Insight: How Red Bull forced Mercedes’ hand in tense F1 tactical battle
Hamilton and Verstappen
Strategy Report
Posted By: James Allen  |  10 Oct 2017   |  4:59 pm GMT  |  199 comments

It is easy for fans to assume that a one-stop race is straightforward for all teams concerned, but in the case of the 2017 Japanese Grand Prix, nothing could be further from the truth.

The teams went into the race with four laps of data on which to base key strategic decisions around 25 lap stints.

Suzuka is a track to be aggressive on, it often brings results and Red Bull has benefitted from that many times down the years.

We saw Red Bull taking lots of risks to try to win the race with Max Verstappen and he almost succeeded, forcing Mercedes into a sub-optimal strategy with Lewis Hamilton. But the Englishman managed to hold on, just, to win the race.

Further back we will look at how two midfield teams imposed team orders, refusing drivers’ requests to switch the cars, how Valtteri Bottas’ role as a rear gunner for Hamilton cost him a podium and whether the fast-starting Sebastian Vettel could have won the race if he had not suffered power loss due to a spark plug failure.

Pre race expectations

With very limited dry running before the race, teams had little data to work on for race strategy planning. The soft and supersoft tyres would be the main sets and Vettel opined that the lack of data didn’t matter too much as they know the tyres well by now. But memories of Silverstone where Vettel’s blistered front tyre failed due to going on too long were still vivid in people’s minds.

The expectation was that this would be a one-stop race, but there was quite a set of unknowns and the Plan B of a switch to two stops was ready to be deployed.

The uncertainty about what to do creates a dilemma for teams; because the tyres are a bit too resilient to be ideal this year (last year one stoppers used medium and hard tyres!) teams default to the minimum stop solution, in this case one stop.

But it leads to two things: lots of risk taking at the start, as it’s one of few opportunities to make up places and also it leads to a ‘group mentality’, which means making copycat moves.

Underlying these one-stop races this year is a great tension; what to do if a rival attacks with an early stop on Lap 16? Do you cover it or copy the move?

Two stop strategies create gaps in the traffic, while one-stop races create doubt, especially for the drivers. This is why you often hear Lewis Hamilton questioning a strategy decision; he’s picking up on that mood of uncertainty. What swung it towards one stop this year was the Virtual Safety Car periods, which gave the tyres a breather.

Last year in Suzuka everyone finished and there were no VSCs. But this year with faster cars it was clear that the track punished mistakes, which is as it should be in F1.

So against that backdrop of tension and doubt, a team like Red Bull, with nothing to lose in the drivers’ championship can afford to take big risks.

How Verstappen almost made it back-to-back wins

Verstappen won in Malaysia by making an aggressive overtaking move for the lead on Lewis Hamilton. Hamilton respects Verstappen, you can tell. And he respected him even more after that, even though he was dealing with a de-rate problem on his engine at the time.

So when the Dutchman forced his way past team mate Daniel Ricciardo at the start at Suzuka on Sunday, he was in the fight for the win and Red Bull was on a war footing.

On the first set of supersoft tyres, he had similar pace to Hamilton, but lost the front tyres as the stint evolved and struggled to keep the gap. But team boss Christian Horner had predicted that Verstappen would have a say in the final part of the race on the soft tyres and so it proved.

Red Bull took a huge risk on the timing of Verstappen’s stop; Raikkonen had started the race on soft tyres and was coming through the field as cars on supersofts peeled into the pits. Verstappen was pulled in on Lap 21, in order to provoke Mercedes into stopping Hamilton to cover.

Verstappen exited the pits only just ahead of Raikkonen. This forced Verstappen to push the tyres on the outlap, which may have cost him later in the race.

Hamilton had to stop the following lap, leaving 31 laps to go to the flag. His supersofts still had life in them; in a race where he was not under pressure he would have gone on to Lap 26, which would have given a more even balance to the stints.

Mercedes were under pressure, but had another piece to play in the chess game; Valtteri Bottas was on a similar strategy to Raikkonen having taken a five-place grid penalty. He was left out for a couple of laps once Hamilton had passed him on Lap 28, to hold Verstappen, in order to create a breathing space for Hamilton.

The judgement now was how long to leave Bottas out in order for his new supersoft tyres to be in perfect shape for attacking Ricciardo at the end for the podium. The problem for Bottas is that he lost two seconds of race time in the process of letting Hamilton through and spent two extra laps in the 1m35s compared to the 1m 33s he was able to do on supersofts after his stop.

The consequence was that he didn’t have quite enough time on the supersoft tyre set to catch Ricciardo.

Raikkonen was a distant 5th and didn’t seem to have the underlying pace in the car that we have seen of late from Ferrari. It wasn’t fuel and it wasn’t that the engine was turned down particularly after the recent reliability issues.

In Malaysia one could say with some certainty that had Raikkonen or Vettel had a clean weekend they could have won the race. In Suzuka that is less clear-cut, judging by the pace deficit Raikkonen had to Hamilton coming through the field.

Team orders imposed in midfield

Both Force India and Haas F1 teams imposed team orders on their drivers, refusing requests from the supposedly senior driver in each team to be allowed through. Both teams got away with it because of other drivers’ outcomes, so there was no controversy, but it is worth examining.

Force India had warned their drivers that they would not tolerate any more collisions; Esteban Ocon had a better qualifying and a better start than his teammate and was a contender in the early stages. Perez caught him and requested to be allowed to pass. The team refused to allow it, but in this case the result would not have changed if they had done so. And so Perez was able to accept the decision.

At Haas it was more finely balanced. There was a queue of cars behind eighth placed Felipe Massa, who was struggling on his tyres. The danger man for Haas was Nico Hulkenberg, who had run an extremely long first stint on softs and who stopped on Lap 38 for supersofts. He would be catching quickly and had Massa’s position in his sights.

Romain Grosjean was on tyres that were four laps fresher than team mate Kevin Magnussen’s and he wanted to be allowed through to attack Massa.

The team declined to swap. Fortunately for them Hulkenberg had to retire soon afterwards with his DRS wing stuck open and both Magnussen and Grosjean cleared Massa for a decent afternoon’s work for Haas in 8th and 9th places.

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

Race History and Tyre usage charts – courtesy Williams Martini Racing

Intended to show the relative performance of the cars and the gasp between them. Upward curve is positive. Lap time and gaps down the vertical axis, lap number on the horizontal.

Look at the pace of Raikkonen in the second stint compared to Bottas on the same strategy or Hamilton who is managing his tyres.

Look also at how close Verstappen comes to getting stuck behind Raikkonen on Lap 22, which would have blown his challenge for the win.

After the final VSC Hamilton’s pace declines steeply as his tyres are on the limit, but he holds on.

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Some said Hamilton indeed do enough testing but didn’t do the tire test. Vettel did. Reliability seems to be the deciding factor.

Tires are very important. He should have did that so he could have told someone that tire deg is bad on mule car and should be worse on real thing.

Still Mercedes seems to be more reliable but I got to see the rest. The best since 2010. Not perfect but not bad. Who knows which car will have trouble next. Only 2 batteries and what 3 engines next year? I don’t think NASA could get 99% reliability with that formula next year.


Looking at the race history graph for Hamilton, it appears he was the only driver to maintain a more constant lap time during each of the VSCs. Lap times should increase for all drivers any time there is a caution period so, in effect, he is being allowed to gain an unfair advantage.


Or maybe your understanding of the graph is wrong.



2 weeks ago lewis said that there are real big problems with merc current release which they really need to rectify them for next year’s car.
Do you mind share what was the problem. Thanks in advance.


The way it overheats the rear tyres in certain situations


another demonstration of how powerful hamilton is in inspiring engineers to build his race car.


how convenient for your “powerful demonstration” that you forgot to mention heactually said this :

But when asked to compare Hamilton with Vettel and Alonso, he found it difficult to analyse
“All I can tell you is that all three of them have got the victories and the achievements that they have, not by good fortune but by being brilliantly skilful racing drivers.”


this is why i posted the link. it’s all in the article and you still want to argue about it. did he not say he wanted to work with hamilton?
of course he doesn’t want to upset the other drivers by saying hamilton is the best. he said they are as good as their achievements and we all know who has achieved the most.
i think he also made mention of having all three of them in the same car and finding out. well there was that 2007 season wasn’t there?


Good racereport, always enjoy these.

OT question James: Seems Honda wants Gasly to drive in Japan during Austin, with Sainz already to Renault, who is going to drive that second Torro?


If I’m not mistaken they’re putting Kvyat back in.

Fourth time’s the charm I guess.


And who is going to drive the other car?
(looks like i am talking to myself now…;-))


Nice article. Thanks!!


One of the previous comments here talks about a past journalist and his colorful coverage of races. I would like to add Pete Lyons (Autosport) ; I recall a Brazil GP where it was well into page two of the report before a car or something racing was mentioned – just pure color! 🙂


I’m not sure about this but looks Hamilton could have went further and maybe not so did the sure thing and covered.

Yep that old reliability will show up more next year.


The teams should get together and decide to take the engine penalty at the same race. Pick the bones out of that one FIA


Credits to red bull for lead the assault when Ferrari or Mercedes have issues. Its nice to have 3 teams able to challenge for a win. If McLaren can join them next year, fantastic!


I’m actually somewhat worried that McLaren isn’t even going to be close to the Bulls. It’s just a feeling, but time will tell.


How come there has been a focus on Q3 engine mode this year? Hasn’t the Mercs employed this since the start of the turbo hybrid era?

Why did it take this long for it to become public and are they burning (injecting into the cylinder chamber) more oil in Q3 to get that performance boost.


Yes, but this year it seems to be deciding the championship.


I think it was always public but now (see Japan as an example) the gap in qualifying is very big, as always but in the race the pace is far more equal. I think if one of the RBR’s had been able to put it on pole it would have been difficult for the Mercedes to get past.


Mercedes’ plan A radio message to Hamilton was translated on German TV as a two-stops race. So, didn’t that mean the expectation from the beginning had been a two-stops race?


Or German TV had it wrong.

Rob in Victoria BC

I’m just curious why – as Team Principal – Toto Wolff sits in the garage, but Team Principal Maurizio Arrivabene sits on pit wall?


Suppose it’s just their individual management style. I have always seen Toto as positioning himself above the nuts and bolts of managing the cars and race. I guess it doesn’t make much difference, they are in radio contact and will have plenty of data available to them wherever they sit. Maybe he stays away from the pit wall because his presence may be a hindrance to the race engineers (no one likes working with the boss looking over their shoulder).


May prefer aircon, plus Lauda would be lonely.


Remember when that sccountant got put in charge of Caterham for a race when they went into receivership? He sat on the pit wall!!


Arrivabene is out there in case Marcionne shows up – there isn’t an extra chair.


The cameras can’t get his good side on the pit wall, plus the benches are a lot more flimsy.


Doesn’t look to me as if Valterri ever had a sniff of the podium, the late vdc got him right on the tail of Ricciardo, but hr couldn’t find a way by. Stopping earlier would only have given him older tyres at this point.


Yes Ted Kravitz on his notebook said Mercedes wished they had pitted a bit later because Bittas ended up running out of tyres in his second stint.


Same with the front pair. Only an error would have allowed a pass.


The outcome for Verstappen and Botas could have been different if that last VSC hadn’t reduced the amount of laps they had to attack.


I don’t agree regarding Bottas. I was watching the race between BOT and RIC pretty closely, being a RIC fan. From what I could tell, RIC was managing the gap, particularly coming out of the Spoon curve (where the gap would grow to approx. 1.3 sec.) to ensure that BOT couldn’t get into DRS range. He did this pretty well each of the last 7 or 8 racing laps.

Spoon was the only corner where RIC was at potential risk and he could rest his tyres the remainder of the lap, comparatively to the Merc. The Merc couldn’t get within a second through the Esses and Degner’s All RIC had to do is push into Spoon to build a big enough gap by adding a couple of tenths.


He was never going to pass the Bull without fresh rubber.


Almost TMI James!
Obviously another great analysis. I wonder how Henry N. Manney III would write up this event. I used to read his v. good stories of European GPs months afterward in Road & Track. (a magazine, snowflakes!) He might comment on the venue’s wine, food and music, and Capri pants! DoubleFourValves against Enzo’s latest configuration of 12 cylinders or a crazy English H-16!
That was competition and entertainment, Mr. Carey – wherever you are!
Now we have spec. racing relying on computer sensors were attached to everything, and you have to be a technocrat with calipers analyzing peaks on a graph to appreciate.


Was Stroll’s tyre failure due to running them too long? Or was there some external cause (debris on the track, part of the car damaging the wheel/tyre)?

Tornillo Amarillo

“…near the end he -Lance- had a failure in the Esses which threw him off the circuit. We’ve yet to determine the cause of that incident.–Paddy Lowe–

Lance said: “I then felt there was something a bit strange at the front end, and then had a puncture. It is always surprising when you get a puncture, as it is very much unexpected and unfortunate at the same time.”

I suppose some mechanical issue caused a puncture. The puncture was immediately visible in the front right from the onboard camera.


He was going so slow, the tyre lost heat, then solidified and destroyed itself. They’re going to throw some money at Pirelli to develop the tyres specifically for him…

To be fair, he held it well. Dan Ric must have clenched for a second or two till past. 😉


Clarks, in thd UK we call that a 5p 50p moment….


“Clenched”…love it.
I’m imagining a driver would be clenched for the whole race?

Tornillo Amarillo

Esteban Ocon had a better qualifying and a better start than his teammate and was a contender in the early stages.

Oh, my stocks in Ocon are growing in value too, he is already smelling a Podium finish!


F1 needs Esteban to come good and rise to his estimated potential or even above it. and then move to a top 3 team. It does not look like Bottas will reach his estimated potential, but I would be glad to be proved wrong next year.

Tornillo Amarillo

Hulkenberg had to retire soon afterwards with his DRS wing stuck open

James, why they didn’t close the DRS wing in the pitstop and keep it closed for continuing the race even if Hulk would have a defecit in the straights?


It looked to be broken when they examined it in the pits…..remember Hakkinen at Hockenheim many years ago when the rear wing let go?


It was Raikkonen actually!


The incident I was referring too was Mika 99 Hockenheim…..but I think you’re right the actual spin I was thinking of was due to the rear tyre letting go not the rear wing coming apart. Long before DRS obviously. Maybe I am getting the two Fins confused. Am I getting OLD? 🙂


It looked to me that it wasn’t just stuck open with a hydraulic issue but the top element of the wing was physically broken and wonky.


Well it certainly was broken once the mechanics did their “magic”


You don’t want a wonky wing Aezy!


No I do not! There’s nothing worse. 😃


A hugely expensive racing car, designed to the millimetre, made with the very best materials available, lovingly assembled by first class technicians, given a right thumping by a ham fisted clown, who bashed it beyond repair. Pretty much the story of Renault since they returned to F1.

It’s quite possible that with the current H&S rulz, the mechanic who knew how to fix it, wasn’t equipped to go trackside and fix the wing.


If they couldn’t get the DSR element back down he was out the race anyway. No time to gingerly take the think apart and free it either as he would be at the back and not able to score any points. They used the tried and trusted, if it sticks hit it with something heavy, mechanical repair method. I use it a lot, it sometimes works.
Anybody want to buy a laptop, only minor damage, you can still see 50% of the screen.


That’s the first time I’ve ever seen a Formula 1 car punched into retirement.


You need to watch some early races, there were several drivers punched into retirement…


it broke off the end plates.


It wasn’t just the DRS that was broken. The top wing element was broken at the endplate.


But they tried1 One of the mecanics used his fists trying to get the thing back in it’s position. After this abuse there was a broken wing. Not sure if the fist caused or aggravated it.


Don’t be so silly. How much downward pressure can a mechanic put through his fist and how much are those wings designed to resist in downforce. It was broken beforehand.


When Nico came on the radio we saw a shot of the rearwing on track and it was clearly out of posistion so i would say the wing was broken before the hammer approach.


Not safe I presume


The race history chart shows that Verstappen lost time during both VSC periods, apparently going slower than he needed to. Why?


He was warming his tyres a lot more than lewis, causing him to drive a longer lap. That was also the reason he could get in lewis mirrors when the last VSC situation was done.


Do you mean during or after? During, they are going slower so the time gaps will of course be larger. After the SC the gaps return to pretty much what they were before.


During. I meant that VES was going slower than HAM during the VSC periods. If you look closely at the graph this is visible. When I was watching on TV the NBC commentary guys mentioned that the gap had increased during these two periods.

Actually thinking about it, I wonder why the teams would not implement an automatic throttle control for use under VSC, similar to the pit lane speed limiter but with the max speed varying for each ‘mini-sector’. Seems well within the technical reach of these guys to do that, and it could help the driver to make sure he loses nothing under VSC.


In real terms it made no difference he was the same distance behind after as before


Looking at the graph James, whilst I understand your comment, it seems that Hamilton (Mercedes) was the only driver to increase the gap to his follower Verstappen. The rest appear to maintain their gaps with some actually suffering from reduced gaps for example Ricciardo and Bottas (another Mercedes).

The F1 web site details the VSC regs as “drivers must reduce their speed and stay above a minimum time set by the FIA at least once in each marshalling sector”. That reads to me as it’s possible to be below the minimum lap time for parts of the sector, just so long as one part is above. With predictive sector times pre programmed into the dash is it possible that Mercedes have found a loop hole in the VSC regs?


Yes, Merc have found a way to warp time and space and only use it to gain a 1 second advantage in a meaningless car race.
Everybody has the same delta to keep within so there is no advantage to be taken, but a driver could slip up and go slower than he(she) is allowed. Did a driver not get looked at during a wet race for going too slow during a VSC?


Each marshaling sector….I think they are about 100m/200m apart so it wouldbe quite an achievement to preprogramme something in. Time, of course can be won or lost depending on how you react to the end of the VSC period.


Why is distance important? A one second difference at 360km/h equals to 100 metres while at 120 km/h it is only 33 metres. The question posed is quite interesting but it hasn’t been answered yet.


@Mighty. Way I look at is that drivers (try to) maintain the same gap (i.e. distance). If gap between drivers remain the same then when they go slower the delta time between them will increase.


The FIA measures the gap in time ( not distance), that is why distance is important. The gap between cars, shown on screen, is the time difference between the two cars arriving at the sensor for the last Sector they crossed.

With your analogy, at racing speeds (using 360 km/h) , when crossing the line 100 m behind, the gap is 1 second [which is what is measured], but at virtual safety car speed (using 120km/hour), the gap is suddenly 3 seconds, while the car is still 100m behind, which is why when the VSC is removed you will see the gap magically go back to 1 second.


I see your point. Time is measured, but not distance. However, I’m not convinced that the gaps between cars are taken as a reference. Wouldn’t work for the frontrunner anyway. More likely that their is a comparison with the ‘ideal’ time per sector with the given VSC-speed (120km/h?). When only the 3 traditional sectors are taken there is quite a big potential to ‘cheat’/work the VSC in your favour. Let’s assume Hamilton just crossed the start-finish line when the VSC is deployed. He then has the whole first sector to drive faster than the VSC-speed before his sector time gets ‘locked in’. If Verstappen was a few seconds behind, but before the start-finish line, he would be ‘locked-in’ a sector earlier. At the end of the VSC there is also an opportunity. A driver could exceed his speed up to the sector detection point as long as he is within the delta when crossing the detection point. However, when the light goes green while exceeding the delta, but before detection point he would keep the gain.

Perhaps there are also cross-checks with other drivers or is GPS used as well, but I’m very interested to know how teams look at the (on-track) strategy options around the VSC.

Another interesting situation would be the following. During the VSC overtaking is not allowed. Let’s assume the VSC came out when Bottas was between Hamilton and Verstappen. Bottas could then drop his laptime by let’s say 10 seconds below the allowed delta and there is nothing that Verstappen could have done. Right?


In 2014, each track was divided into 20 sectors, which is roughly 200-300 meters given the average 4-6 km tracks.

The reference in each of these sectors is both speed (I remember reading 35% slower than race pace) and time ( a minimum time). The rule says – “Under the VSC, drivers must reduce their speed and stay above a minimum time set by the FIA at least once in each marshalling sector. “

For the single/double waved yellow they must slow by 0.2/0.5 seconds respectively compared to their best sector time for single yellow flags. The delta to this is shown on the driver screen and which is what the commentators refer to.

Teams make extensive calculations and also use GPS. ( Apart from Monaco where they are forced to use Dead Reckoning as James’ had mentioned in an article ) Though they still can mess it up, remember the 2015 Monaco GP that Lewis lost because Mercedes failed to factor the Safety Car speed and assumed he had a free pit stop. James had covered it in detail (

As for the Bottas case the “Drivers must not drive unnecessarily slowly, erratically or in a manner that could be deemed potentially dangerous to other competitor” of Article 40.1 of the 2017 FIA Sporting Regulations, would probably earn him a penalty.

@Mighty P, we can ask James to do an article on how VSC has been factored into team calculations.




Looking forward, if the top 3 teams end up being equal next year, I think on the driver front, Redbull are looking good. Neither Ferrari driver is a match for the Redbull drivers, and whilst Hamilton is probably equal quickest driver in F1, but Bottas certainly is looking pretty average and not capable of beating either Redbull drivers in the same car. So tactically next year Redbull have to have the advantage.


You might be on to something there Jamie. Redbull for WCC 2018!


Equally quickest? Curious comment. Who pray tell matches the king? You wont an engineer worth his salt who’d agree.


Isn’t it a compliment that some people say Hamilton matches the King? 😉


i’m not yet done enjoying this season to consider the next in so much detail.


Why- Its another Merc washout. F1 has never been less competitive. Boring!


Its another Merc washout

Missed the whole of the first half of the season, did we.


Why- Its another Merc washout. F1 has never been less competitive. Boring!

There is E-Sports F1, u are free to switch if F1 is boring. F1 cannot be boring to those who appreciate the racing, technical and strategic part of it.


A washout? Seb was leading the championship for the first 12 rounds, and by a clear race win after Monaco.

In 2011 Seb led the standings by over 25 pts, from the 4th round on (16 total rounds). In 2013, there were 12 rounds where Seb led by over 25 pts. That’s a washout.

This year, Seb has led by a clear race win (i.e. he was going to retain the championship lead for the next round no matter what happened) once, and Lewis has led by over 25 pts for 3 rounds now.


Why didn’t you use 2014, 2015, 2016 as examples KRB? Well over 100 points to first non WCC car driver to WDC leader each year, right?


Simple Sebee. In 2014-16, it was rare that the WDC leader led the standings by over 25 pts. 2015 was the outlier, as Hamilton won comfortably. As such, there was usually a closer title fight than in 2011 or 2013.

In 2014, only three rounds (AUT14, BEL14, ABU14) saw WDC leads over 25 pts.

In 2015 had 10 rounds (BHN15, BEL15-ABU15) when the WDC led by over 25 pts.

In 2016, only 5 rounds (CHN16, RUS16, ESP16, JPN16, USA16) saw the WDC leading by over 25 pts.


Errrrrrrrrr. ….because it’s 2017 and the previous poster said THIS season is a merc washout. Keep up Debee


Sebee, what was that gap in 2013 again? Either way, it’s good that it has been much closer this year isn’t it?


What makes you think that if 2011 and 2013 were a washout, 2017 cannot be it as well?


Andrew, who knows what will happen, Lewis could win by 159 points, or Seb could win it by 41.


I was thinking of the Constructors table. Merc has led that all year. But yes, Ferrari was able to take advantage with Vettel early on as Merc was working to sort out its set up issues.


Merc has led the WCC for most of the season. Ferrari led the WCC this year after AUS, BHN, and MCO. Merc has led the other 13 rounds.


Does anybody really care about the Constructors championship other than the constructors themselves.


Jake the snake. No.


i have watched every race this season and it has been exciting and still is!
i don’t want it to end!


This year is a bit better, but the previous three seasons were hell. Would have been worse without RIC and then VER going to the big Bulls.


Great report, the graph shapes really shows the gulf between the top three teams and the rest, look at the angle of Kimi’s vs the Force Indias at the end of the race!

One other thing that seems significant at Suzuka is the better chance for the drivers starting in p2, p4, p6 etc. Apart from Seb’s PU power problem, the starts looked very even.

There seems to be less of a dirty side to the grid and they have the inside line for turn 1 if they can get a nose inside.


Considering how close Verstappen was able to get, you’d think Vettel would have had a real chance.

Even if Vettel was outside of the undercut range during the opening stint, he could have pitted extremely early. As if to say to Lewis, “If you want to cover me off, you’ll have to join me in risking getting a puncture late in the race, but you have more to lose given your championship lead”.

As for Force India, I imagine they’ll ease off team orders once 4th is mathematically secured (after Mexico if they outscore Williams by 6 points in the next two races). They’ll probably then give them a clean slate with no team orders in 2018 if everything goes smoothly for the remainder of this season.


Yes but as I observed Ferrari didn’t seem to have the pace, unless you think that VET would be 1 sec/lap faster than RAI


I do believe Vettel could have been 1 second faster . Kimi was pretty dismal all weekend. Kimi has been considerably off Vettel pace since he got that new contract.


I mean, that doesn’t seem unreasonable to me, considering how far off the pace Kimi was in qualifying, coupled with the fact Seb generally stretches his legs over Kimi in race trim…


Thank you. That’s my point too, Ferrari had nothing in it challenge, Vet maybe to the podium, not win for sure.

I looked at some of the data in official FIA website. One part interested me very much, which is similar to the point Sebee tried making. Even with a turned down engine & unexpected tyre issue, Mercedes was more than 15kms/h faster on the straight than RB. Also the speed trap data shows how much faster they were over a lap. So, my question to you is, don’t you think Mercedes had Ves covered with a underperforming car? Lewis’ car had to blow up in the air to give Ves a shot.

And I didn’t quite get how you judged Bottas’ performance in that Merc. I personally think even Ocon or Pérez would’ve put that Merc on the podium. I don’t even remember when the last time he made it on the podium in a race where top 6 car finished the race.


Kimi was 7 tenths off Seb in Q3.


What was the difference between Lewis and Seb in Q3?
Does that mean Lewis would walk the race, no, It’s a little more complicated than that. Race pace would generaly be much closer as minor errors get averaged out.
I don’t think Ferrari with Seb would have done any better challenging Lewis than Max did, especially as Kimi was nor close enought to hamper Lewis at the stop.


You appear to have misunderstood.

Vettel usually has a healthy margin on Kimi during the race. But the larger than normal qualifying delta suggests that Seb was more comfortable with the car than normal.

So it’s not unreasonable to think that Seb could have a larger than normal race advantage. Especially when you consider that this is a track that he loves and he’s in a fierce battle for a championship, whereas Kimi was not even racing for a podium.

Honestly, if you’re really using Kimi as a benchmark for how Seb would have done, I’d really question what you’ve been watching this year.


I wouldn’t have ruled out Seb going a 2nd a lap faster . I think Kimi’s pace was actually more a reflection his rather dismal performance than the car . Kimi lost several seconds and places when he got it all wrong with Hulk around Spoon in the early laps. I don’t we can really treat Kimi as a representative measure of Ferrari’s potential performance.


Stephen, if Kimi was a second a lap slower than Seb, even Ferrari wouldn’t sign him..


Well actually TImW it is true because Kimi’s realistic replacements are either not experienced enough yet or not available until the end of next season . So when looking in this context there was very little choice.


Stephen, maybe, but there are always options. They have JEV under contract, Grosjean was available, I can see why they went for Kimi again, but he wasn’t the only choice.


They re-signed KR because there was no other choice.


Stephen, well that’s not true is it?!


JEV is no longer classed a Ferrari test driver-that role is officially delegated to Giovinazzi and don’t just assume because Grosjean drives a Ferrari powered car that he is an option-he plainly isn’t . G Leclerc is even in front of Grosjean . I don’t think Grosjean is better than Kimi anyway . There are always options of course but none of them were sensible. I don’t know why you persist in rating Grosjean so highly .


But he was Seb’s choice


Thanks for another great analysis, James, I kinda find this one more interesting than the actual race which I thought was a bit of a downer.
Interesting to see that once again MV and LH have almost identical lines in the race history graph, except for the laps under VSC, which for some reason Lewis seems to handle best of all drivers on the grid.
Also Per and Gro were apparently right claiming they had more speed than their teammates.


This race analysis was way better than the race no doubt. Actual race stunk.


@Bazrat (could be ratbaz or something), I’m gonna assume you are a new to this blog. So I’ll let your selective reading and lack of knowledge slide and give you time to get used to with regular people’s philosophy.


When you look at Lewis’ lap times over the whole Grand Prix distance, and see that it’s basically a Grand Prix full of 95 sec. laps, doesn’t it make you wonder?

Where is the lap time improvement due to 80kg lighter car end of race?

Where is the lap time improvement due to fresh tires?

Would this be considered driving to a delta?


Its simple. Hamilton controlled the race and did just enough to win. Saving that engine the way them lines look.


VER dropped back to keep a 3 second to save his tires.
In result HAM lifted to save his tires…controlling only the distance to RIC.
If both front runners wouldn’t be saving their tires they both should have made another stop.

this was a race on the canvas of the tires….


2 stops would have been stupid for the guys in front considering the pit delta. They were all careful with tires. All covering and no cutting.


I am confused by your constant insinuation that Mercedes is gaming the season and even suggested that they let Vettel and Ferrari win some races this year to keep this season interesting. In fact, I think you even predicted that Lewis will have an engine blowout in Suzuka, (and Singapore before that or was it Malaysia?), just to keep the title fight alive but neither happened. Instead, it was the Ferraris that has been fizzling since the end of summer break.

Is Ferrari really that incompetent that they can’t even win even if Mercedes are already letting them?

So Merc wants Ferrari to win to keep us interested but Ferrari keeps messing up and is leaving the fans disgruntled.

So is it Ferrari that is really ruining it for everybody?

But had Ferrari stuck to the script and played it’s part in the shenanigans and Seb won the title this year, surely there would have been an asterisk beside his name because according to you, he only won because Mercedes let him.

Did Seb even won on merit this year or that’s all down to Mercedes?


No No No…this ain’t a conspiracy. Random stuff happens. Mercedes hasn’t always had the fastest car but they don’t have as many QC problems like they had in 2014.

To say which driver is better out of the top five is impossible because the equipment is different.

Hamilton is OK if he never wins another WDC. He’s already high in wins and poles. Vettel needs more WDCs since he can’t get what Hamilton has but with 7 of those he might have even more. They are 2 years different in age.

Both guys need to race each other in each others car if it’s close and settle it like that.

It won’t happen. Just another dumb theory.


sebee you need to keep track of how the sport develops.
drivers have been driving to deltas since Bridgestone left


There is probably truth to that.

But 7 sec per lap? Are tires to blame for all of it?


They were really saving their tyres to last long since they were forced to commit to two stop strategy. This is common in F1.


I hear you.

You do realize this is 7 sec difference to his pole time, right?
7 sec per lap is a lifetime in F1.

That’s like Usain Bolt coming to a 100m medal race and running 11 sec hundred. But most importantly (and disturbingly), winning with that 11 sec hundred!


@Sebee I couldn’t find your last comment to reply to. Just wanted to say thanks, and please only take my Ground Hog day comments in jest. I’m an ex-Brit engineer and tend to take a more pragmatic outlook on the current F1 formula. F1 had to change from being an exercise in massive consumption and make itself relevant to a changing world. If it hadn’t, it would have become a lightening rod as an example of needless consumption. But that being said, F1 is still about the optimization of man and machine to cover a set distance in the least amount of time. It is just that the tools at mankind’s disposal solve the problem so much more elegantly and efficiently. We can’t unknow things (tyres, combustion, aero) and so there is less chance for a driver to go to remote parts of the performance envelope and ‘find’ a second. Hamilton found the optimum, balanced on a ball of fuel consumption while juggling tyre optimization. It is amazing, unbelievable even, it is just diluted by so many other drivers and teams that do almost as good a job. We live in a world of diminishing returns making the differences harder to see.
Keep on posting and beating your drum, it is not that prog rock isn’t any good, it is just not in vogue any more.


What would his time be if he had to change his shoes sometime during the race..


I think it was a 1 stop.


Well … Watch out for that first step, it’s a doozy.



Car is getting lighter but tyres are getting more worn out which evens the pace almost, especially at the end of stints. However, overall the pace is improving over time, i.e. laps 25 to 40 is a downward line.

I see the improvement after taking fresh tyres on, even on your graph which hides the pace difference due to SC and in and out laps.

Interesting that you presented the graph and then went on to completely ignore it to push your own ideas (imaginations?) forth.


You know I like the graphs but facts are even better. Look who finished where? This years cars are still very fast. What makes them look slower while going faster than old cars is the grip being flat out on some turns with new ones. Old F1 cars were fought all of the round them turns with screaming v10s. The new ones require much less input.

The pole this year was 14 1/2 seconds clear of Senna in 1988. Now that is fast. It just doest look that way on TV but with certain cameras these 2017 cars looking fast on TV.

I had a dream about Red in Texas.


If you’re suggesting Hamilton drove with metronomic efficiency throughout the race to be maintaining laps as he did, then I agree.


MV did that and Hamilton maintained the gap until the last lap where he could take it easy.

That takes discipline and faith. I would want to get to the finish line fast as possible no matter what but then that doesn’t help reliability.

Hamilton would have pushed more gap on a power track and if he gets caught it doesn’t matter as long as he finishes ahead of Vettel. He doesn’t even have to do that. Top 4 or better average out of 4 races but reliability makes me wonder.


Why is driving to a delta a problem? Just interested.


Well you see, the whole thing about being on the limit of the car, pushing in what is supposed to be a sprint race, and it feels like just going through the motions. A routine.

Also, if other teams know this is happening and Mercedes can answer at will, as required, it undermines their desire to even challenge.


Is 300+ km a sprint for these cars? Add the required level of reliability needed through the year, and the drivers will definitely try to win in the slowest time possible. The reason Hamilton drives to a delta is because he’s not being pushed to drive closer to the limit of the car. What team wouldn’t instruct the driver to do that? The real problem is that the competition is so far spread apart in F1, that the drivers don’t really get pushed, especially at the sharp end of the grid. Ferrari are getting closer, but we see that as they do, reliability issues have crept in, which is a real shame. Perhaps next year, they and Red Bull will be able to sustain a season-long challenge to Mercedes.

So the issue isn’t Mercedes dominance, it’s the set of rules (and constant rule changes) along with huge budgetary gulfs between teams that allow dominance to so easily take hold in F1). Budget caps and long term technical rule stability is the only way to close the field. Then the drivers will push to the limits more often because they will have to. The irony is that in 2019 they are poised to make sweeping new technical rule changes. I virtually guarantee that one team will dominate for several seasons soon thereafter.

And if a team loses its desire to challenge because Mercedes can “answer at will”, then they should not be in the sport.


It should enhace their need to improve the car/PU and challenge Merc.


Sebee, you may be partialy right. Wolff recently said that Ferrari reached their peak of capabilities, hence the failures. Read Mercedes not, that was the message. So your delta may be real.


Part of the thing about making it a one stop race was making the tyres last, so Hamilton’s lap times were about keeping a comfortable gap to Max and winning the race in the slowest possible time. It wouldn’t have been any more exciting if Lewis had roared off into the distance and lapped everyone below Raikkonen

What’s not clear is did Max just track him ? knowing that if he went faster Lewis would just match him (and that make sure that the Red Bull’s tyres would make it to the end an maybe have a chance of a pass ) I don’t think it was that way all the way down the field but it was enough of a procession that you never know


But it’s NOT a sprint race. It’s a 300km race over 90-120 mins. A sprint race is 10 laps.


@Sebee your comments make me wonder why do you watch F1? Honestly just curious and would like to know.


Why do you wonder? Honestly, it’s none of your concern why I watch. Just like it is none of mine why you watch.

Although I have some concern that over 100m fans stopped watching since we said hello to PUs. I’m sure not as concerned as those that have to pay the debt on their purchase of Formula 1 asset. Debt…makes you do things you don’t want to do. 🙂


Sebee, the fall in tv ratings began in 2009. You always forget that bit….


Sebee, isn’t it about time you found another sport you actually like to watch and enjoyed that?

Your endless knocking of F1 is really tiresome. I come here to read interesting and alternative views. Yours are primarily a tide of negativity.

Other motorsports are available 😉


I’m not knocking. I’m discussing the state of affairs. I’m looking at data and what it tells us. I am surprised that discussion is so frowned upon by you.


I beg to differ with you. I don’t always agree with him either on certain things. However, none of comments tells me that he hates the sport. In fact, they tell me how passionate he is about F1, what he grew up watching, what his vision of F1 looked like in the past vs what he sees these days. There’s nothing wrong with Sebee’s analysis. Last time I checked having differences of opinions mean democracy. At least he has substance in his posts unlike hundreds other partisan selective rubbish I read here everyday (not pointing finger at you by the way).


I could not agree more Formula Zero. Well done for taking position mate, you must be an Aussie. Nobody should be left behind 🙂
Just watch how many threds he generates. Definitely he loves the sport. Is he different? So what…
Amazing how many hamfans tried to nail him, by the way…


Alanf1. Loving the sport doesn’t involve scouring the internet desperately searching for any negative news, which can then be exagerated and reported here repeatedly. Many of the things Sebee complains so bitterly about now, were exactly the same ten years ago, but hr didn’t complain then.


They were the same 4 years ago, let alone 10.


Andrew, driving only as quickly as required, budget gaps, looking after tyres and fuel saving have been a feature of F1 since 1950….


Sebee. 2013 Japanese Gp pole, 1m30.915, fastest lap 1m34.587, difference 3.602. 2017, pole 1m27.319, f/l 1m33.144, difference 5.825s. Yes a bigger difference this year, but surely 3.6 is quite a lot? Also worth remembering that Webber set those two times and did a three stopper as opposed to the one stops we saw on Sunday. So were they pushing hard in 2013? The total race time was 42 seconds faster in 13, but there was no safety car in that race while on Sunday there was one full s/c and two vsc periods. Incidentally Lewis has a 59 point lead after 16 rounds this year, can you remember Seb’s lead after Suzuka (round 16) back then? That’s right 90 points! Them were the days Sebee……


Regarding 2013 Vettel lead vs. 2017 Lewis lead after 16 rounds.

Come on TimW, you do this all the time, and it is boring. How about context with your “examples”.

2013 was last year of V8s, and we all know Red Bull continued the V8 development to the very end, while other teams stopped development of their V8s cars once they saw it was in vain – to focus on the 2014 change to PUs.

I won’t theorize about why the lead Lewis has is only 59 points this year because it apparently offends people. Let’s just say that Grand Prix full of 95 sec laps says more than I can say. Or Malaysian Grand Prix full of 97 sec in first stint and 96 sec laps in second stint is also quite telling to me.


“you do this all the time and it is boring.”

Said without any apparent irony.


Mate I told you, truth offends people these days. Some call it “alternative facts”. Carry on your debate with tunnel visionaries, I’m enjoying reading these.


we all know Red Bull continued the V8 development to the very end

What do you mean by that? Do you mean they were continuing to optimise their software/ ECU?

Because I thought the engines were last frozen in 2009. You’re surely not referring to the mere “cost-saving” upgrades.


Now I’m lost… Are you admitting that the PU era cars are much faster than V8 era cars despite PU era cars being heavier and dragier than the latter? Oh and doing all that with less fuel, and more durable engines?

I wonder if you can name one single thing that V8 era cars have against PU era cars beside being “noisier” and “simple”. Two qualities that most don’t really appreciate because they work against expectation of F1 cars to be the pinnacle of innovation.


Faster when? On Saturday or Sunday when it really matters?


Let’s just say that Grand Prix full of 95 sec laps says more than I can say. Or Malaysian Grand Prix full of 97 sec in first stint and 96 sec laps in second stint is also quite telling to me.

I believe that you were talking about race laps, weren’t you?


So despite the engine freeze they were still developing? This is outrageous, that whole championship should be stricken from the records!


What is certain is that engine modes and automation wasn’t helping this repeatability back then. It was a driver skill.

It’s funny, because when the “lap record” was broken (it really wasn’t BTW), official F1 channel posted this video.

Now there are many funny things about this.
2006 was first year of V8, 2017 is 4th year of PU.
The V8 has no KERS. The V8 has grooved narrower tires. The V8 has 1 less gear in the gearbox. But this all doesn’t matter.

Look at the video once and look at only Massa’s hands for the full lap. Now, it’s very important you look at Massa first.

Then, play it again and look at only Lewis’ hands now.

Have you noticed how much work, effort, corrective steering input, vibration Massa is dealing with? What about Lewis? He looks like he’s driving a child to school. Slow deliberate steering inputs, smooth, even when he reaches with his thumb for a button it looks slow motion. No sweat. Like it’s all taken care of. I mean, you can’t argue with me that Massa is working harder and is more impressive to watch. Sounds better too. What is making this possible and so easy for Lewis? Engine modes? Automation? What is certain is that one driver needs less effort to drive one car vs. the other. Is that but a small illustration of how much less is needed from a driver in this time?

Oh, and by the way, 2017 may have set a “lap record” but 2006 Grand Prix had a faster official fastest lap than 2017. So…here we are, over a decade later, and Formula 1 is not faster really on Sundays.

So what is happening between Saturday and Sunday. Because there is just no way this is all about damage limitation and oil burning. There is only so much you can do with the limited fuel flow of 100kg/hr. So either they are never getting near 100kg/hr on Sunday to make the distance OR they are going over 100kg/hr on Saturdays to post these laps designed to grab headlines that are so much faster than what is possible on Sundays. Which one is it?


Sebee my Friend. I hate to do this to you but it’s neither. Do you remember the merc bunch back in 2014 bragging about being in invention mode? Well the absolute truth of that is, they weren’t. It was sent in to them by someone completely off his head with grief. Anyway! This invention enables them to mechanically force far more air into the combustion chamber than what is usable for power, at high speed and rpm. Presently racing has far more to do with tyre use and preservation than fuel. For this they’re using front axle kingpins that actually curtsy in corners. It’s an old Newey trick, alters the caster angle don’t ya know? Don’t laugh Sebee, it’s what’s made Verstappen what he is today! As for preservation, well that’s easy! There’s a picture of a Red Bull car accelerating away along a lengthy exotic beach, the sand of which has been especially prepared in regard to smoothness. The driver of the car would have been instructed to approach the photographer at speed and once passed to then accelerate away so as not to dig itself into the sand. The resultant photograph shows many kicks of sand produced. Each one of those sandspurts represents a piston decending on power stroke. Now imagine what goes on at the contact patch when the car is sat on asphalt. Rubber is very susceptible to agitation. Damp or detune. The Brackley bunch are damping.
My advice to you!
Don’t buy hybrid!
It’s a ripoff.


This is 2017 not 2006. Things has moved on including technologies. Even the effort we put in driving our road cars (made recently) are a lot less than it used to when driving those built around 2006.


Are you trying to say that in 2006 power steering was not yet in road cars or was it vacuum servo not yet invented?


I agree that the technology and time have moved on. But the idea of F1 being road relevant is one of the reasons the sport is suffering viewership wise. No one to road relevant until some overpaid shareholders started feeding this garbage to the viewers and the media. F1 is entertainment first, then sport. Its like watching marvel movies, which is not relevant to real leal life and we love marvel movies because of that. I believe that’s what Sebee talks about a lot here, which I agree with. Now for Liberty and FIA the mission is to forget the road relevance garbage and focus on improving the entertainment, which is called racing.


No disagreement KingsZito.

But next year we’ll have fully autonomous cars moving the public, available to us. Zero effort driving! 0% driver input, beside entering destination.

Should that also be what’s moving an F1 car? Or do we want human driver skills on display? Skills not aided by Engine Modes, automation and wall full of engineers and software guys tweaking those modes and automation to each circuit and telling driver what to do?


Just to address the 2006 race time was faster tan 2017. Yeah, what about refueling? They were running lighter cars then.


You show me a lap from 2006 of a car driving around with full traction control, and tell me it has less automation than a 2017 car that doesn’t have traction control?! Felipe had engine modes and more automation, those grooved tyres generated more grip than the granite like Pirellis they use now, the extra gear is irrelevant as they had free choice of ratios back then.
The point of my original post was there was a large discrepancy between quali and race times in 2013, and you did not care. The cars were lapping slower then in the race, but you did not care about that either.


What is making this possible and so easy for Lewis?

He’s a better driver than Massa?


I highly doubt that. Are there any statistics to prove that statement?


I genuinely can’t tell if you’re being sarcastic or not…


I didn’t say he wasn’t.

So to be clear, you’re saying that the difference in speed, and technical demands on the driver between the two laps in the video is all down to Lewis being a better driver?


Well, it’s not unthinkable. Just look at the difference between Lewis and Bottas.


And that’s why he only won 2008 WDC due to Nelsino Piquet?


I thought he only won it because of Timo Glock? I wish people would make up their minds…


@sebee, boom!!!

James Allen’s reporting was so good that anyone didn’t watch the race, but read this report would think it was the best race of the century. In reality it was worse than Monaco from entertainment point of view, if not the worst race of the season. In Australia we call it “mutton dressed as a lamb”. Not sure what you guys call it in UK.


OMG! Has Sebee just exploded with a trail of unburnt fuel spewed out the back of a palaeolithic engine?

Seriously though… I enjoy reading others’ viewpoints on F1 whether or not I happen to agree with their fundamental premis. However, please can every article the good man writes not get hijacked by a very well trodden debate concerning PU’s. It’s simply dull for everyone else.

Pretty please…


Yes agree. We need to base our comments around the article first.


…and there we go again…


Lap 7 / 56 🙂


Whats with the Boom Boom
Basil BRUSH 🐺 ?


mutton dressed as a lamb is a familiar phrase in the uk – its an old English saying




The delta being Max Verstappen for this race…

Mercedes ‘manage’ everything when they have it easy, F1 gets interesting when they are put under real pressure.

The end of the season is, as James predicted, being defined by better Mercedes in season development, new PU, greater reliability window, and cranking it in qually being easier to achieve progress than Ferrari who were at their absolute limit already.


deltas are sometimes called distributaries and f1 drivers have always driven to them. no problem there.


I imagine you’re pulling everyone’s leg here but to inform others, delta is used in F1 because of the Greek letter delta, which is often used in mathematics to denote change or difference.


some planes are even called delta wing.


No they’re not. You’ve just found a synonym for “delta” and taken it out of context.


may be i have,
which two words contain the most letters?


….eh? In which post? And why does it matter which words have the most letters?


in the english language..


Sorry, I’m not sure I understand. Are you asking me which two words in the English language have the most letters?

What does that have to do with anything? What am I missing? 🙂


does it always has to do with what you’re saying?
look at the entire thread and you’ll notice craig d talking about looking up big words on google.
i hope you understand now.
so which two words have the most letters?


deltas are sometimes called distributaries

When are time deltas ever called ‘distributaries’ in F1?? Feel free to list some examples.

Is googling big words your new thing now? You should google river delta.


big words, which word is that then?
by the way which two words have the most letters?


I see that Jim has already answered for me. It’s always best to know the meaning of the word you are using.


Ofcourse. The soft tires didn’t really work, a non stop barrage of traffic and a few races to go. Why wouldn’t he be saving his engine and just manage the win. It’s not like his main rival was contesting for the win.

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