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. Takuma Sato ends 2015 on a good note

    Sep 1, 2015, 6:37 PM EDT

    (Photo courtesy TakumaSato.com) (Photo courtesy TakumaSato.com)

    Sato improved four spots in the driver standings over his 2014 result.

  2. Ryan Briscoe finishes short 2015 season with top-five finish

    Sep 1, 2015, 5:25 PM EDT

    Firestone 600 - Practice Getty Images

    Substituting for James Hinchcliffe, Briscoe ended his abridged 2015 with his first top-five finish of the year.

  3. Derrick Walker reflects on IndyCar tenure and future

    Sep 1, 2015, 4:07 PM EDT

    DerrickWalker2

    Walker spoke with racing journalist Gordon Kirby about his two years in charge of competition and operations.

  4. Social Roundup: IndyCar season-ending banquet

    Sep 1, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT

    indycar logo

    A look at the festivities held in San Francisco on Monday night.

  5. IndyCar’s testing plans for Road America, updates for road course

    Sep 1, 2015, 1:07 PM EDT

    Generac Grand Prix Getty Images

    Track president George Bruggenthies provided details on what to expect at the track next June.

  6. Hulkenberg extends contract with Force India for two more years

    Sep 1, 2015, 9:19 AM EDT

    HulkLaunch15 Getty Images

    Hulkenberg announces two-year extension with Force India F1.

  7. Ten with Townsend: Sonoma and 2015 IndyCar debrief

    Sep 1, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    dixonconfetti Getty Images

    NBCSN’s Townsend Bell checks in for the final IndyCar installment of “Ten with Townsend” for 2015, after Sonoma.

  8. Dixon’s latest title a story of consistency, comeback, typical “Ice Man” cool

    Aug 31, 2015, 6:45 PM EDT

    DixonChamp2 AP

    MotorSportsTalk’s Tony DiZinno reflects on the latest championship achieved by Scott Dixon and the Target Chip Ganassi Racing team.

  9. Damien Power hits Sonoma in person, live tweets, preps for IndyCar video series

    Aug 31, 2015, 5:35 PM EDT

    © INDYCAR © INDYCAR

    Damien Power hits Sonoma to meet up with brother Will. Hilarity ensues.

  10. Gabby Chaves confirmed as 2015 IndyCar rookie-of-the-year

    Aug 31, 2015, 12:27 PM EDT

    GCroty15 Getty Images

    Chaves first driver in nearly a decade to win both Indy 500, IndyCar top rookie honors in same season.

  11. Gonzalez delivers huge result for Coyne with No. 18 car’s best finish of ninth

    Aug 31, 2015, 11:59 AM EDT

    © INDYCAR © INDYCAR

    IndyCar’s biggest underdog driver, team has their day at Sonoma.

  12. RHR, Kimball bank podiums; others throughout field star under-the-radar at Sonoma

    Aug 31, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    SonomaPodium AP

    The rest of the stories of note, to cap off the IndyCar season at Sonoma.

  13. As Justin Wilson is remembered, Oriol Servia hopes he did the car, family proud (VIDEO)

    Aug 30, 2015, 10:39 PM EDT

    ServiaRecap AP

    It wasn’t the result, but the strength, of Oriol Servia in Justin Wilson’s car this weekend that shown through.

  14. Power, Newgarden and Castroneves run out of luck in championship hunt (VIDEO)

    Aug 30, 2015, 10:34 PM EDT

    Will Power, Josef Newgarden Will Power, Josef Newgarden

    A look at how the championship hopes for the three drivers ended in the GoPro GP of Sonoma.

  15. Double points reverse Montoya’s IndyCar championship hopes (VIDEO)

    Aug 30, 2015, 9:17 PM EDT

    Juan Pablo Montoya Juan Pablo Montoya

    Juan Pablo Montoya blamed the double-points awarded in the season finale for missing out on the IndyCar championship.

  16. Rahal’s dream season finally hits trouble in Sonoma finale (VIDEO)

    Aug 30, 2015, 8:47 PM EDT

    RahalLoss AP

    Rahal endures disastrous finale at Sonoma, falls from second to fourth after 18th place finish.

  17. Scott Dixon captures Sonoma race win and 2015 IndyCar championship (VIDEO)

    Aug 30, 2015, 7:18 PM EDT

    DixonTitle1 AP

    Dixon wins race, title in Sonoma in dramatic fashion.