Analysis: Would Vettel have won China without F1 Safety Car and why did Ferrari leave Raikkonen out?
Sebastian Vettel
Strategy Report
Posted By: James Allen  |  11 Apr 2017   |  10:58 am GMT  |  226 comments

After the outlier of Melbourne’s street track the Chinese Grand Prix was the first opportunity on a proper race track in 2017 to assess the new F1 cars; to judge the level of overtaking and to understand better the way that race strategy has changed with the new rules.

There was some close wheel to wheel action and with mixed conditions at the start, decision making was at the heart of the action.

In the duel between Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, whereas in Australia it was Mercedes’ decision to pit early that cost the race, in China Ferrari took the risk to make the early stop.

Their plan was thwarted, not by the early stop, but by an accident and Safety Car immediately afterwards, which handed Vettel’s rivals a free pit stop. And because the accident was on the start line, it meant that the Safety Car had to pass down the pit lane, which helped the others and made it even worse for Vettel to recuperate.

It was a shame as without that, the race could have been decided between them at several different points along the way. Again the cars and lead drivers were very closely matched, with Mercedes perhaps just having the slight edge due to the cooler conditions, whereas the Ferrari was a shade faster in Melbourne.

Here we will take a deep dive into the background stories from the race and analyse the decisions made and their effect on the outcome.

Sebastian Vettel
Pre-race considerations

Practice was cut short by bad weather on Friday, which meant all the work on slick tyres was done on Saturday morning. Red Bull looked better on long runs than on qualifying runs. No–one bothered with the overly conservative medium tyre, while the Soft tyre looked like it was capable of very long stints of over 45 laps, making it a likely one stop race in the dry. However the faster warm up of the Super Soft made that an option for some.

The problem with the SuperSoft was that it forced you into two stopping, gave far less flexibility to the strategy and defined the pit stop times. That lack of flexibility could have been costly for Red Bull if it had rained later in the race, for example. For the faster cars with more downforce there was no problem getting the soft tyre to work in the cold conditions, but for the midfield and slower teams, the Supersoft was tempting.

The outlier among the faster cars was Red Bull, which saved Supersoft tyres for both drivers (Verstappen’s qualifying was disrupted so he had new tyres anyway). This is a trend we are starting to see this year for that team to seek to take the ‘fastest’ tyre, rather than the one that gives most flexibility. It almost cost them in China and it could well cost them in a future race, where flexibility is key.

What teams did not have clearly worked out due to lack of data was the crossover from the wet to the intermediate to the dry tyres, as the Pirelli wet and intermediate tyres have had little testing. This would turn out to be a pivotal issue in the early part of the race.

Carlos Sainz
Carlos Sainz gambles on slicks at the start

Most teams sent their drivers out to do a couple of laps before joining the grid on different tyres to assess the grip levels. Lewis Hamilton arrived on the grid on slicks, while others only assessed the full wets and intermediates, thinking that it was likely to be an intermediate tyre start. The problem with a drying track in Shanghai is that beneath the two giant wing structures, which span the main straight, the track stays wet for longer.

Although that caught out Antonio Giovinazzi, whose crash at the end of Lap 3 triggered the Safety Car, in fact the area of the track some strategists were more concerned about was the final sector, which still had some damp patches affecting lap times.

The rule of thumb is that the closer to the front you are, the more risk averse you will be in a situation like this. The further back you are the easier the decision is to go to the slick tyres. Most people did the same thing, which was to start on intermediates and pit under the Virtual Safety car on Lap 2 after Lance Stroll’s car went off. The leaders did not do this, apart from Vettel and neither did Carlos Sainz in the Toro Rosso.

Sainz, starting from 11th on the grid, took the contrary decision to start the race on slick supersoft tyres. Although he got a positive race result in 7th place, it wasn’t because of this decision. It was in spite of it.

He got wheelspin off the line, dropping to 18th place and going off the track, brushing the barriers. He was lucky to get away with that and then picked up places when the Virtual Safety Car and then Safety Car came out.

But prior to the Safety Car, having lost lost 27 seconds at the start, he was already a pit stop behind the others anyway. What saved him and gained the places back, was the Safety Car.

Sebastian Vettel
Why Vettel went for the bold strategy and why Ferrari left Raikkonen out

Ferrari qualified close to Mercedes and felt that they had a chance to win the race in China, to back up their Australia win. There’s plenty of confidence in the team at the moment and their chairman Sergio Marchionne was in the garage observing them in action.

So when the Virtual Safefy Car was triggered on Lap 2, after Stroll’s incident, they assessed risk versus reward and went for the bold option – they pitted Vettel.

Both Mercedes, both Red Bulls and Raikkonen stayed out.

Ferrari now had a split strategy across the two cars. The problem was that Raikkonen had lost a place to Ricciardo at the start and sat behind him, unable to exploit the pace of the Ferrari and play his part in the game.

By pitting under the Virtual Safety Car, a stop takes around 12-14 seconds instead of 21. When the track goes green that’s a 7-9 sec gap that the leader has to build back up ahead of his own stop. As the track was drying quickly, Hamilton would surely be in a lap or two later, as would the other leading cars and Vettel could well have been in the lead (see below)

There are three main risks to doing what Ferrari did; one is that the VSC can end at any time and it would be a disaster for it to end while your car is in the pits and others get back up to racing speeds. Another is that on a cold day, if the VSC continues for a few minutes after you stop, you lost tyre temperature in the slicks and with it much of the pace advantage you’ve gone in for.

F1 safety car

But the biggest risk is that a VSC is often followed by a real Safety Car, either because the Race Director feels that the situation requires it or because someone goes onto slicks and has a heavy accident.

The latter is what happened to Vettel in China. The VSC was lifted and it was looking good for Vettel as the benchmark Sainz on supersofts was setting faster sector times than the leaders on intermediates.

Then Giovinazzi smashed into the pit wall and the Safety Car came out, which gave Mercedes, the Red Bulls and Raikkonen a free pit stop.

Red Bull were especially smart here in that they could see that the Safety Car was going to be out for several laps,. So they did not ‘stack’ their cars, forcing the second car to queue behind the first for service.

As they passed through the pit lane, the tail car Verstappen was serviced first and then the next lap through Ricciardo was serviced, so both cars gained.

Mercedes suffered a setback on Bottas’ car when the rear jack failed losing him places to the Red Bulls and Raikkonen.

Lewis Hamilton Sebastian Vettel
Would Vettel have won without the Safety Car?

It would have been very close at Hamilton’s stop. On Lap 3, after the VSC ended, Vettel was 18 seconds behind and Hamilton needed 21 seconds to stop and retain position, so there would have been a crossover point, which could have swung either way depending on the track condition at that precise moment (a similar situation to Hamilton’s dramatic last lap world title win in Brazil 2008).

On Lap 3, Hamilton and Vettel set similar middle sector times, but Vettel’s final sector was two seconds quicker, so it was starting to swing back towards him. Either way, if Hamilton had pitted or if he had continued and completed another lap, chances are he would have come out behind Vettel. But the Safety Car put paid to that.

After that Ferrari had to rely on Vettel overtaking the cars ahead of him to get back to Hamilton. They opted not to move Raikkonen out of his path and Vettel lost around 7 seconds to Hamilton as a result. This early in the season it is unusual for Ferrari to issue orders. That tends to happen only when one driver is clearly the main title challenger.

Ferrari China 2017

Vettel passed Raikkonen and the Red Bulls, but Ferrari opted to keep Raikkonen out on track, past the ideal stop time for his tyre condition relative to the Red Bulls and Bottas. This cost him the chance of a podium.

But it wasn’t looking good anyway; had they stopped him earlier he had shown no signs of being able to overtake the Red Bulls in the first stint and would have lost a place to Bottas, who had dropped down the order because of a spin on cold tyres before the restart, so they looked at it differently.

The main reason why they left him out was to try to keep him in Hamilton’s pit window so he could be ahead after Hamilton’s stop and interfere with Hamilton’s race and bring Vettel back into play. It was the only card they had left to play.

But a realistic assessment showed that it was futile. Raikkonen was inside Hamilton’s pit window on Lap 31 but by Lap 35 Hamilton had 25 seconds gap.

Raikkonen was having an off day personally and his tyres were not at their best after following Ricciardo, although it must be said the Ferrari’s benign aerodynamics mean that it can follow other cars with less damage to its tyres than any other car in the field. Vettel demonstrated that clearly in Australia and China and it could be a factor that comes into play a few times this season.

Hamilton had enough in hand so that when he pitted he came out ahead of Raikkonen. Ferrari will look to Bahrain where the hotter temperatures and layout of the track mean they could be the team to beat.

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

Race History & Tyre Usage Charts

Kindly provided by Williams Martini Racing, click to enlarge

The number of laps is on the horizontal axis; the gap behind the leader is on the vertical axis. The thing to look at is the gaps between the cars and also the relative pace of the cars.

A positive sign is an upward curve indicating strong pace as lap time falls.

It is immediately apparent how the fast cars get the tyres up to speed quickly after the Safety Car while the cars with less downforce take many laps to do so and lose a lot of time in the process.

Look at Raikkonen’s trace, you can see how he would have dropped behind Bottas if he had stopped at a normal time. Ferrari were also leaving him out to try to interfere with Hamilton’s race at the second stop. After following Ricciardo for many laps he didn’t have the pace left in the front tyres to close that gap to Hamilton at the second stops, so the plan didn’t work.

Once again the pace of Vettel and Hamilton in races is significantly better than their team mates.

Chinese GP 2017

Chinese GP 2017 Tyres

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James and the team, thank you for the analysis, it is great! I was looking forward to it as I was lackimg some data points to frame an opinion of my own on whether or not Ferrari did a mistake. They seem to try something different and be more agressive, it was a calculated risk that did not pay off. Hard to say what they should have done differently. Had it not been for a safety car and had Kimi be on it, Vettel could have ended that day with another win. Bahrain is a real chance for a Ferrari 1-2 and it is very important for them to do it. It will build their confidence. Kimi needs it too!
What I do not know is who will be stronger on tracks that are not typical - Monaco, Baku, etc. Baku will be warm, Monaco will be ambient.


Looking at the graphs, the optimal place for pitting Räikkönen seems to have been on same lap or one lap later from Verstappen. This would have given him the best option for top finish, even without race passing.

After Ricciardo's pitting the game was over for Räikkönen.

However, it is hard to judge that during the race.

For that matter, it would be interesting to see a graph with derivatives (i.e. delta between laps).

Ricciardo Aficionado

Looking at the graph it seems like they were just leaving him out as a snag for Hamilton's pitstop.


You cannot ignore what came out of Vettel's own mouth which I heard on British channel 4 highlights. He said his intermediates where loosing performance, hence Vettel is partly responsible for influencing the decision to stop which lost him track position. Vettel was harsh on his tyres and panicked.


Had there be no safety car you would say he was partialy responsible for a strategic decision that gave him the win. Loosing does not mean lost. Other drivers were saying the same and he would be as good as keeping his interns alive as Lewis. It is not a factor. They just gambled. Was it not dor the SC, we would be all haiking their brilliance.


Was the fact that Ferrari were willing to take the gamble an indication that they did not think they had the race pace to beat the Merc?


'Vettel was harsh on his tyres and panicked.'

Really not a fan are you 🙂


Vettel was 2 sec quicker in sector 3 alone! Read the article... panicked it seems.


from the interweb- "How Ferrari's other drivers cost Vettel shot at Chinese GP "


Don't count Mercedes out yet!
There is little doubt that the Ferrari is a whole new animal compared to last year, it's better.
But the Mercedes is the same, still a title contender (at least) and I bet, with a lot of goodies in the bag, ahead of everybody else in the development curve; I write this based on historical evidence of the past 3 years; whenever Mercedes loses an advantage, they've strapped on a few extra bits, which has pushed them over the top. It could be that this year, through a combination of the new regulations and the clear need to 'make it look a bit closer' they're playing it a bit tighter; they will certainly be competitive in Bahrain.
More interesting will be the development at RB, which seems to have been caught out a bit at the start of 2017, whether it be for a potential late change to the suspension, i.e. modify the trick-non-FRIC suspension, or the engine limitation (although speed trap data suggests their nice top speed is not bad, albeit with less wing then Merc/Ferr), RB weren't quite there.
However, the RB race pace was quite good in China, and I think they'll up it again in Bahrain; the question is, by how much, and will it come into the window with Ferrari and/or Merc?
I'm still concerned about the difficulties and decreased frequency of passing with the new regulations cars.

One last thing, because of the development wars this year, I think it may not be prudent to categorize tracks as either Merc or Ferrari (front or back end limited); the development war will throw so many variables into the mix, that the cars may swap comparative advantages; certainly Merc, Ferr, and RB have dramatically increased their efficiency and effectiveness of development vis-a-vis windtunnel/CFD super-computer crunching, so that the restrictions will affect them less.

Perhaps someone knows how the windtunnel/CFD super-computer restrictions work in the off-season, are similar restrictions in place, or would it be conceivable to spend the huge $$$ in the off-season to prepare your development cycle during the season, and thereby fly below windtunnel/CFD super-computer restrictions?
If it would be possible, don't think that it wouldn't have been done!


If it comes down to a battle like this article has said the mercedes does not like dirty air. If ferrari can get ahead be it a great qualifying performance or smart pit strategy mercedes will have their work cut out for them big time.


have you factored in the loss of paddy ?


"What I do not know is who will be stronger on tracks that are not typical - Monaco, Baku, etc. Baku will be warm, Monaco will be ambient."

It looks to me it will be similar to 2015 when Ferrari won Malaysia, Hungary and Singapore. This time around you can probably chalk up Spain, Austria, Bahrain, Monaco and anywhere else it is warm that particular day.

Between Ferrari's pace in "cold" conditions in China and Vettel's ability to follow in "dirty air" in Australia Merecdes' LWB might not have much advantage (if any) at Monza and Spa either.


Hmmm...............let's wait until the start of the European season in Barcelona and the ferocious development war that kicks off when Formula 1 returns to the Old Continent. That's when the real season starts in terms of finding out who can add performance, and who can't.............

Force India had a fairly dismal start to 2016, but at Barcelona a brand new front wing design arrived and transformed their season from no hopers into podium grabbers. Point is, the development war hasn't begun in earnest yet - and from Barcelona to Monza is where the biggest incremental gains can be made.

I mean, Williams started on the front row at Sochi last year, yet by Silverstone finished outside the Top 10, so............


Wait for Bahrain first... I suspect the difference is a couple of 10ths in Mercedes favor even in the warm weather. I believe Mercedes made unwise setup changes on Saturday mid-morning in Australia that did workout during the race. I base this on the fact that Lewis long run performance on the ultrasofts on Friday afternoon was impressive (even to Pirelli) but on Sunday he looked like he was sliding around like he was on glass. Also, Bottas, at Williams, showed good form in Bahrain so he may surprise us and put that Mercedes between himself and Sebastian which will change the race strategies.


Barcelona is a front limited, understeer limited circuit................just like China. It's the front left that takes all the abuse on a circuit with fast corners, irrespective of temps. Same with Silverstone and Spa.

Bahrain and Sochi are rear limited, oversteer limited circuits where the rear right tyre goes a bit gnarly, but uniquely both tracks require skinny downforce setup to enhance aero efficiency for the long straights, so how all this years cars work in low downforce trim is anyone's guess.


Surely you have followed 4-day pre-Season testing in Barcelona 🙂

From what we seen so far (testing + 2 races) various temperatures, type of track (straights, corners), quality of surface and wheel base length comparison it is looking good for Red Team.


I will be interested to see how well that long wheelbase Mercedes car gets around the hairpin in Monaco.


"I will be interested to see how well that long wheelbase Mercedes car gets around the hairpin in Monaco."

It's not 🙂

I am not worried because LEWIS HAMILTON will be behind the wheel.


The same Lewis Hamilton that did not manage to get his own Zonda round the hairpin a couple of years ago 🙂


The same Lewis Hamilton that completely dominated his teammate around Monaco on pace for the last two years in a row.


So James what do you think is the problem with Raikkonen? Is he simply not fast enough, or is there something else? Surely he is considered to be a fast and fierce driver (Iceman), but not being able to make any impression on the Red Bulls in a superior car???

Also, is this Ferrari a product of the work Alison did before his departure? Will there is continuation next year or is this Ferrari's best chance?


Well... 2016 was certainly Allison's work.


The SF70H is not a product of Allison's work. The project for this year's car that Allison had started least year was scrapped, as it was deemed to be a failure, so the SF70H had to be basically re-designed from scatch. Simone Resta, Enrico Cardile, and David Sanchez are responsible for the design of SF70H. Allison really doesn't have anything to do with it.


Where have you read that Allison's 2017 design was scrapped?


I am interested to get James's thoughts because I don't think Allison had much if any input into this car. If you recall, his wife died early in the spring and he was on bereavement leave and following that, he was preoccupied with taking care of his family. Judging from how development of last year's car stopped early in the season, I suspect Mr. Allison was already mostly out the door. If you notice, everyone in Ferrari refers to the SF70H as "our car". That should tell you something.


I am not sure i got the part abt redbull being smart as they pitted ricardo next lap. Wouldnt have been possible for raikonen who had already changes his tyres under the safety car and running in third to get closer to ricardio under the safety car And pass him the next lap when he changed his tyres. I would think that was a bad call from raikonen/ ferrari rather than a good call by redbull . Or am i missing something here?


I'm interested in the scenario under the safety car that RB pitted their non-lead car first? Who's call was that? Or needn't i ask?


I think the cars are still restricted on pace behind the safety car. Even if they have a gap of 40 seconds to make up, they can't just blaze along at full pace to catch up as the course is technically full yellows. Maybe someone knows for sure.


'That lack of flexibility could have been costly for Red Bull if it had rained later in the race, for example.'
I wonder if Max would have minded some more rain during the race 🙂


I think none of us would have minded a bit more rain later in the race.


I think RedBull were agressive and not about a lack of flexibility, RedBull were gunning for P2 me thinks...

Ricciardo Aficionado

And may have got it if Verstappen's graph didn't dip so far at his pitstop. Did he have traffic? Or a bad in/out lap? Or a slow stop?
But with his pace drop off at the end, I doubt he could have held Vettel off. Would have made an interesting climax...


Exactly what I have been saying, the fact the SC had to drive thru the pitlane killed Vettel and Ferrari's strategy.


it's all part of racing, crashes, safety car, virtual safety car, pit stops, rain tyre changes. these are all variables which affect the race so i don't understand why they are used as excuses for the outcomes. all teams and drivers are faced with the same challenges so the results are the results. human decision should be the variables to focus on.


aveli, surely you would relate if it was Hamilton that was caught in the same situation?


am not fluent in ifs and maybes. am only confident in what actually happens. so talk about what happened and i'll contribute.

Ricciardo Aficionado

Would you prefer to discuss reasons instead of excuses?


Do you feel the same about PU going burst? Marc


no one feels the same about two different situations. a thermometer will not record the same temperature for a volcano and boiling water just like the human emotions are not of the same intensities experiencing different events.

Ricciardo Aficionado

To a human, volcanoes and boiling water are both hot.


am human and i know that a volcano feels a lot hotter than boiling water.


The Ferrari had the inherent pace to win but the safety car being deployed offset vettel from the lead of the race and in to traffic. Yes there are all these variables to consider but Ferrari and vettel could not predict the future nor could Mercedes and Hamilton; this time Hamilton got the benefit and it enabled him to maintain position. All james is saying is if you remove the time lost for vettel due to the safety car then both of them would have been toe to toe and racing for the victory, with vettel being able to win if on the day he pulled of the necessary required (judging by the evidence from the remainder of the race this is high likely).


Methinks you are reading too much between the lines here (and putting stuff there that does not exist)... Rockie was not making an "excuse", but merely stating a fact... He did not go on to complain that it was "not fair", or that Hamilton's win was diminished, or that Ferrari would have won for sure etc., he just said the way things worked out negatively impacted Ferrari's track position / strategy, which was true. Does not mean that they would have automatically won, but it did mean that their chances of challenging for victory were hurt. Yes, that is part of racing, and I think we all understand that... Each driver will have his good and bad luck, but it does not mean we can't discuss it.


am not suggesting that you shouldn't discus but do so with reasonable logic. the virtual safety car was deployed for a racing incident just that the safety car was so i do not understand why one should say that vettel could've won had the safety car hadnt being deployed..

Stevan Vasiljevic

Here is why: Pit stop added 17 seconds to Vettel's lap (under virtual safety car). Had Hamilton pitted in normal racing conditions, it would have added 21 seconds to his lap, so Vettel would potentially have 4 seconds advantage when Hamilton exits the pits. However, pitting under safety car added 12-13 seconds to Hamiltons lap, and that gave him 4 seconds advantage over Vettel. Deployment of safety car was coincidence that couldn't easily be forseen, and it served Hamilton and not Vettel, so that's luck, you see?


Why not? Given that Seb was quicker by 2 seconds in just 1 sector says that he is on the right tyre... in fact Mercs gamble of not pitting under VSC helped Lewis!!


the reality is vettel qualified second, lined up second, was second into the first corner and finished second. you can say if only as frequently as you wish but that will not change..


You could say that Vettel and Ferrari gambled under the VSC by coming in (no one knows when the VSC is going to end). Or you could say that Hamilton and Merc gambled under the VSC by staying out (maybe they were hoping the VSC would become a full SC). It was the Merc 'gamble' that paid off in the end.


will that change the outcome?


None of what we say here changes the outcome or for that matter impacts the future.. if all I'm looking for is how the race finished or for that matter how it started, I don't need to watch the race and how it unfolded!!


i watch the race starts because they are exciting, i watch them into and out of the first corner because that is exciting too. i watch them cross the winning because that is exciting too. i even watch the podium celebrating because i found that exciting. i also watch the top three press conference because guess what? i got it that's also exciting!


you saw the number laps hamilton led in the race. how many laps did vettel lead in that race to make you think he should've won it?
nothing wrong with discussing how it unfolded..


On number of laps led - how is it even relevant to this conversation? All im saying after looking at the numbers is that Seb / Ferrari had a chance to win the race by pitting during VSC (correct cross over time and good save in pit time); unfortunately we will never know if it would have been enough to win or not.


@gravity....what do you mean by we will never know?
we already know that hamilton won that race from pole leading every single lap without a single mistake. we saw all the others who didn't win, over reaching themselves and making mistake in the process..


We will never know cause of Sc thru the pits a lap after VSC. You are saying Seb pitting in VSC as over reaching and I'm calling Lewis not pitting during VSC as lucky! The reason I'm saying we will never know is cause if SC didn't happen, I'm not taking Seb win as a given - Lewis was flawless and he still could have done something around the next stop to win it. We see this race very differently, it's just that....


So James, you do suggest that in all likelihood, Seb would have won the race without the safety car especially given the trouble Merc has in following other cars, right?

Do we have statistics around likelihood SC following VSC?
Also, what is the probability of Seb following Lewis strategy but undercut Lewis during the pit stop window to win?
Was the Ferrari strategy correct - especially given that he was able to reclaim p2.

I thought it was a bold & right strategy from Ferrari.


It cost them nothing in the end and had the potential to help them onto the top step. So yes, it was worth it.


they didn't even lead a single lap. where was all their potential wasted.
all 20 cars had the potential to win but only one of the won it in the end..


Aveli - why do you think they left Raikkonen out for so long? It was to disrupt Hamilton at his next pit stop if they could. It was the only card they had left to play to get Vettel up to the front, but in the end Rai was too slow and Hamilton stayed out long enough to never lose the lead - even for a single lap.


and you now know what hamilton's plan was, right?
to lead every single lap of that race.


James, no mention whatever of the power loss issue that handicapped Raikkonen and why the team took no steps to sort it out, or at least explain it to the driver.

Also you are assuming throughout that after pitting for new rubbers Kimi would resume at exactly the same pace. Surely new tyres = better grip = pace pick up??


Good point here.No one has explained the loss of power there.


There was no loss of power issue. If there was an issue he wouldnt have been able to keep himself within Riccairdo's DRS range for the entire first stint(i.e until Riccairdo pitted) & Ferrari would have jumped in to save their driver by saying he was hampered by PU issues. As merciless as Ferrari is they will not blame a driver unless they know its the drivers fault. Kimi was most likely plagued by a wrong setting which they might have rectified within a lap or two because in clean air he was faster than the Redbulls(they dont broadcast all messages & Kimi in the post race interviews dint mention any PU issues)

Kimi has suffered mainly because he has not been able to find the right balance. He was not happy in Australia because of his setup and they dint have time in china to find a solution because of the cancelled practice session. Expect him to bounce back in Bharain. But i doubt he'll take the fight to Vettel because he always lacks that 1/10 to 3/10 in races


' Kimi plagued by a wrong setting '? Stop making excuses. There are no variables with regards to the settings. He should have studied his settings and solve the problem instantly.


We only get partial broadcast of team radio, so I'm pretty sure they explained it to Kimi as soon as they could. The power loss issue was rectified in car by Kimi by pressing a button (K1 whatever that is) so after 2 laps round he'd have known exactly when to press it and it wouldn't have affected the rest of his race. They aren't trying to nobble their own chances in the WCC.
Having said that, it seems that Ferrari would prefer a p1 and p5 rather than a p2 and p3. Had Raikkonen passed Ricciardo (or even attempted to) I'd be more sympathetic towards him, but it looks like he was being used as a pawn to get Vettel on to the top step by disrupting Hamilton if they could. Raikkonen needs to be ahead on track to get the optimum strategy and today he wasn't. It's good to see them doing everything they can to try and win rather than settle.


Yep, well said aezy.


Great comment. Also interesting to note that P1+P5=35 points, while P2+P3=33 points. So lots of P1+P5 = probably WCC+WDC = happy tifosi = happy priest in Maranello = happy Arrivabene = happy Italia = finally a quiet winter. P1+P5 = good


I hadn't done the maths - it makes even more sense now. They potentially stood to gain more collectively by leaving Kimi out. Team sport and all that.


In fairness to Kimi I think the lack of effectiveness of DRS down the back straight in terms of completing moves surprised him. I think he made every attempt to pass Ricciardo on the straight . What Kimi hadn't realised was that overtaking would be done in the braking zone. That is something Kimi may have to change in his approach.


Exactly my thoughts


My thoughts exactly: the assumption here is that Raikkonen will still be at a slow pace if he had pitted earlier. There is more likelihood that he would be so, but there is also a chance that he might pick up pace and have a better chance at podium.


The narrative for this season is Hamilton vs Vettel, and it will go to the wire. Enjoy!


I'm not so sure. Hamilton was way too happy after the race which makes me worry he had time in hand.


No, the fragile narrative being spun will be spoiled by concerns of PU reliability late in the season. No one is thinking/talking about it now at race 3, but Mercedes likely have turned it down a few notches in the name of competition. But the real benefit will be reliability, which will show benefit in the second half.

2017 will be spoiled by 4 PU limit per season in a sport that spends billions to put cars on the grid with the most expensive and complex engines ever.

Reminder, back in 2004 6m bought you a fresh V10 for every race for both cars. Does anyone remember a driver being pushed back on the grid 10 or 20 spots for an engine change in 2004? Neither do I.


Does anyone remember a driver being pushed back on the grid 10 or 20 spots for an engine change in 2004?

Raikkonen had a fair few engine penalties in 2005 with his V10's that punted him backwards on the grid.


Yup. 2005 was when the V10 slowdown effort started and the 2 GP engine requirement was brought in. That was the starting point of the silliness.


I don't remember grid drops in 2004, no, but I do in 2005. Raikkonen alone suffered 3 such grid drops. But I guess 2005 doesn't count when discussing the glory of the V10 era.

To be fair I don't remember much about 2004 at all, it's not exactly a season renowned for close competition or exciting races.


It counts, as V10s were used in 2005. But 2005 is the begging of the slowdown of V10s and pull-back from the awesome direction F1 was heading into.

2005 was really shocking. First, 2 GP engines and then, same tire for quali and race - the slowdown of Formula 1 begins.

Note, I specifically said 2004. I see 2004 as the last extreme pure Formula 1 vintage.


I remember you being a Vettel fan back in his Red Bull years - and we were in minority. What happened? Aren't you enjoying the fact that Vettel might actually challenenge for WDC this year?


Red Bull was winning 53% of races. It was exciting and competitive amd sounded good. This is a dog and pony show. No one has beaten Mercedes yet. Of all the 9 non Mercedes wins in PU era, none have been convincing. Hence, I don't buy it.


I must say, I'm somewhat in awe of the energy reserves you seem to have available to you. You're like the Energizer Bunny of complaining. : )


...all while running on a treadmill...


Red Bull. Gives you nagging wings!

After you drink it you say...P...U...!


Merc hasn't turned down anything. Stop making ridiculous excuses. It's absolutely clear that Ferrari is now level with Merc and hunting them down.


I get the impression - correct me if I've made the wrong assumption here - that you don't like these Power Units. I hope you at least enjoyed the racing.


Hey, is it true that MotoGP engines are 130db?


The weight difference is a blast from a rulesbook-shotgun: The PU's are quite a bit heavier, but so do the gearboxes since they too need to survive 5 times as long as 10 years ago. The torque increase and higher downforce results in heavier bodywork to meet a certain stiffness, and to pass the crash tests the cell needs to be a lot stronger. The tyres weigh more, so suspension needs to be able to cope....


Have we heard how much the PU weighs? Complete?


I was not talking about power units or reliability, Sebee. That seems to be your bag.


more likely to make that conclusion after the european rounds...two races in is too soon for me to make a similar conclusion.


Very well written James - when even an idiot like me can understand it, its a job well done.

I'm looking forward to the comments from all the blathering armchair strategy guru’s that were quick to criticize Ferrari’s strategists, without really understanding what was going on. You know who you are 🙂

Sure, it didn’t pay off, so arguably it was wrong, but at least there was a strong logic and sense to what they were doing. Maybe they aren’t quite as inept as some people make out….


Duff strategical calls? It's called pressure..................real time pressure as well. Do you cut the Red Wire or the Brown Wire Mr Bond? And you've got just a few seconds to make a decision as well.............

Strange thing, this intensity of pressure. It causes a few wallybrain moments, such as RB's Krusty the Klown comedy pit stop at Monaco last year. The key to success? TCUP - Think Clearly Under Pressure.


Is that me: 🙂 But I still stand by my comments about their poor strategy because James actually nicely mentioned that he has lost a chance for a podium due to strategy. But new light that James brought in was that Ferrari were not really interested in Raikkonen's race, but they were using him as bait so that Vettel gets better position - well if this is actually a fact then, yes, you are right (and I am wrong), Ferrari were brilliant and they are so brilliant that to keep sanity in the team and among fans (of Raikkonen) they didn't even publicly state this strategy and were prepared to take all the slack for it as though they goofed up with Raikkonen's race. In that case, I must admit that Ferrari are not only brilliant but good in acting too.

Secondly if Raikkonen dropped behind Bottas if he had pitted with Verstappen: then Merc would have let Bottas go longer in the stint slowing him down, but definitely Bottas would need to stop anyway again? So at worst he would have got P5 even if he was unable to overtake Bottas. But at best he had a chance for P3 which they gave up for the strategy of keeping Vettel in better position to get P1 as James says. So the conclusion is there was a better strategy for Raikkonen, but Ferrari did not choose to use it for whatever reasons.


Bottas, Vettel and Hamilton were initially going to go to the end. Once the Redbull pitted they all got a free pitstop. If Kimi was behind Bottas. Mercedes would have kept him out. And he would have finished in 6th


Are you saying after the pit stop, Kimi with a fresh tire and just a few seconds behind Bottas (who had spun and there was quite a gap to Kimi) with very old tires (who would have not pitted) would not be able to overtake Bottas? I think that scenario was less likely than he being able to overtake him with fresh tire. Verstappen overtook Bottas after pitting, so why not Raikkonen? In strategy, you always go by the more likely scenario, so even here Ferrari were choosing a poorer strategy for Raikkonen. So considering that Ferrari is not "dumb" or at least that's what we presume, the only likely reason is what James says, they knew there was a better strategy for Kimi, but gave it up for the sake of Vettel. If we give up this idea of "helping Vettel", then the only scenario is Ferrari seriously thought Kimi could do a one-stop race with aging tires and slow laps and still get a podium - now that is dreadfully inept of them if that were the case.


RBRs were ***ALWAYS*** going to pit, that was clear from the onset as they chose Supersoft tyres rather than Soft tyres. Since Kimi was behind both RBRs & once Vettel passed Max, they should've brought Kimi straight away & he would've in all probability undercut both the RBRs.
And Regarding Bottas....Looks how Max passed him with ease as he had fresh tyre advantage, Kimi would've made a short meal of Bottas on Fresh tyres.


@Sri - haha, no i don't think you were the worst "offender" 🙂

I take your point, but rather than Ferrari not being interested in Kimi, i think their hands tied by Kimi and/or car not performing at maximum potential, limiting their options.


Kimi's nonchalant disposition, which seems to impress some people is catching up with him.This is serious business. You have to frett and seem emotionally concerned to find your ultimate groove.


"Sergio Marchionne was in the garage observing them in action."

That explains everything. Can this guy not realize he's not a lucky charm?

I will risk my prediction streak of 2 and call Ferrari win for Bahrain. The only way Mercedes can sell this story that there is competition is to not win Bahrain. And so it will be.

Ricciardo Aficionado

Or give away pole and let Hamilton win with a pass on track.
Win if he doesn't, win if he does.


Sell what story? There isn't any story to sell, because the competition is real. Ferrari is definitely just as fast (in race conditions even faster) as merc. No matter what kind of delusional conspiracy theories you believe, it doesn't change the fact that Ferrari has caught merc and is certainly a serious threat to them. I wonder what kind of crazy conspiracy theories will you come up with if Ferrari and Seb win the Championship?


Vettel and Ferrari winning Formula 1 Championship against Mercedes AMG on the year of Mercedes AMG 50th anniversary?

In the nicest and most respectful way I can put this....are you crazy? There is no way on this God's green earth that anyone but Mercedes win the 2017 F1 Championship. Take it to the bank. Period. End of.


Sports competition is not concerned with extraneous anniversaries.

If Merc has performance in reserve, and has for the past 3 years, and they could manipulate the championship where and how they pleased, then why wouldn't they give up a few more than 8 races over a 3 year period, to keep the "rein Mercedes in" sentiment from growing? Instead of 2-3 races a year, why not 8-9? If it's all under their control, then there should've been no problem in doing that.

Ricciardo Aficionado

Car sales were booming over that period. And we had intra-team competition to offset the negativity of such dominance.


It's Ferraris 70th this year


Great reply. 🙂 ROFL


...also...let's not forget what we've seen in PU era. With 2 races in 2017 season in the books Mercedes is still above 85% domination wise.


Shows which company's marketing machine is doing a better job with articles and promise of some PU based AMG car to be delivered I the 52nd. So many AMG products announced on 50th I wondered recently if regular Mercedes cars still exist.

I was not even aware of red anniversary. Did they out anything on the car? Release any products? Or are they just having a quiet birthday?


....but, I'm betting that the indignity of Mercedes being passed by Ferrari on track will not come to fruition. Mercedes is OK to surrender races at this early point for good of the show, but will not give the media the clip of being overtaken on track with an actual pass that will be played over and over again in the evening news sports segments around the world.


@Sebee.. all that is fine, as long as Merc dont forget to "Switch On" their PU by the end of the year.. 🙂 or else your hunch may turn into an Igor 😀


I have not seen anything except Mercedes toying so far. Can't wait to see how Mercedes manage to not win Bahrain.


you really think ferrari will win in the heat of bahrain? raikkonen can be quick there mind you.


Lets see how their fancy sidepod aero provides cooling in the heat of Bahrain! 😉


i like their sidepods design, very clever..


I thought the consensus was that the Ferrari was more efficient on the tyres so they should be even more competitive in the heat of Bahrain than in China?


Yes, I think that's the consensus, though sometimes expectations don't meet up with reality when the action starts. I still think Ferrari will have their best race in Bahrain ... they were closer there in both 2015 and 2016, than those seasons as a whole.

If the hot temps help Ferrari and hurt Mercedes, then all I can say is that I'm glad it's a night race now. 🙂


am waiting to see how accurate that instrument of measurement is, consensus.


If I was pushed on it I'd say Ferrari will have strategic advantage at Bahrain through longer tyre life. We shall wait and see!


and then we find out as it all unfolds..


Given the ferraris are more suitable for tracks like Bahrain, they should win there. however qualifying in Bahrain is what will determine where Mercedes and Ferrari stand. because Australia is a more of a street circuit and China has those long curving corners which is rarely found at any other circuit. so Bahrain's tilkodrome is what will give us an clear idea of whats to come. Also Ferrari is more effective when the track temps are high and it doesn't get any hotter than Bahrain 😀


Also Ferrari is more effective when the track temps are high and it doesn't get any hotter than Bahrain

It's a night race in Bahrain so track temperatures will most likely be cooler than Australia.


@NRG.. great! So Ferrari will Rock Practise 1 and Practise 3 for sure then!! 😀


am sure this temperature theory will keep being pushed back till november..


You do realise that the race is run under the lights during the twilight period into the night. Yes, the temperatures will be warm, but not blazing hot. Malaysia on the other hand will be both hot and steamy.


oh boy.. how did i forget that :/ oops


LOL I half expected the Ferrari garage to go up in flames when I saw him arrive. And yes they may well win Bahrain but only if..... he is not there!


Spot on Phill Glass 🙂 Sergio puts an unnecessary pressure on a too emotional team, or a bad omen?


Yeah, you're absolutely right. Sergio is like a magnet next to a compass. If he's there no one will know which way is north.


This is why I read the comments, every now and again we get a gem from @Sebee


"Sergio is like a magnet next to a compass. If he's there no one will know which way is north."

What a VISUAL ! :O


Theory: Kimi was kept out as punishment for "not getting it" and holding up Vettel so long while he claimed/knew he had a problem. Message: next time let him through. 🙂


I don't think Kimi had a problem that he hadn't solved himself by pressing 'K1'. It didn't hold him up any. He was simply slow.


Than it is certain. If he knew he was slow and didn't move out of the way of a faster team mate, it's an even worse offence and Ferrari left him hanging to remind him he's only 5% of the package.


I'm sure Kimi will let Seb through if he's asked to. And not if he isn't. The question is, why did the team not ask him to ?


you didn't tell us what it felt like to be in the car with Kimi going round the chinese gp (that's the only way you can know when he pressed K1) 🙂


You mean other than the team radio where he said he needed to press k1 at turn 12? He'd be a bit silly to not press it after he knew it solved his issue!


that pass didnt need a team order, Kimi shuda played ball...


I believe someone should have at least tried the mediums out.. that would have guaranteed a one stopper!

Torchwood Mobile

Thank you for the article, James.

I stand corrected, on the matter of Kimi being left out long after he started complaining about his car.

First time I have seen someone present a logical reason for what looks like Ferarri' traditional [modding] over of their second driver.


@Torchwood.. did you just put in the term "modding" in boxes and post it yourself? 🙂 the "-ing" bit is hilarious!


There's no logical reason here.

Kimi had engine issues that FER did not help him with (wrong engine mode I think)

And secondly that's assuming he wouldn't have gone faster with new Tyres. Look at the graph which clearly shows it wasn't working for a few laps already and still FER were too stubborn


Don't Mrcds have similar 'engine' issues in Baku last year on Hammy's car?

Oh I forgot, only Ferrari are incompetent!!!


How do you know they didn't help him? Do you have access to all team radio and Ferrari's data? Anyways, he pressed 'K1' and it went away each lap - it wouldn't have held him up once he figured out what to press.


No one has access to all the team radios so stop asking silly questions.

if you look carefully he had multiple engine issues and the "K1" issue was different from the zero torque issue he also complained about.

And still no logical explanation of why it took so long for them to get Kimi in once it was obvious he would be so slow on old Tyres. They kept him this season for experience so they should use it...smh

Ferraris excuse so far was that he was talking too much on the radio instead of driving 😂

And SM probably walks under ladders all the time. Everytime he shows up its bad luck.


I think teams are not supposed to help drivers with engine modes during the race. Remember Hamilton was told that the team would not help him on the radio last year as it violated the rules?

Stevan Vasiljevic

That was last year, but such communication restrictions were lifted in the meantime.


Stop making silly assumptions then! No one has mentioned Kimis engine problem because there wasn't a significant one and it was resolved in the race. This bears out in his lap times in clean air. The problem was that Rai was able to follow closely but was unable to pass Ricciardo. He wasn't making progress and was then used a pawn to try and help Vettel get to the top step. If he wants the best strategy he needs to up his game.


It was significant and hence Kimi mentioned it.

Ferrari could have ended up with 2/3 and it became a 2/5. That's not great strategy. I don't understand why you think this is an acceptable strategy for a winning team.


It can't have been significant because his lap times were fine. He just wasn't able to pass because on the weekend he wasn't good enough.
A winning team tries for the win - keeping Raikkonen out gave them a slim chance of Vet beating Ham to the top step. I can't understand why you think it's acceptable for a winning team to settle for second place. 1/5 would also have given them more points than 2/3. If Rai had managed to stay out, he may well have finished higher than 5th too (in retrospect he was slow AND unable to nurse his tyres.) Looks like Ferrari had a sensible strategy to me.


Huge credit for saying this...


James - Some have asked before but i haven't seen a response yet - what was the story behind vettel not getting a reprimand for how he was parked on the grid for the start? Can anyone do that now or has always been able to?


Apparently stupid, Vettel in fact was a bit of a villan looking for a better dried spot for start. He won nada from that, went straight and kept his position, so the stewards correctly decided to not reprimand him. As you noticed the stewards of 2017 are more relaxed 2016, new management, new rules. However, there is a happy ending, that will be soon clarified by FIA at Horner request so... everybody will be put in their right place at start.


RICs stock is in decline. How long before that smile is gone and Helmut is making statements about him in the press. His teammate has gotten the best of him and is quickly becoming RBs new WEB.


...all because it rained!!


AT, give some credit to Ricci, this guy and Verstappen are the only men on the grid. He gave grief beating Vettel, but does not make me angry to hate him, on the contrary my hat's off for a great F1 personality. Waiting for his contagious smile, it make take a while though... 🙂


Vastappen a man indeed. Shouting and dismissive towards engineers of his father's age,trying to give him helpful iinformation. Where was his ' manners '.


If you cannot recall or missed the second stints have a look at the graph above. Had the Haas in front been for position you can pretty well guarantee that the Bulls would have asked VER to move aside to let RIC at least get within two seconds of the car. Was actually dismayed to hear him whining continually over the radio, rather than being able to get close enough to force the issue. Maybe a bit of rain would have helped as he can drive well in that.


F1 does move fast. One difficult race and the man who beat Vettel is "in decline"!


Agree to a certain extent....I will wait to see a few more races before I form a solid opinion on that though. He did outscore and out qualify Max last year didn't he? Too early to say X or Y....Let's give 2 more races....same for Massa and the Finns.


was that score counted since Max joined RBR or are you talking of the whole season?


seems like graph axis has been changed? what is zero vertical line representing now? seems like average race time based on 1st lap?


It's skewed because of the safety car period and the fact they went through the pits.


Great Report. Irrespective of the VSC on lap 2, Isn't lap 2 always too early to pit?


How does the lap number matter at all in this scenario?


It was an interesting race, after reading this very detailed strategy report, I have to say we are in for a vintage season of F1, which might not be liked by many.

The Mercedes is faster in qualifying, Hamilton needs to keep putting it on pole, the Ferrari is kinder on its tires and can follow without a lot of problems, so Vettel should be able to give chase and keep Hamilton honest.

The only thing is that given the nature of the cars, we will not see a lot of overtaking on track between similar cars ( Ferrari and Mercedes are close in pace) and we should see a lot of interesting strategies used by Ferrari to get ahead of Hamilton.

This might be a season where the championship is decided by Iñaki Rueda versus James Vowles, if Vettel and Hamilton keep performing at their peak.


Where is the evidence Ferrari is kinder on it's tyres other than a short stint in Australia?


Not a lot, but it has been only two races (one a atypical street circuit and the other a semi-wet race).
However i remember the general consensus after Winter Testing was that the Ferrari was kinder on the tires and stuck to the track better.


I never thought would write/say it, but...
The 2017 WCC will be decided by the less slow Finish driver xP
While the #1 drivers of Merc and Ferrari batle for WDC, their respective #2 will decide the WCC by being more consistent.


@DeWeberis... You just ROCKED our WORLD 😀
with a horrible truth at that!


Surely RedBull called in Verstappen first because they want to favour him over Riccardo.

Why else would you call in the second runner first, especially if you expected the Safety car to last enough laps to call in both cars?

Dan Ric needs to start talking to other teams now.


Maybe Daniel has enough buffer and Max doesn't! Not everything is a conspiracy!!!


That said, seeing that Verstappen was out of position and making his way through, they could have been attempting to use Max as the mule to make a decision on Ricciardo - although I do note it's usually the lead car that gets the priority on strategy. Making the first move *really* worked in last years' Spanish GP for example

Also consider what set-ups were in play: you could almost hold a mirror in a certain way on the lap chart and reflect the two stints from Ricciardo and Verstappen to make them look identical.

Never hurts for Dan to check his options anyway if he feels he gets the wrong side of these 50:50 calls.


Squigs, concern as well. Interested to see who's call it was.


Based on that graph, Bottas's pace looks very similar to Hamiltons. Vettel's looks much better than Raikkonens, though. If Bottas hadn't spun, he would have been on the podium.


Interesting read as usual James. Thank you. I thought that when Vettel stopped during the virtual car period that Ferrari had won him the race. It did not take long for that to be turned on its head but I hope that they take hearts that if not for the SC immediately after that, their call would have been the right one to make. I hope that they keep trying bold moves when required.
We still don't know for sure so far, but I believe that Ferrari seems more at ease in following a car compare to Mercedes. If that turns out to be true, it is going to be a great advantage to them. I did not realized that Bottas lost 3 places during the first round of stops due to Mercedes double stacking their drivers, of course he span as well so it becomes less important, but still that would not have helped his race.
I love these back to back race week ends. You just about digest the one race and FP1 is already around the corner. If Bahrein turns out to be as stated, a Ferrari track, we will know how well The Mercedes can follow another car. Marc


So which represented the bigger gamble - pitting under the VSC or staying out ?


Staying out for sure at the time. I guess it wasn't not a gamble as such on Mercedes' part. They might not have thought of it fast enough, although seeing Vettel go in they maybe could have called Bottas in. Marc


Thanks for your reply, although I'm not sure I agree with you - 10 drivers opted to switch tyres on lap 2 and 6 didn't, which suggests (to me at least) that it was far from a no brainer. Additionally, apart from Vettel, the highest placed driver to switch on lap 2 was P8 - this points to it being more of a gamble that appealed to those with less to lose and more to gain. With that in mind, I suspect that Ferrari knew they didn't quite have the outright pace on track to take the win (a bit like Mere knew that in Oz) so were therefore prepared to roll the dice - second place was all they would likely have got by not switching under the VSC so why not give it a try.


The change to slicks was two laps two early and therefore a gamble. Sure you could make up time in the dry bits but equaly finish your race on the damp/wet bits as demonstrated by the number of drivers who spun. Merc played it safe as they had a race pace advantage over the Ferrari on the day.


Staying out


Thanks James for the superb analysis.
My observation is that Ferrari now can really fight the Mercs as long as they get their strategy right. It will be interesting and good to watch ferrari bringing the last

Tornillo Amarillo

Bottas spun twice in the same incident, one on the track and one on the grass, this second looks really silly... or amateur.


Reminded me of a bloke I once saw driving home from the pub!


He was trying to recover quickly and not lose more positions which was a mistake because he had the 2nd spin


On the racing SIMS I use, the Torque steered spin around needed to recover from the first spin, is mind bogglingly difficult :O The more haste you do it with, worse is the result. Somewhat counter logical in a race situation to recover gently.


Ferrari did not have the guts to clear Kimi out of Seb way but then spoiled his race keeping him out to "block" Ham while in his pit window. Double standards than maybe regretted at year end as the can't afford not to maximize quickest driver in such a close battle for the championship with Ham.
Also I was surprised that Seb did not go to super soft on final stint...

Ricciardo Aficionado

Interesting to see the downward curves after the safety car. For the first couple of laps Hamilton's pace is mimicking the ones behind. When Verstappen gets past Ricciardo he keeps pace with Hamilton for a few laps until the tyres come up to speed and the Merc pulls away. Max would have been very threatening in the low grip conditions at the restart (akin to a wet track) if he'd been in second place.


More fantasies and hanker for Hamilton to be humbled.


If! If! If! If! F1 is IF spelt backwards...............

If only the Honda engine had more power..............
If only Bottas hadn't drive like a wally under the SC...........
If only the Chinese rain had held off.............
If only Max hadn't locked his front axle at the hairpin.........
If only Fernando Alonso would kindly post his salary into my bank account......

Tornillo Amarillo

Editor, why both RB looks so different in performance? I don't think is only the driver, Max drove like more easily, save when Vettel overtook him. And Ric came alive at the end.


But why in gods name Kimi did not followed the SC train but created a big gap with RIC? He gifted RIC a completely free pitstop during the SC.. Kimi is way off track it seems.


Mr Allen, a top shelf article as always thank you. Without safety car Vettel would have been a winner, history tell us Vettel has not lost the race while leading from the front.


Really? Canada '11 is the prime example, spinning off b/c of pressure from Button behind. USA12, BEL14 & TUR09 are others off the top of my head.


@GoGomobil.. last year at Canada he pretty much lost the race while pulling away at the front!!


@gogomobil; not true. he was beaten by Hamilton whilst leading the 2012 US grand prix! and there are others I don't remember now


Historyas shown...err
Think Button can kick that one over the moon.
Vettel was leading and Bingo Bango
the pressure got to him. Button went by.


Try Austin 2012, when Hamilton spend most of the race chasing Vettel and eventally got pass him when they both passed a backmarker.


Not true. Canada(Button) & US(Hamilton) & retirements to name a few


I don't think anyone would count retirements from the lead in that, unless it was because of a driver-induced accident or collision.


Seems like safety car handed a win to Merc. Without it, might have been a good battle between Vettel and Hamilton. Vettel drove brilliantly today. Awesome passes on Kimi and Ricciardo. I'd rather see those 2 passes (and Max's as well) than countless DRS passes. Worth all the pain and frustration of watching the laps before he passed them. I'm getting flash backs of Schumi watching him this year thus far.


@Bayan.. yes much better than DRS passes. I am starting to remember how it was in the old days before DRS. I used to think how horrible it must have been in Hind Sight from the DRS era.. but now I remember.. it wasnt horrible at all !


James, I really like your analysis and other articles and I enjoy reading the comment section although I very rarely comment.
In the title of this analysis you have put "Would Vettel have won..." but nowhere in the article is mentioned that he could or couldn't have won. You only say that without the safety car Vettel would have been in front after Hamiltons pit stop. That is something that we all know and I personally think that Vettel could have won. We come here to hear your personal oppinion too and lot of us would appreciate you to write an extra paragraph with your own personall oppinion of the race, with straight up YES he would've won or NO he wouldn't have won.
Thank you for all your great work.


AntonioCorleone is totally right. James we come here to hear your personal opinion too, at least that's what started many of us coming here long ago early on, so do let fly.


Ferrari's logic to keep Kimi out to hold Lewis beats common sense...he couldnt hold Max in opening stint how were they expecting Kimi (who was already struggling) to hold Lewis on fresh tyres and this is no hindsight...bunch of losers who came up with such crappy strategy and reasoning

Tornillo Amarillo

Paul di Resta was amazed how Max save the car from spinning and he show the images after the race which weren't shown before. That was really good from Max.

But what I love more from him is how careful he was in the first lap, even if he overtook easily many cars I think he was equally careful and good at the same level. Many drivers should learn from that Max-mature first lap... hope Perez and Stroll too!

So Max controlled the car twice (second time when Vettel overtook him).
Bottas lost it twice in the same incident.
Giovinazzi lost it twice in the same weekend.
Not easy.


Torni, I don't know if they still have the thermal imaging cameras for the tyres, but i would love to see a comparison between Max's tyres in the wet versus everybody elses. In Brazil he seemed to gain his advantage driving off line to find more grip, but in China he seemed to be more on the racing line. In any event, it seems the more aggressive he is, the more grip he generates.


There's a great rivalry between Merc and Ferrari at this point but I can't help but feel that one will pull away through development. Recent history would suggest that this favours Mercedes, considering Red Bull's ability to catch up and surpass the Scuderia last year. Mercedes may have a slightly more reliable car too.

Perhaps that's why Ferrari see the early points as so crucial and worthy of such risks. Mercedes on the other hand were turning down Hamilton's engine in Australia, suggesting that they're focusing on the marathon and not the sprint.


"On Lap 3, after the VSC ended, Vettel was 18 seconds behind and Hamilton needed 21 seconds to stop and retain position"

(Assuming no SC):-
It seems to me all Mercedes had to do was make up 4-5 seconds to Sebastian from Lap 3 in order to give Lewis a fighting chance at keeping track position. This means Sebastian would have to keep a time advantage to Lewis while trying to get past Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Verstappen, and importantly Bottas. I have to believe Mercedes (with the cooler race temps) would have kept the advantage, since at that point China would be reduced to about 4 qualifying laps (albeit on inters) for Lewis. I suspect Mercedes would have used Bottas as a block if they had to just to give Lewis the space he needed.

It also appears to me that the Red Bull philosophy for now is to use the "option" compound at every race, until the get some engine relief to compete at the front. Bahrain looks like the last real test for the 2017 Mercedes vs. Ferrari war before the proper European season starts (Russia will be even more crappy this year with the current reliable tires).


Flawed - cause it's already a crossover point. Lewis lost 2 sec in sector 3 alone... their lap time in sector 2 was identical - the wettest part of the circuit - more Lewis stayed out more he would have lost.


Why is the Safety Car a road car, at all?
If it causes so many problems with tires cooling on the race cars (a potential hazard in itself), shouldn't it be a bit quicker - a vehicle of some description that can keep the pack at something close to race speed when not in the yellow flag area?


What do we know about all of Kimi's complaints about being down on power at times. Was it real? Is Ferrari hushing this up. It is a big part of the story if true but nobody wants to seem to talk about it.


An obscure point, but:
What I'd like to know is, how was it that [according to the Race History graph] Hamilton gained a wodge of time over every driver across the VSC/live race/SC transition, including Vettel and Sainz even once neither had anyone close in front of them?

Heroics during the ~60seconds of green-flag racing; speeding in pursuit of the Safety Car; a glitch in the graph data; or...?


Could someone pass this message to vettel? He needs to shave clean of his face to win more races n the world title again this year.
The best part of his face is his forehead and nose. The beards jst block off his luck.


Not sure I'd call it a 'disaster' if the VSC ends while a car is in the pits. Think of it this way. For a normal, Green flag stop, the other cars are at full race speed during the entire time on pit lane. If even a part of the pit lane time is done under VSC, then it turns Green, the cars on the track have less of an advantage than the cars fully at race speed on a normal Green flag stop.

Yes, if the VSC ends, the car that is pitting gains less than the optimal advantage of the pitting during VSC. But its still better off than if it just pitted under Green at some other point in the race.


I will admit to being a LH fan. However I feel the Merc has a little break more than they are letting on.. Lewis was on top form and seemed to have an answer to all the times thrown at him. Vettel had nothing to lose so threw caution to the wind, fair shout but to then pass LH would have been a tall order.


Thanks for your comprehensive report James.

My take aways:

1. A race that just confirms that F1 can really be a lottery at times with Safety Cars, VSCs, yellow flags etc. that affect the best laid plans of mice and men or in F1's case how team strategists react to situations thrown at them.

2. How will KR and VB respond to being verballed by their respective Team Principals.

3. Who will come out on top in round 3 of DR versus MV.

4. Will Ferrari - or more to the point - will Vettel be able to beat Hamilton on a dry purpose built track and in warm conditions this coming weekend and if not do we conclude that it's business as usual.


I think Ferrari were focusing on keeping Raikkonen in front of Bottas, thats why they left him out. The Red Bulls were in front of him and driving faster anyway so there was little chance of him beating them to the podium. Raikkonen´s fresh tires at the end was also a gamble on a late safety car so he might attack a Red Bull with better tires after the field is bunched up. This theory about Ferrari using him in the hope he can hold up Hamilton for more than one straight isnt believable to me.

The Grape Unwashed

Thanks James, interesting analysis. When Vettel pitted under the VSC I felt his chance of a win was over because his slicks would turn to ice at those speeds, but your analysis shows that he would have probably still won it, presumably because it was relatively quick to heat the tyres in the two dry sectors, once the VSC ended. Obviously, one the SC came out it was simply game over.

Have to say I loved the race (that's two in a row!), but it's a shame we didn't see the two leaders go wheel to wheel. Ferrari seem to have a definite (albeit small) advantage over Mercedes in all conditions - I reckon Vettel's got it in the bag for Bahrain. But over the course of the season I still think Hamilton will edge it, it's going to be a thriller! 🙂


"They opted not to move Raikkonen out of his path and Vettel lost around 7 seconds to Hamilton as a result. This early in the season it is unusual for Ferrari to issue orders. That tends to happen only when one driver is clearly the main title challenger."

but this still makes absolutely no sense to me. If both Vettel and Kimi were competing for the win - I'd understand. But it was very clear that Vettel was faster, and had much more of a chance of a Win than kimi, who pretty much had no chance. So why not do what redbull did in monaco, and say "ok, let vettel through to have a go passing Ricciardo, if he can't, we swap you back". This would have been a totally reasonable thing to do.

instead of finishing 2nd and 5th, they could have finished 1st and 5th. It has nothing to do with it being too early in the season or whether 1 is a lead driver or another - its exactly these kind of points which could decide the title, 18 races later, whic could be decided by 7 points.
really baffling.


I hear what you are saying and found myself thinking the same during the race. But I'm glad they didn't as that would demoralize the other driver completely in my view. And I feel that Kimi would have finished even lower if they did that.

Also because they didn't call for a swap, 2 absolutely awesome passes came from it. That was F1 at its best or close to it.


Interested to know why you say the layout of Bahrain suits Ferrari.

From my own knowledge it is completely about power and traction, the Mercedes has that in abundance based on what we've seen so far.

The Ferrari is better at late braking and will be suitable for the aero tracks.


The SC clearly ruined Vettel's chances of winning this GP & it goes down to bad luck. Well done to Ferrari for taking a risk & trying that strategy to pit Vettel under a VSC - it very nearly worked. What are the chances the actual SC comes out right after? Being stuck behind Kimi & losing time didn't help either.

Seems the Ferrari is also very fast & on pace, if not faster than the Merc in a cooler climate & front load track. Can't wait for Bahrain. Them running during twilight, the temp will drop to what Melb was I'd say.


Nobody in this community understands what the vertical axis of the lap chart graph represents, starting with James Allen and including myself
But it is definitely not "the gap behind the leader". How is LH getting in front of himself?


A comfortable win for Seb without the safety car. Very fortunate for Mercedes.


Who is this aveli guy?

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