Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Red Bull's intra-team tactics

Mark Hughes analyses the relative performance of Red Bull drivers, Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber, in last Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix, and points out that Webber was doomed from the moment he allowed Vettel to assume the inside line into the first corner. Even the pit-stops offered Webber no chance of redemption, and for the following reason:

"Within the team, the leader gets strategic preference on the timing of the stops i.e. he will be brought in first, allowing him to use the grip of his new tyres to pull further clear while his team-mate is still on his worn rubber."

This, however, raises the possibility that a driver, if closely pursued by a team-mate, could postpone his own pitstop for as late as possible, and thereby ensure that his team-mate, stopping one lap later, is guaranteed to lose track position. Doing so would allow the lead driver to pull clear whilst his team-mate struggles to extricate himself from the rest of the pack.

Curiously, in the Australian Grand Prix, just seven days previously, whilst the majority of the field pitted on lap eight, the leader, Sebastian Vettel pitted on lap nine, forcing second-placed Webber to pit on lap ten. The belated timing of Webber's stop dropped him into the pack, from which his increasingly aggressive attempts to extricate himself simply dropped him further and further behind.

Red Bull claimed after the Australian Grand Prix that they were simply being conservative with the timing of Vettel's pitstop, but the opportunity is certainly there for a driver to exploit this system to enforce dominance over a team-mate.


Unknown said...

Good point there on leaving the pitstop as late as you could, but can I just point out that most drivers already do this, as it is a part of disadvantaging your opponent, thereby increasing your advantage.

Sean said...

Vettel apparently spends quite a bit of time on the simulator, perfecting tactics as well as the new car.

Gordon McCabe said...

Ah, but remember Hasala, that with no refuelling, it's now an advantage to stop before your opponent. In terms of racing against drivers from other teams, you now want to stop as early as you can in a pit-stop window.

Gordon McCabe said...

Interesting, I didn't know that Sean.

Mr Ecclestone predicted that Vettel would be champion this year, and it's noticeable how often his predictions come true.

Patrick said...

Gordon - unless of course, you think your team mate has stopped *so* early that they'll wreck their tyres. Hamilton stopped much later than Button last weekend and finished ahead (although I think he was out as long as he was mainly because they were hoping for rain).

Gordon McCabe said...

Yes, this all tacitly assumes that you and your team-mate are on the same tyres.

Button, of course, started Malaysian on softs, so stopped early, whilst Hamilton started on the harder tyre, which entailed a later stop. As you say, that later scheduled stop also opened up the possibility of coinciding with a change to rain-tyres.