Did Hamilton really have “the strategy to win”?

2015 Singapore GP tyre strategies and pit stops

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Lewis Hamilton started the Singapore Grand Prix for an unusually low position – fifth on the grid – having been over a second off the pace in qualifying.

Mercedes’ sudden loss of pace was one of the most surprising developments of the weekend. But could a combination of Safety Cars and strategy helped him to victory in the race had it not been for his retirement?

“Think we had the pace to win,” said Hamilton as he retired
“Think we had the pace to win,” rued Hamilton as Mercedes pushed his car back into the garage after 32 laps. “Think we had the strategy to win as well,” race engineer Peter Bonnington concurred.

The early Safety Car period had wiped out much of the 15-second deficit to the leaders Hamilton had gained earlier in the race. And when the race restarted, Vettel kept a lid on the pace of his pursuing rivals to preserve his tyre performance for later in the race, which also allowed Hamilton to stay in touch.

Could he therefore have won had he not retired? The timing of the second Safety Car period makes it doubtful. None of those who, like Hamilton, took soft tyres for their second stint considered it worth trying to stay out without making a second pit stop when the Safety Car reappeared. So any hope of jumping ahead of the leaders and ekeing his tyres out to the end was unrealistic.

Had the Safety Car not come out, Hamilton would have had the benefit of running on super-softs when his rivals were on the harder tyres. This certainly would have put him in a more competitive position.

Would he have been quick enough to pass the three cars who were in front of him when he retired? Sebastian Vettel were trading fastest laps well into the closing stages of the race, and there’s no reason why they should have found themselves in a situation where their tyres started to go off, leaving them vulnerable. At best, Hamilton might have beaten Kimi Raikkonen to the last podium place, but that’s probably the upper limit of what the Mercedes was capable of in Singapore.

Exactly why that was is one of the most fascinating questions of the year so far.

2015 Singapore Grand Prix tyre strategies

The tyre strategies for each driver:

Stint 1Stint 2Stint 3Stint 4
Sebastian VettelSuper soft (13)Super soft (24)Soft (24)
Daniel RicciardoSuper soft (13)Super soft (24)Soft (24)
Kimi RaikkonenSuper soft (13)Super soft (24)Soft (24)
Nico RosbergSuper soft (13)Soft (24)Soft (24)
Valtteri BottasSuper soft (13)Super soft (24)Soft (24)
Daniil KvyatSuper soft (12)Super soft (21)Soft (28)
Sergio PerezSuper soft (13)Soft (21)Soft (27)
Max VerstappenSuper soft (12)Soft (24)Super soft (25)
Carlos Sainz JnrSuper soft (10)Soft (18)Super soft (9)Super soft (24)
Felipe NasrSuper soft (13)Soft (21)Soft (27)
Marcus EricssonSuper soft (10)Soft (18)Super soft (8)Soft (25)
Pastor MaldonadoSuper soft (10)Super soft (17)Soft (27)Super soft (7)
Romain GrosjeanSuper soft (9)Soft (17)Soft (33)
Alexander RossiSuper soft (13)Soft (23)Super soft (23)
Will StevensSuper soft (14)Soft (23)Super soft (22)
Jenson ButtonSuper soft (13)Soft (24)Soft (4)Super soft (11)
Fernando AlonsoSuper soft (10)Soft (23)
Lewis HamiltonSuper soft (13)Soft (19)
Felipe MassaSuper soft (12)Super soft (2)Soft (15)
Nico HulkenbergSuper soft (11)Soft (1)

2015 Singapore Grand Prix pit stop times

How long each driver’s pit stops took:

DriverTeamPit stop timeGapOn lap
1Lewis HamiltonMercedes28.91713
2Daniil KvyatRed Bull29.1590.24212
3Sebastian VettelFerrari29.1720.25513
4Pastor MaldonadoLotus29.2230.30627
5Valtteri BottasWilliams29.2390.32237
6Valtteri BottasWilliams29.2600.34313
7Sebastian VettelFerrari29.2730.35637
8Marcus EricssonSauber29.3980.48136
9Daniel RicciardoRed Bull29.4190.50237
10Marcus EricssonSauber29.5890.67210
11Sergio PerezForce India29.6760.75934
12Felipe NasrSauber29.6790.76213
13Sergio PerezForce India29.7320.81513
14Carlos Sainz JnrToro Rosso29.7420.82528
15Pastor MaldonadoLotus29.7620.84510
16Romain GrosjeanLotus29.8260.90926
17Marcus EricssonSauber29.8570.94028
18Carlos Sainz JnrToro Rosso29.8850.96837
19Nico RosbergMercedes29.8870.97037
20Felipe MassaWilliams29.9070.99014
21Felipe NasrSauber29.9171.00034
22Pastor MaldonadoLotus29.9961.07954
23Kimi RaikkonenFerrari30.0311.11413
24Jenson ButtonMcLaren30.1061.18937
25Will StevensManor30.3981.48114
26Nico RosbergMercedes30.5621.64513
27Romain GrosjeanLotus30.6401.7239
28Kimi RaikkonenFerrari30.6891.77237
29Max VerstappenToro Rosso30.8441.92736
30Nico HulkenbergForce India30.8681.95111
31Alexander RossiManor31.1802.26313
32Max VerstappenToro Rosso31.2072.29012
33Daniel RicciardoRed Bull31.3072.39013
34Felipe MassaWilliams31.3802.46312
35Alexander RossiManor32.0363.11936
36Daniil KvyatRed Bull32.9244.00733
37Fernando AlonsoMcLaren34.2375.32010
38Carlos Sainz JnrToro Rosso34.9706.05310
39Jenson ButtonMcLaren37.8228.90541
40Will StevensManor37.8478.93037
41Jenson ButtonMcLaren65.31736.40013

2015 Singapore Grand Prix

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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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31 comments on “Did Hamilton really have “the strategy to win”?”

  1. 5 Valtteri Bottas Williams 29.239 0.322 37
    6 Valtteri Bottas Williams 29.260 0.343 13
    34 Felipe Massa Williams 31.380 2.463 12

    1 tenth quicker, the outcome will be very different for Williams.

    1. Williams’ pit stops are always poor. They need to improve.

    2. Massa’s first pit stop should give them food for thought. He lost roughly 2 seconds on that occasion (compared to Bottas’s pit stops), so he should’ve come out of the pits light years ahead of Hülkenberg. No battle, no crash, no problem.

      For some reason, Hülkenberg’s stop was also quite slow, but Massa still lost half a second compared to that. Whichever way we look at it, Massa’s crash could’ve easily been avoided with a normal pit stop. He could’ve finished either directly behind Bottas in P6, or behind Kvyat in P7 (I didn’t see where exactly he rejoined the track after his second pit stop). So that sluggish pit stop cost them 6 or 8 points, and who knows if they’re going to need them to fend off Red Bull in the Constructors’ at the end of the season …

  2. The teams are always so optimistic that the race will come to them at the end, whilst it happens on occasion it is very rare. I think it is unlikely Hamilton would have made up any places at all, at no point did he look like he could even comfortably keep with the cars in front, let alone have enough excess speed to overtake. The Mercedes was so slow that even on the faster tyres this would probably have only brought Hamilton up to the leaders’ pace but not faster.

    Also, during the race the Sky commentators were getting all excited that Red Bull had something up their sleeve following comments from RBR – it was never going to happen!

  3. Nobody knows for sure… but I don’t see how this race could have been won by HAM.

  4. True champions never give up and always believe they can win. I can see why he always believes that. I’m not even a Hamilton fan. But believing is the first step.

    1. That was a little too corny.

      1. corny, but true

    2. Same can be said for egomaniacs that can’t see reality.

    3. Hamilton gave up though, he wanted to park the car to save the engine, when the team was still trying to fix the problem… He could have still scored points if they did find a fix

      1. Yeah the team was still trying to fix it… Thats why they said ‘yes Lewis we see its getting worse so box box’

        Lewis knew it was pointless continuing, the Marussias where pulling away and his brakes and tyres where getting dangerously cold, thankfully the team could see that and agree’d.

        After the race it was confirmed that it was an actual failure of an engine component. Not an issue that could have been fixed via the steering wheel.

        Anything else?

      2. “If” they found a fix. really? It was pretty clear that his race was done. Every time the team suggested something, hamilton had already tried it.

    4. Is that why he wanted to retire?

  5. Not this time Ayrton Hamilton, for a while he looked like he was keeping pace using slower tyres, but he doesn’t realise vettel was slowing on purpose.

    1. In fact he did realise that in the race, and said so in the radio to the team.

      1. He said so in the race, but even during that period he was unable to make up any significant progress. To then say at the end of the race he had the capability to challenge for the lead is at best highly inconsistent and at worst repeating the lines given to him by the PR just before the interview.

        Mercedes have built up a position of absolute dominance over the past 30 or so races. The last thing they want after this is for the confidence to be eroded at Suzuka, where a mistake in qualifying or the race leads to another ‘failure’ (in the current Mercedes world, a failure is to not finish first and second). That would start to put pressure on the team, and it would keep building, forcing more little mistakes here and there – botched pitstops, questions over the new engine etc etc.

        Nobody believes he could have challenged for the win, but it would have been realistic to say that their strategy gave them a strong run at the end where they could have realistically challenged for a podium.

      2. I seem to remember also Bonno telling him to maintain the pace they’ll tell him when to turn the engine up, no?

    2. He realized fine, that was why he was optimistic, because Vettel’s choice was helping his strategy. Because he knew he wasn’t pushing car or tyres and can go longer since he had a harder compound. No matter how Sebastian stretched his pit stop by pacing himself he was only helping himself against Riccardo not Hamilton. If Riccardo attacked he would have used the tyre life he saved and pit a few laps earlier. If not he would have stretched his stint.
      But that was irrelevant to Hamilton because he had a different tyre and was with them. He would have gone longer than them no matter what. So when Vettel would pit he would have start full attack on his tyres(that where also saved because of Vettel’s pace) and put the fasters possible laps and then get in the pits and put softer rubber than the others and attack against until the end of the race. So he had a strategy tha would allow him to be on full attack for the last half of the race.

      Of course none of this had any chance because this strategy could only have a hope to work if there wasn’t a second safety car. Since there was a second safety car, Hamilton had no chance but when he made those statements the race was still going and he had retired just a while ago. He probably didn’t even look to see that a second safety car was deployed since he was just giving interviews etc.

  6. Well when DanRic won in 2014 the 1st. time it was from a similar position but I think Lewis is being a little optimistic. A superstitious person might think someone (Bernie ?) had put a curse on Mercedes for this race.

    1. I think it was something they were telling Hamilton, and maybe themselves, to keep optimistic @hohum. Without the SC periods (or less of them) I think Ricciardo might have had a chance, and that was what Vettel was saving his tyres for – to defend from the RBR at the end.

      Wolff seems more realistic, stating that they saw an outside chance of a podium, that is one I can see might have been possible.

  7. I honestly believe he may have had enough to to fight for a podium spot with the strategy they had planned, but when the 2nd safety car came out at the time it did that then would have ruined said plan. Hamilton was on his 2nd set of softs meaning he HAD to use the supers next and when the safety car came out it would have been way too early for him to go onto the supers they wouldn’t have lasted the remainder of the race surely!?

    1. Hamilton was on his 2nd set of softs meaning he HAD to use the supers next and when the safety car came out it would have been way too early for him to go onto the supers they wouldn’t have lasted the remainder of the race surely!?

      Hamilton was on the same strategy as Rosberg and had already run supersofts in the first stint (he had to, since that’s what he set his Q2 time on), so he would’ve presumably done the same as Rosberg had he not retired (switched to soft tyres for the final stint). I agree with you that Hamilton may have been able finish in 3rd if he hadn’t retired, but only if there hadn’t been a safety car – Raikkonen was a long way off Vettel’s pace over the final stint (around 0.5s a lap slower), and Hamilton could have potentially undercut or overtaken him when switching to the supersofts for the final stint. However, since the second safety car came out at a bad time for Mercedes and ruined their strategy, it’s all a bit of a moot point anyway.

      Worth noting that Hamilton and Pete Bonnington’s quotes were said over the radio just after it was decided that Hamilton would retire; at the time they made those comments they wouldn’t have known about the unfortunate timing of the second safety car later on, and Hamilton wouldn’t have yet had the opportunity to study the timing data.

      I believe that Hamilton’s comments about “having the pace to win” were based on the fact that he was keeping up with the supersoft runners in the middle stint despite using the harder soft tyres, and assuming that he would therefore be much faster than them in the final stint (when they switched to softs and he took supersofts). However, shortly after Hamilton made that comment (while retiring) Vettel and Ricciardo bolted, suggesting that they had pace in reserve when Hamilton was behind them – had Hamilton seen those two streaking off, I’m sure it would have changed his mind about having the pace to win. Given that Raikkonen didn’t have the pace to bolt off with VET/RIC though, I do think that 3rd place was probably just about possible for Hamilton without the bad timing of second safety car.

      1. You’re right about hamilton having used the supers on his first stint, my mistake I confused myself somewhere in there with the front runners having used both sets of supers on their first two stops and being tied to softs on their final stint..

        I knew what I meant ;)

      2. In addition to that, I don’t think it was a coincidence that Vettel ramped up the speed right after Hamilton’s first message about his problem was aired. Obviously he were approaching the next pit stop window, which means he didn’t need to save tyres anymore & needed a buffer for Ricciardo’s undercut attempt. But also I think he sensed that there was an imminent threat of SC, if Hamilton’s problem was serious and his car stopped at a dangerous spot. Then all would have dived into the pit lane and a slightly slower pit stop or a brief delay due to traffic could have cost him the lead (also a few positions for Raikkonen who would have been forced to wait behind him) with such a tiny margin.

  8. HAM himself admitted after the race that the 2nd safety car would have probably made it impossible.

    1. It is a relief that the current and next world champion is not completely delusional:-)

    2. I expected to see that in this article but it was curiously left out.

  9. There was no chance whatsoever of Hamilton winning this race and it was his usual sour grapes comment. If he had remained in the race, Hamilton might…just might…have got close enough to Raikkonen to challenge the Finn but that’s about the size of it. Despite Vettel being diadvantaged by 2 safety car stops, Roberg finished over 20 seconds behind. Hamilton would have done slightly better but not by much.

  10. Just bravado from a guy who hasn’t been used to losing in a long time. No more no less.

  11. hamilton shoud be come box for a new change. the soft wheels not work fine in last laps ( maldonado, grosejan, etc ).

  12. It was a comment that deserves no attention.

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