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October 30 2013

06:19

F1: James Allen Strategieanalyse – Indien 2013

The Indian Grand Prix was all set up to be a fascinating strategy battle with four of the top ten cars starting the race on the more durable medium compound tyres and six on the soft compound, which was short-lived.

Sergio on trackEverywhere there were different tactical approaches and possibilities, although some yielded good results, others didn’t work out. Sadly incidents at the start meant that the fastest two of the outliers, Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso were not able to show what they might have done. A strong result for Sergio Perez, however, made the medium tyre strategy look worthwhile and one wonders what might have been for Webber and Alonso. Meanwhile the two Lotus drivers went about the race in completely different ways but came together near the end as both ended up trying a one stop strategy. It worked for Romain Grosjean, who scored an impressive podium, but not for Kimi Raikkonen. Here we analyse in depth how and why the race turned out as it did.

Pre-race expectations

All teams have strategy computers, which model the race beforehand and give a likely outcome. On Sunday morning many had Webber winning the race by three to four seconds with Vettel catching him at the end. The key to it was how hard it would be to overtake and come back through the field for the drivers like Vettel, Rosberg and Hamilton, who were starting the race on the soft tyre and would be forced to pit early. Most estimates said that the soft tyres would last around five or six laps only at the start of the race. Because of this Webber, Alonso and the two McLaren drivers had opted to qualify on the medium. Although it was one second a lap slower than the soft, it was a much better race tyre. By qualifying a better than expected fourth, Webber managed to put himself into a position to win the race, if he could use the clear air after Vettel, Rosberg and Hamilton pitted to push hard, while Vettel would be coming back through traffic after his first stop.

Meanwhile to throw another strategic dimension into the mix, on race morning Pirelli issued an advisory note that teams were not to do more than 15 laps on a set of soft tyres and 35 laps on a set of mediums. Ferrari and Red Bull were both struggling to get them to last.

The FIA refused to enforce Pirelli’s guidance, leaving it to the teams to decide how long to run the tyre. In the end Adrian Sutil set his fastest lap of the race on his 18th lap on the softs, while Kimi Raikkonen did 51 laps on a set of mediums. For Sutil and Romain Grosjean, ignoring Pirelli was central to their strategy and their result.

Webber’s plan fails at the first hurdle; Vettel comes through

Although the simulations said he should win, starting fourth on the medium tyre, it didn’t work for Webber because he got tangled up at the start with Alonso and dropped to seventh place, behind Hulkenberg and Raikkonen. His opportunity was lost at that point. His strategy relied on running in clear air at the front while time was being lost for Vettel in traffic.

By the time he hit the front he had only half the gap he needed over Vettel, who carved his way through the traffic better than expected. Once Red Bull strategists saw that Webber and Alonso’s strategies were compromised, they pitted Vettel on lap two to get him off the unfancied soft tyre. From here he had 58 laps to do on two new sets of medium tyres. He split the race evenly, doing two 29 lap stints.

The key to his race – and Rosberg’s race too – was being able to come through traffic after the early stop. Vettel was 17th on lap two and back up to the lead by lap 29. He had to pass all the medium tyre runners, who could otherwise hold him up by running long, and he did so.

Webber meanwhile, knowing that he was racing for second place, pitted on lap 28 for a short stint on softs, then pitted again on lap 32, as he had an opportunity to slot into a gap allowing him to run in free air ahead of Ricciardo. This gave him 28 laps to do on medium tyres to the chequered flag. This had secured him second place but then alternator failure ended his afternoon.

Perez’ standout drive and what might have been for Alonso

Sergio Perez was the most notable illustration of what might have been for Webber and Alonso as he ran the medium tyre in qualifying and at the start and managed to go from ninth on the grid to fifth, his best result of the season. He kept the medium tyre lapping competitively until lap 28 and then did a short stint on softs, in clear air, pitting on lap 33, rejoining behind Hamilton, but ahead of Hulkenberg. As Hamilton’s tyres faded in the closing stages, the man who replaced him at McLaren was able to pick him off.

Alonso, meanwhile broke his front wing and damaged his front suspension in the opening lap melee and his strategy was compromised as he made a forced early stop, losing the strategic advantage of starting on the medium tyre. He was unable to progress back through the field and ended the day not scoring any points.

In hindsight, he might have been better to qualify on the soft and do the same strategy as Rosberg. He set the second fastest time in Qualifying session 2, so if he had just repeated that lap time in Qualifying session 3 he would have been third on the grid. From there a podium was possible with a clean start like the one team mate Massa got on the soft tyre.

Contrasting Lotus strategies and what might have been for Massa

There was some controversy at Lotus in this race as Kimi Raikkonen refused to accept team orders and let his team mate Romain Grosjean through eight laps from the end. Raikkonen’s tyres were six laps older than the Frenchman’s and had passed their best. They touched, Grosjean went off track but managed to repass the Finn and went on to score an impressive third place, from 17th on the grid while Raikkonen finished seventh. So how did Lotus end up in this situation?

The original plan was for Raikkonen to two-stop from sixth on the grid and for Grosjean to one stop. Both started on soft tyres, but Grosjean’s were new as he had messed up qualifying and was down in 17th place on the grid. This would prove important as he was able to run a longer first stint than his team mate and that made the second stint a more manageable length.

He managed to get to lap 13 before stopping which was ideal, as he then did 47 laps on the mediums. He picked up places when the likes of Gutierrez, Hulkenberg and Di Resta made their second stops. All the good work to set up the result was done in that opening stint.

Where Grosjean was lucky was when Felipe Massa and Ferrari failed to trap him on lap 29. Massa needed to make a second stop and had a 23 second lead over Grosjean. If Massa had pitted then he would have trapped Grosjean behind him and would then have been on fresh tyres, while Grosjean’s were older and needing to make the finish. So the Lotus would not have been able to attack.

Ferrari did not take this opportunity and so when Massa pitted on lap 30, he came out behind Grosjean. This was the turning point of Grosjean’s race.

Mercedes saw it. Rosberg was behind Massa in this phase of the race and they pitted Rosberg to cover Grosjean on lap 27, trapping the Frenchman. Massa could have been second in other words, but clearly didn’t feel he could make the finish on one set of tyres for 33 laps.

Grosjean lost some time behind Gutierrez between laps 21 and 25 and this cost him a shot at beating Rosberg to second place.

Raikkonen in contrast, had set out to stop twice and made his first stop on lap seven. This brought him out behind Hulkenberg and Di Resta on relatively new mediums. He could not pass because he was suffering a repeat of a rear brake problem he has had a few times before. When he closed up on the car in front his rear brakes overheated and didn’t perform as normal.

Raikkonen and the team had discussed the possibility of a Plan B, should he find it hard to pass traffic on a two stop. The alternative was to run one stop, which is what they then agreed to do. The gamble was that if it worked he could get a podium and if it didn’t he wouldn’t finish lower than seventh, which is what he would have got had he stayed in traffic on a two stop.

But having stopped on lap seven, he needed to do 53 laps on a set of medium tyres. It was an extreme gamble, but he and Lotus have scored some good results in the past this way.

This time it proved to be five laps too many, as his performance dropped off around lap 55. Losing four positions in the next three laps, he had a big enough gap to Di Resta to be able to pit on lap 58 for a fresh set of softs and stay in seventh place.

Force India back in the points

It was a good result for Force India on home soil after a barren spell recently which has allowed Sauber to close up on them in the championship. This result arrested that march a little. Force India now has a 23 point margin with three races to go.

Starting 12th Di Resta finished 8th on a two stop plan with a very early first stop. While Sutil started 13th and finished 9th on a one stop strategy.

Di Resta’s strategy was to start on the soft tyre, come in on lap one and then divide the race into two halves on new medium tyres. It meant that he ran in clear air for almost the whole race and it worked well. The team was disappointed not to beat Raikkonen to seventh, but Lotus were able to pit Raikkonen on lap 58 as his tyres were falling off a cliff and get out just ahead of Di Resta.

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October 16 2013

14:06

F1: James Allen Strategieanalyse – Japan 2013

The Japanese Grand Prix was different from recent races in so far as Sebastian Vettel did not drive away from pole position and control the race. He had to come through from third in the opening stint and needed race strategy to take the victory, in the face of a particularly strong performance by Lotus’ Romain Grosjean.

F1 Grand Prix of Japan - RaceRed Bull split the strategies, putting Mark Webber on three stops and leaving Sebastian Vettel on two. Here’s our in depth analysis of why they did that and how it played out, looking at several defining moments in the race. The start of the race was important for defining what kind of race it would be; both pole sitter Webber and front row starter Vettel got away badly, allowing Grosjean to nip through and take the lead, with Webber second and Vettel third.

Lewis Hamilton’s rear tyre touched Vettel’s front wing, which gave Hamilton a puncture and also took a little performance away from Vettel’s car, but not a significant amount.

During the first stint, Vettel sat back around two seconds behind Webber from very early on, to protect the tyres. Webber, in contrast, pushed Grosjean for the first six laps, then dropped back a little. But his tyres were losing performance when he pitted on lap 11. The Lotus had been quick on the medium tyres in the first stint and at this point Lotus was still in with a chance of winning.

Grosjean pitted on lap 12 to cover Webber, who was now on a virtually new set of hard tyres. Lotus had the luxury of seeing what tyres Webber chose and went for the same choice. Arguably, as the race played out, it would have been better with hindsight to choose another set of mediums at this point and this might have given them enough pace to get second place. Because Grosjean’s pace on hards wasn’t as good as expected and this is what Red Bull spotted early in the second stint and it decided their strategy from here.

Vettel stayed out until lap 14 and then pitted for new hard tyres. The top three were in the same order during the second stint.

The second stint, the decision is made

Once Red Bull’s strategists saw that Grosjean’s pace was not so hot on hard tyres, they decided that they would be able to win the race with Vettel on a two-stop strategy. But based on Webber’s first stint and his track record on the Pirelli tyres, it was unlikely that he would be able to beat Grosjean by staying on the same two stop strategy. This is the key to what happened next.

The only possibility for Webber to win would be to try to run close to the limit of the tyres in the second stint and then try to undercut the Lotus around lap 28/29, which would leave 25/24 laps to the finish. But the victory would hang on being able to pull off the undercut. If Lotus reacted and pitted Grosjean at the same time, Webber would have had to pass Grosjean on track wit tyres of the same age. Had they been thinking solely of what was the best way to get Webber to win the race, that’s what Red Bull would have done.

Rather than that, the team looked at it from a team point of view. The race was winnable, Webber would not be able to get the tyres to last as well as Vettel to pull off a winning two stop strategy and the German is faster.

The key to it was to pull Lotus in two different directions and play to the strengths of their drivers; give Vettel the best two stop possibility and try to use a three stop plan for Webber, which meant he could push the whole way and not worry about the tyres and make bold passes in the closing stages, which he has done many times in the past.

There is no doubt that this strategy disadvantaged Webber at the outset, because it meant that he would be behind his team mate in the final stint. That was a given.

The risk for Red Bull, given the history between the two drivers, was that Webber would come steaming up to Vettel in the closing laps and there would be a clash as he tried to pass him.

But they were prepared to take that risk – or believed they could control if it happened – because they knew from Grosjean’s pace on hards that Vettel would beat him if he ran his fastest two-stop plan. And that’s exactly how it worked out.

Moving Webber out of the way, by pitting him on lap 25, allowed Vettel to close up on the back of Grosjean. The speed with which he did this – the gap went from 3.4 seconds to 1.3 in two laps – showed Lotus that they weren’t going to be able to beat Vettel, who had too much pace.

From lap 28 onwards it is possible to get to the end of the race on a set of hard tyres, so this was the trigger point for Lotus to bring Grosjean in, to prevent Vettel undercutting him.

This was a difficult decision for Lotus, because if they had stayed out, they would have had more chance to fight Webber for second place at the end on fresher tyres, but the win would definitely have been lost.

In that scenario, Vettel would definitely have beaten them by undercutting.

However if they pitted and cut that route off, they gambled that they might be able to hold him behind them to the finish, as the almost did with Webber. In other words, they gambled for a long shot at the win, rather than to protect second place; for 10 possible extra points, rather than three points lost.

However Vettel was too strong; he was managing the tyres well and was able to run another eight quick laps after Grosjean’s stop. The undercut had been covered off, so now the route for Vettel to win was to stay out longer and then attack the Frenchman in the closing stages on much fresher tyres, which is exactly what he did.

After his stop he cut Grosjean’s three second lead to nothing in two laps and then passed him decisively. Job done.

Webber loses the win but takes second place

Most strategists in the F1 pit lane agree that Red Bull did exactly the right things strategically in Suzuka and all would have done the same thing in their shoes.

They gave their fastest driver the best chance to win the race and got their other driver into second place. As a team, you cannot do better than that.

What did not happen was Webber did not challenge Vettel in the final laps, because it took him too long after his third and final stop, to pass Grosjean. Webber not only had fresher, softer tyres than Grosjean, he also had a straight line speed advantage from running slightly less rear downforce. He should have been able to go through Grosjean in a lap or two, as Vettel did. But he couldn’t make the pass until late in the day.

Conclusions

The reality of the situation is that, apart from the delay in Webber passing Grosjean, this race turned out exactly as Red Bull expected it to from the moment they took a team decision around lap 20-25 to split the strategies.

Yes it is tough on Webber, who had been ahead of Vettel in qualifying and on the road in the first stint and yes, it does undermine the team agreement that the lead driver on the road gets first call on strategy. They overruled that protocol because as a team they saw the best way to get the team victory.

This is the hard reality of F1, which is sometimes hard to take for fans of particular drivers. They race for a team and their contract terms oblige them to accept that the team will make decisions in the interests of the team.

To split the strategies any other way on Sunday would not have brought the team victory with certainty.

The way they did it had the best chance of success and duly achieved the best result for the team.

And at the end of the day Formula 1 is about doing the best job as a team, rather than taking chances in order to favour one of your drivers, even if observers on the outside read it that you have favoured your lead driver, despite the fact he was behind on the road.

That is the pragmatism of Formula 1.

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October 09 2013

06:19

F1: James Allen Strategieanalyse – Korea 2013

The Korean Grand Prix was a slow-burner, which came alive in the final part of the race. Once again Sebastian Vettel controlled the race, but he did not dominate it as he had in Singapore.

F1 Grand Prix of Korea - RaceMeanwhile race strategy again played a huge part in the outcome, with Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen again using strategy to make his way from 9th on the grid to 2nd at the flag while teams had to deal with two safety cars. The race also saw some highly unusual happenings: a fire truck on circuit, without the knowledge of Race Control and a front nose failure on Nico Rosberg’s car. There was a lot therefore for strategists to deal with. Here is our analysis of why the race worked out the way it did.

Pre race expectations

Before the race, based on the data the teams had gathered from practice, it appeared that two stops would be around eight seconds faster than three stops. The new supersoft tyre had shown itself to be 0.7s a lap faster than the new medium. The pit lane window would open around lap 11 for the cars, which had started on the supersofts used in qualifying.

In fact the level of tyre degradation was higher than expected. Most people planned a two-stop race, but it was marginal for many and the two safety cars really helped them. We saw a tyre failure for Sergio Perez after he flat spotted a tyre that was near the end of its life.
Vettel controls but doesn’t dominate

After his performance in Singapore two weeks ago, which aroused suspicions and rumours about his car, Sebastian Vettel was noticeably more subdued in the Korean race.

Starting from pole, he built an early cushion over his rivals and then managed the race with a gap of four to five seconds. He had no need at any stage to run at full pace, so he managed his pace throughout. In Singapore, there was a moment after the safety car where he needed to build an advantage of almost 30 seconds to avoid losing position at his pit stop and here we saw the true absolute pace of the Red Bull.

The reason why he kept the gap at around five seconds in Korea is that this provides protection from the car behind undercutting him in a pit stop. That’s too much time to make up by making a pit stop a lap earlier and taking fresh tyres. With a five second gap Vettel can react and cover the car behind.

The only time it looked like it might be close in Korea was the final stint. Both Vettel and Grosjean pitted on lap 31 during the first safety car. The tyres that came off his car had done over 20 laps (they were used when he started with them) and he was told that they were finished. So with 24 laps to the finish on a new set of mediums, it could be marginal for him in the closing laps. However he was fortunate in that a second safety car was then deployed, which meant it was easy to reach the finish on the tyres. Meanwhile, Grosjean made a mistake and this allowed Raikkonen through into second place. Raikkonen’s pace was slower than Grosjean’s in the final stint and the team didn’t allow Grosjean to repass his team-mate. They knew he wouldn’t be able to challenge Vettel anyway by then.

Raikkonen does it again – P9 to P2

Kimi Raikkonen has made a speciality of coming through from lowly grid positions to podium finishes, using clever race strategy and varying his pace as required. He was at his best in Korea, but he did also get a large helping of luck from the safety car.

Raikkonen made a poor start, but recovered and with the mix up on the opening lap giving some slower cars an opportunity to get into the top ten, Raikkonen had little problem passing them to get to 7th place on lap four, although he lost a place to Webber soon afterwards. He wasn’t happy with the tyres and at this stage Lotus’ plan was to stop three times.

The key to his race lay in his undercut on lap 26, where he took a new set of medium tyres. This allowed him to undercut Hulkenberg, Alonso, Hamilton and Rosberg and with Webber’s puncture he also got ahead of him. So in one strategy move he had gone from 8th to 3rd.

Hulkenberg reacted and tried in vain to cover him, but Mercedes left Rosberg out for three laps and Hamilton out for four laps, losing time, because lap 26 was too early for them to bring him in and make the finish on a set of tyres on a two stop plan. They should have switched to a three stop plan when they saw Raikkonen’s move, but they stayed out and lost time.

This is a pattern we have seen a few times this season, where Lotus has been able to be aggressive and make stops on the front foot, forcing rivals to lose places either by staying out or by covering the stop and condemning themselves to tyre worries later in the race. It’s a Catch 22 when they do it to you. Pitting Raikkonen on lap 26, which was at the time part of a three stop plan, put rivals into no-man’s land. Alonso pitted on lap 28 which is neither a two or three stop window, it sits in between and he duly lost track position to Raikkonen.

Although he has made life difficult for himself by qualifying poorly – and lately he has been some way off the pace of Grosjean who has mastered qualifying now – Raikkonen has the perfect qualities for this era of Pirelli tyre degradation racing. He knows how to push the tyres up to the limit but not over them, so he never burns them out and loses the performance as a result. His feel for the limit of the tyres, like Vettel’s is impressive.

Mercedes hit problems

With hindsight, Mercedes should have used a three stop strategy because Hamilton lost too much time staying out after Raikkonen had undercut him o lap 26.

Hamilton had tried to undercut Grosjean at the first stop, pitting on lap 9, which Lotus covered a lap later and retained the position. Hamilton therefore did a 20 lap middle stint and lost position to Raikkonen, as outlined above. But he lost a lot of time at the end of the second stint, over two seconds a lap at times.

To compound matters, Rosberg suffered a highly unusual front nose fixing failure, just as he passed Hamilton. So Hamilton lost four seconds in the process as he was compromised by the problem on Rosberg’s car.

The timing wasn’t great from there onwards – he pitted just before the safety car, so wasn’t able to take the benefit of a free pit stop at just the right moment.

Maldonado unable to capitalise on strong start

Williams is badly in need of some points and Pastor Maldonado looked like he was shaping up to get some after a fantastic start which took him from 18th to ninth on the first lap. Williams tried to do a two stop race from this point, but because Maldonado was running with quick cars at the front, his tyre degradation was quite severe and he ended up cutting his second stint short. This extended his final stint to 22 laps and meant that in the final stint his tyres were far worse than those on Gutierrez and Perez’ cars which had lucked in to being able to pit under the safety car on lap 31. A ninth place had been there for the taking, but it shows how easily it can be taken away and how much a safety car at the wrong moment can turn a race on its head.

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September 25 2013

11:37

F1: James Allen Strategieanalyse Singapur 2013

The Singapore Grand Prix has always been a race where strategy plays a large part in the result and this year was no different.

F1_Sing_2013 00014Partly this is because there is usually a safety car to work around, which can change the game as it did this year. Partly it’s because this is a race where cars which are more gentle on their tyres can take advantage and do one less pit stop than their rivals. And with a stop taking almost 30 seconds, that’s a big advantage. The safety car presented an opportunity for some and a risk for others. Mercedes didn’t take the risk and lost out to Ferrari and Lotus. Other teams did try to take the opportunity of pitting under the safety car and tried to reach the end of the race, over 30 laps, on a single set of tyres, but they either lost performance or had to pit again before the end.

In fact the safety car spoiled the race in many ways, although it did set up an exciting finish, as cars that gambled on pitting under the safety car, had to struggle to the end on the tyres while others on fresher tyres came through the field.

Pre race expectations

This race was set up in a fascinating way thanks to the performance difference between the two Pirelli tyre compounds; medium and supersoft. It was a significant margin; some teams were seeing two seconds a lap of difference in pace. This meant that a three stop strategy looked to be 12 seconds faster than two stops. But if there were to be a safety car this would offer teams a chance to switch strategy and go for two, depending on where it fell.

Vettel thinking strategically already in qualifying

Sebastian Vettel took a strategy gamble on Saturday; opting not to do a final run in qualifying to save a new set of supersoft tyres for the race. All the indications were that the supersoft would be the faster race tyre and that without a safety car, teams would need to be prepared to do three stops, meaning four stints in total, of which three would be on supersoft.

Having a new set would mean Vettel could have superior pace at a key point in the race or if he was under pressure and forced into stopping earlier than ideal to avoid an undercut, he could put on a new set of tyres which would give him the pace to get out of trouble. In the end he didn’t need to worry; his pace advantage was so significant that even with a safety car cutting down his lead, he still had a huge margin over his rivals. And in any case the safety car made it a two stop race for everyone.

But it was an interesting moment. To lose pole and start from the dirty side of the grid wouldn’t have been worth having a new set of tyres for. Red Bull took the risk because they didn’t believe anyone would get close to beating Vettel’s time and they were lucky that Rosberg was 9/100ths of a second slower, rather than faster on his final run.

Much has been made of Vettel having a fastest race lap, one second faster than the next best car, but this isn’t as simple or meaningful as it looks. Vettel put on a new set of supersofts on lap 44 and two laps later set the fastest time of the race. His main rivals were not in a position to challenge that because they were all tyre saving in the final 20 laps of the race. Adrian Sutil had the second fastest race lap, while the second fastest car last weekend, Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes, put on a new set of mediums on lap 41 – which were two seconds a lap slower than the supersofts – and set his fastest lap of the race on lap 51, two seconds slower than Vettel’s.

How could Rosberg have beaten Alonso and Raikkonen?

The key to Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen getting onto the podium was that the Ferrari and Lotus teams had confidence that they could get to the finish on a set of medium tyres should the safety car be deployed around lap 25. This was based on knowledge gained from Friday practice, where almost 4,000kms of running was done by the field, with 26 laps the most anyone managed on a set of mediums.

Mercedes did not have that confidence and the strategy team maintains that they would more likely have ended up like the McLaren drivers, losing performance and track positions at the end, than the Ferrari and Lotus cars.

Ferrari had to take the risk, there was nothing to lose from a championship point of view. If Alonso had followed the Mercedes strategy he would have finished behind Rosberg. By pitting under the safety car he gave himself a shot at second place and it worked, meaning that at least he was able to minimise the championship points loss to Vettel.

For Rosberg, who stayed out when the safety car was deployed on lap 25 along with Vettel, Webber and Hamilton, his nine second lead over Alonso was lost. It was only four seconds when Rosberg made his second stop on lap 41 and lost track position to both Alonso and Raikkonen.

Complicating matters further Rosberg got some discarded tyre rubber jammed in his front wing and this hurt the aerodynamic performance of the Mercedes and affected tyre performance. So even if he had decided to gamble on a stop under the safety car, he would have been forced to stop again before the end of the race.

The risk for Alonso and Raikkonen was that they would be caught by cars like Rosberg and Webber who would be on new tyres In the final 20 laps. Rosberg had the pace to catch them but lost time in traffic (Hulkenberg and Gutierrez) when they were on fresh tyres and that saved Alonso and Raikkonen.

If they had pitted Rosberg under the safety car he would have lost a place to Webber but would have still been ahead of Alonso with a fresh set of tyres. To lose one place for a fresh set may have been worth it. Without the rubber getting stuck in the front wing, Rosberg would have been able to build a gap to Raikkonen, so that he could pit again, if needed, and still challenge the Finn for third place before the flag. But with the poor pace from having rubber in his wing, it wouldn’t have made any difference.

Mercedes were beaten by two cars whose strength has been making the tyres last.

Di Resta loses a good result

Force India and Paul di Resta have a strong history at Singapore; last year he finished fourth and in 2011 he was sixth, in both cases using innovative strategy.

This year he was at it again. Although he qualified a disappointing 17th on the grid, he tried an ambitious two stop strategy with two stints on new supersoft tyres and the stops well balanced out for the fastest race time. He pulled off a 22 lap first stint on supersoft, the longest any driver managed. The Force India strategists managed to drop him back out into clear air with an eight second gap to the car in front, so he was motoring when the safety car came out at the end of lap 24.

Because he was targeting a two stop strategy the safety car actually worked against him, because it gave many other cars a chance to do two stops as well. Some of them ran into trouble trying to get to the end on the same set of tyres having pitted on lap 25, drivers like Button, Perez and Hulkenberg and these were picked off by the cars with the more evenly spaced stop plan in the closing laps. Di Resta had track position ahead of Massa after his second stop and thus was headed for sixth place, which would have maintained a strong record on this track. But he went off the circuit seven laps from the end.

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September 10 2013

22:43

F1: James Allen Strategieanalyse – Monza 2013

The Italian Grand Prix was an interesting race, if not a thrilling one and in some ways it was a perfect illustration of why Red Bull is currently on top of Ferrari not just in the pace of the car, but in the way it goes racing.

It also put paid to the title hopes of Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen, who were both compromised in qualifying and also in the race. Both were very quick on race day on a forced variant strategy, but it wasn’t enough to recover the ground that had been lost. Before the race, the strategists were briefing that the performance gap between the medium and hard tyre was likely to be small, with the medium a slightly faster race tyre. With very low tyre degradation, the prediction was for one stop for most of the field, which simulations showed was up to 10 seconds faster than two stops.

Ferrari trying to be too clever?

F1_Monza_2013 00017The major strategy talking point of the weekend happened on Saturday in qualifying, when Ferrari tried to use their second driver Felipe Massa to give lead driver Fernando Alonso a tow on the straights in his qualifying lap to save a couple of tenths of a second. It’s a notoriously hard thing to pull off and Ferrari did not manage it on this occasion.

The Ferrari was the fastest car other than the Red Bull this weekend and if Alonso had focussed on getting the perfect lap, there was an opportunity to qualify third and have a crack at pole sitter Sebastian Vettel off the start. Instead Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg qualified third, while Alonso ended up fifth behind team mate Felipe Massa.

Alonso managed to recover in the race and finished in second place, but the chance to finish ahead of Vettel and reduce the points gap by seven points, rather than see it increase by that amount, disappeared on qualifying day.

On race day they also played into Red Bulls hands, by pitting both Massa and Alonso later than their rivals with the result that Massa was undercut by Mark Webber, while Alonso fell further behind Vettel.

Ferrari had painful memories of last year’s race at Monza, where they ran out of tyre performance in the final stint, which would made them vulnerable and cost them places, to Sergio Perez pushing hard in the Sauber. So they ran a little longer this year on the opening stint.

In contrast Red Bull was very aggressive with its strategy; with an 11 second gap between Vettel in the lead and Webber fourth at the end of the opening stint, they went for a double pit stop on lap 23, servicing both cars in sub three seconds. Webber’s stop was actually a shade faster than Vettels!

This impressive work by the strategy and pit crews showed their confidence as a team and their desire to attack. By having Webber follow Vettel into the pits, where the mechanics were already in place, it concealed preparations for Webber’s stop and it wrong footed Ferrari, who were unable to bring in Massa – who was less than a second ahead of Webber at that point – until the following lap.

Webber’s out lap was very fast – faster than Vettel’s – and when Massa rejoined, Webber had jumped him. Having outqualified his team mate and got the better start – from fourth to second – Massa sadly ended up where he started. But the pit stop was only the final act. Massa missed the podium because his pace, once he had allowed Alonso past on lap eight, dropped off and this opened the door to Webber to close and jump him at the stops. He was between 2/10ths and half a second slower than Alonso each lap.

Alonso meanwhile had managed to pass Webber early on with a brilliant move on track and then was gifted second place by Massa. But he could not close the gap on Vettel, despite the German suffering from a flat spotted front tyre after a mistake at the start.

Once Vettel had stopped, the decision by Ferrari to leave Alonso out for another four laps sent a signal to Red Bull strategists and to Vettel that Ferrari didn’t think they could compete, so were going for the safest option for having a strong end to the race. From this point onwards, Vettel could measure the 10 second gap and comfortably respond to whatever Alonso tried. He didn’t have to push too hard and potentially run out of tyre performance at the end, which he might have done had Alonso been on his tail in the second half of the race.

Strategy wise, then, it was a busy race, even if most teams only made one stop, because the hard tyre didn’t warm up quickly and the tyres did not degrade. Wear was the only restriction.

Hamilton and Raikkonen pacy but lose ground

The races of Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen were compromised by a poor qualifying session. Hamilton made a mistake early in Q3 and then was blocked by Adrian Sutil, while Raikkonen couldn’t unlock the single lap performance from the Lotus on medium tyres.

Both drivers started on the hard tyre, aiming to repeat the strategy of Sergio Perez from last year which took him from 12th to sedond place.

Both were forces to make two stops in the race, in other words travelling the 25 seconds down the pit lane twice, which cost time and track positions. In Hamilton’s case it was due to a puncture.

Although the track didn’t suit the Mercedes as much as recent races, both it and the Lotus were arguably podium contenders, but whereas the race pace was very strong, the qualifying pace was poor and Raikkonen was 11th on the grid.

Qualifying in midfield, like this, has a knock-on effect as it increases the risk of a collision at the first corner and that is what happened to Raikkonen, who lost his front wing and had to pit on lap one.

When he rejoined he was 37 seconds behind Vettel and he was a similar amount behind the world champion at the end, which means his race pace was identical.

However in mitigation, Raikkonen did do the whole race on the slightly faster medium tyre, one set of which was new. And he pushed the whole race, because he had to, whereas Vettel was pacing himself once Alonso made that late stop.

Lotus once again had the best tyre life, with Raikkonen doing the longest stint on mediums at 29 laps and Grosjean managing to do 33 on a set of hard tyres.

Hamilton was very fast after his puncture on lap 13. He fell to six seconds behind Raikkonen, but came through strongly in the final stint and beat him by five seconds. Even starting outside the top 10, with the pace he had on Sunday he could have finished fourth or fifth without the puncture.

Hulkenberg stands out

Last year Sergio Perez got a second place result in the Sauber which springboarded him into a McLaren seat a few weeks later.

This year Nico Hulkenberg, on the list of candidates at Ferrari and Lotus, sprang a surprise with third place in qualifying and fifth in the race.

The young German is something of a Monza specialist, as in 2010 with Williams he outqualified and outraced his team mate Rubens Barrichello (who himself had won three times at Monza). He had plenty of experience of qualifying strongly and defending a position there, which he put to good use this year in holding off Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg.

This result was also helped by the introduction of the new specification Pirelli tyres. On the original 2013 specification used up to Silverstone, Hulkenberg averaged 12th place on the grid. With the new ones introduced in Hungary he has averaged eighth place, an improvement of 34%.

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July 10 2013

06:27

F1: James Allen Strategieanalyse – Nürburgring 2013

The German Grand Prix was a thrilling tactical battle between Red Bull and Lotus that led to a nail-biting finish.

This was brought about by upgrades to the Lotus making it close on performance with the Red Bull and by Pirelli bringing tyres, which encouraged some experimentation with strategy. It wasn’t as interesting a tactical battle as it might have been had the safety car not been deployed after 24 laps, but it was still one of the best of the year. The weather was good on Friday during practice allowing teams to evaluate the new specification Pirelli rear tyres, brought to this event as a response to the failures at Silverstone the week before.

Practice showed that the soft tyre was faster than the medium by up to 1.5 seconds per lap, but it degraded much more quickly. Estimates for the first stint of the Grand Prix were around 6-8 laps on the soft before they would need changing.

Ferrari went a different route from its rivals, choosing to qualify – and therefore start the race – on the medium tyre, as it felt it did not have the pace to challenge for the front of the grid in qualifying.

It was set to be an interesting race, with strategists facing a real challenge to manage the stop times and the use of the two tyre compounds.

Lotus challenges and almost beats Red Bull

The main battle in the race was between Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull and the Lotus pair of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean.

All three were starting the race on used soft tyres from qualifying. The temperatures were high, which slightly favoured the Lotus and when Romain Grosjean played himself into contention with a long opening stint of 13 laps on the soft tyres, he was ready to challenge Vettel for the win.

Lotus’ plan was to try to undercut Vettel; to force the Red Bull driver to stop earlier than he would normally want to, extending his next stint length so that his tyres would lose performance. The Lotus is known to be able to maintain tyre performance for longer stints, especially on hot days.

The plan was thwarted by the deployment of the safety car on lap 24, due to a Marussia that had rolled back across the track, having been abandoned.

This forced everyone into stopping immediately – once a safety car has been deployed a driver has to stop (unless he has just done so) as the others all will, so he will never get away from cars behind him on fresh tyres.

From then on, it was a three stop race for everyone and Vettel was able to manage his stint lengths and not run into tyre trouble. Grosjean pitted a lap before him on Lap 40, but unfortunately he had dropped off Vettel by a second at that point and so he wasn’t able to undercut.

Meanwhile Raikkonen was also in play for Lotus. He had stopped earlier than Grosjean, on lap 8, as Lotus felt his tyre performance was dropping off but it cost him as he got stuck behind Rosberg in the Mercedes. Raikkonen fell back from three seconds to 13 seconds behind Vettel in the second stint.

However he was given a second chance to attack by the safety car, which closed the gap up again. Lotus considered letting Raikkonen run to the finish on the same set of tyres. With 12 laps to go he had a 15 second lead over Vettel after the German’s third stop. But his tyres were already 16 laps old and there were 19 laps to go. 35 laps on a set of tyres seemed too much.

Painful memories of China last year, where Raikkonen ran out of tyres in the final laps and failed to score points, meant that they didn’t feel inclined to gamble and have him fall behind Alonso.

They left him out for eight laps after Vettel’s stop, to get into a window where he could use the soft tyres for an 11 lap late race attack. Lotus felt that this was the only possibility at this stage, as the softs were much faster than the mediums. Making him do any more than 11 laps on the softs at the end was a risk, given his performance in practice, where he had suffered worse degradation than Grosjean.

He lost a little time getting past Grosjean, who accepted that his team mate was on a different strategy and so let him past. But Raikkonen didn’t have enough pace on the soft tyres at the end to pass Vettel.

Safety car ruins it for Lotus

In fact, although on the face of it the safety car helped Raikkonen, allowing him to make up the time lost behind Rosberg, it actually hurt his race strategy, as it did Grosjean’s. Lotus’ strategists were planning to get him through the race on a two-stop strategy, so he would have come into play later in the race.

The safety car took away all the flexibility in the race and pushed most people onto the same strategy, taking away the element of surprise Lotus was planning.

Ferrari zig while others zag

Faced with another qualifying session where they were likely to end up on the grid behind Mercedes, Red Bull and even Lotus, Ferrari opted to try something different. The idea was to qualify – and start – on the medium tyre, run a longer first stint than their rivals on soft tyres, who would have to pit early and come back out into traffic. Ferrari would then take advantage of the laps where the Red Bulls, Mercedes and Lotus were cutting through traffic to build a margin and then jump some of them at their first stop.

This strategy was based on the theory that the soft tyre would fall apart quickly and the medium would be quicker over the stint.

It didn’t work, mainly because the Ferrari couldn’t get the medium tyre warmed up at the start and Alonso fell to 8th, behind Ricciardo in the opening stint. Massa got himself into a better position, sixth, but went out of the race on lap four. Alonso pitted on lap 12, which was a lap before Grosjean who was on the soft, so the plan was in trouble from the start.

Alonso was fast in the final stint of the race on new soft tyres and kept the Lotus pair honest, but in reality the Ferrari strategy was made to look more effective than it was by the safety car intervention. Before it intervened, Alonso was almost 20 seconds behind the leader Vettel.

When a car doesn’t have the pace, its unusual for gambles like this to work. Red Bull tried it with Vettel in China, where he didn’t have the pace and it didn’t work there either.

A word on Williams

The Williams team went into the German Grand Prix still without a point after eight rounds of the championship – an unprecedented situation for the team.

Although the car didn’t have much pace, which is why they qualified 17th and 18th, they tried a two-stop strategy, which required the drivers to manage the tyres while maintaining a strong rhythm and they almost pulled it off, with Maldonado in the points before his final stop. Sadly what let them down were the pitstops themselves where a persistent wheel gun problem lost both drivers time.

Unlike Alonso, the Williams drivers were able to stay out on their medium tyres at the start until laps 21 and 22. Bottas lost 13 seconds in his first stop, which dropped him back into traffic, while Maldonado was running seventh prior to his final stop, where the wheel gun struck again and he lost 16 seconds.

Had the stop been normal, he would have come out into a battle behind Hulkenberg, with Di Resta and Ricciardo, for the final points position with fresher tyres.

Reifen:

Vettel: SU MN (7) MU (24) MN (41) 3 stops
Räikkönen:SU MN (8) MN (24) SU (49) 3
Grosjean: SU MN (13) MN (24) MU (40) 3
Alonso: MU MN (12) MN (24) SN (49) 3
Hamilton: SU MN (6) MU (22) MN (45) 3
Button: MN MU (21) SN (47) 2
Webber: SU MU (8)MN (23) MU (38) 3
Perez: SN MN (7) MN (24) 2
Rosberg: MN MU (16) MN (24) SN (48) 3
Hülkenberg MN MN (17 ) MN (37) SN (49) 3
Di Resta: SU MN (4) MN (24) 2
Ricciardo: SU MN (5) MN (18) MN (40) 3
Sutil: SN MN (5) MN (24) MU (43) 3
Gutierrez: SN MN (6) MN (22) MU (41) 3
Maldonado: MN MN (21) SN (50) 2
Bottas: MN MN (22) SN (54) 2
Pic: SN MN (4) MN (24) MN (34) 3
Van Der Garde: SN MN (5) MN (19) MN (38) 3
Chilton: SN MN (8) MN (20) MU (26) MU (37) 4

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May 15 2013

05:22

F1: James Allen Strategieanalyse Spanien 2013

This race may come to be viewed as a tipping point in the ongoing debate about whether the high degradation Pirelli tyres are good for F1 or not, as two of the three drivers on the podium did a four stop strategy.

jaesp 300x94 F1: James Allen Strategieanalyse Spanien 2013Pirelli has indicated that they have been “too aggressive” with the 2013 tyres and will make changes from the seventh round, Montreal, onwards. However against this backdrop, the strategy battle at the heart of this race was fascinating. And it showed that the teams who came out on top were the ones who had the best thermal management of the tyres and the clearest vision of how to execute their race strategy. Ferrari committed to four stops before the race began and likewise Lotus committed to three stops with the bulk of the running on the medium tyre, underlining their car’s gentle action on the tyres. Other contenders, particularly Red Bull and Mercedes were washed away by not sticking to a clear vision of how to attack the race.


Alonso vs Raikkonen

In 23 years no-one has ever won the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona from as low as fifth on the grid, but Fernando Alonso managed it on Sunday, which tells the story of how much the Pirelli tyres have shaken up F1.

Alonso knew from studying the data from Friday’s long runs in practice that the car to beat on race day would be Kimi Raikkonen’s Lotus, as this had exceptional race pace and low degradation.

When Raikkonen qualified fourth ahead of Alonso, this made him the main target, even with Sebastian Vettel started ahead in 3rd. The long runs from Red Bull on Friday had shown that they were struggling with tyre degradation.

Ferrari’s assumption was that Raikkonen would three stop and that Vettel would probably four stop. So they committed to run four stops, with Alonso pushing hard in the second and third stints. They were right about Raikkonen, but not Vettel; this merely played into their hands as we shall see.

F1 Spa 13 00020 300x199 F1: James Allen Strategieanalyse Spanien 2013Lotus looked at the data and concluded that although a four stop race was three seconds faster on paper, it was also more risky because of the increased risk of traffic and of things going wrong in the stops. Lotus also gives away a second to Ferrari in a pit stop on average, they simply aren’t as fast. However Lotus was the only team able to do most of the race on used medium tyres. They found them faster over a stint than new hard tyres but with similar degradation.

Starting from the dirty side, Raikkonen lost the initiative to Alonso at the start and this was crucial to the outcome, as Alonso was able to stay ahead after the first round of stops, when the field opened out.

The Ferrari’s secret as a race car is its ability to push hard on the opening laps of a stint (see chart below, Alonso in red) without overheating the tyres or damaging them and Alonso’s second and third stints demonstrated this perfectly.

Look at Alonso’s superior pace on the laps after his first and second stops ie where the red line dips down around laps 10 to 13 and laps 22 to 24.

In his tight battle with Raikkonen, it was the second stint in particular where he set the platform for his win, by taking his lead over the Finn out from two seconds to seven seconds. When he came out of the pits after his fourth stop, he was eight seconds ahead of Raikkonen. So that second stint was decisive.

Raikkonen was also slightly unlucky to come out from his second stop behind Vettel, who was losing time to Alonso.

On lap 38, just after the mid point of the race, they were together with one more stop to make each. Alonso was on fresh tyres, Raikkonen on 12 lap old tyres. If the Finn had been able to hold him back for longer, or to stay with him once Alonso got past, then he might have had a chance to challenge for the win, but he didn’t quite have the pace.

Lotus would not have been any better off trying four stops as this would have put them on the same strategy as Ferrari but with slightly less pace, so three stops was the right way to go.

Red Bull get in a muddle

This was not Red Bull’s greatest Grand Prix from a strategy point of view. Vettel qualified third and had the advantage of track position over Alonso in the opening stint, but lost the race and finished fourth because Red Bull fell into the classic trap of Pirelli era strategy indecision.

Red Bull tried to do three stops, couldn’t manage it and were forced to stop Vettel a fourth time, which cost them hugely. The proof of this is that he was beaten by Massa. And his team mate Webber, who started seventh, finished just behind him in fifth place.

Ferrari undercut Vettel at the first stop to gain the track position advantage and then the Red Bull driver ran three laps longer in his second stint, losing a lot of time in the process, to Alonso, Raikkonen and Massa.

But the real problem stint for Vettel was the third one, on new hard tyres. He managed only to get to lap 39, which forced him to switch to a four stop, but as it hadn’t been planned, all the time lost by trying to run longer stints counted against him.

Could Mercedes have avoided their slide?

For the second race in a row, Mercedes slid alarmingly back from their pole position slot, with Nico Rosberg ending up sixth and front row starter Lewis Hamilton faring even worse in 12th place.

Despite knowing from practice that they had high tyre degradation, Mercedes went for a three stop strategy with Rosberg and he was forced to nurse the tyres, begging the question, could he – like Vettel – have done better if he had committed to pushing harder on a four stop?

In his case the answer is probably no, but not for strategy reasons.

The evidence suggests that the Mercedes’ geometry is such that the car generates excessive temperature in the tyre, which is what triggers its loss of performance over a series of laps. This would still have been the case even if they had divided the race into five stints rather than four.

All they would have done would be to add another 20 seconds for an additional pit stop. The strategists were hamstrung by the limitations of the car.

This is not an easy thing to fix; there are various devices around the brakes and rear wheels to control the temperatures by a few degrees, but not to control the kind of temperature spikes Mercedes is getting. The fact that this appears to be a recurring problem for the team on high energy circuits, like Barcelona, shows how difficult it is to know where to start.

Tyre Strategies, Barcelona

M=Medium; H=Hard; N=New; U=Used;

Alonso:MU HU (9) HN (21) MU (36) HN (49) 4 Stops
Räikkönen: MU MU (10) MU (26) HU (45) 3 stops
Massa: MU HU (8) HN (20) MU (36) HN (51) 4 stops

Vettel: MU HN (10) HN (24) MU (39) HN (51) 4
Webber: MU HN (7) HN (20) MU (36) HN (50) 4
Rosberg: MU HN (10)HN (27) HN (47) 3
Di Resta: MU HN (9) MU (19) MU (38) HN (53) 4
Button: MN HN (11 ) HN (28) HN (46) 3

Perez: MU HN (10) HN (23) MU (38) HN (50) 4
Ricciardo: MN HN (10) MU (24) HN(39) HU 51) 4
Gutierrez: MU MU (13) HN (28) MU (42) HN (54) 4
Hamilton: MU HN (9) HN (25)MU (36) HN (50) 4
Sutil: MU MN (8) HN (22) HN (36) MU (49) 4

Maldonado: MN HN (8) MN (20)HN (35) MU (53) 5
Hülkenberg: MU MU (8) HN (21) HN (34) HU(35) MU (53)

Bottas: MN HN (9) HN (25) MN (43) 3
Pic: HN MN (8) HN (23) HN (41) 3
Bianchi: HN HN (2) HN (16) MN (29 ) HU (46) 4
Chilton: HN HN (15) MN (30) HN(47) 3

ubs F1: James Allen Strategieanalyse Spanien 2013

 F1: James Allen Strategieanalyse Spanien 2013

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September 05 2012

06:14

F1: James Allen Strategie Report – Spa 2012

Jenson Button’s victory in the Belgian Grand Prix makes him the leading points scorer of the last three races, a reversal of a trend, which began in May, where the British driver and his McLaren team lost their way.

The problem Button was suffering from lack of performance due to mismatched tyre temperatures between the front and rear tyres and the team was experimenting with various ways of solving that, including heating the tyres from the inside, using heat soak from the brakes.

They’ve now found a solution, partly involving aerodynamics to increase rear end grip and aerodynamic balance, but also mechanical set-up and the result has been 51 points in three races. His performance in Belgium showed that he not only got the tyres working well in qualifying to take pole position, but also was able to comfortably do the race with only one tyre stop. His second stint, on the hard compound Pirelli tyre, was almost 170km, the longest that McLaren has done on a single set of tyres in 2012.

The pace and the strategy provided a wake up call for the rest of the field. Button is still 63 points behind Fernando Alonso in the championship, but on this form, he will be a contender at the end of the season. So how did he manage to do only one stop and what were the strategic keys to the race? And what about the others; why couldn’t Lotus compete for the win and could Schumacher have finished fourth if he had done the same strategy as Hulkenberg?

Pre-Race expectations

The build up to this race was dominated by the heavy rain on Friday, which meant that the teams learned nothing about long run tyre performance. They were shooting in the dark on Sunday, after a handful of dry laps on Saturday morning, where they were also preparing for qualifying. It left little time for drivers to establish how to get the tyres to work.

Also part of the strategy in Spa was deciding whether to go for a low down force set up, with less wing, to help straight line speed in sectors one and three, or whether to go for more down force to help with sector 2. Gearing was also important and several drivers found themselves with a less than ideal combination of gearing and down force, with the result that they were hitting the rev limiter on the Kemmel Straight and losing speed.

All of this led to a mixed up grid with two Saubers and a Williams at the front, Red Bull struggling for pace, with Vettel in 10th place and Hamilton down in seventh.

Pre-race the feeling was that a one stop strategy would be around 5 seconds faster than two, but it would leave the driver vulnerable at the end of the race to cars on fresher tyres. McLaren were certainly thinking of one stop for Button starting from pole, circumstances permitting, while most of the others were planning two stops, especially as the track temperature started rising before the start.

The start line accident changed the strategy in two ways; by eliminating four competitive cars, it changed expectations of what many drivers might get from the race and it brought out a safety car. This slowed the field down and meant that the first four laps of the race, which are normally the hardest on the tyres as the car is at its heaviest, were relatively easy.

This encouraged a number of drivers and teams to change plans and try to do one stop. Among them were Williams and Mercedes, which is surprising, because they have been among the hardest car on the tyres in race conditions this season. It didn’t work out for them or Williams, thanks to a late puncture, which robbed Senna of 8th place. It did however work for Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel.

He was helped by qualifying outside the top ten so he was able to start the race on a new set of medium tyres, whereas his front running rivals were all on used mediums at the start, from qualifying. This small detail was important to the outcome for Vettel, who was able to get to lap 21 on his first set of tyres, which meant he needed to do 23 laps on a new set of hards in the second stint.

Button enjoys a margin

Jenson Button was able to make the most of the largest performance margin over other cars we have seen this season so far. The McLaren’s underlying car pace was around half a second faster than its nearest rival at Spa and Button was able to exploit that fully in qualifying and the race.

He could do one stop relatively easily, helped by the crash, which eliminated rivals, also by the safety car and by the freedom to run at the front in clear air. Being able to control the pace, not have to defend from other cars meant he could focus exclusively on managing the tyres and this meant Button had complete control all afternoon.

The challenge from Lotus did not materialise as not only did the Lotus not have the expected race pace, but also it seemed to struggle to get temperature into the tyres. This was evident at the restart where Hulkenberg jumped Raikkonen. Lotus was on a two-stop strategy and without the pace to exploit that fully, there was no challenge for the win from Raikkonen.

Button even had sufficient margin in the final 15 laps to make a precautionary second stop and still win the race, but he had the pace and liked the balance of the car on the tyres he had. He was still lapping in the 1m 54s in the last few laps, a similar pace to the Lotus on tyres which were 8 laps newer.

Vettel managed the race skilfully too, using the one stop plan and the pace of the Red Bull on hard tyres to jump the two stoppers and move up from 10th on the grid to 2nd. It’s debatable whether that would have worked if the four front running cars had not been eliminated at the start, but despite losing two places at the start, to cross the line 12th at the end of lap 1, Red Bull adapted well to the changing circumstances and Vettel drove a very positive race, making several important overtakes to ensure his progress.

Schumacher loses a strong result

Schumacher drove very well on Sunday, making some excellent passes and defending robustly, as is his style.

Could Schumacher have finished ahead of Hulkenberg in fourth place if he had done a similar two stop strategy, rather than change tactics after the safety car and switch to a one stopper?

The German ace got past Hulkenberg on lap 13, when Hulkenberg pitted Schumacher was on new medium tyres and ran a 19 lap first stint, which left him 25 laps to do on a set of hards. It was a big ask, but by staying out past lap 13 or 14 he was committed to stopping just once.

Schumacher was ahead after Hulkenberg’s second stop on lap 27. But he only had four seconds advantage and 17 laps to go to the finish on the same set of tyres, ahead of a similar pace car on fresh tyres. It was never going to work. The Mercedes was relatively fast on full tanks, but as we have seen often this year, the competitiveness didn’t continue as the car got lighter and the tyre wear increased. Schumacher was forced to make an unscheduled stop for tyres on lap 35 and lost three positions.

Had he pitted on a similar pattern to Hulkenberg and stayed on a planned two stop, he would have fought him for the fourth position, but possibly would have lost out due to the Mercedes pace fading on lighter tanks. Nevertheless the failed one stop bid cost him places to Massa and Webber and he ended up seventh.

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July 31 2012

15:52

F1: James Allen Strategie-Report Ungarn 2012

The Hungarian Grand Prix was far from being a thriller in terms of on track action with hardly any overtaking after the first laps.

But it was a very interesting tactical race which leaves a lot of questions to answer, like could Lotus have won the race if they’d done things differently? Why did Button and the Red Bulls make three stops? And how close did Hamilton come to not winning? On Sunday morning most of the strategists were saying it would be a wet race. The forecast had not changed for five days and rain would fall between 1pm and 2pm local time. But as the day went on the bad weather moved away from Budapest and it was hot and sunny with the chance of rain receding. In the end a giant storm came in around 7pm local time which only succeeded in delaying teams’ flights out of the airport, but didn’t affect their race.

Rain on Friday afternoon during practice had reduced the amount of data teams had on long run performance so once again it was a bit of a stab in the dark as to how to approach race strategy and tyre choice.

Three stops looked to be faster than two stops over a race distance, but the problem was that a three stopper would be behind the two stoppers after his last stop and would have to overtake.

The feeling was that Hamilton would drive away from the rest, using his apparent pace advantage of around 4/10ths of a second per lap. The soft tyre was considered to be up to half a second per lap faster than the medium, based on Friday practice but after 10 laps the lap times on the medium were expected to be stronger than the soft. But could all the teams make it through 70 laps competitively on just three sets of tyres?

Once again the picture turned out to be slightly different from expectations.

The challenge for victory by Grosjean and Raikkonen

The opening 10 laps told the story; Lewis Hamilton had dominated qualifying but he wasn’t able to pull a gap on Grosjean’s Lotus. This was going to be a close fight.

Further back Raikkonen had let himself down in qualifying by not matching Grosjean’s pace and started fifth on the grid, which became sixth when Alonso passed him on the first lap. He lost around 4 seconds in that opening stint, sat behind the Ferrari. This didn’t cost him the race win, necessarily, but it meant that he wasn’t able to jump Vettel at the first stop, which he would have done otherwise. This would have set him up for a clearer track in his middle stint and then it would have been interesting to see how close he and Hamilton were after the final stop.

Grosjean in contrast, looked comfortable in second place. Lotus was of the view that the soft tyre was faster and they would do two stops with a soft/soft/medium strategy. They stuck to their plan.

Other teams were worried about getting through 70 laps on two stops and so favoured a soft/medium/medium strategy. This was a race tailor made for Lotus with its easy action on the tyres.

Lotus had two players in the game: Grosjean lost his chance of a win by taking too much out of the tyres at the start of the middle stint. This meant that at the end of the stint he didn’t have the pace to stay out longer and try to jump Hamilton at the second stops. By this stage Vettel had pitted on lap 38 and with a margin of just three seconds to play with on tyres which were spent, Lotus had no choice but to cover Vettel by stopping Grosjean.

Contrast this with Raikkonen’s execution of the strategy: He ran a 20 lap first stint and easily jumped Alonso at the first stop. This brought him out fifth, around 4.5 seconds behind Vettel, (where he would have been had he not lost a place to Alonso at the start). Facing a long middle stint on soft tyres (it was 25 laps in the end) he made no effort to close this gap, instead nursing his tyres for around 8-10 laps before then slowly reeling Vettel in before the German’s second stop on lap 38. At this point, in clear air he let rip; 1m 25.7 on lap 41, 1m 25.9 on lap 42. As Vettel and Grosjean got their medium tyres up to temperature, Raikkonen took almost two seconds a lap out of them. He would easily jump them at his second stop.

The strategy worked perfectly, the question now was whether he could get Hamilton too. The burst of speed had taken the edge off the tyres – he did a 1m 26.6 on lap 43. Meanwhile on lap 44 Hamilton on new mediums did a 1m 26.3. He’s just too quick, so Lotus pit Raikkonen to consolidate the gains over Vettel and Grosjean and then see what Raikkonen can do to Hamilton in the final stint with tyres that are five laps fresher.

He tries to pass, but cannot and has to settle for second place.

Had Grosjean matched Raikkonen’s technique of nursing the tyres for six or seven laps at the start of the second stint, sitting out of his dirty air and then attacked Hamilton at the end of the stint, he could have jumped him and won the race. Such is experience. I’m sure he’ll look at Raikkonen’s performance and learn from it.

Not a day to stop three times

Pre-race predictions about three stopping proved prophetic: it was faster on paper but required overtaking and despite the DRS system, overtaking at the Hungaroring proved elusive. Last season’s race was rain affected so we never really saw how little difference DRS would make on a track that has always been almost impossible to pass on.

Button did three stops, his tyre life not as good as Hamilton’s in the opening stint, his rear tyres going off more quickly. But what wrecked it was after his second stop, which was 19 laps into a stint on new mediums, he came out behind Bruno Senna, who had similar age medium tyres to the ones Button had taken off. He kept Button behind him until his stop on lap 42. However during this time, Button remained around 6 seconds behind Hamilton, the same margin as before Button’s second stop. But he had not had the opportunity to use the pace of the new medium tyre and this allowed Vettel to jump him at his second stop. Alonso then jumped him when Button made his third stop on lap 45.

He was the first front runner to pit at the first stop on lap 15, which was still within the two stop window and he reported that the second set of tyres was still fine when he made the early second stop. There wasn’t a possibility to undercut Grosjean at that stop as he was almost six seconds ahead of Button. It was just the wrong call to go for three stops, but clearly they felt that they couldn’t do the race in two, despite Hamilton holding on and doing just that in his McLaren.

Meanwhile Webber stopped three times because his differential had problems and this led to higher tyre wear, while Vettel switched to three stops near the end after losing time in the opening stint when he lost third place to Button, who was not on the same pace as Hamilton and Grosjean. Vettel went for a new set of softs for a final sprint to see if he could claim a podium, but he had to delay the stop in order to get enough of a gap over Alonso behind and this left him with not enough laps to catch Grosjean for third place.

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July 25 2012

11:25

F1: James Allen Strategie Report – Hockenheim 2012

The top three cars separated by less than three seconds with a handful of laps to go; it’s the ideal scenario for F1 racing and this is what we had in Germany.

All three leaders had followed the same strategy of soft/medium/medium tyres, but this was a weekend which showed a lot about how far many teams have come in getting on top of the Pirelli tyres, which were described by some as a “lottery” early in the season. It was an easy two stop for most teams who could race as they wanted to, with an open choice of strategy. The tyre selection for Hockenheim was soft and medium, the same as in Melbourne and four other events this season. In many ways the race track and its demands on the tyres were comparable with Melbourne, but it showed how much progress some of the teams have made and how one or two are still struggling to balance tyre temperatures; this is affecting their strategies and how much impression they can make on the race.

Earlier in the season some teams experienced a difference in temperature from front to rear tyres of as much as 20 degrees, which played havoc with balance. Ferrari, Red Bull and Lotus lead the way in terms of progress made on balancing temperatures, Sauber have been pretty good all along, while McLaren have lost out recently but are now getting closer and Mercedes still seem to have significant problems.

In Germany there wasn’t much to choose between the performance of the soft and medium tyres. It came down to preference, although some teams that go well on the soft found that over a stint the soft would be around 2 seconds faster. It was certainly faster in the opening laps of a stint than a medium and this raises the question of whether Vettel could have attacked Alonso at the first stops.

Pre-race expectations

The pre-race wisdom was that the soft tyre would be similar on pace to the medium in race conditions, even though it had been 0.7s slower in qualifying trim. The softs were expected to be good for up to 21 laps and the mediums 24 laps. This tended to push teams towards thinking about a soft/medium/medium strategy, which is what the podium finishers used, but it did give scope for soft/soft/medium and we saw that this was actually a little faster. With such tight battle at the front to the end, had one of them taken a gamble, we might have seen something different.

The battle among the front three

Alonso’s engineer Andrea Stella has said that the only time they were worried on Sunday was after the 1st stop when the medium tyres were taking time to come in. Alonso had pitted on lap 18 and Vettel didn’t stop for another two laps.

Alonso did a 23 lap middle stint while Vettel did only 21 laps. Arguably, looking at what Raikkonen did on soft tyres in the middle stint, there might have been an opportunity here for Red Bull.

Having watched Alonso go to the medium tyre, by switching to softs Vettel might have got ahead of the Ferrari, but in all probability Alonso would have reacted by doing a soft tyre stint at the end, while Vettel would have been forced to use mediums and this probably would have evened things out. It’s a fine margin, but it would have been interesting to see Red Bull try it.

Red Bull and Ferrari did not do a lot of race preparation work on the tyres in the brief time the track was dry at Hockenheim. So they went for the medium as the preferred race tyre, also Ferrari put Massa onto it on lap one after he was forced to pit for a nose change, so they were gathering data on it as the 1st stint unfolded.

The softs degraded at 0.1s per lap on Sunday, while the mediums degraded at 0.08s per lap, so there was very little in it on degradation. It was more about relative pace.

Raikkonen and Lotus on form: If only they could qualify well

It was another strong showing by the Lotus team with Kimi Raikkonen classified fourth but promoted to third after Vettel’s penalty. Once again they showed that if they could get to the front they have the race pace to win. In Hockenheim they pitted Raikkonen early on lap 11 and stayed on the soft. By doing so he jumped Webber, Hulkenberg and Maldonado. Then by using Lotus’ gentle action on the tyres he did a 27 lap middle stint, which included overtaking Michael Schumacher, that gave him the platform for his fourth place finish.

Raikkonen was the highest placed finisher to do soft/soft/medium, which Lotus are convinced was the fastest strategy last weekend. It didn’t work for everyone: Schumacher tried it but the Mercedes’ continued roughness on rear tyres meant that he ended up having to make a third stop which cost him fifth place. He was also handicapped by having only one new set of medium tyres for the race.

Kobayashi stuns with a reverse strategy

We have seen a number of drivers in the Pirelli era come through the field in a quick car with a reverse strategy to everyone else, but usually it is because they have saved new sets of tyres from being eliminated early in qualifying.

On Sunday Kamui Kobayashi came through from 12th to fourth (after Vettel’s penalty) on medium/medium/soft strategy – but as qualifying had been wet everyone had new tyres to use, so he didn’t have that advantage. So how did he do it?

The Sauber is extremely fast on full tanks, so he had a strong opening stint and as he had started on mediums, he was able to go to lap 22 before his first stop. At that point he was up to fourth and he came out from the pits in ninth place, but in a position to attack with two short stints of 21 and 24 laps. He passed Webber and Perez in the middle stint and Hulkenberg in the final stint and then inherited a place from Schumacher when he made his third stop.

He even looked like he might mount an attack on Raikkonen on his final stint on softs but his pace dropped off at the end. Nevertheless it was a great return to form for the Japanese driver and an illustration that if you have a quick car you can make a different strategy work. Also it was impressive how easily he was able to overtake.

However like Lotus, Sauber have to deal with the fact that they do not qualify well.

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October 12 2011

11:23

F1: James Allen Strategieanalyse Japan

The Japanese Grand Prix was all about race strategy. With tyre wear much more tricky to manage than expected, throughout the field the drivers who succeeded were the ones whose teams got the strategy right, not just on race day but on qualifying day too.

(Sorry, habe die Übersetzung nicht geschafft, wegen Arbeit. Die Übersetzung kostet mich rund 1.5 Stunden und der Text kam gestern Abend sehr spät an. Da ich heute den ganzen Tag auf Achse bin, geht es leider nicht anders. Ist aber sehr lesenswert, weil James haarscharf analysiert, warum Alonso trotz eines deutlich langsameren Wagens in der Lage war, Vettel zu schlagen!)

There were some pretty contrasting races at the front. Of the top three, Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull had the worst tyre performance and Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari had the best. Alonso was nowhere near as quick as Vettel at the start of each of the stints, but he was always the quickest of the three cars at the end of the stints, with much less tyre drop off. This gave him the opportunity to take second place, despite only having the car pace to qualify 5th. Meanwhile the race winner Jenson Button had the pace to stay with Vettel early on and was able to manage his tyres better in the opening stint so that he could pit a lap later than the world champion and emerge in front of him. But it wasn’t easy for him; as the McLaren has got quicker this year, its tyre performance has edged closer to that of Red Bull, as you would expect given that it’s putting more load through the tyres.

Getting that little bit extra: Vettel vs Button and Alonso

The top three finishers all did exactly the same strategy with three stints on used soft tyres and a final stint on new mediums. The difference was in the tyre degradation each of them suffered and the laps on which they chose to pit.

I thought as the race unfolded that Red Bull were being conservative with Vettel – knowing he only needed a point to clinch the title – and that offered a chance to Button and Alonso, which both of them took. But closer analysis shows that this wasn’t necessarily the case, given that in each stint he only pitted when the tyres started to drop off in performance. Often this season we have seen Red Bull be the first to pit when arguably there has been some life left in the tyres, but they always had enough pace in hand to make early stops and retain track position. In Japan Vettel couldn’t get away with that.

There are two ways of looking at Vettel’s strategy on Sunday; on the one hand he stopped early to try and maintain position, which could be considered conservative, but on the other hand being the first to stop was also quite aggressive because he risked running out of tyres late in the race. He went onto the mediums with 20 laps to go, while Button went three laps later and Alonso four laps later, thanks to superior tyre wear at the end of the stints on the softs. This is where he took second place from Vettel.

Vettel had a big gap at the end of his first stint (5.2s) and he only pitted because his tyres were finished (lap 5: 1:39.7s, lap 6: 1:40.0s, lap 7: 1:41.2s, lap 8: 1:41.7s). At the end of the second stint, you can see that his tyres were finished again and he was actually very aggressive at the final pitstop because he stops and comes out in traffic on the prime tyre. The newer tyre helped him, but Button had him covered all day.

How the Safety Car changed the midfield battle for points

As we have seen many times this season there was a tremendous scrap among the midfield runners for points positions behind the top three teams. It was always going to be this way at Suzuka with the high tyre wear and the strategists started planning their race on Saturday before qualifying.

We saw Kobayashi, Schumacher, Senna and Petrov all make it into the top ten in qualifying, but they did not set a flying lap time in Q3. So they had, in the Renaults’ case two sets of new medium tyres and one set of new softs for the race and, in Schumacher and Kobayashi’s case, one new set of each compound.

The key calculation here was the crossover point in lap time between the two tyres and on the day the difference between the medium and the soft was about 1.2s per lap. Schumacher and Kobayashi started on used soft tyres, while the Renaults went with new mediums. The two Force India cars meanwhile qualified outside the top ten and both started on used softs, while Sergio Perez was down in 17th on the grid and started on new mediums.

The safety car likelihood for this race was 60% and we duly got one on lap 24. The drivers who benefited were Petrov and Perez because they’d started on the medium tyre and the Safety Car won them back the time they’d lost. They were 43 seconds off the lead and over 20 seconds behind the Sutil when the Force India driver pitted, just two laps before the safety car was deployed.

The Force India drivers were on classic three-stop strategies and by lap 20 it was going well; they had three-quarters of a pitstop advantage over their rivals. But the gap went down to zero under the Safety Car and Perez and Petrov had gained track position with the Force India stops. Even with DRS and it’s difficult to overtake at Suzuka. Petrov and Perez were on new sets of options at the end of the race too, while Sutil was on the prime tyre so there was no chance to recover.

As for the two Mercedes cars, Rosberg started 23rd after a hydraulic problem in qualifying. He started on new medium tyres and ended up right behind the Force India of Sutil after the Safety Car, in 12th place. He was essentially on the same pit stop sequence as Force India, but the Safety Car closed the gap up and he had the advantage of using the option tyre at the end of the race, so was able to get ahead and claim a point in 10th place.

Schumacher, meanwhile, ran a pretty standard three-stop race with stops on laps 9, 24 and 41. Interestingly he did a 15-lap second stint on used soft tyres, which revealed that he had better tyre life than Red Bull and Hamilton, which hasn’t always been the case with Mercedes this year. He was 25s behind the leaders when the Safety Car came out, so that handed him the chance to close up. A nice long, consistent 17 lap stint on new soft tyres after the Safety Car brought him out ahead of Massa and underlined once again that the veteran is back on top form in terms of race pace, as we get towards the end of his second comeback season. His races have also noticeably improved since Jock Clear, his old rivals from Villeneuve/Williams days, became his race engineer..

What happened to Lewis Hamilton?
This was an odd race for Hamilton as he squandered a chance to start on pole by a collective team and driver timing mistake in qualifying. Then in the race his pace was well off his team mate Button’s.

A slow puncture at the end of the first stint undoubtedly lost him time (lap 5: 1:40.1s, lap 6: 1:40.8s, lap 7: 1:41.9s) and positions to Alonso and Button. And McLaren have said that it also affected the rest of his race because they made a set up change to the car before realising that it had been handling strangely due to a puncture. They say the changes gave him an imbalance.

Hamilton’s second stint was the really poor one – much worse than the others. He was right with Alonso and Button on lap 12, but by the time he made his stop on lap 20 he had dropped a load of time eight second, a second a lap in other words.

Hamilton got back a place from Massa by making an earlier pitstop and then exploiting the Ferrari’s problems with initial warm up on the mediums to pass Massa on his out lap. His pace was better on the medium tyre, but he lost too much time in the opening two stints to get a decent result.

Wear rates were pretty marginal on the soft tyres, but as always, it was the same for everyone. The puncture didn’t help, but it seems that Hamilton also suffered a bit more than the other front-runners. When the tyres are going away it’s frustrating for a driver. It’s a vicious circle: he’s trying to push, but he ends up going slower.

The Strategy Briefing and Report is written by James Allen with input and data from strategy engineers from several F1 teams and support from F1 Global Partner UBS.

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October 06 2011

14:21

Verlosung: Mit Shell nach Abu Dhabi

Shell sucht ein zusätzliches Team-Mitglied, um mit dem Shell V-Power Network of Champions zur Ferrari World Abu Dhabi im November zu fahren. Wenn Du uns von Deiner Leidenschaft für Höchstleistungen überzeugen kannst, laden wir Dich ein die schnellste Achterbahn der Welt kennenzulernen. Du erhälst die Chance auf der berühmten F1-Rennstrecke von Yas Marina die Leistungsfähigkeit von Shell V-Power zu erleben.

In Abu Dhabi wirst Du die Shell V-Power Champions aus England, Deutschland, den Niederlanden und den Phillippinen treffen und mit mir zusammenarbeiten um Deine Erfahrungen zu dokumentieren, die dann hier erscheinen. Darunter werden unter anderem auch James Allen und der niederländische F1 Kommentator Allard Kalf sein. Dazu jede Menge netter Menschen, die mir in den letzten Monaten zu Freunden geworden sind.

Was Du tun musst: Teil uns über die Kommentarfunktion bis zum 15. Oktober mit, warum wir Dich (oder einen Deiner Freunde) mitnehmen sollen und warum Du die Leidenschaft für Höchstleistung mit Shell teilst. Erlaubt ist alles, ihr könnt auch ein Bild malen ;) Nett wäre auch, wenn Ihr über die Aktion bei Twitter und in Euren Blogs berichten würdet, man kommt ja eher selten nach Abu Dhabi.

Dein Eintrag wird vom ‘SVPChamps Panel’ bewertet. Die fünf kreativsten Einträge gewinnen eine Tankfüllung Shell V-Power und bekommen die Chance an der letzten Runde des Wettbewerbs teilzunehmen. Weitere Informationen dazu kommen bald…

Ein paar Dinge müssen dabei allerdings beachtet werden, sonst würde sich der Ausflug nicht lohnen:

Um teilnehmen zu können, musst du:

-          In Deutschland wohnen

-          Mindestens 18 Jahre alt sein

-          Einen Führerschein der Klasse B besitzen

-          Vom 18. bzw. 19. bis 21 November 2011 Zeit für eine Reise nach Abu Dhabi haben

-          Körperlich fit sein

Das SVPChamps Panel besteht aus einer Gruppe von unabhängigen automobilen Bloggern und Journalisten, die in diesem Jahr exklusive Einblicke in die Welt von Shell V-Power erhalten. Sie besuchten die Shell Laboratorien, konnten hinter die Kulissen eines Formel1-Rennens schauen und die Heimat von Ferrari in Maranello kennenlernen. Klicke hier, um einen Eindruck zu erhalten.

Für weitere Informationen über das Shell V-Power Network of Champions, siehe hier #SVPChamps oder hier

Teilnahmebedingungen.

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September 14 2011

11:10

F1: James Allen Strategiereport – Monza

Der aktuelle James Allen Report – dieses Mal im Original, da wir aus Zeitgründen nicht zum Übersetzen kommen.

Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix was one of the best races of the season from the point of view of wheel to wheel combat.
But because of the unique nature of the Monza circuit, it also featured some fascinating decision-making by teams on race strategy, not just in terms of tyre strategy and pit stops, but also in terms of how to set up the cars, particularly wing level and gearing. With top speeds reaching 350km/h, one of the key decisions was how to balance the use of the DRS wing (giving a 6-8km/h speed boost) while not hitting the rev limiter which is set at 18,000 rpm. How teams like Red Bull, McLaren and Mercedes in particular chose to tackle this had a huge bearing on the outcome of the race.

The battles at the front
It was widely known after qualifying that Sebastian Vettel had chosen to use a shorter top gear than his rivals. This gave him the advantage of a smoother acceleration out of corners like Lesmo and Parabolica, even if he was sacrificing top speed. It also allowed him to use the DRS exactly how he wanted to. Vettel was clocked at just 327km/h, the slowest of any driver and 22km/h off the fastest, but he was on pole by half a second, so the tactic worked.

But it made him vulnerable if he lost track position in the race as he would not have the top speed to overtake on the straights. When he fell behind Alonso at the start, he had to make a very bold move in the Curva Grande to pass him for the lead. He was then able to use his pace advantage to break the tow and pull away.

Meanwhile McLaren thought that they had got the balance right, but hadn’t counted on finding themselves behind Michael Schumacher, who had his car set for high top speed and proved very hard to pass after another fantastic start put him in the race at the front.

Schumacher qualified 8th, but got a great start, running third after the first corner, but dropping back behind Hamilton by the end of the lap. The safety car was deployed for the accident in Turn 1 and at the restart, Hamilton wasn’t sharp and Schumacher repassed him, staying ahead for the whole of the first stint. Mercedes pitted him on lap 16, putting him on the new set of softs that the team had saved in qualifying by doing only one run in Q3. Hamilton stayed out for two more laps to try to build a gap. His stop was 0.7s faster than Mercedes, but Mercedes tyre planning for the race paid off and on new tyres Schumacher was fast enough to stay ahead of Hamilton. Mercedes top speed without the DRS was equal to the McLaren’s top speed with DRS so Hamilton couldn’t get ahead.

After a warning from Race Control about blocking, in the end Schumacher lost the place by making a late upshift when the engine was on the limiter and this lost momentum and allowed Hamilton to pass.

In the battle for second place between Button and Alonso, the Ferrari driver had good pace on the soft tyre, but once again the Ferrari’s weakness on the first laps on the medium tyre cost him a position. Button came in on lap 33 and his outlap was 1.5 seconds faster than Alonso’s when he pitted a lap later. Button passed him on that lap. Button’s second lap on the tyre was a 1m 28.0, while Alonso’s was a 1m 29.3. This has now cost Alonso important positions in three races, including Germany, where he lost the lead to Hamilton is similar fashion to the way Button took him at Monza. Ferrari acknowledges it is a weakness they must address for 2012, as it holds them back strategically.

Mercedes thinking differently
Another important reason why Schumacher was able to compete at Monza was that the soft Pirelli tyre turned out to be more durable than expected. The blistering was not as bad as at Spa, due to strict camber levels imposed by Pirelli and enforced by the FIA. And the degradation was not as bad as in Friday practice because the track improved. Mercedes have struggled this season with wearing out the soft tyres more quickly than their rivals, but Schumacher was able to do 21 laps on his second set of softs.

Knowing that they didn’t have the speed to do better than 7th and 8th in qualifying, Mercedes strategists had been focussing on the plan for the race. To this end Rosberg had qualified on medium tyres, which meant that he fell behind Petrov and Schumacher, whom he would normally outqualify. The thinking behind Rosberg’s strategy was to avoid starting the race on blistered soft tyres, to run a long opening stint and then two fast stints on new soft tyres. Part of this was due to the fact that Mercedes had high degradation on the soft on Friday and also because the difference in lap time between the soft and medium wasn’t as great as at Spa. Here it was more like 0.7s to 1.2s, with Mercedes and Red Bull on the lower end of that.

Sadly we never got to see what Rosberg might have achieved as he was eliminated in the first corner accident. But it is worth noting that as the durability of the soft tyre was better than expected on race day, all Rosberg’s rivals were easily able to do the race in two stops only, so it’s unlikely that he would have finished higher than Schumacher did in fifth place.

Strategy brings midfielders strong results
Rosberg’s decision to start on mediums was not unique and caused a ripple effect. Senna did not set a time in Q3 so he could have the choice of which tyre to start on and sitting behind Rosberg on the grid he went for medium, reasoning that there was no point being on the faster tyre if Rosberg was going to be slower ahead of him in the opening stint on mediums. He lost five places in the opening lap chaos and pitted under the safety car on lap 2 to soft tyres and did a three stop strategy from there. Arguably he would have been better to stick with the original plan to run mediums and stop twice. It might have left him closer to Alguersuari in the middle stint.

But the Spaniard had great pace in that second stint and this set him up for his career best seventh place. His start was good, coming from 18th to 11th and because he had been eliminated in Q1, he had new tyres for the whole race. The Toro Rosso is very kind to its tyres, like the Sauber, and the general pattern seems to be that they qualify poorly but can race well. In previous years with durable Bridgestone tyres this would have led to no points, but they’ve played the Pirelli card very well.

Alguersuari’s result makes it seven consecutive races – and nine in total out of 13 – in which a driver eliminated in Q1 scores points.

It’s all down to strategy and this has been one of the most refreshing aspects of the 2011 season.

Behind Rosberg and Senna several drivers outside the top ten (and therefore able to choose their starting tyre), went for medium tyre too. These included both Saubers and Sutil, their target being to do the race in one stop only. Again, regretfully all three retired so we never got to see what they might have done.

Perez was looking very good, though. He made up seven places at the start to 10th and was running 8th in the opening stint, with Alguersuari. He was in a very good position with good pace on the medium tyre. When the Spaniard pitted on lap 20, Perez could have switched to a two stopper and come home just ahead of him in P7. But sadly the gearbox failed and he retired. This proved significant in the championship as it allowed Di Resta to score four points, which moved Force India into 6th place in the Constructors’ championship, ahead of Sauber.

The UBS Strategy Report is written by James Allen with input and data from strategy engineers from several F1 teams

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August 06 2011

12:10

Formel Eins: James Allen Strategiereport – Ungarn

Der GP von Ungarn war ein fantastisches Rennen. Wieder war es zwischen den vier besten Wagen sehr eng, und eigentlich hätte jeder gewinnen können. Der enge Konkurrenzkampf und die unterschiedlichen Wetterbedingungen sorgten wieder dafür, dass die Strategie eine wichtige Rolle spielte.

Der Sieger Jenson Button war in der Lage, die richtigen Entscheidungen zu fällen. Diese basierten aus den Daten, die man in den freien Trainings gesammelt hatte, und der Entscheidung während des späten Regenschauers nicht an die Box zu kommen, um auf die Intermediates zu wechseln, sondern abzuwarten.
Auf der anderen Seite gab es etliche Fahrer, deren Rennen durch schlechte strategische Entscheidungen beeinflusst wurden, was dazu führte, dass gleich drei Fahrer aus dem Mittelfeld in die Punkte gekommen sind. Den Regen hatte man für den Morgen des Sonntags prognostiziert, aber nicht für den Mittag. Aber die meisten Teams waren sich über die Vorhersagen nicht sicher.
Das Überholen in Budapest war noch nie besonders leicht, aber die Wetterbedingungen halfen dem Rennen. Es gab auf der Start/Zielgeraden am Sonntag weniger Gegenwind als es während der Quali gegeben hatte was auch ein Grund dafür war, warum die DRS-Zone an diesem Wochenende nicht sonderlich gut funktionierte. Eine Menge Fahrer kamen ohne den bremsenden Gegenwind schneller in den Begrenzer, als noch am Samstag.
Ein weiterer Grund, warum das DRS am Wochenende wenig Überholmanöver bot, war die relativ kurze Gerade und die Menge an Abtrieb, die die Wagen fuhren. Sie kamen vor dem Bremspunkt nie auf ihre Höchstgeschwindigkeit.
Schauen wir uns mal genau an. wie die Entscheidungen getroffen wurden.

Button fällt die richtigen Entscheidungen
Von den 11 Siegen, die Jenson Button in seiner Karriere eingefahren hat, holte er sechs Stück in Mischverhältnissen. Eine Kombination aus Erfahrung, sanfter Fahrweise und eine gute Einschätzung der Gripverhältnisse waren die zentralen Punkte seines Sieges. Button startete sein Rennen, so viele alle anderen auch, auf Intermediates, wechselte dann aber in Runde 11 auf die Supersoft.

Webber, Massa und Barrichello waren in Runde 10 an der Box gewesen und Webber setzte sofort die schnellsten Sektorenzeiten. Die Signale zum Wechsel waren also alle da. Allerdings – Massa tat sich mit den Trockenreifen auf der nassen Strecke sehr schwer, weil er Probleme hatte, die Reifen auf Temperatur zu bekommen. Button, der zu diesem Zeitpunkt auf Platz 3 lag, reagierte und nahm die Supersoft wie erwähnt in Runde 11. Alonso reagierte nicht. Genauso wenig wie der Führende, noch Vettel oder Rosberg. Diese warteten bis zur 12 Runde mit ihrem Stopp. Alle, abgesehen von Hamilton, der einen 5 Sekunden Vorsprung hatte, verloren Zeit und ihre Position. Button übernahm von Vettel P2, während sich Webber an Alonso und Rosberg vorbei schob.

Die supersoften Reifen hielten nicht besonders lang. Vor dem Rennen dachte man noch, dass sie circa 20 Runden durchhalten würden, aber in der Realität war es es dann doch nur 15 oder 16 Runden, sogar deutlich weniger im Fall von Hamilton. Er hatte in der Quali einen Satz gespart und nutzte dieses brandneuen Satz um schnell einen Vorsprung von 9 Sekunden auf Button herauszufahren. Aber nach 14 Runden musste er schon wieder an die Box, Button stoppte eine Runde später. Sie blieben durch circa sechs Sekunden getrennt, aber der entscheidende Moment kam in Runde 40, als Hamilton auf einen weiteren Satz Supersoft wechselte. Es war völlig klar, dass er damit die verbleibenden 30 Runden nicht zu Ende fahren konnte. Button wechslte in Runde 42 auf die härtere (Soft) Mischung und er wusste, dass er damit das Rennen würde zu Ende fahren können.

Und hier die Erklärung, wie man zu den unterschiedlichen Entscheidungen gekommen ist: Die gebrauchten Supersoft waren 0,8 Sekunde pro Runde schneller als die härtere Mischung, also lautete die Taktik von Hamilton in diesem Stint seinen Vorsprung auf mehr als 18 Sekunden auszuweiten. Er hätte das in den 15 Runden Stint eigentlich locker schaffen müssen, aber tatsächlich war Button schneller auf der härteren Mischung unterwegs. In Runde 47, als der leichte Regen begann, drehte sich Hamilton und verlor die Führung. Nun lag er nicht nur hinter seinem Teamkollegen, er war auch noch auf den falschen Reifen unterwegs. Vettel, der ebenfalls auf den Supersoft, die aber bis zum Schluss drauf behalten wollte, würde ebenso an ihm vorbei gehen, wie Webber.

Auch wenn Hamilton wieder an Button vorbei gehen konnte, brauchte er eine Änderung in der Strategie. Das hätte der Intermediate sein können, den er in Runde 52 aufzog, als der Regen stärker wurde. Aber das stellte sich als die falsche Entscheidung heraus. Auch wenn die Rundenzeiten auf den Slicks um 11 Sekunden anstiegen, war es wichtig, dass man kühlen Kopf bewahrte, denn der Regen verschwand nach drei Runden wieder und die Fahrern auf Intermediates mussten noch mal an die Box zum Reifenwechsel. Button, Alonso und Vettel nahmen keine Intermediates und blieben somit vor Hamilton. Webber nahm welche und fiel zurück.

Die Entscheidung für oder gegen Intermediates war wichtig, aber sie war nicht ausschlaggebend für den Sieg. Der dritte Stopp und die Option, die härteren Reifen zu nehmen, war am Ende richtig.

Alonso machte etliche Dinge so, wie Hamilton. Wenn man sich die Länge seiner Stints anschaut, dann hatte er vor vier Stopps einzulegen, vor allem, nachdem er hinter Rosberg eine Menge Zeit verloren hatte. Er wurde von Webber geschnappt, weil er zu lange auf seinen Slicks draußen blieb. Sein erster Stint mit den Supersoft war 13 Runden lang, sein zweiter 11, der dritte ebenfalls 11 und der vierte Stint auf der härteren Mischung dauerte 23 Runden. Er kam beim seinem dritten Stopp an Webber vorbei, weil er drei Runden eher stoppte und er vermied den Fehler auf die Intermediates zu wechseln, so dass er vor Hamilton landete. Es war ein gutes Ergebnis nach einem sehr schlechten Start ins Rennen.

Die beiden Toro Rosso Piloten fuhren jeweils gute Ergebnisse ein. Sebastian Buemi fuhr von P23 auf P8, während Jamie Alguersuari zm vierten Mal in fünf Rennen in die Punkte kam. Es gelang, weil man einen langen Mittelstint auf der harten Mischung fuhr und so einen Stopp einsparen konnte. Diese Taktik hat sich für STR und Sauber in diesem Jahr schon mehrfach ausgezahlt und es ist verwunderlich, warum nicht mehr Teams aus dem Mittelfeld das machen. Allerdings bedarf es dazu eines Wagens, der der sanft mit den Reifen umgeht.

Gutes Resultat für Paul di Resta
Paul di Resta erreichte mit dem siebten Platz sein bisher bestes Resultat in der Formel Eins und gewisser weise ist ein “breakthrough” Ergebnis. Die Ingenieure waren überrascht, wie ruhig und gelassen er auch in den Momenten im Rennen war, in denen es schwer wurde, wie zum Beispiel als es ab Runde begann zu regnen. Es war seine Entscheidung nicht auf die Intermediates zu wechseln. Di Resta hatte bisher keine gute Ergebnisse abliefern müssen, aber dieses Rennen dürfte andere Teams aufmerksam gemacht haben, denn es war nicht Fahrt eines Rookies, was man sieht, wenn man seine Strategie mit der von Button vergleicht.

Er startete auf Supersofts und er hatte einen neuen Satz, da er nicht in Q3 gekommen war. Button stoppte in Runde 27 um auf einen Satz gebrauchter Supersofts und di Resta tat dasselbe. In Runde 42 nahm Button dann die härtere Mischung, und wieder tat es ihm der Schotte gleich. Es ist unwahrscheinlich, dass man Button einfach kopierte, es ist wohl ein Zufall. Aber interessant ist, dass die Entscheidung von Force India auf den Ergebnissen vom Freitag basierte, wo man feststellte, dass man mit den Reifen lange Stints fahren konnte. Das machte klar, dass man mit einem leichter werdenden Auto gegen Ende des Rennens rund 30 Runden würde fahren können.

Di Resta fuhr gegen Rosberg, der die harte Mischung beim zweiten Stopp aufgezogen hatte. Aber die Entscheidung von Rosberg auf die Intermediates zu wechseln, passte dann di Resta gut ins Konzept. Es war das zweite Rennen hintereinander, in dem Force India vor Mercedes gelandet ist. Und es war das siebte Mal in elf Rennen, dass Rosberg am Ende schlechter positioniert war, als beim Start.

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July 27 2011

15:23

Formel Eins: James Allen Strategiereport – Nürburgring

Beim Rennen zum Grossen Preis auf dem Nürburgring konnte man drei Fahrer in drei verschiedenen Wagen sehen, die fast gleichschnell waren.

Wie der Sieger Lewis Hamilton festgestellt hat, ging es vor allem darum, perfekt zu sein und keine Fehler zu machen. Das galt für die Strategen ebenso, wie für die Boxenmannschaft und die Fahrer. Am Ende basierte der Sieg auf einer außergewöhnlichen Fahrerleistung und einer gut ausbalancierten Strategie. Aber weiter hinten im Feld konnte man einige unterschiedliche Strategien sehen, die das Rennergebnis bestimmten. Vor allem bei Adrian Sutil, der als sechster vor den deutlich schnelleren Mercedes ins Ziel kam.

Die wichtigste Frage für die Strategie in Deutschland war, wie sich die Performce der langsamen Medium Reifen entwicklen würde. Wenn die Differenz zwischen dem “Soft” und dem “Medium” Reifen bei rund 1.5 Sekunden lag, dann waren 2 Stopps angesagt. Wäre die Differenz größer, dann wären drei Stopps die richtige Wahl, wobei der letzte Stint auf den “Medium” Reifen sehr kurz sein würde.

Am Freitag stellte sich raus, dass die Langlebigkeit der Reifen besser war, als erwartet. Also sah die 2-Stopp-Strategie nach einer guten Option aus. Aber der heftige Regen am Samstagabend reinigte die Strecke, und das brachte einige Leute auf die Idee einer 3-Stopp-Strategie, weil man dachte, dass der Kurs wieder sehr “grün” war.

In den Zeiten von Bridgestone hätte dieser Umstand zum bekannten Graining geführt, aber in Deutschland passierte nicht bei den Pirelli-Reifen. Tatsächlich konnte man sehen, dass es weniger Grip gab und die Rundenzeiten langsamer waren, aber das führte auch dazu, dass die Pneus länger hielten und die “grüne” Strecke schadete ihnen nicht.

Der Dreikampf an der Spitze

Man sollte nicht vergessen, dass die selbst die 3-Stopper an der Spitze in Sachen Stintlänge eher ein 2-Stopp-Rennen fuhren. Webber absolvierte zum Beispiel 26 Runden auf seinem dritten Satz weicher Reifen. Man wollte die “Medium” Mischung vermeiden und stoppte so spät wie möglich. Zwei Fahrer gingen noch weiter: Vettel und Massa. Sie kamen erst in der letzten Runde an die Box.

Bei den Führenden gelang es Webber, der seine Pole am Start an Hamilton verloren hatte, bei seinem ersten Stopp in Runde 14 Hamilton per Undercut vom ersten Platz zu verdrängen. Webber lag vor seinem 0,5 Sek. hinter Hamilton, als er an die Box kam. Eine schneller Stopp von Red Bull und zwei sehr schnelle Out-Laps von Webber brachten wieder in Front. Er versuchte einen Vorsprung heraus zu fahren, aber Lewis war schneller in den Sektoren 1 und 3, also wusste Webber, dass es nicht sein Tag werden würde.

Weil er die Reifen zu Beginn des Stints sehr belastet hatte, war seine Pace am Ende des zweiten Stints nicht mehr gut. Er versuchte erneut den Undercut, aber das klappte nicht. Hamilton und Alonso hatten weiche Reifen, die Runden frischer waren, und konnten etwas zulegen, als Webber stoppte. Der Stopp des Australiers war 0,8 Sekunden langsamer als der erste Stop und am Ende war er nur noch auf Platz 3.

Hamilton und Alonso kamen zusammen zum ersten Stopp, aber bei Stopp Nummer 2 kam Hamilton eine Runde früher. Die In-Lap von Alonso war 0,7 Sekunden schneller, als die von Hamilton und seine Boxencrew war 0,4 Sekunden schneller. Interessant war, dass die Outlap von Hamilton auf frischen Reifen nicht schneller war, als die des Spaniers auf gebrauchten Reifen. Das zeigte, dass nicht immer der erste Stopper einen Vorteil haben muss.

Alonso kam nach seinem Stopp auf P1 auf die Strecke, aber der Ferrari bekommt die Reifen nur langsam auf Temperatur, so dass Hamilton den Konkurrenten in Turn 2 überholen konnte. Die Strategie von Ferrari stimmte auf dem Papier, funktioniere aber nicht in der Realität.

Webber hatte den Undercut beim ersten Stopp geschaff, aber ein früher Stopp half weder ihm noch Hamilton beim zweiten Boxenhalt. Das kann man teilweise damit erklären, dass das Gewicht des vollen Tanks im ersten Stint den Reifen schadet, dies aber beim zweiten Stopp nicht mehr der Fall ist und zudem die Pirelli Reifen relativ lang halten.

Als es um den letzten Stopp ging, bei dem man auf die Medium-Mischung wechseln musste, suchte man Hilfe und fand die in Form von Vitaly Petrov und Kamui Kobayashi. Maldonado hatte schon in Runde 35 auf die Medium gewechselt, aber seine Rundenzeiten waren zu wechselhaft. Als Petrov in Runde 46 an die Box kam und persönlich schnellste Sektorenzeiten hinlegt und Kobayahsi schneller als sein Teamkollege war, der noch auf der “Soft” Mischung unterwegs war, wurde es McLaren klar, dass man langsam auf die “Medium” Reifen wechseln sollte.

Webber war zu dem Zeitpunkt aus dem Rennen und lag mit 8 Sekunden Rückstand auf Platz 2 hinter Alonso. McLaren holte Hamilton in Runde 51 rein, aber Ferrari reagierte nicht. Man ließ Alonso zwei weitere Runden draussen, weil man über die eigene Pace auf den Mediums besorgt war. Der Speed von Hamilton war nach seinem letzten Stopp sofort gut, also hatte er den Rennsieg in der Tasche. Webber versuchte etwas länger draussen zu bleiben, aber er lag zu weit zurück und kam nicht mehr ran.

Sutil vs. Rosberg

Ein Highlight des Rennens war die Performance von Force India und Adrian Sutil. Ihm gelang ein perfektes Wochenende und am Ende kam er auf Platz 6, weit vor beiden Mercedes und dem Renault. Er hatte sich auf Platz 8 qualifiziert, 0,8 Sekunden hinter Rosberg. Ihn aus dieser Position zu schlagen, ist schon eine Leistung.

Das Duell Sutil gegen Rosberg war ein gutes Beispiel, wie zwei Boxenstopps besser funktionieren können, als drei. Force India war eines der Teams, bei dem die Simulationen zeigten, dass zwei Stopps besser als drei waren, weil man nicht im Verkehr stecken bleiben konnte und Fehler bei einem zuzsätzlichen Stopp wegfielen.

Sutil stoppte in den Runden 22 und 48, Rosberg kam in den Runden 14, 36 und 53 an die Box. Ihre Rundenzeiten waren im ersten Stint zunächst sehr ähnlich, aber danach hatte Sutil einen Vorteil. Der Mercedes geht mit den Reifen nicht so schonend um und Sutil fuhr eine Lücke von vier Sekunden zu und lag hinter Rosberg, als der zu seinem ersten Stopp kam. Der Mercedes ist, wie man in der Quali sehen konnte, der schnellere Wagen, aber gegen die Reifenabnutzung waren sie machtlos und dem Force India gelang es einen Vorsprung von 10 Sekunden heraus zu fahren.

Sutil überzeugte das gesamte Wochenende und es gelang ihm, die Medium Reifen in den Griff zu bekommen. Er konnte seine Pace auf der härteren Mischung halten und fuhr seine schnellste Rundenzeit neun Runden, nach dem er an der Box war. Anderen Teams fiel es schwerer, die Medium-Mischung in der kalten Umgebung auf Temperatur zu bekommen.

Die richtige Spritmenge

Die Regenwahrscheinlichkeit am Ring hatte einen großen Einfluss auf die Benzinstrategie im Rennen. Eine Menge Strategen füllten etwas weniger Sprit in den Wagen, weil man dachte, dass es regnen würde. Das führte dann wieder dazu, dass viele Fahrer gegen Ende des Rennens Benzin sparen müsste. Und das ist auch der Grund, warum Alonso am Ende um vier Sekunden zurück fiel und er nach der Zieldurchfahrt stehen blieb. Nachdem McLaren den gleichen Fehler bei Hamilton in Silverstone gemacht hatte, war die zumindst etwas klüger geworden.

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July 13 2011

14:51

Formel Eins: James Allen Strategie Analyse Silverstone

Der GP von England war ein aus strategischer Sicht ein interessantes Rennen. Es gab eine Menge Unabwägbarkeiten als bei anderen Rennen, was vor allem an den Reifen lag, weil man vor dem Rennen so wenig im Trockenen trainieren konnte.

Und dann gab es die teilweise sehr nasse Strecke beim Start, was alle dazu zwang, auf Intermediates zu starten. Doch wie lange würden die halten? Vor dem Rennen dachten die meisten Strategen an ein 3-Stopp-Rennen, während einige Teams aus dem Hinterfeld einen Stopp weniger einplanten, um ein paar Plätze gut zu machen. Der Start auf der nassen Strecke brachte zwei Dinge, die den Teams das Leben leichter machten. Zum einen mussten die Fahrer so nicht beide Reifenmischungen nutzen, so dass man um den langsameren harten Reifen herum kam. Zum anderen bedeutete der Regen, dass man sich um 11 Runden weniger Gedanken machen musste, was die Startegien vereinfachte. Die erste wichtige Entscheidung betraf den Moment, wann man auf Trockenreifen wechseln sollte.

Michael Schumacher machte allen die Entscheidung sehr leicht, der nach seiner Kollision in Runde 9 an die Box musste und sich Trockenreifen nahm, da er eh nichts mehr zu verlieren hatte. Ab Runde 11 waren seine Reifen auf Temperatur und er war pro Runde eine Sekunde schneller als der Führende. Es war klar, dass die Slicks nun schneller waren und Fahrer wie Jenson Button tauchten in der Box auf.

Red Bull: Zwei starke Fahrer im Zaum halten

Mark Webber hatte die Pole in Silverstone erfahren, sie aber beim Start an Vettel verloren. Dennoch war er im Rennen stark unterwegs und Red Bull musste das Rennen beider vorsichtig planen.

An dem Punkt, an dem die Strecke abtrocknete, hatte Sebastian Vettel eine Führung von 8 Sekunden vor Mark Webber, der wiederum unter Druck von Fernando Alonso stand. Red Bull holte Mark Webber zuerst rein, so dass er im Kampf mit Alonso keine weitere Zeit verlor oder gar seinen zweiten Platz. Das klappte, auch weil Alonso bei seinem Stopp 2.6 Sekunden verlor. Aber weil Vettel eine Runde länger draussen blieb, verlor er 5 Sekunden. Das Team dachte definitv daran Webber zu helfen, als man ihn zu erst reinholte.

(Anmerkung von Don: Das ist sicher richtig, gleichzeitig war aber auch nicht klar, wie trocken die Strecke war und ob Schmumachers Zeiten mit einer anderen Abstimmung zusammenhingen. Man schlug zwei Fliegen mit einer Klappe: Zum einen half man Webber Alonso los zu werden, zum anderen konnte er über zwei Sektoren testen, wie sich die Zeiten entwickeln würden)

Beim zweiten Stopp lief jedoch schief und kostete Webber seinen Platz an Alonso. Red Bull machte das übliche und holte Webber rein, kurz bevor die Reifen ihre beste Phase hinter sich hatten und die Zeiten einbrechen konnten. Webber kam in Runde 26 an die Box. Alonso wiederum hatte noch etwas mehr Leben in seinen Reifen und legte eine 1.35.5 min hin, was zu diesem Zeitpunkt die schnellste Zeit des Rennen war. Das und weil Webber rund 1.5 Sekunden bei seinem Stopp verlor, sorgte dafür, dass Alonso der “Undercut” gelang und an Webber vorbei kam. Und dann ging auch noch der Stopp von Vettel daneben und er verlor die Führung an Alonso. Vettel kam zu dem genau vor Webber raus, der mit frischen Reifen hätte Alonso angreifen können.

Das war ein für diese Saison seltenes Beispiel dafür, dass ein Fahrer einen Konkurrenten überholen konnte, weil er eine Runde länger draussen bleiben konnte. Normalerweise schafft man den Undercut nur, wenn man eine Runde früher stoppt und die Performance der neuen Reifen nutzt.

McLaren – Das Rennen an mehreren Fronten verloren

Mal abgesehen von dem Punkt, dass McLaren den rechten Vorderreifen von Jenson Button bei seinem dritten Stopp nicht befestigen konnte, gab es weitere Probleme. Wie in Valencia ging der McLaren sehr hart mit den Reifen um. Aber das größte Problem war wohl, dass Lewis Hamilton zu wenig Sprit an Bord hatte.

Weil das Mapping für dieses Rennen geändert und das “Off-Throttle” Anblasen des Diffusors abgestellt war, würde man weniger Benzin benötigen. Da man im Training keine wirklich trockene Strecke hatte, mussten die Team-Strategen den Verbrauch mehr oder weniger schätzen. Der McLaren von Hamilton starte von P10 und McLaren war etwas zu aggressiv mit ihrer Strategie. Normalerweise braucht man für die 52 Runden rund 150 Kilo.

Die ersten 11 Runden fanden unter nassen Bedingungen statt, was den Strategen hätte helfen müssen, da man im Regen weniger Benzin verbraucht. Also nahmen viele Teams vor dem Rennen Sprit aus dem Tank, als sie sahen, dass das Rennen wohl unter nassen Bedingungen starten würde. Aber erstaunlicherweise half das Hamilton überhaupt nicht, weil er die letzten 20 Runden Benzin sparen musste, was ihm den letzten Podiumsplatz kostete und um ein Haar auch P4 an Massa.

Die Herausforderung für die Strategen ist, dass der Fahrer mit so wenig Sprit wie möglich ins Ziel kommen sollte, weil jedes Gramm mehr den Wagen in den 52 Runden langsamer macht. Wenn man zu wenig Benzin einfüllt, verliert man, wie Hamilton, am Ende sehr viele Positionen. Füllt man zu viel ein, ist man zu Beginn des Rennens zu langsam, man verliert aber kaum an Boden. Man hat so Sachen wie bei Hamilton in den letzten 12 Monaten selten gesehen, was auch bedeutet, dass die Teams nicht einsehen zu viel Risiko einzugehen.

Alguersuari: Von ganz hinten nach vorne

In diesem Jahr kann man eine seltene Strategie erstaunlich oft beobachten. In sechs von neun Rennen gelang es einem Fahrer, der schon in Q1 ausgeschieden ist, in die Punkte zu kommen. Algiuersuari ist das Kunststück gelungen, in drei Rennen von P18 aus noch unter die Top 10 zu kommen.

Die offizielle Erklärung von Toro Rosso für die schlechte Performance in Q1 lautete, dass man vom Regen überrascht worden sei und man keine Runde auf einem weichen Satz hinbekommen hatte. Inoffiziell hieß es jedoch, dass man nur mit harten Reifen unterwegs war, weil man drei Sätze weicher Reifen für den Renntag haben wollte, was in der Vergangenheit immer gut geklappt hat.

Alguersuari fuhr sehr lange, saubere Stints und nutzte die Langlebigkeit und Performance der neuen weichen Reifen. Er stoppte zweimal und kam auf P10. Nico Rosber und Sergio Perez waren die bestplatzierten Zwei-Stopper auf P6 bzw. P7. Der Sauber bewies mal wieder, dass er mit den Reifen besonders sanft umgeht.

Die Wichtigkeit des Starts in der Rennstrategie

Rosberg verlor beim Start drei Positionen, hatte dann aber ein gutes Rennen, dass ihn wieder an die Stelle brachte, wo er so oder so gelandet werde. Aber man kann einen Trend in diesem Jahr erkennen, die das Ergebnis der Fahrer beeinflusst.

Das beste Beispiel ist Pastor Maldonado, der sich in Silverstone auf einem brillanten siebten Platz qualifiziert hatte, dann aber am Start drei Positionen verlore. Das ist in diesem Jahr beim Venezualaner sehr auffällig, denn er 19 Plätze in 9 Rennen am Start verloren.

Webber hat ebenfalls schlechte Starts gezeigt. Er verlor 12 Plätze in 9 Rennen und natürlich den Start in Silverstone gegen Vettel.

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July 09 2011

13:30

Formel Eins: Interview mit Bernie Ecclestone

Der Kollege James Allen hatte am letzten Mittwoch die seltene Gelegenheit Bernie Ecclestone zu interviewen. Er hat dem Racingblog das gesamte Interview exklusiv zur Verfügung gestellt.

Looking ten, fifteen years down the line, Bernie, who do you see running F1? Who would be the right custodians of this sport?
“It’s something that has to develop on its own. I used to control a lot more than I do at the moment because we’ve let things go a little a bit to other people, we’ve become too democratic. I still think that if I wasn’t around you’d need someone who was going to run things a little bit like I run things.

You mean a ‘Benevolent dictatorship?’
“Yes. That’s what happens with the winning teams. If you run a team like a democracy you’d be in trouble. When Todt was with Ferrari with Michael and Ross, it was like that. Now it’s more Italian and very democratic.”

Do you see your stewardship of F1 as just a chapter in the story of the sport or the whole book?
“It’s one of those things, we’ve grown together.”

In a fragmenting media landscape, can you get more revenue from Social media, internet, mobiles?
“You hear a lot about these things. When we do a deal with a broadcaster we give them the rights to broadcast by whatever method they wish in their country. So if they want to broadcast through a mobile phone – which in effect is a small television, even more so with these pads and what have you – but they don’t seem to want to do it. People still want to turn the TV on.”

Could a new owner of F1 take the content and create more revenue streams on new media?
“I’ve no idea what they would do. Anything that could be done, we’re doing it. We’ve looked into it. All these different methods of broadcasting. The minute we allow other people to broadcast by other means it would upset the people we’ve got (TV) contracts with.”

NewsCorp/Exor came out recently and said they’re interested in buying F1’s commercial rights. Have they been in touch with you about their plans?
“I don’t think they have any plans.”

Are they appropriate people to run F1?
“Most of the people that are involved in F1 think that it would be wrong to have something as strong as the Murdoch group which is very strong, obviously involved, because we built the business up through free to air TV and I think the minute we moved away from that we might find ourselves in trouble. We’d have to wait and see. Also it would be wrong to have Exor, who own Ferrari basically, in there. Because they’d have a big influence over the rules.”

Would NewsCorp’s involvement in the phone hacking scandal in the UK be a problem here?
“Its’ nothing to do with us. They are not hacking our phones! We have nothing they’d want to hack for!”

At the moment we have FOTA but also this new group of four bosses of Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull and McLaren, who are having higher level conversations. What’s your read on that?
“I don’t know why they have these meetings. They have a lot of meetings and don’t seem to achieve anything. Those people you mentioned, the bosses, they only got together to see if they don’t want Exor and Murdoch to be involved. They said, “If they are going to get involved, maybe it’s better that we are.” They should approach CVC and see if they can buy the company if they want to.”

What about succession, Bernie? What’s the plan?
“If I’m gone, or rather when I’m gone, somebody will emerge. We’ve got a good enough group around us that would run things without any problems.”

Would I be right in thinking that your chosen successor works in this building? (I have in mind Sasha Woodward Hill, his in house lawyer)
“I wouldn’t choose the successor. (That would be CVC) Yes, or if Murdoch’s bought the company by then they would choose the person who took over from me.”

The Concorde Negotiations are on now, will it be resolved by the deadline, the end of 2012 or is there a danger it might not be?
“The Concorde Agreement is a magic sort of thing. It came about as a sort of peace treaty with the FIA (in the early 1980s). It’s sort of grown and people think it’s a magic document. It isn’t. The important thing in that document is what the teams get paid. All the other things are dealt with by the rules and regulations. So really there is no need to have a Concorde Agreement.”

What about this season? With DRS wings and Pirelli tyres it’s been a season full over overtaking and action, how do you feel about it, can you have too much of a good thing?
“Apart from Sebastian winning everything it’s an incredible season. Having said that people want to know who’s going to beat him. We just had a tennis match and it was magic for people to see Nadal get beaten. We’ve got to thank the tyre company for this. When I did the deal with Pirelli I said to them ‘I want you to make a tyre that won’t go the whole distance of the race, I’d like to see one that goes a third of the race. They’ve done a fantastic job, because it’s just as hard for them to do that as it is to make a tyre that will go for ever.”

All sports face the dilemma of where the dividing line is between sport and entertainment. What are your guiding principles when you think about your sport.
“It’s the same for everybody. We need people to not go to an event and known what’s going to happen. When they go to a race they’re talking about all sorts of things, not mechanical things, but about the drivers; who’s going to win and who’s not going to win. That’s why all races that are held in we conditions are that much better.”

The Pirellis are making the racing more exciting, but it’s hurting the qualifying spectacle because the drivers prefer to save a set of tyres rather than go out for another run. Is that a price worth paying?
“Easy to overcome that; another set of tyres.There’s ways we can get around it. I don’t think it’s that big a problem. It puts more pressure on people to deliver if they’ve only got one lap to deliver in.”

Vettel may be dominating but you really like him don’t you? What is it about him you find so attractive?
“He’s a nice guy, feet on the ground, he’s not flying, he’s not dreaming about anything, he’s there to do a job and he’s doing the best he can. He’s confident in himself and that’s important. Who would I say he reminds me of? Probably a bit like Piquet.”

You’ve been quite vocal lately about the new generation engines for 2014. Particularly the sound. Why is that such a big thing for you?
“Different engine, we were talking about a straight four, now we are talking about a V6 single turbo. Nobody knows if we are going to get a similar sound that we get from the V8s. I hope that we do. People love it (the sound) they come to an F1 race and it’s magic. (The high pitched sound?) Yeah. We had the 12 cylinders that sounded fantastic. As long as it’s got a lot of noise. People love to go for the noise.”

You were a keen supporter of Jean Todt for the Ferrari job and for his FIA presidency campaign. But now you seem to be sparring with him, over things like this engine.
“The only argument I have with Jean is what I’ve said. He was right in his thoughts about promoting F1 as a being message about the green environment, which is complete nonsense in my opinion. Because it’s so easy in so many ways. I told him ‘All we need to tell the teams not to have such big motorhomes and then there’d be less trucks bringing all the equipment there and there’d be less fuel used.’ But it’s not the message people want to see. So then I said, ‘Why don’t we reduce the races by 10% if you want to use less fuel? It’s like KERS which was brought in to give a message to people. Problem is we keep it a secret; the only time anyone talks about the KERS system is when it doesn’t work. Nobody ever talks about why it’s there in the first place. So we have to be careful. We don’t want to reduce the appeal to people going to see Formula 1. There are so many ways, that we could give a message; there’s the world touring car championship for cars that you see on the road. You can buy them and it is 1.6 litre turbocharged. With Jean at the moment, that’s the only problem I’ve got. We have no problems other than that.”

Vielen Dank an James Allen!

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June 22 2011

05:34

Newshappen-Sammlung für 22.06.

// Mit sofortiger Wirkung hat die FIA das “Engine Mappingverboten. Gemeint ist, dass der Motor auch dann auf hohen Drehzahlen läuft, wenn der Fahrer vom Gas geht. Durch die Auspuffgase wird der Unterboden, bzw. der Diffusor angeblasen, was wiederum für mehr Abtrieb sorgt. “Engine Mapping” heißt es deswegen, weil die Teams/Hersteller die Mappingeinstellungen der ECU beeinflussen, um diesen Effekt zu erreichen. Wenn man den Gerüchten so glauben mag, profitierte vor allem Red Bull von der neuen Ideen. Man hat das wohl in der Quali eingesetzt, nicht aber im Rennen, was dann auch den oft nicht erklärbaren Rundenzeiteneinbruch des Teams erklären könnte. Im Rennen verzichtet man wohl auf den Effekt, weil die Motoren leiden und man mehr Sprit verbraucht. Renault gab mal 10% an, was immerhin rund 10 bis 15kg wären, die man mehr mitschleppen müsste, was keiner freiwillig macht. Ab England sind dann auch die “heiss”, also per Auspuff angeblasenen Diffusor verboten. (Don)

// Argentinien und Mexiko überlegen offenbar den Bau von Formel 1 tauglichen Strecken. In Mexiko wurde kürzlich Charlie Whiting bei der Besichtigung des Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez gesichtet. Angeblich soll er dort gewesen sein, um den Besitzern mitzuteilen, welche Änderungen an der Strecke nötig wären, um die begehrte Grade 1 Lizenz der FIA zu erhalten, die die Austragung von Formel 1 Rennen erlaubt. In Mexiko steigt derzeit wieder das Interesse an der Formel 1, weil mit Sergio Pérez erstmals seit Jahren wieder ein Mexikaner in der Königsklasse unterwegs ist – und mit Esteban Gutierrez ein weiterer vor der Türe steht. Auch Sauber-Sponsor Telmex würde gewiss gerne ein Heimrennen sehen. In Argentinien wurde derweil die Design-Firma Populous (für die neue Arena-Sektion in Silverstone verantwortlich) mit dem Bau einer völlig neuen Strecke nahe Buenos Aires beauftragt, die ebenfalls Grade 1-tauglich sein soll. Angeblich ist die Formel 1 aber nicht das primäre Ziel der Streckenbetreiber – die Bahn soll vielmehr der Entwicklung des argentinischen Motorsports dienen. (Vorsicht)

// Am Wochenende berichtete die “Sunday Times”, dass die BBC gedenkt ihren Vertrag mit der F1 2013 nicht mehr zu verlängern. Die BBC muss rund 60 Millionen Pfund einsparen und eine Saison kostet den Sender dem Vernehmen nach rund 50 Millionen Euro. Die Gerüchte, dass die BBC ihre Übertragung einschränkt und das “Post Race Forum” streicht, gibt es schon länger, aber von einem Ausstieg war bisher nicht die Rede. Man darf nicht vergessen, dass die “Sunday Times” zu News Corp. gehört, die ja gerade versuchen, Bernie Ecclestone die F1 aus den Händen zu winden. Ein Angriff auf wichtige Partner der F1 kommt da nur gelegen. In England heißt es, dass die Argumente in der “Times” nicht substantiell seien und vermutlich zum vor sich hingärenden Bieterwettstreit gehören. (Sorry, keine Links, da die “Times” eine Paywall hat.) (Don)

// James Allen berichtet, dass McLaren gerade Jenson Button umgarnt. Dessen Vertrag läuft eigentlich erst Ende 2012 aus, aber im Moment sind frühzeitige Verlängerungen ja gerade “in” (Siehe Ferrari/Alonso). Button wird im Moment allerdings auch als heisser Kandidat für den zweiten Platz bei Red Bull gehandelt, sollte man den Vertrag mit Webber nicht verlängern wollen. Bei Ferrari soll Button ebenfalls schon gesichtet worden sein. (Don)

// Auf der Seite des Motorsport-Journalisten Gordon Kirby ist ein umfangreicher Bericht zum geplanten Austin Grand Prix 2011 erschienen, der auf einem Interview mit dessen Planer und Veranstalter Tavo Hellmund beruht. Offenbar gibt es dort das eine oder andere Problem mit dem Zeitplan. Es ist mittlerweile auch davon die Rede, dass man a la Korea im ersten Jahr nur eine halbfertige Anlage zusammenbekommt – und, dass der Termin vielleicht an das Saisonende 2011 verschoben werden könnte. Joe Saward spekuliert derweil, dass Red Bull mit dem in der NASCAR ab 2012 gesparten Geld Titelsponsor der US Grand Prix werden könnte. (Vorsicht)

// Fast täglich gibt es momentan neue Gerüchte um den IndyCar Kalender 2012. In der Kurzfassung:
- Nach den unbefriedigenden Besucherzahl steht Milwaukee wohl zumindest auf der Kippe – ausgeschlossen ist eine Rückkehr aber nicht.
- Es gibt offenbar wieder Verhandlungen mit der NASCAR-eigenen Streckenfirma ISC. Dabei geht es wohl um eine Rückkehr von Chicagoland, aber auch um einen Lauf in Phoenix. Möglich ist, dass die IndyCar dafür auch wieder ein Rennen in Fontana “schlucken” muss.
- Auch in Watkins Glen bemüht man sich darum, wieder einen Lauf der IndyCar Series austragen zu dürfen – allerdings nicht um jeden Preis, es get wohl um Konzessionen bei der Antrittsgebühr.
- In Milwaukee war auch die Rede davon, dass man bald in Road America fahren könnte. IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard hatte kürzlich ein Treffen mit Streckenverantwortlichen, dass vielversprechend verlaufen sein soll.
-  In fernerer Zukunft möchte Randy Bernard gerne 22 bis 24 Läufe pro Saison austragen. Um das finanziell möglich zu machen, müssten allerdings die TV-Quoten endlich steigen (wonach es im Moment allerdings nicht gerade aussieht).
- Zu diesen neuen Rennen könnte dann auch ein Straßenrennen in Fort Lauderdale, Florida zählen, wo es offenbar erste Gespräche mit der IndyCar gibt. Das IndyCar Rennen wäre, sofern aus dem Event etwas wird, in ein dreitägiges Rennwochenende mit mehreren anderen Serien eingebunden, mit dem sich Fort Lauderdale zum “amerikanischen Monte Carlo” machen möchte.
- Der Kalender 2011 soll Anfang September fertig sein.
(Vorsicht)

// Einen mittelschweren Schock hatte die NASCAR gestern zu verkraften. Red Bull zieht den Stecker aus ihrem NASCAR Team und schiebt das Geld lieber wohl in Richtung anderer Sportarten, darunter Motorrad. Man schließt das Team zum Ende des Jahres, lässt es Manager Pat Fry aber offen, einen neuen Inhaber/Sponsor zu finden. Was angesichts der arg angespannten wirtschaftlichen Lage in den USA wohl nicht leicht zu schaffen sein wird. Das Team hat sich den vier Jahren seiner Existenz jetzt auch nicht gerade mit Ruhm bekleckert. Ein Sieg von Bian Vickers war drin, mehr aber auch nicht. Auch die Verpflichtung von Kasey Kahne brachte nicht den Durchbruch. Nun ist 2011 also Schluss und die NASCAR verliert einen nicht unwichtigen Sponsor und zwei Wagen. (Don)

// Tony Stewart holt laut Gerüchten wohl das nach, was er schon vor zwei Jahren machen wollte: Er schafft seinen ehemaligen Crew Chief Greg Zipadelli zu Stewart/Haas, der bei Joe Gibbs im Moment nicht so recht glücklich wird, weil Joey Logano nicht vom Fleck kommt. Berichtet zumindest Jayski (runterscrollen), der solche Dinge selten ohne Grund in die Welt setzt. (Don)

//Das Race of Champions 2011 wird nun doch nicht in Frankfurt stattfinden. Wegen des Abstieges der Eintracht Frankfurt in die zweite Liga wird das Stadion nun für den Fußballbetrieb gebraucht. Die Veranstalter müssen sich daher um einen neuen Austragungsort umsehen. Wer bereits eine Karte gekauft hat, kann aber jetzt den Kaufpreis zurückverlangen. Die Tickets behalten aber wohl auch am neuen Austragungsort ihre Gültigkeit. Einzig: Wo der sein wird, steht noch in den Sternen. (Vorsicht)

// Die Absagen für das kommende LMS Rennen in Imola häufen sich. Jetzt hat auch noch Quifel ASM abgesagt. Die Entrylist sieht auch noch einen AMR Aston Martin am Start, aber die werden auch nicht da sein. Ehrlich gesagt wüsste ich nach dem desaströsen Auftritt in Le Mans nicht, wie die mehr als 4 Runden in Imola schaffen wollen. Audi hat Bernhard/Fässler und Kristensen/McNish gemeldet. (Don)

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June 20 2011

15:12

Formel Eins: Der James Allen Strategiereport Kanada

Ohne jede Zweifel war das GP von Kanada ein absoluter Klassiker. Alles war dabei: klasse Racing, Safety Cars, Regen, Kollisionen und einige sehr enge strategische Entscheidungen, die man oft mit wenig Daten im Rücken treffen musste.

Die Strategen hatten im letzten Rennen alle Hände voll zu tun und daraus wurde dann ein faszinierendes Rennen. Jenson Button gewann das Rennen, obwohl er eine Durchfahrtsstrafe bekam, 5 Boxenstopps plus zwei Kollisionen hatte und fast eine komplette Runde mit einem platten Reifen absolvierte. Die Leistung wird noch erstaunlicher, wenn man sich das Rennen so ansieht: Von den geplanten 70 Runden wurden nur 38 wirklich ein Rennen gefahren. Die anderen 32 Runden fanden hinter dem Safety Car statt. Und in Runde 40 war Button auf dem letzten Platz. Wie hat er das geschafft?

Die Antwort liegt in einer Mixtur aus Strategie, guten Rundenzeiten und Überholmanöver. Button und seine Strategen haben es einfach hinbekommen.

Das Rennen von Button unter dem Mikroskop

Um das Rennen von Button zu verstehen, muss man sich die Entscheidung von McLaren vor Augen führen, die seinen Wagen mit deutlich mehr Abtrieb ausgestattet hatten, als das bei der Konkurrenz der Fall war. Das gilt besonders für den Abtrieb im Heckbereich. Auch wenn er im Nassen nicht schneller war als die Konkurrenz, kam der Abtrieb und die Balance des Wagen voll zur Geltung, als er auf Intermediates unterwegs war. In dieser Phase holte er den größten Teil seines Rückstands auf. Als Beispiel: Er war in der 40. Runde letzter, aber in Runde 51 war er auf P9.

Man könnte sich das Rennen vor der Unterbrechung durch die rote Flagge ansehen, aber das wäre rein akademisch. Buttons Probleme durch die Kollisionen mit Hamilton und Alonso, seine vielen Stopps, der defekte Reifen und die Durchfahrtsstrafe waren Vergangenheit, als das SC in Runde 40 raus kam.

In diesem Moment wurde das Rennen auf Anfang gestellt. Ab hier, mit einem gut abgestimmten Wagen auf Intermediates, mit einem weiteren Stopp auf die Slicks und DRS holte er sich das Rennen, in dem er einen nach dem anderen überholte.

Er war in Runde 51 einer der ersten, die auf die Slick gewechselt hatten und dies war einer der entscheidenden Punkte. Webber war eine Runde zuvor an der Box gewesen und seine Sektorenzeiten zeigten, dass es Zeit für die Slicks war. Als Button auf P10 lag holte er sich seine Supersoft und kam sofort auf ein erstaunliches Tempo. Zu dieser Zeit lag er 27 Sekunden hinter Vettel.

Red Bull war in Kanada sehr vorsichtig mit den Entscheidungen für Vettel und wartete ein paar Extra-Runden mit der Entscheidung für die Slicks um ganz sicher zu gehen. Webber entschied sich früher für die weichen Reifen, teilweise um sich selber eine bessere Chance zu geben, teilweise, damit Red Bull sich die Daten anschauen konnte, um den richtigen Moment für Vettel zu finden. Sie blieben auch vorsichtig, als Button reinkam und liessen Vettel weitere 2 Runden draussen. Als Vettel endlich seine weichen Reifen hatte, war Button nur noch 15 Sekunden hinter ihm und vor allem 2 Sekunden pro Runde schneller.

Viele Fans fragen sich, ob Button auch ohne die letzte SC-Phase in den Runden 59/60 hätte gewinnen können. Vettel hat durch die SC-Phasen viel Zeit verloren, insgesamt waren das 20 Sekunden Vorsprung.

Aber selbst ohne die letzte SC-Phase wäre es eng geworden. Button war auf P4 und holte schnell auf Vettel auf. Bei 12 Runden Renndistanz betrug sein Rückstand noch 17 Sekunden, und er hätte Vettel vielleicht auch ohne SC geschnappt. Man sollte auch nicht vergessen, dass er Vettel mit Reifen eingeholt hat, die 2 Runden älter waren.

Ein paar Gedanken zu den konservativen FIA Renndirektoren

Eine interessanter Trend, den man in den letzten Rennen immer wieder sehen kann, ist dass Charlie Whiting dazu tendiert, dass SC schnell und sehr lange auf die Strecke zu lassen. Dazu kommen Anweisungen wie in Kanada, dass alle auf Full-Wets hinter der SC starten müssen. Es hat den Anschein, dass er immer mehr Risiko vermeiden möchte, was wiederum die Rennstrategie entscheidend beeinflusst.

In Kanada konnte man sehen, dass Team wie Sauber und Renault mit der vorsichtigen Einstellung von Whiting gerechnet hatten und davon ausgingen, dass Whiting das Rennen stoppen würde, nach dem das SC in Runde 20 raus kam.

Die meisten Teams nutzen das Safety Car um neue Reifen zu holen, aber Renault ließ Heidfeld und Petrov ebenso draussen, wie Sauber Kobayashi und De La Rosa. Force India ließ sogar Sutil draussen, der auf Intermediates unterwegs war. Alle hofften, dass die rote Flagge kommen würde, und die bekamen sie auch.

Auch wenn der Stopp hinter dem SC nur 14 Sekunden kostete, er führte dazu, dass die Mutigen/Geduldigen nach vorne gespüöt wurden. Und als das Rennen abgebrochen wurde, und Whiting entschied, dass alle auf Full-Wets starten müssen, bekamen sie auch noch ihren Reifenwechsel ohne Zeit zu verlieren.

Heidfeld kam von P6 auf P4, di Resta von P9 auf P6 und Sutil von P17 auf P13. Kobayashi konnte sich diebisch freuen, dass Alonso, Rosberg und Schumacher vor ihm auf Intermediates gewechselt hatten um dann festzustellen, dass sie beim neulich einsetzenden Regen einen Fehler gemacht hatten, was den Japaner auf P2 brachte. Und dann konnte er in der Unterbrechung bequem seine Reifen wechseln.

Man muss feststellen, dass die Kombination von Kobayashi und den Strategen von Sauber, die in der Vergangenheit schon mutige Entscheidungen getroffen haben, gut funktioniert. Er ist nicht nur ein exzellenter Fahrer, er spielt auch mit der Strategie.

(Zwei Anmerkungen von mir: 1. Sorry, dass der so spät kommt, ich hatte einfach keine Zeit für die Übersetzung. 2. Ich bin nicht ganz der Meinung von James, was die Annahme angeht, dass Button Vettel auch dann eingeholt hätte, wenn die letzte SC-Phase nicht gekommen wäre. 17 Sekunden in 12 Runden sind einfach etwas viel, zumal Button in den letzten Runden, als Red Bull und Vettel auf die nahende Bedrohung reagierten, auch nicht mehr so schnell ran kam. Der Fehler von Red Bull war, nach dem Restart Button nicht auf dem Schirm zu haben, weil man dachte, dass man mit Webber ein Polster haben würde. )

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May 25 2011

09:26

Formel Eins: Der James Allen Strategiereport – Spanien

Der diesjährige GP von Spanien wurde allgemein als einer der Besten betrachtet, was viel mit der Strategie zu tun hatte, was dazu führte, dass zu einen intensiven Kampf um die Führung im letzten Renndrittel kam.

Man konnte sehen, wie Polesitter Mark Webber auf P4 zurück fiel, Fernando Alonso, der Führende aus der ersten Runde, kam mit einer Runde Rückstand auf P5 ins Ziel und Jenson Button rettete dank einer mutigen Strategie einen Podiumsplatz. Auf dem Papier sah es so aus, als würde die Drei-Stopp-Strategie mit neuen Reifen rund 4 Sekunden schneller sein, als ein Rennen mit 4 Stopps. Aber die wenigsten Fahrer hatten den Luxus über mehrere neue Reifensätze zu verfügen, die meisten hatten höchstens einen Satz neuer Reifen. Mit alten Reifen schien die Vier-Stopp-Strategie rund 10 Sekunden schneller zu sein. Also konnte man nicht viel tun, was dazu führte, dass man viele Fahrer unterschiedliche Dinge ausprobieren sah, die am Ende aber wenig brachten, sieht man mal von Button ab.

Die meisten Fahrer und Ingenieure stimmten überein, dass der harte Reifen deutlich langsamer als die weiche Mischung war. Im freien Training betrug der Abstand zwischen beiden Mischungen rund 2 Sekunden, nachdem der Track das Gummi angenommen hatte, reduzierte sich der Abstand auf eine Sekunde. Also würden die Stints auf den harten Reifen Nachteile bringen. Die Fahrer wollten so lange wie möglich wie den weichen Reifen unterwegs sein.

Aber die Abnutzung der weichen Reifen war so groß, dass einige Fahrer, wie Alonso und Webber schon bei Halbzeit drei Stopps hinter sich hatten, was bedeutete, dass sie die zweite Hälfte des Rennens auf harten Reifen verbringen mussten.

Die Wichtigkeit neuer Reifen
Mal wieder konnte man deutlich sehen, wie groß der Unterschied durch die neuen Reifen war. Man konnte eine Posititionsveränderungen dank des “Undercuts” Manövers, wenn ein Verfolger eine Runde vor dem Führenden stoppt um ihn zu überholen.

Sebastian Vettel nutze den Undercut um an Fernando Alonso vorbei zu kommen. Vettel stoppte früh in Runde 18 und seine Out-Lap war deutlich schneller als die Runde von Alonso, und als der eine Runde später stoppte, ging Vettel in Führung. Es war war wichtig für Vettel an Alonso vorbei zu kommen, denn von hinten nahte Lewis Hamilton als Herausforderer, denn er war auf etwas längeren Stints unterwegs und seine Reifen waren vier Runden frischer als jene von Vettel.

Weil Vettel so früh in Runde 18 gestoppt hatte und weil er an Alonso vorbei ging, konnte er auch nach dem dritten Stopp in Runde 34/35 vor Hamilton bleiben, als die Fahrer auf die harten Reifen wechselten. Man konnte schon oft beobachten, dass Red Bull dazu tendiert eher früher zu stoppen, bevor Reifen an Performance verlieren und dies ist auch die Basis ihrer Strategie. Dagegen ist McLaren dazu bereicht, etwas längere Stints zu fahren, was sie wiederum sehr nah an Red Bull bringt. Weil sie in Spanien ein paar Runden länger draussen blieben, konnten die Fahrer in der “clean air” bleiben. Dagegen verhaute Red Bull das Rennen von Mark Webber, weil sie im Verkehr raus schickten, nach dem er in Runde 10 das erste Mal gestoppt hatte.

Eine deutliches Beispiel, wie viel die neuen Reifen bringen, war Nick Heidfeld, der das Rennen wegen seines angekokelten Wagens am Samstag nur als letzter starten konnte und am Ende, dank der vielen neuen weichen Reifensätze, fast noch beide Mercedes in P7 und P6 geschnappt hätte. Renault setzte auf die Strategie, die Mark Webber in China und Kamui Kobayashi in der Türkei angewandt hatten. Das wird allerdings in Monaco nicht so gut funktionieren, weil der Verkehr zu stark ist.

Hätte Hamilton mittels Strategie Vettel schlagen können?

Einige Analysten sind der Meinung, dass Hamilton Vettel beim dritten Stopp hätte schlagen können, wenn er auf seinen weichen Reifen ein, zwei Runden länger draussen geblieben wäre. Die Zeitenanalyse zeigt aber, dass Vettel auf seiner In/Out Lap zwei Sekunden schneller als Hamilton war. Die Stopp-Zeiten waren fast identisch, aber den Unterschied machte die Vettels erste fliegende Runde auf den harten Reifen die 1.28.563 schnell war. Hamilton kam mit seinen abgenagten weichen Reifen nur auf eine 1.30min, also konnte Vettel bei dem Tempo gar nicht überholen.

Aber im Vergleich zwischen McLaren und Ferrari wusste man bei den Briten, dass Hamiltons Rundenzeiten selbst dann besser waren, wenn er auf gebrauchten Reifen unterwegs war. Also schonte man die Reifen und konzentrierte sich auf das Ende des zweiten Stints. Die gebrauchten weichen Reifen bei Hamilton waren in den Runden 19 bis 21 schneller, als die von Alonso.

Die weichen Reifen von Hamilton bauten mit ca. 0.1625 sek/Runde im ersten Stint ab. Aber McLaren war in der Rennabstimmung und auf den weichen Reifen rund 0.5 Sekunden schneller als Alonso. also lohnte sich auch der längere Stint.

Wie Webbers Strategie daneben ging
Mark Webber startete von der Pole Position und hatte eine Chance auf den Sieg, der seine Saison endlich in Schwung bringen sollte. Aber am Ende wurde er nur vierter. Wie konnte das passieren?

Webbers Strategie ging nach hinten los, als er beim Start von Alonso und Vettel kassiert wurde. Webbers Starts sind dieses Jahr ein Problem. In 5 Rennen hat er 10 Plätze verloren, also im Schnitt 2 pro Rennen.

Der Platzverlust gegenüber Vettel verschärfte sein Problem, weil Vettel dadurch als erster in Runde 9 an die Box kommen konnte, während Webber eine Runde warten musste. Als er wieder auf die Strecke kam, steckte er hinter Petrow und Button, was Hamilton erlaubte an ihm vorbei zu gehen, als der eine Runde später an die Box kam.

Nach dem zweiten Stopp ind Runde 19 stand er vor dem Problem, dass er nicht an Alonso vorbei kam. Zu dem Zeitpunkt lag er zunächst 4 Sekunden, daraus wurden dann aber 11 Sekuden in den nächsten 10 Runden. Er kam dann in Runde 29sehr früh an die Box und er hatte den taktischen Vorteil hinter Alonso zu stecken, also konnte er Ferrari überraschen, in dem plötzlich zu Box abbiegen würde.

Aber diese Überraschung klappte nicht, da Ferrari sie kommen sah und Alonso zeitgleich rein holte. Dr. Helmut Marko bezichtige Ferrari daraufhin, dass diese den Boxenfunk von Red Bull abhören würde, was die einzige Möglichkeit gewesen sei, hinter die Taktik zu kommen, aber Ferrari hat das bestritten.

Es war die richtige Idee vor Alonso rein zu kommen. Aber gleichzeitig gab man eine Menge auf, weil Webber mit seinem einzigen, komplett neuen Reifensatz unterwegs war und damit nur 10 Runden drehte. Man hätte locker noch 5 oder 6 Runden fahren können (so wie es in dem Stint auch Vettel gemacht hat). Es führte am Ende dazu, dass Webber sein Podium an Button verlor.

Aus der Sicht von Ferrari hatte man die Weichen sehr schnell verbraucht, um die Strategie der anderen nach zu ahmen. Als Result davon hatte Alonso 37 Runden vor dem Ende keine weichen Reifen mehr. Zum Vergleich: Hamilton konnte sechs Runden länger mit seinen Reifen fahren, Button nahm die harte Mischung, als noch 18 Runden zu fahren waren.

Jenson Button – Von P10 aufs Podium mit drei Stopps

Jenson Button hatten einen miserablen Start. Von P5 los gefahren beendete er die erste Runde auf P10 um sich dann Buemi zu schnappen. McLaren entschied sich für eine Drei-Stopp-Strategie und Button schaffte es mit seinem gebrauchten weichen Reifen bis zu Runde 14 zu kommen. Das war dass ideale Fenster für seine Strategie, auch wenn ihn seine 4 Extra-Runden rund 8 Sekunden kosteten. Aber genau dies war die Basis für die erfolgreiche Strategie, mit Reifen, die immer neuer waren, als die seiner Konkurrenten, seinen Vorteil zu wahren. Er kam beim seinem zweiten Stopp sieben Runden später rein als seine Rivalen und sogar 13 Runden später bei seinem dritten Stopp.

Der späte erste Stopp brachte ihn auf P6, vor Massa, Rosberg und Schumacher, der wiederum Zeit hinter Petrov verloren hatte. Er schaffte 16 Runden auf seinen weichen Reifen, also duetlich mehr als die 10, die Webber zur Verfügung hatte.

Weil er seine Stints so verlängern konnte, ohne viel Zeit zu verlieren, konnte er zur gleichen Zeit wie Webber auf die harten Reifen wechseln, ohne von ihm angegriffen zu werden. Außerdem war McLaren mit den harten Reifen schneller und so konnte er seinen dritten Platz absichern.

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