Vettel can lock out races very effectively once he gets control at the front and is better at matching the pace to the tyres thus avoiding situations such as Hamilton experienced yesterday where he was questioning the tyres and made a decision to act, perhaps prematurely.


This is going to be a great season for Hamilton and Vettel fans, and F1 fans, even if there is not a lot of overtaking. Simply because Hamilton is driving Vettel's car and Vettel is driving Hamilton's car. If even for the next few races we see Hamilton on pole with Vettel giving close ( and the Ferrari followed reasonably well) chase, we are in for a good cat and mouse game.

Whosoever adapts better will be a deserving champion and will have bragging rights between these two..

Round 1 of 20 : Vettel


This thinking raises the obvious question, why is F1 obsessed with strategy? Back in the bad old days, before tyre changing and refueling, races were won by the fastest and most reliable car and driver. Is it too much to expect that F1 would benefit from a return to a straight, start to finish race? If F1 teams need to cut costs, they'd save a fortune dumping the dozens of nerds, most of whom are sat in front of computers back at the factories.

Take McHonda for example, they started this strategy arms war, with their bunker at Woking. Given the state of their cars, I should imagine their nerds are playing games during most races at the moment. Not that they're known for great, race winning strategy calls over the years. They've probably lost more than they've won since they were set up.

There is no reason why Pirelli can't make tyres that will last 300 miles. Failing that, only allow tyre swaps in the last 10 laps. That should put the cat amongst the also-rans.


"Fernando Alonso managed to hold the Force India of Esteban Ocon behind him despite being 27km/h slower on the straights!"
This is misleading because it is related to how FA chose to set-up his car and ended in topspeed of 290.8 km/hr. Meanwhile, Stoffel Vandoorne managed 306.9 km/hr which is 7.7 less than Vettel.


The bit about the downforce configuration is interesting, James. This would seem to indicate to me that Mercedes simply got the setup wrong, at least on Lewis' car. There are some straights with some decent length, of course, but there are a few medium to high speed corners, and one would think you would want a bit more downforce for a race to keep the car stable and prevent the kind of sliding that can abuse tires. I don't think the would have lost much in quali by doing this, and it would have perhaps saved them some tire life and while not putting them under too much threat for an overtake given how difficult it is at Albert Park to do so.

My general sense from testing to now, based on comments that have been made by teams and such over the time span, is that Mercedes and Ferrari seem to be pretty even with Merc perhaps ahead on single lap pace, but Mercedes is having difficulties with car setup. This seems to have been their struggle during testing, whereas Ferrari seem to have hit on something already. I would not count Mercedes out as having the strongest package for the duration of the season just yet, but Ferrari has definitely shown they are up for a challenge.

China will be very interesting. Mercedes has rather owned this track since 2012, and this is also one of Lewis' very best circuits. If Ferrari really takes it to them there and wins, then I think it is safe to say that they are ahead, as the circuit is theoretically and historically very friendly to their car.


Great analysis James.


Just wondering about what was possible if Lewis had stayed out and pitted on Lap 21 (before coming up to Stroll). If Lewis could have stayed ahead of Sebastian until Lap 21, then, I am guessing that due to the threat of lapping Stroll, Sebastian would have to pit on the same lap as Lewis and then it would be a Race between the Pit crew.

Another possibility was that Lewis could have backed up Sebastian into Bottas. That would have been exciting since then Bottas could undercut and Lewis could overcut. Unless, Raikonnen joined the party, this would have posed a difficult challenge for Ferrari isn't it?


Re: your last paragraph, for sure it would've ... which is why Mercedes need Bottas to be better in his first stint, than he was in Melbourne.

Ricciardo Aficionado

I don't really understand the Y axis on the graph but still it tells me two things.
1: Hamilton was still increasing the gap over Kimi and Max when he came in.
2: Max slowed considerably during Seb's pitstop.

The fix is in.
Merc knew the gap was increasing but they still brought Ham in. Shades of Monaco. Ham asking, Merc stupidly obliging. Combined with Toto's awful double fist (one for dramatic emphasis) pump, bad acting and Hamilton being all smiles after the event, a conspiracy is not hard to fathom.
As for Max? One of those RedBull drivers is off to Ferrari next year. Horner is seemingly putting in some goodwill groundwork for those negotiations.


You saying that Merc transport all that equipment and people to the other side of the world, work massive long shifts to prepare the cars, invest €100millions into the programme and then deliberately lose the first race?

Must be fun living in your world!

And by the way, Merc still won Monaco that time, as Rosberg inherited the win..


First of all, considering the declining ROI that Merc would have to deal with, if the trend of drop-off of viewership continued from last year, winning might not meet their target ROI, and their entire investment would not work out.
So, I believe it is simply not sound reasoning to simply dismiss the possibility that Merc might, 'let a race or two go' to stoke/supplant viewership detachment.
It is more believable, especially, if they have so many well-tested upgrades already ready, at any time, to be deployed on their car, with a low risk yet, of NOT winning the championship; as has been the trend in the past two seasons.
So please, this is not that straight-forward, to dismiss a plausible hard-nosed, business-driven decision for the overall financial health of the project.

For me, this scenario competes with my latest theory that Ferrari utilized their high-probability superior tire management capability to position Kimi at a specific range behind Lewis, so as to ensure that his race would be compromised, returning behind him, and also backing up Verstappen, with little risk of on-track passing by Verstappen, to establish a window for Vettel to slot ahead of.

But it could have been a bit of both.

In summary, "Must be fun living in your world!" could be conceived of, as being inappropriately dismissive, under the circumstances, n'est-ce pas?

I send in the best of good will, noting, as I have favourably supported this 'world-leading' site, in exposition, many a time; and one of the reasons is the high standard of... respect.

Thanks again James, for the great chuckles.

Ricciardo Aficionado

You're saying they do all that just to win a car race?


James, wondering if an option would have been to leave Ham out to slow down Vet and pit Bott as a forcing move on Ferrari? interesting to ponder at least. Really surprising that Vowels agreed to Ham pitting early, would Vet ever have got past otherwise? From my perspective Ham is naturally an aggressive driver and is maybe stressing these new tires hence the deg; will be an interesting year..


Thank you for the analysis, James.
Besides the points you already touched, I was pleasantly surprised by Kvyat, I think he had a chance finishing the race in 7th place, he had some technical issues if I'm not mistaken.
I am hopeful he will prove why Toro Rosso kept him, and show a similar skill to his first year in F1, I think he needs it.


Hi James,
I like the race history chart, but I'm not sure I understand it fully. If "The zero line is an imaginary car setting the winners average lap time every lap.", therefore Vettel's actual lap chart should straddle across the zero line. Most lap times will be slightly faster than the zero line (negative values), and the pit stop lap would be significantly slower than the average lap time (positive value). Hamilton's lap chart would be following Vettel's closely with the exception of the respective pit stop laps, and Hamilton average gap to Vettel calculated over the whole gp should be his gap to Vettel on the finishing line. But looking at the graph, this is not the case. What am I missing? Is it possible to download the raw data which generates the chart?
In closing, thank you for the always interesting analysis.


It was very heartening to see that Mercedes had no answer to Ferrari once Seb was in front of Lewis. Very good news indeed.

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