Cat & Mouse F1 - A new exciting era?

RasputinLives

Leave me alone I'm on Smoko
Contributor
I read quite a lot in the last week or so that this new version of F1 had its birth last year at Canada with the difference between the tyre compounds. I beg to differ - this new version of F1 had its birth at the up coming track of Valencia. Why I hear you cry? Thanks to something new tried out by the Sauber team and Kamui Kobayashi.

For a good 15 years when refueling was around F1 was all around the tactic of having a lap or so more fuel than your rival and being able to stay out longer and gain track position but then last year refueling was taken away and the F1 tacticions assumed the way to win would switch to the undercut. Changing on to fresh rubber before your rival in order to get some quicker times in and gain track position. Teams blindly followed this even after Valencia - in fact you could say that this veyr belief is what cost Alonso the title in trying to cover off Webber. It wasn't until Valencia 2010 that someone tried something different. Due to a Safety Car Kobayashi(after a patchy start to the season) found himself quite high up the field having not changed tyres. Everyone thought he was going to have to dissapear into the pits and would fall down the order hvaing missed his window to change under the safety car but Sauber decided differently and Kobi stayed out (he even put in good times) and backed up the pack behind him who all were waiting for him to change tyres. Who's decision it was to leave him out for so long I don't know but I know it worked a treat, he came in to change with a few laps to go and had such superior tyres that even on a track like Valencia he made mince meat of the people he'd ended up behind - topping off of course by disposing of Alonso.

It took a while to kick in of course and has been helped by the new Pirreli tyres but this has now become the standard routine for a Grand Prix. Cat & Mouse F1. The role of the mouse has been dutifully played by Sebastian Vettel this season. Alonso had a go in Spain and got eaten alive and Jenson would have been the mouse in Turkey if he'd not ran in the wrong mouse hole. Sebastian 'the mouse' Vettel dutiful scampers off from the line and tries to get out as far in front as he can - at somepoint someone (or a group of people) will make an extra or later pitstop than him and have the advantage of fresh rubber and all their new overtaking toys. Then the chase is on. 5 times out of 7 we've seen the mouse scamper home victorious and eat his own body weight in cheese but in Canada and in China the mouse was eaten and the Mclaren cat got the cream.

I have to admit this new form of F1 is exciting to watch but just as the teams were conforming to the undercut last year so they are starting to comform to this route. Can any of you budding strategists out there think like Kobi and Sauber did and come up with an alternative strategy to catapulte someone up the running order?

Also does anyone else think that there could not be a more perfect 'mouse' than Vettel and the ideal chasing cat has to be Lewis? How do you think Lewis would cope with be the one chased down and could Vettel ever be the chaser? We've seen Alonso withstand pressure of a faster car behind him most famoulsy in San Marino 05 but with all the new gadgets would he be able to do it now? With overtaking now being made comparativly more easy should the real skill of a driver be viewed on his ability to defend his position when their up against the DRS system - in which case shouldn't we commend Mr Schumacher in being able to keep Webber behind him for so long?

What are people's thoughts on the 'new' F1 show?
 

teabagyokel

#dejavu
Valued Member
An extremely interesting post, Rasputin, thankyou.

We've never seen Vettel play the cat, have we? David Coulthard keeps going on about "track position", something that seems to have been an advantage for Seb in all the races - he's been in the lead with 5 laps remaining of every race.

I suppose Vettel has got to the front then allowed things behind him to contrive to keep him there. Maybe McLaren would have won Malaysia if Nick Heidfeld hadn't jumped them at the first, for example. But the best examples have to be Spain and Monaco.

I would love to see Lewis leading and Seb chasing, that would answer many questions.
 

Sarinaide

Banned
I understand the racing and safety decisions of removing refuelling as well as the environmental concerns(bar the fact they would use the same fuel load regardless. Something suggests to me that refuelling this season would have added even more to the strategic think tank factoring in how the tyres go off quickly.

I would like more cat and mouse but to RBR credit they haven't allowed themselves to be drawn into a cat and mouse fight, it is easy to say Vettel has had it easy and never been the cat or mouse (whichever) but it is largely to do with the fact that the car is just so much better than the rivals without a workable KERS.

I don't see what can be done to improve the stategic side, more rules will compound problems, they made all the rule changes and personally we have not had pre 2006 style racing in a while, the reliance upon pole position is tense.
 

RasputinLives

Leave me alone I'm on Smoko
Contributor
Thanks guys - just me musing really. I do think F1 is a completely different show in the last 2 years than it has been before. I started watching in 1990 and refueling came in for 94 so the short sprint and refuel style has been F1 for as long as I remember and now we've move to the hunting pack style.

One thing I think it does is make the phrase "catching is one thing, passing is another" go out the window. The chasing pack def have the advantage now with the DRS and KERS. Therefore maybe we shouldn't judge a drivers quality on the amount of overtakes anymore but how long they can keep a faster car behind them. I noticed that Schumacher(had to be him didn't it?) very much changed the lines he took when Webber was up behind him in Canada, especially into the hairpin, to try and get a one second gap at the activation line. It was very clever driving. We saw Vettel do something similar when Hamilton was coming at him in Turkey, just placed his car in the middle of the cornor so Lewis had nowhere to go. Maybe the drivers should realise its this sort of stuff they have to think about now.
 

The Artist.....

Champion Elect
Rasputinlives... This is what F1 USED to be all about - in the "great" era of the 1980s! Think of events like Silverstone '87, and this was completely because Mansell had fitted new tyres towards the end of the race and had bags more grip than Piquet. Monaco '92 is another example - although Monaco proves how difficult it is to overtake!
 

jez101

Bookies drive nice cars because of people like me
Contributor
I understand the racing and safety decisions of removing refuelling as well as the environmental concerns(bar the fact they would use the same fuel load regardless. Something suggests to me that refuelling this season would have added even more to the strategic think tank factoring in how the tyres go off quickly.

I for one am delighted that they stopped refuelling. The problem with it it is that it leaves a lot less flexibility in choosing strategy - you cannot choose to stay out. You are kind of on rails from the start of Q3 when you choose your fuel load.

The Kobayashi example you cite Rasputin, is a great example of the sort of strategy that would have been impossible under refuelling. Sauber would not have been able to make the change on the fly and Koba would simply have had to stop just like everyone else. Vettel in Monaco too.

If you add refuelling to these tyres you might kill the goose that laid the golden egg.

I would like to see improvements in the harder tyres though. It seems that they are just "slower" tyres, rather than what we generally understand of a harder tyre (slower initially, but they keep their grip so you can eventually make up the difference you lost initially). There are two important cross over points that aren't quite right and lead us too far down a clear "optimal route" where basically everyone is doing the same except one or two gamblers.

The first is the number of laps after which the prime is faster than the option over one lap. There have been some races where this point probably did not exist (Spain). The second related crossover is the number of laps after which the aggregate time for the prime is faster than the option. ie if you both keep going, the option will sprint off, but eventually be caught and passed by the prime runner.

Just as some example numbers, if you have an option tyre that is 1.5s / lap faster than the prime.

Option deg = 0.15s / lap
Prime deg = 0.1s / lap

It is not until lap 30 that the prime starts to catch the option and lap 60 before the prime is ahead.

If you have a much better prime tyre that is basically slower but that goes on and on (eg deg of 0.02s / lap), you start catching after 12 laps and you are ahead after 24). Maybe not cat & mouse, but I would like to see a bit more tortoise & hare:)
 

Sarinaide

Banned
I for one am delighted that they stopped refuelling. The problem with it it is that it leaves a lot less flexibility in choosing strategy - you cannot choose to stay out. You are kind of on rails from the start of Q3 when you choose your fuel load.

The Kobayashi example you cite Rasputin, is a great example of the sort of strategy that would have been impossible under refuelling. Sauber would not have been able to make the change on the fly and Koba would simply have had to stop just like everyone else. Vettel in Monaco too.

If you add refuelling to these tyres you might kill the goose that laid the golden egg.

I see and I like. I would say that with refuelling it added a dual factor to pit stop strategy namely; a) fuel b) tyres. If we assess the fuel loads, those opting to run light and fast upfront would need to pit early and either light load again with the thought that they may need a third fuel pit or fuel heavy but then be slower in the later part, those opting for more heavy loads upfront would benefit from a light load at the end of the race.

All of these had tyre strategy inter mingled with them so it really was in my view more strategic than today, where only tyre wear determines race strategy.

I agree that Kamui and Vettel would not have benefited from it at Monaco or Valencia respectively but neither would most, as pitting is integral to strategy, it also takes away the safety car effect.
 

Pyrope

Podium Finisher
Supporter
I full agree Rasputin, the manner in which the drivers have to go about their business this year is very different to what we have seen previously, but it was ever thus. The refeulling era also had its ups and downs, with most of the ups coming when we had two tyre suppliers. With one supplier we're better off without. You want to start on softs? Fine, you'll be quicker than the chaps on hards, but the added stress of starting, stopping and cornering with an extra 100+ kg of fuel on board will shred your tyres much faster and you'll not get anywhere near the same duration out of a set of softs in the first 20 laps as the last 20. On the other hand, the harder compounds seem to be less affected. This has benefitted Webber on a couple of occasions, as well as the Saubers. Run hards in the first half of the race and they may give a couple of laps less duration than in the last half, but only a couple. This is why I'm always surprised when teams who are forced to start on the soft compound stick with it in the first round of stops. Doubtless they'll mutter about "maintaining track position", but as you rightly point out that way of thinking belongs to the last decade. For most of the 2000s once the last round of stops was over that was essentially the race over. At that point it didn't matter if you were on hard and the bloke following was on soft, he wasn't going to be able to pass you. Kimi R's frustration at this was evident, and I wonder how much he's kicking himself now watching scenes like Jenson hunting down Seb on Sunday.

This season has certainly seen a definite increase in the importance of driver intelligence. So far the on-track thinkers seem to be Schumi, Webber, Vettel and Button, and I think this is possibly where Lewis is losing out. He has never struck me as being very capable of taking a logical, reasoned decision; his are far more instinctive. In many cases this puts him in a good position, as he is able to instantly respond to a sudden change in circumstances, but where a longer time frame is required he looks uncertain.

If we assess the fuel loads, those opting to run light and fast upfront would need to pit early and either light load again with the thought that they may need a third fuel pit or fuel heavy but then be slower in the later part, those opting for more heavy loads upfront would benefit from a light load at the end of the race.

The problem with this is that after the last round of pit stops everybody has the same fuel load. There simply is no benefit of a light load at the end of the race as everybody needs the same amount of fuel to get to the end. This is why we saw F1 degenerate into a 100 minute qualification session, as the obvious strategy was almost always to fuel light and run flat out. Only when it rained did that change.

Far from increasing the strategy options, refuelling was such an important factor that it seemed it was the only one teams really ever considered, and so it reduced the calculation to essentially one variable. When you have one variable it is very easy to optimise, so everyone ended up running the same strategy. Now we are seeing variables such as track condition ("rubbering in"), inherent tyre durability, a driver's ability to preserve the tyres, a car's light or heavy use of tyres, on-track battles (which will take more out of tyres than running the same distance in clear air), availability or not of the DRS, and so on, forming a much more significant part of the strategy calculation. These factors were always there, but because of the overwhelming importance of refuelling they were likely essentially ignored for the last 15 years, except in special circumstances. With so many variables it is highly unlikely that each team will come to the same conclusion, added in to which each team (and indeed driver) will experience different significance loadings for each, which may also change thoughout the race. This is why we are seeing much more variation in strategy this year. As jez said:

If you add refuelling to these tyres you might kill the goose that laid the golden egg.
 
Top Bottom