Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Singapore, 2018

“I tell you I have more than half a second”: How Ferrari blocked Vettel’s Q2 tyre gamble

2018 Singapore Grand Prix

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Ferrari refused to allow Sebastian Vettel to gamble on a second run on ultra-soft tyres in Q2 despite their driver repeatedly telling them he could set a quick enough time to reach Q3.

Vettel wanted to set his Q2 time on the ultra-soft tyres as it would potentially put him at a strategic advantage for the race. However his first lap on them, a 1’38.854, was slower than Ferrari’s estimate of the lap time he needed to reach Q3.

He told the team he could improve his lap time by at least half a second. Ferrari, who believed they needed a lap of 1’38.1 to get into Q3, told Vettel he needed to find more time than that. Vettel replied that he could hit the target, but was refused on the grounds it was “too risky”.

Vettel duly returned to the track on the faster hyper-soft tyres and claimed a place in Q3. It eventually transpired a lap of 1’38.4 would have been good enough for him to reach Q3.

His team mate Kimi Raikkonen was convinced it was not possible to get into Q3 on the ultra-soft tyres. “It’s just not fast enough,” he said. “It’s way too slow.”

Vettel eventually qualified third on the grid but admitted his car was quick enough for pole position.

“It was not an ideal session for us,” he said afterwards. “You can figure out what I mean. I think we should have done better. We had the ingredients and we didn’t put it together.

“Third is not a disaster so I’m not completely upset but for sure we wanted to get pole. I think it was definitely there to grasp.”

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Vettel’s team radio messages during Q2

To Vettel:OK box, Sebastian, box.
Vettel:What is your thinking?
To Vettel:We move to quali [hyper-soft tyre].
Vettel:I have lap time left.
To Vettel:How much?
Vettel:With a decent out-lap I would say at least half a second.
To Vettel:OK, copy.
Vettel:How much do you need? Then I can tell you.
To Vettel:38.1. I think it’s not possible. And both Mercs on quali [hyper soft tyre] and Red Bull on quali [hyper soft tyre] as well.
Vettel:I can do it, a 38.1.
To Vettel:Understood. And box. So we believe is too tight so we go for quali [hyper soft tyre].
Vettel:I am happy to go option [ultra-soft tyre]. That was not a good lap. The out-lap was too slow. Tyres were too cold.
To Vettel:I’ll come back to you.
Vettel:If you believe there is strong merit to start on the option [ultra-soft tyre] I can do it.
To Vettel:No we go on quali [hyper-soft tyre]. The decision is to go on quali [hyper-soft tyre]. The decision is too risky.
Vettel:OK I follow you. I tell you I have more than half a second.
To Vettel:Understood.

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Keith Collantine
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52 comments on ““I tell you I have more than half a second”: How Ferrari blocked Vettel’s Q2 tyre gamble”

  1. Merc gambled and it paid off

    1. HAM said it was a relief given the wrong tyre strategy. What gamble?

  2. In Q1 mercs gambled on ultra softs and it was quite a hairy moment. But that gamble in Q2 when gap between ultra and hyper was huge it was a serious risk also Ferrari are in trouble since they have only 1 soft set.

  3. He should have had the guts to say no. Then he would have had better rubber for the race. But it could have gone wrong.

    1. You cannot say no to Ferrari team management. It will never be accepted and the next race is probably with McLaren or so..

    2. And I think that it is the risk of something going wrong that was the biggest driver in that decision, as the downside was potentially quite large and potentially outweighed the benefits of that counter strategy.

      If Vettel had tried again but only made up a few tenths, there were several midfield drivers who could have out-qualified Vettel and pushed him out of the top 10. From Ferrari’s point of view, if you were expecting relatively rapid track evolution and the possibility of seeing Vettel stuck outside of the top 10 – which would potentially gift Hamilton an even bigger advantage at a circuit where the team had been hoping to cut into his lead – then it would be an extremely brave decision to go for that far riskier tyre strategy.

      Could they have pulled it off? Possibly, but it would be a major gamble – I think that they had to go for the defensive decision there, rather than trying to be a bit too smart and getting caught out by unexpected developments.

      1. Could they pull it off? well benefit was little but risk was huge if something happened in that risky moment, and recovery would have been much riskier (the inlap/outlap/run would be too much to compensate!)

      2. Understood. But has that damaged their choices in the race?

        1. @nickwyatt, Although tyre wear does seem to be reasonably high – the surface is a bit more abrasive than at some over venues, plus the frequent acceleration does put a lot of stress through the rear tyres – the indication is that the front running teams were probably aiming for a one stop strategy, even though a two stop is theoretically the faster, but riskier, strategy.

          I think that Ferrari will still run that same one stop strategy, but they can’t stretch out that first stint as long as they
          might have hoped for now they’re starting on the hypersofts (assuming their plan was ultrasoft tyres for the first stint, followed by softs until the end). It’s limiting their choices on when to stop, but I don’t thing it is changing the overall strategy itself – the bigger limitation to that might be whether they have problems with rear tyre blistering, which has been an occasional problem this year for them.

  4. I wonder how much the understanding of the tire preparation was hampered by yesterday’s lost FP2 session. Vettel was complaining about it in Q3. Has it been found out whether the radiator leak was caused by Vettel’s brush with the wall or if it was already there?

  5. It was sad that we can’t witness Q3 time down to 1’35.x due to multiple factors. Vettel and Red Bull could’ve done better to prove Hamilton’s time is not that great and overhyped…

    1. @papaya What multiple factors? How isn’t Hamilton’s time great and is overhyped?

      1. Ranked 3rd best car on this track for few years suddenly got pole, isn’t that the first and second leaders would had been something not right?

        1. Can’t Mercedes just have figured out their issues on the track?

          1. Nah don’t be ridiculous @hugh11.
            Everybody knows everything always stays the same forever in f1. That’s why Williams win all the time.

          2. Sorry, I do apologise. I was well out of line.

          3. Apology accepted… dont do it again please :)

        2. Well, if the guy is the only one to deliver a lap on the full potential of his machine, why would his lap not be overhyped, specially considering the hell of a season he has been doing?

          It probably wouldn’t be the pole time if the other guys did their job right, but they didn’t.

          And that’s a mark of a great driver. The less you fail, the better you look, isn’t it?

        3. Hamilton has had pole on this track 3 other times, he’s won it three (and was well out in front in 2012 when his gearbox quit), and has never finished less than 5th– but also has 3 DNF’s.

          But if you really want to know why his lap was so “over” hyped, go to the F1 youtube channel and watch the whole lap. He might, and I emphasize, *might* have left a tenth on the track. It was as close to a perfect lap as you’re likely to see at Singapore.

    2. “not that great” – it’s almost like a definition of sour!
      0.6 seconds in a slower car is simply phenomenal. As Verstappen’s lap was too given his engine issues.

      Their genius today aside, the question is indeed why is Vettel underperforming at a critical part of the season, again? But one doesn’t negate the other.

      1. 0.6 seconds in a slower car is simply phenomenal

        @david-br Hamilton’s lap was astonishing in itself, but his car surely isn’t slower than the Ferrari. Mercedes have been playing themselves down especially after Belgium, but their car is clearly a match for the Ferrari. We already saw that in Italy.

        1. Mercedes have been pretending all season they were on the back foot…..they are just trying to give us the illusion of a Mercedes-Ferrari battle where it doesnt really exist. The Merc is clearly the better car, the Ferrari just has top speed advantage.

        2. Vettel himself said pole position was possible.
          Verstappen got close even with a faulty engine.

          1. That was going to be a hell of a long shot. Even if he got himself pole he wouldn’t get it by much. I doubt that Mercedes his that far back from Ferrari as has been advertised. But I will stand corrected if I’m proven wrong.

        3. Best comparison I’ve heard is that the Ferrari can carry more speed into a corner, but the Mercedes can accelerate more quickly out of the corner.

          At Singapore, which has a good mix of flowing corners and a few stop/start corners, over one lap, the Ferrari should be equal to the Mercedes, if not a little bit better.

          Over the race, I’m afraid the lack of ultra-soft tires is going to hurt Ferrari, as the Mercedes is probably a little bit easier on it’s tires under heavy load.

    3. Could’ve should’ve would’ve, but at the end of the day Hamilton stuck it on pole, as much as we might have wished for Vettel to be there.

    4. there’s nothing worse than a salty papaya.

      1. there is something much worse than a salty papaya, try the salty “durian” challenge!

        1. Durian!
          Oh gosh, a word to intill disgust and loathing in any right-thinking mind. I remember the first time I experienced the ‘perfume’ of a ripe durian, I was convinced that the shop’s lavatory had backed up or maybe there were dead rats in the sink . . .
          “It’s supposed to smell this way, now just ignore the smell and take a bite.”
          “No. Yeuch!” Jaw clamped tight shut- and remained so.

      2. Malcolm Smethurst
        15th September 2018, 21:36

        A sour papaya, maybe? A bitter papaya? A papaya whose team is not performing terribly well?

    5. Not like that, it’s not 2017 anymore. Ferrari were the car to beat last year at Monaco, Hungary etc, not this year. This track doesn’t look like a Ferrari track this year. Viceversa for some other tracks, like Monza, where last year Ferrari was bad, this year suddenly were fighting for PP and win. It’s a different car, get used to that.

      1. Yes Ferrari is a more conplete and more dominant car in 2018. Even on tracks where they were weaker before, now they are getting poles and/or wins (Monza, Spa, silverstone). Its the Ferrari drivers fault that they are making too many mistakes (Vettel) or just slow (Kimi).
        But offcourse people like you wont see those clear trends and will only choose to see what makes you feel better.

        1. You’re wrong. I don’t choose what makes me feel better, I gave an example where this year’s car is much more performant than 2017: Monza. It’s obvious that overall the 2018 car is a better car than the 2017 car. You missed my point: that people make the mistake of thinking that the next year’s car will perform as good or even better on all tracks where it performed in the previous year, plus it’ll perform better on the track where the previous years car did not perform. Just because last year Ferrari was the car to beat here, I wanted to underline that it’s not the case this year… and Monaco, Hungary are 2 examples of tracks where this car is worse than 2017.

          1. This year’s Ferrari has a longer wheelbase. More like Mercedes.

  6. I wonder what the timing was between the radio conversation above and Kimi’s declaration that the tires were not fast enough. Could be Seb’s time plus Kimi’s comments led Ferrari to believe the time simply wasn’t in the tires regardless of what Vettel said.

  7. Could it be a signal of the end of Vettel-Ferrari marriage? Vettel have made mistakes this year but he also sounds frustrated with his team lately (Monza qualy, Singapore qualy, loosing his best teammate ever).

    1. Could be. There’re all the ingredients needed to end up ugly for him. And I’m afraid mostly it’s his fault. He lost himself and the team more points than the team lost him (by poor decisions). Given all the ridiculous mistakes starting with 2017, the team started to doubt him and that resulted in dropping RAI for LEC. They said it themselves that they’re thinking for the long term. If Leclerc proves to be a match in 2019, given that I don’t think he’ll want in 2020 a repeat of 2014, we could witness a sudden retirement at the end of 2019 because I don’t see another decent team where he can go. Mercedes, RBR and Renault don’t need him for sure and I have doubts he will want to race for another team.

      1. Mercedes could still be an opportunity for Vettel, if he indeed leaves Ferrari in the next year or so, since both Bottas and Hamilton just have 2 year deals if I’m not mistaken. I also think that if Ferrari and Vettel do indeed part ways it is very possible that Hamilton would fancy a chance at a title in red before calling it a day. Even some other people in the paddock have said so. He is still young, and in the right spirits he could well still have some 4/5 more years in him at the highest level. Wouldn’t that be something!

      2. Just to add something regarding Vettel’s mistakes. I think more than anything else he feels the pressure he puts on himself to emulate Schumacher. He has openly admitted that Schumacher is his idol and he would like to do with Ferrari the same thing Schumacher did, reviving Ferrari from an unsuccessful spell and turning them to contenders again. It hasn’t been easy, since the advantage Mercedes had from the start of 2014 has been huge, and it took a bad year (2016) thrown fully into a new aerodynamic overhaul in the rules (2017) to make Ferrari championship contenders again.

        Vettel and Ferrari are such a great fit for each other, and Vettel is no doubt a great driver, so he just has to regroup and do the best job he can. The Leclerc signing could indeed be a bad omen for Vettel, but it could end up being precisely what makes him elevate his game and eliminate the kind of amateurish mistakes he has been making.

        1. I think Hamilton would have been a better contender at Ferrari then Vettel is… Vettel is a super grumpy driver, and requires a wingman! Given how Ferrari performs this year as a car, i wouldnt doubt Ham would have bagged the wdc by now!

          1. Both Hamilton and Alonso would have gotten the drivers title in last years car let alone this 2018 car.

        2. I think sometimes we overlook what Ferrari has managed in the last couple of years with Vettel. When Seb joined in Ferrari in the end of 2014, Ferrari was behind Mercedes, RBR, Williams, FI and was battling for 5th with McLaren.

          In the first year he got three wins and had a great year overall with the only bad drive of his being Mexico. In 2016 he didn’t win and had some bad races but still managed quite well given the circumstances. 2017 was the first year Ferrari challenged for wins regularly since 2013 and although he did some mistakes in Baku for instance he managed to stay alongside Hamilton in the championship until Singapore. Lady Luck favored the latter but he gave a very good fight against Mercedes.

          This year I believe the cars are equal. Since Germany he isn’t exactly on form but he can still win the title.

          In his fourth year, Vettel and Ferrari have improved considerably. I think the partnership between them is still strong and can be strengthened by a victory tomorrow. If they get hold of themselves they can win this and he can potentially emulate his idol.

          1. 2014 was an aberration for Ferrari– they grossly underestimated how much turbo they’d need to be competitive, because they weren’t thinking of the MGU-H as a serious power-recovery device.

            The token system slowed them down a bit in catching up to Mercedes, but once it went away, the teams have reached pretty good parity, I think.

    2. I wondered if that was the reasoning behind promoting Leclerc (relatively) quickly. Is Ferrari expecting Vettel to leave the team at the end of 2019? And so to avoid two new drivers for 2020 they made the decision to axe Kimi now and bed his replacement in during 2019.

      1. Doesn’t Vettel have contract until 2020?

        1. Yes he has @panagiotism-papatheodorou, at least according to this.

  8. I think VET will be with them next year for obvious reasons but if the Tifosi have anything to say about it he would be gone (unless he wins this year). He is losing the fan base.

    Alonso fan or not, he consistently got the most out of a car that was deficient to RBR while VET is inconsistent and continues making mistakes galore in a car that is the equal if not superior to the Merc. A german F1 site calculated VET has thrown away 50 points and would be 20 points clear of HAM without his errors.

    He has probably lost a WDC mostly on his account with help from Ferrari’s occasional goofy strategy calls. He has folded under pressure and it’s only going to get worse as HAM is in a good position to win this race which may be the final nail into the Vettel’s coffin.

    IMO Ferrari has also over reacted by promoting LEC for next year. He is still young and will make mistakes which is fine in a Sauber but not in a Ferrari. Another year at Sauber could have only helped. Kimi probably would have performed better than LEC.

    All in all, Ferrari seems to be as discombobulated as ever. Maybe tomorrow will turn things around but time is running out and in fact it is probably too late unless Merc screws up (which they are known for) or bad luck. VET needs to pull a rabbit out of a hat or his legacy will take a plunge.

  9. So, we replay last year with Hamilton as the top bun of the Verstappen Sandwich and Vettel as the bottom?

    (rubs hands and checks pantry for popcorn)

  10. In italian we say “il gioco non vale la candela”, literally “the game isn’t worth the candle”, for sure there’ll be a different way to say this in english, but basically IMO the reward vettel could have got wasn’t worth the risk, in the race many things can happen, first lap crashes, mechanical problems, SC, bad strategies, who says the risk would’ve got him a race win and with HS he wouldn’t have?

    While if it went wrong, as in having to start so far back, he likely would’ve been 5th at best, not worth it imo.

  11. I am loathe to admit it but Hamilton has completely outclassed Vettel this season.

  12. Ferrari’s problem now is even their drivers and engineers are both not familiar with their car’s performance.

  13. Is Ferrari already preparing Seb as driver number 2 next year?

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