“I thought the driver in front gets priority?” Kubica’s radio query explained

2019 Monaco Grand Prix

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Robert Kubica queried his team’s strategy after finishing 18th in the Monaco Grand Prix.

He ran ahead of George Russell early in the race but when told after the chequered flag his team mate had finished three places ahead of him, Kubica suspected the team’s strategy was responsible.

“I thought the driver who is in front gets priority over who is behind?” Kubica asked as he coasted in. “Copy that, we’ll check when you get back here.”

Having qualified last, Kubica got ahead of Russell and Antonio Giovinazzi at the start. Behind them Rusell, who’d started on the same C4 medium compound tyres as Kubica, was losing touch.

Then Charles Leclerc tangled with Nico Hulkenberg, and dropped back into the field with a disintegrating tyre. This had two effects on the Williams drivers’ races. First, it brought Russell back onto the tail of Kubica and Giovinazzi. Second, the Safety Car was deployed, which gave them an opportunity.

The leading drivers – Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas, Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel – had a big enough gap over the rest of the field to be able to make pit stops. The next did not, and those who did pit largely suffered. Daniel Ricciardo and Kevin Magnussen both pitted, and as a result fell from fifth and sixth before the Safety Car to 10th and 14th in the final classification.

For most drivers, staying out was the best choice to maintain track position over a rival. But at the back of the field the calculation was different. Russell, running last, had nothing to lose by pitting. He was also suffering with “massive front-right graining”.

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Crucially, Russell had the foresight to realise his team were likely to want him to pit. When he approached the pit lane entrance under the Safety Car period he asked the team “are we boxing?”, then slowed almost to a standstill as he waited for a reply. “Box box box”, they finally answered.

At the restart Kubica was still ahead of Giovinazzi. But the Alfa Romeo driver then tried to ‘do a Leclerc’, dived for the inside of the Williams at Rascasse, and knocked the FW42 into a spin. Russell dodged around the delayed pair.

Once up and running again, Williams adjusted their timing of Kubica’s pit stop based on his feedback. They originally wanted to extend his stint, and bring him into the pits as the leaders caught him, to minimise the time lost due to blue flags.

But Kubica told them “it will be difficult to go so long”. “Your pace at the moment is good,” advised his engineer, noting he was four-tenths of a second quicker than Lando Norris ahead. “I don’t care what the others are doing,” answered Kubica. “I need to know what about rear tyre temps. The rears are fucked.”

The team called him in early, sending him out on a set of hard tyres. “We can push on this set, bring it in,” Kubica was told. “I already know what to do,” replied Kubica, who was now last. He eventually managed to regain the place lost to Giovinazzi, who was penalised for the collision, but Russell was by now well up the road.

It was a frustrating race for Kubica, who with better luck might have led his team mate home for the first time this year. But Russell’s quick thinking behind the Safety Car, and Giovinazzi’s ill-judged lunge, put paid to that.

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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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25 comments on ““I thought the driver in front gets priority?” Kubica’s radio query explained”

  1. Kubica’s fans have been moaning since the race ended about this. They can’t accept that he’s not doing half as well as expected and every self-inflicted problem he has is down to Williams not supporting him and giving every possible advantage to Russell.

    I’m expecting them to kick off here too.

    1. You confuse fans with fanboys.

      Unfortunately the latter species has grown big in number these days, overshadowing the former, so I don’t blame you.

      Truth is he’s not been at his best until Monaco, but to me (as a fan) it’s a secondary matter.

      I enjoy the comeback itself, if some solid drives will come later in the year – even better.

      As for the race – it was nice to see both Williams cars to actually get in touch with someone. Who ends up 15th and who is 18th – who cares?

    2. if you read the article you might see their point. He was clearly ahead of Russell when the decision was taken to favour the slower car

      1. But as the article also explains, you can see why not pitting was actually considered the favoured option. The lead car was given that favour. Russel took a punt on the alternative.

  2. ColdFly (@)
    29th May 2019, 9:37

    When he approached the pit lane exit under the Safety Car period he asked the team “are we boxing?”, then slowed almost to a standstill as he waited for a reply. “Box box box”, they finally answered.

    Did het enter the pitlane from the wrong site? ;)

    1. ColdFly (@)
      29th May 2019, 9:38

      *he *side

      1. It becomes an exit since the team is going backwards :)

      2. Williams where so slow last season they where allocated a pit garage so far down the it is actually after the pit lane exit….

  3. @keithcollantine
    You tell it as if it was only Russell who had thought about pitting.

    Kubica also had an opportunity to box as he was three corners from the pits when the safety car came out.
    He notified the team about the SC and was immediately told to stay out and they pitted Russell. That’s why he questioned the team after the race.

    1. +1 – that’s the only part missing in the story.

      On the other hand though, looking at some Ferrari strategies earlier this year and last year – you can’t always make the right decisions, no matter if you’re second or last team on the grid.

  4. Panagiotis Papatheodorou (@panagiotism-papatheodorou)
    29th May 2019, 10:31

    Russell has been wiping the floor with Kubica. It is only natural that Williams would give the former the preferential treatment.

  5. Andreas Gandor
    29th May 2019, 10:36

    “But Russell’s quick thinking behind the Safety Car”
    this sentence alone, is enough to judge the quality of this article.
    Unfortunately, with access to the more info, we were able to make our own mind, how it really was.

  6. “When he approached the pit lane exit…”


    1. @dave-f – you are correct, but I like @torrit ‘s explanation better: “It becomes an exit since the team is going backwards”

  7. After the pit, Kubica told “Paul, I REALLY know what do do.”, not “Paul, I ALREADY know what to do.”

    Please fix.

    1. No, I don’t think you’ve heard that right.

  8. This was kubicas moment for 2019. He proved haters wrong by making the hairpin turn every lap, was the quickest of the 2 Williams drivers throughout most of free practice, and then the team screwed him twice. First in qualifying, the gave kubica a bizarre 2 runs on 6 laps of fuel in qualifying with push laps at lap 3 and 6. When the tyres were most optimal at lap 3, he had no chance of matching Lowe fueled Russel who was on 3 lap runs, and after 5 laps his tyres were not optimal for qualifying. Yet they did this twice to kubica in qualy. Then in the race kubica made the pass on Russel and was pulling ahead, and then this strategy error happened, they could have easily double pitted, or pitted kubica first which is common sense with car in front going quicker. In the end, most fans won’t realise, but kubica proved at this race that he still has it, it is a drivers circuit he always excelled at. His disabilities are not reducing his pace, only his time off is.

    1. F1oSaurus (@)
      1st June 2019, 13:10

      Even before, Kubica was at best a decent driver. He got well beaten by Heidfeld.

  9. Kubica got screwed in qualifying, he got put on 2 x 6-lap fuel runs. He did a warm up and cool down ofcourse, so his push laps were lap 3 and 6 each time. On lsp 3 his tires were optimal, but his fuel level wasn’t. On lap 6 his fuel was optimal but his tyres were gone. He got put on this dumb strategy even though he was faster than Russell for most of the free practice sessions. Russel got 3 x clear 3 lap runs with optimal fuel and tyres. After that kubica beat Russell to turn one and was driving faster, but then again Williams strategy ruined it for him.

    1. kpcart, what you are claiming Williams did with Russell does not match the official timing information.

      The official timing data shows that Russell actually did two sets of 5 laps, with just enough time to then do a third set of three laps at the end – so claiming that “Russell got 3 x clear 3 lap runs with optimal fuel and tyres” is wrong.

      This is what Russell’s times actually were in Q1:
      Stint 1
      1 P 15:00:02
      2 1:31.542
      3 1:16.640
      4 1:26.393
      5 1:14.848
      6 P 1:40.894

      Stint 2
      7 1:26.831
      8 1:20.838
      9 1:13.664
      10 1:32.474
      11 P 1:37.750

      Stint 3
      12 1:21.987
      13 1:13.477
      (Lap back to pits after flag fell is not recorded)

      By comparison, this is Kubica’s Q1 times:
      Stint 1
      1 P 15:00:38
      2 1:41.415
      3 1:26.709
      4 1:15.295
      5 1:35.358
      6 1:14.736
      7 P 1:42.445

      Stint 2
      8 1:26.706
      9 1:14.035
      10 1:29.774
      11 1:13.751
      12 1:37.431
      13 1:14.313

      Now, claiming that “He got put on this dumb strategy” is wrong unless you are trying to claim that every other team in the pit lane was also running “a dumb strategy” – because every single other driver was also running five or six lap stints in Q1 and were doing two fast laps with cool down laps in between.

      Here, for example, is what Giovinazzi was doing during Q1:
      Stint 1
      1 P 15:00:17
      2 1:35.125
      3 1:14.027
      4 1:33.509
      5 1:12.712
      6 1:34.861
      7 1:12.838
      8 P 4:10.618

      Stint 2
      9 1:32.444
      10 1:11.976
      11 1:36.072
      12 1:12.375
      13 P 7:08.042

      Here is what Carlos Sainz did in Q1:
      Stint 1
      1 P 15:00:14
      2 1:33.387
      3 1:13.938
      4 1:43.011
      5 1:13.111
      6 1:34.682
      7 1:12.204
      8 P 3:57.377

      Stint 2
      9 1:32.813
      10 1:11.976
      11 1:35.399
      12 1:11.872
      13 P 7:01.918

      This is Albon’s lap times for Q1:
      Stint 1
      1 P 15:00:40
      2 1:44.522
      3 1:13.305
      4 1:26.428
      5 1:12.278
      6 1:31.444
      7 P 2:49.311

      Stint 2
      8 1:36.057
      9 1:13.130
      10 1:23.606
      11 1:12.171
      12 1:33.541
      13 1:12.007
      14 P 7:00.398

      Even the drivers at the front of the grid were doing multiple laps in Q1 – here are Verstappen’s times for Q1:
      Stint 1
      1 P 15:02:55
      2 1:35.768
      3 1:11.725
      4 1:36.168
      5 1:11.597
      6 P 17:21.166

      Stint 2
      7 1:34.805
      8 1:11.059
      9 1:35.731
      10 1:11.272
      11 P 4:14.258

      Hopefully you get the picture by this point – I understand that you might want to blame the team for Kubica not qualifying well, but what Williams did with Kubica was actually consistent with the strategy that every other single team up and down the pit lane was doing at the time. Either the entire grid is collectively incapable of producing a sensible strategy, or the strategy that Williams used for Kubica was actually common practise in Q1 and not the difference you claim it was.

      1. @ anon Should Verstappen care about lap times in Q1 at all? What is the reason to compare Kubica and drivers who have been expected to make the top10 ? Kubica’s second and the last run consisted of 6 laps, George’s third run consisted of 3 laps. George did excellent job as did Kubica. Kubica was a little quicker in third practice and in the first run so claiming that he did not qualify well having less convenient strategy is not understandable.

        1. jaworek, the point was to counter kpcart’s assertion that what Williams’s strategy was a dumb one by demonstrating that virtually every single other driver in the field was running a near identical strategy of two stints of five to six laps each during Q1, irrespective of whether they were at the front or at the back of the field.

          Even in the case of drivers at the front of the grid like Verstappen, given the high rate of track improvement and the low wear rate of the tyres, the preferred strategy was to get the drivers out on track on a longer stint that would enable them to then run at least two fast laps within that stint so they could capitalise on the track improving between runs.

          Rather than being “a dumb strategy”, as kpcart claims, it made perfect sense and everybody else was doing a similar thing, weakening his attempts to argue that it was only down to that strategy that Kubica qualified behind Russell (particularly given that Russell was already ahead of Kubica after setting a faster lap time during one of his longer stints anyway).

  10. Robert hasn’t been that far off Russell at times in single lap/qualifying pace but in the races he’s often been significantly slower. When they were in clear air at Monaco it was the same story.

    I think it’s pretty clear that Robert isn’t anywhere near the level he was before his accident & that in race pace he isn’t on the pace of George Russell & has consistently been the slowest driver in the field which hurts me to say actually.

    It’s the think I think some were warning of a year ago as many were pushing for his comeback looking at what he had achieved in the past. The accident, His injuries & years away from F1 were always going to ensure he didn’t come back with the same pace he had before & that was why coming back was always going to be a disappointment & why those expecting the Kubica from 2010 were always going to be wrong.

    1. Carl Randall
      29th May 2019, 20:04

      Its just such a shame, Robert coming back was the best piece of new in F1 for a very long time indeed, especially as the battle must have been incredible to even get a test, let alone a race seat in 2019. Robert is a true racing hero, in my book he has proved all he needed to already, and everyone knows he would have been an awsome F1 Champion if not for the awful Rally accident. regardless of how it ends up this year, his story is one of the very best in F1 History.

  11. I wonder what people would be saying if this happened to Russell.

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