Canada: Ferrari’s Strategy Analysis

Canada: Ferrari’s Strategy Analysis

Today in the race there will be many blaming Ferrari’s strategy. Here’s my analysis explaining how Ferrari rolled the dice. High risk for high reward.

However, let me refer to a tweet Ferrari posted shortly after I posted my own:

Ferrari is a winning team. The mentality is to take a win if where is a whiff of a chance exits. Let’s analyse the two scenarios.

If they pitted, reacting to Hamilton

Alonso was crusing behind Hamilton running P2 and if they reacted to Hamilton’s stop, they would come out P2 and stay P2. Surely the way to go right?

They would be nailed at P2. P2 is not good enough for a team like Ferrari. Vettel was closing in so they might even lose a place to Vettel depending on how the stop itself goes. The difference between P1 and P2 is 7 points. In this scenario, they certainly lose 7 to Hamilton.

Staying Out

High risk but high reward. It wasn’t entirely crazy. Grosjean and Perez did more laps on a higher fuel load. They gambled and four scenarios were possible:

  1. Both Alonso and Vettel’s tyres last and they finish ahead of Hamilton. Alonso scores 10 points more than Hamilton and 7 more than Vettel. Ideal scenario.

  2. Alonso just hangs on to P1, Hamilton P2 and Vettel P3. Still better.

  3. Hamilton overtakes. P1 Hamilton P2 Alonso but definitely P3 Vettel – Still better than pitting.

What actually happened

Alonso ended up P5. Vettel’s stop was critical to that. Red Bull realised that the miracle plan to make the tyres last 50+ laps wouldn’t work and Vettel pitted for SuperSoft tyres. He lapped 4 seconds faster and overtook Alonso.

Nightmare scenario. However, The difference between P5 and P2 is loss of 8 points. They were going to lose 7 points to Alonso anyway. It was a gamble between +7/10 (if strategy worked) or -10 if it didn’t. Ferrari chose to take that gamble and you have to respect that.

Note that I feel these 8 points they gambled away will be crucial for the championship. However, hindsight is a wonderful thing. Had it paid off (such as Vettel in Monaco last year. Note Safety Cars are a very strong possibility in Canada), people would have marvelled it as a stroke of genius.

I applaud their risk taking. As a fan this gave us a brilliant, off-the-edge-of-the-seat thrilling action to the end but as a team, the fought for the win. In Formula One things can go one way or the other but trying and failing is better than just accepting defeat.

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  • Michael Hogan

    You make some very valid points, however, Ferrari had to know that the McLaren, on new tyres would be quicker than their car. In match racing in sailing you always cover the trailing yacht. That’s what Ferrari should have done. Alonso wuld be leading championship instead of being 2nd.

  • Graham Keilloh

    Good article. You’re right that it’s easy to be wise in hindsight, and if Alonso’s tyres had held on in the same way that Grosjean’s did, say, we’d be called them geniuses (and probably being highly critical of McLaren) right now. And remember that after Monaco many criticised Ferrari for not being more aggressive on strategy and losing a possible win, so you can see that to some extent the team’s damned if they do and damned if they don’t. And also remember that the team were probably wary of pitting and coming out behind Grosjean, who was quick. But, it did seem very out of character for them to roll in dice like that, in a season where they’ve got to the top of the drivers’ table by playing a percentage game. And, unlike at Monaco, backing up slower cars was never going to be possible at Montreal. And as Michael says just covering Hamilton would probably have resulted in an easy second place and an extra 8 points.

  • Ezra Raj Bathini

    Agree with Michael. Fact that Hamilton with fresh tyres would be quicker should have played in to Ferrari strategy. And that overtaking is not difficult in Canada.

  • Maverick

    I don’t think hindsight came into it. Within five laps of Hamilton having pitted, it was obvious he was going to catch Alonso and Vettel. Overtaking with that pace difference is easy, DRS or no-DRS, and therefore they should have settled for second at that point. Moreover, fifth could have easily have been eighth – Rosberg, Webber and Raikkonen only needed one more lap to have caught Alonso. That’s why Red Bull made the right call with Vettel’s belated pit stop. It wasn’t about the one place he rescued by passing Alonso, it was about the other three that he avoided losing.

    Finally, if Alonso had stopped the lap after Hamilton, there was a very good chance he would have come out in front of the McLaren, especially with the slightly slow stop. Ferrari were caught watching the wrong car once again (Abu Dhabi 2010).