2012 Malaysian Grand Prix tyre strategies and pit stops

2012 Malaysian Grand Prix

Jenson Button, McLaren, Sepang, 2012The drivers kept their pit crews busy with a whopping 75 pit stops in Malaysia.

Pit stops times

Last week Ferrari were by far the quickest team in the pits, turning round all their pit stops quicker than everyone else.

In wet conditions a quick pit stop time is strongly affected by how well a driver can top on his marks and get away when he is released. That plus quick pit work equals the best stop – and it was Michael Schumacher and the Mercedes team who were the fastest in Sepang.

Consistently quick pit stops from Ferrari helped Fernando Alonso on his way to an improbable win. His lap 14 stop allowed him to leapfrog both McLaren drivers – the corresponding pit stops for Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton were three and five seconds slower respectively.

Hamilton lost time in this visit as the rear jack did not go on properly and the team had to hold him in his pit box. His lap 41 visit was little better – as one mechanic struggle to remove tape from one of his brakes, Hamilton made an early departure.

Hamilton lost 8.5 seconds to Alonso over his three pit stops – more than half his deficit of 14.5 seconds at the finishing line. “In general, we lost some time in the pit stops and I was pushed out of the fight somewhat,” said Hamilton after the race.

Here are the times for all the pit stops during the Malaysian Grand Prix.

Driver Team Pit stop time Gap On lap
1 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 22.163 39
2 Paul di Resta Force India 22.175 0.012 39
3 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 22.534 0.371 40
4 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 22.610 0.447 25
5 Paul di Resta Force India 22.856 0.693 14
6 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 22.864 0.701 14
7 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 22.998 0.835 40
8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 23.050 0.887 26
9 Felipe Massa Ferrari 23.130 0.967 27
10 Mark Webber Red Bull 23.195 1.032 39
11 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 23.231 1.068 39
12 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 23.343 1.180 40
13 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 23.358 1.195 40
14 Pastor Maldonado Williams 23.409 1.246 39
15 Jenson Button McLaren 23.477 1.314 39
16 Jenson Button McLaren 23.509 1.346 24
17 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 23.549 1.386 15
18 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 23.648 1.485 37
19 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 23.662 1.499 40
20 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 23.782 1.619 38
21 Bruno Senna Williams 23.824 1.661 39
22 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 23.856 1.693 4
23 Pastor Maldonado Williams 23.974 1.811 15
24 Paul di Resta Force India 23.988 1.825 2
25 Felipe Massa Ferrari 24.034 1.871 3
26 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 24.057 1.894 15
27 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 24.094 1.931 14
28 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 24.216 2.053 10
29 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 24.216 2.053 15
30 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 24.271 2.108 5
31 Jenson Button McLaren 24.305 2.142 4
32 Felipe Massa Ferrari 24.420 2.257 14
33 Sergio Perez Sauber 24.520 2.357 15
34 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 24.539 2.376 14
35 Sergio Perez Sauber 24.543 2.380 41
36 Mark Webber Red Bull 24.569 2.406 5
37 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 24.653 2.490 4
38 Vitaly Petrov Caterham 24.718 2.555 4
39 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 24.831 2.668 5
40 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 24.927 2.764 13
41 Bruno Senna Williams 24.980 2.817 13
42 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 25.041 2.878 40
43 Timo Glock Marussia 25.096 2.933 3
44 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 25.130 2.967 14
45 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 25.199 3.036 13
46 Timo Glock Marussia 25.390 3.227 39
47 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 25.470 3.307 4
48 Pastor Maldonado Williams 25.535 3.372 5
49 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 25.600 3.437 5
50 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 25.658 3.495 5
51 Timo Glock Marussia 25.660 3.497 13
52 Sergio Perez Sauber 25.671 3.508 1
53 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 25.884 3.721 47
54 Jenson Button McLaren 25.922 3.759 13
55 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 26.255 4.092 13
56 Bruno Senna Williams 26.269 4.106 7
57 Mark Webber Red Bull 26.337 4.174 14
58 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 26.338 4.175 41
59 Felipe Massa Ferrari 26.934 4.771 38
60 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 27.602 5.439 5
61 Narain Karthikeyan HRT 27.700 5.537 37
62 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 27.961 5.798 14
63 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 28.122 5.959 5
64 Pedro de la Rosa HRT 28.483 6.320 39
65 Charles Pic Marussia 29.317 7.154 3
66 Vitaly Petrov Caterham 29.359 7.196 13
67 Vitaly Petrov Caterham 30.335 8.172 39
68 Bruno Senna Williams 31.006 8.843 1
69 Charles Pic Marussia 32.224 10.061 39
70 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 32.670 10.507 4
71 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 34.109 11.946 23
72 Jenson Button McLaren 36.517 14.354 15
73 Charles Pic Marussia 36.542 14.379 15
74 Narain Karthikeyan HRT 36.876 14.713 15
75 Pedro de la Rosa HRT 38.887 16.724 16

NB. A full list of stationary times is not available.

Tyre strategies

Stint 1 Stint 2 Stint 3 Stint 4 Stint 5 Stint 6
Lewis Hamilton Intermediate (5) Wet (9) Intermediate (27) Medium (15)
Jenson Button Intermediate (4) Wet (9) Intermediate (2) Intermediate (9) Intermediate (15) Medium (17)
Michael Schumacher Intermediate (5) Wet (9) Intermediate (25) Hard (17)
Mark Webber Intermediate (5) Wet (9) Intermediate (25) Medium (17)
Sebastian Vettel Intermediate (5) Wet (10) Intermediate (25) Hard (7) Medium (9)
Romain Grosjean Intermediate (3)
Nico Rosberg Intermediate (5) Wet (8) Intermediate (13) Intermediate (13) Hard (17)
Fernando Alonso Intermediate (4) Wet (10) Intermediate (26) Medium (16)
Sergio Perez Intermediate (1) Wet (14) Intermediate (26) Hard (15)
Kimi Raikkonen Intermediate (5) Wet (8) Intermediate (27) Hard (16)
Pastor Maldonado Intermediate (5) Wet (9) Wet (1) Intermediate (24) Medium (15)
Felipe Massa Intermediate (3) Wet (11) Intermediate (13) Intermediate (11) Medium (18)
Bruno Senna Intermediate (1) Wet (6) Wet (6) Intermediate (26) Medium (17)
Paul di Resta Intermediate (2) Wet (12) Intermediate (25) Hard (17)
Daniel Ricciardo Intermediate (4) Wet (10) Intermediate (11) Intermediate (12) Medium (19)
Nico Hulkenberg Intermediate (4) Wet (11) Intermediate (25) Hard (16)
Kamui Kobayashi Intermediate (5) Wet (8) Intermediate (27) Medium (6)
Jean-Eric Vergne Intermediate (10) Wet (5) Intermediate (25) Medium (16)
Vitaly Petrov Intermediate (4) Wet (9) Intermediate (26) Medium (16)
Timo Glock Intermediate (3) Wet (10) Intermediate (26) Medium (16)
Charles Pic Intermediate (3) Wet (12) Intermediate (24) Medium (15)
Pedro de la Rosa Wet (16) Intermediate (23) Hard (15)
Narain Karthikeyan Wet (15) Intermediate (22) Hard (17)
Heikki Kovalainen Intermediate (4) Wet (10) Intermediate (9) Intermediate (15) Medium (17)

The choice of which type of slick to use for the final stint was crucial. Alonso opted for mediums, as did the Red Bull and McLaren duos.

Others opted for hards including the Mercedes – who seem to have particularly high tyre degradation – and Raikkonen.

And, most significantly, Perez, who found good enough grip on them to hunt Alonso does over the final laps.

In Melbourne last week Martin Whitmarsh reiterated that McLaren – like several other teams – give priority to their leading driver on pit calls when they’re running close together.

So why, one might ask, did Button pit first out of the two McLarens during the first two rounds of pit stops in Malaysia, when he was close behind his team mate?

The reason why teams give priority to their leading driver on pit calls is to avoid moving the following driver ahead through the benefit of the ‘undercut’ in dry conditions. The first driver to change tyres in dry conditions can gain several seconds by being the first to take on fresher tyres.

In wet conditions that does not necessarily apply, and so nor does the policy of giving the first call to the leading driver. Plus, the teams have other, more pressing considerations in wet weather races.

When the track is wet, the driver’s assessment of conditions plays a larger role in deciding when to change tyres and what to put on. The tactics which are a major consideration in ‘normal’ dry races – such as when to pit to avoid coming out behind a rival, which the driver cannot judge – decrease in importance because the penalty for being on the wrong tyre at the wrong time can be huge.

In both situations today Button made an earlier call than Hamilton to change tyres. This might simply be because Hamilton feels more comfortable with the car’s handling in wet conditions – note his superb time on intermediate tyres on lap four mentioned earlier.

2012 Malaysian Grand Prix


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30 comments on 2012 Malaysian Grand Prix tyre strategies and pit stops

  1. plutoniumhunter (@plutoniumhunter) said on 25th March 2012, 23:04

    Wow… Button nearly does a Prost.

    • Billy said on 26th March 2012, 3:12

      Maldonado actually overshot his pitstop and therefore did not change his tyres. That explains his quick pitstop on lap 14

  2. Jeanie Johnston said on 25th March 2012, 23:25

    On lap 5, I think, Vettel was in front of Alonso when he pitted practically number to bumper behind Vettel. How come when he rejoined he was way behind them, something like 15 secs behind Alonso and 12 secs behind Webber? Did something happen?

  3. infy (@infy) said on 25th March 2012, 23:27

    From what I could tell, Button was allowed to pit first because Lewis did not want to pit on that lap. The leading driver only gets priority if they both want to pit on the same lap.

    • AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 26th March 2012, 6:06

      That’s not quite how it works, I think, in the dry. In Australia, Hamilton should have pitted one or two laps before Button did, because his tyres were going off earlier, but apparently the team did not want to extend him the advantage of the undercut (as Keith mentioned above, also).

  4. UKFan (@) said on 25th March 2012, 23:44

    Hamilton only lost time on the first pit-stop cause he overshot he spot and talking about team orders, wasnt McLaren looking to pit Button earlier, I know that Hamilton said he was okay out there still everyone was going quicker on the new set, Mclaren should have made him pit earlier.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 26th March 2012, 7:27

      Not to mention some teams send their “second” car in for new tyres first in wet races to give the leader the benefit of information on how he copes, which might have also been a consideration for McLaren.

    • Dphect (@dphect) said on 26th March 2012, 13:08

      He only overshot it by a few inches, which happens all the time – it was just human error on the rear jack. Not Lewis mucking it up.

  5. literalf1 (@literalf1) said on 26th March 2012, 0:21

    Great work turning this up quickly Keith. There is one slight error after the tyre pit stops & stints table:

    “Alonso opted for mediums, as did the Red Bull and McLaren DUOS”

    All CAPS on for duos.

  6. adaptalis (@adaptalis) said on 26th March 2012, 0:46

    I think the fastest pit stop wasn’t for Maldonado. I think he overshot his pit box on that time (Lap 14) and didn’t make a pitstop. Went for another lap before pitting again, this time properly. (Lap 15) Karun Chandok spotted it while commenting on ESPN Star.

  7. Eggry (@eggry) said on 26th March 2012, 1:20

    Disastrous pit works from Mclaren…They ruined their drivers’ race while Ferrari helped.

  8. M30 said on 26th March 2012, 2:06

    They screwed Hamilton over with tardy pitstops. It doesn’t matter if Button calls first there were other signals on track that it is impossible for a driver to see – that the engineer can. Hamilton should get rid of Andy Latham quick time. He better get an engineer who has his back. Get Jesse Jackson!!

  9. AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 26th March 2012, 6:16

    In addition to losing 8.5s to Alonso in the pit stops, Hamilton lost quite a bit of time with the timing of his stop to dry tyres. For instance, I think Hamilton’s lead over Vettel was at least 8 seconds while they were both on intermediates, but the gap was less than three seconds when Hamilton rejoined. So, although Alonso was undeniably quicker than Hamilton in the initial intermediates phase (following the safety car I mean), overall decent strategy and pit work should have brought them about level at the end of the race.

    Also, Hamilton might have done better to switch to hards for his dry stint, as he was losing quite a bit of time to Webber and Raikkonen in the final 5 laps of the race (unless he was just coasting home by that point).

    Finally, I like the new format of the tyre strategy table, much better than last year’s coloured-bar version!

  10. SPIDERman (@spiderman) said on 26th March 2012, 7:25

    For me Hamilton was the leading driver at that point and time and his needs should have been prioritized over Buttons.
    trying to shortchange Hamilton by pitting button first in order to give button an early advantage was not good at all.maclaren are showing some very poor judgement and they deserve loosing to Ferrari on this occasion.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 26th March 2012, 7:30

      But Hamilton was telling his team he was fine on the wets, so why pit him immediately. Not to mention the fact that by pitting Button first the team got the advantage of seeing how he would do on that set before changing Hamilton.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 26th March 2012, 8:00

      @spiderman

      his needs should have been prioritized over Buttons

      You only think they they ‘prioritised’ Button over Hamilton because Button’s decision to change tyres a lap earlier than Hamilton ultimately proved to be the correct one.

      Had the rain eased as Button pulled into the pits for his first stop, Hamilton’s decision to stay on intermediates may have proved correct. And then presumably we’d have some people complaining that Hamilton was being favoured over Button.

      When the point is there was nothing to stop Hamilton making the same call as Button did.

      The same was true in reverse in Hungary last year when Button made the correct call to stay out while Hamilton pitted for intermediates.

  11. SPIDERman (@spiderman) said on 26th March 2012, 7:56

    at least i put 10 quid on Alonzo when the odds were 25 to one.

  12. Toxic (@toxic) said on 26th March 2012, 8:42

    Looking at Senna’s times his result yesterday is getting even more impressive.

  13. OOliver said on 26th March 2012, 9:37

    The question of tyre choice during a wet race is all related to the quality and timing of information a driver get from his race engineer.
    In the last stop for slicks, Button was told, Ricciardo is setting very fast times with, the slick tyres. And he came into the pits. This is a whole lot different that for example asking a driver, do you want to change to slicks now? The first information infers a lesser risk as the likely hood of making a wrong decision is almost nil, while the second quality of information is almost a gamble.

    This is where the experience of the race engineer matters. An experienced race engineer can pass on crucial information that may appear irrelevant to a less experienced engineer. The driver who is the one in the car, can then use that information and together they can come to a much more sensible decision.
    We don’t always get the pit to car communications, so we don’t know who gets told what first or what level of information is passed on.

    We can’t always trust what the teams says after the race as they might not give the information in the exact chronological order.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 26th March 2012, 9:49

      I think it’s very telling that you completely discount the role of the driver in deciding for himself what tyres to use.

      The fact is Hamilton is great at driving on a very wet track – it’s probably his greatest skill as an F1 driver.

      While everyone else was putting on wets, he was lapping two seconds quicker on intermediates than everyone besides Perez on lap four.

      It stands to reason that drivers will have different views of when a track is ready for different types of tyres. Clearly, Hamilton was satisfied up to that point with the decision he’d made.

      • OOliver said on 26th March 2012, 10:18

        Keith I was talking about race engineers in general and the role they play in the outcome. I didn’t even mention Hamilton.
        I used Button’s radio call as a reference, in describing quality of information delivered, because it was something we overheard.
        I was even thinking more about the Sauber drivers, how they got it right with Perez, but got it so wrong with Kobayashi.

        Of course, I have my opinion on the Mclaren pit wall, but I am done talking about them.

        • Young One said on 26th March 2012, 11:14

          Button always sounds like he is crying when he is on radio, so I don’t think anybody would consider saying no to his requests.

          • OOliver said on 26th March 2012, 15:30

            LOL!
            Perhaps thats the reason.
            It does sound like he is singing sometimes.

  14. mclaren (@mclaren) said on 26th March 2012, 11:14

    Mclaren need to sort themselves out and cut out all these poor errors (pits + Strategy), they need to make the most of the current situation i.e. Probably the Quickest Car, and get that “cushion” MW was talking about otherwise it’s going to get real tough when others start closing the gap (the small one that does exist).

    In both, Aus and Here in Malaysia they failed to maximise on their front row lock outs, i really feel for Lewis, when he starts getting things right i.e keeping the car on track and not crashing into massa in such horrendous conditions, the team help by stuffing his pit stops, jeez!

    P.S. I think Sauber may have opted for a wet setup,though Sergio is undoubtedly talented, he’s not that Quick

  15. OOliver said on 26th March 2012, 14:52

    Sergio is actually that quick in those conditions. But those were not your everyday conditions.
    Before the race was Stopped, Hamilton and Button were getting on fine. After the restart, the other drivers became emboldened, as the sensed the opportunity, while Mclaren became conservative. Post race, Hamilton looked more relieved the race was over and that he managed to hold on to a podium.
    Button made a mistake under braking, showing how much of a lottery the conditions were.

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