Rapid pit stop speeds Alonso to victory (Italian Grand Prix analysis)

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Fernando Alonso’s Italian Grand Prix win owed a lot to the speedy work of his pit crew – who he paid tribute to after the race.

And low tyre wear allowed drivers to pursue some very unusual strategies. Such as Sebastian Vettel who waited until the final lap to make his mandatory pit stop – going almost the entire race distance on a set of soft tyres.

Lap 1

Position 1 lap change
Position 1 lap change

Alonso became just the second driver in 11 years to lose the lead at the start of the Italian Grand Prix.

The Red Bulls made their customary poor getaways, propelling Nico Rosberg up into fourth, aided by Lewis Hamilton’s retirement.

Adrian Sutil was crowded out at the start and ended up next to his team mate, who had started eight places behind him. Force India reacted by pitting him, dropping him to last place.

That meant Timo Glock overcame his five-place grid penalty in one lap, jumping from last to 17th.

Pit stops

Pit stops
Pit stops

There were some notably good and bad pit stops during the race.

Alonso enjoyed one of the quickest stops of the race and, significantly, spent 0.8s less than Jenson Button in pit lane.

Given he came out of the pits side-by-side with Button, it’s fair to say the rapid work by his pit crew won him the race. The on-screen timers recorded their stationary times as 3.4 seconds for Alonso and 4.2 for Button.

But for the second race in a row Robert Kubica lost a place at his pit stop – this time Nico H???lkenberg got through. H???lkenberg’s visit to the pits was over a second faster than Kubica’s.

At least Kubica didn’t hit a member of his team again. But the pit stops did not pass without incident – one of HRT’s pit crew was injured after Sakon Yamamoto was released from his pit box too early.

A striking feature of the race was how several drivers easily completed very long stints. Vitaly Petrov did 49 laps on hard tyres, Sutil 51.

And Sebastian Vettel went 51 laps on the soft tyres, which suggests the cars could have tolerated softer compounds than Bridgestone brought.

Race progress

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Tick/untick drivers? names to show their laps, click and drag to zoom

Why did most of the pit stops happen so late in the race? Two reasons: First, the field spread out quite gradually behind the leaders.

Also, those who did pit didn’t lap quickly enough on the hard tyres to begin with. That meant the teams they were racing against didn’t feel the need to pit in reaction to ‘cover’ what their rivals were doing.

Look at the Liuzzi-de la Rosa battle, for example: de la Rosa was 2.4 seconds behind the Force India when he pitted on lap 16, Liuzzi didn’t come in for another 14 laps and more than double his advantage by doing so.

It wasn’t until later in the race that the soft tyres had dropped off enough for the pit stops to be worthwhile. That’s partly why Massa, despite setting a new fastest lap time just before he pitted, lost two seconds to Alonso during the course of their pit stops.

Lap chart

Lap chart
Lap chart

Vettel didn’t lose a place with his ultra-late pit stop. He overturned a 5.3-second deficit to Nico Rosberg to lead the Mercedes home by 1.7 seconds.

His team mate Webber can hardly have been impressed – he’d have been better off delaying his pit stop like Vettel did.

2010 Italian Grand Prix

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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59 comments on “Rapid pit stop speeds Alonso to victory (Italian Grand Prix analysis)”

  1. Unbelieveable, the teams keep complaining about the tyres and then there are races were they actually drive thru without a pit stop

    1. Yep, it definatly wasn’t Canada lol

    2. Yeah, just shows that the tires wear too well.

      1. I can’t understand the point of having two compounds if the softs can last the entire race or even half a race. The softs need to last a quarter of the race at most…

  2. Today in general the stops looked quite quick, I wonder if it actually was that way when the stats are compiled.

  3. i thought Button was always going to loose first and maybe second places if he pitted before the Ferrari’s, when the two cars behind you are faster i would have thought you try to pit latter,
    how McLaren thought Jenson would be faster on hards was beyond me, that first lap on hards was more his downfall than the pitstop.

    1. Jenson stayed out a very long time though. You’re right but there’s not much Mclaren could have done. There was no way they could make Ferrari pit so that Button could pit so they were forced to try the different strategy of trying to put in a couple of hot laps before Button’s stop, but Alonso was equal to it

      1. Younger Hamilton
        13th September 2010, 1:00

        Nah to be fair i think if that was Lewis in Jenson’s High Downforce setup car then Alonso wouldnt have won the race or if Alonso didnt cheat by chopping off a part of Jenson’s Rear wing and diffuser then it would have been much much closer but thats Motor racing so we all have to move on.

        1. Do you really need to use the word “cheat” for a racing incident?

          1. ….the ‘cheat[s]’ moniker will follow ferrari, and ‘lonso all the way to the final race, and beyond, felipe giving up the place probably hurt Button more…

          2. ….the ‘cheat[s]‘ moniker will follow ferrari, and ‘lonso all the way to the final race, and beyond, felipe giving up the place probably hurt Button more…

            We’re not talking about past incidents, we’re talking about Alonso and Button making contact in the race, so give up.

        2. Come on, you can’t be serious about Alonso “cheating” when he hit Jenson a bit in the chicane.
          Button had the extra downforce so he could brake better, and Fernando had Lewis just being and Massa right next to him.

          And i don’t think Lewis would have managed better today if he would have been in Jensons car. As Keith pointed out, the pitstop did the trick for Alonso.

        3. if Alonso didnt cheat by chopping off a part of Jenson’s Rear wing

          It was a racing incident, nothing more.

          1. Does anyone know roughly how much time button was losing because of the damage?

        4. I am inclined to agree with you about hamilton as he does seem to be able to squeeze a little more out of a car when it matters than button, however he chose to go with a low downforce setup and then made the mistake in the chicane so Jenson clearly did better this weekend. I disagree with you about Alonso though as even though I can’t stand him, it was clearly an accident as Alonso could have easily lost his front wing. It does show how fine the line is between success and failure though as Alonso survived his incident to go on to win while Hamiltons which was similar (ie going in to the corner a little too hot) ended in disaster. Shows that an inch or two can lead to either a win or put you out of a race. But I guess that is what makes F1 so great.

  4. 51 laps on soft tyres is an absolute joke, I cannot wait to see the back of Bridgestone. They’ve been a great service to F1, but they’ve outstayed their welcome.

    There is absolutely no need for kers or ‘adjustable rear wings’, just give us Ground Effect, competitive tyres and dull races like today will be a rarity.

    1. Sound_Of_Madness (@)
      12th September 2010, 22:41

      I just hope Pirelli do a better job. And, uh, find a new tester.

      1. Rather hope they do a bad job, so that the tires fall apart quicker :P

        1. How about they do a semi-reasonable job, just enough so the tyres aren’t a farce but not so much that they can do half a race on “soft” tyres…

      2. Younger Hamilton
        13th September 2010, 0:56

        Whats so bad about Heidfeld he’s got plenty of experience, anyway i believe Pirelli will be providing 3 Compounds, Soft Medium and Hard not sure their bringing all compounds to every race

  5. This makes Buttons stop completley baffaling, why didn’t McLaren look out for this, they could have waited till the last lap and the tyre warm up would have left Alonso behind Button during the stops.

    Why make an agressive move on a deffensive strategy.

    1. Because despite the initial warm-up problems the hard tyre was faster later on in the race. Given the pace of Alonso’s first lap on new hard tyres (instantly 0.5s/lap faster – see here: Italian Grand Prix fastest laps) there was likely no strategic option open to McLaren that would have kept Button ahead.

    2. Younger Hamilton
      13th September 2010, 1:05

      Well to respond to your comment as well,When Seb did that very long stint on the Softs and pitted on the last lap McLaren must have felt Stupid, of course they’ve got plenty of telemetry and data on other teams but i dont think they expected Seb to go that long on Soft Tyres.

      1. Seb wasn’t really racing anyone. He was out by himself for most of the race, whereas Button was on the ragged edge, locking the brakes, sliding the car around, trying to stay ahead of the Ferrari’s.

        Because of the uniqueness of his racing situation I am sure that he was the only one able to make that strategy work.

      2. When Seb did that very long stint on the Softs and pitted on the last lap McLaren must have felt Stupid

        I doubt it. The only thing they would have accomplished by leaving Button out that long would have been dropping him to third instead of second.

      3. Why would McLaren have felt stupid? Alonso was faster than Button before and after the tyre stops. Had McLaren kept Button out Alonso would have stopped, closed the gap to Button in clean air and then easily taken the lead when Button finally stopped.

        Vettel’s strategy only worked because he was faster than the drivers he was racing and could pull out a gap.

    3. I think Button and Withmarsh admitted, that it was never going to be easy.

      Alonso might have pitted a lap early, gettting Button with a good outlap. Or like he did now stay out another lap and find the speed to do it.

      In the end the pitstop difference might well have been key to this working for Alonso.

      1. Yes, I agree, and of course the fact that Ferrari were just plain fast in Monza. I will grant that Button likely just put the car on cruise control after he lost out on Alonso, but Alonso had at least similar pace until then, and he was able to pull a gap after, so Button just didn’t really have enough pace to counter.

        I guess we won’t ever know if that 1st corner incident cost Button much, from the crack on Alonso’s car it was pretty hard, so I tend to think Button lost some pace, but even then I doubt it would have been an easy win for Button – maybe he would have been able to fight for it a bit longer, that’s all, I believe.

      2. Let’s remember after the stop, Button came on the radio, in a Hamilton-like moment, to inquire about the tire strategy. Whitmarsh responded that the hard tire was faster. I’m sure Button was like, thanks, genius.

        Of course if you looked at practice data, Button should have smoked Alonso on the hard tire, Button knew that, but it was all academic after Alonso got ahead (as it turned out Ferrari closed the hard tire gap, for Alonso).

        At the end of the day, there was no point in pitting first, knowing that Alonso would have a hell of time on his outlap with less DF on harder tires. This race was about outlap pace and pit delta, McLaren got it wrong. Announcnig on the radio that you need to push to pit in 1-2 laps just made Ferrari’s job that much easier. Come up with a code or something.

        Also, I suspect that McLaren’s hard tire pace failed to materialize due to fuel. Remember that Button was told to go to “Yellow G 4″ after the stop. In Valencia Hamilton was told to go to Yellow G 3” pre his penalty, and he took off like a rocket. The former fuel setting may be a fuel-saving mode rather than the hyperspace mode. Remember that Button’s high DF set up was bound to cost more fuel than a low DF setting for the same lap time.

  6. Haven’t seen any discussion here about Button’s diffuser damage courtesy of a certain red car at the first chicane, lap 1. (At least so it was described here in the US on Speed TV and I admit I haven’t read everything available about the race). Haven’t heard Button or McLaren complain about lost aero grip. Haven’t heard anyone suggest Alonso could keep close to him in the second sector because of reduced grip. Nice to see such a lack of whining for a change. Maybe it didn’t make a difference but the piece that flew off looked large enough to be important.

    The pit stops made the pass possible but maybe that damage contributed a few tenths, thereby enabling the pass.

    Alonso’s car only seemed to have a little dent as a result of the collision. So the Ferraris are solid at both ends, apparently.

    1. OK, I’ve seen mention that it was endplate damage. Can anyone confirm? What effect could that damage have?

      1. On the BBC red button they showed it. Lower endplate and a bit of the diffusor was damaged.
        Withmarsh said (when asked) that it had a noticable effect on downforce (at least for the engineers) but that was in no way big enough to make it a reason for not winning.

        1. Which is a bit daft, given the distance between winning and not winning was about a tenth of a second over 38 laps.

          1. No, it means that McLaren think that Button was holding up Alonso and he could have gone faster if required and possible, I think.

  7. It’s unfortunate that Button’s brilliant strategy should have cmoe undone by this.

    1. He wasn’t fast enough to win, it’s that simple.
      I agree he should be applauded for trying something different, and he did the best he could but the faster car won on the day…

      1. If he would have had a tad better out lap, and a bit faster pitstop as well as Alonso not having that great a stop it might have worked.

        I agree it was a gamble that made for an intensive fight, but in the end they did not quit make it work.

        1. We’ll never know what the effect on pace was. McLaren don’t do wind tunnel tests for the effect of ripping off random pieces of the diffuser. We do know that pieces of CF the size of dinner plates are not on the car for decoration and it certainly had an effect, especailly since Button’s whole advantage was in downforce. Given that the race came down to about 20 meters distance, it’s a fair conjecture that this first corener tap cost Button the race.

  8. I can’t believe this “soft” tyre lasted the whole race for Vettel. It’s ridiculous. Pirelli can’t be allowed to have their tyres last almost a full race distance. Something needs to be done.

    1. Yeah, hopefully Pirelli won’t be afraid to bring more marginal tires to the races. The downside is that they won’t want the potential bad publicity that comes with drivers complaining about the tires.

  9. Anyone heard anything about Hulkenberg’s chicane cutting?
    He did it three times, every time when Webber started to get close enough to be able to attack and gained enough advantage that Webber couldn’t close and had to go for a few laps to reel him back in to try again. Surprised nothing been said or done about this post race. Or maybe RBR got a no from Charlie?

    1. The BBC commentary said that Red Bull had complained to Williams, who checked with Charlie Whiting. Whiting’s view was apparently that Webber hadn’t been close enough to Hulkenberg to suggest that the Williams only retained his position by going off track, so Webber was told to pass the old fashioned way.

    2. It was discussed on the BBC. RBR referred to the stewards who chose not to investigate. Webber was unimpressed in his post race interview.

    3. I think that Hulkenberg’s laptimes were checked by the stewards and in all of the 3 situations Hulk lost time compared to previous laps. No advantage, no penalty

  10. Lets not complain about tires .. the track characteristics coupled with the Monza specification wings allow tires to last longer than usual, but we did see the high downforce setup of Jenson eat up its tires, a couple of laps before he pitted, he was having some braking issues, locking up into turn one more than a couple of times
    Overall, I think Bridgestone did a good job with the tyres at this particular venue

  11. Something fishy about how McLaren almost always gets flawless starts while Red Bull and Ferrari do not. Have McLaren found some sort of launch control that somehow fits inside the rule?

    1. maybe it’s the Mercedes engine. Rosberg and Schumi had good starts as well.

    2. I think Jenson took advantage of that massive back-wing: with the load of downforce pushing directly down on the back wheels, he was able to transfer more power to his tyres. That seems quite logical to me.

      1. But Button was instantly quicker than Alonso off the start line, suggesting the McLaren simply hooked it all up for a better start. The extra downforce available to Button wouldn’t have made any difference from a standing start.

        If anything, Alonso’s low downforce, low drag setup would have had the initial advantage in the straightline drag race to the first corner. Although Button’s car would have been better under braking, he had already done enough to win the corner.

        A hidden launch control system is unlikely – all the cars run standard ECUs.

        1. I guess if you are paranoid you could mention that the system is made by a branch of McLaren, but I am sure that FIA check those things very carefully to avoid any hidden tricks like Beneton used to have.

          1. ” all the cars run standard ECUs.”

            Which I understand are made by Mclaren? So may be they know how to use them the best way.

  12. I was very concerned at one stage that team orders had caught up with Vettel. I think the end proved there were no team orders. It would have been a shame had Vettel had also been turned into an F1 eunuch!

    1. It was actually commented on TV, looked very suspicious Vettel reporting engine problems that lasted half a lap, enough to get Weber thru. Never seen a F1 engine recover after damage, really weird. The outcome of the race might prove that there were no team orders, or the way RedBull did it might have been responded and RB backed up.
      In my opinion there were no team orders, mainly because I think Vettel is still considered as nº1 driver in the team

      1. This was Eddi Jordan @ BBC, who also incredibly suspects from Massas pit stop slowed done on purpose by the team!! Such a nonsence. If you check the FIA race pit stop summary you’ll find Massa was onñy 0.6s slower than Alo and 0.2s faster than Button.

      2. I saw somewhere else that it turned out to be a problem with the brakes binding.

  13. Thought Webber raced well besides the horrible, horrible start.Saw how he got from 4th to 6th but not sure how he got from 6th to 9th (seemed to happen around Hamilton’s incident but didn’t actually see what happened). Anyway, to my original point, you don’t often see one driver make 3 quality on-track overtakes (Schumi, Kubica and Hulk)in a race these days.

  14. The pit-stops done by the Ferrari team on both of their cars were great, it was just like the old days.

  15. The pit crew was stunning no other word for it

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