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Japanese GP: Behind the chaos some cool decision making under pressure

2014-10-07

Hamilton and Rosberg

The 2014 Japanese Grand Prix will be remembered as the race which featured the terrible accident of Marussia’s Jules Bianchi, which led to the race being red flagged with nine laps to go.

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Up to that point it had been an intriguing race, from a strategy point of view, with teams making decisions on the hoof in changing conditions about which tyre to take and when to stop for the best possible outcome.

There were some bold decisions, such as Jenson Button’s move onto intermediate tyres after the restart and we saw some interesting tactics within teams, with Red Bull finding drivers switching position as a result of strategy calls.

Jenson Button

Jenson Button sets the tone

After an early stoppage due to heavy rain and nine laps behind the Safety Car, it was decided that the race was safe to start. F1 rules mandate the fitting of full wet tyres for a safety car start and everyone wanted to get off those tyres as soon as they felt it was safe.

The Pirelli wet tyre is simply not as good as the intermediate and that is why teams are reiuctant to use it unless they have to.

Jenson Button, who had qualified 8th, has a track record for being the vanguard when it comes to early decision making in these situations and he followed the safety car into the pitlane for an immediate stop onto intermediates. Maldonado did the same.

Although it would be sure to gain Button several track positions – he ended up running third due to this move – this was a bit of a gamble as an early stop for intermediates means that the extra laps on the tyre could be a factor as no-one had a clear idea of how long a set of intermediates would last on this very high energy track.

Button’s pace was good and this led to others following his lead. What really helped him, however, was the very slow pace of the Williams cars on the wet tyre. Williams has struggled in wet conditions this season and here they were in particular trouble, despite running in their same grid positions of third and fourth in the opening laps. This held up the cars behind them and meant that Button was able to undercut more cars than he would have normally been able to do.

Sadly he was himself undercut by the Red Bulls after a slow second stop due to a steering wheel change.

Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo

Team mate battles: Vettel vs Ricciardo

In the rush to get onto intermediate tyres in those opening exchanges, there were some interesting team mate battles and significant changes of position, such as that between the two Red Bull drivers, which is worth examining.

Daniel Ricciardo, who was running fifth, ahead of Kevin Magnussen and Sebastian Vettel, was encouraged by his engineer to move onto intermediates as soon as possible and he pitted on Lap 11. Vettel stayed out on wets for another lap and his in-lap was three seconds faster than Ricciardo’s had been, which was enough to move him ahead of the Australian and of Magnussen who had lost time with a steering wheel change, which wrecked his race.

Interestingly Felipe Massa did not get ahead of his team mate Valtteri Bottas with a similar strategy, but down at Force India that same strategy did work out for Nico Hulkenberg, who got ahead of Sergio Perez thanks to an in-lap which was four seconds faster than his team mate.

It didn’t work out for Lewis Hamilton either, as he made a mistake at Spoon Curve on his in-lap and lost the chance to get ahead of Rosberg at the first stops. Due to their massive pace advantage, Mercedes had the luxury of waiting to see everyone else’s pace on intermediates before stopping themselves. They had complete control of the race throughout, although Rosberg suffered oversteer and he almost came within range of a pit stop threat from Vettel.

From this point, Ricciardo followed Vettel through the field. The Red Bulls were set up with more downforce than many of their rivals, which is why they had lacked pace in the dry qualifying session. But in the wet they were very strong. They cut through the Williams cars with some lovely overtaking moves and closed on Button in third place.

At this stage, around Lap 25, the Red Bulls were almost two seconds a lap faster than the leading Mercedes of Nico Rosberg, who was struggling with the rear tyres and was passed by his team mate Lewis Hamilton on Lap 28.

Hamilton then disappeared up the road, but Red Bull sensed that Rosberg might be vulnerable and set about a plan to beat him. At the half way stage, Vettel was 24 seconds behind Rosberg, all of which had been lost in the four laps either side of the pit stop, due to being held up by the Williams cars.

Vettel pitted again on Lap 29, having built up enough leaving him 24 laps to the finish. Interestingly he dived into the pits once again when the safety car was deployed after Bianchi’s accident. The race was red flagged at that point.

So why did Vettel pit again on Lap 44 with just nine laps to the finish? His tyres had done 14 laps at this point and he would be concerned that after potentially four or five laps under safety car they might not warm up again.

He had enough gap to do a pit stop to Button (who had stopped on Lap 42) at that time, without losing track position to him. He was to lose only one position to Ricciardo who elected to stay out. That meant he had a chance to re-overtake Ricciardo then chase Rosberg once the race was restarted after the Safety Car.

As both Red Bulls were set-up for wets (wetter track condition at toward the end of the race!) and Vettel’s pace was a lot faster when his intermediates were still fresh than Rosberg, who overheated his rears after 6-7 laps.

One other point to note was Williams; despite poor pace in wet conditions, they were very confident in their startegyl leaving both cars out on long stints on the intermediates. They lost track position to Hulkenberg as a result, but got away with it due to his problem at the end when he had to stop again for tyres.

The UBS Race Strategy Report is written by James Allen with input and data from several of the leading teams’ strategists, from Pirelli and from JA on F1 technical adviser Dominic Harlow

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Race History and Tyre usage Charts, Courtesy Williams Martini Racing – Click to enlarge

Look at Vettel’s pace between Laps 19 to 29. It’s clear that by stopping under the safety car on Lap 44, he felt an attack on Rosberg after a Safety Car restart at the end could be on.

Look also at Hamilton’s pace once clear of Rosberg and how precisely Mercedes are able to pit him on lap 35 with the gap back to Ricciardo sufficient to clear him and retain track position.

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Some F1 insider tips on how to do well in Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka

2014-10-01

Start Japanese GP 2013

It’s a classic circuit with some famous corners, but there are many important tricks to doing well at Suzuka – race strategy is often the decisive factor, as it was clearly last season where Red Bull and Lotus fought for the win with split strategies for Red Bull carrying the day for Sebastian Vettel to take his fourth Suzuka win in five seasons. So what will be the key this weekend?

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One crucial element will be avoiding Typhoon Phanfone, which is on a possible trajectory towards Suzuka around Sunday or Monday. It is being closely monitored, but organisers will be thinking of contingency planning to get the race away without disruption.

The Japanese Grand Prix has an impressive history; so many significant moments have happened at this circuit and Suzuka has a special place in most drivers’ hearts, along with Spa Francorchamps, as it provides a great driving challenge with its high speed corners and the first sector of the lap in particular is special, with a series of fast, winding curves through which there is only one really fast line.

This year one of the key elements affecting performance in qualifying and the race will be the Energy Recovery System – Suzuka is one of the lightest circuits of the season on braking and getting the MGU –K system fully charged over a lap will not be easy. With the way the respective systems work, this is likely to make it quite close in qualifying, but the Mercedes system should have more of an edge in the race, which will help Mercedes and Williams.

So for Red Bull qualifying will be critical to try to put pressure on Mercedes and outqualify them to get the track position advantage at the start. Pole position, which is on the outside, has a significant grip advantage compared to the inside line. Red Bull’s challenge is that it is going to be forced to take a grid penalty for using an extra power unit soon. They will want to avoid that here. We may see some teams run fewer miles in practice to save the engines.

The first and second sectors of the lap will suit Red Bull, as they are all about aerodynamic efficiency, whereas the final sector is more power oriented.

It is a high degradation circuit for the tyres, so Pirelli has brought the medium and hard tyres. Last year most runners found that the hard tyre was the better race tyre, also partly due to the additional stability it offers. So the classic strategy is to start on mediums, pit for hards around lap 12-14 and then divide the remaining 40 laps into two stints on new hard tyres.

Despite DRS, Suzuka is still a tricky track on which to overtake, even though there are places like the chicane after the famous 130R corner, where we do see passing.

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Track characteristics – (Click on map to enlarge)

Suzuka – 5.807 kilometres. Race distance – 53 laps = 307.471 kilometres. 18 corners in total. High speed, figure of 8 – a real drivers’ favourite

Aerodynamic setup – HIgh downforce. Top speed 324km/h (with Drag Reduction System active on rear wing) – 312km/h without.

Full throttle – 70% of the lap time (ave/high).

Time spent braking: 10% of lap (low); Number of brake zones – 9; Brake wear- Light. Not a tough race on brakes.

Total time needed for pit stop: 22 seconds (ave)

F1 Podium Suzuka 2013

Form Guide

The Japanese Grand Prix is the 15th round of the 2014 FIA F1 World Championship.

Mercedes has won 11 of the 14 races so far this season, with Lewis Hamilton now on seven victories to Nico Rosberg’s four. Neither man has ever won a Grand Prix at Suzuka.

In contrast Vettel’s record at Suzuka is excellent; he has won four of the past five editions of the Japanese Grand Prix.

As far as other drivers’ form at Suzuka is concerned; Fernando Alonso won once (he also won at Fuji), while Jenson Button won in 2011. Kimi Raikkonen won a classic race in 2005, overtaking for the lead on the last lap. Lewis Hamilton won the Japanese Grand Prix at Fuji in 2007, but has some unfinished business at Suzuka.

Rain at Suzuka

Weather Forecast

Being coastal, Suzuka is always likely to get sudden rain showers, sometimes heavy. Strong winds can also be a factor sometimes. Temperatures can vary widely. It is important to bear in mind that if it is warm the tyre degradation will be more severe.

There is a typhoon called Phanfone, on a pathway, which could take it close to Suzuka on Sunday or Monday. It looks quite a serious typhoon, so it is being monitored. Heavy rain will precede its arrival.

Valtteri Bottas, Williams

Likely tyre performance and other considerations

Pirelli tyre choice for Suzuka: Medium (white markings) and hard (orange markings). This combination was most recently used at Silverstone

As with the race at Silverstone, the main interest will revolve around whether some teams can race with two stints on the mediums and one on the hard tyres to take advantage of the better pace of the mediums. If they can make the mediums last, this will be a competitive strategy. Last year most runners stuck with the hards. At Silverstone Daniel Ricciardo managed to take a set of mediums to 37 laps.

The performance gap between the medium and hard tyres is likely to be around 0.8 seconds per lap in qualifying trim. But in the race at Silverstone there was little to choose between the tyres; this could well happen at Suzuka this weekend.

Like Silverstone, Suzuka presents a great challenge for the tyres, with loadings in excess of 800 kilos on the tyre through some of the corners.

With the first sector of the lap featuring a series of high energy corners putting lateral load into the tyres, warm up is never a problem at Suzuka.

Force India pit stop Singapore

Number and likely timing of pit stops

Last year with hard and medium tyres, simulations showed that two stops would be faster than three stops by around 5 seconds. Most people did two stops.
A classic two stop is to pit for the first time around Lap 14 and then a second time around Lap 35. We may see drivers trying the undercut, trying to push rivals into running a longer final stint than they would ideally wish to do.

Thermal degradation will be the limiting factor, particularly on the front tyres and that will dictate strategy. Teams will react to degradation once it kicks in and make stops. We have seen a few times at Suzuka that a safety car can make a big difference for teams that are marginal on the tyres.

Suzuka has an unusual pit lane and it is easy to lose time in the pit stops. It is downhill, so easy for the driver to overshoot his pit box and there is a rain gulley which sometimes affects the exit from the pit box. The result is that there is generally more variability in the pit stop times than normal.

Safety car, Japanese GP

Chance of a Safety Car

The chance of a Safety Car at Suzuka is quite high: 60% with 0.6 Safety Cars per race. As accidents at Suzuka tend to be at high speed there is often wreckage to be cleared away. There has been at least one Safety Car in five of the last seven races at Suzuka.

Start, Italian GP Monza

Recent start performance

Starts are a critical part of the race and strategy can be badly compromised by a poor start, while good starts can make strategists change their plans in the hope of a good result.

As far as 2014 starts are concerned here is a table with indications of drivers who have gained or lost places at the start.

Note- This table is intended as an indicator of trends. Where drivers have had first lap incidents, which dropped them to the back of the field, they are not included above, but are detailed in the notes below. This affects other drivers’ gains, but the sample still shows prevailing trends of places won and lost at the start.

Net gained positions


24 Gutierrez




18 Maldonado, Hulkenberg 



17 Ericsson,
15 Raikkonen, Kobayashi



14 Chilton



11 Sutil,
10 Massa




8 Bianchi



7 Hamilton,
6 Bottas, 


5 Alonso
4 Button, Lotterer, Perez


3 Vettel,


Net held position

Rosberg, Magnussen

Net lost positions

23 Vergne,


11 Ricciardo,


8 Grosjean,

4 Kvyat

 


 

Melbourne Notes: Kobayashi, Massa eliminated in a first corner accident; Perez, Gutierrez pitted at the end of Lap 1; Bianchi, Grosjean started from pit lane.


Malaysia Notes: Perez started from pit lane, Bianchi pitted at the end of lap 1 

Bahrain notes: Vergne pitted at the end of lap 1 after contact


China Notes: Sutil lost power at start and dropped 8 places, retiring soon after. 


Monaco notes: Maldonado did not start, Ericsson started from pit lane, Perez crashed Lap 1.


Canada Notes: Gutierrez started from pit lane; Bianchi and Chilton crashed lap 1; Ericsson pitted lap 1


Austria Notes: Grosjean started from pit lane


GB Notes: Raikkonen and Massa eliminated in 1st lap accident

Germany notes: Massa eliminated in 1st lap accident, Magnussen and Ricciardo dropped back as a result 

Hungary Notes: Hamilton, Magnussen, Kvyat started from pit lane
Belgium Notes: Grosjean and Bianchi collided on lap one, Kobayashi absent and replaced by Lotterer.
Italy Notes: Ericsson started from pit lane.
Singapore notes: Kobayashi did not start; Rosberg started from pit lane

Alonso pit stop

Pit Stop League Table
Of course good strategy planning also requires good pit stop execution by the mechanics and consistency is the key – despite the emphasis on eliminating mistakes, we have still seen tyre stops carried out in two seconds this year.

The table below shows the fastest single stop by teams in the recent Singapore Grand Prix from the car entering the pit lane to leaving it.

1. McLaren 28.627
2. Red Bull 28.733
3. Ferrari 28.810
4. Williams 28.889
5. Lotus 29.036
6. Mercedes 29.244
7. Force India 29.362
8. Sauber 29.748
9. Marussia 29.752
10. Toro Rosso 29.806
11. Caterham 30.144

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The UBS Race Strategy Briefing is written by James Allen with input and data from several of the leading teams’ strategists, from Pirelli and from JA on F1 technical adviser Dominic Harlow

“A race to be bold” – Why Mercedes left Hamilton out and how a podium got away from Alonso

2014-09-23

XPB.cc

This year’s Singapore Grand Prix was certainly a race in which it paid to be bold on strategy.

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There was the inevitable Safety Car, at half distance, maintaining the circuit’s 100% record of Safety Cars and there were some very different strategies at work, which decided the outcome of the top 10 finishing positions. It took Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso out of second place and put him down in fourth and it saw Jean Eric Vergne and Sergio Perez take a late gamble for new tyres and pass seven and nine cars respectively in the final 15 laps.

The key to this race was the tyre choice for the third stint and how early in the race teams committed to that decision, as we shall see.

Pre-race considerations

Friday practice showed that the Pirelli tyres were degrading quickly and also that the gap in performance between the soft and supersoft was huge; as much as 2.5 seconds per lap on some cars. This meant that many teams were planning on three stops in the race, with three stints on the faster supersoft and one stint on softs at the end. But everyone was aware of the likelihood of a safety car and the risk of being caught out by it…

Safety Car Singapore GP

The Safety Car dilemma

A mid-race Safety Car is always a tricky one for strategists to call, it’s a fast decision to ‘stop’ or ‘stay out’; it’s definitely in a grey area, unless it’s a one stop race and your driver hasn’t yet pitted, but there aren’t many races like that today.

This might well be why Red Bull, for example, chose to fit Soft tyres at the second stops of Vettel and Ricciardo on laps 25 and 27 respectively. Their plan was to run a S/Soft,S/Soft,Soft,S/Soft race, effectively covering that scenario.

They were able to get away with not taking the final set of S/Soft tyres because the seven slow laps behind the safety car saved the tyres and meant that Vettel needed 28 racing laps from them and Ricciardo 26, which was on the limit, but manageable.

Credit must be given to Felipe Massa, who somehow managed 31 racing laps to come home 5th, but team mate Valterri Bottas’s dropped out of 6th place because it proved too many laps for his car to manage. Williams were in this situation because they had been very aggressive on the first stops; Massa pitted on lap 10 and undercut Raikkonen, Bottas and Magussen by doing it. They were bold and they were rewarded.

Strategists deal in probability management and if you were to plot a graph of probability vs race lap for a Safety Car in Singapore you would probably see that Safety Cars tend to happen around pit-stop windows, because drivers are pushing just before and just after stops and the differences in relative tyre performance are large. Hence the SC deployment this year; two laps after Sergio Perez’ stop.

Another contributory factor these days is that the Safety Car periods are long, even for a relatively small incident like Perez’s smashed front wing because of the backmarker unlapping procedures.

Lewis Hamilton

Why Mercedes left Hamilton out

In comparison to the Red Bull plan, Alonso and Hamilton went for more conventional strategies. Despite the Safety Car, which cut into Hamilton’s lead, they stuck to their guns and left him out when the Safety Car was deployed. He had done five laps on a set of supersofts at this stage and after the Safety Car period ended, he needed to build a cushion of 27 seconds to be able to pit and rejoin ahead of his rivals.

He had a remarkable pace difference to the Red Bulls during this phase, up to two seconds a lap faster, but they were managing their tyres to the end. Mercedes capitalized on this and asked Hamilton to push. The target was not to build a 27 second gap to second placed Vettel; it was to clear Ricciardo.

The reason for this is that they knew that with fresh Soft tyres, Hamilton would be able to pass one Red Bull car on worn Softs relatively easily – as it proved. But they feared that if they came out behind both Red Bulls, they could play a team game and hold him up while the lead car build a cushion for victory. This is why they waited until lap 52 to pit him and he duly emerged ahead of Ricciardo and sliced past Vettel for the win. It was exquisitely judged.

Fernando Alonso

Alonso – caught between a rock and a hard place

The Singapore Grand Prix showed a more competitive Ferrari, but this result will seem like a missed opportunity to the Scuderia, as they know they could have finished second, equaling their best result of the season.

Alonso missed the chance to qualify third on Saturday; the lap time was in the car, but he couldn’t put his three best sectors together in one lap. He made up for it at the start, by passing both Red Bulls, but had to give one place back for cutting a corner. Nevertheless he was back in second place after the second round of pit stops, thanks to an undercut on Lap 24, where he took Supersofts and got ahead of Vettel. But the plan was destroyed by the Safety Car, for which Red Bull were better prepared (see above).

It meant that after just seven laps in that third stint, Alonso had to pit again for softs. Had he not pitted under the Safety Car, rejoining fourth, he would have lost far more places by pitting later, rejoining into traffic and then having to overtake many cars to get back to fourth or better.

Had he stayed out on supersofts and gone to Lap 45, for example, he would have rejoined in heavy traffic. He would still have been obliged to take Softs, as he had not yet used them. Vergne did something similar and went from 14th to 6th, so it was possible to pass cars, but the pack ahead of Vergne was more closely bunched than the front runners Alonso was racing against and so there’s no evidence that Alonso would have been able to get a better result than 4th by doing what Vergne did.

He would need to have matched Hamilton’s pace for 10 laps after the Safety Car to clear the traffic and attack the Red Bulls at the end. Ferrari clearly didn’t think that was possible.

He also had some difficulties warming up the Soft tyres; it took three laps after the Safety Car was withdrawn for Alonso to get close to the Red Bull’s lap times.

Another less well reported fact is that brake temperatures were very high for all runners and this conditioned how hard they could push throughout the race. Hamilton was fortunate that Rosberg was sidelined, not just because he was able to score 25 unanswered points, but also because a hard race with Rosberg would have risked overheating his brakes.

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

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Race History and Tyre Usage Charts, Kindly supplied by Williams Martini Racing – Click to Enlarge

Note Hamilton’s pace after the Safety Car (blue line rising upwards steeply) – there is nothing comparable it from any other driver in the race and it was the only time when he was truly pushing hard. Mercedes’ rivals may have been closer in qualifying, but the race pace of the Mercedes was vastly superior once again.

Alonso’s pace in the Ferrari (red solid line) relative to Vettel (purple solid line) shows he had the pace to finish ahead of the Red Bull, but his strategy was wrecked by the timing of the Safety Car, which forced him to stop for Soft tyres or risk losing many places. Note his problems warming up the Softs in the three laps after the Safety Car.

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Williams Martini Racing

How to win the longest and toughest F1 race of the year

2014-09-16

Podium SIngapore GP 2013

The Singapore Grand Prix is a fascinating race because there is always an element of chance.

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The longest race in the F1 calendar at almost two hours, one of the hardest on brakes, with a 100% record of a safety car, a long slow pit stop and a choice of the softest tyres which cannot do the 308km marathon in one stop, the Singapore Grand Prix is always a strategy challenge.

But now, with a new ban on team radios due to come into force this weekend, it makes it even more fascinating. Messages from engineers to drivers about strategy are permitted, but drivers are no longer allowed coaching when looking after the tyres and the brakes and getting the start procedure right, which opens up some big question marks.

It could be quite marginal on fuel, so the drivers will have to be careful to judge their pace, while monitoring fuel use by themselves.

The start is particularly crucial at Singapore as it’s very hard to overtake on this circuit and the field spread is significant, so gaining places on the run down to Turn 1 is vital.

The undercut is a very useful tactic here to gain places; you pit before the cars ahead of you, use the performance of the new tyres versus old and then gain places when they pit. Kimi Raikkonen did it very effectively last season on his way to a podium.

The race on the Marina Bay Circuit is also one of the longest and toughest of the year for the cars and drivers. The race can last up to two hours and with high temperatures , humidity and constant braking and turning, it is a real marathon.

Singapore Track map
Track characteristics

Marina Bay, Singapore – 5.073 kilometres. Race distance – 61 laps = 309.316 kilometres. 23 corners in total.. Street circuit around Singapore’s Marina Bay area.

Aerodynamic setup – High downforce. Top speed 305km/h (with Drag Reduction System active on rear wing) – 290km/h without.

Full throttle – 45.5% of the lap time (low).

Time spent braking: 21% of lap. Number of brake zones – 16. Brake wear- Very high. Toughest race of season for brakes as no cooling opportunities.

Total time needed for pit stop: 29 seconds (very high)

Sebastian Vettel at Singapore GP

Form Guide

The Singapore Grand Prix is the 14th round of 19 in the 2014 FIA F1 World Championship.

Sebastian Vettel is the form man at Singapore having won the race for the last three seasons.

Vettel has yet to win a race this season, but his team mate Daniel Ricciardo has won three times, showing that the Red Bull is fast enough to challenge the Mercedes on certain tracks and in certain circumstances. This race could be one of those.

As far as drivers’ and teams’ form at Singapore is concerned; Sebastian Vettel has won the race three times; Fernando Alonso won the race in 2008 with Renault and 2010 with Ferrari, Lewis Hamilton won the 2009 edition for McLaren and was on pole in 2012.

Weather Forecast

The temperatures are always high for this event, around 30 degrees with high humidity, but amazingly none of the six races at Singapore have been affected by rain. There has been plenty of rain around the event, but not during the race.

XPB.cc

Likely tyre performance and other considerations

Pirelli tyre choice for Singapore: soft and supersoft. This has been a popular combination this season and has appeared at Monaco, Canada, Austria and Germany.

The Singapore lap is long and the great challenge is to look after the rear tyres; it is 15% harder on the rear tyres than Monaco, for example. This means that this combination of the softest tyres in the range will give less mileage and suffer more degradation than in Monaco, which could be done as a one stop race. In Singapore you have to stop twice ,but timing is everything.

Last year Pirelli brought the supersoft and medium and the delta between them was very large. So we didn’t see any counter strategies, starting on the harder tyre.

This year we will see cars choosing to start on the soft and run a longer first stint. This strategy has paid off for Force India in the past in Singapore.

Free Practice 2 is crucial for doing homework on the tyres. The track temperatures at night, when it is dark, are significantly lower than in the FP1 and FP3 practice sessions, which take place in the early evening, so the tyres behave differently.

Force India pit stop Singapore

Number and likely timing of pit stops

The last time we had soft and supersoft tyres in 2012, the teams looked set to stop three times, but with the intervention of two safety cars, that was dropped to two stops.

Last year with the medium tyres it was an easy two stopper. We are likely to see two stops again this year. Early models suggest that a good strategy would be starting on supersoft tyres, stopping around Lap 18 and again on Lap 40.

Safety Car Singapore GP
Chance of a Safety Car

Because the track is lined with walls, making it difficult for marshals to clear debris, the chance of a Safety Car at Singapore is 100% ! There has been at least one Safety Car at every Singapore GP so far with an average of 6 laps spent under Safety Car.

Start, Italian GP Monza

Recent start performance

Starts are a critical part of the race and strategy can be badly compromised by a poor start, while good starts can make strategists change their plans in the hope of a good result.

As far as 2014 start performance is concerned drivers have gained (+) or lost (-) places off the start line this season on aggregate as follows:

Net gained positions

24 Gutierrez



18 Maldonado, Hulkenberg 


15 Ericsson, Kobayashi


14 Raikkonen, Chilton


11 Sutil, Massa



8 Bianchi


7 Hamilton, Bottas, 

4 Alonso, Lotterer, Perez

2 Vettel,
1 Button, Magnussen

Net held position
Rosberg,

Net lost positions
23 Vergne,

10 Ricciardo,

8 Grosjean,
4 Kvyat

 

 


Melbourne Notes: Kobayashi, Massa eliminated in a first corner accident; Perez, Gutierrez pitted at the end of Lap 1; Bianchi, Grosjean started from pit lane.

 Malaysia Notes: Perez started from pit lane, Bianchi pitted at the end of lap 1 

Bahrain notes: Vergne pitted at the end of lap 1 after contact

 China Notes: Sutil lost power at start and dropped 8 places, retiring soon after. 

Monaco notes: Maldonado did not start, Ericsson started from pit lane, Perez crashed Lap 1.

Canada Notes: Gutierrez started from pit lane; Bianchi and Chilton crashed lap 1; Ericsson pitted lap 1

 Austria Notes: Grosjean started from pit lane

 GB Notes: Raikkonen and Massa eliminated in 1st lap accident
 Germany notes: Massa eliminated in 1st lap accident, Magnussen and Ricciardo dropped back as a result 
Hungary Notes: Hamilton, Magnussen, Kvyat started from pit lane Belgium Notes: Grosjean and Bianchi collided on lap one, Kobayashi absent and replaced by Lotterer. Italy Notes: Ericsson started from pit lane.

Pit Stop League Table

Of course good strategy planning also requires good pit stop execution by the mechanics and we have seen tyre stops carried out in just over two seconds by F1 teams.

The league table below shows the order of the pit crews based on their fastest time in the Italian Grand Prix, from the car entering the pit lane to leaving it.

McLaren 24.214
Lotus 24.223
Williams 24.323
Red Bull 24.388
Mercedes 24.453
Ferrari 24.457
Toro Rosso 24.641
Force India 24.938
Caterham 25.277
Sauber 25.693
Marussia 26.641

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The UBS Race Strategy Briefing is written by James Allen with input and data from some of the F1 team strategists and from Pirelli.

Did Red Bull use Sebastian Vettel as a strategy play to help Daniel Ricciardo in Italy?

2014-09-09

XPB.cc

Did the Red Bull team show signs in Monza that it is already lining up behind Daniel Ricciardo rather than four times world champion Sebastian Vettel? Was Vettel used as a strategy pawn to help maximise Ricciardo’s points haul and keep him in the title chase?

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That is the question raised by the strategy the team gave to the two drivers and after the race Vettel allegedly made a comment about the amount of “faith” the team has about him at this point. So what was that all about?

And what other key outcomes in the Italian GP were decided by strategy decisions? All will become clear here.

Jules Bianchi
Pre race considerations

With the conservative choice of medium and hard tyres and a long slow pit lane at Monza, this was a clear one-stop race and that reduced the strategic possibilities. It also made going aggressive a risky thing to do as there was little leeway with no further opportunities to stop for fresh tyres.

One key element to factor in was the “warm-up slope” on the new hard tyres for the second stint. This means that the new hard tyre took time to warm up and this had to be factored in when trying to undercut the car ahead. A gap of at least 1.5 seconds was the ideal margin to avoid this.

Six cars tried to copy what Sergio Perez had pulled off in 2012; a contra strategy, starting on the hard tyre and trying to pass cars later in the race on the faster medium tyre. It didn’t work this year.

Vettel and Riccardo
Ricciardo prevails from Red Bull’s intriguing strategy decision at Monza

Leaving aside Nico Rosberg’s driving error, which handed the victory to his Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton, the most interesting talking point from the Italian Grand Prix was Riccardo beating his team mate Vettel, despite starting one place behind him on the grid and dropping to seven places behind on the first lap.

Starting 8th and 9th respectively, Vettel climbed to 5th and Ricciardo fell to 12th on the opening lap and yet from here the Australian came through to pass his teammate on Lap 47 and finish fifth. So how did he do it and was Vettel used as strategy pawn by Red Bull in this game, at the expense of his own race effort, to help Ricciardo?

When the race settled down in the opening stint, Vettel found himself behind Kevin Magnussen, who had proved so hard to pass at Spa for Fernando Alonso and who had a straight line speed advantage over Vettel of 10km/h.

Red Bull felt that Vettel was faster than Magnussen and that if they could get him in front he would stay there and he would be able to get after Felipe Massa and the final podium position. Mindful of what happened on track to Alonso at Spa, they decided to get him ahead using strategy.

They went very aggressive with his strategy and brought him in on Lap 18, which is right at the limit and six laps earlier than the optimum fastest strategy. It worked and gave him track position over Magnussen.

But it meant that Vettel would have to manage the hard tyres for 35 laps. This proved too much, especially as the aggressive strategy requires the driver to hammer the tyres in the opening laps of the second stint to make it work and undercut the car in front. His tyres faded in the closing stages and Ricciardo was able to pass him for fifth place.

However there was a double benefit to this plan – another reason for them to pull Vettel in early. And it helped Ricciardo to achieve his result. Here’s how it worked: they left Ricciardo out for a long first stint and as he was running in clear air he could preserve the tyres while running at the target pace. He did this brilliantly; it’s clearly one of his skills.

Sergio Perez and Jenson Button

By pulling Vettel in early, it forced the cars racing against the Red Bulls to stop earlier than they would have liked. Perez, for example pitted on Lap 19, Raikkonen on Lap 20, Alonso and Magnussen on Lap 21, Button Lap 22 – all well short of the ideal lap 24. In other words it forced them off the optimum strategy.

They then offset Ricciardo by taking him up to Lap 26 and that meant that he had significantly fresher tyres for the second stint and so he was able to pass them all, including his own team mate Vettel, who ran out of tyres before the end. It was brilliant. And speaking to strategists from other teams they all say that they would have done exactly the same thing as Red Bull in the circumstances.

To be fair to Red Bull, they felt that this was Vettel’s best chance of beating Magnussen. But there is no doubt that it gave Ricciardo the 5th place result after qualifying only 9th and on a weekend where damage limitation was the name of the game. It kept him in touch with the two Mercedes drivers in the championship, with some more favourable tracks to Red Bull like Singapore coming up.

Valterri Bottas, Kimi Raikkonen
Clever use of hybrid boost the key to overtakes

Another interesting aspect of Ricciardo’s drive was the way he passed cars, not necessarily using the Drag Reduction System to do it. For instance he passed Perez and Vettel into the second chicane without DRS.

This was an example of a new strategic dimension this year, which is the use of energy from the hybrid system to pass and defend. It is becoming an increasingly influential factor in the racing, even though it’s hard for fans to see from the outside or on TV.

The Energy Recovery System can give a boost on demand, which can be used to pass or defend. At Turn 1 in Monza, for example, the car in front isn’t allowed to use DRS, so he has to use up a lot of battery boost to defend. This depletes the store and so the chasing driver can then use his battery boost into the second chicane and get enough speed to get alongside and challenge.

Smart teams and drivers focus their energy boost on areas where other people are less likely to prioritise. This is something that the hybrid system has brought to the racing this year, which wasn’t possible in the days of V8 engines and DRS – we’ve seen it at many races, but Monza was a vivid example.

We will go into this in more depth in future articles, but fans who enjoyed the battles and Monza and who have enjoyed the drives of Ricciardo and Bottas in particular this year, should be aware that a lot of the opportunities for their overtakes have been given to them from clever use of energy recovery.

And it has produced some great racing.

Report Sm Rect bann

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

If you want to leave your comment on the points raised above, please do so in the comments section below.

RACE HISTORY CHART
Courtesy of Williams Martini Racing – Click on Chart to enlarge

Contrast the lines of Vettel and Ricciardo. Vettel’s tyres start going off in the second stint and his pace isn’t there, compared to Ricciardo who pits late and has a very strong second stint.

Also compare the relative pace of Red Bull and Williams – after qualifying badly the race pace of the Red Bull is quite good relative to Williams who qualified well.

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