Super-soft tyres key to Button’s win and Vettel’s disaster (Monaco GP analysis)

Sebastian Vettel's race went to pieces along with his tyres

Sebastian Vettel's race went to pieces along with his tyres

The Monaco Grand Prix was all about tyres: super-soft tyres, to be exact.

Button mastered them, Vettel went to pieces on them, and Williams screwed up their strategy because they were spooked by them. Here’s how the Monaco Grand Prix unfolded.

The start

Monaco Grand Prix - Position change at the start (click to enlarge)

Monaco Grand Prix - Position change at the start (click to enlarge)

The lack of room for overtaking at Monaco meant the start was very orderly.

The big move at the front was Rubens Barrichello taking Kimi Raikkonen for second. Further back, a poor start for Giancarlo Fisichella potentially cost him a points finish.

Button masters the super softs

Monaco Grand Prix - Button vs Barrichello (click to enlarge)

Monaco Grand Prix - Button vs Barrichello (click to enlarge)

The battle for the lead between the two Brawn drivers turned on how they managed the super-soft tyres in the opening stint.

Here Button excelled. Yes, his car was half a kilo lighter than Barrichello’s – not enough for Barrichello to stop a lap later. But he still managed to lap up to 1.7s faster, pulling out a lead of 12.59s before Barrichello pitted.

Vettel’s bad first stint

Monaco Grand Prix - Rosberg vs Massa vs Vettel (click to enlarge)

Monaco Grand Prix - Rosberg vs Massa vs Vettel (click to enlarge)

Barrichello’s difficulties on the super-soft tyres were nothing compared to Sebastian Vettel’s. This gap shows his time deficit to leader Button, along with Felipe Massa’s and Nico Rosberg’s.

Vettel held up Massa so badly it gave Rosberg a shot at passing the Ferrari. At one stage he lost 4.5s in a single lap.

Remarkably by the end of the race the increased build-up of rubber on the surface meant even Vettel’s team mate Mark Webber was able to complete a 22-lap stint on the super-soft tyres with nothing like as serious a loss of time.

Williams’ strategy blunder

Monaco Grand Prix - Rosberg vs Massa (click to enlarge)

Monaco Grand Prix - Rosberg vs Massa (click to enlarge)

Fear of spending a long final stint on the super-soft tyres pushed Williams into a strategy decision that cost Nico Rosberg a potential fourth place. The graph above shows his and Massa’s time deficit to the leader from lap 19, as Massa was making his first pit stop.

They put him on a very long middle stint so as to reduce the length of his final stint on the super-soft tyres.

However the long pit stop cost him track position to Massa and Webber, and his heavy fuel load restricted his pace, so that Massa was able to make his final pit stop (see lap 56, above) before Rosberg and still stay ahead.

Williams may have had cause to criticise Rosberg’s driving in recent races, but on this occasion they let him down.

One-stop strategy works for Fisichella

Monaco Grand Prix - Fisichella vs Sutil (click to enlarge)

Monaco Grand Prix - Fisichella vs Sutil (click to enlarge)

At the end of the race, Giancarlo Fisichella was just one place away from scoring Force India’s first point.

This graph shows how his one-stop strategy, leaving the super-soft tyres until the end, worked better for him than team mate Adrian Sutil, who stated the race on super-softs. Sutil’s lap times spike just eight laps into the race.

Had Fisichella not lost a place to Sebastien Bourdais at the start, he very likely would have scored Force India’s first point.

Race charts

Monaco Grand Prix race history (click to enlarge)

Monaco Grand Prix race history (click to enlarge)

The chart above shows clearly how Vettel’s problem bunched the field up and, further back, Sutil’s had a similar effect.

It’s also clear that Fernando Alonso coped far better with the super-soft tyres than Rosberg did in the final laps.

Monaco Grand Prix lap chart (click to enlarge)

Monaco Grand Prix lap chart (click to enlarge)

Read more: Jenson Button leads Brawn to third one-two (Monaco Grand Prix review)

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36 comments on Super-soft tyres key to Button’s win and Vettel’s disaster (Monaco GP analysis)

  1. John H said on 25th May 2009, 17:39

    Williams may have had cause to criticise Rosberg’s driving in recent races, but on this occasion they let him down.

    I don’t how we can say this?? We really don’t know how bad those tyres would have been for an extra 10 laps. Perhaps Williams saved Rosberg 6th place instead?

  2. I was reading the papers today in the UK when will they give Button some credit. They use a “well done” headline and then spank him in the article somewhere. I am happy for the guy!

    • Dirk Gently said on 26th May 2009, 0:53

      At least Jenson has a personality…. I’d forgotten how awfully dull Raikkonen was in the post race interview. Let’s hope he fails to get on the podium for the rest of the season and save our collective sanity’s.

    • spanky the wonder monkey said on 27th May 2009, 12:03

      kimi = mr binary. just a monotonous succession of 10001101101110110. you can visually watch him after the race -
      “yeah, 3rd place!” …. smile.
      realisation dawns
      “ah ****. press interview.” …. smile gone.

  3. Brian said on 26th May 2009, 2:06

    According to an interview that F1 magazine did with RAI he pretty much said that he hates post race press conferences because he thinks that they are dumb and always ask the same questions after every race. Unfortunatly I live in Canada and can only watch the races on TSN but they never have pre or post race coverage. Once the time slot is over, they switch to the next show and as a reslult I never get to watch the post race stuff. It is extremely annoying.

  4. PJA said on 26th May 2009, 15:02

    Button’s smooth driving style conserving the tyres really helped him. I think this will be a major benefit for him next year as well when refuelling is banned as the cars will be a lot heavier at the start.

  5. The Limit said on 27th May 2009, 2:23

    @Brian.

    I too read the Raikkonen interview for F1 Racing magazine, and to be quite frank, thought he attitude was very standoffish. It reminded me of some other celebrities that constantly complain about press intrusion and fan harassment.
    The solution to this is simple and obvious. Do something else! In professional sports, press interviews and fan intrusion goes with the $45 million a year salary my friend. Second that to driving for a team as popular as Ferrari, it does not take a brain surgeon to realise what will happen.
    To be perfectly honest, I think Raikkonen is just a product of the modern F1 system. The answers are always the same to every question, there is no emotion in public, everything very clinical. You are starting to see the same from Hamilton also, which you did not see so much back in 2007.
    Behind closed doors, they are both probably great guys, but at the race, the corporate masks must be handed out enmasse by the teams.

  6. Jenson Button was in a league of his own and seemed to be moving closer to the driver’s championship with each lap he completed. He did a better job of managing his super-soft tyres in comparison to Barichello, and never looked like anybody could challenge him.
    Do read more on what i thought about the Monaco Grand Prix here

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