Analysis: “Dodge things that lose you time” The behind the scenes moves in Hungary F1 GP
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Strategy Report
Posted By: James Allen  |  01 Aug 2017   |  12:06 pm GMT  |  100 comments

Ferrari came to Hungary needing a strong win after the huge setback of Silverstone and they got it, thanks to some determined team play and some clear-sighted tactics.

Mercedes, on the back foot after qualifying, considered various opportunities to attack but were hamstrung by radio problems and Lewis Hamilton with a poor start getting stuck behind Max Verstappen for the opening stint.

The strategists’ mantra at Budapest is ‘dodge things that lose you time’, such as blue flags, slower traffic and poor starts that leave you behind a slower car.

Once he got free he had more pace than his team mate Valtteri Bottas and was allowed through to try to pass Kimi Raikkonen, but in Budapest this year the tyre degradation was so low, it was hard to get sufficient tyre performance offset to make an overtake. Vettel had a steering imbalance and his pace dropped, but luckily for Ferrari, in Raikkonen they had a driver willing to play the rear gunner role and the win was secured.

Was there a way Mercedes could have attacked Ferrari by splitting strategies and putting one car on a two stop and the other on a one? We will examine that and also how McLaren made Fernando Alonso work hard for his result.

Pre-race considerations
Budapest is like Bahrain, in that the difference is significant between Friday practice, where F1 teams do their homework, and the race on Sunday. This is because the track ‘ramps up’ or improves, so much over three days.

After Friday practice some teams were talking about a potential two stop race, but by following the mantra of past seasons that the degradation halves from Friday to Sunday and the experience of these 2017 Pirelli tyres, one stop was on most people’s minds. Two red flag stoppages in the crucial Free Practice 2 session did not help the learning process about the tyres, however.

Ferrari having had painful experience of two tyre failures in the closing stages of the British Grand Prix, could be forgiven for thinking in terms of two stops and their pace in the opening stint certainly suggested that they were capable of it.

But the cornering loads on the tyres are far lower here and anyway Sebastian Vettel’s curious steering imbalance came into play. At the same time as that was playing out, the tyre degradation numbers revealed themselves to be low in the first stint.

So the second stint for Ferrari was one of consolidation. They set a low pace and used Raikkonen to protect Vettel. Raikkonen made some comments about having the pace to win, but that was never on the cards as Vettel is the lead driver going for the title and in any case he would have potentially been vulnerable to losing more points to Bottas and Hamilton if he’d been exposed to them.

You needed a pace advantage of at least 1.5 seconds at the weekend to make an overtake and even then, that could be countered by skillful defending. Hungaroring is a technical track where the driver can make quite a difference, so skillful drivers in slower cars were able to resist faster ones.

Ferrari held the cards. It was up to the others to find a way to disrupt.

Could Mercedes have split the strategies to attack Ferrari?
Once the pattern was set in the opening stint with Vettel and Raikkonen one and two for Ferrari with Bottas third and Hamilton stuck in fifth behind Verstappen, Mercedes needed a Plan B.

The obvious one would be to attack with Bottas on a very aggressive two stop and draw Ferrari into that game, knowing that Hamilton on a one stop would clear Verstappen once he made his stop and could then be brought into play.

The key man here was Carlos Sainz, as Bottas would have needed to clear him out of his pit window in order to stop, otherwise Bottas would have been coming out of the pits into Sainz’ battle with Alonso and would have lost a lot of time. You needed a 21 second gap on Sunday to pit freely; Bottas was only clear of Sainz after 22 racing laps.

In many races on many tracks the switch would have been an option, but not last weekend, where the tyre degradation numbers just didn’t support it. With hindsight, once it became clear later in the race that Vettel had a problem with his steering and had to stay off the kerbs, which constrained him to lapping around 1.5 to 2 seconds off the optimum, then the two-stop attack plan might have been an option and had they committed to it early there could possibly have been some pay back. But the risk outweighed the reward at the time.

But Mercedes couldn’t go there anyway because they had communications issues with IT and radio not working properly and so the opportunity wasn’t there to pull the strings. Mercedes lost too much time getting their house in order to be able to try anything.

Despite Ferrari managing their pace, Bottas made no progress in trying to pass Raikkonen. So Mercedes allowed Hamilton through to try, on the understanding that he would give the place back if unsuccessful.

At the end of the season, will Mercedes rue the three points that Hamilton gave back to Bottas, arguably one of the biggest strategy calls of the season?

It’s a tight championship and it certainly has swung greatly between Mercedes and Ferrari over the last two races in Silverstone and Budapest.

On balance it looks like there are more tracks that favour Mercedes in the second half of the season and they clearly back themselves to get the job done. But the stark lesson of this weekend is that if you have a clear number one driver you have greater scope for amassing points than when you have to balance the needs of two. Mercedes have got away with their policy the last three years because they had a big car advantage.

With such a tight championship, it will be some achievement if they win this year while balancing the needs of two drivers rather than prioritizing one. That moment will come, no doubt, but it was judged that this race was too early.

Midfield congestion- Alonso and Sainz pit together
Another by-product of the lack of variability in strategy options due to the tyres not degrading, was that the midfield became a game of follow-my leader and everyone just waited for everyone else. There were no aggressive undercuts and a couple of attempts at an overcut didn’t pay off.

This led to a fascinating moment on Lap 35, when McLaren’s Fernando Alonso and Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz pitted together in their ferocious duel for sixth place. Normally you do the opposite of the car ahead.
So why did that happen?

Alonso was behind Sainz at this point and had a growing threat from behind from Sergio Perez in the Force India. The Mexican was almost in undercut range, meaning he could pit first and use the new tyre performance to jump Alonso at his stop.

But Alonso had also been in undercut range of Sainz, however McLaren didn’t try anything unexpected. The longest stint anyone in a midfield or front running car tried on soft tyres was 40 laps. To undercut Sainz around Lap 30 would have meant a stint of that length. But it remained a game of follow my leader.

It was quite easy for Toro Rosso; they could see the rising threat from Perez to Alonso and therefore knew that Alonso would pit the next lap, so they came in ahead of him to cover. It meant that Alonso had to do the hardest thing, which was to overtake on track. He managed it, as he is something of a Hungaroring specialist.

It was a brilliant drive by Alonso to finish sixth, also a strong affirmation of the qualities of the McLaren chassis, which have been debated this season.

Alonso deserved his spell in a deckchair on summer break after that race!

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

Race History and Tyre Usage Charts – Courtesy of Williams Martini Racing – CLick to enlarge

Again shows the gulf in performance between the top three teams and the midfield.

Also note how much Ferrari backed off the pace after the pit stop. Compare Verstappen’s trace in his second stint (nice upward curve) with Vettel’s progressive downward curve, showing he was really managing the pace.

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1

Hamilton losing 3 points is nothing compared to what Vettel gave up in Baku..Vettel lost championship in Baku!

2

Everybody seems to miss the point that if Mercedes hadn’t moved Bottas aside for Hamilton, Bottas would have finished ahead of Hamilton anyway, so it’s really a mote point. Fantastic drive by Fernando, Mercedes should pick him up right now!!!

3

James,

About the Alonso strategy I think McLaren made a mistake not pitting Alonso earlier.

McLaren pitted Alonso on lap35 to cover the undercut of Perez who changed tires on lap34 (and that by the way had a slow stop were he lost 2 seconds).

What I don’t understand is why McLaren didn’t stop Alonso a few laps earlier, let’s say in lap32 or lap33 because:
1) at that time many drivers had already stopped and were improving their times with the new soft (Stroll, Bottas, Hamilton, Magnussen, Wehrlein, Vettel)
2) Sainz times were going slower at that time and Perez was clearly catching them
3) Alonso was at only 1 second of Sainz which was a perfect distance to succeed in the undercut.

IMO McLaren waited too much when it was clear the window for putting soft tyres had opened at lap29-lap30 (Alonso stopped on lap35) and were lucky that Perez didn’t succeed in the undercut due to the slow stop that cost him around 2 seconds: had that not happened the undercut for Perez would have worked and Alonso’s race would have been an uphill battle to overtake a Force India.

4

“On balance it looks like there are more tracks that favour Mercedes in the second half of the season “
James, can you give an article based on this where Ferrari/Merc has advantage? Add to it where Kimi can help Vettel (like Hungary) and check who could win the WDC.

5

Another good report James.

I continue to read about LH giving Bottas 3 points. He didn’t give them, he returned them.

6

Yes, but in championship terms, looking purely pragmatically he and Mercedes yielded three points from his total

If he gave them to anyone it was probably Vettel!

7

Everyone has been saying HAM should be applauded for giving back the position but I think BOT should be applauded as well for giving the position in the first place. He did not have to do that if he was a selfish driver like say VET. Kudos to BOT.

If you make an agreement then you stick to it, applauding someone for keeping their word is ludicrous regardless of the stage of the championship.

8
Tornillo Amarillo

As a Hamilton fan I feel he is somehow demotivated, maybe because he got what he wanted: 3 WDC as Senna. Yeah, you can just say sucks my blls to me.
But I can’t see him not overtaking, in P4 and finishing in the same position while you drive a Merc. Still I think he is a living legend for what he did, but even if he probably win this 2017 WDC, it’s like something is missing, the magic maybe… Anyway I think he is great and I continue to give him full support…

IMO THE SAME APPLIES FOR VETTEL, he just tries to copy MC but with the support and patience of a WDC Kimi Raikkonen and his fans.

Like both are getting old, as others like Hulk, Massa, but it’s not the case for Alonso or Perez though. Maybe is motivation. You need self-motivation.

People loves underdog stories, and that’s why we can cheer for Bottas, Ocon, Kubica…

Bottas has also a Merc in his hands, 2 wins and podiums and he is settling wonderfully in the team, maybe because he has that super cool from Finland, also a small country… Hope he keeps his good work and cool.
It will be wonderful if Bottas could build a WDC challenge THIS YEAR.

9

Another excellent analysis James. Engrossing race especially after Vet started to have issues, but in the end Ferrari were able to pull the 1-2 off. Good on Hamiltin to give the spot back rob Bottas – I was surprised that it happened.

10
Tornillo Amarillo

It’s a tight championship and it certainly has swung greatly between Mercedes and Ferrari over the last two races in Silverstone and Budapest.

After the break is the perfect momento for the Dark Horse to make POLE&WIN plus POLE&WIN.

11
Tornillo Amarillo

I mean Bottas, eh.

12
Tornillo Amarillo

You needed a pace advantage of at least 1.5 seconds at the weekend to make an overtake and even then, that could be countered by skillful defending.

I don’t know, Kimi in a Ferrari can follow the other Ferrari very close, how is that?

13

James, why did mecedez not give Hamilton an off set strategy? If they had mirrored Verstappens strategy would Hamilton have had a better chance of overtaking the ferraris?

14

Hi James, which tracks for the rest of the season are likely to suit Mercedes or Ferrari.

15
Clarks4WheelDrift

That performance gulf is an utter joke considering Seb’s broken Ferrari train holding the top two teams back.

Good report James. Wish Pirelli has used Ultras and Supers for the odd two stop variety. 45 laps on Super Softs is crazy.

16
Rogelio Carballo

“Alonso deserved his spell in a deckchair on summer break after that race!”

Explain that to Martin Brundle…

17

It doesn’t matter how much data is mangled over this race, it’s difficult to overtake in Hungary under normal conditions, with this year’s cars it’s all but impossible. Once the Ferraris were in front, the race was over. In fact, the race was won or lost on Saturday afternoon. Lewis Hamilton may have lost a place to Verstappen at the start, but as the boy starts races like a dervish, those who want to finish a race knows it’s best to keep out of his way, until his adrenalin rush has stopped. Any one of the first 6 on the grid could have been Verstappen’s victim, this time it was his team mate. Next race, who knows, but it’s all but certain someone will suffer. Never mind, it’s all good for the ‘show’.

18

Thou shalt not pass in Hungary.
It’s written in the ten commandments, so I find it a little amusing to recall HAM’s self celebration in 2012 [2013?] when he had Kimi in the Lotus on his tail the whole race:

“I didn’t make a single mistake! Aren’t I wonderful! Just one mistake and he would have had me!” Who else has a good memory?

19

I googled that quote – couldn’t find it. Could you provide a source please?

20

@aezy_doc
my source is the BBC post race show for Hungary 2012. The quote is as remembered and only embellished with the middle bit.
Your rude friend pistol is quick to shoot off…… 🙂

21

@Phil: It’s a little more than an “embellishment,” no? It’s a crude snipe and aezy was right to call you out on it. You can’t expect to be taken seriously if you “embellish” a quote. That’s the point of a quote.

22

Don’t worry. It all happens in his own mind…

23

How did Palmer manage to fall behind Hulk, again? I kind of missed that in that race.

Also, Hulk should what replay footage of Alonso’s absolutely brilliant move. THAT is how you set someone up and then drive round the outside of them into T2.

24

Palmer moved over and let Hulk through by a team order.

25

James,
Lewis suggested that the radio problems compromised his race because he felt his supersoft tires were is such good shape that like Max Verstappen (who held a 10+ second gap to Sebastian) he would have been very competitive in an extended first stint giving him a stronger advantage when he switched to soft tire. The suggestion being his pace would have been enough to add an element of risk to the Ferrari’s forcing them to switch strategies to protect the win since Sebastian was managing the car at the time. Do you see any evidence an extended first stint would have paid off and the radio problems compromised this decision since Mercedes could not talk to their driver.

26

Well his tyres could have gone further but remember he was held up behind Max who went on much longer – his pace was constrained by Max anyway and was slower than his new soft tyre pace

The question is at what point it was clear. VET’s problem with steering was serious and costing lap time vs the impression he was just nursing the tyres?

27

I thought Seb did an awesome race, given the problems he had. Managing to keep the right pace. Kimi did a serious job too. Though this kind of driving is only possible at tracks like Monaco and Hungary. We saw a similar race in Monaco recently, where Mercedes did a slow race to win despite some under performance on tires.

28

Loving the strategy report; thank you.

As you may be aware James, I still think that Merc is in the driver’s seat, even if they don’t have the ‘overwhelming advantage inside their little bag of tricks’ that they can deploy, any time they want.

Ferrari’s performance is statistically out of trend, above where their progress has been, even if considering the unique characteristics of the Hungaroring.
So, that’s interesting; I wonder how they did it.

Also, as per prediction, RB WAS on trend to overtake Ferr, over the summer break, though power-hungry Spa awaits. So, what is the engine delivery/upgrade schedule for Renault/TAG? We can expect work to be going on at RB, regardless of the ‘official’ summer break (also Ferr).

So Spa, while one might readily expect an outcome favourable to Merc, could be interesting, if not for a challenge to Merc, then between the supporting cast of the triumvirate.

Is it only the Hungaroring (and of course the extenuating capability of the most complete samauri), which enabled the 6th for McAlonso-Honda, or is there some movement on the PU front?

I couldn’t really see what all of the foul words in the Hulk-Mag row were about; I did see Mag running Hulk off the track, but didn’t really notice the supposed ‘foul’ by the Hulk on BigJohn; I’d like to read yours and … the others, comments on that.

Thanks again for the chuckles.

29

I still believe RB will be getting better results than Ferrari by the end of the season. Ferrari are going to have a bunch of penalties for component usage, based on reports. Tag should also have upgraded the cogs in their unit more by then and we all know Red Bull can out develop most others on the chassis side. It’ll be interesting if Ferrari can keep up, I hope they do but I’m not optimistic.

30

“Ferrari are going to have a bunch of penalties for component usage, based on reports”

What reports? I hadn’t heard that!

31

There are no reports that say this. Binotto said that they believe they can avoid taking any penalties for component changes this year. He could be just saying that of course. He did also say that the oil burning controversy didn’t affect Ferrari at all, when of course it clearly did. So it could just all be talk. If they’re going to take penalties though, Spa next time out would be the likely spot. There’s no chance of them doing it at Monza or Singapore.

32

Watch the F1 race highlights for the race I believe or one of their videos on youtube for the race maybe the commentary video. It shows Hulkenberg run Grosjean wide in similar fashion not sure if intentional or understeer like Verstappen. Then Magnussen says if that if they let that go then its gonna be a nasty race or something to that effect.

33

There was not much Mercedes could have done. Hamilton lost a place to Verstappen and Bottas didn’t have much pace in the first stint and was clearly holding up Max and Lewis. Had Bottas been able to stay within 3 seconds of Kimi, Ferrari would have been forced to keep him out for longer after Bottas stopped, because Kimi was likely to lose a place.

34

The Ferrari were at least 5 tenths faster in Hungary. Vettel with a damaged car could keep the pace up enough to keep Hamilton very honest to say the least.

35

No – Hamilton was faster than Kimi and Vettel in the second half of the race, but as we all know (if we’re paying attention and not ignoring the evidence we don’t like) it’s difficult for one car to follow another closely. Particularly this year, particularly at Hungary, and particularly (it seems) for Mercedes.

Kimi and Lewis were the two fastest drivers on Sunday. Kimi took a defensive position to protect Ferrari’s number 1 driver who, in terms of pace on the day (and with a car problem), was probably fourth or fifth fastest. The laws of aerodynamics meant Kimi was able to keep Lewis behind him.

36

I’m not sure Hamilton would’ve been faster than Kimi if they weren’t being bottled up by Seb. The Ferrari was the quicker car in Hungary.

The Mercedes was relatively slow in the last two corners, which is where you need to be quick in order to set up any pass into turn 1. They don’t do the slow speed twisty stuff well, which was a hallmark for them from 2013-16. The banning of their hydraulic heave spring has hurt them in the twisty slow sections. You could see it at the start, how both Mercedes had to run out wide at turn 1, which allowed Ricciardo to pass Hamilton on the run down to turn 2.

37

You are a diamond Ale! Keep me coming 😂

38

Maybe folks will quit being so negative about Kimi after this event. His value to Ferrari is clear for all to see, in spite of the views of SM !

39

I’m a fan of his and Kimi does his job well most of the time but he is a shadow of his McLaren self. Someone else would push Seb more and provide entertainment.

40
Clarks4WheelDrift

what, the fact he is too slow to overtake a hobbled Seb in the onle lap overcut? I suppose that adds value to Ferrari as he is too slow to take points from Seb.

Kimi was always going to go well at Silverstone and Spa, with a good Hungary after a poor season prior to this he will be looking to sign a contract asap. He really has not taken points away from Lewis as Bottas has on Seb. Kimis qualifying and his points are rubbish this year…

41
Ricciardo Aficionado

At the end of the season, will Mercedes rue the three points that Hamilton gave back to Bottas, arguably one of the biggest strategy calls of the season?

Hamilton had to have a shot at Kimi but having failed, I don’t think he would have liked to be on the podium in third anyway so it was pragmatic to give the spot back.
Maybe also, he’s pretty confident of getting those points back in the races ahead. Even so, it’s a nice little margin for Seb now. He’ll have a relaxed break. Kudos to Ham for learning from Dan about teamwork.
Coulda been a great race with the bulls in it. No mention of RB in the strat report. They were, sadly, nowhere.
Alonso!! What a champ. Schooled Sainz. If DR is the new face of F1, then Alonso is the new Hollywood.

42

@ RA…You have a point there. Concerning the ‘three points Hamilton gave back to Bottas. They weren’t his to give back. Those three points belonged to Bottas legitimately and Hamilton was being gifted. Even then he couldn’t do the business. A bit like Austria as well.

43

If the bulls did not mess up and the Race stewart’s did not punished Verstappen for something Bottas did on previous races to Komi escaping punishment, Lewis would be further back from Vettel.

44

So you forgot the headrest problem too right?

45
Ricciardo Aficionado

Quite right.

46

If… but….. Yeh, but no, but…. sigh

47
Ricciardo Aficionado

Can’t handle a bit of speculating?

48

James
one question on longer/shorter wheelbase models, – can ferrari with a shorter wheelbase but better tyre managing car never win on circuits suited for longer wheelbase cars. I think if ferrari can beat mercedez on track suited for mercedez then they have a good chance of winning the championship.

49

It’s not all in the wheelbase though. The Mercs still hold a substantial power unit advantage. I think Ferraris chassis is possibly slightly better but the overall package doesn’t seem to hold to the Mercs unless they can get ahead of them on Saturday.

50

Sure but look how far off they were at Silverstone

51

James,

At Silverstone Seb was stuck behind Max so we don’t really know how far behind his Ferrari was. And e is usually slightly quicker than Kimi on Sundays.

52

That was with the workaround stiffened floor though. They’ve now brought another floor. Without Vettel’s steering issue, Ferrari would have checked out in Hungary.

53

And I expect a similar or higher gap, to Mercedes advantage at Spa and Monza. The pattern for the year has been well and truly set, it seems. Also, Singapore may be between Ferrari and RB.

54

The races after the summer break are going to be decisive. With Spa, Monza, Suzuka and Malaysia (Singapore will be Ferrari), all expecting to favor Mercedes, if Hamilton heads the championship with a sizeable lead going into the American leg, the Championship might be over sooner than we expect. If it is not a very big lead, then we might yet see a close title fight.

55

At silverstone they had just took off the bottom of the car that was giving some performance boost and they just had replaced it with something that did not work as well. In Hungary they have come up with a new solution that seems to be working better than the original one and during these 2 days of testing, they are experimenting an even more sophisticated solution.
Plus Ferrari has improved their boost mode for quali and the difference with Mercedes using that trick, is not as wide as it was until few races ago. Time will tell.
Mercedes may prevail, but they will not walk it.

56
Ricciardo Aficionado

That graph is really starting to show the haves and have nots. Way more defined than previously.

57

Bit of a general question, and I get theres two sides to this argument and I get both, but do they really need to give drivers penalties when they hit their team mates, if it is a so called racing incident?
Another team, yes, if its something deliberate and malicious, 100% yes, but if its something like the Red Bull incident, then don’t punish a team twice. Lets be honest, a team will deal with it internally!

58

Will they deal with it internally? 😀

59

@ Chris…That’s part of the problem, from my viewpoint. In many cases we never ever get to see/hear what the details of the internal discussions are and then they may not get dealt with fairly. Vettel /Webber/Turkey. The fact is that the stewards appear to have got it right. This incident could’ve ended really badly for other drivers as well as Ricciardo. If the track was clear and there was an incident between the two of them in any passing manouvre gone wrong then i would think that the stewards may have looked at it differently.

60

It’s very difficult to prove intent sometimes. Limiting punishments in that way is open to too much abuse.

61

I did think that watching the race but then if both drivers were championship contenders surely penalties have to be applied? Team taking the pain is just the by-product.

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