Skip to content

Everyone’s Silverstone race strategy suffered on Sunday

Jul 1, 2013, 7:15 AM EDT

F1 Grand Prix of Great Britain - Race Getty Images

The thing about Formula One race strategies is that they need to be adaptable to cope with the unforeseen circumstances that the sport invariably throws up. No matter the plan, teams must react quickly to whatever’s thrown at them.

When the strategists at each team sit down after qualifying on a Saturday evening to ponder their options, they look at data; weather forecasts; the cars around them on the grid; their own confidence in their race pace; start performance; the amount of tires used and those they have left, as well as many other factors.

Between strategists, engineers, management and the drivers themselves, they come up with at least two or three of the most probable scenarios or plans. Those plans will cover things like what happens if they have a good start or a bad start; where they are after lap one and what they do if it all goes wrong, have contact and an enforced first lap pitstop. They’ll have a ‘plan A’ which is the optimum strategy and considered the fastest way to the checkered flag and a ‘plan B’ to cover the possibility of the tires not lasting their intended stint length.

Sunday, everyone’s optimum race strategy was compromised in one way or another, by a number of issues.

After the practice sessions, analysis showed the fastest way for the top 10 to complete the race was a two stop strategy, starting on the medium tire, stopping around lap 17 for another set of mediums, before finally stopping around lap 35 for the hard. Whilst that may well have been what most intended, excessive graining on the options, unforeseen tire failures and safety cars changed things.

When Lewis Hamilton had the first failure whilst leading on lap 7, nobody thought it would be the start of a chain reaction.

Felipe Massa’s Ferrari was next to suffer the same left rear failure at the same point of the circuit and Jean Eric Vergne followed shortly afterwards with a similar and spectacular blow out of his own. That one, not only brought out the first safety car that stayed out for seven laps, but clearly raised eyebrows amongst the teams. It was clear there was an inherent problem affecting left rear tires and that meant that teams had to decide what to do.

Some pitted under the safety car, some drivers were told by their teams to try and avoid kerbs, some increased tire pressures in their pitstop sets to try and stiffen up the sidewalls, but the teams and Pirelli furiously tried to work out what was happening.

Avoiding kerbs clearly compromises race pace, as does running with higher than preferred pressures, and therefore can have an impact on strategy, but the possibility of more failures has even more dire effects. Those that pitted mostly switched to hard, prime tires after many struggled more than predicted on options, but were still on for the two stop plan to work, so they tentatively continued with the championship leader out front.

Vettel controlled the race pace well in the lead, keeping Rosberg behind until ten laps from the end when his Red Bull Racing RB9 ground to a halt with a failure of fifth gear. With the car in an unsafe position and Race Control more than happy to slow proceedings down to prevent anymore dangerous failures, the safety car was again deployed.

This was the point where teams had to make crucial, race defining and split second decisions.

For Rosberg, now out in front, it was easy, he had a worrying tire vibration and enough of a gap behind to make the unplanned third stop without losing track position.

For those behind it was make or break time and whilst Alonso and Webber also dived in and switched to a late three stopper under the safety car, Raikkonen’s Lotus team decided to leave him out.

That decision was a bad one and ultimately cost Kimi a podium spot as he struggled on old tires in the closing laps.

Whilst stopping meant that Webber and Alonso lost places initially, the fresh mediums for the short last stint allowed them to push hard to the flag and pass with relative ease to take second and third places respectively. Their teams got it right under pressure, Kimi’s unfortunately didn’t today.

All the planning, data and analysis in the world couldn’t have prepared for today’s events, so in those instances success or failure comes down to the decisions of the drivers and their teams. Despite the obscene amount of Dollars spent on strategic simulation and predictive tools up and down pitlane, when it comes to making a last minute, split second decision in the heat of battle, it often boils down to good old fashioned human reactions under pressure. Some are better than others.

You can follow Marc Priestley on Twitter @f1elvis.

Latest Posts
  1. Diesel pickup gives new meaning to ‘powering down the dragstrip’ (video)

    Apr 19, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT

    nhrda logo

    If it has wheels and tires, it typically can be raced down a dragstrip. But take a pickup truck, throw in a high-power diesel engine in it, and you have a rolling battering ram that will take down anything in its path – even guard rails that are supposed to prevent that very thing from happening.

  2. FIA WEC: Ex-F1 prospects Calado, Bird do well in qualifying

    Apr 19, 2014, 3:20 PM EDT

    FIA World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Silverstone Getty Images

    The former GP2 competitors qualify up the grid in their respective classes for tomorrow’s WEC opener at Silverstone.

  3. Watch radio controlled cars pay awesome homage to Fast and Furious series, late actor Paul Walker

    Apr 19, 2014, 3:03 PM EDT

    fast and furious RC2

    While we don’t condone street racing whatsoever, the video below is one of the best we’ve seen in a long time. Even better, it’s more of parking lot racing, with radio controlled cars burning up the asphalt and concrete — so no actual humans, animals or real-life vehicles were put in jeopardy. An added bonus is this is an outstanding homage to the Fast & Furious series, with particular emphasis on actor Paul Walker, who was killed last December in a tragic street racing crash.

  4. An eggs-cellent day at the Brickyard (PHOTOS)

    Apr 19, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT

    IMS Pagoda Getty Images

    If the Indianapolis Motor Speedway isn’t *the* coolest place to hold an Easter egg hunt, we figure it’s at least one of them.

  5. Swan Racing struggles reportedly worsen, future uncertain

    Apr 19, 2014, 12:13 PM EDT

    Swan Racing minority owner Anthony Marlowe is trying to find a way to keep Cole Whitt racing. Where that leaves teammate Parker Kligerman is uncertain, at best. Getty Images

    The future of Swan Racing in Sprint Cup racing is not looking good.

  6. FIA WEC: Toyota, Ferrari score top class poles at Silverstone

    Apr 19, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT

    Toyota Getty Images

    Toyota takes the pole for Sunday’s FIA WEC opener in Silverstone.

  7. IMSA: New sponsors for Muehlner Motorsports America

    Apr 19, 2014, 10:09 AM EDT

    IMSA Daytona 24 Hours Auto Racing AP

    Couple new sponsors for GTD team within TUDOR Championship.

  8. Magnussen downbeat after poor qualifying display

    Apr 19, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT

    Kevin Magnussen AP

    Danish driver can only manage P15, with teammate Jenson Button in 12th.

  9. Ricciardo gave his all, and is rewarded with front row start

    Apr 19, 2014, 7:45 AM EDT

    Daniel Ricciardo AP

    All smiles for Daniel after qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix.

  10. Williams combats wet weather woes in Shanghai

    Apr 19, 2014, 7:00 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of China - Qualifying Getty Images

    Massa and Bottas both make the top 10 despite wet conditions playing against them.

  11. Hamilton breaks 46-year-old British record for most poles

    Apr 19, 2014, 6:00 AM EDT

    Daniel Ricciardo, Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel AP

    Jim Clark’s record that has stood since 1968 has now been broken by Hamilton in China.

  12. Alonso upbeat about his chances in China (VIDEO)

    Apr 19, 2014, 5:15 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of China - Qualifying Getty Images

    He might be down in 5th, but the Spaniard believes that a podium finish is well within Ferrari’s reach in China.

  13. What went wrong for Rosberg in qualifying? (VIDEO)

    Apr 19, 2014, 4:30 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of China - Qualifying Getty Images

    P4 disappointing for the German driver, but where did it all go wrong for him?

  14. Lotus reaches top 10 for the first time in 2014 thanks to Grosjean

    Apr 19, 2014, 4:00 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of China - Practice Getty Images

    Grosjean qualifies 10th to finally give the team something to smile about after a tough winter.

  15. Hamilton keeps his cool to claim pole for Chinese GP

    Apr 19, 2014, 3:04 AM EDT

    Mercedes Formula One driver Hamilton of Britain gestures while celebrating after taking pole position at qualifying session of Chinese F1 Grand Prix at Shanghai International circuit Reuters

    British driver secures wet weather pole in Shanghai ahead of Ricciardo and Vettel.

  16. WATCH LIVE: Rivals set to rain on Mercedes’ parade?

    Apr 19, 2014, 1:45 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of China - Qualifying Getty Images

    Could Fernando Alonso or Sebastian Vettel take advantage of the wet track to snatch pole position?

  17. FIA releases full findings in Red Bull fuel saga

    Apr 19, 2014, 12:45 AM EDT

    Ricciardo AP

    Report reveals that Red Bull failed to supply accurate data, and what was supplied actually undermined the team’s argument.

  18. Ricciardo fastest in rain-affected final practice in China

    Apr 19, 2014, 12:02 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of China - Practice Getty Images

    Red Bull driver fastest in a quiet final session ahead of qualifying later today.

  19. NASCAR team owner Jack Roush talks possible Cup engine changes

    Apr 18, 2014, 8:32 PM EDT

    Zippo 200 - Qualifying Getty Images

    Significant modifications to the Cup cars’ powerplants are likely to come within the next two seasons.

  20. James Hinchcliffe says he’s good with Ryan Hunter-Reay after Long Beach crash

    Apr 18, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT

    James Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hunter-Reay AP

    The two Andretti Autosport drivers appear to have put Sunday’s wreck behind them.

Today on NASCAR AMERICA

Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. J. McMurray (10008)
  2. K. Harvick (3837)
  3. M. McDowell (1979)
  4. A. Seuss (1678)
  5. C. Edwards (1327)