F1 Strategy Report Podcast 2017 Episode 20 – Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Episode 20 of the 2017 Strategy Podcast: by Apex Race Manager provides insight & analysis of strategic decisions made during the 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Our host Michael Lamonato is joined by Ted Kravitz from Sky Sports F1.

Our guest Ted Kravitz from Sky Sport F1

Our guest Ted Kravitz from Sky Sport F1

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 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2017


Race 20 – 55 Laps – 5.554km per lap – 305.355km race distance – low tyre wear

Abu Dhabi GP F1 Strategy Report Podcast – our host Michael Lamonato is joined by Ted Kravitz from Sky Sports F1.


The 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was no classic, but the kind of sedate affair witnesses at the weekend has fast become synonymous with the Yas Marina Circuit.

The setting is undoubtedly spectacular, giving Formula One a stunning vista against which to set its nominal season climax, but the track layout in terms of both its profile and its low-degradation personality lends races little in the way of drama.

Indeed the top 10 finishers — with the exception of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, who swapped places on-track, and Daniel Ricciardo, who retired with hydraulic issues — took the chequered flag in grid order despite their varied pit stop strategies, albeit all within the scope of a single tyre change.




Expectations for the race were grim even by Pirelli’s own estimates. Ordinarily the tyre supplier throws an alternative strategy into its pre-race reckoning — usually a somewhat ambitious two-stop plan for a daring team — but in Abu Dhabi it was blunt in its assessment that stopping once was the only feasible way forward.

The ultrasoft and supersoft tyres — no-one considered running the soft tyre — suffered so little degradation that the data suggested the sole pit stop would come between the staggeringly wide window of laps 15 to 30 regardless of which tyre a driver started with.


Track layout not conducive to overtaking


Yas Marina should’ve been a Ferrari track, but the Scuderia was unable to keep up with Mercedes. This was partly down to Hamilton having a fresh engine from his Brazil qualifying crash, which pushed him and teammate Valtteri Bottas further up the road, and partly down to Ferrari playing a conservative game to ensure Sebastian Vettel finished the race. Had he not, Bottas’s win would’ve been enough to have the Finn leapfrog the German into second place in the title standings.

But even if Ferrari had tried to battle with Mercedes, overtaking would’ve been difficult. Lewis Hamilton remarked that the last sector in particular, with its glut of slow and off-camber 90-degree turns, works to split up the cars before they reach the front straight, and chicanes before the two DRS-enabled straights do likewise, making Yas Marina particularly unsuitable for Formula One racing.

Track designer Hermann Tilke told Sky Sports F1 after the race that he and the circuit owner were considering making a “small change” to one corner with a view to aiding overtaking.

The undercut didn’t work


Low tyre wear and similar performance between the two compounds meant that the undercut was of limited use in Abu Dhabi. Max Verstappen attempted to undercut Kimi Räikkönen on lap 14 and Sebastian Vettel tried likewise on Valtteri Bottas on lap 20, but neither driver was successful.

Fernando Alonso tried to undercut Felipe Massa for ninth on lap 21, and though the Spaniard was initially unsuccessful, the Brazilian’s car ran out of electrical energy on his out-lap, opening the door to Fernando to make the pass.

Grosjean goes long, almost scores a point


Romain Grosjean and Lance Stroll provided most of the race’s action in the first stint as they scrapped for 13th. The Frenchman made the pass on lap 11, which sent Stroll into the pits.

Recovering from P16 on the grid, Grosjean stayed out for a long stint. The strategy itself wouldn’t have been enough to overcome cars of a similar pace, but avoiding the more conventional pit stop window allowed him to build a gap over the slower backmarkers and lose fewer positions when his stop came on lap 32.

Haas teammate Kevin Magnussen and McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne did the inverse, stopping early on laps 22 and 12 respectively. Both cars had enough pace to cruise up behind the backmarking Sauber and Toro Rosso cars, which dropped behind the faster cars when they took their sole stops.

The curious battle for sixth

Though the headline titles had long been done and dusted, sixth place in the constructors standings was still up for grabs for Toro Rosso, seventh-placed Renault and eighth-placed Haas. The difference between sixth and eighth is estimated to be worth $12 million in prize money.

Renault had the fastest car of the three teams but trailed Toro Rosso by four points. Haas was a further two points back, but neither the American nor the Italian teams looked capable of scoring points in Abu Dhabi.

Toro Rosso in particular performed poorly, with both drivers knocked out in Q1. It escaped few that team principal Franz Tost and Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul two weeks earlier engaged in a monumental war of words that climaxed with Tost accusing his counterpart of sabotaging his engines. Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko de-escalated the tension, but the quiet question of Toro Rosso’s surprising underperformance lingered throughout the weekend.

It was therefore up to Renault to score the requisite points, and when Carlos Sainz retired from the race with a loose front-left wheel, Nico Hülkenberg bore the burden of holding the sixth place he inherited from Daniel Ricciardo’s lap-19 retirement.

The German delivered the goods, but the result wasn’t without controversy.

Sergio Perez had jumped Hülkenberg on the first lap, but Nico, thinking the Mexican was about force him off the track, took to the run-off area and rejoined the track ahead of his rival.

The Renault driver refused to hand back the position, forcing the stewards to issue him a five-second penalty, but by then Perez had fallen six seconds behind, effectively rendering the penalty pointless.

Force India was livid.

“It’s a track position race here,” Force India chief operating officer Otmar Szafnauer told Sky Sports F1. “We knew they were a bit quicker than us at the beginning on the ultrasoft, which is why we needed to get ahead and stay ahead.

“Hülkenberg cuts a corner, the FIA didn’t do anything about it and guess what? They gain a position in the constructors championship, which means more money and more competitiveness next year.”

It’s a situation sure to prompt questions of the way illegal overtakes are dealt with, but in Abu Dhabi Renault’s strategy to take a risk on copping a penalty paid off — and paid off big time.

Michael Lamonato @MichaelLamonato


Pole position:    Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes — 1:36.231
Winner:                 Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes — 1:34:14.062
Strategy:               One stop — Ultrasoft-Supersoft
Fastest lap:         Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes — 1:40.650


Thanks to Pirelli Motorsport

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F1 Strategy Report Podcast 2017 Episode 19 – Brazilian Grand Prix

Episode 19 of the 2017 Strategy Podcast: by Apex Race Manager provides insight & analysis of strategic decisions made during the 2017 Brazilian Grand Prix.

Our host Michael Lamonato is joined by Fernando Campos from the Fernando Is Faster Than You podcast

Our guest Fernando Campos

Our guest Fernando Campos

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 Brazilian Grand Prix 2017

Brazil1-1250Race 19 – 71 Laps – 4.309km per lap – 305.909km race distance – low tyre wear

Brazilian GP F1 Strategy Report Podcast – our host Michael Lamonato is joined by Fernando Campos from the Fernando Is Faster Than You podcast


The Brazilian Grand Prix in what has become its traditional late-season calendar slot has long been a staple of championship crescendos, but with the title done and dusted, just how the race was going to play out was anyone’s guess.

Some subscribe to the theory that ‘the gloves come off’ now that the main prizes have been decided, but the opposite was true in Brazil, where the tyres’ season-long tendency to tempt teams into one-stop races enforced a predictable outcome.

Fortunately for fans of the perpetually imperilled grand prix, rumoured to be on its last legs as the local government searches for a private buyer, Lewis Hamilton and Daniel Ricciardo were forced to fight from the back of the grid and local hero Felipe Massa was able to end his (second) F1 retirement on a high.


Pirelli brought its second-softest range to Brazil, the selections comprising mediums, softs and supersofts. Degradation proved so low, however, that the medium didn’t rate so much as a mention in the race, meaning the Interlagos script, as has been the case for almost the entire season, dictated a solid one-stop race despite the shortness of the pit lane.

The only hope for strategy variety was the warm weather on Sunday, which could have promoted blistering on the front-left tyre, minor cases of which were observed during Friday practice. For the most part, however, this didn’t prove a hindrance to drivers.



One-stop rules the day

There was no question of the one-stop not being the preferred strategy. Pirelli estimated the first stops would come between laps 26 and 32, and race-winner Sebastian Vettel stopped bang in the middle of that range on lap 28.

It underlined the inherent conservatism in this year’s Pirelli range — the Autódromo José Carlos Pace is usually a multi-stop racing comprising the hardest compound.

Pirelli chose this weekend to announce it would be debuting an additional softer compound in 2018, bringing the total tyres in the range to six. A competition is being held to find a name for this new compound, which will be coloured pink.

All that said, four drivers did make two stops, though none of them were scheduled. Max Verstappen complained of excessive wear late in the race and, despite protesting his complaints, the team switched him to a used set of supersofts on lap 62, which enabled him to set the fastest lap. A cynic might suggest this was his plan all along.

Romain Grosjean’s second stop was a technicality, with the Frenchman forced to make a lap-one tyre change due to a puncture picked up in the first sector, and Ricciardo likewise made a precautionary tyre change after the first-lap melee.

Lance Stroll was forced to stop on lap 67 when his front-left tyre started tearing itself apart after a number of lock-ups.

Hamilton and Ricciardo make their comebacks


Lewis Hamilton and Daniel Ricciardo were forced into recovery drives when the former crashed out in qualifying — he would start from the pit lane after his team took advantage of the opportunity to change some engine parts — and the latter took a 10-place power unit penalty, starting from P14.

Ricciardo’s recovery was compromised when he was caught in the first-lap melee exiting the esses. Kevin Magnussen pushed Stoffel Vandoorne towards the Australian’s Red Bull Racing car, causing retirement for the Dane and the Belgian and forcing Ricciardo back to the pits for a precautionary check of the car and a set of slightly fresher soft tyres.

He started from last at the safety car resumption whereas Hamilton was already up to 14th courtesy Ricciardo, Pascal Wehrlein and Romain Grosjean pitting and the race’s three lap-one retirements.

There was no mistaking Hamilton’s recovery for luck, however. The Briton was on another level, any by lap 21 he was n fifth place behind Max Verstappen.

The speed with which he bore down on Verstappen after his sole stop on lap 43 was testament to both his pace and the fact that Renault had turned down all of their power units to avoid the embarrassment of mass failure seen at the Mexican Grand Prix, another race held at high altitude.

So impressive was Hamilton’s speed that he was in contention for victory until the final handful of laps, when it became obvious his supersoft tyres were unable to cope with any more exertion.

Ricciardo finished a comfortable sixth, his car a class above the midfield.

Massa gets the send-off he deserves

Felipe Massa joked with TV crews after the race that he had to come out of retirement at the start of the year because his crash in Brazil last season was a poor send-off. Seventh place this year — best of the rest, effectively — was far more fitting for one of F1’s favourite sons.

His race was made by a sizzling start from ninth that had him leap past both Renault cars and Sergio Perez, and the Brazilian nabbed Fernando Alonso for fifth at the safety car restart.

His battle was with Alonso, his former Ferrari teammate, for the rest of the race. Williams made the right call to pit him pre-emptively on lap 27, guarding against a McLaren undercut, and though Fernando was able to overcome the deficit of his Honda power unit to tail Massa over the line, Felipe held strong to make his final home race result a memorable one.

Sergio Perez was the loser of this battle after getting away slowly from his impressive fifth-place grid slot. The Force India driver was slow away and was hesitant behind Alonso, who had swept around his outside into the first turn, which opened the door to Massa to pass his onto the back straight.

Force India attempted to offset his strategy by delaying his pit stop until lap 35, but his pace wasn’t sufficiently fast to close the gap.

Michael Lamonato @MichaelLamonato


Pole position:    Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes — 1:08.322
Winner:                 Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari — 1:31:26.262
Strategy:               One stop — supersoft-soft
Fastest lap:         Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing — 1:11.044


Thanks to Pirelli Motorsport




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F1 Strategy Report Podcast 2017 Episode 18 – Mexican Grand Prix

Episode 18 of the 2017 Strategy Podcast: by Apex Race Manager provides insight & analysis of strategic decisions made during the 2017 Mexican Grand Prix.

Our host Michael Lamonato is joined by Terry Saunders from For F1’s Sake

Our guest Terry Saunders from For F1's Sake

Our guest Terry Saunders from For F1’s Sake

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 Mexican Grand Prix 2017

Mex1-2000Race 18 – 71 Laps – 4.304km per lap – 305.354km race distance – low tyre wear

Mexican GP F1 Strategy Report Podcast – our host Michael Lamonato is joined by Terry Saunders from For F1’s Sake


The 2017 Mexican Grand Prix decided the drivers championship in Lewis Hamilton’s favour, but it was far from the straightforward affair the permutations predicted before the race.

With a 66-point lead Hamilton needed only to finish fifth if Vettel won from pole or ninth if Vettel finished second, but a first-lap tangle between the two protagonists sent both hurtling down the order. Though the Ferrari demonstrated blistering pace in its recovery, it wasn’t enough to score the necessary points to take the championship one more round.



Had you played a drinking game for the number of times TV commentators referenced the thinness of the air at the altitude of Mexico City (approximately 23 per cent less oxygen at 2250 metres above sea level, for the record), you’d have been well cooked by the end of the race. That said, the lack of atmospheric pressure does have a bearing on the race.

In thinner air the turbocharger must work harder to keep the engine generating the same amount of power, and this task is made even more difficult because the lack of air mass makes cooling more difficult.

Further, despite the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez being a power circuit, cars are configured for maximum downforce because so little aerodynamic performance can be scavenged in the thin air — and even then drivers still complain of poor grip.

Ferrari and Red Bull Racing were tipped to do well given their preference for high downforce tracks, and practice and qualifying proved this the case, putting Mercedes on the back foot.

This track is extremely easy on the tyres. The soft had endurance to last the entire race, and the ultrasoft and supersoft compounds could easily reach half distance.


First-lap chaos forces strategy calls


The first-lap melee decided the complexion of the race. By lap four Hamilton, Vettel, Sainz and Massa had all stopped with various damaged parts, setting themselves up for compromised one-stop races by switching to the soft tyre. Pascal Wehrlein also made an early switch — a favourite tactic of Sauber’s to attempt to finish the race with a ‘no-stop’ strategy.

The lack of tyre degradation meant both Massa and Wehrlein were able to finish the race without pitting behind the VSC, which earnt them three and two places respectively by the end of the race.

Vettel and Hamilton, however — as we’ve learnt this season from numerous back-of-the-field recoveries — have the pace to essentially run their own races and still pass the midfield, so both switched behind the VSC. Vettel took new ultrasofts, but Hamilton had only a new set of supersofts available, taking the red-marked tyres instead.

For Vettel this was the optimum outcome — he lost no positions after his pit stop and continued his climb afterwards, setting the fastest lap in the process. Hamilton likewise befitted from the stop, moving from 16th to ninth in the final stint.

Elsewhere, Räikkönen suffered a poor start, losing positions to both Force India cars and to Nico Hülkenberg. He recovered them only when the Renault retired and Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez made early pit stops.

Inversely, Ricciardo and Magnussen both made sizzling starts, making up nine and five places respectively in the opening four laps. Ricciardo’s ultimate pace will remain a mystery, however, after he retired on lap five, but at least Magnussen converted his start into points.

Overtaking difficult due to altitude


Managing an overheating car was a critical part of the race — Red Bull Racing was constantly warning Max Verstappen against pushing for the fastest lap, a command the Dutchman cheekily refused — and this undoubtedly contributed to Renault’s three in-race power unit failures.

Hamilton’s struggles in the first stint of the race were also testament to this. On the hardest tyre and with a damaged diffuser he didn’t have the pace to make a pass on Carlos Sainz — following another car always robs a driver of downforce, and on a circuit where downforce is at a premium, Lewis found himself stuck without any pace differentiator.

VSC was decisive for early gamblers

The lap-31 virtual safety car, triggered by Brendon Hartley’s smoky Toro Rosso, was the decisive strategic element in this race. For some — in particular those who stopped in the opening laps — it paid off, allowing them to gain places while their nearby rivals stopped.

However, Force India found the VSC poorly timed.

Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon had stopped from fifth and third on laps 18 and 20 respectively in an effort to make it to the end, but because they were the only ones to do so — other than Nico Hülkenberg, who retired shortly after his stop — they lost their shot at competing with Kimi Räikkönen for the podium.

Instead Ocon finished fifth behind Vettel and Perez came home two places further back, the duo separated by Williams’s Lance Stroll

Stroll, on his 19th birthday, benefitted greatly from the VSC. After moving up four places in the opening lap, Williams held its nerve, choosing not to pit the Canadian with his Renault and Force India rivals. He made up three places when they stopped and lost only one place, to Ocon, during his own stop under VSC.

Marcus Ericsson also lost out from the VSC, losing a top-10 place when he stopped three laps before Hartley’s retirement — but the Swede retired with an engine fire on lap 55, rendering the argument purely hypothetical.

McLaren fumble on points

McLaren had a mixed day despite fielding a surprisingly competitive car — Fernando Alonso put the performance down to the chassis, but the Honda power unit also looked relatively feisty.

Alonso’s supersoft-ultrasoft strategy way racy and delivered the goods with P10, but Stoffel Vandoorne missed a chance to back him up in P11 after a particularly slow pit stop — the Belgian was called in late due to the timing of the VSC and lost five seconds and a position to Felipe Massa as a result.


Michael Lamonato @MichaelLamonato


Pole position:    Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing
Winner:               Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing
Strategy:               One-stop — Ultrasoft – Supersoft
Fastest lap:         Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari — 1:18.785 (lap record)


Thanks to Pirelli Motorsport



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F1 Strategy Report Podcast 2017 Episode 17 – United States Grand Prix

Episode 17 of the 2017 Strategy Podcast: by Apex Race Manager provides insight & analysis of strategic decisions made during the 2017 United States Grand Prix.

Our host Michael Lamonato is joined by Nathan Harper from Beermogul Games

Our guest Nathan Harper from Beermogul Games

Our guest Nathan Harper from Beermogul Games

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 United States Grand Prix 2017


Race 17 – 56 Laps – 5.513km per lap – 308.405km race distance – medium tyre wear

US GP F1 Strategy Report Podcast – our host Michael Lamonato is joined by Nathan Harper from Beermogul Games


The 2017 championships hurtled towards their inevitable conclusions at the 2017 United States Grand Prix, with Mercedes claiming the long-assured constructors title and Hamilton as good as taking home the drivers trophy with a cruisy first-place finish.

Though Ferrari stood both its drivers on the podium, the 2017 Austin race was one of the team’s most painful defeats, knowing as it does that Vettel’s title hopes have been all but snuffed out by a Mercedes rediscovering the mojo that abandoned it in Asia.


The Circuit of the Americas is an all-round favourite of Formula One. Not only is Austin an immensely popular destination, but the track itself, a Hermann Tilke design, is technically challenging but open enough to allow overtaking.

Temperatures were warm when it wasn’t raining, which pushed the race into two-stop territory given the ultrasoft and supersoft tyres are low working range compounds.

Lewis Hamilton won with a one-stop strategy, however, and though two-stop races played a major part in the top five, only four drivers committed to the two-stop and for none of them did it have any great effect.

Verstappen carried an engine penalty that had him start at the back, and he qualified on the supersoft tyre in Q2 to give him a strategic way back to the front in the race — though as has been the case in previous races, his car’s pace was more than enough to float him back to the top regardless of strategy.



Tyre conservation was key

The grand prix was a marginal race between one and two stops thanks in part to the conditions pushing the tyres and the relative ease of overtaking.

Though Mercedes was concerned with the viability of a one-stop, Hamilton, given he was largely untroubled, made his lap-19 stop for softs last. His secret, he said, was simply not pushing so hard, something Vettel didn’t have the luxury of doing.

“I could see him pushing,” Hamilton said of those first six laps behind Vettel. “I’m thinking, ‘I’m pretty good on my tyres right now, and he’s going too quick through that corner so he’s going to kill his tyres’, and that’s what he did.”

Vettel’s Ferrari simply wasn’t fast enough to keep the Mercedes behind on equal terms, which pushed the team into an unlikely two-stop race that almost, if temporarily, delivered the goods.

Ferrari almost undercut Hamilton

Pitting from five seconds behind Hamilton and calling it an undercut was ambitious, but Mercedes and Hamilton wanting to extend the first stint as far as possible to mitigate the risk of running out of tyres by the end almost lost them the lead, albeit.

Vettel set two fastest laps in succession on new tyres to cut the gap to just 0.8 seconds as Hamilton emerged from his pit stop two laps later.

Hamilton jumped on team radio to query why he was allowed to fall so far back — and indeed Vettel almost outsmarted Mercedes by blitzing his final third sector by taking generously wide line out of the last turn — but in reality it was perfectly judged to give Hamilton an extra lap of tyre life.

All season Hamilton has been comfortable with the soft tyre, and by the end of his out lap he was already 1.5 seconds ahead of Vettel and only grew the gap from there.


Verstappen’s rise to the top triggers the second stops

Max Verstappen started on the supersoft tyre from P16 and made up 10 places in the first 10 laps to put himself on the tail of the frontrunners. When teammate Daniel Ricciardo retired and the remaining five podium contenders made their stops, he led the race, pushing his opening stint to 24 laps in an attempt to complete the classic one-stop contrastrategy in the style of Vettel’s recovery in Malaysia.

His pace on the soft was good, but 13 laps later he switched to a new set of supersoft tyres — Ricciardo had struggled on the ultrasofts early in the race and Verstappen had shown good pace on the supersofts at the start of the race anyway — in an effort to shake the tree ahead of him.

Ferrari, unable to catch Hamilton ahead but panicked by Verstappen, pitted Vettel to cover the Dutchman, emerging 1.6 seconds up the road.

In retrospect it wasn’t necessary, however — Vettel finished further behind Hamilton than he was before the stop and Verstappen was held up by Räikkönen, leaving him what would have been four seconds behind the Ferrari, excluding the time lost via penalty for passing Kimi off the track.

The loser in this battle, however, was Bottas, who languished on soft tyres that rapidly degraded due to all the fighting. He was forced to change to new tyres on lap 52.

Force India’s team orders

Force India again enacted team orders to prevent its drivers from clashing, but this week it lost points in doing so.

Not for the first time Perez proved faster in race trim than Ocon, but with the latter having qualified higher, the Mexican found himself stuck behind his teammate halfway through the race and lapping around 0.8 seconds off his potential pace. Perez called to be allowed past, but the team was sticking fast to its no-racing policy since the pair’s skirmishes earlier in the season.

The result was that Carlos Sainz, on tyres seven laps younger, closed by a couple of tenths a lap until he was able to pass Perez on lap 33, though the new Renault driver was unable to pass the Frenchman ahead.

Perez gradually fell behind the battling young guns and into the clutches of Felipe Massa, who had made his sole stop on lap 29 for ultrasoft tyres — and ambitious plan that paid dividends — though the Brazilian was unable to get the job done in the final five laps they sparred.


Michael Lamonato @MichaelLamonato


Pole position:    Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes — 1:33.108
Winner:                 Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes — 1:33:50.991
Strategy:               One-stop — Ultrasoft – Soft
Fastest lap:         Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari — 1:37.766 (lap record)


Ultrasoft: Vandoorne (30 laps)
Supersoft: Massa (29 laps)
Soft: Magnussen (48 laps)


Thanks to Pirelli Motorsport

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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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