Sochi F1 analysis: Did Ferrari miss an opportunity to win by not pitting Vettel sooner?
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Strategy Report
Posted By: James Allen  |  02 May 2017   |  3:51 pm GMT  |  112 comments

The Russian Grand Prix was always likely to be one of those races where, with the new 2017 combination of high drag cars and low degradation tyres, overtaking would be extremely difficult and strategy games equally so.

In fact it was only the fourth race in F1 history to feature no overtaking moves after the opening lap skirmishes.

The key question is whether Ferrari could have manoeuvred Sebastian Vettel into a position to win the race, after losing the lead at the start to Bottas, if they had been more aggressive by bringing Vettel in from second place when Bottas was dealing with lapped traffic?

Last year’s race was dictated by collisions on the opening lap, which effectively took three front running cars out of points scoring positions and this year’s race was dictated by the start and by a Safety Car after yet another first lap collision.

Pirelli F1 tyres
Pre-event considerations

There are some basic factors about the 5.8 kilometre Sochi circuit, which dictate race strategy; the track surface gives low tyre degradation, fuel consumption is high, so there is some management to be done and overtaking is extremely difficult.

Although Pirelli brought the softest tyres in its range, the forecasts were all saying that this would be a one-stop race.

The soft tyre was a complete waste of time so once again the most durable tyre option of the three available was barely used in the race, further narrowing the strategy options.

The supersoft and ultrasoft had almost identical levels of degradation, at 0.03secs per lap, which is very low. Yet the ultrasoft was 0.5s a lap faster, so there was a strong case for spending as much of the race as possible on that faster tyre, especially as there was no trade off on degradation.

Track position is king at Sochi, as at all tracks where overtaking is difficult.

Start Russian GP 2017

As the degradation is so low, there is not the performance step by taking a new tyre, so the undercut tactic was not useful here.

The strategy for front-runners was to run the ultrasoft tyres as far as they would go to build a good gap to the slower traffic and then pit for supersofts, taking care to come out into a nice gap and avoid losing time with slower cars.

At the back of the field there looked to be another option, which was to start on the supersoft tyres and then switch to ultrasofts later in the race. As most midfield cars would be in a high-speed train anyway, some drivers would not necessarily be able to exploit the extra half a second of performance from the ultrasoft.

Also the pace gap between the tyres gets larger as the car gets lighter on fuel – provided you have clear track – so being on ultrasoft in the final stint would give a good performance advantage.

And, contrary to popular belief, there is no penalty off the line starting on the supersoft rather than the ultrasoft tyre in terms of initial grip; they are both good.

Sauber F1 team 2017

Sauber saw this and tried it with both cars, as did McLaren with Vandoorne. Part of the thinking was that there is a strong chance of a Lap 1 Safety Car, due to start collisions, which allows you to pit for free and then run the entire race on Ultrasoft tyres.

This tactic bought Sauber 14 seconds of race time, compared to a normal strategy. Sadly their car isn’t fast enough for that to have meant much in terms of positions.

But if some other midfield teams had tried it, perhaps on their lower placed car in a split strategy, then it could have brought some nice gains. For example, Toro Rosso had Kvyat in 12th and Sainz 14th.

If Carlos Sainz had started on supersofts and then pitted under the Safety Car, he would have rejoined right behind Stroll. If he gained at least the 14 seconds Sauber managed over the two stints on ultrasofts, then that could have put him ahead of Massa in 9th place after the Brazilian was forced to make a late pit stop for a puncture.

Sebastian Vettel

Did Ferrari miss an opportunity to win by not pitting Vettel sooner?

Ferrari pole positions are rare these days and as for front row lock outs, you have to go back 10 years. So they are not to be squandered! With both cars on the front row in Sochi, the conditions were ideal for a Ferrari 1-2 result, provided that the start went well.

However Bottas took the lead into Turn 2 and then pulled away using impressive pace on the ultrasoft tyres, which he had shown in Friday practice.

A number of commentators and fans asked the question whether Vettel could still have won the race, if he had pitted on Lap 25 or 26, just as the leader Valtteri Bottas began to catch slower traffic.

The answer is no, it would not have materially changed the result in itself. Basic modeling with reasonable assumptions on getting through traffic show he would have been around 1.5s behind Bottas after the Finn stopped.

Valtteri Bottas

However it would have applied much more pressure to the Mercedes mechanics at their pit stop – a team that has had some pit stop problems this season – and in the final stint on Bottas, a driver who’s inexperienced in leading races. Mercedes haven’t been flawless under pressure, so it was possibly worth a try, especially as by staying out Vettel encountered two sets of slower traffic anyway and then a further two sets after his stop!

So he gained nothing by staying out.

The key consideration here, however, is where he would have dropped back out had he made that early stop. The answer is that he’d have come out behind Magnussen and Sainz, who had both pitted and were basically a lap down. Ferrari didn’t pit him because if this; they held off, looking for gaps and aware that by staying out there was no concern on the tyres performance going off.

Bottas did make a mistake later, locking up a front wheel, but it didn’t affect his race outcome and with no pressure Mercedes were flawless on their stop; it was the fastest stop of the day, in fact and 0.8s faster than Vettel’s.

Nico Hulkenberg
Hulkenberg loses out to Force India duo

There’s a good battle in the lower reaches of the Top Ten this year between the Renault of Nico Hulkenberg and the Force India drivers Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon.

The pressure is on for Hulkenberg as he’s the only Renault driver scoring points, with Jolyon Palmer having an uncompetitive start to the season.

In Sochi Hulkenberg did another superb job in qualifying, to put the Renault eighth, ahead of them. But he lost out to both on the opening lap and could not recover, despite a strategy gambit.

Once the positions were lost, Hulkenberg stayed out until Lap 40 on the ultrasoft tyres, taking advantage of that 0.03secs per lap degradation.

He came out on supersofts, which were 14 laps fresher than the Force India, but as they took advantage of the low degradation, there was no way to even try to pass them.

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

RACE HISTORY AND TYRE USAGE CHARTS -Courtesy of Williams Martini Racing – Click To Enlarge

Showing the gaps between the cars as the race progresses and also the relative pace of the cars. Time gaps on vertical axis, Lap number on horizontal axis.

This is what a race trace with no overtaking looks like, the first such race since Valencia 2009! And to a single soft tyre used from the range of three compounds brought to Sochi.

Look at the difference in pace between the Mercedes (light blue) and Ferrari (red) cars compared to everyone else. Then look at the gaps back from the Red Bull, which is in a race of its own.

The fear is that if the new lighter Mercedes also has aerodynamic and engine upgrades it could be a big step faster. Ferrari must match that upgrade in Spain, otherwise the gaps between the top three could look very large on the race trace from Barcelona!

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1

"The fear is that if the new lighter Mercedes also has aerodynamic and engine upgrades it could be a big step faster".

James are we expecting a new lighter Mercedes at Barcelona?

2

By the way. Did you know Mercedez car weight right now iis 702kg vs 728kg Ferrari.. so weight only is not Mercedz problem as it is lighter than Ferrari

3

Where did you read this? 722kg is the minimum weight this year, so Mercedes is running at 728kg currently.

4

Mate. First of all not only me noticed that bias mentioned.

Second if lewis goes to Ferrari which highly unlikely, i won't side him or any other driver but Ferrari as it comes first for me. Example. I admire Alonso for his talent as he is the only driver . Give him any garbage car he still produce results. Saying that. When he started his territorial behaviour they let him go.

Article you mentioned from a reporter just started his career in f1 reporting 7 yrs ago . He is someone never drive or even really involved in real f1 business. I like to see someone knows f1 inside out. Example Mr Pat Symond now reporting with Sky f1. He has master in Aerodynamics. He really knows the business. He was there for long time and knows how to analyse racing data

Its true the more you know is more you don't know But. Knowing all in 1 thing is better than who claim knowing all, Which apply to your statement

Last Ferrari records i mentioned are as follow

First entry 1950 Monaco Grand Prix
Latest entry 2017 Russian Grand Prix
Races entered 936 (933 starts)

Constructors Championships 16 (1961, 1964, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1979, 1982, 1983, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2008

Drivers Championships 15 (1952, 1953, 1956, 1958, 1961, 1964, 1975, 1977, 1979, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2007)
Race victories 226[7]
Pole positions 209
Fastest laps 239[8]

Cheers

5

Some seeing or thinking there's bias, does not mean that there is bias.

I think you need to research more about how long Hughes has been in F1. Would've been as simple as clicking on his name in that article:

http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/author/mark-hughes

Thanks for posting Ferrari's results in F1 ... I hope you look them over, and commit them to memory, instead of just coming out and saying that 'Ferrari has 600 wins to Mercedes 100' (both gross overestimates, ~50% for Mercedes and ~165% for Ferrari).

Initial bone of contention was you saying that the Merc was running at 702 kg, with a no doubt friendly 'got it?' thrown in from yourself. I see that you didn't mention anything about that above, so I'll take that as you finally seeing the light.

6

KRB. Looks like you have your own regulations. where did you get they currently minimum 722kg??Here is FIA regulations regarding weight..
ARTICLE 4 : WEIGHT
4.1 Minimum weight :
The weight of the car, without fuel, must not be less than 728kg at all times during the Event.
If, when required for checking, a car is not already fitted with dry-weather tyres, it will be weighed on a set of dry-weather tyres selected by the FIA technical delegate.

7

S Andretti, you're doing it again. Just because someone replies to you, don't get your back up, or get snappy. It's not a good look.

Now, why I said 722 kg is because that was the minimum weight going into this season, but it was changed late on because Pirelli advised the FIA that their tires were heavier than they originally thought they'd be. See the story here:

https://www.motorsport.com/f1/news/minimum-car-weight-increased-for-2017-f1-season-870573/

However, the minimum weight for 2017 was never 702 kg ... that was the minimum weight in 2016.

As for me saying the Mercedes was running 6 kg over the minimum limit (that's with no fuel, with the driver in), it was from Mark Hughe's race review of the Chinese GP:

http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/reports/f1/2017-chinese-grand-prix-report

The Ferrari is physically smaller, 160mm shorter in wheelbase, a major part of the reason why its weight distribution can be varied with ballast while the Merc’s cannot, the W08 currently running at 6kg above the minimum.

Let's keep it civil, ok? Surely you don't expect everyone to agree with you on everything ... that would be boring. I have seen more recent comments of yours that showed that you had calmed down from when you initially burst on here. That's good. You also dropped the accusations of British homerism, which was also most welcome. James is a great host ... I sometimes agree with him, and sometimes not. He knows his stuff and his love of the sport is unquestioned. On all matters F1 he is as fair and impartial as a flesh 'n' blood human can be. It's a great community here, but it takes everyone to keep it great. Cheers, KRB.

8

MR. Mercedez has 702 kg total weight including driver, Lubricants...so on with no fuel. same applied to Ferrari. got it??

have doubt? get hold of Lauda/Toto and they will tell you same thing

9

So you suggesting Mercedez struggle with weight only. Upgrades,as mentioned will put them ahead again? Nah. Its about operating window of Mercez is very narrow compared ti Ferrari. This is even mentioned by Toto Wőlf himself
Ferrari are on the front foot. The SF70H has superb balance, is strong through corners, runs well in turbulent air and has a wide operating window for its tyres. The latter factor is of the greatest importance,
The real key is that they built a car that works throughout the tyre range,
A really versatile machine, the big advantage is that wide operating window, there is no one thing they have done, it’s the whole concept.
Mercedes, in contrast, have a car with a narrower operating window and one that is not nearly as comfortable in dirty air. It has been designed to run at the head of the field and for pace . it is undoubtedly fast – but at a cost. They designed a car to run in clean air, out at the front, But it has a very narrow operating window, when it gets into that window I believe it is a quicker than Ferrari but it is too easy for it to drop out of that and then the Ferrari is all over it.
On top. Do we think Ferrari just watching?again Nah and Barcelona will prove who is and will be still on top

10

The weight issue with Mercedes is a well known secret. So, we should expect them to sort that out soon and possibly pull way ahead of Ferrari soon. That means we might be back to where we were last year in regards to the championship. However, this is also a giant opportunity for Ferrari to prove how good this Italian team is overcoming challenges. I expect Ferrari to give their drivers good enough chance to keep the Mercs in check. Let's see what happens.

11

They're overweight by 6 kgs, so that's only 0.2s/lap.

12

Hey. First please don't take my word in harsh way. I just don't accept cooments based on someone else says that. I like facts and Common sense

Have nothing agaist any of you or JA but i do see bias toward Mercedes not as manufacture but cuz they have British driver. LH is great racer but that doesn't mean he is the greatest

We can't compare Mercedes to ferrari who has over 600 wins compared to about 100something to Mercedes. Without Ferrari there won't be F1 period

Cheers

13

I don't see bias. James has contacts in all teams ... he might have more in the British-based teams, but that's just natural.

James doesn't care that Lewis is British ... the first and most important point is that he is a great driver.

If Lewis ever goes to Ferrari, will you be biased towards him then? I've heard Marchionne rates him highly.

Ferrari 600 wins? Not sure what you're all including in that, but in F1 they have 226 wins:

http://www.statsf1.com/en/statistiques/constructeur/victoire/nombre.aspx

Ferrari obviously have a great F1 history, however I don't like it when anyone tries to claim that F1 is Ferrari and vice versa. They are an important player, the most important player even, but they are just a player in a sporting competition. The special payment should stop, and Ferrari should earn their keep like any other team.

As for Ferrari vs Mercedes, of course Ferrari leads in terms of the absolute totals, but Mercedes has only been in F1 for 10 years (1954-55; 2010- ). Their winning percentage (see same link above) is far ahead of any other longer-term entrant ... it's 43.4% for Mercedes versus 24.2% for Ferrari. Only Brawn GP has a better strike rate than them, from their amazing one-off season.

Those are all facts ... not sure if you'll like them or not, but it doesn't matter. Facts they will remain.

14

KBR. pls refrain from acting like you know it all.
FIA didnt change car weight as you suggesting. It was a mandate from day 1. Dont tell me they changed as per pirelli.

I believe you either misundertood the whole thing or shy to admit writing it wrong. Bottom line all cars has same minimal weight as mandate. I.e redducing car weight is out of question.

15

If I give that impression, it's not intended. I most certainly do not know it all. No one can, plus the more you know, the more you don't know, if you know what I mean.

Did you read the link? It was right there:

https://www.motorsport.com/f1/news/minimum-car-weight-increased-for-2017-f1-season-870573/

Formula 1's minimum car weight has been officially increased by another six kilos for 2017, in light of the switch to wider Pirelli tyres.

F1's latest technical regulations were published by the FIA a fortnight ago, and mandated that the weight of the car, without fuel, must not be less than 722kg at all times during a grand prix weekend.

However, a later clause in the rules stated that the limit would be tweaked to take into account the increased bulk of F1's wider 2017 rubber.

Article 4.3 states "The weight limits...will be adjusted up or down according to any differences (rounded up to the nearest 1kg) between the total set and individual axle set weights respectively of the 2016 and 2017 dry-weather tyres."

The FIA published initially published the minimum weight based on the 2016 tires (so that teams could design their cars to that minimum weight, w/o knowing the final weight of the 2017 tires), but said that it would be adjusted to account for the final weight difference between the 2017 and 2016 tires.

702 kg has never been the minimum weight for the 2017 cars. You are wrong on this, and are being silly now. I want to be nice about this, but you make it quite hard sometimes. Minimum weight is 728 kg, and the Mercedes is running in races at 734 kg.

16

6 more kg? of what? do you know Mercedez weight without fuel?? Pls no assumption, it is either know or not

17

See my comment above ... I read this in Mark Hughes' race review article for the Chinese GP. I didn't just pull it out of the air.

18

Yes we are

Not a new chassis, but a big upgrade with a weight loss, an aero upgrade and an engine step is what I'm expecting over the next few weeks

19

James can you hint at your sources? Hopefully these are not the same well informed individuals who suggested in pre-season that Mercedes has superior package and is holding back in testing only to see teams evenly matched at the top and a Ferrari driver leading the Championship.

20

@ james....with the now supposed engine upgrade from renault being put on the 'maybe/sometime/never' list this will leave Red Bull in deep trouble.

21

great analysis. while this was not an overtaking race it was a strategic one. F1 really needs something like a graphic that emphasises the pit strategies. as I said before great analysis did not know about the kmag and Sainz role in the stops thought vettel was racing kimi and they did not want him to come out behind kimi after the stops and slow each other down racing

22

What about Ferrari James? whats in the rumor mill about Ferrari updates?

23

Ferrari keep their cards very close to their chest. Highly unlikely anybody in the media (anyone outside Ferrari )knows their upgrade package for Barcelona.

24

JA you absolutely right. They could leave to build better gap and keep kimi as buffer or bit him before Kimi and again keep kimi to fend LH.

Ferrari screwed it up for sure and thats why i believe they need better strategist than who they have now. C Honor or Bouiler will do exact opposie to win it

25

Ferrari lost it all at the second corner, no amount of strategy would have got them the win from that point on.

26

I somewhat agree with you. For me it wasn't a boring race at all. It was exciting without overtaking. However, lack of strategy options available to the teams was the main negative that I can point out from Sochi. This years rule changes are better for the sport without any doubt. For me the additional excitement add on would've been the return of refueling, which could give the teams options in tracks like Sochi, Monaco, Singapore etc. having said all of that, Bottas was in a different league and Vettel said, "He is the man of the day, did a perfect job and perfect race and sometimes you just have to accept the fact that the other driver was quicker."

27

James, how good is that Renault car? Cannot be only down to the driver - can it?

Is it conceivable that Alonso drops McLaren mid season to take Palmer's seat? Would love to see the 2nd car with a better driver asap.

28

It's very quick in qualifying, as Hulk has been vying for best of the rest behind the Top 3 teams

Race pace a bit circuit dependent but look at the traces to see his pace

29

While we're talking about Hulkenberg, I'm not sure what you meant James when you said that the pressure is on for him as he’s the only Renault driver scoring points.

Sure the team is relying on him, but to my mind the pressure should be off for him (a bit at least) as he's the one proving his worth by bringing in the points.

As jmv suggested, Palmer is the one that should be feeling the pressure at Renault.

30

Pressure is on him to make sure he finishes each and every race in pts. Whatever points (if any) gentleman racer in other Renault car manages to bring in will be considered a luxury.

31
Fredy Lourenzo

Agreed, and if I'm honest I think it's time for Palmer to go. I know this is really strong on my part, as we're talking about a young man career, but he doesn't have what it takes. Always out qualified , constantly crashing, and not even while attempting to pass but by himself on empty tracks. Kvyat was demoted for a LOT less and how much as Max revamped the sport with that transition to redbull? Get someone else in the seat please!

32

Hulkenberg does 40 laps on a used set of ultrasofts! This is ridiculous, Pirelli must soften those compounds immediately, any strategy variations are removed if the choice of tyre is so limited, the harder option is never used by anyone so why even bother bringing it? I have heard it said that the tyres have moved up two steps in hardness, so last years medium is this years supersoft etc, and people were saying they were too hard last year! The removal of the artificial thermal deg causing chemical bonds is welcome, but they have been way too conservative on compounds and must realise their caution is damaging the sport.

33

I can't remember one season in my life when we didn't have something to say about the tyres. I have issues with the drivers not being able to push to their limit, I also have issues with the limited strategy options. So, for me tyres stay they are. But bring back refueling.

34

Formula zero, I am undecided on refuelling, to me it brings good and bad things, but the tyres definitely need to be softer. If the compounds reverted to those used last year then the teams would still have similar tyres available to now at the upper end of those chosen for each GP, but they would also have the option of choosing softer rubber. Effectively Pirelli brought the soft medium and hard compounds to Sochi, and the only reason anyone used the mediums was because they are obliged to by the rules.

35

Everyone wanted rock hard tyres that are as hard as granite last year! You've got your wish..............

While Bottas is a contender for DOTD, then Wally of the Weekend has to go to the Honda engineers/mechanics who cannot even get their engine started for the race, for the second consecutive race weekend. This is just getting shambolic. For goodness sake, just put a starter button onboard or use more pressurised nitrous in the compressed air starter!

Honda 週末のウォリー

36

Gazboy, nobody wanted rock hard compounds, we wanted tyres the drivers could push on for the entire stint life. Up to last year Pirelli were adding chemical bonds to the rubber that were designed to break apart at a certain temperature and make the tyre lose grip. This meant that if the drivers got too much wheelspin this temperature would be reached and those tyres would be shot, it didn't matter if this happened on the first lap or the twentieth, that set would be useless. This led to the excessive wet nursing that caused such a drop in race pace over those years. These artificial degredation generating bonds have been removed for this year, but the effect has been masked by Pirelli over reacting to the extra downforce generated by the new cars and removing the two softest compound options available to the teams. Even if they knocked it back one notch and gave us bond free supersofts from last year it would open up more strategy options.
Bottas has to be DOTD doesn't he? Great race from him. I don't think a starter motor would have helped Fernando, Honda's continued failure to build a viable engine is as perplexing as it is infuriating.

37

And for everyone who complains about the tyres being too hard and not allowing strategy to decide the winner, there is someone else complaining that the tyres are too soft and not allowing the driver to push for the win. Pirelli must despair at this unresolvable dichotomy.

38

Mr Banana, nobody is complaining the tyres are too soft, they were not too soft last year, they were designed to fall apart at a certain temperature.

39

Soft was just a word to contrast against hard. Low deg/high deg - pick your terms. The issue is that tyres are playing too big a role in the race outcome. It should be a factor but it should be less of a factor than the driver and the car.

40

Probably different tyre manufacturers being used by the teams as they like. Alain Prost made a good point a while back.

41

Yep.

They did try their randomly exploding tyres solution a few years back, but sadly that didn't work either 🙁

42

It's because of those tire blowouts that Pirelli is still mandating pressures that are way too high. They should be working to bring them down, to give even more mechanical grip to the drivers.

43

Can someone explain (quantify) exactly why "The soft tyre was a complete waste of time"?

44

It was hard as Australian granite, and as grippy as oiled oak.

Having said that, all those jobsworths/moaning minnies who were complaining about the fast degrading Pirelli's of the last few years, well, with these rock hard pieces of rubber than can last 10,000 years that lead to dreary races with just one [mandated] pit stop, well, you can't complain now, can you? It's what you wanted, rock hard durable Pirelli's.

Moral of the story - be careful for what you wish for.........

45

What's needed is brilliant tyres that offer grip to push on throughout the stint but then suddenly hit a cliff and offer zero grip.

46

To hard = too slow.

No point in using it

47

That's clear James - thanks. Any idea what the delta in time was between the Soft and Super Softs? What criteria do Pirelli use to decide which tyres to bring to a race? I'm assuming they have a reasonably sophisticated simulation to account for track and surfac e characteristics, weather and car performance at least?

The key question is why would Pirelli bring a tyre that is "a waste of time"?

48

Just because they have to now bring 3 compounds. However, the hardest compound each weekend has often proven too hard, which has worked to make this year more like when we had only 2 compounds.

49

maybe they should consider allowing the teams out of the top ten using the soft or hardest compound without taking the penalty of taking a pit stop or forcing them to use another compound

50

I wish they would get rid of the stupid rule which states you must use 2 different compounds. Leave it the the drivers to decide. Then we may have a force India trying to do a race without stopping etc. Spice it up

51
Stephen Taylor

James you quite correctly mention Hulkenberg is under pressure to deliver points as Palmer isn't doing so but how much pressure is Palmer under to improve? Is there a chance he could be out mid season should he not improve? Do you think Jolyon has been toot tense and overdriving this year in desperation to prove himself.

52

Out to be replaced by Whom? When Ocon was Renault reserve you could imagine that

Now he's race driver at Force India, that's harder.

53

Replaced by Gasly, Giovianazzi, Harianto or anyone else. Honestly, do you believe Palmet deserves his seat more than any other up and coming drivers? If so, please explain why, because I can't figure it out. But I do believe that Palmer deserves the full season only because that's what Renault promised him and I don't have respect for people that break promises.

54

why is Palmer doing so badly? he was not this bad when he started. is it lack of team support or is he slow to adapt to these new regs?

55

You'll well know both Sergey Sirotkin and Oliver Rowland are on Renault's books, and each qualify for a race Superlicence already, so if Palmer really was going backwards they'd certainly have legitimate options.

Almost a shame Tom Dillmann doesn't get a look-in -- French! ; won the FV8 3.5 championship last year; also Superlicence-able; doesn't seem to be up to much this season, just an FE drive at the Paris ePrix?

56

Even JEV would be a more worthy driver.

57

Great analysis James, on an utterly boring race. If every other race this season featured so little overtaking I would truly fear for F1's audience numbers.

58

Hehee, you must have sat down to write this one and wondered what to put, no overtakes, no undercut, no degradation.
Valtteri did us all a favour with 2 great starts to at least mix it up a bit. I really thought it would be a Ferrari walkover.
Merc leading WCC by one point, and it's largely thanks to Bottas's performance relative to Kimi. It's been funny to see the pre-race talk about team orders and then have VB faster than LH...
So this year, Merc. have the starts sorted, Ferrari have the wide operating window. Is the lighter Merc. expected in Spain? It could get very interesting. I doubt whether Red Bull will make much progress until their engine upgrade mid season.

59

This track is horrible for F1.
The run off area is very short in the - possible - overtaking zones.
So anybody trying a dive bomb would go straight to the wall - which angles keep closing.
The asphalt is quite slippery so drivers came to Sochi very light footed on the brakes.
Furthermore overall car's wheelbase is bigger this year, making the 90º curves slower.
...
About Bottas, the Finn mentioned that he found some usefull information in the latest test days.
So maybe Valterio found the secret combination to "unlock the performance" of his car. xD
...
It looks like Face-Palmer will compete with Stroll and Grosjean who will complete fewer laps/miles in the WDC, excluding the McRamen drivers xD

60

It's looking good for mercedes. Hopefully barcelona upgrade will include the weight reduction . Can't see ferrari keeping up😁.

61

Spot on mate! No one outside Brackley and Brixworth can possibly understand laws of physics.

62

And why is it a good thing? Don't care about the sport? Right now the teams are closer than it has been in 8 years. Just pure biase?

63

We should not omit altogether a significant detail regarding Vettel: he was half asleep at the re-start, in contrast to wide awake Bottas...

64

Very true. He admitted that he was a little conservative.

65
Tornillo Amarillo

Why Hulk & Stroll were investigated for an incident in Lap 1? TV has shown nothing...

66

Stroll had a spin. Hulk was on his outside so presumably the stewards were checking for contact - and confirmed there wasn't any.

67

Re: the race trace graph
It's interesting James, the way, as the stint goes on, the Ferrari and Mercedes go faster, Red Bull is very consistent, and the rest of the cars have increasing degrees of degrading pace.
Is this because the a. tire pace degradation rate is b. fuel load pace increase rate?

It's a pity the race was so boring; the venue is very nice-looking.

68

Sochi should be dropped from the schedule. It is proof that money was the ONLY reason Bernie was adding venues to the calendar. This race contributes absolutely nothing (except $$$) to F1.

69

From the fans perspective, the $$$ to F1 equation might be meaningless, but to the people who run the sport it is for practical purposes the only consideration. And that is the same for Liberty as it was for Bernie's private equity chums.

The only hope is that Liberty can re-define the business model so that income lost from axing certain venues is compensated by other streams. Substituting venues will only work on a like-for-like basis; a "desirable" venue such as Jarama or Nurburgring will never replace a government funded vanity project in Russia because the economics do not stack up.

The only other possibility IMO is that governments are increasingly less inclined to waste taxpayer’s money (Turkey, Malaysia, India docet), and the cost of hosting a race retreats to some level that is commercially sustainable in countries with big fan-base and historically significant circuits.

70

Either that or throw in a few chicanes and a water slide.

71

James, any ideas why Hamilton was so far off the leading pace?

72

Thrashed by Ferrari and his team mate in qualifying, his head dropped.

73

Apparently he was running on 7 cylinders at times due to the overheating. He did the sensible thing and saved his engine for a race where it is possible to overtake - if necessary.

74

I thought he was mystified at his lack of pace?

75

If he was running on seven cylinders, that is really impressive, as the engine only has six!!

76

That's let the cat out of the bag. Now the world knows why Mercedes have been unbeatable for the last 3 seasons.

77

The Mercedes is a big, heavy car! Mark Hughes (who writes for Sky and Autosport) has suggested the car could be as much as 6kg overweight. That limits how much you can setup the car to suit your style of driving. For Lewis who loves to ride the curbs and brake late, a heavy unwieldy car is a curse. If you watch any of the practice sessions you saw Lewis had to abort his fast timed laps several times because he kept losing the rear of the car in sector 2 and/or sector 3. When you look at the on-board views of the W08 compared to the W07 you can see the drivers are now more direction corrections compared to last year.

The good news is according to James, they are going to remove some of the weight which technically should give Mercedes a bigger performance window. The other good news is that, as we saw in Bahrain, on the soft tire Mercedes can push the car more, so Lewis can get a reprieve after his Sochi nightmare (TECHNICALLY).

78

Try reading the previous article and all will be revealed 🙂

79

Yes Ferrari definitely missed an opportunity at the pitstops. They should have pitted Vettel when the gap was down to 2 secs. Even if there's no tyre advantage due to minimal degrading, 2 secs isn't much and there was a possibility of the undercut with outlaps and pit stop times. Even if the undercut failed, Vettel would have been right behind Bottas for the duration of the race and had more laps to try and get in the DRS window. I need a job as an F1 strategist!

80

I also need a job as F1 strategist too, because I frankly didn't understand why they left Vettel out. Also in consideration is that the mercs have issues switching tyres on and if the undercut brings Vettel just behind Bottas, its advantage Ferrari

81

It never came down to 2 sec in first stint; the least it came down to was ~4 sec if I remember right

82

You probably don't remember right. It came down to 2.4secs as Bottas was approaching the backmarkers at one point

83

Sorry, James, but yet again the description given to the graph is lacking.

Whearas "Lap number on horizontal axis" is precisely correct, "Time gaps on vertical axis" is lacking, it's not an accurate label for the vertical axis itself -- while we can correctly infer that the vertical scale of the grid [heavy and light lines] shows us 25 and 5 second gaps between cars on the same lap, it does not explicitly tell us, for example, when Massa's early pace approximately follows the zero line, what it actually is that he's all-but-matching (although therein perhaps lies a clue, this week). If someone has access to Massa's actual lap-by-lap times, then it might or might not be clear what is going on.

[Unless I'm embarrassing myself by over-thinking this and confusing myself silly...]
What is clear, is that, unlike last years graphs, that zero line is not representative of a constant actual lap time!

Witness, according to F1.com, the five drivers with the fastest lap times all set their fastest laps towards the end of the race, but Hamilton [sixth fastest fastest lap] set his in the middle of his first stint.
* The three with the fastest lap times happen to have been the top three place finishers, and we can clearly see that somehow, for all of three of them, their fastest laps [all on lap 49] are showing a shallower upward gradient than are the slower lap times they were setting in their respective first stints -- their respective fastest laps are being measured as lesser than their respective early paces, for some reason.
* Now see the three drivers with the next three fastest lap times -- Massa and Kvyat both set a faster fastest time than Hamilton, and yet: Massa's fastest lap on lap 45 is gaining next to nothing on the zero line; Kvyat's fastest lap time on lap 50 is actually losing ground; while Hamilton's fastest lap, on lap 16, though slower than Massa's and Kvyat's best, is along an upwards gradient. In short, 1:38.4 early in the race [lap 16] is a being shown as a better achievement than a 1:38.2 late in the race [lap 45].

From that, I'd hazard a guess that your graph might be showing lap times relative to respective fuel-corrected lap times, and the zero line this week is correlated to Massa's fuel-corrected first stint pace, either actual or predicted [not unreasonably this being a Williams-originating graph].

It would then follow why Hamilton's 1:38.4 on lap 16 is, relatively-speaking, showing a couple of seconds better than Massa's 1:38.2 about thirty laps later; and is also suggestive that the front three, though producing their best actual lap times, are all showing to be gaining less on fuel-corrected zero-line than in their first stint because they are now all on a marginally slower tire compound -- which we know is indeed the case.

So the zero line [from lap 4, following the early Safety Car intervention] assumes a time for that first full racing lap [predicted or actual or whatever] and then follows a theoretical car racing at a fuel-corrected pace on each successive lap, and the vertical axis shows where every driver is, lap-by-lap, accumulatively ahead or behind that theoretical car. [...a car that never pits, though is subject to an expected speed behind the Safety Car, evidently.]

And apologies if all this was explained already in an earlier post, today or for a previous race analysis, or if I'm barking up the wrong tree [or just barking].

84

The graph is based on Lewis' performance [P4].
The diagram is confusing bcs you have too see the end of it, with Lewis finishing the race on Y Axis = 0.
Another deceiving ellement is that all drivers don't start the race at Y Axis = 0.
That's because the grid is spread along the start straight and the Pole sitter doesn't start at the finish line - where the chronograph sits.
Actually, the Pole sitter starts ahead of the finish line, so lap 1 is shorter for several cars {fastest} ahead of the finish line {or Finnish line, this time} and longer for the slower ones - very unfair IMO. xD
Lewis started the race P4 with VET, RAI and BOT ahead, so they sit above in the graph X Axis = 0.
LEW finished the race 36 sec behind BOT. X Axis = 52 {lap}.
But since the graph is based on LEW's performance, LEW sits on "0" {Y=0} at the end of the race {X=52} and BOT is shown 36 {sec} above.
...
Why does the graph is based on Lewis, not Bottas?
Either bcs LEW is P1 in the WDC or to facilitate the view.
Since the graph show all drivers, if it was based on the extremes - first or last - the lines would be too close at the start and too sparse at the end, making it
taller.
So in the sake of a better visualization, the graph is based on an intermediate POS drivers, to show some drivers above the X Axis and some below.
Or is made by a Lewis fan at WilliamsF1. xD

85

DeWeberis, any driver ending at 0 is not particularly relevant, as I've demonstrated that the zero line is not a constant pace [except possibly during safety car periods], so cannot be any driver's average race pace.

In any case, in none of the graphs for the four races this year does any driver at end "{Y=0}" -- Lewis finishes at not +1_and_a_bit in this one, not at 0. Neither was Lewis "P1 in the WDC" at race's start nor end, nor could he have been considered to be during any point of it, as he was always behind Vettel.

Regarding the "deceiving ellement" of drivers not starting at Y=0, your explanation would be fine ...but is unnecessary as they don't start at X=0 either! The graph plots all start at X=1, i.e. as each respective driver ends Lap 1. 🙂

86

You might be onto something there. It does appear Williams are using Massa are their reference frame, given his flat line. This might make it easier for Williams to see relative pace against their car but the old plots were easier for us to see the general picture.

87

I find those graphs pretty good in fact for our quick information. Always ask myself how JA can work so much to please his readers, not many of us would do this relentless work, at least not me.

88

This graph is skewed by the aborted start (and slow extra parade lap that is actually a race lap) and safety car period also slowing everything up. In this instance Bottas' average pace over 52 laps is the 0 line but he only completed 51 racing laps (including 4 behind the safety car). The aborted start added 3 or 4 minutes to the overall race time (that is then divided by 52 to get the zero line), but the traces do not include the extra parade lap. So the driver traces are relative to a mythical car that has done an extra extremely slow lap.

89

No, not at all, aezy_doc.

If the zero line was an average pace then any other given laptime T, whenever it was set, would have a constant effect relative to the zero line, but it doesn't -- as I've demonstrated above, it's clear that a given laptime [example is 1:38.3 +/- .1] set at different stages in the race variously gains, is static, or loses against the zero line, so the zero line is not a constant pace.

Also, the pace of everybody behind safety car would be losing heavily to the overall average race pace during those safety car laps, yet they're not -- they're initially gaining on what they lost to the zero line in the first lap.

Also, if Bottas' average pace [that pace including, as you suggest, the time taken for the aborted start lap and the safety car laps] over 52 laps was the zero line, that would add several seconds to the average lap compared to actual racing speed laps [your "aborted start added 3 or 4 minutes", lets take the middle, 210s, divided by 52 laps is 4s a lap, then there's the extra time taken during the Safety Car laps to add to that], whereas in fact Bottas never gains more than 2.5s per lap [i.e. a 5s grid space over 2 laps] at race pace on the zero line.

Your description does not at all fit what we see on the graph.

90

Bottas' average racing lap from lap 4 onwards (disregarding laps 1-3 because of the aborted start and then safety car and I couldn't find the data for laps 1-3) comes to 99.040 seconds.
Sochi total race time was 1:28:08.743 = Average lap time of 101.69. But that total race time included the aborted lap start. So we remove 4 minutes (roughly) for that. This brings the average lap time down over the 52 laps to 99.863. (this is a guesstimate because I don't know exactly how long the extra formation lap took) but this was technically a racing lap.
Meaning Bottas (over 51 RACING laps) should gain on average some 0.8s a lap to the average. Which he does and is represented by his driver trace. He obviously gains more than that at times and less at others because the in lap and pit stop add time. By the end of the race he should be some 35 or 40 seconds ahead of the average. Which is what we see in the graph.

The apparent discrepancy in gains of lap time over the average is because the graph represents a mythical cumulative time difference on track relative to a mythical car doing the average lap time rather than plotting individual lap times against that average.

It's hard to explain, but it makes sense to me. I have sought to do my best to help you. You are free to disagree.

91

Thank you for your re-explanation, aezy_doc. I don't have time to go over your figures and reasoning at this moment, let alone comment but, regards your last-but-one paragraph, I will point out again that I have demonstrated that there is NO horizontal line in the graph representing "a mythical car doing the average lap time", a constant time M, as any given time T would have to show the same relative movement to it no matter who achieved it and no matter when.

If there were, a driver's laptime 1 second better (or worse) than M would move a driver's plot 1 second up (or down) the y-axis, no matter who or when it was achieved, no matter the driver's plotline's place relative to the average line at the time. The reaction of the 1:38.3 (give-or-take) fastest laps of Hamilton, Massa, and Kvyat each moving their respective plots differently shows this is not the case in this graph.

92

go here and see what you make of it with regard lap times. Then see if you can work out what the zero line is. I still think it is Bottas' average racing lap time (i.e. a constant) - but if you find a definite other answer let me know! http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/2017/04/30/2017-russian-grand-prix-interactive-lap-times-and-fastest-laps/

93

Bottas interjected on the podium that he felt his very strong restart behind the first safety car had helped secure his victory. Do we all agree with that remark? Curiously, no one seems to comment on this bit of alleged driving prowess?

94

Agree, everyone else seemed to be half asleep, especially Vettel

95

It seems everyone including commentators were asleep at the restart. I thought it was a key moment too. Curious as Vettel's usually sharp on restarts.

96

I'd expect Bottas would want to draw attention to the restart, he's hoping we'll forget the mess he made when he spun off the track following the SC in China and dropped about 10 places.

97

Strong restart by Bottas, or just weak restart from Vettel?

Either way, agreed, it helped...although I suspect Massa helped more 😉

98
Micheal Evans

I thought this was a very intense race for one with no overtaking. Whilst I wouldn't want it to become the norm, it shows that when there are 2 teams with even a chance of winning, it makes for better racing.

I think Turn 2 needs to be redesigned for better overtaking. Even just making it a simple 90 degree turn might work better.

After years of people thinking DRS is doing too much, is it not doing enough this year? Should DRS zones be extended slightly to try and get the car behind closer to the car infront? Not that it would've made much difference in Sochi as it was hard enough to be 1 second behind. Does that need to be looked at as well?

99

How good for the sport is Pirelli's monopoly of tyre supply? When the overwhelming majority of race analysis focuses on whether this or that team most effectively managed the (v narrow) window of tyre usage, I have to wonder if a tyre war might be useful.

100

Although the smooth surface muddys the judgement. It seems Merc sacrificed some qualy pace for race pace and Ferrari sacrificed some race pace for qualy. Equaling each others race pace difference in the last few races.

I think Vettel tried what they did in Australia. (Pick up the pace to simulate he's about to come in but then didn't.) Given he had plenty of life left in the tires to go on for more laps, says he was pacing himself behind the Merc and still had a bit of race pace over the Merc. Maybe if he was to pit first it had to be way earlier like in Bahrain. Kimi's pace when he changed to SS would have told him that was the move. (Although, I'm not sure what traffic he would have been up into).

All in all, I think the red car had too many options to pick from and lost the race when the set the car up to sacrifice race pace over qualy pace. That seems to be their advantage at the moment. They should probably exaggerated it for now.

People say it was a boring race but that's just madness. There's a battle of the minds go on here between the teams . A bit like Ross and Pat's battle at Imola over two years.

Oh and make the tires at this race the hard/medium and softs for the rest of the year. Make new US and SS.

101

Unrelated.

Schumacher teaching the youngsters how its done. This is a chop and a half.

https://youtu.be/yPDN_ZKMniE?t=449

102
The real Steve

It's an absolute shame that this was one of the ones that C4 got to show live. It would have made a perfect, 10 minute highlights package even with the obligatory Lewis wooing. Not a single overtaking maneuver. Some people found the race good, I guess that they have their reasons and would love to know what they are. But if this is the product then, Liberty, I ain't buyin'.

103

"In fact it was only the fourth race in F1 history to feature no overtaking moves after the opening lap skirmishes."

Hungary 2004 takes my award for dullest race ever, I doubt there were any overtakes in that one either,

104

James, can you explain the difference between Kimis fastest lap and Vettels? Vettel had much fresher tyres and was trying to catch Bottas, Kimi however was under no threat from behind and was not in a position to challenge ahead so I thought a difference of 0.5 seconds was very odd? thoughts please

105

The TV timing graphics have gone from bad to worse over the last few races.
During the Russian race, I saw INCORRECT timing gaps shown on at least 4 occasions!!

Do you have any insights into whats going on there?
In a strategy heavy sport like F1, how can they hope to engage fans if they are presenting incorrect data??

106

James, an article above has highlighted a grip button on the ferari steering wheel and intimates that this could be how they are better able to manage the tyres. Have you any idea what changes these settings could make to the car to achieve this, I haven't? Thanks

107

There was an oportunity at lap 25, when Bottas loses time with backmarks and Vettel was only 2,5 by the end of that lap (Bottas pitted nexte one), they could have tried the undercut, with a really good outlap, Bottas was on traffic, it might could have worked.
I think this was the only moment were something could have been done in terms of strategy.

108
Clarks4WheelDrift

It sounds like a great idea for Stoff to start on Supers, not have any grip issues vs the ultras and then expect the early safety car, which happened, to shift to Ultras and race...

Only problem is, you need to be driving an F1 car to be able to race others in an F1 race... not an F1 bodywork shell with a Honda Jazz (or Honda Fit) engine in the back.

Honda's only strategy now is to take the lap time in seconds and divide it by 4s so they can work out the best pitstops to avoid most blue flags.

Nah, scratch that, they're not even close to making it that far in the race without problems.

Nah, scratch it all actually, they can't even get their PU to the startline.

Goodnight Honda.

109

The race history do not shows the formation lap, but believe me that FA did his best ever job in Sector 1 and Sector 2

110

Sochi should go the same way as Valencia. Can't believe we are in Russia and not Germany or France. (this year anyway)

111

Hi James, your race strategy reports are fantastic, the insights you provide really add to my enjoyment of the races. Though I normally find my interpretation of the race strategy during the race is far off reality.
I see on the time traces that on the ultrasofts, the plot for the Massa Williams is nearly horizontal. Does that mean the tyre degradation was offset by the fuel mass reduction?
If so, why would Williams have pitted him after 19 laps, rather than keeping going until they saw a drop in pace?

112

Timing is usually about the gaps a car will drop back into

Or threat from behind or opportunity to undercut which wasn't really there in the last race

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