Felipe Massa, Stoffel Vandoorne, Sepang International Circuit, 2017

Swapping drivers cost Williams a place to Vandoorne

2017 Malaysian Grand Prix

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Williams admitted they lost a place to Stoffel Vandoorne in the Malaysian Grand Prix by ordering their drivers to swap positions.

The McLaren driver was emerging the pits when Williams instructed Felipe Massa to allow team mate Lance Stroll to overtake him on the approach to turn one. Stroll then ran slightly wide allowing Vandoorne, who was rejoining the track from the pits, to overtake both Williams drivers.

Daniel Ricciardo, Valtteri Bottas, Sepang International Circuit, 2017
2017 Malaysian GP in pictures
Chief technical officer Paddy Lowe said the decision to swap positions was taken partly because of the damage Massa had incurred after making a rapid start from 11th on the grid.

“Unfortunately, Felipe, having got as far as fifth position, got squeezed by the two Force Indias and lost some of those gains, dropping behind Lance,” Lowe explained. “He damaged part of the floor on the left hand side so there will have been some performance loss.”

“Once the race had settled, [Nico] Hulkenberg stopped very early so we felt obliged to cover him to save position, first with Felipe and then with Lance.”

“Since Lance, who previously had the lead, ended up behind Felipe after the pit stops we felt it was correct to swap the places. We also knew Felipe’s car was carrying some damage.”

“Unfortunately, in the execution of that we lost a potential position to Vandoorne coming out of the pits.”

The Williams pair spent the rest of the race behind the McLaren. “It was a very long second stint for Lance and Felipe,” Lowe added, “but the tyres lasted well and we held position to finish with good points in eighth and ninth, so congratulations to both drivers for a strong weekend and a double points finish for the team.”

2017 Malaysian 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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  • 15 comments on “Swapping drivers cost Williams a place to Vandoorne”

    1. Well…Despite the arrival of Paddy Lowe,Williams is still doing awful pit calls…Its not the first race this year they did so…They ordered the switch when the pitstops of the others were occuring…I wont comment on the fact they asked for the switch because Stroll lost out…By asking for this switch they lost 4 points…Its really annoying to see how their pit wall works those 4 years.I have shouted & sweat/swear from anger countless times…

      1. @miltosgreekfan True. There was plenty of time later in the race to make the swap. Having said that, I don’t know why they pitted their drivers in the wrong order. Even if they had to cover Hülkenberg, the normal procedure would be to pit their leading driver first and only then the other driver to avoid these unnecessary intra-team battles.

        1. @f1infigures Yeah,what you said it does prove how bad they are when it comes to strategy…

          1. Is Sam Micheal still in charge of their pit operations?

            1. Νope,he is gone

            2. Williams is supposely being run by a press officer who has a OBE..completely out of her depth and it shows!!!

    2. Williams screwed Massa over, as per.

    3. Wait, if Massa got damage, why he was ahead of Stroll and managed do stay close to him until the end of the race?

      It’s obvius to me that they used him to shield Stroll from the attacks of drivers with better race pace and skills. If it were not for Massa he probably wouldn’t even score a point.

      How little can one become. Massa should’ve stayed home. And Frank Williams must be ashamed of what they’re making of his team.

      1. Massa was behind stroll after lap 1, then massa emerged ahead of stroll after 1st round of pit stops “undercut”. i think they requested massa to give the position back. Was following live timing and reading commentary through f1 app and i can be wrong
        Sjct

    4. Money talks period.

    5. Certainly the early call to switch drivers was a blunder by Williams. But pitting Massa before Stroll made perfect sense. The aim was to avoid the undercut by Magnussen and Hulkenberg. Stroll was enough ahead to avoid a 2-lap undercut, while Massa could avoid the undercut more safely by pitting just one lap after Hulkenberg. Switching them back into their original position made perfect sense too. They just should have waited until nobody was into their window. In some sense, maybe Stroll costed himself a position by complaining over the radio and pressuring the team into making things right as soon as possible.

      1. Sorry about the factual inaccuracy : Massa pitted one lap after Magnussen, but two laps after Hulkenberg.

        By the way, it is a common strategic situation of having two cars running close to each other and having someone attempt an undercut from behind. I have already seen others teams get it wrong because they were sticking to the lead car priviledge to pit first, thus getting the second car undercut. I think Williams made an excellent call there. They blundered only after the pit stops.

        1. @palindnilap Perhaps the real blunder was to cover the way too early pitstops from Hülkenberg and Magnussen. Tire degradation was quite low, so the undercut wasn’t really powerful. They could have pitted Stroll first without having to worry too much about Massa. They also could have split strategies.

          1. @palindnilap @f1infigures
            I wouldn’t really blame Williams here. In hindsight, they didn’t need to react to Hülkenberg. But that was pretty much unknowable during the race, as nobody could foresee the track evolution and the fact that this race was going to be odd in the sense that the timing of the pit stop hardly made any difference at all throughout the field.

            Going aggressive with the first pit stop could’ve even paid off for Williams, as they almost undercut Vandoorne with both cars. Pitting Massa as the more ‘vulnerable’ driver first was actually a good call, as that was the only way to stay ahead of Hülkenberg and get ahead of Vandoorne with both cars. But this otherwise well-executed strategy was flawed because of two details:
            – the timing of the switch
            – the fact that Stroll braked too late, forcing Massa wide and opening the door for Vandoorne.
            Had Stroll managed to take the corner normally, both Williams would’ve probably stayed ahead. Vandoorne might’ve been able to overtake Massa later on, as the Brazilian was hindered by a damaged car, but I don’t think Vandoorne would’ve been able to outdrag a healthy Williams. But that consideration is moot, as Stroll’s mistake handed Vandoorne an opportunity that was too good to miss.

    6. I thought it was an very clumsy overtake but if Williams actually instructed for it to happen wow… theres nothing left in that team.

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