May 13, 2013, 7:00 AM EST
All the talk after the Spanish GP was, once again, dominated by tires. The grumbles in certain areas of the paddock are becoming louder and louder as race strategies were again decided by a team’s ability to make a set of Pirellis last long enough to complete a sensible stint.
Certain teams are better at this than others and, at the end of the day, it could be said that it’s a result of them doing a better job than the ones who struggle. A Formula One team’s job, after all, is to design a car to meet the challenges of the sport in its current form. It has to be said that the loudest complainers are noticeably the ones not finding things easy right now.
With that in mind I’ll take a quick look at two differing ends of that spectrum from Sunday’s race.
Race strategies are complicated things to plan; many factors that go in to making the decision and even once the decision’s made, it has to be flexible to cope with the unpredictable parameters.
Mercedes have a car, evident from the last three races, capable of being faster than anyone else over a single lap in qualifying and indeed that’s exactly what they were on Saturday.
Planning a race strategy from pole position’s a different prospect to planning one from further down the field and should clearly be a huge advantage at a circuit where overtaking is difficult. Assuming a good start, the driver in front should be able to dictate the race to a certain extent and pole sitter Nico Rosberg, starting along with all of the other front runners on the medium compound tire, did indeed get away in front.
His biggest problem, and one that came as no surprise to all involved, is the fact that the Mercedes F1W04 destroys tires considerably quicker than everyone else. On Saturday evening when the drivers and their engineers at the team, and indeed all of the teams, sat down to figure out their best strategic options, they knew this and had to factor it into their race plans.
The white walled medium compound tire, faster of the two but less durable, was the one to qualify on, but on a Mercedes it was never going to last very long in race conditions. At the start every car’s carrying close to 150kgs of fuel and that significant extra weight, combined with a track not yet at it’s most grippy and the need to fight other cars at close quarters, has a dramatic impact on tire life and therefore race strategy.
Their plan was, in all honesty, a damage limitation one, staying on the medium tire for as long as they could manage while holding off the field at the front and then using the harder compound for the remainder of the GP. Initial calculations had a three-stop strategy completing the race distance about 6 or 7 seconds faster than a four-stop one and so was optimal, but it would all depend on drivers looking after the rubber to make that work. Rosberg opted for the 3 stopper of medium/hard/hard/hard, but with the only way to make the hard compound last was for him to drive at a pace so slow he became a sitting duck. He predictably fell back through the field. Perhaps a four-stop race might have helped him a little, but in truth he was never going to catch the car in front and did just about survive the challenge of Paul Di Resta behind, so the outcome would probably have remained unchanged.
The eventual race winner, Fernando Alonso, who began the race fifth, would have had to look at things slightly differently on Saturday evening to Nico Rosberg. Also having to begin the race on medium compound tires, his optimal strategy relied on a great start, something Ferrari are generally able to rely on at the moment and duly delivered.
I thought their initial plan was to three stop, probably medium/hard/hard/hard or medium/hard/hard/medium, as the the car in the last stint of the race would cope a little easier on a set of medium tires and theoretically be faster.
In the end the Ferrari, with a handful of updates for this event, was able to push at a good pace and still keep the tires in good condition for most of the GP, in direct contrast to the Mercedes. This, combined with his stunning first lap, enabled to team to switch to a more comfortable four-stop race, allowing Alonso to push hard in each stint on a medium/hard/hard/medium/hard plan and stay ahead of the struggling pack. Again the two early spells on hards allowed the fuel load to burn off and the track to rubber in, before using mediums to set some blistering laptimes and secure his position out in front. By the time the final stop came around, the only set the team had left were already used from earlier in the weekend and so, with his position fairly stable, a set of hards saw him comfortably to the end. The stop actually came two laps earlier than planned because of a suspected, and now confirmed, slow puncture, but the hard work early on ensured it didn’t cost him track position. It was a superb drive by Alonso and ensured the team had options to play with when it came to deciding how to see out the race. They weren’t forced into anything or have to react to anyone else and so could use the four stop strategy to good advantage, pushing all the way.
To win from fifth position is unprecedented at this circuit and, while perhaps a sign of the Pirelli era, it’s actually more a sign of how badly the problems are at Mercedes. Their two cars, in P1 and P2 on the grid, finished in sixth and 12th, freeing up easy places for those further back and Alonso and Ferrari made great use of their start, racecraft and ultimately their race strategy, to take a dominant, flat out victory.
Marc Priestley can be found on Twitter @f1elvis.
Dec 13, 2013, 4:30 PM EST
20-year-old Englishman and former GP3 competitor Jack Harvey has now been signed to Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ Indy Lights team for the 2014 season. Harvey, backed by the European-based Racing Steps Foundation, was the highest-finishing rookie this past season in GP3. He finished fifth in the series championship after earning wins at Silverstone and Monza along…
Dec 13, 2013, 3:11 PM EST
So far, the FIA’s decision to award double points for drivers and constructors at the Formula One season finale starting next season has been thoroughly roasted by fans and dubbed “absurd” by the World Champion. But there had to be somebody with a sunny outlook on the controversial new rule, and that somebody is Force…
Dec 13, 2013, 3:00 PM EST
Here’s a bit more from Force India’s newest driver, Sergio Perez. The Mexican was confirmed on Thursday as teammate to Nico Hulkenberg at the Vijay Mallya-led squad. Our NBC Sports Group Formula One producer, Jason Swales, was on site at the announcement. Follow @TonyDiZinno
Dec 13, 2013, 2:30 PM EST
UPDATED (2:30 p.m. ET): The former North Carolina home of suspended NASCAR driver Jeremy Mayfield was scheduled to be burned as part of a fire training exercise on Saturday, but the burn has now been cancelled due to a forecast for rain according to the Hickory (N.C.) Daily Record. Catawba (N.C.) Fire Chief Donald Robinson…
Dec 13, 2013, 1:00 PM EST
With four Formula One teams preparing to test Pirelli’s 2014 prototype tires next week in Bahrain, all but one of them have confirmed their respective driver rosters for the three-day session. Red Bull reserve driver Sebastian Buemi will handle all three days at the Bahrain International Circuit for the World Champions, while its junior squad,…
Dec 13, 2013, 12:30 PM EST
“More than 50” suitable names reached out to Chip Ganassi for a chance to fill the vacant seat left by Dario Franchitti’s enforced retirement. When all the dominos fell, and the announcement revealed, the confirmation was that Ryan Briscoe would take over the fourth seat at one of IndyCar’s two most successful teams. Meh. A…
Dec 13, 2013, 11:26 AM EST
A few more pieces have fallen into place for IndyCar 2014, with the biggest remaining domino on the market, the fourth Chip Ganassi Racing seat, now filled today with Ryan Briscoe. Here’s what we know since our last update immediately after Fontana: CONFIRMED CARS (21) Chip Ganassi Racing (4 cars, Chevrolet): Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan,…
Dec 13, 2013, 10:50 AM EST
Ryan Briscoe has been confirmed Friday as Chip Ganassi Racing’s fourth driver for the 2014 IndyCar season, although not in the No. 10 Target Chevrolet as had been forecast over the last week or so. Coupled with new baby Finley, born a few days ago, it’s been quite a week for Ryan and wife Nicole.…
Dec 13, 2013, 10:15 AM EST
The Andretti Sports Marketing group has been selected as official event organizers for the new FIA Formula E Championship’s Miami street race, which will occur on March 14, 2015. Miami will be one of two U.S. races, along with Los Angeles, for the new all-electric open-wheel series. In just the last two years, ASM has…
Dec 13, 2013, 9:51 AM EST
Adrian Sutil has been confirmed as Sauber’s first driver for the 2014 Formula One season. The move marks Sutil’s first switch of teams after six prior seasons (2007-’11, 2013) with the Spyker/Force India operation. “I am determined to do my part in order to have a successful future together with the Sauber F1 Team,” he…
Dec 12, 2013, 8:05 PM EST
We can rule out Alex Tagliani as a potential newcomer to Chip Ganassi Racing for the 2014 IndyCar Series. The French-Canadian driver, who replaced Dario Franchitti in this year’s season finale and tested Ganassi’s No. 10 Chevrolet recently in Florida, has confirmed that he would not be joining the powerhouse outfit. However, Tagliani felt that…
Dec 12, 2013, 7:17 PM EST
Pirelli World Challenge driver Shea Holbrook (pictured) is one of eight female drivers that will receive a grant from the Women’s Sports Foundation. The WSF’s “Women in the Winner’s Circle Project Podium Grant” is designed to support them through business challenges in their careers. “I’m incredibly honored and thrilled to be a part of the…
Dec 12, 2013, 5:00 PM EST
Mazda Road to Indy competitors Spencer Pigot (Orlando, Fla.) and Neil Alberico (Los Gatos, Calif.) have been chosen as the inaugural representatives for Rising Star Racing, a new organization that plans to provide funding and support for select young drivers as they move up the racing ladder. IndyCar Series veteran Josef Newgarden has also signed…
Dec 12, 2013, 4:24 PM EST
Although reports floated out that Sergio Perez is bringing tens of millions in euros to his seat at Force India, team principal Vijay Mallya rubbished the suggestion that commercial interests are what made the decision to hire the Mexican. “That’s against my basic philosophy,” Mallya stated during Thursday’s press conference announcing Perez to the team’s…
Dec 12, 2013, 4:00 PM EST
Two weeks after purchasing the 7/8-mile Iowa Speedway, NASCAR has announced that 28-year-old Jimmy Small will take over as the track’s new president. Small has worked with NASCAR for the past six seasons, and most recently served as senior manager for team marketing services within the sanctioning body’s Industry Services division. He worked as a…
Dec 12, 2013, 3:28 PM EST
The INDYCAR sanctioning body has announced that IndyCar Series engine suppliers Chevrolet and Honda will expand into producing their own aero kits for the Dallara DW12 chassis beginning in the 2015 season. As part of plans announced back in June to increase the sport’s innovations, aero kits are set to be introduced in that season…
Dec 12, 2013, 2:15 PM EST
In an updated edition of its 2014 sporting regulations, the FIA confirmed that drivers will now compete for a pole position trophy throughout the Formula One World Championship. Regarding the new award, the regulations state the following: “A trophy will be awarded to the driver who sets the most pole positions during the championship season…
Dec 12, 2013, 1:30 PM EST
With Nico Hulkenberg and, as of this morning, Sergio Perez set as the 2014 driver lineup for Force India, both Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil are now looking for new rides. But di Resta in particular has been rumored to possibly leave the Grand Prix circuit altogether for another racing discipline. That said, his…
Dec 12, 2013, 12:30 PM EST
NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Rookie-of-the-Year award has been through a rough few years before 2013, when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Danica Patrick contended for the title. The previous three winners from 2010 to 2012 – Kevin Conway, Andy Lally and Stephen Leicht – were all stuck with subpar equipment and were basically the only drivers entered…
Dec 12, 2013, 12:00 PM EST
As we did for IndyCar, here’s a wrap of my MotorSportsTalk colleague Chris Estrada and my post-season wraps on the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. All posts in one place in case you missed any of them. FEATURES Johnson humble, thankful in banquet speech Jay Mohr’s skewering banquet monologue (VIDEO) NASCAR 2014 silly season…
- Cost cap, double points for Abu Dhabi part of new FIA regulation changes (10)
- Austin Dillon officially confirmed in RCR’s No. 3 for Sprint Cup (7)
- NASCAR Nation must give Austin Dillon a chance to make his own legacy (7)
- New F1 rules announced Monday create more questions than answers (6)
- Rush receives Golden Globe nominations (5)