|Formula Legend Strategy Report – Singapore Grand Prix 2015|
|Round 13 – 61 Laps – 5.065km per lap – 308.828km race distance – medium tyre wear|
|Singapore GP F1 Strategy Report Podcast click here – featuring Peter Anderson from The Redline.|
The F1 paddock reconvened in Singapore last weekend for one of the most spectacular rounds of the season. Racing at night under bright floodlights and dark skies, it is always visually stunning, and we were treated to a good race at the Marina Bay Street Circuit.
A change in the pecking order emerged in Singapore, but don’t expect it to continue. Normal service will likely resume at the next race in Japan. We saw a few different strategies, so there is plenty to discuss.
Three Stop Predictions
Prior to the race and following qualifying on Saturday, Pirelli predicted that a three-stop strategy would be the fastest option for the Singapore Grand Prix, due to higher tyre wear and degradation rates in the warm temperatures, the sheer amount of laps and the more unusual track surface.
However, the tyre supplier also pointed out that there has been at least one Safety Car in every single F1 round to take place in Singapore, so that could alter the strategy plans and cause teams to think on their feet during the race, to react in the right way and attempt to make up ground.
That is exactly what we saw. Drivers like Romain Grosjean, Fernando Alonso and Carlos Sainz Jr all stopped very early on – from lap nine onwards – and this indicated going a three-stop strategy if it was uninterrupted. Of course, with Grosjean just behind Alonso prior to the first stops, it was also because teams were reacting to what was going on around them.
However, a Safety Car for Felipe Massa and Nico Hulkenberg’s crash just after most had pitted elongated the second stints and also prompted those who had yet to stop to do so without losing too much time. Another visit for the Safety Car later in the race for a man on track (I know, crazy!) also helped with tyre life and this meant most drivers eventually stopped just twice.
Oddly, the entire field all started on the same tyre – the super-soft – and most completed two stints on the option compound and one on the prime, maximising the higher grip levels thanks to the Safety Cars helping to slow down the pace of the race, particularly at the first one, as it was out for quite some time.
The entire top eight pitted twice, with Sainz Jr being the first three-stopper. It did work for some drivers and they were able to use the more aggressive strategy to make up ground, but others got caught up in traffic or had to stop for repairs.
What could Kvyat have done?
With Sebastian Vettel taking victory and Daniel Ricciardo just behind in second, it was an unusual podium in terms of the 2015 season. The Red Bull matched the Ferrari for a large part of the race but it was a slightly disappointing sixth for the second RB11 of Daniil Kvyat.
The Russian started in fourth but lost out to the two Mercedes drivers at the first round of stops, after he pitted before the Safety Car. The second trip to the pits saw him fall behind Valtteri Bottas and despite being faster, he didn’t have the speed on the straights to overtake.
Could a three-stop race have been better? Firstly, Red Bull would have had to commit early on, but if he had more clean air during these stints and was able to put in some quick lap times, he could have made more progress. However, as Red Bull didn’t go for it, there may not have been significant gaps on track to make the strategy work.
We saw quite a few issues in the pits, from wheels being slow to go on to wheel nuts getting stuck – in Jenson Button’s case. The pit stop is high pressure and very short, so mistakes can happen and equipment can go wrong. The heat could have been a factor in both of these and these issues causes plenty of headaches for F1 team strategists as they worked out how to recover the ground lost.
Max Verstappen put in a thrilling and mature recovery drive to finish eighth, despite stalling on the grid and dropping to the back of the field. He was quick in clean air early on and the first Safety Car was a big help to enable him to unlap himself and, kind of, catch up to the rest.
The second Safety Car also played into his hands. The pace of the car was strong anyway and we know Verstappen is a brave driver, already renowned for his brilliant overtakes, so it was no surprise to see him move up the order.
The two Safety Cars worked in his favour and the pace of the car and the tyres worked particularly well in race conditions. He pitted on lap 12 and moved onto the softs and was then on the super-soft for his final stint after stopping on lap 36, unlike most of those around him. This also contributed to his rise through the field.
Jack Leslie @JackLeslieF1
Supersoft: Verstappen (25 laps)
Maldonado, Button, Sainz, Ericson (3 – including drivethroughs)
|Formula Legend Strategy Report – Belgian Grand Prix 2015|
|Round 11 – 44 Laps – 7.004km per lap – 308.052km race distance – average tyre wear|
|Belgian GP F1 Strategy Report Podcast click here featuring Jack Leslie.|
F1 was back in action last weekend for the Belgian Grand Prix, and what a circuit for the sport to return to. Spa-Francorchamps hosted yet another exciting race, with strategy once again proving to be crucial.
Most of the field completed two-stop races, with tyre wear and degradation helped by the cooler conditions, while a few went for the more aggressive three-stop strategy and one driver even attempted to pit just once. Here are the main strategy stories from the Belgian Grand Prix:
Pirelli had suggested before the start that a two-stop race was the best option to go for, although pitting three times would be better if a driver was stuck in traffic or behind a slower car. The rain stayed away, giving us the first fully dry Belgian Grand Prix weekend since 2007, and that provided us with a more straight-forward strategic race.
The race winner Lewis Hamilton put in a perfect two-stop race, pitting on laps 13 and 30. Strangely, he asked to stay out for one further lap at his second stop, feeling that the tyres were in good condition. However, Mercedes said pitting immediately would be the quickest option and if not, Rosberg would take the stop and gain the advantage. He duly pitted when he was told.
Rosberg stopped on laps 12 and 31. His first trip to the pits was a few laps after those he was battling with on track, and despite being on old tyres, he managed to gain enough time to emerge in front of both Sergio Perez and Daniel Ricciardo.
This proved to be crucial in his bid to take the fight to Hamilton, but he eventually ran out of time. Romain Grosjean was third and also opted for two stops, and this helped him to move up the order. Some struggled more with higher tyre wear and others had to stop due to problems or mix-ups, which meant several did stop three times.
Ferrari Takes a Risk
One person who was on a completely different strategy was Sebastian Vettel. He pitted to change from softs to mediums on lap 14, but with the tyres feeling good when the Virtual Safety Car (VSC) was deployed, he stayed out on track – as did the Mercedes duo and Daniil Kvyat.
However, whilst Hamilton, Rosberg and Kvyat eventually pitted, Vettel did not. It quickly became clear he was going for a one-stop race, and it looked like it was paying off. Running in third and holding off Grosjean, the risk failed to pay off when his right-rear tyre failed on the Kemmel Straight on the penultimate lap.
Vettel was fuming, venting his anger in the post-race interviews, branding Pirelli’s tyres “unacceptable”. The Italian supplier then said that its request two years ago for maximum number of laps completed on race tyres was not listened to.
Rosberg was also critical of the tyres after his puncture on Friday, which Pirelli found was due to an external source, cutting it and causing it to fail. The blowouts were certainly scary and happened at high-speed parts of the track, but fortunately both drivers did not hit the wall. However, both incidents will need to be investigated.
Ricciardo in With a Chance?
Ricciardo’s incredible start saw him jump from fifth to third in Belgium, but he couldn’t hold onto the place for long. An early scheduled trip to the pits prompted the first round of stops, but he lost out to Rosberg. While he was enjoying a close battle with Perez and Grosjean, his car shutdown suddenly at the final chicane.
Red Bull believes it could have been an electrical issue, but investigations will take place to track down the cause of the issue. It was disappointing for Ricciardo as he was in the fight for a top five result, which instead went to his team-mate Kvyat.
It seems likely that Ricciardo would have mirrored Perez’s strategy of a two-stop, pitting on lap 21 – reacting to the Force India’s stop, as he pitted just as the Australian retired. Both showed very even pace, the VJM08 better on the straights and the RB11 being more competitive in the twisty second sector.
Mix It Up
Williams made a terrible pit blunder at Valtteri Bottas’ first stop. He was sent back onto the circuit with three soft tyres and one medium tyre. Because it is against the F1 regulations, the Finn was given a drive-through penalty and this massively compromised his race.
Bottas put in decent pace on different tyre compounds, but the Williams just didn’t have the speed to challenge those ahead in race trim. Still, a better result would have been possible had it not been for the mix-up, which was very embarrassing for Williams. It looked like a rushed stop and they were not at all prepared.
Without the penalty, Bottas could well have been challenging Perez and his team-mate Felipe Massa for fifth and sixth. He eventually finished in ninth place, five seconds behind Verstappen.
Medium: Vettel (28 laps)
Bottas, Verstappen, Alonso, Button (3 – including drivethroughs)
|Formula Legend Strategy Report – Malaysian Grand Prix 2015|
|Round 2 – 56 Laps – 5.543km per lap – 310.408 race distance – High tyre wear|
Seb vs The Mercedes
Strategy played an important role in deciding the winner of last weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix. Eventual victor Sebastian Vettel took the fight to the two Mercedes drivers. He won fair and square, but was helped by completing one less stop and from staying out during the early Safety Car.
With Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg pitting and emerging behind slower cars, Vettel was able to quickly eke out a sizeable advantage. We already knew following Friday’s practice sessions that the SF15-Ts would be closer to Mercedes, but the extremely hot temperatures played to Ferrari’s advantage.
Vettel was able to complete two impressive stints on the medium compound tyre, with both being several laps longer than either of the Mercedes drivers could manage. Because of this, he was able to continue on a two-stop strategy, while Hamilton and Rosberg were both switched to a three due to suffering higher degradation.
It proved to be a relatively easy run to the flag for Vettel, finishing 8.5 seconds clear of Hamilton. Ferrari’s decision to not pit during the Safety Car was undoubtedly the right one and the conditions helped the team gain performance. The four-time world champion was able to push the tyres more without losing much speed, and was able to keep up a good pace even towards the end of stints.
Mercedes acknowledged after the race that the early first stop under the Safety Car cost them time and positions. Both were forced to make their way past slower cars, and Rosberg lost six seconds during the stop thanks to the team double-stacking the two cars. Mercedes thought the prime tyre would be better suited to the race, meaning Hamilton and Rosberg used up an extra set during qualifying and the former was fitted the hard compound for his final stint. It proved to not be the case.
There’s Something About Kimi
Kimi Raikkonen finished a distant fourth, but recovered well following an early puncture. Like Vettel, he showed impressive pace throughout the 56-lap event, but the contact with Felipe Nasr on lap two put pay to his hopes of a podium. He was battling with the Sauber after qualifying only 11th, having failed to set a good banker lap before the rain hit in Q2. The Safety Car really helped Raikkonen, bunching up the field and enabling him to close the gap to the leading three.
However, he wasn’t on the back of the pack when the race resumed, and had to complete plenty of overtakes to make his way up the order. He pitted two further times and, if you ignore his early stop for repairs, mirrored Vettel’s strategy. This enabled him to quickly make progress and he spent most of his second and final stints in fourth, albeit some distance away from the podium finishers. However, it makes you wonder what could have been possible if he hadn’t been hit on the second lap.
It was a case of hero to zero for Nasr, following his spectacular debut in Australia. The Brazilian finished down in 12th place after a dismal Malaysian Grand Prix. Sauber knew ahead of qualifying that it would be a more difficult weekend, and Nasr struggled more than most during practice to find a set-up. This wasn’t helped by missing FP1 in order for the Swiss outfit’s reserve driver Raffaele Marciello to have some track time.
The contact with Raikkonen damaged his front wing, and he was forced to pit at the end of the following tour for repairs. That put him at the back of the field and despite the Safety Car bunching up the field; he didn’t have the speed to make much progress. Two unusually short stints on the hard tyre mid-way through the race meant he stopped four times in total.
Welcome to the 2015 Caterham Cup
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Congrats to Viko Rosebum on the #USGP pole – followed by Lewie Hamcheese, Valentino Botbot, Philip Masta, Dan Ricard, Nando Alondo, Jens Butt, Bevan Magnet, Kimster Raker & Hadrian Suty!
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