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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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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