Analysis: How did Vettel hold Bottas off in Bahrain GP and did Mercedes pull a punch?
Posted By: James Allen  |  10 Apr 2018   |  8:52 am GMT  |  166 comments

After the rather mundane Australian Grand Prix this was a more interesting race strategically.

Bahrain has one of the highest levels of abrasive tarmac of the season. It’s also very tough on brakes with big stops and that means that it’s easy to lock a wheel and flat spot a front tyre.

If you are doing a one stop race with a long stint, flat spotting a tyre early in that stint can ruin a strategy.

This year we saw several drivers go for the long stint on mediums -Vettel went for it on softs and got away with it – but Leclerc for example had his race compromised by a flat spot.

As last year Pirelli brought a tyre selection with the supersoft, a tyre that shows degradation. This year it is a step softer. That meant that the teams had to really think carefully about their strategy and again we saw a mixture of strategies, with the decision on whether to use soft tyres or medium tyres at the first stop.

It made for an engaging race with plenty of overtaking and this is certainly what we want to see, rather than 2017’s conservative selections; the likelihood was of almost no degradation and one stop strategies, where drivers finished in car performance order.

The battle at the front
Bahrain is the third highest ‘start bias’ of the year, meaning that it is number three in the chart of tracks where the clean side of the grid has an advantage over the dirty side.

Kimi Raikkonen was deflated after missing out on pole, not only because he had been faster than Vettel again up to that point, but because he knew that there was a strong chance that he would lose places starting on the dirty side. And so it proved; Valtteri Bottas dived past and into second place. This put Mercedes in a position to play some chess moves.

A few places back, Pierre Gasly starting fifth passed Daniel Ricciardo, but the Australian was able to repass. However soon after he retired after an electrical shutdown.

The key to doing well in Bahrain is not simply to look at how the cars and tyres perform on Friday FP2 and then carry across the same expectations, but to adjust the expected degradation for a track that will improve in condition from Friday to Sunday.

So for cars that were able to start on the soft tyres, the fastest race was soft-medium, avoiding the supersoft all together. The supersoft to medium one stop was quite a bit slower on paper.

This is the strategy that Valtteri Bottas ended up doing, as Mercedes rolled the dice to try to outfox Ferrari.

Lewis Hamilton did soft-medium and got to the podium from ninth on the grid, while Marcus Ericsson in the Sauber did the same and scored two points, which is like a win for Sauber, even if their expectations are higher now they are partnered with Ferrari and Alfa Romeo.

Sauber was the first to pit to medium tyres with Charles Leclerc under the Safety Car. This gave everyone a good read on the performance of that tyre in those evening conditions as temperatures gently fell. Leclerc was faster on the medium tyre than the Williams of Sirotkin ahead of him on soft. Alonso was another driver going well on the medium.

Mercedes pulls a punch

The big surprise towards the end of the race was that Vettel was able to make the finish on soft tyres that were 39 laps old. Ferrari was certainly not planning on one-stopping that car, but at a certain point after Mercedes made a chess move by putting Bottas onto mediums as well as Hamilton who was also in Vettel’s pit window, Ferrari were caught out and had to either stick or twist. What they did was a Plan D.

It had started well enough; as last year the Ferrari was faster on the supersoft tyres and could extract more performance from them.

Ferrari could have expected Mercedes to change tactics with Bottas and one-stop, as he was not able to get within undercut range of Vettel to try a move on a two-stop plan. Once Ferrari pitted Vettel and closed off the undercut possibility, Mercedes’ decision on what to do with Bottas became easier.

Knowing that, the alternative for Ferrari at this point would have been to anticipate it and cover off Mercedes’ spoiler tactic by putting Raikkonen onto a supersoft-medium strategy. But on his stop at Lap 19 they went for the same soft tyre middle stint as Vettel.

Raikkonen’s race however was ruined by an unfortunate incident in the second pit stop on Lap 35 (above), where he left the pit box before the rear left tyre had been changed, knocking over and badly injuring one of the mechanics.

This could have turned the race; with the confusion in the Ferrari garage as Raikkonen’s car was pulled back and the mechanic was attended to, Ferrari could not pit Vettel.

Mercedes could have capitalised on this – with Ferrari not prepared for a stop and a man down – they could have gone for the jugular, panicked Ferrari by stopping one of their cars at this point.

But they decided that this would not be a correct thing to do and would be judged harshly; a rare example of scruple in a fierce competitive battle.

Bottas’ tyres were holding up well and Mercedes knew that he would still have plenty of chances later if Vettel stopped again – and also if he didn’t.

It was around 17 laps from the end that Mercedes realised for sure that Vettel would not stop again.

Vettel gets out of a ‘Check Mate’

Vettel described Mercedes’ move with Bottas onto mediums as being ‘check-mated’ in chess.

The question then was – would he be able to stop again, fit a set of supersofts and overtake the Mercedes cars by the end? As he would have had to pass both of them on track, it would have been very hard to come through to take the win. Second place was more likely.

Their only chance of the win was to stay out and for Vettel to keep the tyres alive. This was 100% his win, due to tyre management, especially in the final two laps.

Bottas lost the race partly because he lost more time coming through traffic in the closing stages than Vettel, but also because Mercedes probably should have given him the notice to ‘push’ a lap earlier, once they were sure Vettel wasn’t stopping again.

He couldn’t capitalise on his one chance to overtake into Turn 1. This is the place to do it as the DRS gives a 12 metre gain, compared to the end of the back straight. With Vettel 1.8 seconds per lap slower in the final two laps, the Ferrari would not have been able to defend adequately. Bottas half went for it but didn’t force the issue.

Hamilton’s race was not helped by a radio problem, which means that the team could not hear what he was saying. It didn’t change the result he would have got. The challenge was to be patient to see what Vettel would do, as he wanted more information on what he should be doing.

Points for Sauber
It is tough at the back of the F1 grid and two points for Sauber in Brazil late in the 2016 season virtually saved the team and put Manor Racing out of business.

With only ten teams now, that is not so critical as before, but still something to celebrate.

Here they scored two points. Ericsson’s race in Bahrain was interesting as he committed to the one stop soft-medium at the ideal moment and also committed to a specific goal – he didn’t waste the tyres on trying to fight the group of cars coming through on two stops; Hulkenberg, Alonso and Vandoorne.

His race was not with them but with the cars further back; Ocon, Sainz and Perez.

The judgement was that he would be able to stay ahead of them; each was on a different strategy that had been compromised in some way, either by a poor start or traffic or a spin.

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

Race History Chart

Kindly provided by Williams Martini Racing, click to enlarge

Note the steep drop off in Vettel’s lap times in the final laps and Bottas’ closing speed. The Finn should have won the race.

Also note Ericsson’s management of the medium tyres to keep ahead of the Ocon Sainz, Perez group.

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Maybe it’s of topic but here we go. Kimi’s second fiddle treatment is well known and discussed, but whitth that in mind the reporting and conclusion from journous are always in the same maner (almost), he made a lacklustre job, race, ect. But the fact might be he made, and often have done a great job under those circustances. I’m no fan of making up conspiracys, you dont have to though if you’e a F1 fan, there are enough going on under the radar. Just the fact that I (or someone else) would suspect

that Ferrari would put him in traffic at the last qualifying is bad enough. And since it would not be far out of F1 probability (compare Alonsos win thanks to Briatore scandal, other driver forsed to crash into a wall, Aloso with imunity). And Ferrari dont even seem to bother hiding the fact they dont give a crap about winning constructors Which is odd since all they talk is how grat the team is and it’s the team that matters.


Mercedes did not pull a punch. In fact, you answered your own question elsewhere in your article.

Raikonene stopped at 35, which 22 or 23 laps to go. You said Vettel didn’t feel like he could stop because doing so would drop him behind both Mercedes cars. I recall radio during the race that this is what they were doing and worried about keeping Hamilton in that window. Thus, the ‘checkmate’ of Vettel.

If the decide on the fly to stop Hamilton while the Ferrari pits are disrupted, they are abandoning their checkmate. Vettel gets a free stop a small number of laps later when the pit is clear. Now Hamilton is no longer in the window and Vettel rejoins in front of Hamilton, both on supersoft tires. Now Vettel can run down Bottas on his older mediums. Maybe he gets a pass and wins, or at the very worst no matter what he gets second place points.

It wasn’t until five laps or so later, according to your article, that Mercedes realized that a champion driver like Vettel driving the Ferrari which is supposedly easier on its tires might just take those softs to the end. So, maybe if Mercedes has an experimental corporate time machine in their pits they can send a message back into time would they know to pit Hamilton immediately after Raikonen.

Mercedes thought at that moment in the race that they had a sure 1-3 and possibly a 1-2 finish when Vettel’s tires fell off the cliff. Pitting Hamilton would lock him into 3rd place, and put the win of the race into bigger doubt.


The pulled punch was not bringing Bottas in and putting him on SS’s when Ferrari’s pit was closed. He could have gotten a multi-lap undercut and made the decision to pit Vettel even harder


I totally agree. I find this assertion to be a bit rich. Sounds like Mercedes PR if that’s the source of that idea. Like you, I can’t really see why Mercedes would have pitted at that time anyway.

On a different note, I was able to find this video footage of the Force India pit-stop that occured shortly after the Ferrari mechanic was injured, and RAI was stopped opposite the FI garage. It was unfortunate this wasn’t picked up by the original feed, which seemed overly fixated on the injured mechanic (I didn’t even see a replay of this incident with RAI’s car). Quite dramatic, and another Ferrari mechanic was nearly run over if not for his colleagues gesturing towards him to get out of the way of the oncoming FI (Ocon). Dangerous stuff indeed. Clearly, the Ferrari pit-stop system needs a re-think and that work should include how to retrieve a stricken car in the pit lane safely while the pit lane is still open.


I am amazed the FIA did not close the pit lane after the Ferrari accident, until the mechanic was moved away. (I don’t know how long that took.) The coverage I was listening to suggested there might have had to have been a safety car, but as I understand it, the pit lane can be closed. How is the mechanic doing?


Apparently he’s doing okay:

Hopefully we’ll see him in action soon.

Get well quick Francesco.


They can say whatever they want but strategies at Mercedes are for HAM and at Ferrari are for VET. It was pretty clear that Merc wanted to push HAM up thinking to swap position with BOT right when VET was supposed to stop (maybe they were calling BOT back to fresh tires even) …but when they realized (too late) that Ferrari was not going to stop they had to unleash BOT. Vettel was great not only to manage the tires to the end but to force Bottas to overheat his rears, inviting him to attack and closing the door… that requires great skills. Also the passing of Hamilton to three cars… yes he has the engine the straight line etc… but the breaking like he did, that was very impressive stuff… he was on the dirt side of the track faultlessly… only Senna Mansell and few others I recall pulling maneuvers like those without messing up.


James, While lots of words have been written about tire strategies and performance of the various combatants, not one word has been lost on fuel consumption and the need to conserve fuel during the race.

It is all well and good taking Pilots to task for not driving faster (Bottas) because of tire management, but if you run out of fuel while trying to close the gap to the person in front of you, you just end up throwing away points as though you crashed.

This might go against the grain of what fans want to hear, but is surely a concern in every race these days, and rarely ever gets mentioned as being a hindrance to either pulling away, or catching up the driver in front.

For all we know, maybe Bottas was running behind the curve on fuel consumption, and couldn’t “hurry-up” sooner because of these concerns..

Any insight would be appreciated. The fact the (British) press is coming down on Bottas for not being more aggressive without considering ALL the facts, is fan-atsism and unfair to a solid second place finish.


Leave the fuel tank size the same – allow refueling. Why? So you don’t not see drivers saving fuel, only tires. Fans see a car going somewhat slow and have little clue about why. Let the teams refuel the cars for all these reasons – 1: so they will do what’s needed to forever banish the grounding problem, a service to all of those who will be driving civilian hybrids 2: so the drivers can RACE instead of being point-to-point pilots 3; so at the end of the race you (FIA) can publish the amount of fuel burned by each car, giving the most efficient a little boost even if they do not finish first. Remember, all this stuff hangs on fans. Mercedes never would have entered a little-known contest witrh the investment they did without the fans, Williams and McLaren would be the only consistent winners, and everybody’s budget would be WAY lower, including the FIA, the various national sponsors, the various business sponsors, and oh yeah, Liberty Media’s budget would suffer. Let’s race, conserving as we can for advantage, and let the fans see some real pit stops. (Hey, let’s use regular gas station pumps and let the mechanics have enough time to do things right!)


Absolutely, why is fuel conservation not mentioned as a factor is race tactics? It is often a large factor in how race is run, even more so than the always discussed tyres. Is it because tyres are a known, hard to miss the different colours. But fuel is an invisible “strategy”, no one knows what fuel level each car starts the race with and how much fuel they finish the race with.

Maybe the teams should be made to disclose the amount of fuel each car starts the race with. To avoid giving away tactics in advance, it could be done after the cars have lined up on the grid prior to the form up lap, no refuelling is allowed after that. Opposition teams, commentators and viewers know what tyres everyone is starting on way back the day before, after Q2, so why not also know what fuel they are starting the race with.

The weight and amount of fuel is an important tactic and can influence how a race is run quite dramatically. The ability to run a race using full power and/or having to conserve fuel can make a driver, car and/or team look really good or really bad without anyone knowing the reason as to why. I have always suspected that many of the strange results we have seen in this hybrid era have been due to fuel tactics.

For sure teams would lose a little tactical advantage, but it’s too late for their opposition to do much about it. But what it does do is enable commentators and us spectators to have some idea what effect fuel fill levels are having on teams and drivers results during the race.

Wouldn’t it be good to know that Ferrari are giving Raikkonen say 5 litres less fuel so that he can get a good start? The offset being he may have to conserve fuel in the later laps? Or that Verstappen has 5 litres more than Ricciardo because he uses more in a race? It fills in large gap in the knowledge base as to why one team and/or one driver runs a race the way they do.


Excellent points !


Bottas could not pass Vettel. Why? Laps ran out by the fall off in Vettels tires.


Good strategy report as always James but I disagree that Raikkonen’s race was ruined at the second stop. Even with a perfect stop he was probably looking at best to finish 3rd. Whereas he should have been able to secure 2nd.

If you look at the 5 laps or so prior to his first stop he is slower than Vettel and Bottas. This was a critical point in the race because if Raikkonen was quicker and had managed to close in on Bottas and get within his undercut window he could have cleared Bottas. He could have then used the superior pace of the softs to open a gap to Hamilton to make the switch to supersofts more comfortable and be able to attack the Mercs in the final stint. Alternatively, he too could have switched to a one stop.

Instead, because he was too slow in the first stint he got held up behind Bottas (which can clearly been seen in the second stint) which meant Ferrari had no choice but to pit because could only come 3rd regardless of strategy at that point.

I would be interested to know your thoughts on my theory. It’s entirely possible I’m barking up the wrong tree but I think Raikkonen has messed up Ferrari’s strategy in both Australia (too slow in 2nd stint) and Bahrain (too slow in 1st stint and bad start) which I think will ultimately cost him his drive next season.

P.s. On a separate note James I was at the GP in Bahrain for the weekend along with an F1 virgin and would like to send you mine and their observations as a long time fan and a new fan of our weekend and how our reactions to the weekend were quite different. However, I can’t find an email address on the website to contact you directly rather than through the comments section.



I think Ferrari pitting Raikkonen for a second time is just to give the Mercedes something to think about, what if the Mediums couldn’t last the whole race, then Lewis for sure would have to pit and went back behind Kimi, and possibly Bottas as well, or both the Mercs would try to limp home in the worn Mediums.


Yeah I agree that Ferrari had to stop RAI cos he just didn’t have any pace on those softs so possibly they wanted to see his SS pace – would have also helped them decide on SEB’s strategy. What surprised me though was how early they wanted RAI to pit.

Additionally, while I’m a massive RAI fan, I don’t understand why RAI’s performance drops off from time to time during the race. We have seen this happen a lot. Even in Monaco last year that happened. It seems like at every race for 10-15 laps he’s just not there. Same happened in BAH and AUS this year.

It’s so weird and frustrating at the same time.


Its interesting that you’ve also spotted this trait with him. Monaco 2017 is a really good example where Kimi’s lack of pace relative to Vettel forced a change in strategy.

I’m also a Kimi fan but I’m surprised that journalists haven’t been making more of these weird stints where he just disappears and isn’t quick enough, thus messing up Ferrari’s strategy. Until Kimi sorts out his race pace he will always be the number 2 at Ferrari.


Yeah I agree that Ferrari had to stop RAI cos he just didn’t have any pace on those softs so possibly they wanted to see his SS pace

He was fine on the softs. Look at the graph. He said after the race he could sit comfortably 2 secs behind Bottas without going full speed.

He struggled more in the first stint on SS.


Yes, my bad. Now I remember what I was mad about. Bottas was on the mediums at that time, why would Kimi be sitting comfortably behind Bottas when he knew he would have to make another stop – it’s not that he had to nurse his tyres or anything. If anything, Ferrari should have asked him to push Bottas so that it’d be hard for Bottas to stay on the 1 stop strategy. Maybe that’s again not enough information to Kimi from the pit. He might not have known that Bottas was on medium. Either way, I do see lapse in Kimi’s stint from time to time. When the field is this close, those few laps can be critical and can dictate the whole race strategy and losing a place or two.


Yeah it would be nice to see Hamilton and Vettel in the same car to really see who is better.


They have!!

A Suzuki Liana.



Last year in the first few races ferraris race pace was better, this year seems to be mercs

Mercs mistakes just makes ferrari look better than last year….but merc look better in the race trim.

Agree with other posts bottas ham reversed vettle would have been secon to ham

Good start to the season…..china should be good too as overtaking is high


Do you have any actual evidence to support this the following claim?

“But they decided that this would not be a correct thing to do and would be judged harshly; a rare example of scruple in a fierce competitive battle.”


I don’t think there is any actual evidence on this, but due to the Mercs’ VSC blunder in the last race, any wrong call in their strategy in Bahrain would come under more scrutiny. Plus, the media always focus on Hamilton more than Bottas, but the only driver they can try with a two stopper is Hamilton as Bottas is within their target in catching Vettel.


Yeah, I must admit I found the article/report/post quite enlightening, but I got to that bit and thought ‘what da???’


I’m all for having tech and clever systems, but I think it’s time to ban the pit to car radio. They can keep the telemetry for retrospective analysis but lets see the drivers make decisions and figure things out for themselves.

Use the pit boards which we can all see and maybe give the drivers a pit button to signal that they’re coming in.

Lets go back to turning the lights green and going racing.



Great photo of Ericsson and some guys from Sauber. I’m flogging a dead horse apparently but it would be nice if you’d label the pictures you use to decorate the text so we’re not just left guessing who people who aren’t well known to fans actually are.


If pit stops are getting close to being under two seconds then any tiny mistake will be compounded. A possible solution would be to limit the amount of players allowed to work on the car, much like NASCAR. Trying to make it slower with anything else probably won’t work. Just a thought.


Regarding the safety of pit stops, based on the last 3 incidents, not having a human in charge of the pit stop is a far too risky. The first suggestion would be bring back the lollipop, mandate in the regs that there must be a human car controller. It may slow down the stop by a few tenths, but plainly the current human free control is not working.

If that doesn’t stop, or at least reduce the incidents, of injuries to the crew, then mandate that the crew must return to the garage before the car moves. This would also help with neighbouring pits stops as the crew won’t be kneeling there and clearing the equipment after the car has gone.

Obviously the issue is if the pit stops take too much longer then the offset in tyre compounds may not be enough to make multiple stops worthwhile. Where it is safe to do so, maybe an increase in the pit lane speed limit by, say, 10 kph could be used as an offset.


@ gary…. ‘the current human free control is not working’? Surely a ‘human switches the green lights on…and off?


Well the half-hearted overtaking attempt from Bottas must SURELY have Merc thinking what might have been if they had a genuine overtaker like Ricciardo in the car!!!

James, I don’t suppose you have any insights from Merc and/or Ferrari team as to whether they are putting offers to the Honey Badger?


Hi James, is there a reason why Mercedes didn’t try to use the pitboard to signal Lewis to speed up or push?


It takes sophisticated individuals that master the skills of writing and reading???


One article I read mentioned that Hamilton could hear them fine, but that they couldn’t hear him at times, so it was more a case of them not being able to hear what information he was asking for.


HAM should have used the pit board as there were problems in communications from car to pit 😉


Sashi, difficult to see how Lewis could have asked the pit wall questions though isn’t it…..


Excellent point! Too big too think small/simple now eh!


Bottas could have been switched to softs but Hamilton couldn’t have been. They had no supersofts except scuffs.

Bottom line the faster teams will always use less stops. That pit delta matters more than one step in tires. Those mediums could do a whole race.

I would like to see things with the driver and not a computer.


If the two stopper caused Bottas to end up behind Hamilton, this would be a problem that Mercedes would want to avoid so early in the season, plus Bottas is in a better position to catch Vettel. If anything, Hamilton is the one to try the two stopper because he has nothing to lose with Gasly 40-50 secs behind. Not sure his used supersofts have how many laps in it though, but I’d say that is down to poor tyre planning if anything.


I would quite like to see live communication to outside of the track banned. The teams all have teams (very large teams for some) at their factories crunching the numbers during the race. They circumvent the team size limits at races and is something I think needs to be stopped. If nothing else pit lane maths is an entire layer of drama that F1 has lost in the last fifteen-ish years.


Simple – no radio in the car, including telemetry. Gather all you want, but only download off the track, and allow the driver a button and light for yes/no. Have to think twice or thrice before communicating…


Great review, James! Some terrific insight and info that I didn’t know about.

What are the two tracks with higher start bias?


Honestly, Bahrain since it move to night race and has been producing some spectacular races even 2012 one was pretty exciting. Vettel drove an amazing race…I didn’t think he will hold on. It felt like kimi on those cheesy tyres in china back in 12. Really good race!


I agree. I used to think of it as bore-rain. It guess it gets so hot there, it just didn’t work as a day race. Those opening few corners of the lap are just great.


Nothing tops Bahrain 2014 IMO


Rosberg vs Hamilton in 2014 was phenomenal…


Tarun, good point. It’s certainly massively better than Abu Dhabi.


Yeah I agree. It’s a travesty that Abu Dhabi is now cemented as being the last race instead of Interlagos.


Sorry somewhat off-topic but, I felt incredibly sorry for the Ferrari mechanic Francesco Cigarini, as we all saw just how serious an event it was. Can anyone advise me – what are his chances of full recovery back to his pitstop duties, and time frame? I sure hope his leg damage wasn’t so bad as to change his life?


If Kimi slips him a nice little cheque to say sorry and Ferrari backs it up with their own gesture of gratitude and regret, the guy might take the barrow of cash and head off into the hills of Tuscany to retire on a nice little farm, growing wine grapes and his own crop of fruit & vegies for his family!


Not Kimi’s problem, but the gesture would be nice.


Well given the reports If I am not wrong it is anywhere b/w 6 months to an year.


So do you think that if Bottas was more agressive in the turn one attempt, he would have made it past Vettel without contact? What would the risk factor be?


Jolyon Palmer made a good point that he wouldn’t have either taken the place or safely run out wide because there is so much run off. Only a half hearted effort would have T boned Vettel. Just look at Ricciardo in Baku to see how it could have been done. Bottas is no Ricciardo and situations like this demonstrate it.


I think Bottas played the numbers game and made 18 points gain rather than risking the whole lot for the extra 7 points he would have gained throwing it up the inside of Vettel. After a pretty lacklustre start to his season in Melbourne, I think Bottas would have been happy to just have a solid result.

I personally would have liked to see him have a crack and like many other spectators have noted, you can’t imagine Hamilton, Ricciardo or Max not attempting that overtake if they had been as close as Bottas was (knowing that Vettel was a sitting duck on those tyres). It’s hard to imagine that there wouldn’t have been some contact though, based on the late braking maneuver it would have required from where Bottas was (or any other driver for that matter, had they been in his position)

It will be interesting to see if Bottas pushes his luck some more as the season goes on or continues to play it safe.


“But [Mercedes] decided that this would not be a correct thing to do…”

For sure the decision to “hold” and let Ferrari sort themselves came “from above”. It would be nice to hear more about this feel-good decision.

One gets the impression Mercedes as a team cares about the sport and respects rivals. It’s hard not to like them as a racing team.


James, please help:-) The whole day today I keep receiving eMail notifications, all day long. Unsubscribe doesn’t work. What do I do?


Not possible we switched that off


JA, you mentioned that the drivers finished last year in car performance order. Do you mean this race or the entire championship?


A lot of one stop races, inevitably end up that way


How would Mercedes have gone for the jugular and panicked Ferrari into pitting their car following the Raikkonen pitstop blunder? It might be obvious but I still don’t get it.


One possible scenario

At Lap 35, when Kimi had the accident, Vettel led Bottas by 5.048 seconds and Hamilton by 19.877 seconds. (Mercedes at this point believed Vettel was 2-stopping).

If Mercedes pit Bottas, and assuming Ferrari take 2-3 laps to be ready for another pit-stop, Bottas gets enough time to do an undercut. This would mean that either Vettel stops late and gives up track position to Bottas, or if he doesn’t and goes to the end on worn tyres, Bottas hunts him down on SS as it easier for him as Mercedes would ask Hamilton to move over. Ferrari could try to pit earlier but with one man down, there would be a risk of a botched pit stop for Vettel.

So there was an opportunity there which Mercedes didn’t take.


Mercedes would ask Hamilton to move over

That would have been an easy decision I guess!

Bottas had only new Soft left. It wasn’t too far off the pace though. But again, this strategy would leave Bottas to chase down 30 seconds in 20 laps and overtake Seb, who was already in the zone of saving tires. Kimi accident finalized the strategy for Ferrari and he would have continued the same. With worn softs Bottas would have found himself in similar situation as on Mediums. Atleast, he was gentle with mediums till last 10 laps. Softs would have given up much earlier. See how Lewis lost performance and dropped his pace in first stint on softs.


It would have been an easier decision than most as Mercedes had the luxury of 2 cars and could try pincer moves.

Bottas would have fast tyres and the ability to hunt down Vettel, (this would actually benefit Hamilton himself as a Bot-Vet-Ham finish would be better for his championship than a Vet-Ham-Bot finish so he wouldn’t have much issue with it as he would drop just 3 points instead of 7 or the worst-case 10 which he did anyway).

I agree that the soft and mediums were close but with reduced fuel and Vettel on 20 laps older tyres he should have been catchable. [“Lewis lost performance and dropped his pace in first stint on softs” – Remember Hamilton did his stint on used tyres and heavy fuel]

Hamilton could even ask for a swap, if he let Bottas through and Bottas was unable to take Vettel (remember Hamilton had done that for Bottas last year, so Bottas would also have agreed to it, if discussed upfront]

The thing about this strategic option is that it had no downside, as Gasly was far away; with a lot of potential for upsides so I hardly see any reason not to take it, apart from “rare example of scruple “.


They would’ve been banking on Kimi holding the Mercedes up and give Vettel enough buffer to make an extra stop and still come out ahead. That’s what my understanding is.


Glad to see that Williams Martini Racing still has relevance in today’s post 🙂

James, what’s going on there? Merc engine. Highly talented tech mgt. The drivers cannot be THAT bad can they??


Exposes how overrated the technical team is. Beating Force India is their maximum standard now and they can’t even achieve that.


Stroll slower than last year, so presumably a car issue…

Tornillo Amarillo

For me is De Beer work in aero… is it?


Great report👍

Actually agreed with “ol’Misery Arrivabene” when he said those moaning about not having any exciting racing in this new hybrid engine era …well this is excitement.

It was a great race . Actually take my cap of to Vettel (from a Brit 😁😄) for an outstanding drive as the last few laps were teetering on a knife edge. It could’ve been different if Bottas had got his charge on abit earlier and got past the tailenders faster. Or if Lewis was behind him like in Spain last year.

Gasly for me is the talk of the race in a Toro Rosso with a HONDA…A HONDA ! ( sorry got abit excited 😉)

Mercedes still have the faster car …in mid to cooler climates while Ferrari can cope with the heat.

Luckily its China next.

Red Bull sank think Ricciardo put a hex on himself when he said to Coultard that he xouod win this. As for Max …nuff said.

Haas are also jostling for a top 5 placing sooner or later.

Williams well I reckon Claire Williams should do the honourable thing and stand down or have a silent role & bring in a Rottweiler type leader with big nads to fire people. As her leadership is poor and choice of drivers pathetic. All in all the team stinks big time. They are sinking and stinking on a Titanic scale ! Ice bergs everywhere Williams !


F1 is a team sport. Hyaenas have a female leader with a bigger ‘censored’ than the male. They are great hunters – if they work as a pack of hunters. Perhaps there are not enough hunters in the William pack?


Or there are too many ‘censored’ + ‘s’ around in Williams these days?
(to use your own terminology ;o)


Nice analysis James. I would like to highlight one nice point you raised:

“alternative for Ferrari at this point would have been to anticipate it and cover off Mercedes’ spoiler tactic by putting Raikkonen onto a supersoft-medium strategy”.

I don’t understand why Ferrari is obsessed with only Seb getting good result. They forget Kimi taking points off Lewis is equally important. Kimi could not overtake Bottas in first stint and it was unlikely with 3+ seconds gap that he could have done it with undercut. Why not put him on single stop on Medium, forcing Bottas to do the same (which he did anyways). Kimi behind on one stop would have forced Bottas to be conservative on attack on Seb up front and also it would have been buffer from Lewis. He was 18 seconds ahead of Lewis when Lewis came out of pits. This would have been enough gap to defend over next 30 laps. This might not have changed 1/2 result but Kimi could have retained his place and also Ferrari rather than Mercedes would have emerged as better strategy maker.

They actually, disclosed their two stop strategy on Saturday itself when they scuffed their second Medium and left themselves only with 2 new softs and Supersofts. I don’t know why they opted for 2 mediums if they were not going to use them anyway.


I think soft tyre was mandatory tyre in this race..if Kimi took medium tyre in first pitstop, he would have had to stop again 3rd time to take on soft tyre


No. Bottas ran with Supersoft and Medium. Rule is you have to use 2 different compounds of your choice during the race.


totally agree with you…I am baffled as to why ferrari didn’t fit mediums on kimi’s car…they nearly lost this race due to their silly strategy errors. They also screwed kimi over on saturday sending him onto traffic for the pole lap.


Mark Hughes reported that Ferrari was not comfortable with Mediums. Also, they only had used set. But so what, it was about throwing spanners in the Mercedes strategy. Mercedes had readied Bottas with new Softs on lap 19 when Seb pitted, so they were bluffing Ferrari about a two stopper and eventually went for single stop. Had Kimi fitted Mediums, they would have had no option but to go for what they did and Ferrari would have emerged with bragging rights.

I felt bad for Kimi on qualy lap. He had caught up with slower car at the apex of a slow turn and lost quite a bit of time. It was the location of pass that killed the time unfortunately.

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