Did Ferrari make the wrong call in Australian GP?

The result of the Australian Grand Prix for Ferrari has been a topic of debate since the checkered flag flew. Did Ferrari make the right call with their aggressive strategy?

According to Sebastian Vettel, the choice to remain on the Super Soft compound at the restart of the race was an aggressive strategy that didn’t pay off.

Interestingly the team boss, Maurizio Arrivebene, said the team felt comfortable with their strategy but needs to see the data to determine if their choice was right or wrong:

“We need to look at the data now in the garage because every car has different consumption, different degradation,” said Arrivabene.

“To be certain if we were right, to be certain if we were wrong, it’s nonsense. We need to look at the data.”

Hindsight is always 20/20 and being an armchair F1 strategist means that you have the clarity of results and luxury of no accountability in which to make your criticism as cutting as you like but in the heat of the battle, it may be more difficult than that.

Having said that, I must say that Pirelli knew the strategy choice after the red flag and even tweeted that all the teams would most likely fit medium compounds and go to the end. When Ferrari came out on super softs, I was convinced they’d made the wrong call and it turns out they did. There was never any way they were going to gain enough time to cover a 23s gap over Rosberg.

If pressed, I might suggest that Ferrari missed the strategy on both Seb and Kimi leaving the Finn our too long and scuttling his race by allowing Rosberg by. As it was happening, I wondered why Ferrari were leaving Kimi out so long and then why they had chose not to cover Mercedes’ strategy on mediums.

As I suggested in the Race Review, that could have an easy answer if the team knew the Ferrari didn’t perform as well on mediums and didn’t have the pace on harder tires to hold off Mercedes so their hand was forced to use the Super Soft tires.

Hat Tip: AUTOSPORT

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runnah

As soon as I saw them leave the pits with those tires I knew they lost the race.

Captain McAwesome

I was trying to be positive about the strategy, but as soon as I saw the Mercedes guys doing the same lap time on mediums, I knew the race was over.

At least the performance of the car is really good, without the red flag and the strategy bad calls it would have been a win for Vettel. Not a comfortable win, both Mercedes would have been breathing on his ear in the final laps, but still a win.

Negative Camber

Agreed. Pirelli even tweeted the correct strategy before the race resumed. Odd that.

bobmendon

Same here.

Van Dieu

Clearly yes, Ferrari’s call was misjudged, but ultimately I think Rosberg would have got past Vettel anyway, all things being equal. The wrong choice was the difference between a P2 and the eventual P3 imo. But as you say, hindsight is always 20/20, and it is these decisions in the heat of battle that make racing what it is. They had to try something instead of just covering off Rosberg, as ultimately the Mercedes was the faster package. Should probably have run split strategies, though.

Fred Talmadge

Sometimes teams will try something that is different from the others to gain an advantage. Sometimes it’s an act of desperation. In this case I don’t really know.

Derek

I think Ferrari played their strategy right with Vettel. The Ferrari team did alot of running in pre-season tests on softer tires, where Mercedes used almost exclusively the mediums. I think both teams played to their strengths. Kimi is the one who, again, lost out and did get a bum strategy. He even told the team over the radio and the team still kept him out for a couple more laps.

bobmendon

At least the race was one of the most interesting in the last 2 or 3 years.

Paul KieferJr

It was a gamble. It just didn’t work out this time. That’s life. They’ll learn.

MIE

It is showing that giving the drivers a choice of three compounds can lead to different strategies. I would have liked to see what would have happened had there not been a red flag.
More worrying for Ferrari is the unreliability that lead to Raikkonen’s retirement. This will certainly hamper Raikkonen’s season, but may cause Vettel concern as well. At least with five power units available for the twenty one races, each unit doesn’t have to last as long as last season.

Charles Clemen

Ferrari gave away the race they worked so hard for . I hope they learned from this crapppy mistake.

Cory Brown

Nico would have driven past Seb on Mediums. Ferrari took a risk that still should have resulted in second without the pit stop problem. The Ferrari still doesn’t have the pace to beat Mercedes in a straight fight.

longshot

I’m not sure that he would have driven straight past. The Merc seems to be very sensitive to turbulence, and we saw Hamilton (who is a much more aggressive overtaker than Nico) having all sorts of trouble getting past Sainz and Verstappen.

Cory Brown

Possibly true, but Nico made pretty short work of Kimi in the first stint. I would have been very surprised if Vettel could have held off Nico on the same tires.

longshot

Nico didn’t pass Kimi on track, but via undercutting through the pits after Ferrari kept Kimi out for far too long, and almost did the same with Vettel too.

In fact Nico didn’t overtake anyone in this race, he didn’t need to. Lewis only passed two cars – Massa early on, then later Ricciardo’s Red Bull which was near the end of its stint on degrading supersofts.

Cory Brown

Sorry. You are correct. I was thinking of Lewis dispatching Massa. May have been the wrong strategy, but I still don’t think it was a disaster minus the pit stop issue. The Mercedes are still the fastest cars out there and it will take aggressive strategy to beat them.

longshot

Sure, and they’ll certainly go away & learn from it. I’m glad the starts are more manual now too – that really seemed to shake things up & hopefully will continue to do so.

Michael

Wasn’t that delightful to see after the snooze of last season?!

Andreas Möller

On the surface, obviously it was the wrong call – since it didn’t work out. But we don’t know how the Ferrari would have performed on the mediums. And due to the complete lack of running on the mediums throughout the weekend, maybe Ferrari didn’t know either, so they went with what they knew. I will say this, though – I really liked the new rules where the teams have three different compounds at their disposal. That could really produce some interesting strategy calls going forward (we had them in this race too, but they were somewhat scuppered by the… Read more »

Coji

They probably mad the wrong call from the position they were in, but people saying they lost the race or threw it away is a bit of nonsense. VET started 3rd, right? He finished 3rd, right? While Ferrari closed the gap to Mercedes, they’re still superior. How can one EXPECT to beat them if starting behind them?

Michael

Agreed, of course, he started 3rd. However, it wasn’t just the fluke of a great start. Vettel was controlling the race from 1st. It appeared the Ferraris were more than capable against the Mercs. Then the tire call that most of us, from home, thought was a mistake. Surely they are better informed than we are. So, was the fear that the Red cars could not perform on the medium? Must be…

Tom Firth

Ferrari made a bad call, no doubt about it. Just wondering though and this will be a question in f1chat tomorrow night too on Twitter – Should F1 restrict what teams can and cannot do to cars when under red flag conditions, if the changes will have an effect on the outcome of the race?

mini696

It’s the same for everyone, but I would rather see them unable to touch the cars (setup wise). I think it affects the outcome of the race too much.
Red flags are quite common, so I think it has too much effect.
Likely the change they would make would be something like, you can change the tyres, but not the setup, which would be the same as it is now since the biggest impact comes from changing the rubber.
Maybe the ruling could be the change has to be like-for-like. Still would advantage those who were running long.

MIE

The Red flag was to clear up all the carbon fibre shards on the track. It is entirely possible that some had punctures or cuts in their tyres that needed changing for safety. Perhaps drivers should only be allowed to change for an identical compound?

charlie white

Yes, the Scuderia made the wrong call but I don’t think it would had changed the outcome that much. Maybe the Ferrari(and Vettel) are gentler on softer tires than other competitors. But I feel the Mercs are just stronger than the rest of the field.

Shocks&Awe

At least they went for it. Remember how much we wanted Williams to act like winners instead of always taking the conservative approach? I give the Scuderia props for trying. This coming from a die-hard Ferrari-hater.

Michael Redfern

Same same. I always believe that not having to stop is the best strategy. But after reading that story, I wonder if the results were a forgone conclusion. Could Ferrari hold off Mercedes on harder tyres.

Peter Riva

“Having said that, I must say that Pirelli knew the strategy choice after
the red flag and even tweeted that all the teams would most likely fit
medium compounds and go to the end.” – Wow! Where did you learn that??? Not from NBC that’s for sure!

Joe Mama

My initial response to seeing Ferrari on those tires was that they screwed up, and then I was sure of it when I saw Merc on the mediums. But then Seb DID NOT get his gap, and I reallized Ferrari knew exactly what they were doing. What Ferrari know that some of us are reluctant to admit is without at least a one-step softer compound than Mercedes, they can’t race them…they’re just too slow. So they did the racing thing; they fitted faster tires and gambled that cautions and pits and racing action would help them out. In the end… Read more »

Nick

I’m not sure how you can say that they are too slow without a tire advantage.
We do not know if they could keep up on mediums (I don’t think they could), but both teams were on Supersofts at the beginning of the race and Vettel was controlling his lead with no issue, and it was a sizable lead at that.

Joe Mama

Granted. I should have been more clear about their relative lack of speed being the case on the harder compounds. Obviously they can more than hold their own on the supersofts. But when Mercedes can stay in touch with a leading Ferrari on longer lasting compounds, the problem remains, and the logic of the Ferrari approach holds.

Of course, if Ferrari are in fact competitive with Merc on the mediums, then there is simply no explaining the decision…which is why I am almost certain that they are not.

onearmedlove

It doesn’t make much sense to me in any scenario. If you copy Merc then Merc has to pass you on track, make them beat you. If you go the other way then you have to pass Merc on track, and it seems ludicrous to choose this option.

Jack Flash (Australia)

I agree. Track position is King of considerations, especially if you know the cars you are trying to beat to the chequered flag have an overall performance advantage in raw pace, marginal or more. So knowingly going a strategy direction which places you “out of step” with that difficult competitor, AND having to try pass it very late in the Race after chasing them down, seems like a wishful gamble. Only saving grace in this case would be “IF Ferrari” knew from their Medium tyre runs, that they would be ‘worse off’ with following Mercedes, and all the other cars,… Read more »