Vettel not pressuring Ferraris ahead of switch (German Grand Prix analysis)

Felipe Massa, Fernando Alonso, Hockenheimring, 2010

After the German Grand Prix Ferrari claimed they had ordered Felipe Massa to let Fernando Alonso by because they were concerned Sebastian Vettel could pass the pair of them.

But it’s clear from the lap times that Vettel was hardly catching either of them at the time – indeed he wasn’t even close enough to see the switch take place.

Read on for the post-race analysis.

Lap 1

Lap 1 position change

Lap 1 position change (click to enlarge)

Another bad start from pole position for Vettel saw him lose two places which he never regained. Jenson Button had got away cleanly but as Vettel slowed down Button had to do likewise, and lost two places as a result.

Both Williams drivers made poor starts which ultimately led to them finishing out of the points having started in the top ten.

Pit stops

Pit stops

Pit stops (click to enlarge)

Red Bull took advantage of the rapidly-growing gap between Jenson Button and Robert Kubica to bring Sebastian Vettel in for an early pit stop, triggering stops from the other front running drivers in reaction.

Pedro de la Rosa tried to gain places by starting on the hard tyres and delaying his pit stops until lap 51. But he ended the race where he started, in 14th.

Race progress

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Tick/untick drivers? names to show their laps, click and drag to zoom

After the race Ferrari said they wanted Alonso to go in front of Massa because they were concerned Vettel might pass them.

But looking at these times it seems their fears were unfounded. In the ten laps leading up to the change of position remained static at 5.1 seconds.

It’s clear that Vettel caught Massa after the change of positions – but how much was Massa pushing after being ordered give up the lead of the race?

Lap chart

Lap chart

Lap chart (click to enlarge)

A long first stint for Nico H???lkenberg didn’t pay off but he at least managed to pass Pedro de la Rosa to finish behind his team mate.

2010 German Grand Prix

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103 comments on Vettel not pressuring Ferraris ahead of switch (German Grand Prix analysis)

  1. Eric said on 26th July 2010, 5:08

    with Ferrari having got the car running sweet at last, i thought we would have been in for some fantastic motor racing.

    even McLaren and RBR fans were happy to see them back up to speed, now we see they cant play by the rules.

    they need to have there points removed as a pure breach of the rules, they manipulated the positions for a reason, that reason was for Alonso to get more points, by removing the points it will make it clear what happens if you try doing this again.

    we all want a decent race and our favorite drivers to win, not handed to them on a plate.

    i dont want to see this crap in F1 anymore.

  2. Number 38 said on 26th July 2010, 6:17

    Team orders, eh? Could some one explain to me why Button, who was a FLIER for the first 21 laps (three fastest sectors, gained 1.7 sec margin over Massa laps 18 to 21) suddenly became a FOLLOWER when trapped behind “no speed, road block Hamilton”. Button followed closely, made it look like a race but he never once,
    for 30+ laps, actually TRIED a pass. Can some one explain? Team orders: ‘Don’t embarass the exaulted one’.
    Button COULD have taken the fight to Vettel and likely made a podium finish. Instead he FOLLOWED Hamilton.
    Your thoughts please.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 26th July 2010, 9:00

      At no point did Button look like he had the pace to overtake his team mate. I wouldn’t bother comparing his lap times to Massa’s, what matters are the difference between his and Hamilton’s.

  3. Steven said on 26th July 2010, 6:43

    Huh?

    He gained all that time while Massa was locking his tires and frantically defending from Alonso (surprised no one has used this as evidence he was ordered to let him past – you really think he’d just decide to do so after keeping him at bay for a good 5 laps!)

    Once again Button used a great strategy to make up time and leapfrog Webber. Infact, he did try and overtake, on cold tires heading down into the hairpin, which Hamilton was forced to block on the inside.

    Please look at the facts before you start talking nonsense.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 26th July 2010, 9:03

      Massa’s tyre-locking only seemed to happen in the first few laps after his stop, when Alonso was indeed very close to him and made his unsuccessful attempt to pass when they went past Bruno Senna.

      But after that Massa pulled a gap over Alonso – from laps 24 to 38 they were over 1.5 seconds apart. Massa clearly wasn’t holding Alonso up then.

      • Bernard said on 26th July 2010, 13:56

        Indeed, also Smedley was happy with Massa’s pace – he even told him over the radio that he was now looking strong for the win. It’s no wonder Massa was gutted afterwards.

      • Hollus said on 26th July 2010, 15:31

        Check more carefully, after all that tyre locking from Massa, Alonso (or his engineer) decided that stopping the attack on Massa was the only way forward (other than risking a crash passing him). First Alonso dropped massively for 2 laps while Massa continued to make the same times as while he was locking wheels. I think Alonso vent from 38 while attacking to 39s for 2-3 laps. Then Massa was told explicitly that Alonso was now 3 seconds behind, and then, only then, did Massa’s pace improve, so he was faster and Alonso could pull away from Vettel. After the gap grew to 3 seconds, Alonso magically improved 2 seconds per lap…
        Massa didn’t pull a gap, Alonso decided to give it so Massa would stop defending.

  4. Eric said on 26th July 2010, 7:58

    the tactics at the start of a race when Vettel is anywhere near the front is getting on my nerves, its getting like the old days when Schumacher was racing up front.
    cut the oppositions off at all cost.
    making a move like this is very dangerous and should be penalized as far as im concerned.

    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v132/lethalnz/F1%20racing/F1Germanystart.jpg

    • David BR said on 26th July 2010, 8:09

      Yeah, I said last race Vettel is going to cause a serious accident with this one day. That photo shows just how ridiculous the move was, Alonso squeezed almost onto the pit wall, Massa with the whole track to himself to pass!

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 26th July 2010, 9:03

      Maybe, but it was all within the rules.

    • 000o00 said on 26th July 2010, 9:04

      yup – vettel’s been lucky this weekend that the ferrari boys managed to take the spotlight away from him. vettel is getting more and more reckless trying to overcome his poor starts.

  5. Richard in Hong Kong said on 26th July 2010, 9:49

    How ironic that it will be probably be Jean Todts’s decision on a final punishment. We all know what he thinks of team orders.

    • LosD said on 26th July 2010, 12:11

      The important part is not what he thinks of team orders, but what he thinks of breaking the rules, and then lying about it.

      • Ral said on 26th July 2010, 13:19

        That’s the crux of the matter to me. I personally don’t mind team orders at all. The drivers work for the team, if that team decides one of them has a better shot at the title, that’s the way things go. “Fans” and fans can jump high or low, this kind of thing happens at all levels of sport and I don’t see why that should change just because they’re at the top, especially with the kind of money at stake. Spectacle and manipulation of race results and all the other rubbish is just that: rubbish and immaterial to the matter at hand.

        But it’s in the rules that it’s not allowed and that’s what Ferrari should be judged on. If they are judged to have ordered their driver to let the other past, then they broke the rules. If they are judged to have broken the rules, then they lied about having done so.

        Incidentally, while I’m no Alonso fan, I don’t understand why people think he’s whining when he’s showing his frustrations behind the wheel or even over the radio. The fact that he does so, does not mean or even suggest that he’s asking to be treated as the defacto number one driver. He’s hardly the only one to make gestures behind the wheel, so are they all whiners and asking to be made number one?

  6. Ivanhoe said on 26th July 2010, 10:37

    So yesterday when Jenson was about 3 tenths faster than Lewis and was catching him, nobody heard Hamilton´s engineer he could speed up and no to save fuel anymore? isn´t that a team order? I believe there´s a lot hipocrisy and you have a very fine double moral. In German gp Kovalainen was forced to let pass Lewis twice, first running, and then again after the pitstops( it was even recognized by the actors later after the race) So Massa did in Brazil 2007, and Kimi let Massa pass in China 2008.

    • DaveW said on 26th July 2010, 14:58

      If “save fuel” is a dog-whistle for team orders then why was Hamilton told to save fuel while Button was chasing him down in the first place? Which is it? Or is it whatever you need it to be at a given time?

  7. DavidJH said on 26th July 2010, 13:20

    Much of the commentary here mixes three separate issues.

    (i) Were any rules broken?
    (ii) Should team orders be allowed?
    (iii) When should a team invoke team orders?

    The answer to (i) is yes, clearly, although proving it might be tough. To (ii) I would say that the current rules banning team orders should be revoked. They are not consistent with the nature of the sport, instead being aimed at maintaining the spectacle. Further, they are unenforceable. There’s an analogy here to cricket. Your favourite batsman is 90 n.o. and the team declare. Yes, you have been denied from seeing your man score his hundred, but the fact is that it is a team support, and the needs of the team must come first. I think most people have a gut sense along these lines in F1, which is why most would be happy for a team to ask its drivers to hold positions, even if they are less happy with telling them to swap positions.

    More interesting perhaps is point (iii). I can’t really see a strong justification for ordering Massa to step aside, given how quick he was going, how close he was in points to Alonso, and how many races there are to go in the season.

    Any thoughts?

  8. Ral said on 26th July 2010, 13:45

    In line with my previous comment and DavidJH’s above, I’ve been wondering:

    People who cry out about race result manipulation etc. etc., would you have minded if Massa had genuinely decided to move aside and let Alonso through? As in it was clear from every single detail pre- and post-race that is currently pointing to team orders, that it was Massa’s idea that Alonso just has a better shot at the title this year? Would you have complained about race manipulation then?

    Do you complain about baseball/softball hitters sacrificing themselves so their team-mates can get to 3d base or even score? I’m assuming Suarez no longer appears on your Christmas card list? When is team-play team-play and when is it results manipulation? I don’t mean to offend anyone, apologies if my wording does so. I would just like to understand why people have such a hard time seeing the drivers as part of a team that needs to maximise its chances trying to come back from quite a large deficit.

  9. sumedh said on 26th July 2010, 15:17

    I guess this comment will get drowned in a gush of “Ferrari team order comments”.

    But does anyone find it peculiar that Vettel right after his pit-stop came out in clean air, whereas Webber came out in a huge amount of traffic which ultimately cost him position to Button.

  10. DavidJH (@davidjh) said on 26th July 2010, 15:25

    Would suggest (only semi-seriously) that article 39.1 be reworded as follows:

    That Fomula One is primarily a team not an individual sport is not always recognised or welcomed by the media or vast worldwide television audience whose interest indirectly provides financial support for the sport. Hence any team whose use of team orders is so blatant that it is the subject of the majority of the race media coverage shall be deemed in breach of the regulations and shall be subject to penalty.

  11. Hairpin said on 26th July 2010, 16:20

    Keith, I know this is asking a lot, and maybe not possible but it would be interesting to see the comparative lap times through the race of say the top ten if not all cars, in a similar way as your other charts it would then enable all on here to evaluate/validate that FA was/wasn’t faster over any given period in the race, the basis of Ferraris argument of which we only have their word.
    The race progress and lap chart give similar information, and to be honest I find the race progress chart a little jumbled and confusing especially where they merge, a bar chart may be an improvment? This is not a complaint, as your charts are very informative, just a suggestion.
    I’ve just done a comparison using your race progress and though Alonso was catching Massa very slowly, from around lap 33 Vettle remained around 5secs a lap from Alonso’s to the finish and although Massa was loosing time to vettle (which is not surprising given the circumstances) Thats what rear gunners do, just ask Barrichello or Irvine
    On another point, I think it was David Coulthards comments on what happens at one of these enquires was rather disturbing. He said that the telemetry printouts taken to the inquiry had to be explained to the stewards by the relevant engineer as in his experience the inquirer’s hadn’t a clue what they meant. Now if thats true, something needs to be done about that, as they could be told anything that fits with the prevailing scenario at the time, and would be none the wiser.
    What say you?

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 26th July 2010, 16:37

      Assuming I’ve understood you correctly, if you use the interactive chart here you can turn off lap times for all but the top ten cars:

      German Grand Prix fastest laps

      • Hairpin said on 26th July 2010, 17:15

        Thanks Keith, I just find the visual rather confusing and thought a bar chart may be easier to follow, but as I say your information is very good.

        No thoughts on DCs comments, from the BBC F1 forum on the red button that I mentioned earlier about the telemetry, maybe you didn’t get to see it, but your views would be appreciated.
        Thanks, keep up the good work.

  12. Lee said on 26th July 2010, 22:59

    @Keith,

    Once again a great article. However I wanted to point out that Vettel really did not get a bad start but just like silverstone where he also got as good a start as Webber he decided to pull straight across the track in an attempt to squeeze alonso against the wall (just like he did to Webber at silverstone) Therefore he traveled further to the first corner and ultimately lost out. You would think he would have learned his mistake but I guess he is not that clever. I really do think he needs to be given a talking to by the stewards (not punished but just warned as he has developed a habit of pulling into people this season, Hamilton a couple of notable times, Webber at least twice with one leading to a crash (and seeing what can happen when cars come together at speed this is worrying) and now Alonso. At some point he is going to end up hurting someone, If he caused a crash that close to the start and at the front of the grid it could lead to disaster!

  13. What an all ’round amazingly written piece!!!

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