FORMULA 1 ETIHAD AIRWAYS ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX
Yas Marina Circuit, November 02 - 04
UBS Race Strategy Briefing
The UBS Race Strategy Briefing before each Grand Prix gives you the lowdown on all the vital considerations the F1 teams will take on board when deciding what Race Strategy to use in the forthcoming Grand Prix. A bad decision can cost a race victory, whereas a bold gamble can sometimes steal one from the jaws of defeat. So put yourself in the know and get the inside line on how the race will be won.
UBS Race Strategy Report
The UBS Race Strategy Report is a unique analysis of the key decisions on the pit wall and in the cockpit that decided the outcome of the latest Grand Prix. It's the indispensable guide to the who, the why and the how behind every Grand Prix result.
Yas Marina – 5.554 kilometres. Race distance - 55 laps = 305.355 kilometres. 21 corners in total. Average speed 197km/h. A marina based circuit hosting its third F1 Grand Prix.
Aerodynamic setup – Med/High downforce. Top speed 320km/h (with DRS open) 307km/h without.
Full throttle – 60% of the lap time (ave/high). Total fuel needed for race distance – 151.25 kilos (ave/high). Fuel consumption – 2.75 kg per lap (ave/high)
Brake wear- medium. Number of braking events – 12, Time spent braking – 16% of the lap.
Loss time for a Pit stop = 16 seconds
Total time needed for a pit stop: 21.2 seconds
Fuel effect (cost in lap time per 10kg of fuel carried): 0.4 seconds (ave/high)
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is Formula 1’s only day/night race. The race begins at 17-00hrs local time, in the dusk and ends in darkness, with floodlights illuminating the track.
Yas Marina is another Herman Tilke designed circuit with two long straights and some tight turns which take the track underneath the landmark Yas Hotel and around the marina. The Yas Marina Circuit features six corners below 100 kph – only Monaco, Singapore and Valencia have more. Overtaking has historically been a problem at this track.
The 2010 race here was one of the most important from a strategy point of view as it highlighted how critical Race Strategy really is and how a bad call can cost the world championship. Following a strategic blunder by the Ferrari team, Fernando Alonso came out of a pit stop behind a slower car, which he could not then overtake. It cost him the world championship.
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is round 18 of the 2012 FIA F1 World Championship.
Sebastian Vettel is the form man at the moment, having won the last four races. In India he led every lap of the race, for the third race in succession, making it the first time that feat had been achieved since Ayrton Senna in the late 1980s!
As far as Yas Marina Circuit is concerned, Vettel won the inaugural 2009 event and the 2010 edition for Red Bull, but this is a track where Lewis Hamilton has always been very fast, he won last year and was leading from pole position in 2009 when forced to retire and also has a podium from 2010. Fernando Alonso finished second last year for Ferrari, Jenson Button has been on the podium twice.
In its short, three year history, Red Bull and McLaren have been the form teams at Yas Marina Circuit.
The forecast for the weekend is stable with temperatures in the low 30 degrees C. But as this is a dusk/night race it’s worth noting that the night time temperature is set to fall to 19 degrees Celsius.
Pirelli tyre choice for Abu Dhabi: Soft (yellow markings) and Medium (white markings). This combination was seen six times already this year, including Australia, China, Bahrain, Valencia and Hungary.
This is the same combination of tyres that Pirelli brought last season to Yas Marina, although the compounds have changes slightly since then.
At the most recent race in India, Pirelli went too conservative with the tyre choice and it led to a largely one stop strategy race. The selection for Abu Dhabi again looks fairly conservative. And with overtaking very difficult at Yas Marina, track position is vital, so many teams will be looking to see whether this race can be done on one-stop. This will force drivers who stop twice to overtake in the later stages of the race, which will be tough.
So race strategy could once again be the decisive factor on Sunday.
The track tends to be covered in sand at the start of the weekend and again each morning, but the improvement is significant and once plenty of rubber goes down the lap times tumble.
It is therefore very important to get the timing right in qualifying so you are on the track at the end of the session, when it is at its fastest.
The performance gap between the soft and medium Pirelli tyre is going to be critical to race strategy, as always. The cooler temperatures of the evening for qualifying and the race will help boost tyre life, so the data the teams gather on tyre wear in Free Practice 1 and 3, where the temperatures will be much higher, will not be as relevant as the Free Practice 2 session on Friday evening.
It is estimated that the soft will be around 0.7 secs per lap faster than the medium in qualifying trim. Estimates of tyre life are that the soft will start to experience a degradation in performance and lap time after around 15 laps, while with the medium it will kick in after around 25 laps. Although it is hot in Abu Dhabi, the lower temperatures in the evening should help with tyre life.
Last year all three podium finishers did a similar strategy, of running two stops with a longish middle stint on soft tyres of around 24 laps before a short final stint on the mediums. But there were some other variations and alternative strategies tried, showing the importance of strategy in this race.
Although the overtaking situation was made a little easier last year with the introduction of adjustable DRS rear wings and two DRS zones on the circuit, the strategists for the top teams will nevertheless be watching out for the gap to the midfield cars in the first stint, to make sure that their driver does not come out of the first stop and lose time behind a slow moving midfield car, which might be running a longer first stint on new soft or medium tyres. So they will want to build a gap of well over 20 seconds before stopping.
There have been three races at Yas Marina Circuit, the 2009 and 2011 races did not feature a safety car, while the second one in 2010 featured five laps under the safety car after a crash at the start of the race.
Starts are a critical part of the race and strategy can be badly compromised by a poor start, while good starts can make strategists change their plans in the hope of a good result.
As far as 2012 start performance is concerned drivers have gained (+) or lost (-) places off the start line this season on aggregate as follows. Please note that where a driver has been eliminated on first lap this has been noted and removed from the sample as it skews the table. So this is intended as a guid of trends, rather than a definitive list.
+22 Perez, Pic
+20 Vergne *
+14 Raikkonen, De la Rosa
+11 Schumacher *
+4 Di Resta, Petrov
* Schumacher and Vergne pitted for repairs at the end of lap one after first-corner collision
Of course good strategy planning also requires good pit stop execution by the mechanics and there have been some amazing performances; we have seen tyre stops carried out in less than two and a half seconds this year.
The league table below shows order of the pit crews based on their best total time in the pit lane in the recent 2012 FORMULA 1 AIRTEL INDIAN GRAND PRIX
|Rank||Team||Pit stop time|
||20.707 secs (2)|
|2||Ferrari||20.800 secs (3)|
|3||McLaren||20.852 secs (1)|
|4||Lotus||20.976 secs (6)|
|5||Mercedes||21.322 secs (4)|
|6||Sauber||21.336 secs (9)|
|7||Force India||21.654 secs (7)|
|8||Toro Rosso||21.658 secs (5)|
|9||Williams||22.003 secs (10)|
||Caterham||22.445 secs (11)|
|11||Marussia||22.692 secs (8)|
|12||HRT||23.830 secs (12)|
UBS Race Strategy Report
Yas Marina Circuit, November 4 2012
Safety cars in Abu Dhabi are a rare occurrence, but Fernando Alonso has reason to curse them; they have now twice come along to upset the race strategies and dealt a blow to his hopes of winning a championship for Ferrari.
In 2010 a Safety Car at the start of the race allowed Petrov to pit for new tyres, enabling him to run the end of the race, blocking Alonso and wrecking his strategy.
Last weekend, the Abu Dhabi Safety Car struck again, this time to help his main rival. Red Bull had offered Ferrari an open goal by making a fuel load mistake in qualifying which demoted Sebastian Vettel to the back of the grid, but Vettel’s recovery was greatly helped by two Safety Car periods, which brought the strategy initiative to Vettel and allowed the German to make up ground and end the race on the podium. In front of an open goal, instead of making up 10 to 15 points on Vettel, Aionso made up only three.
Pre race expectations
Once again a conservative choice of soft and medium Pirelli tyres meant that the teams had the ability to do the race with only one stop, with the drivers able to push to the limit without fear of degradation or excessive wear.
Was Sebastian Vettel “lucky”?
Vettel’s strategy on Sunday didn’t just revolve around tyre choice and pit stop timing. Red Bull opted to take Vettel’s car out of parc ferme and to make changes to the set up, which would allow him to overtake more easily. Wings were altered and a longer seventh gear was added which would mean greater straight line speed for DRS overtaking. It improved his top speed by 10km/h to 321 km/h.
With two DRS zones on the circuit and a very fast car coming through the field, Yas Marina Circuit was no longer the overtaking desert it was for Alonso in 2010.
Vettel’s strategy was to start on the medium tyre, run a longer first stint than the others and make up some places when they stopped, then switch to the faster soft tyre for the final stint and try to pick up a few more places in the closing laps. But it didn’t turn out remotely like that. Instead he was forced into an early stop for a front wing change and this put him a half-stop sequence out from the rest of the field. This turned out to be a blessing.
By lap 9 he was already up to 12th place, when the first Safety Car was deployed. At this stage he was 23 seconds behind the leader. However he had damaged his front wing in early exchanges and then damaged it further behind Ricciardo and was forced to pit behind the safety car. This dropped him to 21st place. Having started on the harder tyre, he took the softer tyre at the first stop, which turned out to be the faster race tyre on Sunday.
Crucially, in that same Safety Car period, Grosjean also pitted and like Vettel, went from medium to soft. His plan from there was to try to get to the finish without stopping again. This would provide the barrier to the rest of the field, holding back Webber, Perez and Maldonado after their stops. As the gap widened between Grosjean and the car in front (Button) this created an opportunity for Vettel to push hard on his new soft tyres and then slot into the gap after a second stop. It meant that a minimum fourth place was up for grabs.
Red Bull spotted it immediately and although they considered not stopping Vettel again, because he managed to get into second place, ahead of Alonso and Button when they pitted, the radio messages early in the second stint indicated that they wanted him to push on the tyres, so clearly the intention was to stop again. This was the less risky option in championship terms, with a guaranteed fourth place there for the taking.
However, had Red Bull been in the mood to gamble, rival engineers believe that Vettel would have been able to do 42 laps on the softs and make it to the finish. This would almost certainly have led to a thrilling duel in the closing stages between the two world title contenders, Alonso and Vettel over second place. Alonso was very fast at the end of the race as he tried to catch Raikkonen, but Vettel’s straight line speed, even on worn tyres meant he would have been able to put up quite a fight to hold onto second place.
When the one stop pit window opened on lap 25 Vettel was in 10th place and 22 seconds behind the leader, essentially where he was before the front wing incident. But by putting himself out of synch with the other cars, this helped him at the crucial stage of the race when the pit stop window opened.
Between laps 24 and 31 he went from 10th to 2nd and then by pitting again on lap 37 he ensured that he held onto all but two of those places. Only Alonso and Button got back ahead of him due to his second stop.
The real stroke of luck was the second safety car. Vettel was very fortunate that just as he came out on fresh soft tyres the safety car came out and cut Button’s lead over him from 15 secs with 17 laps to go to nothing. That set Vettel up for the podium. Button gave him plenty of room when he made the passing move, not wanting to affect the championship. Had Vettel tried that move at the start of the season, he might have ended up off the track.
Raikkonen gets his win – finally
Kimi Raikkonen finally got his comeback victory in the Lotus. It had been clear from the long runs in Friday practice that once again, the Lotus was quick enough to challenge for the win. Qualifying had been the stumbling block all season but here Ferrari tripped up and then with Vettel’s penalty, Raikkonen found himself fourth.
His win was built on a stunning start, which moved him up to second place and then when Lewis Hamilton stopped, Raikkonen was able to do something he’d dreamed of all season; run in clear air at the front, as all of the seven winners in the first seven races had been able to do.
Raikkonen showed what Lotus has had to offer all season, twice building leads of ten seconds, only to have them cut by the safety cars.
The UBS Strategy Briefing is prepared by JA on F1, with input and data from several F1 teams and from Pirelli.
TYRE STRATEGIES, ABU DHABI
S=Soft; H= Hard; N= New; U=Used; SG = Stop and Go Penalty
|Driver||Tyre choice at the start||Pit Stop 1||Pit Stop 2||Pit Stop 3||Number of pit stops|
|Vettel:||MN||SU (13)||SU (37)||2|
|Di Resta:||SN||MN (1)||MN (9)||SU (39)||3|
|Ricciardo:||SN||MN (26)||SU (38)||2|
|Schumacher:||MN||SN (27)||SU (41)||2|
|Vergne:||SN||MN (9)||SN (33)||2|
|Perez:||SN||MN (30)||MU (38)||SG (44)||3|
|De La Rosa:||SN||MN (28)||1|
RACE HISTORY GRAPH
Kindly supplied by Williams F1 Team
Note how the Lotus pulls away from the Ferrari on the soft tyre in the first stint, but there is nothing to choose between them on the medium tyre in the second stint.
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