Mercedes admit missed opportunity to keep Schumacher in front of Rosberg

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Mercedes could have avoid getting Michael Schumacher stuck behind Nico Rosberg in the Japanese Grand Prix if they had left his pit stop one lap later, the team have admitted.

Schumacher spent almost half the race stuck behind his team mate, which cost him a chance of overtaking Lewis Hamilton’s stricken McLaren for fifth place.

As described in this earlier article, Schumacher was pulling away from Rosberg at the time of his pit stop on lap 23. Had he been left out longer, he should have been able to complete his pit stop and get out ahead of his team mate.

The team’s chief strategist James Vowles told F1 Fanatic:

There are a number of variables we consider prior to stopping, including the time a driver takes to enter and exit the pitlane, and the duration of the pitstop. Our pitstops are very competitive, and we have been consistently faster than other teams this year, however there is still up to 1s variability in time taken. Further to this the driver’s performance coming into the pitbox and exiting the pitlane can vary by a similar amount.

The main driving factor to stopping Michael was Nick Heidfeld behind, who had stopped on lap 18, and was lapping around 1’36.9s, relative to Michael’s 1’37.7s, closing the gap and potentially in a position to jump Michael within a few laps. Had Michael had an average pitstop, he would have come out just over 2s ahead. One lap further on, Michael would have come out 1.3s ahead. A poor stop would have put Michael at risk of losing a position to Nick.

In the event, Michael had a competitive pitlane entry and exit, indeed the fastest of the weekend from all drivers, the result being his pitstop was significantly faster than average, putting him closer to Nico than expected (0.8s behind, not 1.7s behind as expected).

Further considerations to stop Michael was that Nico’s performance during laps 20 to 25 was limited by Sebastien Buemi who was just ahead. We could see Toro Rosso were getting ready to stop Sebastien in a few laps, which meant that Michael would, in all likelihood, lose his performance benefit over Nico, and not be able to build the gap required for the pitstop.

We therefore decided that for a potential one position gain, which could be lost if a safety car came out, we would prefer guarantee the position by stopping, reducing the potential risk from a poor stop. However with the benefit of hindsight, we should have kept Michael out for one further lap, putting him in a position to maintain his place over Nico and not still be at risk from Nick Heidfeld.
James Vowles

It’s obviously much easier to work out what should have been done after the race with the benefit of all the knowledge available than to get the decision right in the heat of the moment.

As it turned out, Buemi did not pit until five laps after Schumacher came in, and the strategists did not know that at the time.

What was also interesting about how the race unfolded from that point onwards was that Mercedes did not order their drivers to change places.

On past occasions when two drivers from the same team on different strategies have come into conflict they have changed position with the lead driver seeming to put up little in the way of a fight. Think Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld at Canada two years ago, or Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen driving for McLaren in Germany that same year.

Schumacher was clearly told on the radio the team weren’t going to interfere and he would have to pass Rosberg himself:

Michael, there’s no team orders but Nico knows to be sensible if you make a move.

‘Being sensible’ clearly did not mean Rosberg would not defend his position, as he did so several times.

We all know what Schumacher’s views on team orders are, and it’s hard to imagine he was all that pleased with the team for not moving Rosberg out of the way.

Especially as, with the benefit of more hindsight, it cost him a chance to take fifth place off Hamilton.

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    Keith Collantine
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    70 comments on “Mercedes admit missed opportunity to keep Schumacher in front of Rosberg”

    1. Such a shame. Schuey drove a great race and 5th place would have been awesome!

    2. You mean McLaren used team orders to get Hamilton past Heikki in Germany 2008? Surely not!

      1. It would be useful to hear the team radio from that one (and the BMW one, for that matter). I think Kovalainen was asked about it in a press conference recently but didn’t confirm it.

        1. “It would be useful to hear the team radio from that one (and the BMW one, for that matter”

          I agree. The best we got from the BMW situation was when Nick was commentating for 5live for Canada this year and it was brought up and he said he wasn’t pleased about it or something along those lines.

        2. Well, he got past Kovalainen the same way he got past Massa and somebody else afterwards… so you have to guess if the same order was given to them

          1. well, Hamilton passed many people, but Kovalainen pulled over.

      2. did that seem like a real overtake?

      3. and at Silverstone as well

      4. Do I have to do this every time?

        Lewis Hamilton 1:31:20.874
        Nelson Piquet +5.586
        Felipe Massa +9.339
        Nick Heidfeld +9.825
        Heikki Kovalainen +12.411

        Compared to:

        Fernando Alonso 1:27:38.864
        Felipe Massa +4.196

        If anyone’s got any better evidence that it wasn’t a “don’t defend” order for 4th place (at the time), I’d like to hear it.

        1. To be honest you only need to see the overtaking move…Kovalainen let him pass. ferrari didi it many time, even worse, but you cannot deny that that time Kovalainen let Lewis pass.

          1. He didn’t defend against a much faster car, is what I’m pointing out. Ferrari needed to manipulate their drivers engines, for the lead no less – Kovalainen didn’t even make up one place, whereas Massa had proved he could win.

            1. I agree Ferrari and McLaren habits are different. But that time Kovalainen actually started steering “after” the curve…
              Anyway no deal.

            2. I fail to see the difference. The way I see it, it doesn’t matter who was faster, which team it was, what position it was for, when in the championship it took place. The rule states, rather poorly, that it shouldn’t be done. Ordering your drivers to swap position for the win is just as against the rule as ordering your drivers to switch for 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th etc.

              Looking at the rule as impartially as I can, the circumstances dont make a difference. Same ****, different toilet. :P

            3. What about Hamilton letting Button by in Suzuka instead of fighting him off until the bitter end? McLaren are such hypocrites!

              At the end of the day, there is nothing that has ever happened in the modern era of Formula One that can used to illustrate a common, accepted practice in the sport, within which Ferrari’s Germany antics fit.

              All the rooting around for this or that example of teammates passing without an epic dust-up proves is that, in the modern era, Ferrari and only Ferrari have instructed substantially competitive, competing drivers to swap position, including for the current lead of the race.

            4. What about Hamilton letting Button by in Suzuka instead of fighting him off until the bitter end? McLaren are such hypocrites!

              It’s completely unrealistic to suggest Hamilton would have been able to keep Button behind using only fourth gear and higher.

            5. Hekki made it quite clear and anyone with eyes saw it that at times those 2 mclarens last year were not the same car parts wise. lewis had many updates that kova waited ages for or never got.

              end of the day it was same time in championship, same circumstance, same corner. Same thing.

              you cant defend one and knocked the other. simple as that.

        2. Like it proved anything. That Heikki was slower is not being questioned. The fact (TO or not) is that he simply moved over, just like Felipe Massa did. We will never know if LH would have been able to overtake him if he had defended. Being faster and being able to overtake are definitely not the same thing.

          1. He was able to overtake everyone else (including a championship rival), and that’s good enough for those with common sense.

            1. Most likely he would have been able to overtake Heikki, but surely not so fast. Would it have delayed him enough to impede him go on and overtake the others? I honestly don’t know. And nobody else btw.

            2. He still passed Piquet for the lead with 7 laps to go. Kovalainen’s performances in 2008 were dismal, and he definately wasn’t holding off a great overtaker on a faster strategy for the seven laps he would have had to chase down Piquet.

          2. Well, he made a move on Piquet and Massa after being past kovalainen… do you question those moves too?

            1. Not at all. He passed Massa and Piquet fair and square. But the hard fact is that Heikki didn’t race or defend, he moved over, period. If he had, could LH have passed him on time to pass the others? Maybe, maybe not, but it is hardly relevant. Whichever way you look at it, McLaren is no holier than Ferrari.

          3. The fact (TO or not) is that he simply moved over, just like Felipe Massa did.

            No he didn’t. Massa had spent 40-odd laps defending his position from Alonso – and, you have to say, doing it well – and only gave up because he was ordered to.

            Whereas Hamilton fell behind Kovalainen due to his strategy and was able to lap significantly quicker – up to 1.8s/lap – when he caught him. Kovalainen had no chance to defend and made Hamilton work as hard for the position as Massa – Hamilton’s championship rival – did.

      5. There is a difference between alerting your driver to the situation once and to telling him 10 times that the following driver is really really really faster. Even if the following driver was only faster because the team just told you to tune your engine down.

        My favourite example of the first case is this one (where Barrichello rsponds to the claim that Button is 2 seconds faster than him):

    3. Well they said that they are preparing for 2011 so let them make mistakes this season so that they can learn from it but make no in 2011. I too was surprised to see Michael to pit 2-3 laps before then he had done.They can’t change the result now but can avoid it in the future.

    4. The fact that Michael had the fastest pit entry and exit of any driver that weekend shows his abilities have not deserted him.

      There was an article on the BBC website recently that claimed Schumacher had had it because he was no longer quick to find the limit in uncertain conditions. Well, pit lane entry and exit falls into the category of uncertain conditions.

      1. As someone pointed out here a while ago, it’s also because Mercedes’ pit is situated by the pit-lane entrance, so their drivers have a straight run-up to their pit box while the others have to swing in to theirs.

        1. What about the exit then?

          1. That’s an advantage for Virgin.

        2. Mercedes’ pit was at the end of the pit lane in Suzuka..and in Melbourne as well, but I can’t remember for any of the pther races..but it’s still a straight run-off nontheless

          1. Was Montreal like that? At least it has been in some years.

        3. Wasn’t this on the old forum before? The winning constructor from the year previous gets a tiny advantage from their pit box. I may have got my wires crossed though!

        4. In many races so far his pitlane times are among the best, if not the best .. maybe he risks more, practices more or just has more experience, who knows. He is also almost always faster than Rosberg so it can’t be just about the position of the bex, even though that surely matters.

          1. Schumi was somewhat of a nut when it came to pit stops, he used to practice his entry and exit over and over again..and I recall seeing him visibly miss his pit box just once from 1994 onwards (because precision mattered more when there was a pit lane speed limit)

            1. Remember also that when Schumacher asked for (and got) Rosberg’s race number, he also asked for (and got) Rosberg’s garage, which was the first stall. Could be good for a tenth in and of itself.

            2. The cars (in the same team) stop in the same spot, it doesn’t matter which garage they have.

      2. In any case I remember reading about Michael practicing pit stops since his Benetton days. Surely you can count on him to have a good pitstop.

      3. I’m Schumi fan.
        But I would like him to be the faster somewehere else then in pit entry…! :-)

      4. In the event, Michael had a competitive pitlane entry and exit, indeed the fastest of the weekend from all drivers, the result being his pitstop was significantly faster than average…

        Kind of funny, that – “We didn’t realize he’d be so fast, so we didn’t give him the opportunity to overtake…”

    5. It doesn’t take hindsight to see they’d bungled. Nick was behind Nico. And as Nico showed today, he isn’t an easy driver to overtake. Leaving Michael out for two more laps would bring him out ahead of Nico and Nico would be the buffer between Michael and Nick.

      Even if Sebastien had pitted early, Michael, who was on Options, would be lapping faster than Nico, just barely.

      But at least they admitted it was a mistake, instead of coming up with some cock-and-bull story about why it was the right decision.

      1. Yeh they did rather skirt around that point didn’t they? But at least they’ve admitted the mistake.

      2. I do also think they are a bit vague on that by purpose.

        But i am happy teams now feel the need to explain these things to their drivers but also to the fans.

    6. I think there’s should be some rules about situation like this. The FIA needs to clarify the “team order” rule. Switching position to favour one driver, should be banned but teams should be able to interfere if the goal is to maximize points.Same thing Happened with Hamilton, he was stuck behind Button when both were on differente strategy and Button was unable to challenge Alonso with the hard tyres.

      1. isn’t “teams should be able to interfere if the goal is to maximize points” the same as “teams should be able to switch position to favour one driver”?

        1. Maximise constructor’s points, then no. It might end up the same way, of course, but the FIA showed in Canada 2008 they don’t care about those kinds of team orders.

        2. For me, no. As i say, if they do it to maximize points, it should be legal, the teams are fighting for wcc too. If the purpose is only to favour the driver and the switch doesn’t mean any change for the points, i find it unsporting, more if both are fighting for the wdc. it shouldn’t be a ” black or white” rule. It’s a complex sport so some rules need nuances. That’s my view.

          1. Exactly. No-one could really argue with Brazil 2007 or China 2008, to name but the two most recent high-profile examples. Canada 2008, when the two drivers were on different strategies and the win could have gone had Heidfeld held Kubica up. Monaco 2007 where Hamilton might have crashed into Alonso.

      2. John, the rule is very clear. If you don’t understand it you can ask many people here to explain it widely. But if you want a summary, then the key is the “sensibility” of the driver in front.

        So, you could see last weekend hamilton sensibility letting Button pass (Keith, stop, we all know ham’s gear problems) or heighfield sensibility letting Kobayashi pass, or Rosberg… oh no, he is not sensible, he didn’t let Schumi pass. He’s a “real” driver.

        Of course, Massa’s “sensibility” is a false pose, in Hockenheim he had Alonso’s gun against his head.

        “Felipe, Alonso is faster than you. Can you find your sensible side?”

    7. and he would have to pass Rosberg himself:
      Michael, there’s no team orders but Nico knows to be sensible if you make a move.
      ‘Being sensible’ clearly did not mean Rosberg would not defend his position, as he did so several times.

      On TV at least, the radio message came after the two laps where Schumacher was really hounding Rosberg. Taking the delay into account, it might have been before his final (final as shown on TV) attempt into the chicane at the end of the lap. So yes, it looked like Rosberg’s interpretation of “being sensible” did not include any combination of the words “don’t” and “defend”. But they also never came close enough to eachother to start banging wheels, so in that sense there was definite sensibility although probably more from the side of Schumacher than Rosberg.

      Team orders aside, especially as for the team it didn’t matter who came out in front, I quite liked that Rosberg made Schumacher work for the position. But you’d have to think that at some point in the future, that might come back to bite him in the proverbial when the roles are reversed.

      1. are you meaning that maybe Rosberg need Schumi to swap their positions? but, that’s no legal!!!!! That’s not for “real” drivers.

    8. To me it is extremely dissapointing to verify how this new view of a driver getting stuck behind another is more and more common.
      This is, to put it simply, against the ultimate core of racing: you need to overtake the guy in front of you. If you can’t, don’t complain, this is what racing is all about. This “getting stuck” trend is just plain nonsense, unless we are talking about some kind of bussiness, not racing.
      How can Mercedes say that Schumacher “got stuck” behind Rosberg and missed a chance to overtake Hamilton? If he was unable to pass Rosberg, what element do we have to say that we would able to overtake Hamilton?
      Soon we will hear a pilot complaining that he was unable to be world champion because there was a bunch of folks ahead of him, blocking the way. Alonso complained that the spent “several races looking at Massa’s exhaust pipes”. Well, why didn’t he try to overtake, instead of complaining on the radio?
      The fact that this time is Schumacher who is complaining about a guy blocking his way, add some ironic laugh to the nonsense.

    9. We all know what Schumacher’s views on team orders are

      I don’t know them. I allways thought that he hadn’t got any opinion about that. I though that it was team’s views.

      I think everyone is confused about the driver’s responsibility in such cases.

      1. I don’t know them. I allways thought that he hadn’t got any opinion about that.

        He’s strongly in favour. Obviously, given he benefited from some pretty controversial ones.

        1. I’m sure that every driver benefited by a “team” order will agree with the team. Otherwise he would have pull over when the driver in front pulled over.

    10. shouldn’t it be ‘Mercedes admit missed opportunity to keep Rosberg in front of Schumacher’?

    11. Schumacher’s views on team orders aside, I still don’t get why he just stopped trying to to get at Rosberg after he was told there were no team orders… anyone got sensible ideas on that?

      1. Wasn’t he closing in on Rosberg the very lap his tyres failed?

        1. Apparently the gap was 0.2 seconds on the previous sector, so you’re right.

        2. yeah, he had conserved his tyres a bit and was about to start another attack, I reckon

      2. Probably because of the “recent” fuss and ado about nothing.Anything the Stewards can throw at Schumacher,then throw they will,and, in this situation something may,just may, have “developed” in the heat of the moment,which would give MSC the chance of having a black mark?
        NB.Rosberg and MSC are not bosom friends shall we politely say.Didn’t I read that Kiki(Keke) Rosberg cannot stand MSC?

    12. Hamilton, facing the same crisis to his race and his ability to catch up with Alonso, his team having deposited him right behind Kobayashi after his stop, dealt with the situation. Kobayashi was on old, hard tires, but passing him was certainly not academic, as we saw. And Kobayashi was certainly not under any “be nice” orders. Thee way Schumacher was practically riding on top of Rosberg, his advantage at that stage must have been enormous too.

      1. According to the data here Kobayashi was lapping at about 98.5 secs and Hamilton at about 95.5-96 secs when the overtaking took place, so the difference was much bigger than the single sec between Ros-Schumi. Not to mention they were riding different cars and Kobayashi isn’t as skillful as Rosberg.

    13. Maybe teams should develop a device that allows them to turn off the engine for a while from the pits in order to get their fastest car in front. ;)

      Hmm… Maybe Red Bull already has such a device…

      1. There is already something just as good. It’s an Italian invention commonly called the radio. You can use it to tell the drivers to turn down their engines and then only tell one to turn it up again. Works like a charm.

        1. Felipe, you need to turn down your engine. Please confirm you understood this message.

          1. Filipe you’re always our number 1 driver but Alonso is behind you. Remember what I,ve said? understand?

        2. Oh! The radio is an italian invention. That’s why Ferrari is the only team that knows how to use it, speaking clear through it.

        3. Ok, but a radio can’t force the slower driver to turn down his engine. Besides, Ferrari got fined for it, so Red Bull’s team-order in Monza was cheaper.

    14. it looks like you opened up a comunication channel with them keith… great for that… keep this types of things coming!

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