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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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. almanac said on 26th July 2010, 3:32

    implying with saying are two different words last time i checked

    • US Williams Fan said on 26th July 2010, 4:44

      here here! i agree almanac….. lets not take things out proportion.

      • US Williams Fan said on 26th July 2010, 4:51

        upon further review of the rules… and the history of motorsport:

        almanac: I take your point….. but truthfully… there is nothing else that they (ferrari) could have been implying…. they were trying to skirt around the rules a bit…..

        not saying it is right or wrong….. when your own advisor/crew chief/whatever tells you that you “are slower” than the teammate behind you….. what else could you mean?

        it’s a tough situation either way….

  2. Charles Carroll said on 26th July 2010, 3:34

    As someone who is steeped in NASCAR country, and who doesn’t like watching that sport because it feels too contrived, this type of thing really gets under my skin.

    Lets let the worlds best drivers earn their spots. If we can’t do that, there is no point to watching it.

    Yes, I said it.

    • US Williams Fan said on 26th July 2010, 4:59

      agreed! though i don’t think that nascar has had this situation in a while…….

      it’s a tough situation…. but if ferrari(or alonso) is not in contention on their own merits…. let it be.

  3. cheers said on 26th July 2010, 3:48

    The FIA and FOM are not delivering a good product. The more they talk about “the show” the worse it gets. Everyone else has commented on the verbal orders but there is more insidious malarky about too.

    Why has the FIA given the team’s ability to control the engine from the pit? The threat to Petrov to turn down his engine confirms what we have known for a long time. If it is illegal for teams to control the car’s engine settings externally the FIA should be called to audit what has occured because we have verbal evidence that teams can turn down motors. If it is not illegal, the FIA, FOM and FOTA needs to be flogged by the fans and they need to give us an accounting of what engines have been turned down externally by what teams and why.

    And in terms of the little racing we saw at Hockenheim the only significant top 10 prospect Hockenheim pass in anger after the opening lap resulted from pressure between Webber on Rosberg. BBC missed it completely.

    And when Webber started to pressure Button and Hamilton and it was about to get interesting he had an engine oil issue and was ordered to drop 4 seconds off and slush the oil around his sump. What fan wouldn’t prefer no engine telemetry and drivers going for it?

    BTW the creative writing department of FOM might file that one for future use. The trouble has been that everone appears to want to turn off the racing in order to turn on the best points contest between the FOM & teams marketing department’s favourites.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 26th July 2010, 8:57

      Good point on the Webber/Rosberg pass which I don’t think FOM showed us video of at all. I wonder, did it happen while Alonso was trying to pass Massa when they caught Senna?

    • Patrickl said on 26th July 2010, 11:58

      I didn’t read that as them threatening that they would cripple his car, but more as a result that if he wasn’t able to handle the problem adequately he would have to resort to something more drastic to keep the car from breaking.

      Like when in Spain 2009 Smedly was explaining to Massa that he didn’t have enough fuel and that he needed to slow down. Ever more and more desperate. While Massa could only think about keeping Vettel behind.

      In the end he hurt his chances so much that he fell back a huge lot and lost several places instead of just the one.

      I’m pretty sure Smedly said soemthing lile “save fuel now or you won’t finish the race”. Would that have meant that they would stop his car from the pitlane? Or just a warning that things would get a lot worse if he didn;t listen?

    • DaveW said on 26th July 2010, 15:03

      I was under the view that pit-to-car telemetry was banned a few years ago. Witness Hamilton rebooting his KERS in the car in Singapore while driving. What is the rule?

      And no, I would not have prefered to see Webber blow up his engine while chasing Button rather than finish the race.

  4. Florida Mike said on 26th July 2010, 4:17

    I think that if Massa had been able to maintain or increase the gap, he would not have been told “Alonso’s faster”. I have no problem with any team instructing a slower driver to let his faster teammate pass, in an effort to avoid what happened to Vettle and Weber. If that form of team orders is against the rules, then I’d like to see the rules changed. It’s the opposite of ordering a faster driver to not pass his slower teammate to create an artificial result (or ordering a faster driver to let his slower teammate through to win). Today I felt Fernando was faster, so I had no problem with Ferrari’s “order”.

  5. US Williams Fan said on 26th July 2010, 4:42

    Great analysis as usual keith! thanks for your charts and insite!

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

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


    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.

  9. 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.

    • 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.

  10. 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?

  11. 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?

  12. 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?

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

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