Analysis: The ifs, buts and maybes that held back Vettel and Hamilton in Monaco F1
Strategy Report
Posted By: James Allen  |  29 May 2018   |  12:55 pm GMT  |  217 comments

Normally when the leader of a Grand Prix has a problem on the power unit that costs him 160hp, over two seconds a lap of pure performance, the pursuing drivers will find a way past.

Had Daniel Ricciardo’s problem occurred anywhere other than Monaco, they would have done. And had it occurred before the only round of pit stops in the race, then he might have been vulnerable to a strategy move, like an undercut, from Sebastian Vettel or Lewis Hamilton.

But Ricciardo had made his only stop of the afternoon before his MGU-K failed. Although he had to play with the controls of the car, shifting the brake bias forward, for example, to help the rear brakes, his car’s gentler treatment of the softest tyres in the Pirelli range was superior to Ferrari and Mercedes.

And that proved to be enough to keep him in position on this most difficult of tracks on which to overtake.

Because it’s Monaco track position is everything, as Lewis Hamilton learned to his cost in 2015 when he tried to make the extra stop under a Safety Car and lost the race.

That’s why both he and Vettel were reluctant to try something at the end of the race, a dramatic second stop and final attack phase. Despite toiling with the tyres they had, track position was considered king.

Pre-race considerations

The debut of Pirelli’s hypersoft tyre made for some very fast lap times in qualifying, with Ricciardo’s pole time of 70 seconds the fastest ever lap of the Principality.

But the teams were aware from practice that the problem in the race was front tyre graining and that would be the limitation for the race.

Monaco is always a one stop race, to prioritise track position, but this year it was rather like races on the Pirelli tyres of four or five years ago, where the key was to manage the tyres to a stage where it was safe to stop and be able to reach the finish on the second set. The worst thing would be to have to stop earlier than ideal and then also take the punishment of having too long a second stint.

The race at the front

Hamilton was the first to make his stop, on Lap 12, from third place. This led to a reaction from Ferrari and then Red Bull a few laps later, to avoid the undercut. There wasn’t much threat of it; the ultrasoft tyres did not warmup quickly and thus were not particularly fast when new.

The intriguing aspect of Hamilton’s early move was that he did not have enough of a gap to clear Esteban Ocon in the Force India. So, he would have to pass him on the track.

To maximise his chances, Mercedes fitted the ultrasoft tyres, expecting performance. As it turned out Ocon made it very easy for Hamilton to come through. He was not in the same race as him, but we’ve seen much slower cars hold up potential race winners in Monaco when the battle is for position.

Ocon is a Mercedes junior driver and understands how the team operates; that it is all about trying to win the race and score maximum possible points with both cars. No doubt hoping one day soon to be one of the Silver Arrows drivers benefitting from that approach, he moved aside.

Had Mercedes been counting on that attitude from Ocon, they would have fitted a set of supersofts on Hamilton’s car, as they did five laps later with Bottas, who was some way off Hamilton’s pace all weekend. He was somewhat obliged to go this route as he didn’t have a new set of ultrasofts.

Bottas had been out of contention until the supersofts started to perform, which prompted others to look at that approach, as the ultrasofts were not performing. Sauber did the same thing with Ericsson. Some teams split the strategies, to hedge their bets, with one car on each tyre.

With Ricciardo in trouble, there was the question of whether Vettel would pit again and try to attack for the win and whether Hamilton would pit again to try to find more pace.

The gap was there for Vettel potentially to do it at the Virtual Safety Car with five laps to go, Vettel had 11 seconds margin over Hamilton, which would have been just enough, but it would have been extraordinarily brave. Especially as the leaders just missed the initial opportunity; the VSC was deployed just after they passed the pit entry.

So, with the risk that the track could go green at any point, and mindful of how Hamilton was caught out in 2015, discretion was the better part of valour.

Gasly and Ocon shine in midfield battle

If the finishing order of the top five was the same as on the grid, behind them as always, was a good battle in midfield.

At the end of the first stint Ocon, Alonso, Sainz, Perez and Gasly were all still in grid order, but Gasly managed to overcut his way up the order, managing to get 37 laps out of a set of the hypersoft tyres. On paper this was nigh on impossible, but Toro Rosso had a flexible strategy, reacting to the moves of others and when Renault pulled the trigger with Sainz on an early stop, the decision was made to do the opposite.

Gasly pulled it off with aplomb, in another drive that has got him recognised after his breakthrough fourth place in Bahrain.

Once the track came clear after the cars ahead pitted – Perez losing eight places with a stuck wheel at his stop – Gasly was able to find pace and ran in sixth place before his stop. He rejoined behind Alonso, but the Spaniard hit trouble with 35 laps to go and retired, leaving Gasly in seventh place behind Ocon, where he finished.

He was also helped by his team mate: Toro Rosso clearly instructed Hartley to back up the cars behind him. If we consider the Race History Trace (below) Hartley (brown dotted line) starts backing up after Lap 26 and only stops after Verstappen pits. He helps both Gasly and Verstappen with that tactic..

Sainz had been compromised by that early stop; the team had been concerned about Force India trying the undercut with Perez. So, he lost track position to Gasly. He was further compromised by being on the ultrasoft tyres, so later in the race he found it hard to hold Verstappen on fresh tyres behind him, the Dutchman having made a late stop having started on the ultrasofts from the back of the grid.

Sainz also had to let his team mate Hulkenberg through; the German had also started on the ultrasofts from 11th on the grid and so he represented Renault’s best chance of racing Gasly for seventh place.

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

The number of laps is on the horizontal axis; the gap behind the leader is on the vertical axis.

A positive sign is an upward curve as the fuel load burns off. A negative sign is the slope declining as the tyre degradation kicks in.

Look at the phenomenal pace of Verstappen following his Lap 47 stop, after he clears the Renaults. On new hypersofts, his performance curve upwards is the steepest of any driver on the day, underlining what a missed opportunity this was for the Dutchman to win the Monaco GP, due to an unforced error in practice.

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A lot of comments about what Hamilton said… I love his honesty. But if he’d got pole, dominated the race and won , Monaco would have been the greatest race and you wouldn’t have heard a word of complaint. Before the race, he loved it. It never changes -the same every single year. So why suddenly does he want it changed? I have to say I agree with him but I knew that before the weekend started! So why not say it then? It’s embarassing.


The problem with Monaco is not the circuit, the problem (as MightyMouse notes below (at least as I write this it is)) is the cars. Fix the cars, particularly the aero on them, so they can race at Monaco and it will improve the racing everywhere else as well.


I think its clear that Monaco sits apart from other races in that it is not really suitable for modern day cars to race but the glamour and history of the event together with the challenge and prestige drivers associate with it mean few would want to lose it.

Rather than continue with the same discussions every year or unlikely changes to the circuit i propose an alternative approach. Make it a genuine special event. Possibly a non championship event, entrants should arrive with cars conforming to a different set of rules (30% narrower chassis etc., fewer driver aids)

How much would it cost for a generic stock car to be used for the event and let the best drivers in the world fight it out with the same tools if teams wouldnt want to develop a special car. Im not proposing to turn F1 into formula ford but why not try something radical, the status quo is getter very tired imo.


Boulevarde du Lavotto up to La Meridien looks like a nice DRS zone…


Stupid question/suggestion maybe:

There must be other roads at both ends of the circuit. Are any of them any better for racing? The lap could just be extended maybe?

Heck, with the money in that joint they could probably have Tilke design a floating pontoon with a few corners on it and take the race out into the harbour!


I really don’t get this tsunami of criticism about how boring Monaco was because of the lack of overtaking. As Ross Brawn said Monaco shouldn’t be judged by the same criteria as other races and its naive to expect lots of duels and overtaking. This is not something new. It is what it is. What makes Monaco special is the atmosphere in the paddock, the celebrities and the town itself with its ritz and glamour and royalty. During the Sky coverage Lewis Hamilton spoke passionately about how special it is to win in Monaco. For the driver it’s a supreme test of skill that requires absolute concentration and precision driving for 78 laps. With the close proximity of the barriers if you’re off-line by a few centimeters your race is done. We know how important Qualifying is in Monaco and perhaps it could be said that the race commences with Qualifying. With its high-downforce and mechanical grip RB had the ideal car for Ricciardo to put it on the front row. Should we be critical of RB for building such a car as some are of Merc and Ferrari having a party mode which gives them an advantage in Qualifying? Singapore is also a street circuit and is difficult to pass but being a fully night race it has its own attractions and vibe and there are some purpose built tracks which are not necessarily conducive to overtaking. Let’s be reasonable and consistent with the criticism.


For the driver it’s a supreme test of skill that requires absolute concentration and precision driving for 78 laps

It didn’t sound like that for most of the drivers, who were driving way under the limit of the cars to ensure their tyres lasted. The criticism should be aimed at Pirelli.



Even with more durable tyres the criticism would still be the same – a lack of overtaking which to be fair is also a feature of other circuits on the calander.


Lewis dosent need team orders? Looks like Ocon is Hams number 3 driver.

Ocon fights his own team mate harder than that.

Force india should rename the team to mercedes international assistance.


Surprise, surprise, surprise, RIC’s MGU-K is salvageable, and he won’t need penalties for Canada.

That Monaco “power loss” was such a strategy play cover story to save tires with 25 laps of 1.19s after second pit stop, it’s amazing I’m one of very few highlighting it.


@ Sebee…seeing as you concocted the story…no, it’s not amazing at all.


RBR concocted the story.

I just spotted it for you.

The final piece has now fallen into place with them confirming the MGU-K is amazingly salvageable, as of course it would be if the while story of power loss was made up to slow down the Grand Prix without fan outrage.


Why would he need a cover story to save tyres, when he just could have saved tyres?



Look at the feedback on this race from fans. The amount of calls to have it not be on the calendar is amazing, for what is supposed to be the crown jewel of F1.

It is usually routine and predictable, especially when dry.

RBR is in F1 to stand out and market themselves. Pretending there was something wrong with the car gives them a guise under which they can slow down the race without fan outrage vs. being open about it that they slowed down intentionally by 3-4 seconds per lap just to save tires. It saves fan outrage about tires in F1 too. It gives RBR TV air time and exposure as it happens, as we know leaders are not shown often if in routine lead up front with no issues. It makes their win heroic. Builds the story. Creates drama. What part of all that would they not want for their F1 marketing machine? In addition to being fully able to control the race, save the tires as needed, save brakes, protect PU from potential technical if it was being pushed full grand prix unnecessarily.


It makes their win heroic. Builds the story. Creates drama. What part of all that would they not want for their F1 marketing machine?


And what did you think they told Renault when they wanted to have the Hybrid turned off like you imagine it? “Hey Renault, We Redbull need some good marketing, to make Redbull appear heroic, So make it appear like an Renault PU failure!” And Renault, said.. why certainly good Sirs, we shall destroy our brand image on purpose, that is why we spend millions to be in F1.


Slowing the race down would help max get into the points too.


Hi James. Regarding the engine changes for 2021. How are the engine manufacturers going to make up for the loss of performance from the removal of the mgu h?. Will they double the power of the mguk k?. Seems like a backward step and will make the engines alot less efficient. Surely the internal combustion part of the engine will be working harder and will make the 3 engine per season rule even more stupid. Your thoughts.


The plan is to increase the electric component last I read.

This efficiency thing is a smoke screen. How do you evaluate the efficiency of an F1 engine Mark? Just over the selected 2 hours when you watch F1 on Sunday or from concept to build, complete life of PU? Would it shock you to learn that when measured in that full life scenario these PUs are likely less efficient than V10s? Did you consider what it takes to ship and move all that extra weight associated with PUs in your efficiency calculations?

And remember Mark, the proof is in the pudding. Where is this wonderful F1 tech in the real world? No PUs are ever coming to the market. Too expensive and too complex for the benefit they deliver under the extreme F1 braking forces only. That benefit cannot be realized on public roads and everyday driving either.

Efficiency in F1 is total fluff. You can take that to the bank.


All new technology is expensive, that’s the way it is and has always been. As the tech matures it gets cheaper . You can’t possibly state that none of the PU tech will make it into production cars.

If everybody had your attitude where would we be? Rubbing sticks together to make a fire that’s where!!

You don’t like the PU, fine, but to deny the potential to move automotive power forward is head in sand stuff.


Glad I missed this race as I would have felt I wasted a few precious hours of my life based on these reviews and comments. Nontheless, still happy for Ric getting the win so well done to him and the team in getting the limp car home.


Funny to hear Hamilton and Alonso call the race “boring”.

For some reason it wasn’t boring when they won it, was it? At that time it was probably the best and most challenging circuit in the world for them.

It’s Monaco and it’s over and done with for this season. Onto the next!


I think you are missing the Point. It was boring because despite the lead runner being 2s a lap slower nobody was able to challenge given their own issues with tyres. Monaco is still today the best circuit for these racing drivers with 100% confidence needed throughout. But this year it was a dud where all the drivers wanted it to just get over instead of racing their hearts out.


Funny that you would think Hamilton’s race was anything other than boring.

He could not attack Seb because it’s Monaco and the tyres were not working, He did not have to defend against Kimi because it’s Monaco and Kimis tyres were not working. He was lapping 4 seconds slower than normal so not even a challenge driving the track and you think he should be telling everybody how exciting his race was.

Please explain how his experience at other Monaco races would change in any meaningful way what his race was like here as far as excitement is concerned.

Remember Hamilton is driving a car in the race not watching edited highlights on a TV. Nothing was happening around him, his race was boring, fact.


Probably not as boring as Spain for him – sitting in the lead lap after lap, no-one challenging him.


Martin, I don’t remember him saying the Spanish GP was exciting, or anyone else for that matter.


Krb, no logic involved when it comes to the Lewis bashers….


B-b-b-but he didn’t explicitly come out and say that it wasn’t exciting, and as such the inverse MUST be what he believes. Isn’t that how logic works?? 🤔


Praises for Ricciardo in how he handled the weekend and to finally limp the car all the way to first place. However, as a fan; the Icon move to Hamilton leaves the race with a bad taste. A farce, like someone here called it, more accurate. Specially when Ocon himself confirms it, and when The Boss at Mercedes team fixes the outcome, because “that’s how it is”. Not real racing, a show, a farce.


James. Lots being made of Ocon getting out of the way for Hamilton and in this particular race so what. But if he had done the Renault manouver allowing one car through ( Lewis ) but blocking a chasing car ( Seb) would that be against the rules? Would Ocon have been giving outside assistance?


Not in my view, no


Had OCON lost hope or something in his car? An average driver would have been able to block LEWIS without much trouble in his car. His excuse would be totally acceptable to a toddler.


My last post was flawed. But that’s only because of the dumbing-down of my mind. I will now exit.


Since I have nothing more to say on this subject I’ll just rant about something else. When the rainmakers of F1 decides on a poster boy it’ll take a whole deal to change it. That’s Max for you (along with some of the rules).


This weekend’s race was a farce. Pirelli should be ashamed and issue an apology, what a joke.

Monaco as a grand prix should be axed but remain in the calendar as a qualfying-style sprint shootout spectacle and schmoozing event during the mid season break. A few extra points are on offer for a driver who produces the fastest lap and constructors points for the team that can secure the fastest aggregate time for both drivers. They could even throw in 4 car shootout sprint races of 15 laps depending on how comparable lap times are between teams to create a bit of close competition.


Monaco does not suit these cars for sure, but no need to throw all that history away. All that is required is a modification to the track to allow overtaking, it does not have to be an easy overtake, just possible will be sufficient to improve the show.


All that; ‘ OMG how he coached the car to the end, miraculous!, (Ric I mean)’. On a normal track he would have finished last probably or been pulled in by the team. His qualifying was excellent ofc, but all these super positive comments on his race win, pffffffffffff. Then also the phrase that he got redemption. What redemption, he’s part of a team and mistakes are being made. On the other side a team can sometimes outperform themselves and with that enable a driver to win a race, (I’am pretty sure that without the team guidance how to use settings, he would not have ended the race anyways). It’s all in the game.


Could the FIA specify shorter nose, smaller front wings and thinner tyres, just for the Monaco GP, to make the cars less cumbersome and help improve overtaking opportunities ?


Monaco isn’t won on Sunday, it’s won on Saturday and potentially lost on Sunday. RIC can prove that point twice over. The lack of overtaking opportunities shouldn’t take away from his win, and VES getting into the points isn’t very impressive either. The delta between his car and the back markers was huge. He still had a clumsy overtake on SAI. In any case HAM was right when he said he’d rather have a car that worked on the majority of races, hoping that Red Bull get a decent engine upgrade and make it a three way challenge at least for constructors *wishful thinking*.


Aside from Qualifying and the occasional actions from Free Practice, the weekend was shockingly dull. If it wasn’t for the glamour and history of Monaco, I’m pretty sure this GP would’ve been terminated the very moment we finished a race here. We need Liberty and the FIA to work out how to improve the racing. A fast car that can’t overtake another fast car because its tyres wear out if it gets too close? Doesn’t it sound pathetic? I’m still quite new to F1, relative to most fans here, and I keep trying to explain to my millennial friends about how THIS IS the pinnacle of Motorsport. But so far, the sport itself isn’t helping me win the argument. Need help here..


Hi Adinox,

I mentioned this in another thread but I don’t think it has come through.

Best place to almost overtake around the track is Nouvelle chicane, you can see with most attempts they really have to force the issue though and usually pull out of the move late or cut the chicane to avoid an incident, particularly if the other driver is having none of it. Even if they do make the move stick or work it still invariably comes off a little clumsy and sometimes contact is made too.

Why not move this chicane further down? Knock out a few more of the trees to gain another 50-100metres length on the approach. With that little bit of extra distance I seriously think that the attacking driver will have more of a chance making the defender yield.


Overtaking does not by itself define the sport of F1. It is about going around race tracks as fast as possible, while adhering to the rules of the formula. Technology plays as important a role as do aero and mechanical efficiency. How else would an engine generate the same amount of power as previous v10/v12 engines, and are still able to lap faster than ever before. A new Monaco track record was set in qualifying!

The problem of overtaking is an old one. F1 has and will always be about strategy, conserving resources and winning by going only as fast as necessary. It is a small miracle of how every small mechanical piece (bodywork, engine) together with the software can make these cars lap within a second of each other. That’s how close they really are in terms of performance, at the same time that’s how far they are relatively.

This is not to say that the sport is perfect; but trying to make overtaking more easy/difficult should not be the priority. It shouldn’t be so easy that a 2nd place car can easily overtake a pole sitting car, even when pole sitter is half a second faster per lap. But it shouldn’t be impossible to. That is the struggle the FIA have. DRS seems artificial and works only with tracks with extra long straights, simply useless on a medium/fast track like Barcelona.

And Monaco isnt a race to expect fireworks. The track is not wide enough, nor does it have any straight long enough for a driver to build speed. It is an iconic race just because it is Monaco 🙂


Im myself a millenial and find F1 extremly conservative. It is not acceptable to watch a sport where overtaking is done by the pitlane. Catastrophic


There are certain races where overtaking has ALWAYS been difficult, if not impossible. This is not a new phenomenon, but was there during the refuelling period and after. There has been some really good races this year and some rubbish ones. I’ve been watching F1 since the ’60s and it has ever been thus. People have selective memories and naturally bring the great races to mind and forget the boring ones. I can remember the late Jim Clark lapping the whole field, and other winners frequently lapped all but the first few cars. In the 1969 Spanish GP Stewart won by 2 laps in front of Bruce McLaren who was a lap in front of 3rd place man Beltoise! But many still look back on this as the era of great and exciting racing. There was, but there were also processions.


Personallly I sensed both Merc and Ferrari were just glad to get Monaco out of the way. Me to!! Boring race. No strategy. I blame the FIA. they have known for years it’s like this but do nothing. How RBR can lap 7secs slower and stay in front says it all.

I am a massive fan of F1but even I have to admit there are some weird expensive. Waste of time decisions being made. Liberty were supposed to be making this sport more exciting.there is a bucking.bronco in the paddock and a dart board???

Think I might. Saw to F3 or touring cars.


@ TimW

Golly, impressive memory to recall such details from the past. You’re just like KRB and Gaz Boy


Goferet, it wasn’t a bad race by Monaco standards, I remember McLaren leaving the bung in Jenson’s air intake, and Michael zapping Fernando just before the line on the last lap, but getting penalised as the safety car was apparently still active despite having pulled into the pits!


Hi JAonF1 team and readers,

If this race and this season so far has taught me anything it is the importance of the “second” driver.

Dan and Max seem to be pushing each other harder and harder making each have to raise his game to respond, just like Nico did to Lewis. But Lewis and Seb seem to each have a comfortable margin over Valteri and Kimi.

The saying goes “in motorsports if you’re not moving forwards you’re going backwards”. Lewis and Seb both need someone who can push them forwards and raise their performances to the next level.

That person is named Daniel Ricciardo. Ferrari and Mercedes should currently be in a bidding war for his services, but both seem reluctant to upset their current number one drivers or risk a bit of teammate infighting. A real shame.



Great post Ad17!

When your team mate is picked to be good but not TOO good….well, as Lewis says..”thats not really racing!”


If Seb is still far behind Lewis on points after next 2-3 races, Dan will get the call.



Agreed. At the end of the day Marchionne is a tough-minded business man known for getting results. He won’t tolerate the same old same old. Seb won’t like it but will have to tow the line.


Seb wouldn’t be that far behind, if at all of it wasn’t for Max Crashappens and some dubious decision making from the Ferrari pit wall….


Still far behind? He’s only been 17 and now 14 pts behind, neither of which is far behind. If there was one race left perhaps, but not when there’s 15 more to go.


I think we all know that the real ‘race’ in Monaco is qualifying….


Verstappen is one of the main reasons I watch F1, he maybe a bit headstrong and “crashy” at the moment, but him, and the other younger drivers, are the future of F1…

Wilma the Great

Why does Ricciardos line not descend under VSC like all others? Does that mean, he didn’t slow down to 140% lap time?


i think it is because the lines of each car are relative to the line of the P1, James?

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