Start, Sochi Autodrom, 2019

Ferrari’s start tactics “part of the team sport we’re in”

RaceFans Round-up

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In the round-up: FIA race director Michael Masi has no concern over whether Ferrari acted improperly by ordering Sebastian Vettel to let Charles Leclerc pass him in Russia.

What they say

Masi was asked whether there were any concerns over Ferrari’s use of team orders, a ban on which was lifted after the team used them during the 2010 German Grand Prix:

I think it’s part of the team sport that we’re in. I don’t know that I can talk from an FIA level of what the broad FIA policy is on it because it’s never been a discussion. But at the end of the day team orders have been a part of the sport for a long time as far as I can recall. So I don’t know that I can say yay or nay you know that you know it’s not something that I’ve got a view on.

Quotes: Dieter Rencken

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Comment of the day

Following yesterday’s feature on how F1 canvasses the opinions of fans, what’s been your experience of giving feedback to the championship?

I stopped doing the fan survey questions last year because I felt a lot of them were very leading in order to get the results they wanted rather than what my actual views were.

I recall one talking about qualifying for instance where I gave an answer that i’d like things to stay as they are but then next questions were all asking me about alternative formats as if I hadn’t given my initial answer. I came away feeling like i’d just given the green light to sprint races even though i’m completely against them.

Then I recall another regarding the points system which only gave options to vote for extending beyond 10th. There was nothing that allowed you to say you were happy with how it’s is, Just tick boxes from 11th to 20th.
@Stefmeister

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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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  • 36 comments on “Ferrari’s start tactics “part of the team sport we’re in””

    1. The Ferrari plan was perfectly within the rules but was incompetently conceived and clumsily executed.

      It simply furthered the perception that as a team Ferrari are simply not anywhere near the professional competence of their nearest competitors.

        1. I don’t think the competition is that much better.
          I could argue that Mercedes’ slow down instruction in Monza to Bottas were just as ‘incompetently conceived and clumsily executed’.
          The only difference is that Bottas happily obeys and Vettel had its own interpretation.

          1. exactly. if vettel had let charles through as planned, the team would have been lauded for turning a 1-3 into a 1-2. vettel chose not to comply and karma bit him in the end.

      1. Well said.

        In fact, I’m a bit curious who was it who actually asked Masi that question about team orders, and what the exact question was. If it was literally about their use of team orders, it is a bit of a weird question, seeing as they’ve been legal and have been used quite often, even at this very venue.

      2. In contrast in last years russian gp, at the start mercedes boxed vettel perfectly.

        1. @peartree They didn’t. But indeed Bottas did switch the tow from Vettel to Hamilton. Perhaps due to an agreement there.

          It’s apparent what a huge difference that tow made since when Bottas went in front of Hamilton, all of a sudden Hamilton pulled away from Vettel and almost overtook Bottas into turn 1.

          This is exactly what would have happened if Leclerc had covered the inside line in 2019. Hamilton would have ended up ahead of Vettel

          1. @f1osaurus … you ought to watch last years start…. and mercedes said they had it planned all along.

            1. @peartree I did watch it. It shows exactly what I said it does. And it shows exactly what would happen if Ferrari let Leclerc take the inside line and give Hamilton a tow.

      3. Says what I wanted to say ;)

      4. Completely wrong. The strategy was perfectly executed and did exactly what it had set out to do. Apart from the fact that Vettel suddenly decided to not uphold the agreement after he indeed benefited unduly from the tow given by Leclerc.

    2. I hope it’s a walrus tusk setup. Please please please ;)

      1. I almost chocked on my coffee!

    3. Jolyon Palmer makes the (excellent) observation that Ferrari’s race start team orders effectively hung Vettel out to dry as he either failed to pass Leclerc at the start or had to give the place back if he did, swapping places at some point in the opening laps. This would more than likely surrender his best chance of winning the race. So basically Ferrari were giving Leclerc a huge chance to win at a circuit where poll position is actually something of a problem. It’s fairly obvious why Vettel didn’t like the plan, then, especially as he’s under such pressure from Leclerc. Palmer adds that Vettel should have refused the strategy before the race if he didn’t like it. The question is whether he felt he had much choice. I don’t usually side much with Vettel, but in this case, I think I do.

      1. Exactly my thought from the beginning. It was a win-win deal for Leclerc. One he just couldn’t not benefit from. It was stupid and flawed. But actually for us fans it was great somehow because we got to see a Vettel pushing and refusing it. Not a boring Bottas.
        But on the other hand I would’ve much rather seen Vettel win.

      2. @david-br – very nice point, and I don’t think I’ve seen this mentioned anywhere else.

        It could be argued that having failed to secure pole, Vettel shouldn’t have expected team orders in his favour, but at the same time it opens up a question he’d have had with the team orders: “What’s in it for me?”

        I wonder if part of the motivation for Ferrari’s team orders was just the fear that Charles would otherwise defend his position, and it has almost become inevitable that Seb spins during wheel to wheel battles. Ferrari’s nightmare scenario would have been their cars taking each other out, as has happened to their competitors in recent years, and themselves not too long ago either.

        One wonders whether Ferrari would have actually preferred Hamilton on the softs, since that might have led to a straighter Ferrari/Mercedes battle between P1 and P2.

        1. @phylyp I guess the ostensible motive for the team orders was to secure Ferrari in P1 and P2 at the start of the race. But I agree that an undeclared motive may have been to avoid any collision between the Ferraris, given Leclerc’s newly aggressive style and Vettel’s back history of opening lap confrontations, and the series of spins. In fact Ferrari did optimize their start, maybe unnecessary, but who knows what might have happened if left to fight the first two corners. But I get why Vettel refused to hand back the place.

          1. @david-br – that’s true. And I mentioned it the other day: of the top 3, Vettel seemed to get a blistering launch, right from the initial phase (so not as much due to the tyres). A start like what Leclerc and Hamilton got, and Vettel would have probably just made it past only Hamilton, much to the delight of the Ferrari pitwall (i.e. in terms of seeking a 1-2, not that they have anything against Seb). Instead, his clutch launch was amazing to watch, his tyres swept him past Hamilton, and it made the slipstream that much easier to attain. Worst of all for Leclerc, the next turn came up very quickly after Seb passed him, so he couldn’t get a tow off Vettel either.

            There’s another part of me which wonders if Seb used his electrical power more aggressively during those early laps when he was breaking away from Leclerc, and whether that played into his subsequent retirement. There is no evidence to substantiate this idle theory of mine, particularly since we didn’t hear any radio calls about it, nor subsequent talk of it.

            1. @phylyp, to that end, Nico Rosberg has offered his own take on the events in Russia (and, unlike some of the more controversial comments he has made, these seem more reasonable), which is that Ferrari’s pre-race instructions probably weren’t as clear cut as some have suggested.

              He’s pointed out that Ferrari’s problem seems to have been that they probably left too much ambiguity over whether Vettel was or wasn’t allowed to pass Leclerc when they came up with that plan, especially what would happen if Vettel had a significantly better start than Leclerc.

              Ferrari will probably have said that, if Leclerc had a poor start, then the pre-race agreement would be void and Vettel would be allowed to pass Leclerc. However, practically speaking, it would be effectively impossible for Ferrari to define the point at which, if Vettel did get off the line more quickly than Leclerc, he would be allowed to overtake Leclerc and the pre-race agreement would become void – i.e. they probably never clearly defined at what point Vettel would be free to take his own course of action. Because of that, they also seem to have left it unclear how aggressively the two drivers would be allowed to defend against each other and at what point they would be free to race each other.

              It’s interesting to note that he picked up on that point, as that would seem to explain why Ferrari were so keen to stress to both drivers that they thought that they had identical starts, even though the general consensus seems to have been that Vettel was quicker off the line than Leclerc.

              By stressing “the starts were identical”, they seem to have been implicitly stating “you weren’t allowed to pass Leclerc if he had a normal start, but you had a better start”. By saying “I would have passed him anyway”, Vettel was implicitly saying to the team “hey, where did it say that in the pre-race agreement? I thought I was free to race if my start was significantly better than Leclerc’s was.”.

              In that respect, it might not be so much a case of Vettel clearly breaking the pre-race agreement, but perhaps more of a case of Ferrari poorly defining that agreement and creating an area of ambiguity where Vettel could interpret the agreement as not applying – and, in that sort of competitive environment, any driver is going to interpret it in the most favourable way possible.

              Nico’s take is an interesting one – some might agree and some might disagree, but it’s a different perspective on things and it does seem to offer some explanation for some of the radio calls that were made which some did find confusing.

      3. @david-br Just check the 2018 start and see what would have happened if Leclerc had taken the inside line. Hamilton would clearly have ended up ahead of Vettel going into turn 1.

        So Vettel won P2 because of the agreement for Leclerc to not cover the inside line.

        The agreement was that with an identical start the cars would be swapped back if the tow helpeed Vettel that much that he could take P1.

        Also makes perfect sense, because why would Lecerc give Vettel the tow and leave the wide inside open. He needed some hedging of this strategy.

        As it happened both drivers had an identical start and Vettel would have been P3 without the agreement. Withthe help from Leclerc Vettel took P1 and per the agreement he was told to give it back.

        Not sure how difficult this simple agreement is to follow, but it’s usually caused by people wrongly assuming Vettel had a better start. He did NOT. They had a 100% equal start until the slpi stream started to work.

        See this on board: https://youtu.be/8jfGmJUxDXA?t=49

        1. @f1osaurus The Russian 2018 GP start is a fair point, but then in 2017 Bottas jumped both Ferraris from 3rd to grab the lead and win the race. And I’m sure Vettel was taking that as his benchmark for what could happen! How each start panned out is one thing. Palmer’s point, which I was trying to elaborate further, is that the Ferrari start agreement meant that anything other than a bad start by Leclerc gave Leclerc the lead and probably the race. The Ferraris were prevented from racing and their order was (bar a poor Leclerc start) was predetermined. This with the two drivers on the grid who currently have the most competitive battle – for supremacy at Ferrari.

          1. @david-br Yes, but in 2017 Bottas got the tow. So that’s indeed exactly how they knew it would work and that the consequence might be that Vettel would overtake Leclerc.

    4. Ferrari’s team orders were entirely correct. Particularly given Leclerc’s pace advantage over Vettel all weekend, the dominance Mercedes has shown in the first half of the season and Mercedes usual race pace advantage.

      Vettel tried to take advantage and weasel himself into a race win. He shouldn’t have done it, but I can totally understand why he tried.

    5. I agree with Palmer thoroughly except for the last part about the VSC (and SC) and its fairness. I don’t find a driver gaining a so-called ‘free’ pit stop during a VSC or full-SC period unfair. It’s just part of the game that sometimes a driver might gain from those and lose out other times. What comes around goes around. Closing the pit lane is something I’d definitely be against for potential unnecessary safety risks doing that could bring in to the game.

      1. @jerejj agreed. closing the pitlane would be even worse. imagine if someone was on worn tyres and wanted to pit, but the SC meant the pit lane was closed. they would have to pit after it came in, but lose a tonne of places to the closed up field. it’s not good or bad how it is now, it allows for some funky outcomes that sometimes enliven the race.

        1. @frood19 Indeed. For example, in Silverstone, Albon had very worn tyres towards the end, but couldn’t pit because the car was in a state in which touching it would’ve been risky at the time, and because of that, the canvas started to appear due to how worn the tyres were.

    6. @keithcollantine How long does the auth cookie last on the site? I feel like I’m constantly logging in, like once a week. I’m no expert but as far as I can see from the cookies info on my browser it seems to confirm that, logged in today, expiring on Oct 10th. Maybe you can stretch that a bit?

      1. @m-bagattini – good question. The WordPress logged in cookie is showing a week’s lifespan for me as well, and I too wouldn’t mind seeing a longer window.

        1. @phylyp I should add that I browse the site on two different computers, my phone and the tablet; on iOS, when you browse from a feed reader like Feedly it has its own browser (don’t know if Android uses the system browser), same goes for Apollo for Reddit (which often redirects here) and then there are times I just go straight to the site from the default browser. All in all I have like 10 sessions here and there, with an auth cookie lasting 7 days there are times when I must log in more than once per day.

          1. @m-bagattini – LOL :)

            BTW, I use Feedly on Android, and on that platform, Feedly uses the system’s default browser (Chrome/Firefox/Edge/etc.), so the nice thing is that session state is shared between Feedly and the browser.

    7. Ferrari should make it simpler: as Rosberg said in his last podcast, micro-managing the start is impossible. So let them race fairly at the start.

      Then, if a driver can stay in DRS for a number of laps, order to swap positions if sufficiently safe. If said driver can’t pull away, give back the position to the previous leader. That’s it.

      Ok, I know I’m making it easier than it is, but I think this can be a good blueprint. Ferrari has two potential contenders for the title next year (well, if the car doesn’t suck) and need to address this issue. They need easy, clear, unmistakable rules for the drivers to be accepted and followed. Then you can think about race strategies during the race and use the positions on track to cover this or that scenario, but I think that’s a minor issue to me.

      1. “Ok, I know I’m making it easier than it is”

        It can be as easy as that though, it happened with Hamilton and Bottas in Hungary 2017 when Bottas couldn’t close down Vettel so they swapped them around and Hamilton had a go, when he couldn’t pass he swapped back with Bottas on the last lap with a tiny margin to Verstappen behind.

      2. @m-bagattini The agreement was perfectly easy to follow. It’s just that people don’t see that Vettel had an identical start to Leclerc and that without this agreement Hamilton would have ended up in P2 and Vettel in P3.

    8. Campos is at it again. Still spouting a National Spanish team, no confirmed money this time around

    9. Ferrari is a nutcase pro sports organisation. They can’t win either the driver’s or manufacturer’s championship but they still behave as if they will. What difference does it make who wins races for them now? Let the guys race.

      1. Ferrari can extend the contract of the fraud spinster who is the fan-favourite of the formula 1 fanbase. I want Leclerc to fight against Verstappen in the best car, hopefully in a team that has less politics unlike Ferrari. When I started watching Formula 1 the only team I heard of was Ferrari. But now I can see it as more of a political organization than racing company. They can continue to adore vettel and carry him all seasons by their “undercuts”, and want none of it and the blind fanbase, for whom it’s never vettel’s fault. It’s either car or his teammate.

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