F1 Strategy Report Podcast 2017 Episode 16 – Japanese Grand Prix

Episode 16 of the 2017 Strategy Podcast: by Apex Race Manager provides insight & analysis of strategic decisions made during the 2017 Japanese Grand Prix.

Our host Michael Lamonato is joined by Abhishek Takle – F1 Journalist.

Our guest Abhishek Takle - F1 Journalist

Our guest Abhishek Takle – F1 Journalist

If you like the podcast, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts.

For full written report about the strategy plays in this race, and detailed data (including all the stints and tyre choices) click here. All of our previous F1 Strategy Report Podcasts are here.

APEX Race Manager – it’s out now on iOS & Android.

Contact us on twitter @strategyreport.

F1 Strategy Report Japanese Grand Prix 2017

Japan1-2000Race 16 – 53 Laps – 5.807km per lap – 307.471km race distance – low tyre wear

Japanese GP F1 Strategy Report Podcast – our host Michael Lamonato is joined by Abhishek Takle – F1 Journalist.


September and October 2017 will be remembered as the nadir of Ferrari’s season. At the beginning of September Sebastian Vettel led the drivers standings by seven points; after the Japanese Grand Prix in early October he trails Lewis Hamilton by 58 — a 66-point turnaround. Ferrari is almost certain to lose the constructors title at the next round in the United States, and Hamilton is likely to be crowned a four-time world champion by the Mexican Grand Prix on 29 October.

This was the story of the 2017 Japanese Grand Prix, but in truth Vettel’s retirement had little effect on the race itself. Hamilton’s afternoon was a cruise barring a handful of laps at the end when apparent engine troubles made him vulnerable to Max Verstappen, and the frontrunning teams again proved impervious to the midfield in what was a staid and generally straightforward grand prix.Japan3-2000


Just as in Malaysian Grand Prix, washed-out practice on Friday meant teams had less long-run data to choose strategy. The soft and supersoft tyres also carried over from Malaysia with a similar 0.7-second pace differential.

Unlike Malaysia, however, incomplete Friday testing data suggested this wouldn’t be an easy one-stop race. Suzuka competes with Spa as one of the hardest track on tyres, putting maximum life for the supersoft at around 20 laps and the soft between 30 and 35 laps. This didn’t transpire, however, and the fastest route to the flag proved to be a one-stop race because two-stop drivers would find themselves stuck in traffic on the difficult-to-pass circuit.



Some teams nonetheless flirted with a second stop, and Felipe Massa’s lap-17 stop had all the hallmarks of a two-stop strategy. After spending time fighting Kimi Räikkönen on the soft tyre — more on that later — Massa engaged in a battle with Hülkenberg, who was also on the harder compound. From lap 14 they sparred until Williams pulled the trigger to stop on lap 17, bang in Pirelli’s estimated two-stop window.

This would undo Massa’s race, however, as it quickly became obvious none of the other supersoft starters were doing likewise, giving the Brazilian a 35-lap stint on the softs to end the race. He kept ahead of the Haas cars after the stops — they and Hülkenberg were Massa’s principal race rivals — but his pace on the soft tyre, particularly late in the race, simply didn’t cut it, and he was passed by both in a gutsy move spearheaded by Magnussen on lap 42.Felipe


Kimi Räikkönen encountered two types of midfield opponent as he charged through the field on his contrastrategy: those who moved out of the way knowing they weren’t in his race and those who became embroiled in the battle.

Nico Hülkenberg was the first type. The German moved out of the Ferrari’s path twice — before and after Räikkönen’s stop — which allowed him to maximise his own race pace. Felipe Massa, however, was the second type, and not only did this slow Räikkönen’s progress, it also played a part in undermining Massa’s own grand prix.

The Williams driver lost bundles of time in defence of a position he was never going to keep, and the knock-on effect was that he wasn’t as far up the road as he could have been at his first pit stop and was therefore more vulnerable to the Haas cars towards the race’s end.

This difference in approach was set to come to a head when Hülkenberg made his pit stop on lap 38. The Renault driver exited the pits just behind the battle the Haas cars’ battle with Massa, and on the supersoft tyre and in a faster car he should’ve been able to pass all three — had DRS failure not forced his retirement one lap later, of course.


Other cars did execute two-stop-plus races, though all were unsuccessful.

Pascal Wehrlein attempted Sauber’s renowned ‘no-stop’ strategy behind the safety car by switching his opening-stint soft tyres for supersofts on lap two and switching back to softs on lap three with the intention of making it to the end. By lap 35 he had to switch to a set of used softs. He finished last.

Stoffel Vandoorne set himself up for a two-stop race by switching from supersofts to softs on lap nine, forcing another switch on lap 34. He finished second last.

Pierre Gasly stopped for new softs on lap 22, which should have been a long enough first stint to see him through to the end of the race. However, his inexperience managing the tyres in just his second race showed, and a lock-up during his second stint was bad enough to require that second stop, which left him P13. Had he been able to finish his second stint, he could have competed for the final point of the race.Japan4-2000


Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Räikkönen both drove impressive recovery drives on the alternative soft-supersoft strategy after both took five-place grid penalties, but this was down to pure pace more than strategic genius. As Sebastian Vettel did in Malaysia, Bottas and Räikkönen — fifth and 14th after the start — demonstrated that Formula One has become a two-tiered sport in which Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull Racing are unreachable in ordinary circumstances. One gets the sense that the result for the two Finns would have been similar regardless of the strategy employed.Japan2-2000


McLaren-Honda’s relationship will end this season without having scored a point at Honda’s home race, though Alonso raced hard for 10th place before falling less than a second short. Alonso did so without any strategic aids — his pit stop was well timed and he was fortuitous in that some of his midfield rivals pit out of his way, but simply he was at home in his car and on these tyres at this track, competing on merit with Williams for the final point.

Michael Lamonato @MichaelLamonato


Pole position: Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes — 1:27.319 Winner: Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes — 1:27:31.194 Strategy: One stop — supersoft-soft Fastest lap: Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes — 1:33.144


Supersoft: Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Alonso (25 laps)
Soft: Palmer (39 laps)


Thanks to Pirelli Motorsport

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F1 Strategy Report Podcast 2017 Episode 15 – Malaysia Grand Prix

Episode 15 of the 2017 Strategy Podcast: by Apex Race Manager provides insight & analysis of strategic decisions made during the 2017 Malaysia Grand Prix.

Our host Michael Lamonato is joined by Nate Saunders from ESPNF1.

Our guest Nate Saunders from ESPNF1

Our guest Nate Saunders from ESPNF1

If you like the podcast, leave us a review on Apple Podcasts.

For full written report about the strategy plays in this race, and detailed data (including all the stints and tyre choices) click here. All of our previous F1 Strategy Report Podcasts are here.

APEX Race Manager – it’s out now on iOS & Android.

Contact us on twitter @strategyreport.

F1 Strategy Report Malaysia Grand Prix 2017


Race 15 – 56 Laps – 5.543km per lap – 310.408km race distance – low tyre wear

Malaysia GP F1 Strategy Report Podcast – our host Michael Lamonato is joined by Nate Saunders from ESPNF1..


The wheels appeared to be falling off Sebastian Vettel’s championship campaign in Malaysia, where a power unit problem in qualifying prevented him from setting a time, forcing him to start from the back of the grid.

Vettel needed to ensure Hamilton didn’t outscore him by more than seven points to maintain a realistic shot at the title, and a stunning recovery drive to fourth, plus Lewis Hamilton’s second-place finish behind Max Verstappen, guaranteed just that.



With little long-run data collected through two truncated Friday practice sessions, the principal factor in tyre strategy would be temperature. If the track were too hot, the supersoft tyre, worth around 0.7 seconds per lap over the soft, would overheat, shortening is useful life and limiting its pace. As it transpired, however, track temperatures on Sunday, after heavy rain in the hours before the race, remained below 40°C, enticing teams into one-stop races.



Despite substantially improving its pace between practice and qualifying, Mercedes remained the third-quickest car on Sunday, and Max Verstappen wasted no time slicing past Hamilton on lap four, claiming the lead that would deliver him victory.

Hamilton opted not to fight too hard, recognising not only that his car wasn’t up to the challenge but also that he needed to score points only against Vettel.

In this regard Bottas, though painfully off the pace, played a solid team game nonetheless for Hamilton by keeping Ricciardo bottled behind him for nine laps, after which the Australian was too far behind the Briton to attempt to challenge for second place.

Though this was the podium order — Verstappen-Hamilton-Ricciardo — the battle for third went down to the wire.



Sebastian Vettel, with nothing to lose from last on the grid, started the race on the soft tyre, meaning he would be on the supersoft tyre when his rivals were on softs at the end of the race, giving him a pace advantage. With minimal degradation on the day, having a lighter car in the second stint meant he was getting an extra two second of pace out of the supersoft tyre compared to those who used it in the first stint.

The first stint worked a treat for Ferrari, with Vettel up to fifth by lap 21 thanks in part to decisive passes and midfield cars pitting early. Now behind Bottas, Ferrari opted to use the undercut, shortening the first stint but avoiding the need to waste time overtaking.

Daniel Ricciardo made his stop on lap 30 — he was the last frontrunner to do so — after which 14 seconds separated him from Vettel. The Australian was reeled in at around one second per lap, and the pair sparred until lap 49, when the aggressive driving finally took its toll on Vettel’s tyres, forcing him to accept fourth place.

Was it the optimum strategy? Arguably Vettel should have run a longer first stint on the softs — Esteban Ocon got 53 laps out of the yellow tyre — but he would have had to pass Bottas, after which Bottas could have himself deployed the undercut and forced Vettel to pass him a second time.

The only thorn in Vettel’s side was Fernando Alonso, who held him up between laps three and nine, costing him around one second per lap. Perhaps with a bit of extra tyre life Vettel would have been able to slice past Bottas and out of undercut range in the pit stop window.


This was a strong drive from Esteban Ocon, coming from last on lap three to P10 in a closely matched midfield.

Switching from the supersoft to the soft on lap three and expecting to make it to the end was bold, and though the soft is perhaps the season’s most versatile tyre, Ocon’s Perez-esque conservation drive mustn’t be discounted. Hülkenberg attempted a similar strategy from lap nine but found none of the pace, ultimately pitting a race-destroying second time on lap 50.


Sergio Perez, however, didn’t even need to worry about the midfield, jumping two places to sixth on the first lap. This enabled him to go long on his first stint without getting caught up in traffic — Fernando Alonso, for example, attempted the same strategy, but he lost 20 seconds relative to Perez during the first stint cutting through the midfield, meaning his stop dropped him straight back into the action. Perez, however, having built a big enough gap to the midfield before his stop, lost no places for his tyre change, securing him a commendable sixth place.



Williams drivers Lance Stroll and Felipe Massa finished strongly in eight and ninth, but the pair were almost 10 seconds behind McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne at the chequered flag having accidentally allowed him past on lap 13.

Stroll led Massa before the pit stops after jumping him at the start, but it was Massa who was stopped first when the team became spooked that Kevin Magnussen was in undercut range when the Dane made his sole tyre change.

The result was that Massa ended up ahead of Stroll, so the team attempted to switch the pair back for the sake of fairness — but as they engineered the swap, Vandoorne charged out of the pits and jumped both, earning himself his second seventh-place finish but losing Williams a potential extra four points.


Michael Lamonato @MichaelLamonato


Pole position: Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
Winner: Max Verstappen, Red Bull
Strategy: One stop — supersoft-soft
Fastest lap: Sebastian Vettel, Scuderia Ferrari — 1:34.080


Supersoft: Perez (30 laps)
Soft: Ocon (53 laps)

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F1 Strategy Report Podcast 2017 Episode 14 – Singapore Grand Prix

Episode 14 of the 2017 Strategy Podcast: by Apex Race Manager provides insight & analysis of strategic decisions made during the 2017 SIngapore Grand Prix.

Our host Michael Lamonato is joined by Trent Price from eRacing Magazine.

Our guest Trent Price

Our guest Trent Price

Don’t forget to fill out our listener survey – go to www.f1strategyreport.com

For full written report about the strategy plays in this race, and detailed data (including all the stints and tyre choices) click here. All of our previous F1 Strategy Report Podcasts are here.

APEX Race Manager – it’s out now on iOS & Android.

Contact us on twitter @strategyreport.

F1 Strategy Report Singapore Grand Prix 2017


Race 14 – 58 Laps – 5.065km per lap – 293.633km race distance – low tyre wear

Singapore GP F1 Strategy Report Podcast – our host Michael Lamonato isjoined by Trent Price from eRacing Magazine.

The 2017 Singapore Grand Prix seems destined to be remembered for its impact on the championship, with Sebastian Vettel crashing out and opening the door for an unlikely Lewis Hamilton victory.

Mercedes was the third-fastest car for the entire weekend up until the race, but a combination of that disastrous first-lap crash and the greasy conditions, in which Hamilton has typically excelled, conspired to gift the Briton a commanding championship lead.

Daniel Ricciardo was to be the only challenger, and though his Red Bull Racing car looked mighty during practice and qualifying, Hamilton found an extra gear during the race that made him impervious to any strategic ploys from the opposition.


Pirelli’s tyre information and much of Friday’s practice data was made useless by the rain that hammered the circuit as the cars sat on the grid.

It was enough to put the track somewhere between intermediate and wet tyres, and without the sun to dry it, the circuit remained slippery for much of the race.



Pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel’s race lasted just metres after he crashed with teammate Kimi Räikkönen and Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen on the run to the first turn.

Lewis Hamilton was busy cruising around the outside of all three and Daniel Ricciardo as the carnage unfolded, and when Räikkönen, Verstappen and Vettel retired, he had only Ricciardo for competition.

Ricciardo and Red Bull Racing had three opportunities to influence the fight for the lead, but not all of them were seized upon.



With no-one sure how long the track would take to dry, holding onto the intermediate tyres for as long as possible to avoid making unnecessary stops was the name of the game in the first stint — until the first safety car, that is.

When Daniil Kvyat embedded his car in the barriers on lap 11 and the safety car was deployed, Red Bull Racing took the opportunity to pit Ricciardo without losing places knowing that Hamilton was choosing to stay out and hold track position.

The fresher rubber should have advantaged Ricciardo, but Hamilton was able to lean more on his tyres to keep the Australian at bay.

In the tighter midfield Valtteri Bottas, Carlos Sainz and both Williams drivers stayed out, gaining them positions.



Ricciardo’s second opportunity to pressure Hamilton came after lap 20, when the circuit was agonisingly close to being dry enough for slick tyres.

Kevin Magnussen led the way on lap 25, and on the subsequent five laps the rest of the field followed suit.

It wasn’t until lap 29, however, that Ricciardo stopped, which proved too late to have any effect on Hamilton, who pitted one lap later. The ultrasoft tyre required a second lap to warm into its performance range, meaning Hamilton’s next-lap stop deprived Ricciardo of any undercut advantage.


The final safety car on lap 39, deployed to rescue Marcus Ericsson’s stranded Sauber from Anderson Bridge, gave Red Bull Racing a potential third opportunity to give Ricciardo a strategic advantage.

With the safety car deployed Ricciardo held an approximately 20-second advantage over Bottas in third as he approached the pit entry, which should have been enough to make a tyre change and emerge ahead of the Finn. Ricciardo could then have pressured Hamilton with fresher tyres at the restart.

The opportunity was missed, however, and when Hamilton aced his restart, the grand prix was effectively lost.



Having seen Hamilton’s lead obliterated by two safety cars and noting that Ricciardo had an opportunity to make a free pit stop during the third deployment, Mercedes instructed Lewis to lower his pace to ensure Bottas could keep closer to Ricciardo.

Hamilton was reluctant, knowing that any drop in concentration could prove terminal for his race, but a combination of his slowing and Bottas finding some rhythm ensured Ricciardo had no strategic opportunities through to the end of the race.


Carlos Sainz was one of the standout performers of the race, scoring a career-best fourth place finish.

The route to his 12-point haul was deceptively simple: he was one of five drivers, including race winner Lewis Hamilton, to made just one stop.

Sainz and Toro Rosso resisted the temptation to switch to new intermediate tyres during the Kvyat-triggered safety car, which earnt him four places, and he made a clean stop on lap 27 for slick tyres

Here, however, he and Toro Rosso erred, fitting Sainz’s car with supersoft rather than ultrasoft tyres, which left the Spaniard with a pace disadvantage when defending against Perez throughout the second half of the race.

Sainz didn’t crack under pressure, however, making this one of the highlight drives of the night.

Michael Lamonato @MichaelLamonato


Pole position: Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari
Winner: Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
Strategy: Two stops — intermediate-ultrasoft
Fastest lap: Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes — 1:45.008


Ultrasoft: Stroll (32 laps)
Supersoft: Sainz (31 laps)
Soft: Ericsson (4 laps)
Intermediate: Hamilton (29 laps)
Wets: Wehrlein (19 laps)

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F1 Strategy Report Podcast 2017 Episode 13 – Italian Grand Prix

Episode 13 of the 2017 Strategy Podcast: by Apex Race Manager provides insight & analysis of strategic decisions made during the 2017 Italian Grand Prix.

Our host Michael Lamonato is joined by Luca Manacorda from FormulaPassion.it.

Our guest Luca Manacorda from Formula Passion

Our guest Luca Manacorda from Formula Passion

Don’t forget to fill out our listener survey – go to www.f1strategyreport.com

For full written report about the strategy plays in this race, and detailed data (including all the stints and tyre choices) click here. All of our previous F1 Strategy Report Podcasts are here.

APEX Race Manager – it’s out now on iOS & Android.

Contact us on twitter @strategyreport.

F1 Strategy Report Italian Grand Prix 2017


Race 13 – 53 Laps – 5.793km per lap – 306.720km race distance – very low tyre wear

Italian GP F1 Strategy Report Podcast – our host Michael Lamonato is joined by Luca Manacorda from FormulaPassion.it.

A record number of spectators flocked to Monza for last weekend’s Italian Grand Prix, most of them eagerly hoping for Ferrari success at the team’s home race. That wasn’t the case though, with Mercedes dominating proceedings.

But despite Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas running away with a one-two finish and Sebastian Vettel coming home a distant third, there was still plenty of action and drama further back to keep fans and viewers entertained.

Monza’s one of the most unique and exciting races on the calendar and the circuit lived up to its ‘Temple of Speed’ nickname, with some fast-paced action and ridiculous speeds. In fact, Hamilton’s 151.382mph average winning speed is the fifth quickest of all time.

Wet weather produced a crazy qualifying session on Saturday and also threw up some interesting strategic headlines on Sunday, so let’s dive right into the biggest strategy stories from the Italian GP:

Quali chaos

Wet weather threatened on Friday but failed to really appear, but it eventually arrived on Saturday, postponing and delaying qualifying. When the sessions eventually got going properly, the rainy conditions spiced the grid up nicely, with several drivers qualifying out of position.

The wet weather opened up strategy options for the dry race, because all 20 drivers got the choice of tyre compounds for the start.

Grid penalties galore

But, while the wet weather mixed up the order for the start, it was the whole host of grid penalties that properly mixed things up. Nine drivers in total had penalties for gearbox and engine component changes, which is a ridiculous number, really.

Hamilton was the only driver to retain his qualifying position, breaking the all-time pole position record, and he was joined by Lance Stroll on the front row, ahead of Esteban Ocon, Valtteri Bottas, Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel. Max Verstappen was down in P13 and Daniel Ricciardo P16, setting up a tasty fightback for Sunday.

Soft and super-soft

The vast majority of the field went for the softest compound of the options available, the super-soft, for the race start. Despite lacking some data due to Saturday’s rain, degradation and durability was strong at Monza and the super-soft worked well, lasting quite a long time. Four drivers – Ricciardo, Verstappen, Fernando Alonso and Jolyon Palmer – decided to do something different on soft tyres.


Ferrari struggles

On home soil, the pressure was on for Ferrari to deliver, but it soon became clear the team was going to struggle at Monza. Vettel and Raikkonen were not happy with the car on Friday and didn’t fare well in Saturday’s wet weather. Grid penalties elevated them on the grid but neither driver had pace to challenge Mercedes drivers and even the Red Bulls appeared faster

Mercedes powers ahead

A well-timed power unit upgrade for Belgium, which customer teams have yet to receive, put Mercedes one step ahead of the pack at Monza and this gave the team an even greater advantage, on a circuit that was always going to suit the Silver Arrows.

Bottas was quick all weekend but still struggled to match Hamilton, struggling a little in the rain on Saturday. Hamilton stormed to pole position and was in complete control in the race. He was able to run his own race, with a long 32-lap stint on super-softs before switching to softs. Bottas made progress in the early laps to move into second place and followed Hamilton into the pits one lap later.


Ricciardo goes long

Both Red Bull cars looked set to go long in the first stint, on soft tyres, but Verstappen’s early puncture ruined that. Ricciardo pressed on with that strategy, using the RB13’s superior pace to displace many midfield runners through strategy alone, although he also had to do some on-track overtaking too.

He emerged from his stop in P5, making up several spots compared to where he was before the pitstop cycle began, and quickly made good use of his softer, fresher tyres to put an almighty overtake on Kimi Raikkonen into the chicane for fourth.

The Aussie started closing on Vettel but ran out of time and tyres in the final laps, having to settle for fourth. Interestingly, he completed a similar strategy back in 2014 and 2015 at Monza. Alonso and Palmer both tried to do the same but eventually retired with issues, having battled closely on track.


A late charge

Perez tried to do the same as Ricciardo, but on the super-soft tyre for the long first stint, before switching to fresh softs. He had a lot of tyre life and performance towards the end but eventually ran out of time, not helped by those he was battling also having Mercedes power.

It appears there was some scope for improvement, had he pitted a few laps earlier and put those soft tyres to work, he might’ve gained a spot from Massa. Both ended up closing on the duelling Ocon and Stroll, but couldn’t get through.

Pitstop decider

The main battle within the top 10 was decided by pitstops. Stroll was undercut by Raikkonen thanks to an uncharacteristically slow stop from the Williams crew, although Raikkonen’s wasn’t all that speedy either.

Ocon, Stroll and Raikkonen were separated by 0.5 second intervals before the stops but Raikkonen pitted first, followed by Ocon one lap later and then Stroll on the following tour. Stroll was two seconds back from Raikkonen afterwards, and he finished a few seconds behind Ocon at the finish.

Hulk mixes things up

Nico Hulkenberg did the opposite of Ricciardo, pitting early on lap nine to go from super-softs to softs, but while this gave him a speed advantage early in his second stint, it left him easy pickings for Daniil Kvyat and Verstappen to pass him in the closing laps after losing tyre life.

Jack Leslie @JackLeslieF1

Longest Stints

Supersoft: Vandoorne, Bottas (33 laps)
Soft: Hulkenberg (43 laps)

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F1 Strategy Report Podcast 2017 Episode 12 – Belgian Grand Prix

Episode 12 of the 2017 Strategy Podcast: by Apex Race Manager provides insight & analysis of strategic decisions made during the 2017 Belgian Grand Prix.

Our host Michael Lamonato is joined by Phil Horton from Motorsport Week.

Our guest Phil Horton

Our guest Phil Horton

Don’t forget to fill out our listener survey – go to www.f1strategyreport.com

For full written report about the strategy plays in this race, and detailed data (including all the stints and tyre choices) click here. All of our previous F1 Strategy Report Podcasts are here.

APEX Race Manager – it’s out now on iOS & Android.

Contact us on twitter @strategyreport.

F1 Strategy Report Belgian Grand Prix 2017


Race12 – 44 Laps – 7.004km per lap – 308.052km race distance – low tyre wear

Belgian GP F1 Strategy Report Podcast – our host Michael Lamonato is joined by Phil Horton from Motorsport Week.

Formula 1 returned to action at Spa-Francorchamps after the seemingly never-ending summer break, and the iconic track hosted another action-packed and exciting race.

Lewis Hamilton started from P1 on the grid after smashing the lap record and matching Michael Schumacher’s all-time pole position record of 68, looking in command throughout the race.

He withstood pressure from title rival Sebastian Vettel and negotiated a safety car restart well to hold onto first place and pick up his third Belgian Grand Prix victory, as well as his fifth of the season.

Vettel picked up second place, his championship lead being cut to seven points, with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo making a late charge to third – ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas.

Spa is the longest track on the F1 calendar and threw up a range of different strategy stories. Here are the main strategic headlines from the Belgian GP:

Hamilton pits first

Interestingly, race leader Hamilton was the first of the frontrunners to pit for a fresh set of tyres, diving into his box on lap 12 and going for the soft tyres. It was a lightning-quick stop of 2.3 seconds. Ferrari kept Vettel out two laps longer to try the overcut, feeling his tyres and pace were good enough to continue.

However, his stop wasn’t quite as quick as Hamilton’s, and strong outlaps from the Mercedes gave him a slightly increased advantage after the first round of stops. With both drivers going onto the soft tyre, it appeared they were going for a one-stop, which seemed to be the slightly quicker strategy.

A mix of tyres

Interestingly, all three tyre compounds worked well at Spa, meaning all of them were used for the first stint. Pascal Wehrlein was the only driver to start on the softs but he retired early on, meaning we didn’t get to see what strategy Sauber were going for with that decision.

Felipe Massa, Lance Stroll, Daniil Kvyat, Stoffel Vandoorne and Marcus Ericsson all opted for the super-soft tyres for the first stint, looking to go longer on the more durable and less grippy tyres. However, a few of them pitted before the ultra-soft runners.

This was either because they expected a virtual safety car or safety car from Max Verstappen’s stopped car or wanted to ditch the super-softs, as they weren’t working as well as expected, and looked to go onto a different tyre.

Kimi ruins his race

Kimi Raikkonen’s chance of a podium took a big hit with a 10-second stop/go penalty for failing to slow for yellow flags, when Verstappen retired. This cost him time and track position, which proved costly further down the line.

On the replays, it was clear Raikkonen failed to lift through the yellow flags, and Raikkonen had to serve the stop/go penalty on its own, as the team were expecting a one-stop race. Had he lifted under yellows, he would’ve been in a better position to score a podium.


Safety car shake-up

The deployment of the safety car proved to be perfectly-timed. It was brought out due to the amount of debris from Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon’s contact, at a pivotal time in the race. One-stoppers could effectively get a ‘free’ stop and avoid the possibility of degradation and wear at the end of their final stints.

It came out at a prime time for those stopping for a second time, therefore fitting into their strategy and giving them a free stop too. So, it worked out quite well, although it didn’t particularly mix up the order.

However, it did give us a fascinating prospect – a late sprint to the flag. All three tyre compounds appeared for this final stint, with the two leaders going for different strategies. Hamilton was on the softs, Vettel on the ultra-softs.

This gave Hamilton more tyre life, but Vettel had more performance and the threat of running out of tyres towards the end of the race. The ultra-soft was around one second quicker than the softs but Vettel couldn’t find a way through on Hamilton, and probably lost time trying to follow the Mercedes so closely.

In the end, Vettel couldn’t get close enough, with Hamilton taking the win and Vettel fading slightly in the closing laps.

Ricciardo fights back

With Verstappen retiring, that left Daniel Ricciardo in fifth place. He moved up to fourth with Raikkonen’s stop/go penalty and went onto the super-softs for the second stint, clearly going for a two-stop. The safety car helped effectively give him that second stop for free.

Red Bull gave him ultra-soft tyres for the last stint and this allowed him to attack on the restart, passing Valtteri Bottas for P3. The Mercedes ran wide and lost a place to Raikkonen as a result. Ricciardo’s fast reactions and speed on the restart proved pivotal in him scoring a podium.


Two lots of contact

Force India’s two drivers had a messy race after colliding with each other twice. On the first lap, Sergio Perez was running alongside Nico Hulkenberg on the run to Eau Rouge when Esteban Ocon joined the party. Perez moved across and squeezed Ocon against the wall.

On lap 30, the two clashed at a similar point on the track, Ocon trying to make a move and Perez moving across. The resulting contact gave Perez a puncture and Ocon damaged his front wing, which the resulting safety car helped with.

But, the clashes cost Force India a double points finish, as Ocon recovered to ninth and Perez was down in 17th. Both were running well within the top 10 at the time of the second clash.

Jack Leslie @JackLeslieF1

Longest Stints

Ultrasoft: Sainz (19 laps)
Supersoft: Vandoorne, Kvyat (18 laps)
Soft: Palmer (22 laps)



Stints by Driver

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