Sebastian Vettel pitstop

Australian Grand Prix: F1 Strategy Report

Sebastian Vettel pitstop

Formula 1 is officially back, and it looks like we’ve got a real fight on our hands between Mercedes and Ferrari. Lewis Hamilton may have taken pole position for the Australian Grand Prix, but couldn’t hold onto the lead in the race.

A brave strategy call helped Sebastian Vettel leap-frog Hamilton to give Ferrari its first victory since Singapore 2015. F1’s new era didn’t start in particularly dramatic style, but it certainly threw up an interesting result and plenty of exciting moments.


Also listen to Australian GP F1 Strategy Report Podcast – host Michael Lamonato is joined by Rob James from Box of Neutrals.

Despite Pirelli’s new, wider tyres being more durable, strategy still played a crucial role in the race. Here are the major strategy headlines to emerge from the Albert Park Circuit in Melbourne:

Mercs burning up?

Obviously it’s early days, but the Mercedes W08 does seem to burn up the tyres a bit more than rivals – especially in traffic. Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas both reported a lot of sliding and some overheating on the ultra-soft tyre in the opening stint, especially towards the end. They fared better on the softs but by that time it was tough to recover the lost ground.

Kvyat goes long

We knew from winter testing that the ultra-soft tyre could rack up a lot of laps, but we didn’t expect someone to do a 34-lap stint on them in the race. Daniil Kvyat’s Toro Rosso looked after the ultras beautifully for almost two-thirds of the race, but his strategy and a potential seventh place were derailed when he had to make an unscheduled second stop.

This was due to the team having to top his car up with air. Actually, they had to do that at the first stop too, which cost him time, before bringing him in again with eight laps to go. It shows just how quick the STR12 is that he still managed to finish 9th.

Durable tyres

As promised from Pirelli, the tyres were much harder and more durable in 2017. It may have caused most to go for a one-stop, but we still saw some good racing. Kvyat’s 34 lap-stint was the longest on the ultra-softs, Kevin Magnussen did 43 on super-softs and Stoffel Vandoorne managed 46 on the softs. Those are quite a bit bigger than the longest stints we saw last year, particularly with the softer compounds.


Overcut works (for some)

Will we be talking more about the overcut, compared to the undercut, in 2017? That could well be the case. The highest profile case of the overcut working as Vettel, who pitted six laps after Hamilton on ultra-softs. His pace was still pretty strong before he pitted and despite having to negotiate some traffic, the advantage gained was still good enough for him to emerge in the lead.

Traffic plays a part

But, he didn’t have as much traffic to pass as Hamilton and the Mercedes couldn’t follow other cars through corners quite as well as the Ferrari. Traffic actually had a big impact on the lead battle. Hamilton got caught behind lapped and slower cars, including Max Verstappen – the Red Bull racer stayed out for a few laps longer than Vettel.

Hamilton quickly got caught behind slower cars, including Max Verstappen, who stayed out a few laps longer than Vettel. This caused the Mercedes racer to lose crucial seconds in the pit stop phase and helped Vettel establish an initial lead.

Overcut doesn’t work (for others)

But while the overcut did work well for Vettel, it didn’t for Kimi Raikkonen. He stayed out one lap longer than Bottas and Verstappen – the cars in front and behind him. But this was later in the stint, perhaps when the tyres were starting to lose performance and didn’t quite have the edge to make it work. He didn’t lose any places, but he didn’t gain much time either.

Hoping for a safety car?

It was truly heartbreaking to see Daniel Ricciardo climb out of his stuck-in-gear car on the formation lap, in front of his home crowd. Red Bull worked fast to repair his car for a pit lane start and did an amazing job repairing it, but by the time the RB13 was ready and emerged on track, Ricciardo was two laps down.

It seems Red Bull were just using it as a test session and possible were waiting for a safety car to help him make up some of the ground, but – surprisingly, for Albert Park – we didn’t see one and Ricciardo retired with an engine failure anyway.

Two stop not the way to go

Most drivers finished the race with only one trip through the pits but a few tried a two-stop strategy, including Nico Hulkenberg. However, he got stuck behind Fernando Alonso early on and then there was a weirdly short middle stint on the softs, which clearly didn’t work well. So, he moved onto scrubbed ultra-softs for the run to the flag but he couldn’t make inroads and finished 11th.

Jack Leslie @JackLeslieF1

Longest Stints

Ultrasoft: Kvyat (34 laps!)
Supersoft: Magnussen (43 laps)
Soft: Vandoorne (46 laps)

All the Data

Thanks to Pirelli Motorsport for the detailed infographics

Stints by Driver

SCSafety Car
mcclorine2. Vandoorne
Start P18
Ultrasoft9 lapsPit 39.562
Soft46 laps
Finished P13 (+5)
redass3. Ricciardo
Start P15
Used Ultrasoft25 laps
Retired L25 (DNF)
Stallion5. Vettel
Start P2
Used Ultrasoft23 lapsPit 21.988
Soft34 laps
Finished P1 (+1)
Stallion7. Raikkonen
Start P4
Used Ultrasoft26 lapsPit 22.033
Soft31 laps
Finished P4 (+0)
has8. Grosjean
Start P6
Used Ultrasoft13 laps
Retired L13 (DNF)
saucer9. Ericsson
Start P14
Supersoft21 laps
Retired L21 (DNF)
RR11. Perez
Start P10
Ultrasoft17 lapsPit 22.045
Soft39 laps
Finished P7 (+3)
mcclorine14. Alonso
Start P12
Ultrasoft16 lapsPit 22.484
Supersoft34 laps
Retired L50 (DNF)
Franks18. Stroll
Start P20
Supersoft5 lapsPit 22.293
Ultrasoft24 lapsPit 22.38
Ultrasoft11 laps
Retired L40 (DNF)
Franks19. Massa
Start P7
Used Ultrasoft20 lapsPit 21.568
Supersoft37 laps
Finished P6 (+1)
has20. Magnussen
Start P17
Soft1 lapsPit 31.336
Supersoft43 lapsPit 22.189
Ultrasoft2 laps
Retired L50 (DNF)
Torro26. Kvyat
Start P9
Used Ultrasoft34 lapsPit 25.559
Supersoft15 lapsPit 24.026
Used Ultrasoft7 laps
Finished P9 (+0)
Boatus27. Hulkenberg
Start P11
Ultrasoft16 lapsPit 23.13
Soft14 lapsPit 23.159
Used Ultrasoft26 laps
Finished P11 (+0)
Boatus30. Palmer
Start P19
Soft15 laps
Retired L15 (DNF)
redass33. Verstappen
Start P5
Used Ultrasoft25 lapsPit 22.208
Supersoft32 laps
Finished P5 (+0)
saucer36. Giovinazzi
Start P16
Soft15 lapsPit 28.591
Supersoft40 laps
Finished P12 (+4)
mercury44. Hamilton
Start P5
Used Ultrasoft25 lapsPit 22.208
Supersoft32 laps
Finished P5 (+0)
Torro55. Sainz
Start P8
Used Ultrasoft18 lapsPit 21.762
Soft38 laps
Finished P8 (+0)
mercury77. Bottas
Start P3
Used Ultrasoft25 lapsPit 21.44
Soft32 laps
Finished P3 (+0)
RR31. Ocon
Start P13
Ultrasoft15 lapsPit 22.154
Soft41 laps
Finished P10 (+3)