Rapid pit stop speeds Alonso to victory (Italian Grand Prix analysis)

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Fernando Alonso’s Italian Grand Prix win owed a lot to the speedy work of his pit crew – who he paid tribute to after the race.

And low tyre wear allowed drivers to pursue some very unusual strategies. Such as Sebastian Vettel who waited until the final lap to make his mandatory pit stop – going almost the entire race distance on a set of soft tyres.

Lap 1

Position 1 lap change
Position 1 lap change

Alonso became just the second driver in 11 years to lose the lead at the start of the Italian Grand Prix.

The Red Bulls made their customary poor getaways, propelling Nico Rosberg up into fourth, aided by Lewis Hamilton’s retirement.

Adrian Sutil was crowded out at the start and ended up next to his team mate, who had started eight places behind him. Force India reacted by pitting him, dropping him to last place.

That meant Timo Glock overcame his five-place grid penalty in one lap, jumping from last to 17th.

Pit stops

Pit stops
Pit stops

There were some notably good and bad pit stops during the race.

Alonso enjoyed one of the quickest stops of the race and, significantly, spent 0.8s less than Jenson Button in pit lane.

Given he came out of the pits side-by-side with Button, it’s fair to say the rapid work by his pit crew won him the race. The on-screen timers recorded their stationary times as 3.4 seconds for Alonso and 4.2 for Button.

But for the second race in a row Robert Kubica lost a place at his pit stop – this time Nico H???lkenberg got through. H???lkenberg’s visit to the pits was over a second faster than Kubica’s.

At least Kubica didn’t hit a member of his team again. But the pit stops did not pass without incident – one of HRT’s pit crew was injured after Sakon Yamamoto was released from his pit box too early.

A striking feature of the race was how several drivers easily completed very long stints. Vitaly Petrov did 49 laps on hard tyres, Sutil 51.

And Sebastian Vettel went 51 laps on the soft tyres, which suggests the cars could have tolerated softer compounds than Bridgestone brought.

Race progress

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Why did most of the pit stops happen so late in the race? Two reasons: First, the field spread out quite gradually behind the leaders.

Also, those who did pit didn’t lap quickly enough on the hard tyres to begin with. That meant the teams they were racing against didn’t feel the need to pit in reaction to ‘cover’ what their rivals were doing.

Look at the Liuzzi-de la Rosa battle, for example: de la Rosa was 2.4 seconds behind the Force India when he pitted on lap 16, Liuzzi didn’t come in for another 14 laps and more than double his advantage by doing so.

It wasn’t until later in the race that the soft tyres had dropped off enough for the pit stops to be worthwhile. That’s partly why Massa, despite setting a new fastest lap time just before he pitted, lost two seconds to Alonso during the course of their pit stops.

Lap chart

Lap chart
Lap chart

Vettel didn’t lose a place with his ultra-late pit stop. He overturned a 5.3-second deficit to Nico Rosberg to lead the Mercedes home by 1.7 seconds.

His team mate Webber can hardly have been impressed – he’d have been better off delaying his pit stop like Vettel did.

2010 Italian Grand Prix

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