Jul 1, 2013, 7:15 AM EDT
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.
Aug 21, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
The MST writing team makes its predictions ahead of this weekend’s race at Spa.
Aug 21, 2014, 11:45 AM EDT
Hard as it may seem to believe, Brad Keselowski had never won a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in his career. That was before Thursday’s UNOH 200 at Bristol, where Keselowski dominated en route to the checkered flag.
Aug 21, 2014, 11:35 AM EDT
Finnish driver yet to be confirmed at Williams for 2015, but sees no reason to look elsewhere for a seat.
Aug 21, 2014, 11:20 AM EDT
All your TV times for F1, IndyCar, Red Bull Global Rallycross and more for this weekend’s motorsports action across NBC, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra.
Aug 21, 2014, 10:51 AM EDT
Chilton benched whilst his contractual issues are resolved, allowing Rossi to become the first American since Scott Speed in 2007 to race in a grand prix.
Aug 21, 2014, 10:17 AM EDT
The rescheduled UNOH 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway is underway Thursday morning.
Aug 21, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT
Three-time Le Mans winner to make his F1 debut with Caterham this weekend at the Belgian Grand Prix.
Aug 21, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT
Sauber driver is open to the idea of a 17-year-old racing in F1, and hopes to be on the grid with him next season.
Aug 21, 2014, 8:30 AM EDT
Compared to F1 hopefuls and/or retreads, seeing a relative outsider in Andre Lotterer make his debut this weekend is a welcome change of pace.
Aug 21, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
After a three-week summer break, what better way to welcome Formula 1 back than with the Belgian Grand Prix?
Aug 20, 2014, 10:11 PM EDT
Wednesday’s UNOH 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway has been postponed due to heavy rain and lightning. The race has been rescheduled to 10 am ET on Thursday morning, weather permitting.
Aug 20, 2014, 8:52 PM EDT
Heavy rain showers coupled with occasional lightning are delaying Wednesday’s UNOH 200 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Aug 20, 2014, 7:30 PM EDT
On Wednesday’s edition of NASCAR America, we looked at the struggles Jimmie Johnson and his team have had over much of the last six weeks.
Aug 20, 2014, 7:24 PM EDT
On Wednesday’s edition of NASCAR America, in the continuing absence of Tony Stewart this weekend at Bristol, it was announced that Jeff Burton will drive in his place for the second week in a row.
Aug 20, 2014, 6:42 PM EDT
Kyle Busch (who else) earned the No. 1 qualifying position Wednesday afternoon for this evening’s UNOH 200 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
WATCH LIVE: NASCAR AMERICA at 6:30 p.m. ET — Stewart won’t race at Bristol, talk with Jeff Burton, JJ and Harvick
Aug 20, 2014, 6:07 PM EDT
We have a huge show for today’s edition of NASCAR America, including the latest on Tony Stewart not racing at Bristol, Jeff Burton back in the No. 14 to replace Stewart, Kevin Harvick’s GoKart race, Jimmie Johnson’s recent struggles. And those are just for starters. Make sure you tune in.
Aug 20, 2014, 5:27 PM EDT
Tony Stewart will miss this weekend’s Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway, the third consecutive race Stewart has skipped in the aftermath of the tragic racing incident with sprint car driver Kevin Ward Jr. nearly two weeks ago.
Aug 20, 2014, 4:17 PM EDT
Amidst news that a grassroots campaign is building support for Tony Stewart, including plans to stand up and cheer during Lap 14 (Stewart’s race car number) of Saturday night’s race at Bristol, one question still remains: When will Stewart race again
Aug 20, 2014, 2:53 PM EDT
The famed STP logo will once again grace the legendary No. 43 of Richard Petty Motorsports in Saturday night’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Aug 20, 2014, 2:46 PM EDT
Kyle Busch will attempt to win all three NASCAR races at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend.
- After 61 prior starts, Brad Keselowski finally earns first career Trucks win at Bristol 0
- F1, IndyCar, Red Bull GRC highlight jam-packed motorsports weekend on networks of NBC 0
- Alexander Rossi to make F1 debut in Belgium, replaces Chilton 1
- It’s official: Tony Stewart to miss Bristol race, Jeff Burton to once again drive No. 14 5
- When — or will — Tony Stewart ever race again? 8
- Andre Lotterer confirmed for Caterham debut at Spa 6
- NASCAR: Joe Gibbs hopeful for eventual return of Tony Stewart 12