Why Hamilton’s penalty didn’t cost him a Bahrain win

2017 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Did Lewis Hamilton’s five second penalty cost him victory in the Bahrain Grand Prix? It seems that whatever Mercedes did, he wasn’t going to win this one.

How the race actually finished

The graph above shows the time gap between Vettel, Hamilton and the race leader’s average lap time:

The stewards notified Mercedes of Hamilton’s penalty shortly after the restart. At this point he lay third behind his team mate with Sebastian Vettel leading.

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By twice ordering Valtteri Bottas to let Hamilton by, and making a second pit stop during which the penalty was served, Mercedes manoeuvred Hamilton into second place. He spent the final laps closing in on Vettel, but wasn’t able to catch the Ferrari.

What if Hamilton had not had the penalty and used the same strategy?

This graph shows the hypothetical time gap between Vettel, Hamilton and the race leader’s average lap time if Hamilton had not served a five-second time penalty:

If Hamilton hadn’t been penalised he would have emerged from his second pit stop around five seconds closer to Vettel. We can therefore model how the race would developed quite easily.

2017 Bahrain GP in pictures
The gap between the two at the end of the race would have been much closer. Instead of finishing 6.6 seconds behind Vettel, Hamilton would have almost been within the one-second DRS range. Indeed, this projection has him ‘leading’ at times’,

And whereas in real life Hamilton clearly backed off in the final laps when it became clear he wasn’t going to catch Vettel, that needn’t have been the case in our hypothetical scenario.

But as the motor racing maxim goes ‘catching is one thing but passing is another’. Red Bull’s Christian Horner estimated a driver needed to have at least a 1.3 second lap time advantage to pass another car in Bahrain. Vettel was able to lap as low as 1’34.0 over the final laps, Hamilton barely half a second quicker.

Another possibility was for Mercedes to fit super-softs to Hamilton’s car. He had a new set of them, and asked the team why they hadn’t been fitted when he rejoined the track. But clearly the team felt they could not make them last long enough, a view potentially reinforced by the problem Bottas had on his second stint.

If Hamilton had not received a penalty and Mercedes had stuck to the same strategy we’d have had a closer and more exciting finish. But in all likelihood Hamilton wouldn’t have been in a position to win, unless he’d pressured Vettel into a mistake.

But what if Mercedes had used a different strategy?

What if Hamilton had not had the penalty and didn’t pit again?

This graph shows the hypothetical time gap between Vettel, Hamilton and the race leader’s average lap time if Hamilton had not served a five-second time penalty or made a second pit stop:

At the point Hamilton’s penalty was announced the Mercedes driver didn’t need to make another pit stop. He’d started the race on super-softs and switched to the softs, fulfilling the need to use two different tyre compounds. Both the cars in front of him, however, needed to come in again for a second stop.

Because of his five-second penalty there was no point in Mercedes leaving him out. All Ferrari needed to do was have Vettel catch the Mercedes and finish within five seconds of it to be declared the winner.

But if Hamilton hadn’t picked up a five-second penalty, could he have stayed out and kept Vettel behind him until the end of the race? That all comes down to how quickly his tyres would have gone off – and it doesn’t look encouraging.

At the point Hamilton made his final pit stop in the race he was losing around five hundredths of a second per lap from his soft tyres. It’s likely they would have started to degrade more quickly than this, but for the purpose of this exercise that loss of performance is used in the graph above to simulate Hamilton’s race without a second pit stop.

As the third graph shows Vettel would have been quick enough to complete the race distance 16 seconds before Hamilton. This doesn’t take into account how difficult it might have been for Vettel to pass the Mercedes. But it seems he would have had little trouble.

Vettel’s quickest lap time on his final stint in real life was a 1’33.826 and he was still able to get within two-tenths of that over the final laps. Had he been charging after Hamilton it would have been less.

Hamilton’s simulated slower lap times would have been in the 1’36s and, as noted above, would likely have been slower than this. Vettel’s lap time advantage would have been in the order of over two seconds, well above the 1.3s needed to make a pass.

Given that tyre degradation was centred on the rears in Bahrain, Vettel would likely have had little difficulty getting within range of Hamilton at the exit of one of the slow corners heading into a DRS zone. Indeed, Mercedes suggested Hamilton’s pace disadvantage would have been so severe other cars could have passed him too.

Hamilton’s penalty was one of several things which went wrong for Mercedes in Bahrain, including tyre pressure mix-ups and slow pit stops due to problems with the garage equipment. But the penalty on its own was not decisive.

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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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105 comments on “Why Hamilton’s penalty didn’t cost him a Bahrain win”

  1. Sky was hopeful but its crofty job to hype up, I think it was clear that hams penalty didnt cost him the win by that point. I think its more contetious whether Seb won because of the SC or not. I think he was actually harmed by the SC.

    1. @peartree

      I think its more contetious whether Seb won because of the SC or not. I think he was actually harmed by the SC.

      Good point. I still don’t quite understand why Vettel emerged ahead. He was 18 seconds adrift when both Mercedes pitted under the SC, so they clearly had an enormous advantage if you take into account that a pit stop costs about 20 seconds under racing conditions, and a lot less under the SC. Then, they messed up both drivers’ pit stops, which would be a plausible explanation. But Bottas’s total pit stop time was just 3.6 seconds slower than Vettel’s (or just over 4 seconds slower than the fastest pit stop of the race), so it’s all a bit odd. Bottas must’ve lost a chunk of time on the inlap, but the race history chart doesn’t quite reflect that. I’m struggling to understand why the normal mechanics of a pit stop under SC conditions didn’t apply in this case.

      1. A complete pitstop took at least 25 secondes in total in bahrein. Checked several teams ( williams in this case with the fastest pitstop)

        1. @erikje

          A complete pitstop took at least 25 secondes in total in bahrein. Checked several teams ( williams in this case with the fastest pitstop)

          You are right (24.2 seconds btw), but this figure isn’t identical with the net time loss. That’d only be the case if the cars were stationary during this time, before resuming the race at racing speed immediately. In reality, however, the cars travel a significant distance in the pit lane (442 metres according to Google Maps). Therefore, the calculation of the time lost in the pits is a pretty complicated matter. Time is lost due to braking before the pit entry, being stationary during the pit stop itself, driving over 400 metres with a speed limit, and then accelerating to a reasonable speed before the first corner arrives.

          Long story short:
          The total pit stop times (i.e. the time spent between pit entry and exit) are similar to the net time loss, but they are by no means identical and can diverge quite strongly depending on a number of factors (e.g. cars going slower on the main straight because of the Safety Car). The only way (for us) to calculate the real time loss is to have a look at race history charts, e.g. at Bottas’s final pit stop:
          Time spent in the pits: 24.5 seconds
          Gap to Vettel before the pit stop: 9.5 seconds on lap 29 (lap 30 already slightly affected due to pit entry)
          Gap to Vettel after the pit stop: 30.8 seconds on lap 3
          Time lost: 21.3 seconds.

          Problem: Inlap and outlap are affected by the car’s pace (which is why Massa, who had the fastest pit stop, lost almots 23 seconds.

          So, yeah: It’s complicated. A lot more complicated than just looking at pit stop times.

          1. Great explanation @erikje. I think that both the safety car and the penalty didn’t really affect the outcome to much. Vettel was the fastest no matter what.

    2. Without the safety car he’d have been much further ahead after Bottas and Hamilton pitted, as they got to pit under the SC while Vettel had to stick to the delta.

      1. Yes, that’s right. Vettel had stormed to P3 and was rapidly catching the two Mercs who had not stopped yet when the SC came out. Although Vettel went into the lead when they went in under the SC, he could not pull away as he would have done had there been no SC. Therefore, Vettel was really the one harmed by the SC not either Merc. There are no two ways about that.

        As for Hamilton ‘catching’ Vettel in the final stint, it was clear that Vettel was pacing himself. The team would have been updating Vettel how far behind Hamilton was at the end of every lap. We will see that kind of pacing from all drivers this season because of the limitations on engines available.

    3. I read somewhere else that Bottas exited the pits 1.2 seconds behind Vettel. This must have been around the same time Bottas was held up in the box by Ricciardo, who was only in the way because he was delayed by Hamilton. Did Hamilton’s antics for which he was penalised help Vettel stay ahead of Bottas?

      1. If that’s the actual gap, it’s very likely. Bottas’s stop (Hamilton’s too) was also slower because Mercedes had a problem with the wheel guns.

  2. Agree, there’re more factors that contributed to the defeat Mercedes suffered in Bahrain, so I don’t think HAM would have bagged the win even without that 5sec penalty. Plus, we don’t know if VET was on the edge in the final 10 laps, maybe there was some performance left and he was nursing the car for the moment when HAM would have been like 1sec behind. Given the tech problems both Ferraris had in Practices, I hardly believe VET was pushing in the last stint and when HAM was 5-15sec behind.

    1. It all started to go wrong for Hamilton on Saturday when Bottas out Qualified him. If he had started on pole and got away first, he would have had a nice lead (If Bottas had held onto second) by the time the SC appeared. Second facor was loosing a position at the start. Third factor the penalty. Fourth Factor getting held up by Bottas after the saftey car. All in all a messy weekend – Marc definitely had the car under the right conditions to win. Going to Russia next where last year Hamilton also had a rather messy weekend – lat year we saw how these weekends all added up…..

  3. Good to see the different scenario’s played out. I think that leaving Hamilton out might have been the option preferred by the team (afterall, track position …), although they would have had to go with what they expected vs. reality for degradation too. But it certainly seems that the Ferrari was the quicker car out there in that case.

    I guess Hamilton could then have pitted as soon as Vettel passed him and then went for a short stint on SSofts to catch the 20 second gap (where would have have dropped back in too, behind Ricciardo?). Still it would have only been the effort to get close and by the time he would have closed the gap he might have found that his tyres would be “spent” anyway.

    1. And if they left him out, Vettel would have only needed to be within 5 seconds of him due to the penalty, with no need at all to pass.

      1. Eh, no, we are discussing a hypothetical scenario where Hamilton did not hold up Ricciardo and did not get a penalty @ho3n3r

        1. Well then you’re just getting into a whole realm of stuff that never happened on the day.

          What’s next? What if the race was held on one of the Maldives isles instead?

          1. @ho3n3r Errrr… Not having the penalty is what the whole article is about. Did you even read as far as the headline?

    2. Also, if they pitted him as soon as Vettel passed him (by being less than 5 seconds behind him), the gap would have been more like 28 seconds, as a pitstop without penalty is about 23 seconds cost.

    3. Indeed @bascb, and thanks @keithcollantine for looking at this oft mentioned scenario – Mercedes seemingly need to pick up the pace on multiple levels with respect to a perfect race, checking their preparation, inproving their pitstops and working to get their superior qualifying pace translated to the Sunday. Will be interesting to see this go over the season.

  4. Alex McFarlane
    19th April 2017, 12:48

    Ferrari had race pace that the Merc didn’t until late on.

    At this point in the season the Ferrari looks to be more balanced than the Mercedes, who seem to have dropped the ball somewhere.

    1. Bottas was the only one of the two Mercedes cars that didn’t have the pace to match Seb. Look at the practice race sim times and Lewis was on average 0.5 quicker than everyone and it translated in the race the moment he was in clean air.

      Dropped the ball? They’ve had 3 poles, 1 win, 2 second & 2 third place. So please explain how that translates to dropping the ball?

      The only issue Mercedes currently has, is understanding the tires and getting them to work they way they want them to in the race. I’m afraid the moment that do manage to get that sorted, Ferrari won’t stand a chance.

      1. Alex McFarlane
        19th April 2017, 19:17

        Relative to the last 3 years, they’ve dropped the ball. No other team looked like winning over that spell without a Merc failing, yet they’ve already been beaten twice this season.

        I’m not saying they’re rubbish or a lost cause, and the kind of dominance they’ve had is something of an anomoly and not something that can be sustained forever, but in the 3 races this season they’ve definitely lost something to Ferrari (in Vettel’s hands at least), which is to Ferrari’s credit of course.

        1. Relative to the last 3 years, they’ve dropped the ball.

          No. Relative to the last 3 years Ferrari haven’t dropped the ball.

          1. Alex was referring to Mercedes dropping the ball, not ferrari.

    2. Good points Alex. Neither of the Mercs could catch Seb. I saw the race.
      I’m sure the Ham lovers will try and disagree with you though.

  5. Bottas lost Hamiltom the race. Not the strategy or the tyres. If Bottas had pulled aside after the first pitstops we would have seen a ding-dong battle between Ham and Vet to the end.

    1. @david-beau Bottas was told to let Hamilton by very soon after the Safety Car period. However Hamilton pointed out he wasn’t quick enough to take advantage of being let by, so Bottas was then told to keep position again. Then when his tyres started to go off Hamilton was let through.

      So it’s not true either that Mercedes left Bottas out slowing Hamilton down at this stage or that Bottas “lost Hamilton the race” by failing to obey an instruction:


      1. I too wondered during the race whether being stuck behind Bottas was losing HAM the race, but as your article shows @keithcollantine, and as he indeed admitted on radio himself, he might have been faster than Bottas with his problem w. rear tyre pressure, but he wasn’t that much faster.

        I was on the whole glad that Mercedes wasn’t superquick to swith the two, and to hear Hamilton tell them not to switch due to that, though I’d have preferred him (or Bottas) to be faster so we’d have a real fight for the lead, I don’t think team orders in general are very good for the sport.

        1. But Merc and Ham need team orders to compete with Ferrari. That at least is clear.

        2. Sorry but it’s apples and oranges. Bottas had the faster tyre. ham should not have been near him in all honesty. The issue was using Bottas times on the SS to determine all of the two cars strategy. They assumed Ham would be at the same pace on SS and worked from there. Australian race and testing should have indicated that was not likely. Ham is faster. Full stop. Regardless of tyre.

          I am not saying he would have won but Merc basing the strategy on Bottas because he was in front and then compounding the issue by assuming Ham would have the same pace if given the faster strategy? No that’s the stupidity that lost them the race. Along with crap pit stops.

          They simply cannot get to grips with the fact they are not racing in a bubble and do not have the luxury of treating both drivers as equal this year. I am stunned it’s taken them three races to realise when they have admitted Bottas pole was due to a DRS issue on Hamilton’s car and in view of the pace advantage he has shown all along.

      2. Now look at the first stint. Bottas was clearly holding up a train of cars. They either should have pulled Bottas in to fix his tyre issue after Vettel pitted or let Hamilton take the same undercut that Vettel took.

        They only started hedging their bets after they already lost the race.

        1. Said with the luxury of 20/20 hindsight.

    2. I like to remind that Bottas was in the way of two drivers in Bahrain, and only one of them had the benefit of team orders to get past him.

      1. Lewis was always going to get by Bottas given the troubles he was having the team orders were only used to stop them fighting each other, which would’ve seen them lose more time to Seb. He finished 20s behind Seb compared to 6 for Lewis, so the call was validated.

        So please stop using the team order statement to mean Lewis would not have been able to without it.

        We saw Red Bull use the same team order message for Seb & Ric in 2014 at this very same track, did anyone use it as a beating stick to somehow prove that Ric was incaplebof doing it himself?

        1. the team orders were only used to stop them fighting each other, which would’ve seen them lose more time to Seb

          Yes, that’s precisely my point: if Hamilton had to get past Bottas without the use of team orders he would have lost too much time and it would have killed any realistic shot he had at the win right here and there, penalty or not.

          I take issue with the statement that Bottas lost Hamilton the race (which is what sparked this discussion) when both Vettel and Hamilton had to clear Bottas sooner rather than later in order to keep their winning chances alive and Hamilton is the one who needed a team order asking Bottas to let him through to do so. Admittedly issuing such an order made sense from Mercedes’ perspective, but until then it also made sense for Bottas to defend his position against Hamilton.

          1. Clearly you did not notice Kimi jumping off the track to allow his team mate past!

            Stop with the hypocracy. For goodness sake their last championship was based on team orders. Ferrari have a one driver policy. I don’t care but unless Merc get with the programme they don’t stand a chance and team orders after it has no benefit just makes them look stupid.

            By they way. First one yes. But there is no way the second one was Bottas getting out of the way. Ham arrived 2s a lap faster and just blew past him before Bottas knew what happened.

          2. @drg
            You clearly did not watch China where both Kimi and Vettel were on the same tyre, and Kimi was not told to let Seb through. Instead Seb had to pass him on merit. In Bahrain Bottas is told to let Hamilton through not once but twice, but somehow Mercedes are allowing their drivers to race. I’m tired of the hypocrisy and double standards.

          3. @drg
            I’m not sure against which position you’re arguing here. I’m not lambasting Mercedes for issuing team orders nor Hamilton for benefitting from them, I’m lambasting the statement “Bottas lost Hamilton the race” – as if Bottas was expected to race for Hamilton’s glory rather than his own. As long as their team is not issuing clear team orders I expect any driver to defend their position against their teammate, as Bottas did.

            What “lost Hamilton the race” (or a more realistic shot at winning, at least) was that he didn’t manage to clear Bottas as fast as Vettel did – and that is certainly not Bottas’ responsability.

    3. Exactly my thoughts all this time. During the race I was surprised the first teamorder took so long. Hamilton even said it “dont let that Ferrari get away”. And it did. Also surpised this website didnt’t play that scenario. In my humble opinion it would have been a race for the lead for quite some laps.

      1. Not sure but do you mean the point where VB was keeping up with SV somewhat while LH struggled to get close to VB in order to be let by? I know that during the race at that point I was reminded of the time LH was supposed to let Nico by but it never happened because Nico couldn’t get close enough to LH, who had rightly pointed out on the radio he would let him by but would not slow to do so.

        1. No Robbie we mean the second stint where Ham was on the SLOWER tyre bottled up behind his team mate while Vet again on the faster tyre was pulling away. That stint lost the race. As I said earlier. Ham was put on the slower tyre strategy and while everyone is suggesting ‘he could not overtake’ his tyres had a second a lap slower delta. Yet he was right behind him. Just not able to get past without killing something and losing the benefit of a longer stint.

    4. No he didn`t. If anything the safety car gave Mercedes an opportunity to beat Ferrari. Without the safety car Vettel would have won regardless. For all the ifs and buts here we might as well have said Vettel would have won China too without the safety car.

      But he didn`t win China, Hamilton did. This time around Vettel did win. These incidents are as much a part of racing as pace and strategy is these days. You win some and you loose some.

    5. Sorry, that’s BS. If we are doing ifs and buts, look at what happened with the safety car. After his first pit stop, Vettel was almost 3 seconds faster then the Mercs and had promoted himself from P8 (when he came out of the stop) to P3 (when the SC was deployed).

      Vettel was promoted to the lead when the Mercs and other came in for their own first pit stops under the safety car. When they emerged, they were just behind Vettel who had not been able to pull away because of the SC. Therefore, if there had been no SC, Vettel would have been much further ahead of the Mercs after the letter’s first pit stop.. The way Vettel was catching the Mercs on his supersofts, they would have had to pit or be caught and in the latter case a one-stop strategy would not have worked for either Merc because they would have had to continue longer in the first stint to make it work and by then Vettel would have passed them.

  6. Pitting Bottas first cost Hamilton the chance of a win.

    1. You’re saying that in hindsight which is 20/20, and at the time VB had earned first pitting due to his pole. LH not getting pole and then getting taken by SV at the start cost him the win if you want to play let’s pretend.

    2. @rethla Behind the Safety Car or during the second stint?

      It made no difference in the second stint.

      And failing to pit Bottas under the Safety Car would have utterly destroyed his race. I would prefer to see them not sacrifice one driver completely to the other at this stage in the championship when Bottas can still win it (and the same goes for other teams and drivers, of course).

      1. Exactly @keithcollantine Merc prefers not to roll that way and only will if the math dictates it later on which is at a time when it will be understandable…even to VB…if it shakes out that way.

      2. @robbie @keithcollantine
        No doubt Hamilton made his own luck with a poor qualification and poor start but if the target for the team is to beat Ferrari you cant just blindly follow the “first car pits first” mentality. I think Mercedes has realised this by now. If Sauber can sacrifice one driver for a shot at points so can can Mercedes for a shot at P1.

        Im talking about the doublestacked stop which cost Hamilton in so many ways.

        1. At the moment it happened Bottas was not much slower than Ham, so there was no reason to think Bottas needed to let his position go.
          Ham should perform stable and not like last weekend. if the pressure is mounting Ham will crack it seems.

          1. @erikje At the moment it happened Bottas was holding up all the front runners clearly out of pace and he lost position to an undercut despite having a safetycar falling into his hands.

          2. @erikje what are you smoking or farting mate? if the pressure is mounting? Ham crack? you are the only one with cracking jokes :)

            Ham is stable, his car is not… as it has been seen before even when they are dominating, under hot conditions or following cars again read hot/dirty air blowing, they do not perform well… it is not Ham performing, it is the design of the car thats letting them down under certain situations, and that probably is/was a certain sacrifice/compromise in the long run… it is 3 races down yet everyone is cracking… jokes…

        2. “No doubt Hamilton made his own luck with a poor qualification and poor start”

          1- he didn’t have a bad start, he just didn’t risk fighting Seb into T1 because that would’ve meant braking later and risk hitting his teammate

          2 – Poor qualifying…
          What, are we all going to ignore he reports that his DRS didn’t work in the second DRS zone?

          1. And you know that how? LH has never seemed to worry about risking hitting his teammate before. He expects them to get out of his way or back off. Why now? The fact is LH’s start was fine but SV got better positioning on him and took him in the first corner. Nothing to do with LH trying not to hit VB. That’s an invention.

          2. I’ve seen reports of the DRS fail in the comments, but not published. Would the team have been able to fix the DRS between qualifying and the race? There was no mention of it being broken in the race.

            No disrespect to Hamilton, but the easy explanation to why DRS didn’t work was he forgot to activate it.

          3. @RP

            Sadly you’re wrong, it was mentioned in an AMuS article on Monday and also in The Independent by David Treymane.

            As for him “forgetting to activate the DRS”, yet again you’re wrong. I watched both his laps with the onboard feed and he did press it, little yellow button on the left side of his steering wheel.

          4. Hamilton pressed his DRS button fractionally too early. That’s why it didn’t work.

            Hamilton fans are genuinely incapable of ever admitting that their hero made a mistake or was actually at fault for something

        3. No doubt Hamilton made his own luck with a poor qualification

          Well he had DRS failure on his final qualy lap so it wasn’t entirely his fault.

          1. A few paddock people said it wasn’t a mechanical problem but Hamilton pushing the button too early was the cause. Probably it explains why it wasn’t reported widely sooner.

      3. Mercedes saw from early on that Bottas was struggling for pace and that became even more evident when Kimi got by Massa, he immediately started to close the gap.

        Mercedes should’ve then known that Ferrari were more than likely to bring Seb in early to get the undercut. After stopping, Seb took 3s out of both Mercedes and that included him getting pass one of the Force India. Mercedes could’ve covered him off by stopping Bottas and put him on the soft tyres and try running a longer middle stint.

        1. Said with the luxury of hindsight. Sorry to say but they are not quite at the point you’d like them to be at of hanging out VB to dry this early in the season. For now they are respecting him and the viewing audience by giving him a fair shot. Your should’ve and could’ve is hindsight. I’ll play too…if only they got VB’s tire pressures right LH might not have had nearly as much more pace than him that he did.

          1. @robbie

            Drivers out of pace always have something to blame. I have seen nothing from Bottas this season that indicates he can match Hamiltons pace and the first oppurtunity he has to prove himself he has “tyre pressure problems. Sounds alot like Kimis understeer/oversteer problems.

    3. @rethla
      Hamilton fans begging for team orders. You couldn’t make this up. Even Kimi didn’t get team orders in China.

  7. Mercedes appear to be quite dim on race strategies, and that may cost them the championship than outright pace. Ferrari doesnt need Kimi on the podium to win both championships. 1st and 5th or 6th is more than sufficient. This frees them into focusing on Vettel and using Kimi to disrupt the Mercedes strategies.
    Mercedes have to alter their principles to at least salvage the constructors’.
    They can’t afford to be rigid with their pitstop or driver priority, they no longer have that luxury.

    1. Not really, in my opinion. If it wasn’t for that mistake in China, BOT would have finished ahead of RAI, so less points for RAI, more for BOT, therefore Mercedes 1st in the WCC, Ferrari 2nd. Not only Mercedes is the faster car overall, but having RAI in the 2nd car is another minus for Ferrari in the WCC fight. It’s not like BOT will do mistakes every race from now on, plus he already started to show HAM what he’s capable of… not the case with RAI, so I hardly believe Mercedes will lose the WCC based on BOT’s performance, more likely it’ll happen if they’ll have more DNFs than Ferrari or if the team screws up the strategy so bad to make a difference.

  8. Great analysis @keithcollantine, but I think you left out one critical part.

    Hamilton’s penalty was due to holding up Ricciardo in the pit-entry.
    Holding up Ricciardo caused Mercedes to delay the exit of Bottas. Ricciardo under normal speed would have passed the Mercedes box by the time Bottas was finished. You can see that Bottas was 2-3 secs slower during the lap 13 pit stops than any other team!
    Bottas’ delayed exit caused Hamilton to lose those 2-3 sec as well (not to Ricciardo, but yes to Vettel).

    And with those 2-3 sec in hand Hamilton might have had a much bigger chance of fighting for the lead (with fresher tyres).

    1. @f1-liners But the time lost at that point made no difference as they ended up behind the Safety Car anyway.

      1. good point; overlooked that =ℷ= @keithcollantine

        1. @f1-liners It’s a shame, you had a nice domino effect going on there :-)

        2. The team had told Hamilton to maintain a 5 second gap. Bottas’ delayed stop reduced that time to 4 seconds Hamilton in trying to get it back to 5, ended up holding Ricciardo up.

    2. The time lost in the pits made no difference what so ever they were all nose to tail behind the SC anyway!!!

      1. Maybe. But a couple things. First, a good stop may have resulted in different positions at the restart, especially for Hamilton versus Ricciardo. Second, the slow stop for Bottas triggered Hamilton’s hesitation on his pit entry giving rise to his penalty, though he could have avoided the penalty anyway.

      2. How far behind VET did BOT emerge from the pits? Didn’t see it on the broadcast but if it was within a couple of seconds then maybe waiting for RIC did cost them the race…

        1. And the plot thickens, @juan-fanger ;)
          According to the lap charts, Bottas was 19.557sec ahead of Vettel when pitting. That should’ve be enough for a normal pit stop under SC.

          PS – he was 1.2sec behind VET after that lap but by then they all closed up.

        2. @juan-fanger 1.2 seconds apparently! So yes, being delayed by Ricciardo cost Bottas the lead.

          (Link here: http://www.motorsport-total.com/f1/news/2017/04/vettel-und-das-safety-car-war-es-wirklich-ein-vorteil-17041908.html )

          1. Bottas was delayed by the wheelgun. Had Hamilton driven straight behind Bottas and waited, Ricciardo would have been ahead of Bottas and Hamilton.

          2. So it would have been RIC-BOT-VET-HAM?

          3. @ mike-dee There was no scenario where Ric could have led the race. He was heading into his box, while Bot was ready to be released.

        3. I was surprised BOT was behind VET also.

          but… just re-watched a video clip of HAM going into the pit box, and I don’t think BOT lost time waiting for RIC to go past his pit box.

          other point with regards to RIC jumping BOT seems unlikely also, looking at the gaps (despite HAM slowing him on pit entry).

  9. This is a cool analysis. But I have to say the second scenario doesn’t attempt to integrate the fact that Hamilton would have reduced his pace to preserve his tires for the end of the race and Vettel would have been charging hard to catch him, and certainly burned up a lot of tire life trying to pass. Maybe that is too difficult to quantify. Isn’t this what happened in 2014, when Rosberg failed to put away Hamilton and eventually lost, despite being on the faster tire and restarting right on his tail?

    At the end of the day, what cost Hamilton the win was that Mercedes hired a very quick new driver who took pole position, putting Hamilton on the dirty side and in the clutches of Vettel at the start.

    I would also note that Hamilton rather easily gave up the spot on the start–he was passed under braking—instead of trying to muscle Vettel off at turn 2. I think this was an act of over-confidence, thinking that he would just dust off Vettel one way or another in the next 90 minutes, as he would do in years past.

    1. I’ve noticed Hamilton is always very cautious on his braking at the start especially when he has a car directly ahead.

    2. @dmw

      Maybe that is too difficult to quantify.

      It is complicated but obviously if Hamilton had backed off sooner then Vettel would have been closer to him and not needed to use his tyres up as much to catch the Mercedes. Even allowing for a generous interpretation of the lap times in Hamilton’s favour I don’t think there’s anything which indicates he had a realistic chance of keeping Vettel behind by not making a second pit stop.

      I would also note that Hamilton rather easily gave up the spot on the start–he was passed under braking—instead of trying to muscle Vettel off at turn 2.

      I remember mentioning during F1 Fanatic Live that Bottas seemed to have missed a trick by not edging left before the braking zone so Vettel was in his slipstream and not able to brake as late. That could have made the difference to ensure Mercedes kept their one-two is the start. But his first priority was to ensure he kept the lead and he got that job done.

    3. “I would also note that Hamilton rather easily gave up the spot on the start–he was passed under braking—instead of trying to muscle Vettel off at turn 2. I think this was an act of over-confidence, thinking that he would just dust off Vettel one way or another in the next 90 minutes, as he would do in years past.”

      Or could it have been that he was on the inside and didn’t want to to do what Bottas did to him last year? Nearly all the cars who went to the inside at the start, got overtaken. I’m sure had he tried to out muscle Seb and it led to some form of accident, “the story would’ve been that he should’ve just given up the corner and played the long game”…… So in that regards, he’s in a no win situation

      1. Just fascinates me how few people have raced and therefore understand that those solid black lines around a corner are actually where the grip is! I am stunned by all the armchair racers that feel ham braked ‘early’ giving SV the corner. No he braked on a dirty line because Bottas was focused on keeping his team mate behind him rather than keeping the 1-2. But let’s not worry. I am sure the ‘team’ counts people will find it Hams fault somehow.

  10. It really is an interesting analysis, but I had no idea there were people who actually thought Hamilton lost the race because of the penalty.

    1. Yep, and they will keep on stating that till the end of the season if Hamilton looses the fight ( again?)

      1. Well the penalty didnt exactly help his cause, this was a very bad weekend for Ham.
        Im pretty sure the sum of his qualifying, start and penalty lost the race. Maybe with only one of those three mishaps he might have had a fighting chance.

    2. You will find that some Ham fans are going to find a reason if Ham doesn’t win, different from he wasn’t as fast as the guy(s) that beat him. I’ve seen it go as far as people saying that the team were purposely sabotaging his car, making him fail. Just wow sometimes.
      A great analysis by Mr. Collantine, I like how he takes the multiple scenarios into account.

  11. Okay Keith, a very well done but time consuming effort to see “what if” , but only interesting for the Hamilton fans because they are the only ones that defend his action that lead to this penalty. So with your post there is no discussion at the end of the year that Hamilton lost the championship because of all the undeserved bad things happening to him, in any case the second place in Bahrain.

    But I think a much more relevant discussion should be: is a 5 second time penalty enough for such unsportsmanlike behavior? The loss of time for RIC was about the same 5 seconds. Okay the safety car was deployed so it didn’t make that much difference after all, but that should not taken in account for punishing this kind of behavior. In my opinion at least a 10 seconds penalty or a drive trough penalty would be much more appropriate then these silly 5 seconds.

  12. What if Ham didn’t do a stacked stop on the SC lap, but continued in the lead? OK, he would have had to pit a few laps later, but maybe he could’ve gone for a one-stop race, and it isn’t unthinkable that Vettel would have needed a few laps to overtake Ham after the SC ended. This would’ve meant a smaller gap between Vet and Ham after the final stops. Ham could then even have tried an undercut on Vet.

  13. javier javier
    19th April 2017, 16:34

    You should make a graphic including what if there were not safety car… That should be more fair… Hamilton did what he did because the safety car was there.. so include the hypothetical time gap vettel would have gotten pitting earlier and with not safety car

  14. Fukobayashi (@)
    19th April 2017, 16:56

    I absolutely hate team orders in any way shape or form. I can’t help but think given Ferrari’s history with them that Mercedes jumped the gun in this race thinking Ferrari would / will do the same. Unfortunately we’ll never know the answer to that question now that Mercedes have done it first. Partially Mercedes fault, partially Raikonnen’s for being so much slower than his team mate but Ferrari can implement them now from the moral high ground. I support Lewis but would rather he finished third due to his own mistakes in this race.

  15. Antonio (@antoniocorleone)
    19th April 2017, 17:45

    He got the penalty under the safety car, so lets assume there were no SC at all.
    Vettel makes the undercut, Mercedes make the mistake to not pit one of their cars, so now Vettel is 3 seconds a lap faster of which 2 seconds in the middle sector alone. Vettel sets the fastest lap of the race, and after 4 laps he is third only 12 seconds behind Hamilton who’s second. Bottas decides to pit as the leading car, and he is now 12 seconds behind Vettel. The race goes on and Mercedes are thinking one stop for Lewis as his advantage crumbles as Vettel is 3 seconds a lap faster.
    Lap 15:
    1) Ham (0 stop)
    2) Vet (1 stop) +10.364
    3) Bot (1 stop) +22.148
    It seems that Mercedes have been caught napping by Ferrari as Vettel is rapidly closing the gap to Hamilton, Lap 16: The gap is now 7.776 as Vettel can now see Lewis.
    Lap 17: Hamilton in the pits, the last gap to Sebastian was 4.6 seconds, and he comes out on soft tires probably trying to go to the end. The gap now at around 20 seconds to Vettel. Pos: 1) Vet 2) Bot 3) Ham

    Lap 31: Vettel in the pits and he comes out behind both the Mercedes drivers, Hamilton 8 seconds ahead of him.
    Lap 33: Vettel with the fastest lap of the race 2.5 seconds faster than Hamilton ahead of him. The gap now 4.8 seconds
    Lap 34: Bottas goes in for his final stop and he comes out behind both Lewis and Sebastian. The gap is around 20 seconds to Lewis and around 18 seconds to Seb.
    Lap 36: Vettel now in the DRS range of the Mercedes. Can Lewis hold him for 21 laps on 14 laps older soft tires? I’ll give you the answer to that – its more likely that I’ll hold my breath for 21 laps than Hamilton holding the Ferrari.
    Lap 38: Vettel is in the lead. Great move by the German into turn 4, around the outside of Lewis. That was a fantastic move there. The Ferrari now is flying away and creating a gap.
    Lap 39: Lewis dives to the pits as his one stop strategy didn’t work. He comes out in third, 26 seconds behind the leader Vettel and 10 seconds behind his team mate who is second.
    Lap 41: Lewis is purple in all sectors, fastest lap of the race. He took 2 seconds of Vettel and around 2.5 of his team mate. Can he catch the Ferrari? Is there enough laps? Can the tires hold up such a blistering pace? We’ll get the answers to that in no time.
    Lap 46: Mercedes radio message to Valteri: “Lewis, Is, Faster, Than, You”. We all know what that means.
    Lap 47: Poor Valteri, he had to give up his second place with no fight. Hamilton now second, 17 seconds behind the leader Vettel in the Ferrari.
    Lap 50: Lewis 1.1 seconds faster than Seb in this lap, the gap now 12.8 seconds. Could this be enough? Its hard to imagine that the Ferrari is giving its all, Sebastian clearly managing the pace.
    Last lap: Sebastian Vettel wins the Bahrain GP for the third time ahead of a charging Hamilton by 7.6 seconds. It’s his 2 victory this season and now he is leading the driving championship by 7 points. Valteri Bottas in the other Mercedes comes in third, some 20 seconds adrif, with Kimi Raïkönën 2.4 seconds behind him in fourth.

    Mercedes and Hamilton would have lost however you put it, they just got lucky to be right behind Vettel when the SC was called, and not at least 10 seconds behind after no SC at all.


    1. amazeballs…. lap timing to 3 decimal places.

  16. Mercedes would have to favour Ham over Bot, not get a penalty and not make any strategic blunders… And still it would be close, probably decided on strategy. Ferraris… Well one Ferrari were marginally better overall.

  17. The time they took to tell Bottas to let Hamilton through did more harm than the penalty.

  18. SevenFiftySeven
    20th April 2017, 0:59

    In trying to investigate the alternative what if’s, could haves, would haves of an event that has already taken place, we risk the plight of completely missing the point of what actually happened – call it missing the boat. So what happened?

    Ferrari under Vettel won the race by taking the initiative and making it work the 1st time. What were those initiatives? Vettel got into 2nd at the start and was able to extract pace from that Ferrari, which then gave him and Ferrari options to go aggressive. He created a chance for himself. Ferrari, then made a key strategic decision on the first go that ended up serving them well. Ferrari created the conditions that lead to the win. In life, those who do the right thing the first time tend to do well. In this race, Ferrari and Vettel deserve credit for winning that race. In life, those who get things right the 2nd, or 3rd time can still get things done, but it didn’t work out for Mercedes this time.

    Moral of the story – give credit where it’s due and acknowledge Vettel and Ferrari’s accomplishments in that race. One can still talk about why the driver who ended up 3rd in the 1st lap didn’t win (on top of a self-inflicted penalty), but to completely ignore the guys who got it right is to be blind. To further claim that the guy who ended up 3rd on the 1st lap wasn’t beaten at the start by the guy who started third (and went on to 2nd) is being literally blind.

  19. Great analysis Keith! Surely the invitation from Sky to you to get some air-time is but a moment away! :)

    1. ditto on this

  20. I think there are 3 other possible scenarios where the result might have been different. Interesting to see your view @keithcollantine on these…
    1. Ham pits at the same time as Vet for first stop (no idea how this would play out)
    2. Ham makes an earlier 2nd stop allowing for more laps to catch (my suggestion would be tyre degradation issues)
    3. Ham switches to SS at 2nd stop (potentially even faster lap times?, but still not enough)

  21. Excellent analysis. The main reason Mercedes didn’t win the race was their operational error on the grid, a real shame for Bottas actually especially on pole.

    It should be noted how refreshing it is not to be moaning about tyres – Pirelli have done a great job it seems and should be applauded, just the right balance of deg to make different strategies considered during the live race as well as drivers not having to pit immediately after a small lock-up.

    In other news, I’m starting wonder whether we should not shelve Friday free practice… it does lead to more uncertainty during the race and if race numbers increase to say 22-25, would also help in this regard.

  22. All of your clever “analysis” seems to assume Vettel couldn’t have gone faster if he needed to, when it seems obvious he could have. No way Hamilton was going to win this one.

    1. All of your clever “analysis” seems to assume Vettel couldn’t have gone faster if he needed to

      Except for the part where I said he could have gone quicker if he’d needed to.

  23. Mercedes didnt bother to follow Vettel into the pits. They were clearly going to something else. Perhaps a one stopper. Or a better timed 2 stopper.

    And the SC ruined it.

    1. I would suggest a 1-stop probably would have depended on a [longer] SC period or a second safety car to allow the tyres to have sufficient life to last the race

  24. An lucidly presented set of plausible scenarios.

    My personal conclusion is that the team fumbled away yet another opportunity by committing fresh errors to add to their panicked pitwall mode in Melbourne. As it may well be driver error, I will give them the benefit of the doubt where the DRS issue HAM reportedly experienced on his final run in Q3 is concerned. I choose, however, to blame them for doing a fatally shoddy verification job on BOT’s setup and balance. I grudgingly forgive the equipment-failure-triggered overpressurisation of BOT’s rears for the first stint, but even with the offending tyres off, his car was basically “dead” in race trim. The second error made was the team order debacle, which apparently included a “promise” by HAM to hand the place back to BOT should catching VET fail. It was apparent for at least 10 of the 17 laps of BOT’s second stint that HAM was losing time in the former’s wake. Effecting the team order then was really the only viable option to challenge VET. As it happens, the delay meant HAM lost some tyre life and more time in BOT’s “dirty air” wake than the headless 5 sec penalty he incurred for backing RIC up in the pitlane. From then on, blisteringly fast though HAM was on the used softs in the final stint, Merc would have known that he was always outside the delta needed to pass VET unless the Ferrari ran into trouble. The team order was yet another sign of a team not used to being under pressure responding poorly to it. Rather than calculated and measured, it almost seemed an over-the-radio deal between Wolff and HAM. When it was clear they couldn’t catch VET, they should have avoided humiliating BOT and let him defend 2nd for a few more laps more. Their bungled attempt at the team order even saw BOT put in a couple of faster laps in response to marginally delay the inevitable. In the end, the position switch itself was not smooth and ended up occurring when HAM was likely to have effected the pass anyway given the gulf in relative pace. The final error Merc made relates to the tyre choice for HAM’s final stint. As Collantine notes: “But clearly the team felt they could not make them last long enough, a view potentially reinforced by the problem Bottas had on his second stint.” The team placed too much stock in BOT’s second stint and ignored HAM’s first. BOT’s car’s balance and setup flaws persisted beyond the first stint’s “pressuregate”. On the strength of his first stint, HAM would reasonably have been expected to perform better on supersofts. That there were only 16 laps left and zero risk of finishing worse than 3rd, supersofts woulf have given Merc a better shot at passing VET for P1. Merc need to borrow a leaf from BOT’s book and let cooler heads prevail on the pitwall. They also need to accede less to some of HAM’s panicked requests. For the first time in 4 years, they need to engage true competition mode.

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