Bold strategy and flawless execution: Vettel Bahrain GP win echoes Schumacher, Brawn era Ferrari
Sebastian Vettel
Strategy Report
Posted By: James Allen  |  18 Apr 2017   |  11:43 am GMT  |  229 comments

The Bahrain Grand Prix was set to be a good acid test of the new F1 as it is generally one of the tracks with the most overtaking and we’ve seen strategy play a key part due to the way the tyres perform on this track.

This year the battle between Mercedes and Ferrari swung Ferrari’s way due to a combination of factors, including Sebastian Vettel’s very strong pace on supersoft tyres, especially in the second stint and Mercedes’ relative weakness on them; this is something we saw with the softer compounds in Australia and there is certainly a pattern emerging.

Ferrari has understood the new wider Pirelli tyres, especially the softer end of the range, better than its main rivals.

Ferrari F1

Once again Ferrari were bold on strategy and used the undercut on Mercedes. A Safety Car, which should have upset Ferrari’s strategy, as in China, immediately followed it but this time Mercedes failed to capitalise on their stroke of luck, due to a pit stop delay and then Lewis Hamilton got a time penalty.

Meanwhile there were some strong performances in midfield, especially Sergio Perez, who stuck to a set strategy and delivered a strong seventh place from 18th on the grid.

Here we will analyse in detail the big decisions, why they were made and how they created the race result.

Mario Isola, Pirelli
Pre-race considerations

This year’s race took place later than last year and the temperatures were really high until Sunday, when they fell. At the same time the wind changed direction from Friday to Saturday and Sunday, when it became a headwind on the main straight and on Sunday the wind was very strong.

As a result the information gained on Friday in FP2 was not carried though as some teams expected. Critically, Mercedes was caught out on its performance on the supersoft tyre. On Friday they thought they were okay on them, on Sunday they were outpaced by Ferrari and it played a big part in why they lost the race.

However for a team like Force India, who have a driver like Perez, who can look after the tyres while maintaining good pace, they never deviated from their belief that the tyre degradation would decrease significantly from Friday to Sunday and that a two stop plan, with the first two stints on Supersofts, was the way to go. Perez also got a slice of luck from the Safety Car.

Last year was an unusual race where many cars, including the podium finishers, all changed their strategy during the race. Normally that spells disaster and this year the drivers who changed strategy during the race certainly lost out to those who stuck to their convictions and went for it.

Sebastian Vettel
Vettel surges as a series of unfortunate events thwarts Hamilton

Last year Hamilton lost a place at the start to Nico Rosberg, who went on to win the race. This year, starting from second on the grid, he also lost a place to Sebastian Vettel, who had been disappointed to qualify third.

Bahrain is the third highest ‘start bias’ of the year, meaning that it is number three in the chart of tracks where the clean side of the grid has an advantage over the dirty side. Hamilton was on the dirty side, Vettel the clean.

Ferrari boss Maurizio Arrivabene had called on his team to be ‘coragiosa’ (bold) and the strategist Inaki Rueda again took him at his word, as in China, employing an early undercut on Bottas on Lap 10.

Mercedes could see this coming, of course, and could have pre-empted it by pitting Bottas on that same Lap 10. There was a risk for Vettel as he would be coming out into quite a bit of traffic, including Perez, Sainz and Grosjean. Mercedes saw that traffic and were hoping for one more lap to be able to pit Bottas and pre-empt Ferrari’s strike.

It was a mistake not to take it, but from there they split the strategies to try to create a compromise for Vettel with Bottas on supersofts and Hamilton on softs.

Then fate intervened again, as in China. Handed a lifeline by a Safety Car being deployed for Lance Stroll’s collision with Sainz, Mercedes had the chance to pit Bottas without losing any race time and regain the lead.

Vettel should have fallen behind him and Ricciardo, and possibly also Hamilton, who would have had to wait for service in the pit lane behind Bottas and would have lost the position to Ricciardo.

But Bottas had a slow in lap and a slow pit stop while Ricciardo was held up by Hamilton on the way into the pits, for which Hamilton was handed a five second penalty.

Safety Car Bahrain 2017

It all played into Vettel’s hands; he retained the lead behind the Safety Car. Given a second chance, Vettel took it and did the great work in the second stint that won him the race.

Bottas was up to a second a lap off Vettel on the same tyres in that second stint, which underlined Ferrari’s raw race pace and also indicated that the Mercedes was not working on the supersoft tyres.

Hamilton, on soft tyres, spent 10 laps behind Bottas in that stint from Lap 17, losing five seconds to Vettel. Once Hamilton got past Bottas on Lap 27, he was able to pull away from Bottas at eight tenths of a second per lap.

That told the Mercedes strategist James Vowles that he had to change the strategy for Hamilton and fit used softs for the final stint rather than the planned supersofts. It was yet another compromlse to add to the start, the time penalty and the slow pit stops. Fortunately they had saved that set of used softs for the race, as had Ferrari, as an insurance policy, other teams had not, including Red Bull, who were committed to a supersoft led race.

In the final stint Hamilton’s pace was very strong. And after being allowed through under orders by Bottas to mount an attack on Vettel, Hamilton cut the gap, as Vettel managed his tyres.

However the German turned the power unit up with around six laps to go, to take the sting out of Hamilton’s attack and to show that he had some margin. He held on to win the race; a great collective effort by Vettel and the team, which is why he was so happy afterwards.

It was reminiscent of a Michael Schumacher/ Ross Brawn era Ferrari victory; bold strategy, great driving and flawless team execution.

Sergio Perez
Memories of Grosjean Haas result in 2016 inform strategy decisions

One of the things that made this a good race was that Pirelli brought a tyre selection that led on the supersoft, a tyre that shows some degradation. This meant that the teams had to really think carefully about their strategy and we saw a real mixture of strategies, with the decision on whether to use soft tyres or supersoft tyres for the second and third stints split roughly 50-50. This is certainly what we want to see this year, rather than conservative selections where the likelihood is of almost no degradation and one stop strategies, where drivers finish in car performance order.

The soft may have been the better race tyre and Mercedes may have struggled on the supersofts, but some teams built their result on them.

Sergio Perez went from 18th on the grid to seventh by using a supersoft led strategy and sticking to it. The data from Friday’s practice showed the degradation to be around 0.18s per lap, but factored in that this would decrease on race day as the track improved and the coating of sand on the surface was lifted.

Perez has become one of the very best drivers at looking after the softer tyres for long stints while maintaining good pace. Here, like Vettel, he managed a 23 lap middle stint on supersofts, but unlike Vettel he was not running in free air, so it was a great performance.

He made a strong start, up to 13th, and then passed Palmer for 12th. The Safety Car also played into his hands, where he made his pit stop and he lost only 9.1 secs, compared to 21 for stopping at racing speeds.

This helped him to get past Grosjean, while Sainz and Verstappen hit problems. So Perez was ninth at the restart, behind Ericsson who was doing a one-stopper and Hulkenberg.

Hulkenberg, Perez, Bahrain 2017

Renault put Hulkenberg onto soft tyres at the pit stop under the Safety Car, giving him the option of one stopping, but it meant that Perez was able to use his pace on fresh supersofts to pass him and he made it stick by keeping the tyre alive for 23 laps, to extend the stint. Hulkenberg switched strategy and pitted again which confirmed Perez’ result. He couldn’t get close to matching his qualifying pace in the race conditions.

Williams were probably a little surprised to see how close Perez was at the end of the race. Williams had 2 new softs, which was the best race tyre overall. The Force India qualifying pace had been relatively poor so they perhaps would not have expected to be so competitive in the race.

Massa’s middle stint was compromised by being overtaken by Raikkonen and Ricciardo and his pace suffered relatively at the end of the stint despite being on the soft tyre.

Perez has been in consideration for a Ferrari seat before and drives like this will certainly revive that consideration.

Pascal Wehrlein
The alternative plan

Pascal Wehrlein marked his return to F1 action with a strong performance to finish 11th in the Sauber, which is the slowest car in the field. This was done with a one-stop strategy, starting on supersofts and then switching to softs for a 45 lap final stint. He was pitted on Lap 11, so gained nothing from the Safety Car, but by going one stop he had 24 seconds of pit stop time he would save. In a slow car like the Sauber this time bleeds away every lap, but he picked up places as the cars ahead pitted for their second stops, like Kvyat, Alonso, Palmer, Ocon and Hulkenberg. The latter two re-passed him easily, but he managed to stay ahead of Kvyat and Palmer, both of whom have much faster cars.

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

Race History Chart

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.

A positive sign is an upward curve as the fuel load burns off. A negative sign is the slope declining as the tyre degradation kicks in.

Compare the pace of Vettel and Hamilton with their team mates, again a different class. Raikkonen’s pace in the final stint is puzzling in that it is more on a par with Vettel’s.

Observe also how Perez manages to keep the pace going for a long middle stint on supersofts to keep ahead of Hulkenberg on softs.

Bahrain GP 2017

Bahrain GP 2017

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Great analysis James...just a question even if its not related to the arcticle...i read somewhere that ferrari after changing components on both cars engine on friday, has opted to turn down its engine for the rest of the weekend as a precotion..thats why they where loosing 3 th is sec that true ? And if it is what does that mean to the rest of the season? And other circuits!!


EA_23, forget the rest of the season my friend.
Ted Kravitz has reported Ferrari to Charlie for flexing floors, and Charlie promised him he would "look into it"

I was under the impression that only competitors can report other competitors to the stewards, but there you go. Now it's more than likely Ferrari will be disqualified and their 2 wins cancelled and maybe even have to sit out the rest of the year.

So much for Brawn, Schumacher and the rest of it ....... 🙂 🙂


Very interesting.... I hadn't heard anything regarding Ferrari's flexing floor prior to today.

If there are generating downforce from under the car rather than over the upper surfaces it would explain why they Vettel is able to follow closely in another cars turbulent air seemingly without any detrimental effect on his tyres.


Only competitors can protest to Stewards in a race weekend

Anyone can flag anything up to Charlie and he can look into it. He can then issue a Technical Directive, or if there is still doubt a competitor can protest at a GP meeting


Personally for me it seems unlikely. Reason is the geuine surprise from Vettel when he realized he is 0,5 sec from pole. In the first two races he was around 0,2 sec off and here it was 0,5. Unless he is a great poker player


I wonder why Vettel's pitstops are every time 0,6 s faster that Räikkönen's. It has to bother Kimi too. Vettel's pitstops are in top 3 when Kimi's stops are not even in top 10.


Good point, still doesn't justify Kimi's inability to pass the Red Bulls on track or only showing pace towards the end of the race or not be able to qualify side by side with Vettel. This could cost Ferrari and Vettel both the championships this season.


And before there's anymore theories of Ferrari fouling up the second car with antics in the pitlane or within the team, I would just like to re-state something Jean Todt had said before back when he was the boss at Ferrari: "If that was really our goal, surely it would be more cost effective simply not to run the second car."


Do the same people do the pit stops for VET and RAI? If not, could it be that VET's mechanics work harder and have better relationships with VET, than RAI's?


Same crew does both cars pitstops


The driver has a big impact on this as well, could be that Vettel is better at stopping in the exact precise spot so the pit guys don't need to shift their position at all. Just being off by an inch or two can make a big difference.


Lol, Kimi has been doing this since Vettel was still in short trousers, he knows where to stop.
What is of more concern is the calibre of his race engineer and his chief mechanic. I don't know why on earth that should be, but Kimi does not seem to be served by the best on his side of the garage....


Good point


Is this information based on just this year's pit stops? If so, we're talking about a sample of maybe 4 to 6 pit stops.

I agree. If this is the case, it sure makes one want to know why.


a sample size of 6 is almost certainly statistically significant


James – Great analysis. Are we seeing more aero on the cars hurts Mercedes tyres? It reminds me before the new turbo era around 2013 when the Merc was an aggressive tyre eater. They were also fast on one lap qualifying back then as they are now.

Also its been reported Hamilton had a DRS problem on his final Q3 lap which cost him around 2 tenths, would’ve made him around 6 tenths faster than Vettel in the Ferrari. That’s some serious pace, but are we again seeing the tyre eater appearing and costing Merc heavily in races this year? It seems like the same Achilles heel for Merc.


Hamilton lost this race on Saturday by qualifying behind Bottas. Not only did he get stuck behind Bottas on Sunday but also Vettel. At pretty much no point in the race was Hamilton slower than Vettel by any significant margin (much faster at times), which suggests track position ultimately decided the victor as their race pace was evenly matched.
Credit MUST be given to the Ferrari strategy team (which hasn't really deserved much of it over the last few years) for their brilliant aggressive move and catching out Merc. Merc should have asked Hamilton to follow Vettel into the pits to minimise Vettel's lead over Hammilton (and hope to perform an undercut later) because regardless of what Bottas did after Vettel pitted they had already lost P1. They did not and suffered the consequences.
It is looking like Merc have lost the edge on sharp strategic thinking by having a large amount of flexibility afforded to them by the significant performance advantage over the rest of the field in recent times. Ferrari on the other hand have re-learned this skill over the last few years by missing that ONE race winning opportunity on too many occasions and the difference is now showing.
Can't wait to see how this strategic battle will (likely) play out this year!


Good point. 3 races and 3 inferior strategic calls by Merc. They only got lucky in China. Hamilton showed the pace to win all 3 races by a slight margin but the difference was always in the strategic choices they made.


I don't think you can blame Merc's strategy calls. Ferrari have just had the better hand of cards to play in each race, owing to their race pace and tire management.


But Bottas had a slow in lap ...

Are you saying that he was a lot slower than the SC delta would've allowed, or just that his pace on that lap was bad before the SC was called? There were yellows at turn 4 for Max's off of course (not sure if they were DWY's).

I would've liked to have seen Hamilton's pace on the SS if he was leading. He was able to close on Bottas easily after Vettel pitted.


I was hoping for an answer to this. Was Bottas slower than his delta allowed? Major error if so. Or, perhaps he wanted to back Hamilton up, knowing Hamilton would be compromised in the pits.

I'd really like to know the reason for his slow lap. Anyone got the reason?


"The number of laps is on the horizontal axis; the gap behind the leader is on the vertical axis."

I don't think this is correct. If the vertical axis is not the gap behind the leader as it would be zero for the person leading the race, which it is not. More likely is the delta to some average or predetermined race run time?

Aurelio Lampredi

I think the Y axis is the lap time difference of every car versus a theoretical car that ran the whole race lapping the average time of the leader. I don't know if I'm being clear enough: You add the lap times of the leader of the race (in this race there were several leader, so you'd add the lap times of BOT when he was leading, then HAM, then VET and so on) and you divide that time by the number of laps. If a theoretical car would race doing this same lap time all the laps, it would finish in the same position it started. By plotting the times of all the other cars against this theoretical car, you can see the differences in pace by measuring the slop of every car. If you take a look at last year's race graphics you'll see that every race a driver (usually a Mercedes driver) led from start to finish, the line that represents the lead driver started and finished at the X axis. The graphics that show the gap behind the leader have a straight line at the top and a bunch of lines squiggling underneath the leader's line. I hope I'm making myself clear. ( :


It does indeed show the time from a theoretical car travelling constantly at the average speed of the winning car. The problem is the vertical axis is mislabelled - the horizontal line that lines up with Vettel on the last lap should be time zero. You can then see that Lewis is about five seconds behind, and then another 15 or so to Bottas, which should be labelled plus 20 .


"I think the Y axis is the lap time difference of every car versus a theoretical car that ran the whole race lapping the average time of the leader. "

Alas, your explanation doesn't fit -- Vettel is shown as -35 units at the end of the race, yet there is no way he gained a total of 35 seconds on whoever was leading during the laps he was not himself leading.

What these graphs _used_ to show in years past, but which has not been the case so far this year, is the distance in time behind a car lapping at what turned out to be the winner's mean average lap speed (though note this may have been reset for some or all safety-car periods). But this isn't happening either, else Vettel, as winner, and noting he's been brought back to zero by the end of the safety car period, would be shown on the graph to finish at 0 units.

For this year, so far it's a mystery, as the winner is shown finishing approx 30, 35, and 35 units ahead of the zero line for the first three races, respectively.


A-P, my feeling is that the zero line is (lately) set to a slower average pace to see the slope differences throughout the whole field more clearly. When using the average pace of the race winner, the midfield's and back markers' graphs would all run steeply downward, making it more difficult to see any pace differences in the midfield pack. What pace exactly is used as a baseline remains a mystery though.


@James - Kindly Clarify the Vertical Axis.

I was also wondering like @Aurelio, if the vertical axis shows gap to the leader, then why is the "Leader'(s)" Graph also showing movement? What is the lead driver's graph movements moving "against"?

Is the explanation given by @Aurelio the answer?


It's not as complex as that. The zero line is simply representative of the race winner's average pace (hence why the winner starts and ends the race on the zero line). So it's winning race time divided by number of laps. The graph is then a plot of the delta of the cumulative lap times of all the cars against the pace of this imaginary car running at the winner's average pace lap after lap.


Hello Craig D,
can you please explain why the winner, Vettel, didn't finish on the zero line on this graph ? Your explanation is right for Rosberg in China 2016 (

The 2 races had 4 laps of SC inBahrein 2017 and 6 laps of SC in China 2016.
I assume the winner finishes way of the zero line when the following factors meet
1. There are different race leaders that influence the average race winner time because
2. Average race winner lap time =SUM (race_leader x number_of_laps) / total_number_of_laps as per @Aurelio Lampredi above
3. The SC drops the lap times very much during that period if the circuit is a slow one (Bahrein vs China's long straights). In China 2016, after the SC Rosberg improved by 5 seconds only the lap time by laps 17-19 with respect to the SC period and the average race winner lap.

Thank you in advance


You're right. I hadn't noticed the winner was no loner finishing at zero. Maybe they are taking the current's leaders times as you say?


Hello Craig D,
here's the answer from WilliamsF1 regarding the plotted graph for this article
" wrote:
Dear Daniel,
Thank you for your email.
It is the time gaps between cars during the race, it’s derived from the cumulative laptime vs a reference laptime.

Kind regards,
Williams F1"

When asking them about how that reference time was computed they closed the subject as follows

Dear Daniel,

We won't go into any further detail regarding our analysis, thank you for your interest in Williams

Kind regards,
Williams F1"


That was true last year - this season it looks different - Vettel won but his line does not finish on zero.


This is how i understand it as well, but you have explained it far better than i could have 🙂


James, how much is true of Fernando Alonso's supposed statement to the Spanish press that when he finds himself out of the points at the end of races he will retire the car (even if car is OK)?

Surely this cannot be good for McLaren internal team morale?


A great driver, but bad work ethics (from what I can tell from outside anyway), keeps slagging off Honda, biting the hands that feeds him, always leaves a team on a sour note. We already have a great and exciting line up of drivers in HAM, VET, VER, RIC (not in order), so Alonso is welcome to leave now and go chase his ambition of becoming the greatest driver in the world.


I actually thought the veteran Beard was worthy of Driver of the Day, for another battling performance in a car-engine package that has no right to be scrapping for points.

He may be fed up/in despair/dismayed/resigned/mentally beaten outside of the car, but when strapped in the cockpit Alonso always tries his damn hardest in any given situation, even when that situation is hopeless. You can't fault the Beard when it comes to effort - he always tries hard on the track, every apex, of every corner, of every lap.

His talent is being wasted because of Honda incompetence unfortunately, but what can you do? Force Honda at gun point to make a competitive engine?


I'm surprised that this has come up now.
I've thought Alonso has been doing this for more than a season, at this point; I assume that he'd rather have a dnf show, rather than his actual placing, well out of the points.
If you look at it from a historical perspective, when one might cumulate the overall average for 'races finished', Alonso will be boosting his career stats by NOT finishing due to 'DNF's.


He doesn't care about stats just wins and titles. Jenson had a lot of failures last year also. I think what is happening makes hence by this logic, I believe that the Honda engine is so poor that they cannot actually compete except barely on street tracks. It lacks power, reliability, and is fuel hungry. So at the start of the race they run it high just to be able to even race in the hope that they can win by attrition in the early races. If they get passed they have no means to overtake again because just to even be where they are they've been running the engine too high to have enough fuel to complete the race. It's a pointless exercise in failure. When they get overtaken do they turn the engine up and blow the whole thing even though they're underpowered and underfueled? Just look at yesterday...a full day practice session and mclaren ran one car, had to come in after 2 laps, took all day to fix it, and finally came out in the last hour. They finished with I think 1/4 the total laps of any other team and far from the top teams. This on a track they ran on for the last 3 days. This is a joke.


They say all sorts of things

In my opinion he retired as he was going to run out of fuel again having pushed hard to race when others were fuel saving and Honda is thirsty anyway

Just my hunch


I think I recall Alonso complaining about halfway through the race, and the reply was basically 'Do what you want'. I think they are just letting him drive and enjoy himself (as much as possible anyway) knowing that if they manage fuel consumption to finish they will be out of the points anyway.


It's so sad to see ALO not having a car to race


Whatever! I don't feel sorry for Alonso one bit! He made his bed! If he didn't have such a bad attitude he could still be a Ferrari today!


Do you think Alonso would have managed another 3 years of failure at Ferrari as well..the car has come good now...but look at 15 or 16 it was same old story and 14 car was awful.
After what Alonso did for Ferrari I don't see him having any faith in them.
Vettel had one good season in 15 and last year when things went downhill look at his attitude and then compare it to alonso over 5 seasons. I think you need to rethink your opinion towards alonso. He was a one man force. I still feel in 2012 he almost pulled off one of the biggest upset win but it wasn't to be...Nor lewis, or Vettel has the grit to match the quality of that season in an inferior car. Alonso did basically more than stats there are other characteristics that reveal about a driver. This is coming from a Kimi fan. Alonso is the best driver in F1 since Schumacher.


Vettel scored 3 wins for Ferrari in 2015...


BS, Mattiacci didn't even try to keep him, and was badmouthing him after everything he did for Ferrari. He would have stayed if they had shown him a solid plan for the future. Mattiacci was a disaster.


It's awful

F1 is missing so much with him skulking at the back


Well, he needs to take some of the blames for this too. I personally rate him better than LH and SV. However, he left McLaren on bad terms the first time, which possibly cost him 1 championship at least, then he terminated his contract early with Ferrari that possibly making him more depressed now. To top it all off, his team didn't do a good enough to job to secure him the second Mercedes seat as soon as Rosberg announced his retirement. So, yes it's a shame and F1 missed the best of one of its greatest talents due to series of his own mistakes.


rate him better than LH and SV

I'm not saying you're wrong (although I don't share that opinion) but if Alonso is so great, then why do all the top teams consistently deny themselves access to his talent? Why did McLarn and Ferrari let him walk?


Thanks James! My hunch too.

(If true) Great to see them flooring it to at least put up show rather than fuel saving


Aha! So even you doubt thier fuel left being enough.

But regarding the question @Deancassady asked, what specific career stat can get boosted by having DNF's compared to such lowly positions?

The average finishing place right? or something more?


So now we're comparing Vettel to Schumi after 3 races? Schumacher never got trounced by a teammate the way Vettel did at RB. Hamilton was quicker but was compromised, and I'm not even a Hammy fan! The SC saved Vettel, gifted him P1. Merc strategy was amateurish. They should have covered Vettel pitstop right away.


Hamilton's pace was faster because Vettel was managing his gap. He knew he had won the race with the 5 sec penalty added up...


How do you figure that the safety car helped Vettel? Schumi did get beaten during his time at Mercedes with Rosberg. That does not change his stellar record just as Vettel records will hardly be overshadowed by his loosing to Ricciardo in 2014. Marc


Oh, god! Here we go with the Vettel/Schumacher thing again! The only similarities they share is that they're German!


then you did not study their path...almost identical to the T


If the plan was to not win, and Lewis slow start and Bottas high pressure were not enough, why undercut? Why not wait and have a wheel gun problem instead during pit stops to ensure Ferrari are given a chance to win it?


The safety car meant the merc of bottle lost less time in pits then normal but vettel go ahead. Hardly saved vettel did it. Also after 8 seasons, 44 wins and 4 wdc I think the comparisons are allowed.


Vettel hardly got 'trounced' at RB.
This distorted pro-Ricciardo chorus, seems systematic.
No one ever talks about Ric getting 'trounced' the following season by Kvyat, which by your use of the word, he did.


Well said. Being a multi WDC makes you an easy target + bigger news.


Meh. You should hear the other choruses we get subjected to. They're longer and they're louder.


Maybe not trounced, but he was soundly beaten (which carries extra weight given the number of championships that Vettel had under his belt at the time).

As for 2015, there is so much more context than what the final championship standings suggest. The car was a dud, the PU was still a Renault and Ricciardo had multiple retirements when running comfortably ahead of Kvyat.


Smee's comment is a bit distorted, I have seen other similar comments. I am a Vettel fan, but I give credit to Ricci when he beat Vettel. It is true Kvyat beat him too, but it was different and less damaging than in Seb's case. However, I don't pay too much attention to Vettel's defeat, that year was a one off for Seb, a four time champion can do better in different circumstances. This year we deal with a different car and as Mark Webber said, when the car is really fast is where Vettel is king, thriving and enjoying the drive.


Webber would say that. His performance in his last 3 seasons was appalling. It is easier for him to talk Vettel up than look in the mirror.


Glad you think so from the comfort of your sofa. As Mark himself once suggested in an infamous press conference, "Keep digging..."


Vettel was a 4-time WDC, and got out scored by RIC 238 - 167. That's an ass-kicking in my book. Following year it was 95-92 KVY-RIC, in my reality that's a margin of error.


Smee, what about 385-380?


You conveniently forget that Vettel wanted to go to Ferrari and had a performance clause in his contract with Red Bull. He didnt perform so that he could make the switch


Didn't you realize that Vettel's car had many mechanical issues which skewed the results. Credit to Ric, but that car isn't a championship-winning car, it was awful & Vettel saw it & his mind was already towards Ferrari.


Yes Smee, the comparisons are like chalk and cheese.


You are repeating yourself, read my comments, it is exactly what you are stating excepting the tone. Vettel IS a 4-time champ, probably a 5-time one if Ferrari keep developing the car and luck is on his side too. Is Ricci on Vetel level? I enjoy and follow both, but for me Vet is a notch above. Above all.


*182 races, 43 of which are with Ferrari.


Can you explain how did the SC save Vettel and not Mercedes? Under normal race conditions without the SC Mercedes after their pit stops would have came at least 6 if not 10 seconds behind Vettel as he was 3 seconds a lap faster than Bottas, 2 seconds in the middle sector alone. Even if Mercedes went on a 1 stop Vettel needed 5 more laps to catch up with them on track with 1 pit stop more. Clearly Mercedes made a mistake to not react right away with 1 of their cars in the next lap, but they got lucky with the SC and lost about 10-15 seconds only and than got in the train behind the SC and were up in Sebs gearbox at the restart. So tell me your oppinion now?


The SC nearly cost Vettel again!
If there wasnt one he would have been long gone


I think the SC nearly cost Vettel...If it didnt happen he would of been long gone.


Ummm... no it really wasnt like that at all. Vettel went for the undercut and by the time he finished his out lap he was inside of Bottas's pit window and gaining something like 1-2s per lap if I remember right from someone's analysis post race. The safety car would have completely neutralized this were it not for two slow Mercedes pitstops with Bottas being held due to traffic and Hamilton playing games on pit entry trying to make sure he had a gap since he was second in line. It then gave them the opportunity to re-join right on his gearbox when the action re-started at the end of the safety car period. With the way the Ferrari was running, had there been no safety car, Bottas would have likely come out several seconds behind Vettel and Hamilton would have potentially come out behind or at least been still tangled up with Verstappen, and Raikkonen would have potentially been in play as well. A safety car within a few laps of pitting almost never benefits the car that just pitted.


Had they reacted right away and pitted Hammy, he might have jumped Vettel or at at least would have come out right behind him, and I think he showed that he had great pace. He would have pushed Vettel and either passed him on track or at the next pit stop. But we'll never know. Slow to react, a slow pit stop, and a 5 sec. penalty and the damage was done.


Definitely wouldn't have jumped - Seb was between 2 to 3 seconds faster per lap. Rest, we can argue and argue and argue - we will never know.


Lap 13 - first full lap post pitting - 2.5 seconds


Gravity, when was Seb 2 to 3 seconds faster?!


Lap 12 not 13 - see the post above with screenshot


Gravity, ok I see that, only one lap though.


That's cause that's the only lap he had post undercut and pre safety car... in the previous lap (11) he took more than a second off in just one sector.. this is in context to claim that Lewis could have come out ahead without safety car. Impossible


Gravity, he couldn't have run two sets of softs, he already fitted the supersofts at his stop! Just ignore that bit......


Gravity, the undercut would have worked without the safety car, but a good chance of getting jumped by one or both Mercs if there stops hadn't been slow though. I guess if there was no S/C he may have had to run two sets of softs to prevent being vulnerable at the end, but that wasn't a bad thing as it turned out the soft was a better race tyre than the supersoft. The Ferrari was quick, Seb drove well, was always going to be tough for Merc to keep him behind.


Yes, Merc was given a lifeline with safety car like in China - they wasted it... I don't think Lewis would have jumped him though given they had to double stack and we know that with a slow pit stop (but not twice slow) Bottas came behind him. Ignoring your soft tyre comment


Maybe if Ferrari would have issued a team order for Vettel to let Hamilton past, otherwise no chance. Hamilton didnt even get close enough to Vettels Ferrari when they were bunched up behind Bottas in the first stint to try to overtake him. Hamilton couldnt overtake his team mate who was a second slower without a call from Toto so how would he have overtaken Vettel who was as fast if not faster than him ?

More likely Verstappen without the brake failure would have jumped both Merc drivers with his own undercut and then Bottas and Hamilton would have been stuck behind Max for some laps while Vettel would be way out in front increasing his lead.


Forget about all subjective parts, if you understand the math you will never say safety car benefited Seb - it takes 23 seconds for normal stop and lot less with safety car.


How is it that it take less time to pit under a SC? I know it is not what you meant but to be clear pit time does not change, it is just that the cars on track are going around at a slower pace during a SC so advantaging someone pitting during that period. Marc


Marc - you are right - I should have been clearer!


Hammy's 1st pit stop was not "a lot less" than 23 sec., a slow pit stop for Bottas, plus he slowed down coming in for his own pitstop, plus the 5 sec. penalty. You do the math.


Every single thing you have listed are driver / team errors - not because of safety car - safety car gave them an opportunity/ neutralized Seb's undercut which Merc wasted.


Slow pit stop - Merc mistake; slow in lap - Bottas mistake; 5 sec penalty - Lewis's mistake - none of them are because of safety car. Safety car negated Seb's undercut but Merc missed to capitalise the opportunity - get it why it did not benefit Seb?


Those pitstop errors were exactly because of the SC, otherwise they wouldn't have brought in both cars together, hence no delay at the stop and no 5 sec penalty. Merc should have brought Hammy in right after Vettel's pitstop to cover him. If they had, it would have been a different ending.


Wow!! Very rational 👌


After his first pit stop Hamilton driving the car no 44 had exactly 44 laps to stop Vettel from claiming his 44th victory 🙂




what do you think of Perez's chances of taking Kimi's seat at Ferrari in 2018?


I would like to see Carlos rather Perez.


"what do you think of Perez's chances of taking Kimi's seat at Ferrari in 2018?"
My answer - Somebody has to. Poor Kimi needs to be put out of his misery. Seriously, i don't know about 2018, if he doesn't turn it round soon, it might be another payout to him from Ferrari before we reach half way of 2017. No, they need a younger


South Amercia would come alive again if Perez gets the Ferrari seat next year 😀 I Can imagine that "basketball stadium" grand stand bit every time he goes by in Red. They will See RED 😀

Fiat and Abarth sales would go through the roof I would imagine in Mexico. I wonder if they do so in Finland and Germany though.

But on a separate note, I would love to experience that amphitheatre like grand stand once in person. Maybe a trip to Mexico / Peru combined and the Mayan temples!


Mexico is in North America.
Mexican stars aren't exactly seen as heros in South America.


Mexico is in North America.


Woah! My sub concious pondering on wanting to travel to South america and adding the mayan ruins from Mexico in the same itinerary has made me club Mexico into South America 😀

My bad!! 😛


It could be good, now that Vijay mallya has been arrested in London. Vijay will be sent to India and maybe a court trial. Where will this leave Force India🤔


Answer: with a better colour scheme? I think black and white stripes would suit!


I hear orange is the new pink, and with an orange colour scheme we know that he won't be going anywhere fast 😉


Depends where they keep it and how good the security is.


Nice one!


LOL, I would vote this "comment of the day"


I think that will be good move for Ferrari. Actually, why not in 2017!!


2017? I don't think so, Ferrari is loyal and passionate about their people. 50-50 Kimi will drive in 2018. If he performs decently this year to give Ferrari the titles, Vettel may push again to retain Kimi (a friend in need...). KR said he would like to stay with Ferrari/F1 beyond 2017.


There is no way in hell Kimi stays at Ferrari next year unless he gets one win minimum. Perez is exactly what Ferrari would normally go for. I think they'd even take Jenson over Kimi. Kimi can't qualify fast and now he can't overtake well. There is no way back if you're missing both. I think they'd pick Perez over Sainz. Maybe contract status might determine things.


Vijay had been arrested in London. Could this be the downfall of FI??


Arrested and released like a FI pitstop under safety car conditions


Arrested and released within minutes


I heard! The Indian authorities finally got their hands on him!


Not arrested - its court case for extradition that started yesterday- I don't think that matters at least now.


Could you send the code for the gp predictor to nick h?

Ricciardo Aficionado

A Schumacher-esque drive from Vettel then.
I was listening to the radio the other day when the sports bulletin lead with... Four time World Champion Sebastion Vettel has won the Bahraini Grand Prix... It suddenly reminded me of the record this guy has in F1. When I first heard "4x" I immediately envisioned Prost, then remembered he was an old and retired legend.
We are priveliged this year to witness two giants of F1 go head to head. People say it's taken a long time to come around but so does the accumulation of 7 world titles.
James, is Ferrari's race pace based entirely on their soft tyre advantage? Or is the PU and/or chassis superior to the Merc?


Well said.....
I think Ferrari has all round good car this year and its not like Ferrari has advantage on softer spec tyres. It seems more like Merc being at disadvantage with softer tyres.
I guess races with harder tyres will suit Merc better.


2017 is a re-run of 2008, when Lewis Hamilton is paired with a slower Finnish team-mate, and is driving a slightly slower silver car against the mighty Crimson Tidal Wave, one of which is driven by Kimi Raikkonen who himself is slower than his team-mate.

What a coincidence! Hopefully come Spa, the Belgian stewards won't be quite as biased as they were in 2008!


yeah the only difference is Crimson Tidal Wave is driven by ruthless shark instead of a mild mannered chap


Sorry 3 retirements for Massa. 4 for Heikki. As it turns out, it was really Hamilton's lucky year. Marc


5 retirements for Kimi that year vs 2 for Massa and 1 for Hamilton did not help Kimi's cause that particular year. Marc


Slightly slower silver car - not really!


well said.


Read it twice 🙂 Thx


Certainly, Bahrain was a good strategy play by the Ferrari team once again showing a fast car really makes any strategy work

Yes, with the ultra soft tyres plus supersoft tyres, Ferrari can beat their rivals either with the undercut or overcut because they're faster on them plus can make them last longer.

Mercedes had some issues with the pitstop and then a penalty for Lewis, however, this is usually a result of the pressure cooker effect due to close racing.

Whereas Mercedes were slower on the supersofts, it appears Red Bull are slower on the harder tyres such as softs etc

Regards Perez, it's great for Force India that the tyres are not rock solid therefore drivers who are easy on tyres such as Perez can still make a difference.


I don't think the overcut is faster for any car.

It only appeared to work in Oz as Lewis gapped Seb easily with the undercut until he was stuck behind Max and couldn't overtake on that track and even then it was close when Seb eventually exited the pits.

I suppose the same could be said if the undercut brought the undercutter back into midfield traffic though the gap between Mercedes/Ferrari and the pack is so great the fresh air is there and they're unlikely to have to mix it with McLaren or Sauber etc after any stop.

Still think Lewis has the faster car but he has trouble managing dirty air and overtaking where tyrewear is similar and the Merc PU can't blast him past on a long straight. Perhaps Merc will start turning their engines up a bit, not to Q3 levels, but up a bit for the races as well, helping them win the in season development race.


Meanwhile, thanks to Kimi being assertive with his side of the garage on strategy, this could have possibly won him 4th in the results thereby helping the team take back the lead in the constructor's


good observation, likely correct; perhaps that is why Marcionne, in a press release after the GP, also mentioned Kimi doing a good job, as opposed to (from past trend) again suggesting that he was not performing.


@ deancassady

Yes, as long as Kimi makes Sergio happy, the new contracts will keep coming in


So safety car worked AGAINST Vettel for the 2nd time in a row but this time he came out on top. Coulthard said during the podium interviews that SC worked FOR him, not against. Guess he was wrong 🙂


I think DC was alluding to the fact that some of us believed Mercedes were one stopping in Bahrain. They knew on the super-soft compound their drivers were no match for Ferrari but that one stop race strategy would benefit them in the end. That would explain why both Mercedes drivers NEVER pitted between lap 10 to lap 13 to cover Sebastian and Max even though they were SUBSTANTIALLY slower than the lead Ferrari and Max (who had just set the best sector one time before he lost his brakes). When looked at in that light the SC actually erased about 15 seconds of time between Mercedes and Sebastian, plus it forced the Mercedes to double stack which is always a risky proposition when your cars were running less than a second apart. remove that SC car and all of a sudden, the Mercedes strategy looks good if they believed their pace on soft tires was more comparative to Ferrari.


Absolutely- I couldn't believe Coulthard would say something so stupid...



Odd thing to say


Most of DC's comments don't have much depth or logic behind it.

Off th topic question, could you please do an article about potential up and coming drivers that deserve a drive in F1, but missing out because of paid drivers. Perez must be th best paid driver in the history.

Is Palmer a paid driver? His seat certainly up for grabs next season, right?


execpt Stroll I don't consider anyone on the grid as a pay driver they all are there due to talent and merit. Stroll is out of place in F1


Can someone please explain. I'm reading the rules and I can't find the answer. When the safety car is deployed, do drivers need to slow down immediately or only when they catch the SC?

If they don't need to slow down immediately, SC should actually be an advantage for Vettel. Like in Singapore 2008 when Alonso pitted, SC was out a couple of laps later and he took the lead.


39.7 All competing cars must reduce speed and form up in line behind the safety car no more than
ten car lengths apart. In order to ensure that drivers reduce speed sufficiently, from the time
at which all teams have been sent the “SAFETY CAR DEPLOYED” message via the official
messaging system until the time that each car crosses the first safety car line for the second
time, drivers must stay above the minimum time set by the FIA ECU at least once in each
marshalling sector (a marshalling sector is defined as the section of track between each of the
FIA light panels)

Essentially they have to catch up to the SC under similar rules to those applied to the VSC.


I think it is more of a technical issue. You cannot have a safety car with out yellow flags. So in a sense the yellow flags dictate your TIMED (I believe F1 prefers to use times not speed) so as to demonstrate you are respecting the safety requirements for the marshals, fellow contestants and the event that triggered the incident. In most cases a double yellow will precede the SC so you are required to really slow down.


It was hilarious when he said it and there was that little awkward moment. I feel like Sebastian is one of those drivers that is extremely aware of his race even inside the car... his explanations always seem to be on point, so long as Kvyat isn't involved.


Agree Cheesy, I'm not his biggest fan, but Seb is most definitely the most F1 intelligent driver in the field. From what ive seen he is technically very diligent and his knowledge of F1 history is awesome (i saw him in a quiz once). I definitely think he will make a pretty formidable team principal after his driving days...


Ferrari executed the strategy flawlessly for Vettel but sabotaged Kimi's race again. Why they kept Kimi running with worn tyres? To keep him in Hamilton's pit window even though Vettel was already in Hamilton's pit window with fresh tyres and better pace? I'm talking about laps 34-36 here.


The lead car gets the optimal strategy. If Kimi doesn't want to be VETs rear gunner he should out qualify him and make every effort not go backwards at the start. He is his own worst enemy.


If Kimi was pitted early he would come out behind Perez, Massa & Riccairdo


a clear trend.


Now that was an interesting read James.
It was a great race, and one gets a little wiser after reading your strategy reports. Great strategy from Ferrari. Merc seemed to be caught napping this time. Both Lewis and Bottas seemed a little dejected after the race, like they thought it was in the bag after their qauli performance. Game on, Merc have to reply in kind in Russia. Can't wait👏


'Raikkonen’s pace in the final stint is puzzling in that it is more on a par with Vettel’s.'

Well I suppose that was the one stint that he ran in clean air for the entirety, so not so surprising. His poor start cost him dear.


In the last stint Vettel was cruising while Kimi was not.


The thing is, RAI could seek clear air faster too, but he's prone to the "follow-the-leading-duck-syndrome" He needs to watch Verstappen and Alonso footage. Search other drivelines, if you're faster, and dive when possible. This years tyres allow you to do this a few times without a too big penalty if it doesn't work


Yep, I don't disagree.


Sometimes a car that is mishandling at the start of the race, will come back to you as the fuel load lightens.


I think Mercedes was looking to one stop with both cars , similar to what they did last year in Australia and Canada.
Unfortunately early safety cars in China and Bahrain made sure Mercedes also had to pit early.
We have not yet seen the real winner of a two stopping aggressive Ferrari vs One stopping Mercedes cars.


Dear James and all,
Apart from all the discussion about overtakings, undercut, etc., could it be that DRS zones are anticipated by more metres in the straights making them a bit longer? Anyone is free to answer and enlighten me more. Thanks.

Torchwood Mobile

Hi Hermann

If I understand your question correctly, because the flaps open and close within the zones, I don't think the zone is made longer, regardless of the topography / layout of the race track.



Could Lewis have stayed out on his supersofts for say 25 laps or so when everyone else pitted at the safety car and then do just the one pit stop for the softs for the remainder of the race?


No, Merc were in difficulty on the tyres, simple as


Bottas had issues, Lewis seemed better composed.
Chosing an alternative strategy is preferred over stacking cars, IMHO
He would've had issues to keep Vettel behind him though, but I guess there was a minimal opportunity without too much of a risk: Only Ferrari is/was a real threat. I guess he could've raced on for 10 laps and have gone for a single-stop later on.


Inclined to agree. Not saying they would have won but basing all ss and us decisions on Bottas pace smacks of rather silly frankly.
An example would be first stint Australia.

Ricciardo Aficionado

Bottas' graph looks like a pretty despondent worm after the second set of team orders. I hope he can pick himself up again.


It may be tough for the despondency and team order/strategy confidence to improve.

Then again, if he takes on Seb and helps Lewis to the title asap then he'll have a good shot at winning whatever races remain in the season...


A superbly defined analysis thank you Mr Allen, lots things can happen but some how is doubtful Ferrari will be headed this season on, funny, one may say Mercedes in 2016 had sail by because due to the management of theirs tyres ? 2017 different kettle of fish huh. I remember well when Mr Ross Brawn departed Marinello his words were they have some very smart guys in that joint,

Alex Supertramp

Lewis needs to outqualify Bottas, who definitely has great pace over a lap. This is a man who outqualified Massa, no saturday slouch, by 17-4.
Ferrari wil continue to undercut Mercedes and Mercedes cannot afford to have Bottas in front, since he's not able to pull the necessary gap to Vettel to offset the undercut.

Ferrari might have won 2 out of 3, but Merc is working hard on tyre management and they are still king on saturday. Track position is as key as ever. I predict many more Merc 1-2's on saturday, decent starts on Sunday (Lewis' start was actually pretty good Sunday, Vettel had the better inside line and could brake much later), and the second Merc to play rear gunner.


Bottas 17-4 in 2016 was better than 2015 when it was 11-8 and 2014 when he beat Massa 13-6.

It says a lot that Bottas, in races finished together, was much poorer against Massa:
2016 Bottas 9-7, 2015 Bottas 7-8, 2014 - Bottas 7-8,

plus Massa was significantly poor in the second half of 2016 qually and race.

Alonso v Massa was a lot more telling:
2010, Q 15-4, Races both cars finished 13-4
2011 Q 15-4, Races 13-2
2012 Q 18-2, Races 17-0...
2013 Q 11-8, Races 15-1.

11 wins to nil.

...better stop now before I go full goferet 😉


I believe Vettel passed Hamilton around the outside of the corner?

Anyway, to the main point, I'm not sure if you were watching F1 back in 2003 but Ferrari did not dominate qualifying.

That year, more often, you'd find Montoya's Williams on pole. Ferrari followed till the stops and inevitably jumped them.

This was even more obvious in 2004 when Button's BAR mixed it up with Ferrari throughout the year. I still remember well that yea's San Marino GP where Jenson led and the commentators spoke of a possible win.

In he came, Schumacher pumped in two fastest laps and pitted; he returned several seconds ahead and cruised to the victory.

If Mercedes is struggling with tyres, pole position won't make much of a difference unless Bottas is willing to sacrifice every race.

For years Ferrari has been too kind to its tyres, struggling to get heat into them for qualifying and couldn't find a solution.

Mercedes has had the good fortune to be dominant during 2014-16 so hat they could mask any problems but even with the 'great' Schumacher (2010-12) they found no solution to their tyre issues. Who's to say they will this year?

Ferrari this year seems to have a handle on the rubber and it appears Mercedes struggles under pressure.

I must say i find it amusing that a few poor calls last year consigned Ferrari as hopeless, yet Mercedes strategy hasn't been questioned by most observers to date... Simply that Ferrari have been lucky!


"If Mercedes is struggling with tyres, pole position won't make much of a difference unless Bottas is willing to sacrifice every race."

Agree. Depending on track I think Vettel can split them on occasion making this (sacrifice) even less relevant.


James - as usual an excellent analysis. Other than the race itself, your race report is what I wait for with more eagerness than anything else.

One thing I wanted to run by you is Hamilton's new demeanor in 2017, and your thoughts about it...He attitude seems to be very different this year compared to previous years - he's magnanimous in defeat, praises rivals, accepts mistakes (like the pit lane error which cost him a penalty), sticks with the team, and generally seems to be a lot more affable now. In fact, so much so, that he's winning me over (and I am Vettel fanatic), and I am sure other like me. I just find him to be much more warm this year - a total 180 from previous years. Any thoughts on the new Hamilton?


Hamilton has nothing more to prove to any one. He has fought so many times & come out on top, so he's relaxed now


I think his feelings here are very well articulated in the Independent article (link below) and does show a more reflective Hamilton (well more like he is expressing himself better).

BTW I didn't realise he had an issue with DRS on qualifying lap (something he did not mention on post qualy press conf)...


I think a combination of realising he'd been a bit of a @@@ at times last year, maybe someone had a word

Also Rosberg leaving has cleared the air and also he likes the new world of social media freedom for drivers and has taken responsibility for leading on that

He seems really happy and chilled


Actually james so do I - did you hear Vettel last year!. Come on. His assertions the reliability lost him the year were valid. He very rarely acts quite the @@@@ that others do yet can never get a pass. Perhaps he just annoys the media? Or did you have a word?


James, I take offense to that assertion. Lewis is no more an @@@ then any driver past or present. Specifically, recalling the beginning of last year, he's shown great restraint and understanding with the various PU issues. It wasn't until Malaysia when it cost him the win and championship that he really became outspoken . Again, no different that Danny Ric's word to RBR in monaco or a certain German to charlie in mexico. I really hate the double standard placed at lewis's feet. Senna was no saint, he was notably difficult to work with. Did something happen between lewis and yourself. In 2007/2008 you spoke highly of him but lately it seems uncomplimentary.


Oblah, see the comments in a lighter vein. This from a Vettel fan, who is increasingly being won over by Hamilton. Can you not see the big change in his attitude this year? Its obvious to everyone. He's much, much more affable.

Torchwood Mobile

Oblah - did something happen between Lewis and James?

It suddenly occurs to me that the answer could be, sort of.

Remember a press conference late last year where the media were upset about Lewis showing his Snapchat(?) following what the place looked like through his mobile phone?

Our James moderates those. And is a journalist.

That could be it.


Not at all

I treat everyone the same


Has always been a slight thing with James writing regarding lewis. Best let it go though as quite a few of us have been here before and we're offered short shrift. I now just try...and he doesn't make it easy take his comments at face value. You're not wrong though and it has been noticed before.


Lewis never respected rosberg for winning the wasn't due to one malaysia loss that cost happened over the whole season. Lewis was a sore loser.


Off topic: Why Kimi is not testing when it would be crucial for him to understand the car better and eliminate understeer. I would think that is the interest of the team also due to the constructor championship. I do not understand why Ferrari not supporting Raikkonen more.


There is definitely an air of that era about the current Ferrari team.
And whilst I applaud their performance in the first 3 races let's not forget that by all accounts (financial at least) they damn well ought to be.
You cannot deny the aggressive strategy calls they're making are certainly tightening up the Mercedes posterior muscles.
I seem to remember RBR being pin sharp on strategy calls when up against it (2016 Monaco aside). So if they get in the mix I really don't see Mercedes coming out on top.


James, you wrote "Raikkonen’s pace in the final stint is puzzling in that it is more on a par with Vettel’s." He was similar in the 1st stint, too. The 2nd he seemed to orient himself on RIC. Could it be that he has to save more fuel than Vettel (maybe he used too much in the beginning for overtaking massa twice)?


So. It would seem that Sebastian has managed to do what Alonso could not. Which is develop a car and team around him. He is proving himself to be overrated. Maybe he is very politically astute, but I doubt his driving ability. At this rate Verstappen will be champion before he gets his third. And he's been involved in the most glaring scandals yet turns up smelling roses. Maybe his past ills have come back to haunt him.


Alonso developed a Renault with a smaller budget than Ferrari, against the most dominant driver of all time, back when open testing was available and a driver could actually develop a car, and win two world titles. Anyones opinion can't take that away from him.


I've always said fernando is a very decisive character with poor social skills. Immensely talent but unable to foster groups of individuals to his cause. I also think he has poor car setup, as his talent allows him to drive anything.
While not as talented as lewis or fernando, vettel more than compensates with work hard and relentless pursuit of excellence. Hopefully, the current climate in f1 forces lewis into a more proactive role in car development and testing - something he abhors.


Fantastic insight as ever into what's probably a overly complicated explanation of what's really going on.
So here's my idiots guide to Ferrari's current success.

Design car on assumption that Mercedes will be on pole and car needs to be able to run in dirty air. (Crazy beautiful side pods).
Stay right on the Mercedes tail pipe.
Win race.
I don't need a graph to tell me that.
(He said slurping on a mug of tea and smoking a woodbine).


Toss in a better/more experience pair of drivers and hunger after years of not winning a Championship. If rumored development at engine side is true then Ferrari will be Champions this year.

Tornillo Amarillo

James, does Massa have a problem managing tire degradation -unlike Perez- or it is the Williams? It looks like he fade at the end of any race.


Yes it does

Williams has been heavier than FI but Perez is really good at this


WHat a Coragiosa Headline to the great analysis!

Inaki Rueda is the name of the Ferrari Strategist this year you say? That name rings so bold aswell ! Like the Anunnaki have finally landed (:


"The number of laps is on the horizontal axis; the gap behind the leader is on the vertical axis."

Sorry, James, but that's clearly not correct, else somehow Vettel has finished -35 units behind, i.e. 35 units ahead, of the winner.

Whilst the gaps between drivers' progress lines, and the gradients and changes in gradients of said lines, do still tell us what you say they do, the vertical axis zero line isn't showing anything especially obvious this year.


Good evening,
Could someone explain the graph for one driver in order to understand how it is plotted? For example, in lap 12 Bottas is -30+ seconds with respect to lap 1? Thank you in advance


Hi Dan,
The graph is plotted as the number of laps on the X-axis and the drivers time relative to the average pace of the winner. It's a bit confusing but one of the few ways to plot this information and it makes sense once you understand it.

So for example say Vettel won the race and his average lap time was 1:30 per lap, the drivers time would be +/- to 1:30 on lap one, 3:00 on lap two, 4:30 on lap 3 and so on.

In answer to your question about Bottas, becasue they had just been behind the safety car, and pitted, the total race time was 30 seconds slower than a hypothetical version of Vettel that completed every lap at the same pace.

This is why you always see the winners car finish on +/- 0 seconds as they finished on the exact same time as the hypothetical version of themselves, they just got there a different way (by pitting or being behind a safety car).

That make sense?


thank you for your reply.
1. In this case, as in many others, the winner didn't finish on the Y = 0 axis (horizontal reference line). It must be that the average race lap time is computed as Mr. Lampardi above mentioned (the sum of laps lead by leaders divided by the total number of laps).
2. The winner does finish on the Y=0 if he is the only leader(or as you can see in China 2016 he leads the vast majority of the time and there is only 1 other leader for a short time)

Ricciardo Aficionado

The Y axis is a measure of dark matter emanating from the black hole at the centre of the Andromeda Galaxy, adjusted for the out of phase Gamma wavelength received by a multiple of the redshift occurring in BeetleJuice, our nearest star.


what an honour to have you among us Mr. Neill deGrasse Tyson.


Would have been real interesting had Lewis not incurred the penalty.

The penalty dictated him making the second stop. Without it I think he stays out and has (at least) a chance of keeping Vettel behind him. With the penalty, all Vettel needed was to run within the 5 seconds to take the win.

His only hope was to pit, serve the time, and hope he could run Vettel down on fresher tires.


James, Did mecedes extend Hamiltons 2nd stint to long?


A quick question to the racing experts: What are the possible causes for the Verstappen brake issue? Verstappen said the pedal went to the floor, so I would expect this to be a hydraulic issue, possibly due to overheating, but is this at all possible with the F1 brakes and fluids? Can being stationary in the pitlane, thus uncooled brake callipers cause a vapour bubble?


I´m more for a disc overheating and burn out. I don´t know the materials of it but such high temperatures (not only shining red but bright yellow) could have destroyed it.


Verstappen was pushing too hard trying to pester lewis. Overheated his brakes, ended his race. Kid is talented but extremely reckless, great for spectators - question mark for the team?


"question mark for the team"

Depending on what team you are talking about. Ferrari and Mercedes certainly have no complaints 🙂


There are two brake circuits for safety reasons so a total brake failure is unusual


James: I read in the German press today that MV had a brake disc explode on him, thus the loss of retardation.


If both systems rely on the same fluid characteristics, and both circuits are overheated... What I don't know: how do these Brake by wire systems work?


Once vettel was in front he was always in control. Hamilton was fast but vettel was managing it with the engine turned down.

Great effort ferrari! More of the same please!


Here is the one unanswered question for me:

Lap 9 to lap 10 the top 4 cars are separated by less than 1 /12 seconds. On lap 10 Sebastian pits, Mercedes then keeps BOTH drivers out until lap 13 under the safety car. This "strange" decision to gives Ferrari/Sebastian three unchallenged fast laps through traffic on new super-soft tires. I cannot understand why this happened. Unless I am wrong, the logical response to that strategy when you have two relatively competitive cars to your opponents one is to split your strategy in order to keep the opposition guessing. Max and Red Bull figured it out immediately on lap 11, yet James Vowles at Mercedes did not jump on that option. In my opinion, they should have put one Mercedes on super-softs (to mimic the lead Ferrari) and let the other car chase the riskier one stop strategy. This would have kept the Mercedes advantage; 1. they would still have the option of switching to a two stop strategy later in the race if Sebastian proved to be remarkable faster on the super-softs, 2. It protected would have protected their lead even with an obviously compromised Bottas - alternatively, they could have given Lewis the first pit option for super-softs to fight Sebastian and keep Bottas out on the one stop strategy. The only logical explanation has to be Mercedes locked into a one stop strategy from the start and believed the early pit decision by Sebastian gave them the upper hand especially since Ferrari committed to a two stop strategy. Under this light the safety car compromised that decision because all of a sudden Sebastian went from being 15 to 18 seconds behind the two Mercedes cars to having the whole field close up with Sebastian gaining back all the time he lost when he pitted early.

Under this scenario, the SC that hurt Sebastian in China, rewarded him in Bahrain! That is the kind of F1 season so far - less pure genius and more fate and luck.


Ferrari are better on their tires, so they can pit earlier than Mercedes ever wants to, and as the undercut is traditionally big in Bahrain, Seb was in front as soon as he pitted. Merc needed to be 1-2 out of Turn 1, and then allow the leader to stretch it out by 4-5 seconds ahead of #2. That was the only way they were going to counter the undercut threat.

So many Ferrari fans were down after qualifying in Bahrain, but it only buys you 8 metres ... Ferrari were always within a second of the lead. Better race pace and better tire management gave Ferrari a 3 second jump on Mercedes, and that was that. Race pace is king, dunno how many times I have to say it ... couple that with superior tire management, and Ferrari is clearly the better race day car, which is when the points are handed out. IF they maintain that advantage through the year, then they will win out.


There is a great read on Mercedes at Bahrain on their F1 website. In summary, right now the strategists are avoiding the softer compounds because they have LITTLE or NO IDEA what their performance window is and how to exploit it (watch the James Vowles video for how clueless they are right now). That means they were targeting a strategy that put them on soft tires for the second stint, and since the team believed the soft tire had a 30 lap window they were stretching out the first stint to find that 30 lap optimum. Unless the Bahrain test solved something for them the ONLY apparent weakness in the W08 car is the ultra soft and super soft compounds. You never want to go into a car with the feeling you are still "experimenting" with tires.


In one.

Might not of worked but it's clear Merc are asleep at the wheel on strategy when competing against a team.

The equality mandate will cost them dearly.


I think Bahrain proved the equality mandate is very tentative. We may never know because Bottas is still more than a few tenths slower than Sebastian and Lewis right now.


"That is the kind of F1 season so far - less pure genius and more fate and luck."

I don't know man. Crews in Brackley and BRIXWORTH are SO FAR AHEAD OF EVERYONE ELSE and Lewis Hamilton is in "the league of his own".


Mercedes needs to adopt a new racing philosophy. The moment vettel pitted they should have covered him with one car or the other, allowing strategic flexibility. The weekend was scrappy, from hamilton's drs problem, bottas's tire pressure, air guns and poor strategy. Overall, the team has to take this one on the chin, regroup - come back swinging in russia.


I don't think a team can "adopt a racing philosophy". Every situation is different. In this case it's easy in hindsight to say what they should have done.

Maybe the philosophy you should be pushing is for Lewis to make better starts...


@JA great article. rich with Data, analysis and good stuff. oh no bias too. that's what need to see and read. roba buona


Yes, Ferrari performed well. Mercedes less so. I think it's a bit of a stretch to claim it echoes the Brawn/Schumacher years though


From these comments im supprised that most feel ferrari are so much faster than merc

With ferrari having a heavily revised car merc i thought was the quicker car on race day......when merc unlock the true performace of the w08 the pecking order will resume.

I loved the way lewis was closing the gap mid to end race reminded me off the old formula one.....i personaly love it !!!!

Raymond Petersson

Thank you James for greate analysis! On the ten last laps Bottas lost 13.110 s to Hamilton, 10.181 s to Raikkonen and 1.739 s to Ricciardo. Bottas problem in the whole race must have been to keep the correct temperature in the tyres, or?


Brilliant from Ferrari and Vettel.
Thanks for the report James, good to see the details.


Excellent and insightful as ever JA.

In your opinion, would Lewis have probably won without the 5 sec penalty? (Fresher tyres, higher engine modes etc etc)

Should Merc have let Lewis past Bottas much sooner? As soon as it became clear VB didn't have the race pace to challenge Seb


Even without the 5 second penalty and VB letting LH past much earlier, Merc would still be looking at a 2/3 finish, all the damage was done by the slow VB in lap and the slow stop on both cars.

Not sure it's just me but Merc look a bit sloppy and slow to react strategy wise this year, have the years of dominance blunted them somewhat?!


The graph shows Valteri slightly outpacing Hamilton from about lap 32 to 41. Although it was the front half of his 3rd stint vs the back half of hams 2nd.



Great insight on the Strategy teams @Ferrari (Rueda) and Mercedes (Vowles). You had mentioned last year that Ruth from the Haas team had joined the Ferrari team and i wonder if she is also in part responsible for the bold strategies we are seeing.
I love your "behind the scenes" so would it be possible to get one on how the strategy teams work, who all are involved trackside at the factory and how decisions are made with and without data. That would be great.


No she was a junior at Ferrari in Alonso years

She was at Haas and moved to Sauber last year where she planned the Brazil result Nast pulled off


My mistake - I remembered it to be Ferrari not Sauber.
But please it will be great if you can do a piece on the strategy units...


I am not sure I agree. I believe Ferrari should have still stuck with the 'overcut' strategy and that they were lucky LH had that 5 sec penelty! Yes, it looked like an aggressive and, in the end an ultimately successful strategy, but the overcut still could have been a stronger plan. The Ferrari is stronger in race trim and kinder on it's tyres, so taking the undercut moved them back towards Mercedes for the final exchanges...again only saved (to a degree) by the LH penalty.


Oh... please. That was just pure dumb luck. China and Bahrain were both won on who happened to be at the right place, at the right time during safety car periods. Nothing points to an all out benchmarker between Merc and the suddenly awoken Maranello donkey.


Hi James

Thanks for the great articles on strategy. I really appreciate them. I was just curious about your comment on start bias. How is this calculated? Do you have a list of the races on the calendar by start bias?

"Bahrain is the third highest ‘start bias’ of the year, meaning that it is number three in the chart of tracks where the clean side of the grid has an advantage over the dirty side."


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