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The art of the overtake and the counter strategy - by Bottas and Hulkenberg

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The art of the overtake and the counter strategy - by Bottas and Hulkenberg
Jun 23, 2015, 5:01 PM

The Austrian Grand Prix may not have produced much uncertainty once the lead changed between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg at the start, but ther...

The Austrian Grand Prix may not have produced much uncertainty once the lead changed between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg at the start, but there were some very interesting cameos going on in the race and some lessons to be learned about how the second half of the season will pan out.

Pre race expectations

Based on the practice running on Friday this looked like a comfortable one stop race, with the problem for the strategists being that the warm-up of the soft tyre made it look like an undercut would not be possible. This means that the tactical option for the car behind of pitting a lap earlier than the rival ahead and then using the performance of the new tyre on the out lap, would not put you ahead of your rival.

The projected life of the soft tyre was 45 laps and the super soft was 35 laps, making it an easy one-stop race with tyre graining the limiting factor.

Hulkenberg, Bottas

Bottas vs Hulkenberg

One of the highlights of the race was the 5th place battle between Valtteri Bottas in the Williams and Nico Hulkenberg in the Force India. Hulkenberg qualified ahead and stayed ahead at the start. Bottas passed the German on Lap 25, with a deft pass down the inside under braking into the uphill Turn 2.

This is a good passing place at the Red Bull Ring as it’s a difficult braking zone and getting the energy deployment right is a challenge. Where Bottas showed great tactical awareness was that, as he had been close behind Hulkenberg in the DRS detection zone on the approach to the corner, he was entitled to use DRS on the following straight, even though he was now the lead car. So he was able to make the pass stick as he accelerated more quickly than the Force India.

Then team strategy kicked in; Force India pitted Hulkenberg immediately and performed the fastest stop of the day. He then pushed hard on his out lap. Williams responded and pitted Bottas, but he had a slow stop, losing over a second, so Hulkenberg was ahead again when Bottas rejoined!

The pair battled for a further eight laps before the superior pace of the Williams finally told and Bottas passed Hulkenberg for good.

It was a great little cameo, illustrating great strategy in the cockpit by Bottas and also good tactical awareness by Force India in responding to the loss of position with a strategy challenge.

Hamilton Austria 2015

Was Hamilton left out too long?

Lewis Hamilton lost the race at the start; he didn’t get away as well as Nico Rosberg and surrendered the lead in the opening corners. With limited strategic options at his disposal to come back at Rosberg, there was little he could do in an equal car. Also Rosberg had raised his game in terms of race craft from last year. He maintained his pace more consistently and used his ERS energy and other tools effectively. He picked up the pace straight away on the second set of tyres after his stop.

Rosberg had pit stop priority as the leading car and he pitted on Lap 33. Hamilton came in two laps later. After the race Hamilton felt that he had been left out too long before pitting, that it had perhaps cost him a chance to get closer and challenge, as the gap grew from 2.2 seconds to 4.4 through the stops.

But there was good reason for him staying out; if he had pitted the lap after Rosberg he would have come out behind Felipe Massa’s Williams. Not knowing how much longer that car was going before pitting, Mercedes would not want Hamilton on new tyres to lose time behind Massa on old ones.

When the Brazilian pitted on Lap 34, it then made sense to pit Hamilton on Lap 35 and he resumed in second place.

However a slow stop for Ferrari handed the third place to Massa in the Ferrari vs Williams battle. Ferrari has suffered a few reliability problems in pit stops this season; remember that in Australia Raikkonen had to retire out on track after a pit stop with doubts over whether the wheel was attached properly, for example.

After the race Vettel observed that the Mercedes is now able to run more aggressive engine modes than earlier in the season and this is one of the reasons why Ferrari has not been able to mount as great a challenge as expected on race day. Also Ferrari’s Friday practice running has flattered to deceive in the last few races, partly due to running lower fuel than Mercedes, but also due to engine modes.

Maldonado

Maldonado makes a counter strategy work

The final point of note was Pastor Maldonado coming through from 10th on the grid to finish 7th ahead of Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen.

The Lotus driver qualified outside the top ten, so had a choice of starting tyre, but was promoted to 10th on the grid due to penalties for the Red Bull cars. Maldonado went for the soft tyre for the long opening stint and was helped by the fact that Toro Rosso pitted Verstappen a bit too early on Lap 26, to move from super soft to soft tyres.

This meant he ran out of tyre performance in the closing laps of the race and Maldonado was able to get by two laps before the end.

Verstappen was in a battle with the Red Bull cars, both of which were running on the soft tyres, so were set to run a long first stint. He came out behind them from his stop and got ahead of Kvyat, but took longer to get ahead of Ricciardo, as he ran longer than expected to Lap 50.

Meanwhile Maldonado had pitted on Lap 37 onto supersofts and shadowed Verstappen, making up 11 seconds on him in 20 laps before some lurid side-by-side moments eventually led to a pass for position.

The UBS Race Strategy Report is written by James Allen with input and data from several of the leading F1 teams’ strategists and from Pirelli.

RACE HISTORY & TYRE USAGE GRAPHS, Kindly Supplied by Williams Martini Racing - Click to enlarge

Note the relative pace of Mercedes and Vettel's Ferrari in the opening stint. This illustrates the more aggressive mode Mercedes is now able to use for longer on its power unit in race conditions.

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Series Formula 1
Drivers Lewis Hamilton Shop Now
Tags race-strategy-calculator