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Hungarian GP: Tyre and Pit Stop Strategy

By Mav | 29 Jul 2012 | 11 Comments | 3,694 views

Having gone quickest during free practice and qualifying, Lewis Hamilton completed the job with a dominant victory in the Hungarian Grand Prix. Lotus tried to put the McLaren driver under pressure, first in the form of Romain Grosjean before Kimi Raikkonen had his chance in the closing stages as the strategy unfolded. In truth, though, Hamilton seldom looked troubled.

Strategically, two stops reigned, although McLaren appeared worried that they might have to make a third stop for Hamilton, having already done so for Jenson Button. Not that Button seemed to agree with the decision which saw him slip down to sixth. Red Bull also opted to stop three times, a decision that Mark Webber was also baffled by although the team insisted it was necessary after a problem with the differential caused excessive tyre wear. In both cases, Championship leader Fernando Alonso was the main beneficiary. Sebastian Vettel’s additional stop was a relatively risk-free gamble, however, in an attempt to challenge Grosjean with fresh tyres. Despite that, while he was able to recatch the Lotus driver, he couldn’t find a way past.

Tyre Strategy
Click image to enlarge

The main strategic talking point, was at Lotus. Running in fifth at the midway stage, Kimi Raikkonen emerged from the second round of pitstops in second place. Raikkonen put in a series of phenomenal lap times at the end of his second stint (shown below) but crucially, Grosjean and Vettel exited behind the slower Fernando Alonso. The result was the Finn not only overhauling Vettel and Button, but also swallowing up his team mates advantage too. Wheel-to-wheel when Raikkonen exited from his stop, the former World Champion robustly put his junior team mate in his place (which was off the track as it happens.)

If that was an inspired decision by Lotus, it looked less so on the other side of the garage. Seemingly attempting to protect second place by covering Vettel’s decision to pit a lap earlier, Lotus failed to factor in Alonso. Admittedly, the Ferrari driver may have also pitted at this point but Lotus were over-cautious and far from the first time this year. Hamilton cleared Alonso a lap later and the Frenchman could have done likewise. Ultimately, it didn’t cost Lotus any constructors’ points but it’s unlikely that Grosjean will see it that way even if he was keen to simply point the finger at the traffic.
 
Hungarian Grand Prix Lap Times
 
Data courtesy of the FIA

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11 Comments »

  • Kimster

    Funnily enough, even on Kimi’s in lap (Where Alonso had already pitted the lap before) he was still faster than Grosjean et all in the first 2 sectors.

    Don’t know how he made his tyres last. Amazing stint.

    On Grosjean, the middle sector is a good indicator on tyres, his had started to drop into the 32’s on a regular basis. I think his tyres were finished (And I am not sure I believe his traffic excuse).

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  • Kimster

    Why did Lotus put their drivers on used medium tyres? They both had 1 new set of mediums for the race.

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  • Mav (author)

    I guess they thought there was an advantage from putting them through a heat cycle. Webber actually went quicker in qualifying on used softs than new ones.

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  • don

    Curious to see that apart from Button, who’s pitstops wasn’t really a reference due to a bad strategy from the team, only the Red Bulls needed 3 stops. It was predictable that they would struggle a bit more on their tyres because of the engine map change and causing them more wheelspin than before.

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  • Mav (author)

    don,

    Vettel couldn’t get past Grosjean and since they knew they weren’t going to lose a place, I think Red Bull decided to pit in the hope fresh tyres might make the difference. However, there was always the risk they might have messed up the pit stop.

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  • Kimster

    Mav,

    He came out very close to Alonso. If they had even the slightest problem in the pitstop Alonso would have been through.

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  • Mav (author)

    Kimster,

    With fresh rubber though. It was a calculated gamble for me.

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  • Kimster

    Mav,

    What if Alonso had gotten through?

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  • Mav (author)

    Kimster,

    I just said, Vettel would have had fresh rubber. Hungary isn’t THAT hard to overtake on.

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  • Mav (author)

    The real worry would have been Vettel exiting with only three wheels attached :-)

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  • Kimster

    Mav,

    I don’t think he’d have gotten past Alonso.

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