MAKING THE WINNING CALL
doesn’t matter when your opponent
comes in, allowing you to carry out your
ideal strategy without losing track position.
If your tire durability isn’t as good as
that of your opponent’s car, you may not
be able to respond to the undercut threat
– because to do so would leave you with
too many laps to do on the other tire,
forcing you into an extra stop. But if your
tire durability is better and you are the car
behind, your presence could force your
opponent to pit prematurely while you
stay out – giving you an advantage later in
the race, when your later first stop means
you can be on newer tires in the final stint.
3. DIFFERENCE OF GRID POSITION
It could be that starting on the slower, more
durable tire makes for a better strategy
because, in order to minimize the number
of stops, the faster compound might only
be durable enough to do enough laps
near the end of the race, when the car is
lighter and the track more rubbered in.
But you’re unlikely to start on the
slower tire if you’ve qualified in the top 10,
simply because the rules oblige you to
start on what you’ve qualified with in Q2
– and you’ll probably have used the softer,
faster tire to ensure you were quick enough
in Q2 to make the final Q3 session.
But if you have a big enough pace
advantage in your car that you can be sure
of qualifying in the top 10 in Q2 on the
slower tire, you can give yourself a strategy
advantage on race day. You follow?
Cars qualifying outside the top 10
have free choice of starting tire.
4. TRAFFIC GAPS
The “pit stop window” refers to the laps on
which it’s feasible to pit and not have too
many laps remaining to stay on a chosen
one-, two- or three-stop strategy. However,
it can be the case that even after the
window’s opened, you’re forced to stay out
because you don’t have a pit stop’s worth
of gap over a slower car or cars, and to
re-join behind them and be restricted to
their pace could enable your longer-stopping rival to go faster than you, even
on his old tires, and hence jump ahead.
The pit stop time loss (including slowing,
stationary time, pit lane speed limit loss and
accelerating back up to speed) varies with
track layouts, but is typically between 17
(ABOVE) Formula 1
teams employ hordes
of ultra-smart people
to come up with the
perfect race strategy.
But if the guys on
the pit wall start to
see rain drops, for
example, you can
throw Plan A away...
Qualifying appeared to show that
Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes had a
small, but significant performance
advantage over Sebastian Vettel’s
Ferrari. There was a possibility that
the “overcut” – whereby the new tire
takes more than a lap to reach
temperature and is therefore slower
on that lap than the older, but warmer
tire of the car staying out – might
prevail, yet it wasn’t certain. The only
way to obliterate that risk was for
Hamilton to be more than 2sec ahead
as the pit stops approached, hence
making him immune to whichever of
the two tire phenomena played out.
The Mercedes man tried, but Vettel’s
Ferrari stayed right with him and
Hamilton’s charge had worn out his
tires. Mercedes brought him in early,
before Vettel got any closer, gambling
on Hamilton being able to get the new
tires up to temperature rapidly.
But there was a further
complication: Lewis exited behind the
yet-to-stop Max Verstappen. If the
Red Bull pitted out of the way before
Hamilton reached it, there was a
chance he could be quick enough to
thwart Vettel. But it didn’t. It stayed
out (Red Bull was extending its stint
in order to have a shorter final stint
that would enable it to finish on the
softest tire) and Hamilton was held to
its pace. Vettel let rip for a few laps
at the front, before stopping and
emerging just in front of the Red Bull
and the Mercedes. Game over.
Second-placed Hamilton congratulates
winner Vettel. But for a long-stinting Max
Verstappen, it could have been the reverse.