Vettel’s one-stop ‘overcut’ yields debut Ferrari podium

2015 Australian Grand Prix tyre strategies and pit stops

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Ferrari were sufficiently quicker than Williams that Sebastian Vettel was able to jump ahead of Felipe Massa by pitting three laps later than him.

Australian Grand Prix tyre strategies

The tyre strategies for each driver:

Stint 1Stint 2Stint 3Stint 4
Lewis HamiltonSoft (25)Medium (33)
Nico RosbergSoft (26)Medium (32)
Sebastian VettelSoft (24)Medium (34)
Felipe MassaSoft (21)Medium (37)
Felipe NasrSoft (25)Medium (33)
Daniel RicciardoSoft (23)Medium (34)
Nico HulkenbergSoft (21)Medium (23)Soft (13)
Marcus EricssonMedium (1)Soft (25)Soft (17)Soft (14)
Carlos Sainz JnrSoft (24)Medium (33)
Sergio PerezMedium (38)Soft (19)
Jenson ButtonSoft (27)Medium (29)
Kimi RaikkonenSoft (16)Soft (24)Medium (0)
Max VerstappenMedium (32)

Since the era of Pirelli’s ‘designed to degrade’ tyres began in 2011, every Australian Grand Prix has been won using a two-stop strategy. That changed this year, with most drivers including the top six finishers choosing to stop just once.

Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery believes this was down to “the cool conditions and early Safety Car period”.

Vettel was among those who pitted just once. He was pursuing Massa prior to his stop, and as Williams were concerned they might be ‘undercut’ by the Ferrari pitting before them, Massa was brought in on lap 21. But it was in vain. Vettel came in three laps later, having improved his lap times by almost eight-tenths of a second in the meantime, and emerged from the pits ahead.

It was the opposite to the usual ‘undercut’ tactic of bringing a car in for an early pit stop to gain track position. “We had a great strategy,” said Vettel, “and were able to save some tyres to go the opposite of the usual strategy to overtake someone through the pit stop”.

Fortunately for Vettel he had the one pit stop Ferrari performed all day which did not go wrong. Team mate Kimi Raikkonen lost in the region of five seconds during his first visit to the pits. But the left-rear wheel problem which slowed him was the catalyst for another problematic pit stop later on which forced him out of the race.

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Australian Grand Prix pit stop times

How long each driver’s pit stops took:

DriverTeamPit stop timeGapOn lap
1Nico HulkenbergForce India21.61244
2Felipe MassaWilliams22.0620.45021
3Nico RosbergMercedes22.1050.49326
4Nico HulkenbergForce India22.1370.52521
5Lewis HamiltonMercedes22.2950.68325
6Marcus EricssonSauber22.3530.74143
7Kimi RaikkonenFerrari22.4050.79340
8Daniel RicciardoRed Bull22.5350.92323
9Marcus EricssonSauber22.6811.0691
10Sebastian VettelFerrari22.6941.08224
11Felipe NasrSauber22.9331.32125
12Marcus EricssonSauber23.2541.64226
13Jenson ButtonMcLaren23.3531.74127
14Max VerstappenToro Rosso23.5321.92032
15Sergio PerezForce India26.0094.39738
16Kimi RaikkonenFerrari27.4655.85316
17Carlos Sainz JnrToro Rosso55.78934.17724

2015 Australian 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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27 comments on “Vettel’s one-stop ‘overcut’ yields debut Ferrari podium”

  1. There were a lot of bad pit stops by almost every team. It was odd. Kimi’s slow pit stops (and eventual retirement) may have been due to damage picked up in his lap one contact though.

    1. No wrong side of the car.

    2. He had one pit stop before that, it was his second one

  2. In hindsight, Pirelli could have gone one step softer; the soft was easily durable enough as a race tyre.

    One thing I wondered about: would Rosberg be allowed to make a second stop? For instance, push the tyres hard from around lap 40, and if he hadn’t gotten close by lap 45, make a stop for a new set of softs (which he still had left). Hamilton would then be in a difficult position; if he demands the right to pit first, Rosberg would simply say “thank you” and not pit. If Hamilton does not pit and there is a late safety car, he is a sitting duck on old mediums compared to Rosberg on fresh softs.

    1. @adrianmorse I’m surprised Rosberg hasn’t tried much different in the last few races. He can’t match Lewis on pace but there are opportunities to be tried. Even if they fail, he’ll still easily finish P2…

      I mean, he could’ve sacrificed Q and started on the primes, or do very agressive two stopper, I don’t think they would work but why not try and hope for the best…

      1. Mercedes do not allow them to have different pit stop strategies, only thing that may differ is the tyre choices. Mercedes believe having different pit stop strategies will always benefit one driver over the other and therefore isnt “equal” as they keep saying theyre treating the drivers.
        Basically if one strategy ultimately destroys the other one then questions will be asked about favouritism

        1. As a driver I’m pretty sure Rosberg could just ask for another option.

          1. Mercedes have stated several times that they won’t allow different strategies in a ‘normal’ race.
            Nico could’ve asked but they’d likely have said no.

    2. For me, that’s the problem with the mercedes team. We never saw an strategic fight between both their drivers, they always use the same, and I find this kind of boring. Seriously, the championship will be decided between these two guys, let them use all weapons at their disposal!

      1. I agree. That really annoys me about them. It means if the driver behind isn’t happy with the car or strategy (i.e. Nico often has problems with fuel usage and tyre wear), he has to stick with it and isn’t allowed to change the strategy. This is just wrong and unfair. Both drivers should get the chance to battle with everything they have available. Last year I noticed it at the Monaco GP for the first time. Lewis wanted to make the undercut, but he wasn’t allowed to.
        On circuits like Monaco, Hungaroring or Marina Bay at Singapore it’s impossible to overtake in the same car, if you don’t have a significant tyre-advantage or more fuel to burn till the end of the race.
        IMO the best driver should win. That means he has to be the fastest and the most intelligent racing driver in the field.

    3. I was thinking this same thing during the race, but the problem was that Vettel and Massa were a bit too close to make this strategy work. Of course, Nico should be able to pass the slower cars easily, but it would’ve been a risk. So either Hamilton should let Nico by (as is “usual” if teammates are on differing strategies and one is clearly faster at some point in the race), or both Mercedes should turn their engine up and therefore increase risk of reliability problems. It would have been fascinating to see them go head to head strategically.

  3. I don’t get it. Would be much better for Williams and Massa if they stop after Ricciardo or after Vettel?
    For me was too soon, another strategy mistake I think.

    1. I don’t think so. Vettel was holding the gap to Massa and saving his tyres, so he could put in his quick laps after the Williams pitted. He just waited for Massa to pit. Even if Massa was to stay out for 3 or 4 laps more, Vettel would’ve probably pitted after him.
      After the pit stop Vettel was pushing and pulling a gap of 4 sec, then just controlling the race, because he knew he was faster than Massa but didn’t stand a chance against the Mercs.

      1. Indeed, Ferrari nailed their strategy, but that doesn’t mean Williams ‘made a error’.

    2. They wanted to avoid the risk of Vettel undercutting Massa, which is what happens most often. They didn’t count with Vettel having another three laps at very good pace. That bit of tyre management from Vettel was good.

    3. It wasn’t a mistake. There’s a reason why undercutting almost always works but in this case it didn’t because the underlining pace of the Ferrari, which enabled them to overcome the gap between mediums on a low degradation afternoon. This would not work if the 2 cars had similar pace, truth is Ferrari was well ahead of the Williams, the thing is ferrari established that Vettel was never going to overtake the Williams on the straight. There’s more to come from Ferrari, the team simply managed the gap back to Massa and saved the PU, Ferrari was not 30 secs from Merc but Merc was probably not that slow they were just managing.

      1. the other point you have missed here is the medium tire was over a sec slower,
        yes Williams screwed up in my book, Vet was always going to be faster on old softer tries when Massa moved onto Mediums…

        1. *NEW* soft tyres are over a second faster. They degrade rapidly and lose a lot of pace. That’s why Vettel ha to back down and don’t pressure Massa. It was a surprise to most that Vettel still had 3 laps of great pace.

  4. Those laps after Massa pitted and before he pitted himself were absolute crackers by Vettel. For those two laps he was quicker than even the Mercs, and on identical rubber.

    Where’s whatshisname who was going on about how Seb can’t make his tyres last, and Ferrari are Friday heros?

    1. In all fairness Vettel went flat-out, faster than Team brackleys that were cruising.

    2. I agree with those three laps after the Williams pitted were amazing by Seb. Was even quicker than the Mercs as you say and on identical rubber, for sure you could say they were ‘crusing’ but it was just before their round of pit stops so ideally you want a bit of a gap so not unreasonable to assume they were pushing also.

      Reminded me of Schumacher British gp 2006 drilling in purple sectors after once Kimi (that day) pitted and came out just ahead. #Forza Ferrari #Forza Seb & Kimi.

  5. It wasn’t just that the Ferrari or Vettel was faster after Massa stopped, but Massa got stuck behind a slower car after his stop (IIRC Ricciardo).

    Not sure if they were forced to stop so early because Massa couldn’t continue on those tyres or that this was yet another poor strategic call from Williams. I’m afraid it’s the latter though.

    1. I saw an interview with Rob Smedley (I think, maybe it was Pat Symonds) after the race, he said it didn’t matter which strategy they did, they would have been jumped by Vettel anyway. If they allowed Vettel to undercut Massa they would have been jumped anyway, so they took a risk to try and undercut Vettel if Massa could pass Ricciardo quickly. Ultimately he got stuck behind Ricciardo, losing about a second a lap behind him, and lost the place anyway, but it was worth a shot.

      To me it suggests more that Ferrari were the second-fastest car today rather than “Williams made another strategy mistake”. Both Ferrari drivers said that they could have been ahead of Massa in qualifying yesterday with cleaner laps, and Pat Symonds also said that Ferrari were quicker than them (at this track anyway, he says Malaysia should suit them more).

      1. Mr win or lose
        15th March 2015, 21:54

        Massa’s pitstop was quicker, but still he lost the place. Williams should have waited for Ricciardo to pit and only then make the pitstop. But Vettel was incredible indeed. He gave everything in those few laps prior to his stop and he won the place. Apart for those laps, Massa wasn’t much slower than Vettel. Vettel just knew when he had to be quick.

  6. Chris (@tophercheese21)
    16th March 2015, 8:17

    The overcut worked much better than I expected.

  7. The reason why the undercut has been the faster option in recent years, is that the performance drop off, of the pirelli’s has been substantial. In Melbourne, the penalty for running deeper into the run was negated by the durability and the relative speed that the tyres had at the end of their life, hence why the overcut worked in this case. If in Malaysia, the tyres are aggressive, an overcut won’t work, however, if the tyres are very durable and hang onto their pace at the end of their life, then we may see the overcut in action.

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