– unless they’ve chosen not to set a lap
time in Q3, in which case they can choose
which tires they’ll start on – but it also
means they’ll start on rubber that already
has three laps of running and a heat cycle
on it. It’s another factor mitigating against
a “sprint” strategy, as almost invariably a
driver in a genuinely quick car will have
to pit early and risk being buried among
slower traffic running longer opening stints
on the harder compound. Traffic can
characteristics, then updated based on
practice data and track temperatures, are
proved wrong. This is why teams are
generally wary of strategies requiring a
driver to race at, say, 90 percent of a car’s
maximum performance and give away time
to ensure the tires last as long as hoped.
“The first 10 laps of a stint, Jenson
Button drove a second off the pace
when he could have driven flat out”
(ABOVE) Cork in the
Nico Rosberg won in
Monaco with a
strategy based on
going slowly and
backing up the field.
(LEF T) In contrast,
Fernando Alonso went
as quickly as possible
in the Spanish GP,
winning through a
Since the three now not-so-new teams,
Caterham (formerly Lotus – a different
Lotus...), Marussia (formerly Virgin) and
HRT (defunct) joined the Formula 1 grid
in 2010, they’ve collectively amassed
almost 200 starts...and zero points.
Historically, finishing a grand prix
gave you a decent shot at some points.
But in 2013, the average number of
retirements in a race is around three.
With attrition providing little assistance,
strategy is the only hope. So what
would it take for a Charles Pic (BELOW)
or Jules Bianchi to somehow grab a
top- 10 finish?
In a straightforward dry race, that’s
pretty much impossible, as the strategic
variations simply aren’t dramatic
enough. Bad weather, combined with a
few full-course cautions, would be the
best – the only? – long-shot scenario.
Gambles are only really worth taking
late in the race. Bolting on wets in
anticipation of a downpour at the start
might put you to the front, but lack of
pace will quickly tell.
Still, the longer the minnows stay in
touch with the top 10, the more value
there is in a gamble. Select the right
tires for a safety car restart with eight
laps to go and it might just pay off.
But with prize money paid out on
constructors’ championship position,
the little guys can’t simply gamble wildly.
Caterham and Marussia have significant
financial incentives to beat each other.
As Caterham chief engineer Gianluca
Pisanello put its: “It’s what differentiates
an engineer from a gambler. A gambler
says, ‘I keep trying.’ But, statistically,
he always loses in the end.”
Realistically, no matter how
strategically savvy you are, speed will
always be your most powerful weapon.
AGAINST THE ODDS