Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Circuit de Catalunya, 2017

Ferrari made right call on strategy – Vettel

2017 Spanish Grand Prix

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Sebastian Vettel has backed the strategy calls by his Ferrari team in the Spanish Grand Prix despite losing out on victory to Lewis Hamilton.

After leading early in the race, Ferrari opted to pit Vettel early for a second set of Soft tyres before switching to the more durable Medium compound for the final stint.

“I think we did the right thing in the strategy,” says Vettel. “Maybe there’s a couple of things we could’ve done better. But our tyre choice I think was the right one.”

Vettel led from start of the race after passing Hamilton on the run down to the first corner, but lost out after Hamilton overtook the Ferrari with the advantage of Soft tyres and DRS in the final stint.

“I was pushing. I had a really good start,” Vettel explains.

“I think Lewis and myself both picked up wheelspin straight away, then I pulled the clutch in again and I could gain on him. So I was really happy with that. Then again the run to Turn One was quite long, but I managed to stay ahead. Then I settled into a nice rhythm and everything was fine.”

Vettel also provided his account of the close encounter between the pair at Turn One following his final pit stop.

“Obviously Lewis stayed out longer, did the opposite, mirrored the strategy. So I knew in the end it would be crucial. When he came out, I was a bit surprised that he was so close. I tried to brake as late as possible and locked up – don’t know if we touched. But I managed to stay ahead, so it was pretty close.”

Despite missing out on his third victory of the season, Vettel continues to lead the drivers’ championship by six points from the Mercedes driver.

2017 Spanish Grand Prix

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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  • 25 comments on “Ferrari made right call on strategy – Vettel”

    1. In my opinion, the first stop was fine. Ferrari was backed into a corner because Hamilton would have leapfrogged Vettel if they did not pit him first. The second though should have been done during the vsc. Lastly, on lap 48(something like that), the gap was 1.8 and they should have tried and pitted him because there is nothing to be lost by doing it. While I know that they were hoping that Hamilton’s tire would degrade in the end, the speed differential would not have been enough for Vettel to make a pass.

      1. To pit so early was a bit of a risk I think, but they should have pitted him during the VSC for sure.

      2. Andrew Purkis
        14th May 2017, 18:08

        merc suckered ferrari their first tactical mistake of the year

        and they should have gone for the 3rd stop

        nothing to lose

        1. I agree – I would’ve liked to have seen Vettel try and catch Hamilton on the soft tyres. I don’t think he would’ve done it but I’m pretty sure his pace would’ve been absolutely scorching. Without VSC and Bottas I think the result would’ve been different.

    2. Without the VSC Ferrari were well clear even with Buttass

    3. In my opinion, the first stop was fine. Ferrari was backed into a corner because Hamilton would have leapfrogged Vettel if they did not pit him first.

      I am sorry but I disagree. I watched the race from the start and the gap between Vettel and Hamilton stood between 1.9 and 2.5 seconds for over 10 laps in that first stint. With the Ferrari’s history of holding its tyres better, Vettel would have had too much trouble in maintaining that distance and so they should have waited for Hamilton to pit first and then followed suit in the next lap. With cold tyres Hamilton could not have managed a 2-second advantage in his out lap and even if he had closed when Vettel himself came out in the next lap, the latter would have maintained the lead as the race went on.

      IMO, Merc only decided to put Hamilton on mediums because of Ferrari’s mistake with Vettel. If Vettel was still on his first stint when Hamilton had to go in for his stop, they would have put another set of softs on.

      Whichever way you look at it, there was definitely no need for Ferrari to pit Vettel on lap 14. That was a strategic blunder that cost them the race., with a bit of help from Bottas and the VSC.

      1. Good point, actually.

    4. MG421982 (@)
      14th May 2017, 17:47

      Maybe… I’m no expert, I don’t have their data, they could be right… but, in my opinion, they didn’t. They should have used each set of Softs at least 20 laps, but they chose to use the 1st set less than half laps HAM did with 1 of his Softs sets. Looks like a bad call indeed.

      1. Although Vettels first set of softs had already done Quali remember and the car was a lot heavier at the start of the race, so you are not really comparing apples with apples.

    5. I think it was a clear Ferrari wrong call. If data shown on screen tv was accurate when Ham entered pit line he was about 8 sec off, and while his car stopped there were no more SC sign on screen. So Ferrari had to keep Vettel outside pushing, his soft tires took a rest for the about 4 SC laps. Staying out for 9 or 10 more laps gaining 0.8 to 1.0 sec per lap would give him a much more chance at the end.

      1. You think Vettel could gain 0.8 to 1.0s per lap on a used set of softs compared to Hamilton on a Brand new set of softs?

        I think Not, The Ferrari is good this year but not THAT good!

        1. My mistake, you are right. I was thinking the 0.8 gaining as when Ham was using meds.

    6. Bottas was the key today, but man that overtake on him, that “snake move” was phenomenal.

    7. You don’t pit from the lead before the cars behind you! That’s the number one rule of strategy. You definitely don’t do it if you have less tire degradation and a faster car! How many races is Ferrari going to lose on this strategy point, that requires no computer modeling whatsoever? Besides, when was the last time someone beat Mercedes from first place by doing an extra stop? The leader doesn’t have to gamble on a dumb strategy to win– he’s already winning– let other teams try something foolish or aggressive. No one is going to pass a Mercedes for the win when your medium tires are only 15 laps old and their softs are 20 [replace with basically any combination of tires and laps as needed]. Patience to pit has a lot of option value, and the guy in the clean air is going to have the least tire deg anyway.

      If you’re patient, you can see when your competitor pits, what tire they use, and you’re going to come out in clean air. You won’t be undercut because when Lewis hits the pit Seb can take his 2-4 second lead, put in a qualifying lap, pit, and come out handily ahead on the right tires even if Lewis’s first lap back out is a little faster than the last on the old tires.

      1. MG421982 (@)
        15th May 2017, 7:11

        Exactly! Things were going well for VET in the 1st stint: he was leading the race, the pace was OK and he was keeping HAM behind out of the DRS zone… why pit so early and throw away a working set of tyres, not to mention it was the fastest tyre available and the compound that worked best for them??!

        1. You don’t pit from the lead before the cars behind you! That’s the number one rule of strategy.

          A 2 second lead is easily lost with an undercut!! This makes the whole premise of your argument incorrect. It is why Mercedes and many teams now give the lead car priority in strategy.

          1. There’s no way that undercut was going to happen, or is likely to happen in similar scenarios this year with Vettel leading a Merc. And the solution definitely isn’t to either pit far too early or stay out much longer.

      2. @chaddy you do actually because of undercut

        1. I mean in general

      3. You don’t pit from the lead before the cars behind you! That’s the number one rule of strategy. You definitely don’t do it if you have less tire degradation and a faster car! How many races is Ferrari going to lose on this strategy point, that requires no computer modeling whatsoever? Besides, when was the last time someone beat Mercedes from first place by doing an extra stop? The leader doesn’t have to gamble on a dumb strategy to win– he’s already winning– let other teams try something foolish or aggressive.

        Agreed to all those points and they collective sum up why Ferrari lost Vettel a race he should have won by rights. IMO, Ferrari them panicked and made that first stop. I was watching the Vet>Ham lap times carefully and although it dipped just under 2 secs a couple of times, it went back to around 2.2 secs at other sectors of the lap. Furthermore, Vettel is an expert in controlling the race and his car from the front; Hamilton was not really closing on him in that first stint but Ferrari believed that he was. Merc might have told Hamilton to push even at the cost of degrading his tyres faster in the hope of creating an illusion that he was closing on Vettel. Ferrari fell for it.

        If only Ferrari had braved it out, Merc almost certainly would have brought Hamilton in for a tyre change before Vettel, considering that the former was complaining about tyre wear in the latter part of the first stint. Ferrari then could have pitted Vettel in the very next lap, mirroring Merc strategy; Bottas by then was too far behind to be able to do his blocking act; even if Merc had kept Bottas out longer on the first stint, his soft tyres would have worn out too much by the time Vettel & Hamilton caught-up with him after their tyre changes.

        Bad, bad strategy by Ferrari and Bottas and the VSC saw to it that it could not be corrected even if they had tried.

      4. Ferrari aren’t used to having a faster car – it’s taking some adjusting having a car that’s capable of winning races. I agree though – with that car, and Vettel on his current form, Hamilton shouldn’t have had a sniff.

    8. Today was a clear indication that the Mercedes is the faster car. Vettel could not break away from Hamilton to built enough of a gap to cover a potential undercut. That’s why Vettel had to pit too early.
      In Australia Ferrari had the advantage of making the tyres last longer but that wasn’t the case anymore here.
      Combined with Bottas as a clear number 2 to help Hamilton in every way possible means Ferrari were always going to have a difficult time winning this one.
      Maybe Ferrari should have pitted Vettel straight after Hamilton’s boring highway pass but I doubt it would have mattered as the Mercedes showed little to no degradation even after 30 laps.

      It’s quite a feat that Vettel is still leading the championship in the 2nd best car. But I doubt he can keep that up for much longer. Unless Ferrari can keep up in development and copy Mercedes in backing one driver only while using the other just to try and get the victory.

      1. MG421982 (@)
        15th May 2017, 7:02

        Yup, I have the feeling Mercedes still is the faster car most time, no matter if we’re talking about Quali or Race… but thank God the difference is small: ~0.2sec max. On the other hand, dunno if VET is lucky because RAI is always behind, so he doesn’t “steal” any points from VET (like BOT did with HAM in Russia for example)… OR if he’s unlucky because RAI is almost always 4th, so he cannot help VET by mixing with the Mercedes drivers, “stealing” some points from the Mercedes duo.

    9. Kenneth Mwai
      15th May 2017, 10:06

      I think the first early pit stop was where he lost this race , coupled with not stopping under the VSC. He had the advantage of road position and his times were very good in the first stint. He could awaited the mercs to play out their strategy and mirrored it ( for e.g. Stop the lap after Hamiltons first stop , take the same tyres as Merc etc). Traffic wasn’t helping on this short track , so an aggressive strategy as they took, was hampered by this. Strategy was simple once he got to turn one first; mirror your closest competitor ( Hamilton) and set good lap times at the front managing the race.

    10. Judging by Vettel’s demeanour at the pen interview, (he wasn’t buoyant), I’d say he wasn’t pleased with Ferrari’s strategy because he knew he could have won, but, unlike Hamilton, he shows total loyalty to his team on camera and vents his spleen behind closed doors. That’s why I like him and not Hamilton. (And when he started, he’d bleached his mousey hair blond.)

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