How going ‘off strategy’ can get results: Reflections on the Hungarian Grand Prix
August 2, 2010
Mark Webber secured an outstanding victory in Hungary yesterday, partly due to luck, partly due to some outstanding laps on the shorter life ‘option’ tyre, and also because, in his words, he went ‘off strategy’. One of the most important things about a strategic plan is knowing when to abandon it, and that’s exactly what Red Bull did when the Safety Car came out on lap on Lap 14. The accepted wisdom is to make your pitstop as soon as the safety car comes out thereby changing your tyres when the field is going relatively slowly, and so you lose less time. The problem for Red Bull is that this was fine for Vettel, who was leading, but would have meant that Webber would have remained behind Alonso in third place, and they wanted a 1-2. So they kept him out. This meant he was now in front with a clear track and had the task of building up a 20second lead over Alonso to move to second place when he made his pitstop. It worked perfectly, but was also helped (inadvertently I think!) by his teammate Sebastian Vettel, who lost radio contact and became disorientated during the safety car period and allowed Webber to pull out a big gap between him and the rest of the field and so Webber disappeared into the distance when the safety car came in. Unfortunately for Vettel his tardiness in following Webber meant that he had exceeded the 10 car gap (does someone measure this?!) permitted by the regulations and so got a drive through penalty, which demoted him from a pretty certain win to third place. So Webber and Vettel swapped places, and it was nothing (as far as we know) to do with team orders.
The other point of note from the race was just how close F1 is to a major disaster, despite all the work on safety. In the rush to get in and out of the pits when the safety car came in, Rosberg left with a disconnected rear right hand wheel, which promptly flew through the Sauber pit crew bounced some ten metres in the air and came to rest against a Williams mechanic, Nigel Hope, who fortunately was not badly injured. In the confusion that followed Robert Kubica was released from his pit box just as Adrian Sutil was trying to enter his and a collision occurred, mercifully with no injuries, but it could have been so much worse. Finally we had Michael’s ‘tough’ move on Rubens that was within centimetres of disaster, Rubens could have been intimidated and lifted off, but he didn’t and there was great joy in the Williams garage, it was only for a single point, but for Rubens making the move stick on Schumacher was worth a whole lot more.