Translate this Blog

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Singapore GP Preview: Tyre Wear, Pit Stop Strategy, and Safety Car key can determine Victory

These three elements defined last years Singapore GP for the F1 Teams and are likely to do so again next weekend.

Tyre preservation is a huge issue in Singapore.  In their Singapore GP Preview Pirelli say:

In the opening sequence of corners from turns one to three for example, there is a double change in direction that places particularly heavy demands on the tyres.The driver tends to leave the braking as late as possible, turning in and decelerating at the same time. This subjects the tyre to both longitudinal and lateral forces at the same time, working the structure hard.
And the fact is that last year all of the teams were hugely aware of that fact, with Button (who came second in 2011) stating in the post race interview that:
I was being told throughout the race to look after the car and the tyres; the only time I was really able to push was in the last 12 laps, when I chased down Seb on the super-soft tyre
In that race McLaren opted for a 3-stop strategy with Button, as did Red Bull with Vettel, the 2011 winner, Webber, who came third and Ferrari with Alonso in fourth.

Clearly it worked out as the fastest option with a good pit-stop taking in and around 30 seconds to complete from entry to exit.

The four stop strategy which was adopted by other drivers in 2011 cost those cars over 2 minutes in the pit-lane, versus the 1m30secs odd of those in the first four.

It may explain why, from fifth down there were three two stoppers in Di Resta (6th), Sutil (8th), and (of course) Perez (10th)

The anomalies in the scoring come from 5th down.

Hamilton who finished 5th actually pitted 5 times, due to one of his "coming-togethers" with Massa last year, while Massa took 4 pits-tops finishing an angry 9th, his race having been ruined by Hamilton's disastrous overtaking attempt on lap 13, at Turn 7.  Rosberg in 7th was the only other points scorer and, as with the top four he pitted 3 times.

Last years stats would appear to show that, unless you have a front running, dominant car, a two stop strategy may serve to get you points at the lower end of the top ten while the "conservative" strategy would dictate 3 stops. The Hamilton/Massa anomaly is exactly that and was facilitated in no small way by the arrival of the safety car onto the track on lap 29.

Having praised Pirelli and the teams in respect of their understanding and use of tyres over the last three GP's, this night race and the soft and supersoft Pirelli's will test just how confident the teams are in their ability to read the tyres.

If you factor in a much improved Sauber from last year which still seems to be easy on its boots, who's to say that Sergio or Kamui cannot push hard to reach the top step this race.  That would be a worthy result for a team that has shown consistent and constant improvement over the last couple of years.

Entering into the final 7 races in two months, all away from the factories there is another factor which needs to be taken into account in terms of the constructor's championship.  Are some teams going to stop upgrading this years package due to the race pressures inflicted by 7 far flung races in 2 months and hope to ride the season out in what they have?

I'm looking at the likes of Lotus who are 91 points clear of Mercedes and who have new parts to introduce but will do so at Japan; at Force India who are only 9 points ahead of Williams and are talking the talk but can they walk the walk (pilgrim); and at Toro Rosso who have points relative to the following three teams who have none?

Could this be the time where Williams, Mercedes, and Caterham (hopefully) can capitalise on all the pressures of being away from base?

Mercedes has the money, Williams have the desire and I can only hope that Caterham have the will and luck to get the all too valuable first point in F1.