How Ferrari and Mercedes explained their tactical errors in Austin

2023 United States GP interactive data

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Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc’s disqualifications ultimately meant their teams’ tactical errors cost them nothing.

Nonetheless, Mercedes and Ferrari will be eager to avoid a repeat of the strategic mistakes they committed during the United States Grand Prix.

Both teams compromised their drivers’ performances by leaning towards a one-stop strategy. Leclerc committed to it, while Hamilton bailed out and switched to a two-stop, though too late to avoid some damage to his afternoon.

It was an especially frustrating afternoon for Leclerc, who started from pole position but took the chequered flag in a lowly sixth.

Ferrari have tended to suffer more from tyre degradation than their rivals during races this year, which made their decision to commit to a one-stop strategy more surprising. By lap 13 Carlos Sainz Jnr’s lap times had dropped over half a second off Leclerc’s and he ended up switching to a two-stop strategy.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Circuit of the Americas, 2023
Leclerc’s strategy took him from pole position to sixth
But Ferrari persisted with their original plan for Leclerc. “Charles was 10 seconds in front of Carlos after 12 laps, or eight,” said team principal Frederic Vasseur. “We committed for one-stop and it was not a good choice.”

Like Mercedes, Ferrari began the race unsure what the optimal strategy would be. “We didn’t have a clear picture about this before the race,” said Vasseur. “We were a bit hesitating into the first stint pushing, or not pushing that. And we made a mistake.”

Among the front runners, Max Verstappen came in on lap 16, Sainz the next time by along with Lando Norris and the other Red Bull of Sergio Perez.

Leclerc and the Mercedes drivers pressed on. His pace was slightly better than that of Hamilton and George Russell, who abandoned their one-stop plans, but Ferrari reached the point where they felt it was no longer worth converting Leclerc to a two-stop strategy.

“If you do six, seven laps more and everybody is one second faster than, you are losing four or five positions on track, and I think the outcome would have been the same,” explained Vasseur.

That lost time hit Leclerc at the end of the race as first Sainz then Perez came past him. When the chequered flag dropped, the one-stopping Ferrari was nearly beaten to it by Russell, who finished just three-tenths of a second behind Leclerc after his belated switch to a two-stop strategy.

Unlike Ferrari, Mercedes began the race planning to pit twice. But as the race unfolded they team realised they were tantalisingly close to being able to make a one-stop strategy work.

What caught them out was the rate at which their tyre performance dropped off from lap 19. “The strategy was a two-stop but we said if we’re able to go lap 18, 19, then one-stop was was on. I think when Max pitted, we had another three or four laps to cover only to make a one-stop stick.

“But then the lap times just fell away massively from us and we had to pit that the worst of all times, not optimised for one-stop, not optimised for two stop, and that wasn’t helpful.”

Unlike Ferrari with Leclerc, Mercedes salvaged a better result by abandoning the one-stop strategy when they realised it wouldn’t work. Unluckily for the pole-winner, his lap times were a little bit better at that stage, giving Ferrari undue confidence in his doomed strategy. No other driver completed the race on a single stop.

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2023 United States Grand Prix lap chart

The positions of each driver on every lap. Click name to highlight, right-click to reset. Toggle drivers using controls below:

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2023 United States Grand Prix race chart

The gaps between each driver on every lap compared to the leader’s average lap time. Very large gaps omitted. Scroll to zoom, drag to pan and right-click to reset. Toggle drivers using controls below:

2023 United States Grand Prix lap times

All the lap times by the drivers (in seconds, very slow laps excluded). Scroll to zoom, drag to pan and toggle drivers using the control below:

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2023 United States Grand Prix fastest laps

Each driver’s fastest lap:

Rank # Driver Car Lap time Gap Avg. speed (kph) Lap no.
1 22 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda RBPT 1’38.139 202.23 56
2 3 Daniel Ricciardo AlphaTauri-Honda RBPT 1’39.366 1.227 199.73 49
3 63 George Russell Mercedes 1’39.393 1.254 199.68 48
4 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1’39.582 1.443 199.3 42
5 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda RBPT 1’39.737 1.598 198.99 40
6 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 1’39.908 1.769 198.65 48
7 14 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin-Mercedes 1’39.954 1.815 198.56 47
8 4 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 1’39.985 1.846 198.5 39
9 1 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda RBPT 1’40.028 1.889 198.41 40
10 55 Carlos Sainz Jnr Ferrari 1’40.034 1.895 198.4 51
11 10 Pierre Gasly Alpine-Renault 1’40.412 2.273 197.65 47
12 27 Nico Hulkenberg Haas-Ferrari 1’40.925 2.786 196.65 45
13 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1’41.025 2.886 196.45 38
14 2 Logan Sargeant Williams-Mercedes 1’41.238 3.099 196.04 34
15 23 Alexander Albon Williams-Mercedes 1’41.318 3.179 195.89 48
16 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1’41.506 3.367 195.52 41
17 24 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1’41.879 3.740 194.81 51
18 77 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1’41.972 3.833 194.63 54
19 81 Oscar Piastri McLaren-Mercedes 1’42.705 4.566 193.24 5
20 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 1’44.789 6.650 189.4 2

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2023 United States Grand Prix tyre strategies

The tyre strategies for each driver:

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2023 United States Grand Prix pit stop times

How long each driver’s pit stops took:

Rank # Driver Team Complete stop time (s) Gap to best (s) Stop no. Lap no.
1 4 Lando Norris McLaren 23.361 2 34
2 22 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 23.472 0.111 3 54
3 55 Carlos Sainz Jnr Ferrari 23.668 0.307 1 17
4 55 Carlos Sainz Jnr Ferrari 23.673 0.312 2 35
5 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull 23.747 0.386 2 37
6 1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 23.756 0.395 1 16
7 10 Pierre Gasly Alpine 23.9 0.539 1 18
8 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 23.955 0.594 2 40
9 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 23.963 0.602 1 23
10 63 George Russell Mercedes 23.969 0.608 2 39
11 22 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 24.125 0.764 2 34
12 4 Lando Norris McLaren 24.155 0.794 1 17
13 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull 24.245 0.884 1 17
14 27 Nico Hulkenberg Haas 24.308 0.947 2 34
15 22 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 24.354 0.993 1 17
16 23 Alexander Albon Williams 24.354 0.993 2 29
17 63 George Russell Mercedes 24.357 0.996 1 21
18 3 Daniel Ricciardo AlphaTauri 24.364 1.003 1 22
19 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 24.457 1.096 1 20
20 23 Alexander Albon Williams 24.563 1.202 1 10
21 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 24.648 1.287 2 38
22 24 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 24.717 1.356 2 27
23 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas 24.745 1.384 2 29
24 77 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 24.783 1.422 1 10
25 14 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 24.823 1.462 2 42
26 10 Pierre Gasly Alpine 24.88 1.519 2 37
27 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 24.916 1.555 1 20
28 1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 24.974 1.613 2 35
29 2 Logan Sargeant Williams 24.99 1.629 1 11
30 77 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 25.02 1.659 2 28
31 14 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 25.055 1.694 1 19
32 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas 25.067 1.706 1 10
33 2 Logan Sargeant Williams 25.547 2.186 2 32
34 24 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 25.636 2.275 1 9
35 3 Daniel Ricciardo AlphaTauri 26.513 3.152 2 47
36 27 Nico Hulkenberg Haas 26.573 3.212 1 19

2023 United States Grand Prix

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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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8 comments on “How Ferrari and Mercedes explained their tactical errors in Austin”

  1. Ferrari are still making unreasonable excuses.
    Their car have always been much less performing in hard tire then medium and in many circuits and not only to Ferrari the hard tire seems to not have much different track laps significant loss of performance than medium and sometimes even inferior to them.

  2. I have an idea the team at Mercedes that they replaced James with isn’t as good with data and then directly a decision from it. I mean if it was me I’d have been looking at the slip and g data corner by corner and plotting the curve and seen quicker than that how non linear it was. But it’s like they had a discussion about whole sector or even lap times

  3. All Sunday races should have compulsory 4 tyre changes, the last time this happened the cars were flat out all the way just like racing should be, no tyre saving or coasting. They can fit new tyres or used tyres so the tyre supplier need not produce more tyres than previously.

    1. Coventry Climax
      24th October 2023, 21:48

      How about just having tyres that support and endure flat out racing for more than 4 laps, say 25 laps.
      That means the tyre supplier can actually manufacture and bring less tyres.
      However, it takes more managing to get rid of than just tyres to have real flat out racing again. There’s also fuel managing and electric power managing, for instance.

    2. If you ask me: tyres that last the whole race flat out, at least the hard ones, and no compulsory pitstop. Then, changing to faster soft tyres which may not last that long would be a meter of choice. I find the MotoGP races highly enjoyable without the need to change tyres.

      1. A *matter* of choice

      2. They use the bad tyres to get the field together otherwise the race will end as it starts (excluded racing accidents) which would be very boring to watch.
        MotoGP is in this case very boring but they are nimble and the one who saves his tyres is the one wining in the end. I was a fan of Jumping Jack MIddelburg (1975-1984) and sometimes i watch races where Rossi won…..
        Changing gears for a more topspeed or getting faster from a corner those were the times :)

  4. I do think Mercedes left Hamilton out a lap or two later than they should but there is some mitigating factors at play that mean the choice isn’t as simple as people frequently make out. Had there been a safety car or VSC for example in the laps where Hamilton had created a offset or indeed in the first stops after Norris and Verstappen pitted then he could have ended up in a prime position to win.

    Had there been a safety car after the second round of stops that gathered the pack up then Hamilton on his Medium tyres would have likely easily taken both Norris and Verstappen too and made their tyre strategy choices look bad. The MHM taken by Hamilton was a better strategy than either Norris or Verstappen, the only issue was he lost 3s more in the pitstops than his competitors and leaving him out slightly too long in stint one meant he cost himself a few extra seconds due to lap time and running wide.

    Prior to the race, nobody knew Verstappen would be nursing a car issue so in normal circumstances he’d have been down the road and gone and Mercedes were right to focus their strategy on beating Norris first and foremost which they did (before the penalty). I personally thought Mercedes strategy was a bit too low risk but I don’t think it was a outright mistake like Ferrari’s with Leclerc.

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