Analysis: Why Hamilton and Vettel had very different Russian F1 GP experiences
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Strategy Report
Posted By: James Allen  |  02 Oct 2018   |  1:45 pm GMT  |  177 comments

When things are going for you in Formula 1, they really go for you.

There have been many examples this season where race weekends have worked out for Lewis Hamilton and not for Sebastian Vettel.

At the German Grand Prix, for example the tiniest of rear wheel lock ups for Vettel on a damp track caused him to crash out of the lead. While confusion and a split second last minute decision by Hamilton to stay out when he’d been called into the pit lane entry, won him the race.

In Monza Ferrari had a front row lock-out to defend with their number two driver on pole and with some confusion about whether Raikkonen was entitled to go for the win, the team contrived to lose the advantage and the race to Hamilton.

In Russia this weekend there was another glaring example. Both sides made important mistakes; Hamilton in sector two of his final qualifying lap, which handed pole to Bottas and then Mercedes made a further mistake in the race, leaving Hamilton out too long so Vettel jumped him at the pit stops.

But Vettel made a mistake soon after his pit stop which allowed Hamilton to re-pass him for second place. Mercedes then switched the cars to give Hamilton protection in the lead. They had thus done what Ferrari failed to do in Monza from a position of strength. And Hamilton and Mercedes had again got away with a mistake, while Vettel paid the price.

What happened strategically on team orders with Bottas and Hamilton in Sochi wasn’t pretty, but it was practical. It further extended the points lead Hamilton has over Vettel to 50pts and pretty much killed off the championship.

Drama around the pit stops

The strategy for most teams was very simple, as has often been the case this season: one stop. The hyper soft and ultrasoft tyres were not good race tyres compared to the soft, which would have been able to do the whole race, (much like Rosberg did in 2014 after a first lap lock up).

Both Mercedes and Ferrari were fast enough to get through Qualifying 2 on the middle tyre in the range, the ultrasoft, and therefore to start the race on that tyre. Knowing they had engine penalties to take, Red Bull and Renault went a different route, while the other six cars in the top ten all started on the hypersoft, which was not projected to last more than ten laps in the race.

The soft tyre meanwhile was performing very well on the Red Bulls, who had started at the back of the field on it. Verstappen made mighty progress early on and was going very strongly on what was clearly the best race tyre on the day.

Having lost the start to Mercedes, Vettel’s only chance was to do something at the pit stops. The undercut was projected to be quite powerful, giving the car that pitted first an advantage of around one second on the first lap, but as always there was a doubt around how long it would take the soft tyre to warm up on the out lap from the pits.

We got a clear illustration when Magnussen pitted early due to a flat spot. He was racing Ocon, who did the opposite to the Haas driver and stayed out. When Ocon pitted and rejoined he was well behind; the soft tyre was clearly getting up to speed well.

This lesson was perhaps not being heeded as the leaders approached their stops, Bottas led with Hamilton second and Vettel third. Defending his lead and with pit stop priority as the lead Mercedes, Bottas got into the pits before Ferrari was able to undercut him. With Hamilton second and Vettel third there was a case for Ferrari to follow Bottas in, which would have given Vettel a good chance to jump Hamilton, who had to do another lap.

Ferrari didn’t do that, because they could already see from the choreography at the race start that the Mercedes drivers were working together as a team. Had Vettel followed Bottas in, the Finn would have done a very slow out lap to back him up, in order that Hamilton could pit and rejoin ahead.

So Vettel took the extra lap and then pitted, predictably rejoining behind Bottas. Mercedes did not bring Hamilton in ahead of Vettel as they were discussing the possibility of getting Bottas to back Vettel up so Hamilton could jump them both. Vettel’s out lap was very quick, Hamilton lost time in traffic and the net result was that when he pitted he rejoined alongside Vettel and lost the position to him. Ferrari also did the trick we’ve seen both top teams do this season, of putting their mechanics out in position in the pit lane as if expecting a stop, so that the rival team’s driver has to drive around them to get out of his pit box.

So the teamwork by Ferrari had got Vettel ahead, but then a lock up by Vettel at the end of the back straight set Hamilton up with an opportunity to pass early the next lap. Vettel defended in Turn 2 but Hamilton then ambushed him on the exit of the long turn three into the tight turn four.

Most teams found it difficult to blister the soft tyre in Sochi, but the energy of his engagement with Vettel had damaged Hamilton’s tyres and Mercedes took the decision to switch the two drivers around to use Bottas to protect Hamilton.

They maintained position to the flag, but Bottas could be seen in parc ferme inspecting Hamilton’s rear tyres to see whether the blisters were genuine.

Great drives from Verstappen and Leclerc

The other cameos worth noting in this race were Verstappen and Leclerc, who no doubt one day will battle each other for the championship for Red Bull and Ferrari respectively.

Verstappen managed to storm through from 19th to fifth in eight laps and had an attack on Kimi Raikkonen in his sights when he pitted on Lap 43 to fit a set of ultrasofts for a ten lap attack. But unusually, this strategy didn’t work this time as the ultrasoft tyres didn’t perform. The soft was a far superior tyre for this weekend and team experienced graining on both the ultrasoft and hypersoft tyres after a few laps.

Leclerc’s race to finish seventh was made by a bold early overtake on Magnussen. This kept him out of the dog fight between Magnussen and the two Force India cars and allowed him to run in clear air, picking an optimum strategy.

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.

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1

Updated winning percentages when starting off the front row (to RUS18):

HAM 9/96 = 9.38%
ALO 14/270 = 5.19%
RIC 6/137 = 4.38%
VER 3/72 = 4.17%
VET 5/121 = 4.13%
RAI 10/246 = 4.07%
BOT 1/98 = 1.02%

Yeah, I know I said I’d do one for > P4 and > P6 as well, but I’ve been a bit busy, and a bit lazy in equal measure. It’s coming shortly.

2

Great stats KRB!

How does it look if you run the metrics on

“Winning percentage/all races when gifted the win”?

or

Average points gained in WDC by gifted positions.

Would be interesting to see the numbers how they stack up for all the high end F1 champs that we have had through the years.

3

The scrutineer, I can help you out with that one, Lewis has been gifted 1.43% of his wins and 0.24% of his points.

4

@The Scrutineer

According to standards around here, Ricciardo will be the runaway winner if gifts are included.

I think it’s 4 gifts out of 6 wins at last count. By the way, it’s called the Kenneth Gold Standard.

5

@FanF1….just refresh my memory…how many wins did Ricciardo take resulting from the team ordering their other team driver to move over unconditionally? Don’t make me wait too long will you….

6

@Kenneth

The topic posed by by The Scrutineer are gifted wins and gifted positions.

A gift is a gift. And the King of Gifted Wins, according to the Kenneth Gold Standard, is Ricciardo. You just have to live with that.

7

He did take one (Malaysia ’16) because RBR called off the battle, by ordering Verstappen to hold station.

8

Yeah, that’s impossible to do. Just read Brawn’s take on the team orders “controversy” on the F1 site, and for Austria 2002, it sounded like Barrichello was supposed to let Schumacher by asap, near the start of the race. Sounds like Rubens left it late, as an attempt at wriggling himself out of the team orders straitjacket he was in at the time. How many “go wide” moments did Rubens have prior to that, where Schumacher was let through? It’s impossible to quantify.

Team orders late in the season with two well matched cars is one thing. Team orders when one car is head and shoulders better than all others, as the Ferrari was in 2001-02, and 2004, is totally different, and bad for the sport. If Mercedes had used team orders to hand the title to Hamilton in 2014-16, it would have been horrible. When your car is that much better than all others, the team has an obligation to let their two drivers fight it out with equal opportunity.

9

Ok, knocked it off:

Winning percentages when starting off the first two rows (to RUS18):

HAM 3/54 = 5.56%

RIC 4/110 = 3.64%

RAI 6/173 = 3.47%

ALO 6/218 = 2.75%

VER 0/52 = 0.00%

BOT 0/64 = 0.00%

VET 0/70 = 0.00%

Winning percentages when starting off the first three rows (to RUS18):

RAI 5/106 = 4.72%

HAM 1/38 = 2.63%

ALO 3/163 = 1.84%

RIC 1/76 = 1.32%

VER 0/33 = 0.00%

BOT 0/48 = 0.00%

VET 0/50 = 0.00%

10

So Ham is still heading these stat’s, KRB? Unhappy reading for some I fear…

11

Phil will like the last table!!

12

Great analysis, thank you.

13

The only thing left out of the analysis is that Hamilton ruined another weekend for those already suffering from his excellent form this season. It surely didn’t help that he got some help on his way to another title.

This was the Sunday that would have given relief to the “anyone but Hamilton” crowd as the Englishman made an uncharacteristic mistake on the day of the race weekend that he usually dominates. At last, they sighed, “anyone but Hamilton”.

Still, there were some in the ABH camp that suspected that the switch was going to happen. And as reliable as Vettel’s Ferrari has been this year, Mercedes once again made the right strategy call to help their lead driver secure yet another win and extend his championship lead further, two race wins worth, crucially.

Alas, another race weekend ruined by Hamilton. Aaarrrgghhh!

Sochi, After Qualifying:

Any One But Ham fan – “Yes! Go Valterri! Finally, a Sunday I will enjoy. They better not make the switch!”

Anti-Ham fan 1 – “Whatever. They’re gonna do the switch anyway.”

Anti-Ham fan 2 – “Yup, the butler gonna serve up a switch sandwich.”

Anti Ham fan 3 – “Copy, copy.”

Sochi, After the Race

“Can you effing believe that they did the switch!!!! The nerve!!! Aaarrrggghhh!!!!”

This reminded me of the brouhaha on the 2016 Abu Dhabi GP.

In the week leading up to that race, where Hamilton needed Rosberg to finish third, everyone including their aunts and uncles, suggested that the most effective way that Hamilton could ensure this is to slow the pace way down and back Rosberg up and hope that he is overtaken by another car or make a mistake while defending.

Even Christian Horner, the boss of Red Bull, knew that this was the only way that Hamilton could achieve his goal of a treble on the trot after finding himself behind Rosberg in points heading to the final race of the 2016 season.

Horner had said before the Abu Dhabi weekend that Hamilton’s only option to win the title was to play a tactical game of trying to slow Rosberg down so that other cars could overtake him or hope that the German folds from the pressure.

I remember the posts on most F1 boards coming to the same conclusion.

And then it happened! Cue fake outrage!

“Unbelievable!”

“He should be banned!”

“Take his points away!”

“Mercedes should sack him!”

“He disobeyed the team!”

Fast forward to Sochi 2018.

“Bottas should have disobeyed the team.”

“Hamilton should have disobeyed the team.”

Hilarious.

Enjoy the salt this weekend, folks.

Until the Suzuka Switch, lol.

14

Love this!!

15

Excellent comment FanF1. I made a similar observation on another site wondering ‘how many of those who seem so upset by the common sense team orders imposed by Mercedes at Sochi were equally outraged by the completely unnecessary and unjust team orders they tried to impose at Abu Dhabi in 2016.’

The double standards of haters is truly mind-boggling.

16

Bravo FanF1 👌🏆👏

17

@FanF1

Brilliant! The AHF’s are having quite a bad time of late and their hypocrisy is running on overdrive. Good isn’t it 😊

18

Basically Hamilton’s actions prove that he cannot win the WDC without taking some of his team mated points.

19

@david

So with your theory, Alonso can’t win a race without his teammate crashing, moving over and having his gearbox seal broken.

Ahhhhh! The comeback.

Charge Lewis rent already!

20

@david

Basically you’re talking nonsense david. And they weren’t Hamiltons actions – they were the actions of the team.

Suck it up my friend, suck it up 🙂

21

Luvable chap…

22
Tornillo Amarillo

team experienced graining on both the ultrasoft and hypersoft tyres after a few laps”

Why? It doesn’t be enough statement for me, any explanation?

23
Torchwood Mobile

@Torni – the ultrasoft doesn’t like you to go too fast in the first couple laps, which is what done in Verstappen; he set off after Raikonnen as soon as he got the new tyres, instead of waiting a couple of laps, which killed any pace they would have had.

The hypersofts in general, seemed to die within a very few laps.

24

@ James Encore

Oh no, I don’t think Mercedes could have asked Bottas to pit first because most teams track operations revolve around the rule that the lead car is the one that pits first.

As for Max, I didn’t mean he would have qualified second but rather his good start were he to have qualified near the front would have probably seen him take the P2 position

Regards the pitstops scenario of Lewis being 3rd, this would have been perfect for Bottas because Max would have pitted first from P2 then Bottas would have been called in to cover Max

25

@ Oblah

Aah yes Lewis’ grid slot was wetter than the racing line this is why I think Max would have jumped him if he had qualified towards the front.

As for Red Bull’s pace on the ultras and hypers, certainly, it would have been difficult making them work but with Sochi being a street circuit and hard to overtake, they just might have been to hold on

26

@goferet Depends on your hypothetical grid order.
Bottas
Lewis
Seb
Kimi
Max

Are you suggesting max would’ve overtaken both ferrari’s and lewis with a spec 2. renault – tag heuer motor, with a less aero-efficient car that ate it’s ultrasofts?

I suppose anything is possible, but seems unlikely.

27

There was one strange thing happening in the race where Force India were swapping drivers to get Kevin. Somehow it looked absurd as both the drivers could not overtake him. From the team wall they gave all of 3 or 4 laps to each driver to get him whereas in reality they should have focused on one driver overtaking kevin and slowing him down so that the other can haul him up.

28

Well yeah, but they did give each of them a good try and neither could catch him anyway.

29

Honestly, there is only one thing that will save F1 and ensure unpredictability, flat-out racing with less tyre or fuel saving, engaging and exciting pit strategies, far less obvious or forced team orders, and races that deliver on the spectacle of past glories:

Ban the radio.

Drivers would have to drive and feel the grip, push as hard as they can, control the strategy based on the race and not some predetermined best case, and teams would be their support. It wulbe pure racing again.

30

They’d still get instructions every lap via their pit board on the pit straight. All that would happen is they’d need to learn more secretive code words used to display information.

31

@Richard

When you say unpredictability, do you really mean a driver you support winning? There are no truly neutral fans.

32

“There are no truly neutral fans.”
You are living proof of that!

33

@david

Thank you for demonstrating my point so well.

34

Going through the data for this season, it looks to me that only the top 4/6 teams gain anything of the advantage from fuel burning off. Hence the rest all start to suffer from tyre deg on lap one and it is disproportionately high.

Question for James..Why have none of the other teams got on top of this?

35

I think there is a general misconception about what this graph is interpreted, mainly down to not aware how the baseline is set (the zero mark if you will). That is the laptime set by the fastest car on lap 1. If subsequent laps are driven faster, the driver’s curve will go upwards. Any laps going slower than said 1st lap benchmark, and your curve will go downwards. As all lap times for a given driver are then put together in sequence (and deducted the baseline benchmark time) it will then give the resulting curves for any given driver being measured versus that baseline. And some of the poorer performing teams will not even with fresh tires and less fuel load later in the race be able to go as fast around as the fastest 1lap time set by the fastest who set the baseline time. Hence their curves will remain below the horizontal baseline for the duration of the race. Hope that helps in the reading the graph.

36

#cyber..cheers. I thought the axis was set against gap to the leader rather than a lap time.

37

Not necessarily true; it has something to do with the way the chart is drawn. I remember there were multiple discussion similar to yours when this chart came out the first time – some 3/4 years (may be more) back

38

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.

39

I noticed exactly the same!

40

I wonder what Ricciardo thought as his damaged Red Bull lapped the perfectly healthy Renault of Hulkenberg……..the car he will be driving next season?

I say damaged, but I cannot help but feel the extent of that problem has been exaggerated a little in order to spare Ricciardos blushes as Max really blew him away – not for the first time either.

41

They did say he lost 30 points of downforce. I presume that is quite a lot but I have no idea!

That said I have actually been quite impressed with Max’s 2nd half of the season. Hopefully the Honda engine really is improving and he can be in the mix next season.

42

but I have no idea!

@Nick

Neither do I 🙂 But if Ricci’s only problem (excuse) was a broken front wing, then why did Max continue to extend the gap after Ricci had a new nose fitted during his pit stop? Max has really stamped his authority on the team and has put Ricci well and truly in the shadows in the 2nd half of this season. I don’t blame Ricci for jumping ship – he needed to get out before his stock fell any further. There is little doubt in my mind that Max will be a force to be reckoned with if Honda can sort their engine woes.

43

Why do you say excuse?

44

Why do you say excuse?

Why not? That’s what I think it was.

45

Don’t know if this helps you

“When we discuss downforce or drag, we try to normalise results so that ambient conditions are irrelevant. If we simply talked about how many newtons of downfroce were produced at, say, 200mph, this would vary between a hot day when air density is low, and a cool day when air density is high. Aircraft pilots know about this and adjust take-off speeds depending on ambient conditions as the lift their craft experiences also varies with temperature and air pressure.

To eliminate this ambiguity, we express downforce by means of a term we name the ‘lift coefficient’. Of course, since it is downforce we are interested in, the number is negative. This coefficient is a number that, when multiplied by air density and the square of the speed as well as a reference area, will tell is the actual downforce. The reference area is generally the frontal area of the car but, although many teams express this as 1.5 square metres, there is no hard and fast rule and so the way one team expresses the lift coefficient may be slightly different to another.

Let’s say a car has a lift coefficient of -3.50. The gains made in the windtunnel will often be of a magnitude shown only by the second decimal place of that coefficient and, for convenience, aerodynamicists talk about this being a point. Therefore if we improved our downforce by one point we would increase the coefficient from -3.50 to -3.51. In fact, downforce gains are so hard come by that we often use the third decimal place as well and this increment is termed a ‘unit’.”

— Pat Symonds

(Transcribed from “Pat Symonds’ Pitpass Tech”, F1 Racing issue 213)

46

they were discussing the possibility of getting Bottas to back Vettel up so Hamilton could jump them both

I was wondering what was going on, and the Race Report always answers the questions left at the end of the race.

Cameo of the Race: Vandoorne’s pass on Carlos Sainz, the man taking his seat next year, using the blue flag 🙂

47

Well if nothing else it gave Sotchi the right ambience.

Vetttel’s misstakes? I doubt he’s going to win a WDC with Ferrari by looks of it. Misstakes will cost you dearly when engines and cars are reliable.

Binotto and co could probably make a really good car next year, but if you make misstakes like Vettel has done, it’s not going to happen. He did it last year as well.

I have the feeling Honda could come up with a decent engine next year and that is all RBR needs.

F1 could need some positive headlines for a change, I don’t think the Bernie PR method is going to work the way it did in the future

One can only hope next years rookie will be the new aero changes.

48

@ChrisD

Ted from Sky mentioned that Honda has found half a second for next year’s engine. Wow!!!

I hope he is right because we need Max to challenge for the title next year or the one after.

We just need Renault to get their act together and we’ll have a 4 way fight. Somehow, especially is Alotofbull is still at the helm, the chance of that happening is nil. Ricciardo might regret his decision the same way Alonso is, now.

Remember, this is the same team that refused to use their tokens during the, wait for it…, the TOKEN ERA.

49

Yea the token era. Sounds like a fairytale, let’s put our hopes to Ted , he’s the man.

4way is the only way. That’s the slogan?

50

@ Chris D…I am deeply intrigued by your comment and those of others who say the very same thing. “i have the feeling that Honda could come up with etc etc etc’ What could possibly give you that impression ATPIT? F1 employs sophisticated engineering to provide these extremely complex PU’s and there is very little information in the public arena between the four suppliers. They employ high grade security over the IP covering these units. How could anyone possibly ‘know’/ ‘feel’ that a revolution is imminent?

51

Kenneth, I have no real proof of course. And just as I mentioned in another post, there will not be any revolutions as you put it, or as I would say, no huge steps in developement in general. 2021 is what we can hope for. But Honda are still relatively new and has started afresh sort of again and they are making a decent engine already. They have more so than any other engine supplier scope to improve, Renault aslo of course. RB can make the car that’s the presumption, but Newey has failed before

Let’s see who get’s it right. Renault if they get the money requred then they could get the complete package, but it’s not just that simply since they have the Frensch state and politics involeved in decisions. But the fact that they hired Ric, for substatioal cash i presume, indicates that they are on the right way in those areas.

52

@ chris D…..Yes, i have no idea as to how Honda will perform next year so all that can be ascertained is their current state. A lot of people are heralding a new and bright beginning even after this latest japanese performance in Quali!! In a dry state with all drivers performing to their usual standards TR would not be running P6 & p7 so it is ATM a false dawn. After the race it should be =erasier to see if they have in fact improved. Whether or nor Renault can up their performance in sheer speed/grunt and reliability is an unknown.

53

Yes it is indeed, but the same should apply to renault. if they are in it for the long term, with their history of producing champion “engines” I cant see that they would stay if they don’t see a light in the tunnel so to speak.

I believe thet Danny did he right decision, believe me, RB was made for MV, at least for now. He took a chance, a very informed one i would say. I wouldn’t count them out in the near future. Good that we have drivers that make these kind of decisions. Just look how it looks after he signed. It’s not like he lost all of his speed in a sudden

Look at the facts if there are any. Not the one’s presumed as facts and to easily detected

54

How could anyone possibly ‘know’/ ‘feel’ that a revolution is imminent?

@kenneth

I would say that Red Bull signing up for Honda PU’s (having had a chance to monitor them up close at TR) is a pretty good indicator – it’s hard to see why Red Bull would do this unless they had faith in Honda.

55

@ C63…IMO it was the knowledge that as Renault continue to crank up the factory team that Red Bull would become less valuable to them and that they would be better off without them. Renault have still to build an engine that is both as powerful and as reliable as both Ferrari and Mercedes…if they ever can!!! What did Red Bull have to lose? Very little really. They are tightly focused on their objective and they can build an awesome car but they must be somewhat apprehensive given Hortner’s comments previously where he stated that ’19 would be a year of consolidation. Meanwhile Renault will progress as the team builds even further so that come ’20 we should know whether or not Red Bull made the right decision…or maybe not, hence my original comment.

56

@ C63…you are stating what i have been saying for quite some time now and it is of particular interest to me to know just where they, Renault, are falling down badly. It would appear strange that after 5 years Renault would still be fumbling in the dark as it were when it comes down to building an engine that is more competitive that that which graces the current grid. I did hear quite some time ago that Renault have a basic architectural difference to both Ferrari and Mercedes. To alter it would mean a major and prohibitive costly redesign. Hearsay ATM. For Ricciardo’s sake i certainly hope that they can improve enough for him to return to his winning form.

57

where he stated that ’19 would be a year of consolidation.

I take your point that the Honda/Red Bull partnership will take a bit of bedding in, but it’s fair to say that Red Bull can afford a fair bit of consolidation before they fall back to the level of Renault.

All this ‘hot air’ from Renault about how they are improving etc is a bit of a PR puff – they were barely ahead of a team which went into administration and they were lapped (again) by the Red Bulls last weekend. Also beating a team like Haas is nothing for a factory team to really be boasting about, is it.

Finally, why can’t Renault build as good an engine as the competition – the fact that someone else has built one proves its possible. They are fast running out of excuses imo.

58

So, what was the extent of Hamilton’s blistering tyres? Anyone?
“…Hamilton has over Vettel to 50pts and pretty much killed off the championship.”
Yep, and not just killed it, it sucked out ANY real merit in Formula 1 apart from watching really fast cars going round and round. By the next race, it will be forgotten. And sadly, Bottas was Knighted “The Wingman” at Sochi. Everyone knew – but this one was clear orders from the top.

59

Good report, James.

Your report just nailed what the difference in support both 4 time Champions are getting from their respective teams. From wingmen to strategy to development.

Sebastian Vettel had the quote of the weekend when he wholly supported what Mercedes did to help themselves win both championships. It was as if Vettel was trying to send a signal to his team to start doing the same thing or this whole experiment of Schumacher 2.0 is lost.

What Bottas, Lewis and the Merc team did on the first lap in Sochi was the sort of strategy that Vettel expected from Ferrari at Monza but could only dream of. And the switch at the end, “winner, winner, chicken dinner!”

I am wondering if Ferrari’s failure to secure both titles this year despite producing a better package at the beginning of the season, have anything to do with the rumours that Arrivabene is on his way out?

Once again, Mercedes has set the standard. What an incredible team.

60

Ferrari always did support their #1 driver with their #2 driver. In years past, that was why RAI was getting the extension. But, usually with RAI behind the other 3 (HAM, BOT, VET), he is rarely in a position to help Vettel. This year, Ferrari rightfully saw the uselessness of this strategy and let RAI loose. Now, with RAI loose, Ferrari lost the leverage they usually had with him in the past.

61

It seems to me that Verstappen held the lead for a longer period than any other driver during the race. Astonishing when you consider where he started.

62

– Vettel was ahead of Hamilton after pit stops.

– Vettel makes a small mistake and allows Hamilton to go through which Merc further capitalize by swapping with Bottas.

Potential 3 point gain for Vettel ended up being further 10 point behind.

Ferrari could potentially have done something similar in Monza (swapping with Kimi) but Vettel goes for lead in lap 1 and crashes with Hamilton; ending up behind Hamilton.

This is the type of story all season long. Yes Ferrari have made mistakes but it is more often Vettel who has squandered chances.

Vettel is clearly the weaker link this year.

63

This is how it might appear, although I think Mark Hughes wrote an article that suggested that the real issue might be the fact that Vettel’s team weren’t doing a great job of managing races and race weekends (allowing Kimi to hold him up in Germany), not optimising Monza qualifying to have their title contender on pole, etc., and the result was that Vettel wasn’t able to focus on simply driving to the win in the same way as Hamilton could. I don’t agree with that fully, as it’s clear Vettel has also made some silly mistakes all on his own. At the same time, though, I don’t think it can be said that the team has been strong and the driver has been the weak link. They must all share the blame in this.

The article is here:
https://www.skysports.com/f1/news/32420/11490197/why-ferrari-must-share-blame-for-sebastian-vettels-mistakes

64

I rate Mark Hughes very highly but IMO, that was not one of his better articles. While I consider him to be one of the most objective F1 journalists, given the article in question, his podcast pick of Vettel to win the title, and his analysis of Vettel’s Sochi block on Hamilton which simply does not match the videos, I think it’s fair to say that he has a slight (unconscious) bias for Seb.

The fact is, no matter what they’re going through, when the puck drops, the whistle blows, the lights go out or the gun goes off, by definition, TRUE champs are able to forget everything and focus on the target like a bullet from a gun. They are extremely mentally strong. They RISE to the challenge. They don’t crumble under pressure.

That said, the fact remains that Seb is such a top shelf driver that it’s taken one of the best of all time to really expose the cracks in his armor.

65

Ferrari let their drivers race in Monza. Mercedes works through team orders. Ferrari are the sportive team, but they will lose the title that way.

66

Ferrari have only shown one example of being “sportive” this year, and that was at Monza in qualifying. And there’s a high chance that there was a plan in place to facilitate a position swap during the race.

In Germany, the team did use team orders to move Kimi out of Vettel’s way, but they did it way too late and it potentially ended up costing them the win (Vettel unnecessarily took life out of his tyres behind Kimi and then had a smaller lead over the pack once through). Was the delay in implementing the orders because they were “sportive” or was it because they just can’t execute those orders intelligently and effectively? Giving Kimi a handful of laps at the front but then moving him aside doesn’t appear to be either sportive or particularly intelligent.

Anyhow, it’s not through a desire to be “sportive” that Ferrari will lose the title.

67

@faster Kindly explain what exactly happened in Germany and the rationale for leaving kimi out on wore tires at various points throughout the season.

68

Don’t be naive enough to think Ferrari let their drivers race. No team can execute a switch/team order at the race start without it backfiring BIG time. I’m 100% sure had RAI stayed ahead of VET after lap 5/10 in Monza, you will have seen team order to switch.

If you think Ferrari is the sportive team, you haven’t watched F1 long enough.

69

It was reported Kimi was told he can race for the win. No doubt about that.

70

@ JNH

Hahaha so true.

God always knows those ones that are trying to act cute so he throws a spanner in their works.

71

It further extended the points lead Hamilton has over Vettel to 50pts and pretty much killed off the championship

It’s obviously going to be a lot harder for Vettel to win, but I wouldn’t go so far as saying the championship is pretty much killed off.

If I’ve learned to love (and loathe!) anything about F1, it is that you can’t rule anything out until it’s a mathematical certainty. Hamilton is really shining this year, but it’s very easy to run out of luck, as has happened to many others in the past.

No disrespect if you’re backing Lewis, just don’t count your chickens yet.

72
Torchwood Mobile

This Lewis’ fan has not counted his chickens since 2012’s disastrous year of mechanical failures while he led multiple races.

73

For sure you can never know. I think it’s fair to say that barring unreliability, Hamilton is near certain to win this year. With 5 races to run in 2017, he was ahead by 34 pts. This year it’s 50 pts. Of course last year the next race was Japan, where Vettel DNF’d, which ballooned the gap to 59 pts.

74

I am backing Ham and I couldn’t agree with you more. Until its official…its not official.

75

James is right, in fact he understated it.

I will go further than James. The chance VET will not get another win this year is pretty high. Only if Merc falter eventually. And even if he wins, not a big deal, another year wasted. 4th one?

But yes, love/hate with F1 is so true. More of a hate than love I guess 🙁

76

Wingman ready to slow down anytime

77

Gosh yep Every no.2 driver will do their commands as required by the team…bit like Ferrari have been doing since the get go.

78

How does that affect you?

79

“When things are going for you in Formula 1, they really go for you.”

I have always felt that things tend to go for Lewis Hamilton far, far more often than they don’t, whether it be timely safety cars (e.g. Baku this year), timely rain (e.g. Hungarian qualifying this year), making mistakes that don’t ultimately cost him the win (e.g. Monaco 08, Baku this year), and more widely speaking being in perhaps the most professional and dominant team of all time, etc. This seems to happen far more than when things go against him (e.g. Brazil 07, Malaysia 16).

That is not to take anything away from him, as he is undoubtedly the best driver on the current grid by far and quite probably the GOAT, or at least he will definitely will be by the time he retires having overtaken Schumacher’s wins and titles record. I’d be interested to know how many titles James thinks Lewis will retire with.

I guess it’s like the saying Gary Player, ‘The harder I practice, the luckier I get’.

80

Watch the first few races in 2016…

81

This seems to happen far more than when things go against him (e.g. Brazil 07, Malaysia 16).

Add China 2007, Singapore 2012, Brazil 2012, Baku 2017, Austria 2018 and the whole of 2011 season. The guy had his fair share of bad luck.

82

@Triangle You clearly missed all of 2012, 2014, 2009 and some races in 2010. Lewis only appear luckily because of confirmation bias. How many times have I read, he’s lucky being in a competitive car for all his career. But no one mentions the pitfalls of partnering a world champion. How is Vandoorne’s career progressing again?

It’s not to say he hasn’t had luck breaks but rain isn’t one of them. Isn’t rain the great equalizer, yet whenever it occurs lewis shines. Maybe, just maybe, it’s talent and not luck, which you’ve alluded to.

83

‘Isn’t rain the great equalizer, yet whenever it occurs lewis shines.’

Monza 2008?

Interlagos 2008?

84

What was wrong with his Monza 2008 drive? He started P15 and finished P7, finishing ahead of Webber, Trulli, Glock & Rosberg, who all started in the top 10. He also finished 2 spots ahead of Kimi, who started directly ahead of him.

85

You found 2 in a career spanning more than 10 years 🙂

86

I think IF Ham gets it this year he has a good chance of getting it next year before any big reg changes. I don’t think Merc can pull off a long a sustained 7-8yr dominance like back in the Ferarri good old days…so yeah, 6 max.

87

From what i’ve read recently there will be no ‘big’ changes in ’21. It seems that the manu’s have got a big one over Liberty/FOM especially in the PU areas. According to Cosworth that is.

88

I’ll go for six

89

6 with a Merc engine.

90

Didn’t realise James was moonlighting as a clairvoyant!

James will be looking in his crystal ball and telling all and sundry that Red Bull-Honda will be instantly competitive next year!!!

91

(Great that the hysteria about ‘Team Orders Gate’ is now long gone and forgotten.)

Maybe there is a case for abolishing dummy pitstops. They are too cheap and easy to play. Both teams have exploited them lately. We are told they are already illegal BUT that’s only in some instances!!

92

Let’s abolish hysteria

93

There are too few variables and tactics that teams can deploy to affect race results. I’d rather see more of such attempted trickery than less. Had Vettel hung on to second, the tenth or two that Hamilton might have lost in driving around the pitcrew might have been one of the key points of what was otherwise a fairly tepid affair.

94

I’m OK with the ‘mechanics out, are we stopping?’ fakery,

but putting mechanics in the way of a racing car when your car doesn’t stop should be banned with penalties and fines as a consequences, people get hurt in the pit lane

95

Not to take anything away from Max, but during the initial stages of the race, I kept wondering if people weren’t really contesting him. Red Bull is clearly faster than all but Mercedes and Ferrari. For the mid-field and back-markers, they stand to gain nothing from fighting the inevitable and potentially destroying there own race by over-defending.

James, do you know if there’s any truth to this idea?

(Again, not trying to take anything away from Max, just curious.)

96

You are probably right to some extent but if they were waving him through why did Ricciardo not progress as much as Max did?

97

The midfield don’t race the top 6 as it’s pointless. The big three’s race pace FAR exceeds their quali pace vs the midfield. The RB14 was specifically designed for the softs during the race, hence the enormous blister when they ran the US.

98

You’re right. (and I’m a Max fan).

Starting from the back isn’t what it used to be. At least not for the current top teams. But he was pretty efficient. And he didn’t break anything.

99

I must say max is getting it together right now. Let’s hope he get’s agood car and that he delivers then also.

100

Yes, and given the difference in the performance of the cars, for RB, Merc and Ferrari, starting at the back just means that you’ll likely finish at the back of the top six and quite far behind the cars in front. It’s great that Verstappen was able to carve through the pack quickly, but – barring any freakish incident involving the top 4 – we knew he was going to get to 5th and the other RB would likely get to 6th. It was just a question of how soon/late into the race they would settle into that position. Credit to Max for making the fulfilment of that prediction all the more interesting by getting out in front and holding on to it for so long.

101

The Sky commentators said as much when they were doing the replay of his passes. They didn’t put up a fight as you said because it would be a waste of time.

102
Clarks4WheelDrift

I kept wondering, Red Bull v Midfield car advantage aside, why on earth these Yellow soft tyres were so good compared to the purples and pinks!

Wonder what Dan would have done without front wing damage from the start?

Then Max put on the Purples for a quick blast at the end and realised that the Yellows were better!!

Bit of a Pirelli fail this race, plus with such high deg I was really hoping for a go for it – two stopper to be able to compete with a ‘managed’ boring one stopper.

Story of 2018, looking for excitement to create a chance to reduce the gaps between cars… could it be a two stopper – NOPE, could these dark clouds mean rain – NOPE.

103

Pirelli can’t control ambient temperatures. Sochi was much too cold for the US/HS.

104

Lewis on the “overcut or undercut or whatever I did,” was the best comment.

Aside from James’ of course.

Let’s race cars not tires !

105

Indeed, when things are going for you in life, the stars really align in their order >>> which reminds me of 2016 when Rosberg didn’t have a mechanical DNF hence the reason why Lewis said God didn’t want him to win in 2016 because Rosberg would still be on the grid not giving an inch.

Regards the drama around the pitstops, certainly, Vettel let Lewis off the hook when he overtook him but to be fair, Vettel didn’t make it easy as shown by his robust defense first time out.

Interestingly, Wolff was in discussions on how to help Lewis jump both Bottas and Vettel which means the team was really determined to give the win to Lewis.

Having said that, what really ruined Bottas race was Max putting in a long first stint for with Max upfront, Bottas found himself in a uncomfortable sandwich which ultimately lead to the team order.

Further more, it appears Max’s grid penalty could have contributed in denying Bottas a win because judging by his start, Max would have been at least P2 heading to turn 2 which means Mercedes wouldn’t have been able to deploy team orders.

106

if they had been “really determined to give the win to Lewis.” , why didn’t they just pit him first ? Tell VB to do a slow in lap and pit next time round so VET doesn’t get past, and if VET didn’t follow him in, do a rapid out lap.

They may have been thinking about Lewis going long, getting the last out of the softer tyre while VB held up SV but they pitted Lewis too soon for that to happen, but left him out long enough to get undercut.

Max’s penalty. Max wasn’t faster than Lewis in FP2 or FP3. The so the idea that Lewis’ mistake would have put Max into second on the grid, is somewhat fanciful. Lewis was faster than Valterri in every session except Q3, so the idea that Max would pass him, but not Valterri on track is equally fanciful. It’s quite possible that the Red Bulls would have need the hypersofts to be sure of making Q3 when the Ferraris and Mercs didn’t so Max would have made an early pit stop into traffic, and still had to fight for 5th.

But let’s run with your idea, and say LH is 3rd when the pit stops come round, VB is leading, what do Merc do ? Surely pit HAM first and tell BOT to do a slow in-lap ? I’m sure that a bad start for Lewis and Vettel grabbing second was something they would have considered and that would be the answer.

If Max had been third, in front of Seb, , that might have helped Bottas.

107

Couple of things. It rained the night before the race. Meaning the dirty line, didn’t dry properly, hence lewis having a marginally worse start and max getting a flyer. And while the RB14 flew on the softs, it was terrible on the US, blistering the front left. Max had no pace on it, and neither did Daniel. Although, Daniel is probably out to sea… poor guy.

Regarding the pitstop. Mercedes made it far more difficult than it needed to be. It’s true they wanted to overcut both bottas and vettel but it didn’t work. They should’ve just told bottas, he’d have to relinquish the lead ASAP in the morning debrief. Frankly, it’s lewis fault for not getting pole. He more than had the pace.

108

I always liked that God comment from Lewis. His side of the garage tried to get cute and fitted five new power units in Belgium, then one of those new engines exploded. It’s the kind of thing that would make you believe in a higher power.

109

“I always liked that God comment from Lewis.”
Yeah …. actually its ridiculous. Just another showboating comment for Hamilton

110

Nice insights as usual James. I missed the part with Bottas inspecting the tires. Wonder what his conclusions were. In regards to the Tuesday report, I don’t think anyone reading would argue that it would be good to cover the other drivers in the report even if it makes the report a little longer. The team orders on Force India and how that played out;Alonso’s race and what happened?;Daniel who came 6th which was a good result but no one seems to talk about it because he was 20sec behind and had to drive with a damaged wing; By and large it would be good if you went down the order as I am sure there are things I/we have missed that would be interesting to hear about. Cheers.

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