How a poor restart ruined Hamilton’s race

2011 Italian Grand Prix analysis

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Hamilton spent over half the race stuck behind Schumacher

Lewis Hamilton admitted he was “caught napping” during the lap four restart.

That moment’s hesitation dropped him behind Michael Schumacher and defined the rest of his race.

It took him 30 laps to pass the Mercedes and by that time his chances of finishing on the podium – never mind winning – were badly damaged.

Race progress

The race progress chart makes it clear how much time Hamilton lost stuck behind Schumacher. Having started alongside the Red Bull, by the time Hamilton cleared the Mercedes on lap 27 he was 21 seconds behind.

Had Hamilton made his earlier pass on Schumacher stick on lap 13 he would have saved 11 seconds, not fallen behind Jenson Button, and had more time to attack Fernando Alonso at the end of the race.

But Hamilton fell behind Schumacher in the first place because of a poor restart on lap four. Without that, he might even have been able to put Vettel under pressure for victory.

Pit stops

There were fewer pit stops than usual in Monza – Bruno Senna was the only driver to make three visits to the pits.

The typical strategy was two stints on soft tyres followed by a final stint on mediums. Senna was the only driver to score points using a different strategy: starting on mediums, discarding them after one lap behind the safety car, then running to the end on three sets of softs.

Sebastian Vettel was probably the driver who least needed a quick pit stop but he enjoyed the fastest of the race when he came in for his final visit.

Lap chart

For 18th on the grid Jaime Alguersuari climbed to finish seventh. He made up seven places on the first lap thanks to the first-corner crash.

Felipe Massa’s collision with Mark Webber dropped him to tenth. He picked off Alguersuari, Paul di Resta, Sergio Perez, Pastor Maldonado in the next five laps to regain sixth place but was never able to catch Button again.

Also look out for Heikki Kovalainen on the lap chart. He was up to 11th after the restart but was defenceless against the cars behind him and lost four places in two laps.

All lap times

Hamilton set the fastest lap of the race on the penultimate tour in his pursuit of Alonso. Button lapped within two-hundredths of a second of that on the same lap.

Senna set the race’s fourth-fastest lap, aided by running on soft tyres in his final stint.

Did Hamilton have the pace to challenge Vettel? Their lap times over the final stint suggests so.

It’s true that Vettel had a 15-second lead and little incentive to push. But it looks as though he didn’t begin to back off until after lap 49, when he set the race’s fastest lap up to that point.

2011 Italian Grand Prix

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    Author information

    Keith Collantine
    Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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    66 comments on “How a poor restart ruined Hamilton’s race”

    1. Great analysis. Apart from the restart I think McLaren further compounded Hamilton’s issues by not trying to undercut Schumacher and then when they brought him in not putting him on the medium tyres, since he lost time to Schumacher again and they knew it would be close, plus to try something different. In fact I’ve often wondered why more teams don’t go for a middle stint on the primes, giving them more time on the options at the end. Any thoughts on why?

      Oh and great analysis as usual.

      1. Why not go for a 1-stopper in the first place? Hamilton managed almost 20 laps on his soft tyres, on heavy fuel and in dirty air, so with a lighter fuel load the mediums would have lasted 33, you would expect.

      2. Honestly as a McLaren fan i have to admit,McLaren have grown even more Stranger throughout this Season with their Stratagies,Car Setups & Race Starts(although they’ve been quite unfortunate,always been placed right behind Fast Starting Drivers such as Alonso & the Mercedes Drivers).

        I think you’re Right,Teams should try to go for a 2nd Stint on the Primes but it comes to the Conclusion that even if that idea occurred on their Minds,They would always think that It would always Balance out because they would be Running the Faster Option Tyre during their Final Stint.

      3. Just noticed I said ‘great analysis’ twice…twit

        1. I’m not complaining :-)

    2. So cynical Keith! Even though Hamilton did little during the race, you know he’ll generate more hits than other, worthier drivers!
      What surprises me about the Schumacher-Hamilton battle is that no one has mentioned how Schumacher’s expertise/gamesmanship extended to drawing alongside Hamilton while behind the safety car to ensure the Briton was always wondering what was happening behind him rather than with Alonso in front. Inspired? Or sneaky?

      1. Hamilton potentially had a car to challenge for victory, but a couple of mistakes meant he couldn’t, and there’s plenty to support that in the data. That’s what this article shows, as well as highlighting all the new data pages just added to the site. I’m not sure what you’re accusing me of doing wrong.

        1. Keith, were you at all surprised that Mclaren didn’t change Lewis’ strategy. I was screaming at my TV to change Lewis to a 3 stop strategy after just a few laps stuck behind Schumi.

          Then when that didn’t happen and it was clear Lewis was going to be stuck behind Schumi for much of his 2nd stint I thought, now surely, they’ll put him on the hards and get them out the way so that later he could chase down the others, but no.

          It seems to me that all season, Mclaren’s strategy, and ability to adapt their strategy has been poor. Very frustrating, especially as on the occasion they did so in China, Lewis showed he can make it work.

          1. I think the timing of his first stop was disrupted by him being overtaken by Button. Not 100% on that yet, though, may have more on that tomorrow.

            After that I don’t think there was an opportunity when it wouldn’t have just cost him too much time (you lose more time pitting at Monzaa because the average lap speed is so high) and/or dropped him into traffic.

            1. I suppose that had he not lost the place to Button, he would have had the pit stop priority, meaning one less lap of Schumi’s undercut. This could have made the difference but looking at the lap times, I think it would have been close.

              Regarding my hard tyre comment, I didn’t mean an extra pit stop, but switching to hards at his first stop when it was clear he wasn’t going to pass Schumi in the pits. The harder tyre was at least 1 second slower than the option and from the lap times, this is about how much lewis was losing to Jenson at this point in the race. This would mean that during the second stint, Lewis could run at ideal, optimum pace while he was stuck behind Schumi. Whilst, yes, this will have left him behind after the 2nd stops, passing would have been much easier with an advantage of at least 2 seconds per lap (1 sec from the car advantage demonstrated by Button in the 2nd stint and 1 sec from the tyres).

              Also, if he hadn’t wasted a set of softs in Q2 after getting through on the hards, the 1 sec difference between the tyres could have been more, but im not sure about that.

              I think that all makes sense!

            2. Keith, I think your analysis clearly shows the problem for Hamilton, nothing wrong with it.

              I do think jleigh has a point with that interesting different strategy, it might have worked, and seems to have a big chance of having worked a lot better than what McLaren stuck too, but they would have had to accept he would mainly be battling for the podium, with only a slim chance of getting Vettel.
              Perhaps they couldn’t admit that to themselves, hoping that HAM would soon get past MSC and get a move on.

      2. I saw that. He was practically half way up on him before the restart. Very sneaky.

    3. I have a Feeling and i really hate to say it Keith that this Website everyday is becoming ever more devoted into making Vettel a better driver than Alonso & Hamilton and in addition,Criticise Hamii immensely for every little mistakes he commits.

      Refering back to the Grand Prix and ignoring EJ’s Critics on the McLaren Setup for Monza,I believe McLaren had a Package if not the Fastest as fast as Red Bull’s but we dont know that because Vettel had a Lead Substantial enough to therefore enter Cruise Mode whilst Button & Hamii who were too far back,were the Quickest Guys on the Track.The Reason all these events occurred today was right from Lap 1 when Alonso began the ‘chain reaction’ with his Brilliant start.

      Had Hamilton passed Schumacher around Lap 23-25 even 1 Lap before then 3rd & 4th Place would be different and the Tifosi wouldnt have came onto the Pit Straight but its Motor-Racing and im a F1 Fanatic expressing my Opinions!!!

      Roll on Singapore,Regardless if Vettel has the Title in the Bag or Not,Great Race today hopefully our Aids(Pirellis,KERS,DRS) would enable us to spectate a similar Race to the previous Grand Prixs.

      1. I read the race and I call it how I see it. I’m not pushing an agenda on any driver.

        Nor do I expect anyone will take seriously accusations to the contrary from someone naming themselves after the driver they allege I’ve got it in for.

        I’ve just spent a lot of time going through the data, checking and double-checking my work and my writing. I’ve tested my theories and explained my point of view.

        All you’ve got are whinges about TV pundits and baseless conspiracy theories. And, what a surprise, all this while cowering behind an anonymous name.

        Here’s a thought: If you genuinely think I’m wrong, why not try coming up with some data to prove otherwise. And have the guts to publish it under your real name.

        1. John (Younger Hamii)
          11th September 2011, 21:58

          All you’ve got are whinges about TV pundits and baseless conspiracy theories. And, what a surprise, all this while cowering behind an anonymous name.

          Baseless Conspiracy Theories???

          Keith,Hamilton missed out on the Podium by 0.507Secs,you’re suggesting that had Lewis had one more lap he wouldnt have done Alonso down into that First Chicane or anywhere else on the Track,Ferrari werent as quick as Mercedes in the Speedtraps,meaning that it would have been a touch easier for Lewis.Of Course Alonso is a hard but fair Defender but Hamilton coming through would have been inevitable

          1. Qualifying pace and race pace aren’t the same thing. As I said in the article, their pace was comparable when Hamilton wasn’t stuck in traffic.

            1. John (Younger Hamii)
              11th September 2011, 22:18

              Of course i know that but what i meant by Hamilton missing out on the Podium by 0.507Secs,i meant he finished behind Alonso by Half a Second.Statistics confusing much?

            2. See comment below.

          2. Just realised I misread your last comment, let me address that again more directly:

            you’re suggesting that had Lewis had one more lap he wouldnt have done Alonso down into that First Chicane or anywhere else on the Track

            I never said anything of the kind. What does it matter that he might have been able to finish third had the race gone on another lap (which it was never going to)?

            My point is he should have been able to finish higher than just missing out on the podium.

      2. @ Younger Hami

        The analysis is fully justified. Apparently (not seen this confirmed) Button said ‘that’s how you do it’ on the radio after he passed Schumacher! If so, really not much else to add. Button showed Hamilton how to drive today. Really he started slow, forgot to keep tabs with Vettel and Alonso at the restart, let Schumacher past, went past him but left too much space and got taken again… I’m a fan of Hamilton’s but the ‘give me a fast car and I’ll deliver’ attitude is now sounding very hollow. He has to realize total dedication to improving his driving and understanding of the sport is the only thing that will allow him to attain his potential – and beat Vettel over the coming years. The sooner he realizes that the better. Because he’s obviously not satisfied in being second best – which he is now even in his own team.

        1. Why do you bother reacting to this kind of thing Keith. I know it must be frustrating but no matter how logical your reasoning is some people are never going to listen.

          Every race weekend you have to defend yourself against some alleged bias. Considering the amount of ground you have to cover to provide your excellent analysis of the sport, it seems an inefficient use of limited time and resource to respond to these kind of comments.

          Why not take the time responding and instead dedicate it to minor personal issues such as eating and sleeping which I am not sure you do. Otherwise you’ll simply frustrate yourself to death.

          Keep up the good work!

          1. I know what you mean. But I take pride in my work and if some people make cheap, ill-informed remarks about it then I may choose to respond.

            There are too many comments and too little time to reply to all of them, positive or negative, so I try to do a little of both.

            1. What did Gladstone advise,”Never reply to critiscm or praise”

              I was very glad to see that Keith stuck to his guns by saying he saw nothing wrong with Schumi holding Hamilton back.It was genuine racing skill.

              Wrongly or rightly in the past I have felt that McLaren were given “special status” on this site,now I know they are not.

            2. in the past I have felt that McLaren were given “special status” on this site,now I know they are not.

              Thank you. I try to treat all the drivers and teams fairly.

          2. ermm, I’m guessing/hoping this comment is misplaced Shy! Just to clarify I meant ‘Keith’s analysis is fully justified’ which I hope is evident from the rest.

        2. I think that Hamilton bein over cautious to finally finish a race again, and do it in the points, might have made him be to carefull and not take the chances there were.

          I agree with the analyses, that getting passed by Schu at the restart and the failure to find a way around him soon (either passing or rethinking race strategy) cost Hamilton a lot of chances at maybe even winning.

          Vettel was ever only going it slow when he saw how far Button was back after passing Alonso and not fast enough to catch him, so had Hamilton been on his heels from the go, he would have had a real fight for it.

          1. Well said, we heard later in the race that HAM had to be prodded to go after Alonso, before that he was barely going the same pace.

            I seem to recall a similar sort of lackluster drive in Valencia (and maybe being too cautious in Brazil ’08 too and having to pick up at last lap?).

            It seems to show that HAM isn’t motivated when he needs to just finish; perhaps he shouldn’t go into a race thinking like that then.

          2. Yeah, that is what you get when people keep telling him how unintelligent, aggressive, stupid, taking chances where there are non etc, etc,……

            Seriously, if I were him I would hang my wheels longest …. :( But he is a fighter!

        3. A bit unfair for Button to say ‘that’s how you do it’ after Hamilton chased Schumacher down all those laps, Schumacher’s tyres started to go off and he pitted immediately after. Thats like picking the rewards of someone else’ work.

      3. You are right. The website is “devoted into making Vettel a better driver than Alonso & Hamilton and in addition,Criticise Hamii” lately because that is the way the results have been lately and as such is a fair representation of the current news in F1.

        Vettel has been sublime. Lewis is losing it and is making many driving mistakes and crazy comments after races.

        It is the news and for most it interesting and why we come here to read Keith’s take on it all.

    4. What is with McLarens’ starts this year anyway? I’ve seen both Hamilton and Button bog down quite a few times, and with the exception of China, I don’t remember any good starts.

      Btw I think the article’s title is perfectly appropriate. If the McLarens had been 2 and 3 after the first few laps, we may have had a battle for the lead on our hands.

      1. Hamilton didn’t get a bad start (off the grid), but Alonso got an amazing one, and with him up the inside it was difficult for Hamilton to attack Vettel. He was unlucky more than anything, although at the restart he was obviously poor. Button’s starts have generally not been all that great though.

    5. Just thinking… Mclaren opted again for a higher downforce set-up like what they had at spa. Yes they are quick but in my observation they suffer massively on a heavy fuel load at the start. More downforce + full(heavy)fuel load they suffer with top speed in circuits like spa and monza.

      But in the middle of the race they seem to make it work since the fuel goes down which helps their top speed. Maybe they should tweak it a bit so they wouldn’t suffer at the start?

      To be fast at the last segment of the race is good but at some point it would be hard to catch the leader if he was able to get away during the first half or 3/4 of the race?

    6. How coul he have spent 30 laps behind Schumacher but passed him on lap 27.

    7. Good analysis, thanks. Tend to miss a lot of that stuff when yore in the thick of the action! Nice work from Bruno. I would have liked to have seen what Rosberg could have done with his strategy.

      1. Me too, shame to see him go out so early.

        And Petrov too, but as they say, that’s racing.

        1. Yes, Rosbergs different tyre strategy might have really changed the way of things.

          And seeing where Senna got up to after having his stop for a new front wing after the first corner, Renault was realistically on the pace in Monza as well.

          1. “And seeing where Senna got up to after having his stop for a new front wing after the first corner”

            LRGP changed Senna’s strategy and pitted him under safety car on lap 2 or 3 because he started on primes, that way he was on options almost full race, and there wasn’t any wing change in his car btw

      2. agree, would have been very interesting. I’m surprised we don’t see more varied use of the hard tyre rather than just on the hard stint, especially from faster cars out of position such as Lewis today. We’ve seen it from drivers starting at the back and its worked well such as Webber in China and Schumi on Spa, so I don’t see why it wouldn’t work from further forward. It’s also a shame we didn’t see Button fully utilise it in Spa when he had to pit after a few laps.

        1. And Webber was about to try it too here again after that crash into Massa, only he didn’t make it back to the pits to get the nose and tyres.

      3. A: Rosberg had even more top speed than Schumacher, and was on the harder tire. He would have held up Hamilton even longer.

    8. Anybody an idea as to why Hamilton didn’t use his KERS in addition to the DRS to try and pass Schumacher?
      I thought that was strange…
      (He may have tried though, but i fell asleep during some parts, so i might have missed it… :-/)

      1. he did use it, but the merc had a high top speed and Lewis hit the limiter.

      2. He used KERS in different places, as using KERS on a straight where he was constantly running into the rev limiter would not help him get by.

      3. Ah, ofcourse. Thanks guys. :-)

    9. I think it has been like this all year long. I mean you really need to sort out your race in the first 10 to 12 laps in order to have a real picture to decide what you are aiming at: win, podium or just as high as you can. this became quite clear already at Turkey i think. unfortunately for the mclarens and the championship both lewis and jenson were caught out in several races right at the start or else having bad saturdays, having to fight their ways up the field with the renaults, mercedes and ferraris, “DRSing” each other in the best cases, when not running wheel to wheel or even making contact. its nice to watch, but you cant deny it all made life easier for their rivals.

    10. As well as the poor restart mentioned here, Hamilton lost out due to poor pit-stops from McLaren.

      Vettel managed a 2.9, Alonso a 3.0, if I remember correctly. Hamilton’s first pit stop, having already passed Schumacher, was 4.1, and when he came out he was behind once again, but only by a few tenths. A proper pit stop would have kept him ahead, and I think he would definitely have been third, possibly challenging for second if that had been the case.

      Jenson’s first pit stop was described by Brundle as being 3.5 seconds, though I didn’t see the exact time. Again, slower than Vettel and Alonso.

      It’s just not good enough from McLaren. The other top teams, especially Red Bull, have worked hard to shave tenths or even whole seconds off their pit stops, and it pays off.

      1. a very good point. Keith, do you have any data on the pit stops?

        1. i mean the actual stop, rather than the whole pit lane time. Which interestingly, shows Mclaren quite near the top, suggesting they are more aggressive on the limiter perhaps?

          1. No, that data is not published in full I’m afraid.

            1. shame, would be interesting to know.

              Also, Vettel’s final pit sop was only 7 10ths faster than Lewis’ first, but the stop times were 2.9 and 4.1 respectively. Would be interesting to know where Lewis gained the time. Above I mentioned being aggressive on the limiter but now I think about it, isn’t the pit lane time only when the limiter is on, therefore putting the limiter on a bit later and off earlier wouldn’t make any difference to the pit lane time

    11. @ Younger Hami

      The Ferrari was the quickest through the speed traps of the top six cars.

    12. Keith, this is all fine in itself but I’m not certain that any kind of restart from him would have kept Schumacher behind. In a set-piece of accelerating from 4th gear to terminal velocity, in a mile of track, no way Hamilton keeps the Mercedes from making up 100ft on him. I’m just saying that the restart gaffe was not the proximate cause here.

      Really, he lost it at the start. Ironically, he had a great run on Vettel, but had to back out to keep Alonso from either hitting him or barreling into the grass. (No good deed goes unpunished.) If he comes out of that P2, he is shielded from the Mercedes cruise missle at the restart, and has a fair chance at outdueling Vettel or Alonso on the overlap.

      1. Yeah, looking at the replays it seemed Lewis was a little timid (compared to his past) going into the first chichane and effectively let Vettel through (you’d think he’d be as aggressive enough to take Vettel out – but I presume it’s because he’s already had too many incidents this year) – perhaps he thought it would be better to let him through thus reducing any risk of a collision and better to get him with DRS in a few laps later – but didn’t work out as the safety car came out and he was caught napping.

        1. True, but at the restart, and especially since MSC was already getting along side, HAM should have been blocking him. Maybe he was, but too cautiously?

    13. Very good and interesting article Keith, and awesome analysis, opinions and contributions from the public. Keep it up. All the anti-hami hating has done, is to decide an early WDC for Vettel. Lewis was burdened in this race to finish without incidents and he did. On another day Vettel in the 1st chicane and trailing MSC wouldn’t be.

      1. Are you sure? I believe RB7’s technical superiority + Vettel’s ability to extract the potential of it is what decided the WDC almost already… And don’t think LH or anyone else could have changed that. In fact since I’m watching the sport nobody could overcome a big technical advantage of a rival in a championship, neither Prost, Senna, Schumacher, Hakkinen, Alonso etc.

        1. In fact, last year would have been that black swan, if Vettel did not manage to snatch it away from Alonso in the end. Indeed, the talk was that RBR would go down as the biggest sob story in F1 if they managed to lose the titles with the space ship they had. It’s like a property of F1. I manage to watch season after season anyway for some reason.

          I don’t agree that Hamilton is being held back by criticism. Every race its like we go through this. In Nurburgring and China, Hamilton dazzled with some flinty driving and unorthodox passing. In other times, he enrages with flinty drivng and unorthodox passing. It’s the same coin, two sides.

    14. This keith character sure does get emotional rather easily. Try be more professional mate! Its the readers of the site that make the sight. Not just you!

    15. Great job Keith! Thanks a lot for the analysis! Hamilton indeed lost the chance to take some pressure on Vettel and second place on the podium. And definitely because of his own mistakes and inexperience. Button showed again that he reads the situation a lot better, he just passed Schumacher by letting some distance at Lesmo and by that having more downforce at the exit, better speed at the straight and just left no chance to defense for Schumacher at Ascari… Hamilton figured out the same move just by lap 27 and I still think it was more due to Mercs tires degradation than to a good outing of Lesmo. IMO Hamilton just don’t have experience in midfield cars and thats why he’s struggling when the situation is not so straight forward, he needs to catch up a lot in race management (tires usage, opponents and track learning, conditions reading and extracting the maximum potential at the right moment) and I believe this is quite difficult when all you have to care about is winning races at any cost basically…

    16. A funny typo there Keith

      Senna was the only driver to sore points


      Bet Petrov might have been sore, but the points Senna scored would have tasted rather sweet!

      1. Hah, changed it, thanks.

    17. @neutral, couldn’t agree with you more!! !

    18. Keith do u think ham is happy at mclaren can’t help but feel he may not be the loved one at mclaren no more maybe he feels a little left out with all this talk of a lifetime contract on the table for button ! He looked so unmotivated on Sunday even the team said he needed motivating on the radio and with him not racing as he normally would maybe not all is well

      1. I think it was confined to the race and the situation he was in, rather than being at McLaren.

        He was clearly frustrated being behind Schumacher and we know Hamilton doesn’t handle frustration well in the cockpit – remember Monaco.

        And there’s probably an element of being disappointed with his own performance (especially the restart, which was a real blunder) and disappointed that the direction they’d taken on set-up to beat Red Bull was working against him getting past the Mercedes.

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