How to Diversify Off the Track: Demystifying the Art of Race Strategy

Strategists in F1 have a lot to do — work closely with tire engineers, race engineers and drivers, crunch data, run simulations, plan for success and plan for when that plan fails. As we’ve seen this season, title fights are shaped by high-stakes calls, informational gambles and inexplicable mistakes.

Strategists in F1 have a lot to do — work closely with tire engineers, race engineers and drivers, crunch data, run simulations, plan for success and plan for when that plan fails. As we’ve seen this season, title fights are shaped by high-stakes calls, informational gambles and inexplicable mistakes.

After the first three races of the year, Charles Leclerc has a significant lead over title rival Max Verstappen. The Ferrari driver won two races and finished second in another, while Verstappen retired from both.

Leclerc’s campaign, however, subsequently declined due to a combination of factors. Verstappen, on the other hand, is closing in on his second drivers’ championship.

Reliability issues and his own mistakes contributed to Leclerc’s challenge failing, while Ferrari’s tactical mistakes cost him a few victories in Monaco, Silverstone and even Hungary.

While Ferrari’s calls in those races may have baffled fans and pundits alike, it must be emphasized that strategic decisions in a Formula One setting are far more complex than what happens in those 90 minutes on Sunday.

Ahead of the Singapore Grand Prix weekend, The Hindu caught up with two experts in the field of race strategy to demystify the art and find out how teams prepare for various scenarios.

“In its simplest form, strategy is simple, when you tell yourself, how long is the race and what is the fastest route from A to B, [taking into account] Tire life, degradation, speed between compounds and pit damage. In theory, it’s simple,” says Tom McCullough, performance director at the Aston Martin F1 Team.

Dealing with complexity

“What a strategist needs to do is to work very closely with the tire engineers, the race engineers, the drivers and anyone else who has some input at a senior level, playing a role in as many scenarios as possible. They have to be good with data and tools and processing stuff, but the hardest thing to teach strategic engineers is what to do, how to react when it goes off plan,” he says.

To be in a good position to react, a strategic team begins its work well in advance of the race. Tires are prominent in the analysis.

“These days strategy starts a good few weeks before the start of the race,” says Ruth Buscombe, Head of Strategy at the Alfa Romeo Saber F1 Team. “Our first decision was to decide which compounds they wanted to use in which sessions. We want to get rid of some race tires because it’s important to have them on Sunday for a longer qualifying track or race so should we keep those tires? So all that work goes on in the background.

About 20 years ago, strategy was decided by race engineers; But now it has become a separate department with members with a strong core in math, physics or engineering and an aptitude for coding and running simulations. The focus is on the team, but the strategy department also analyzes the competitors, mainly to gain an understanding of the tires.

During refuelling, the strategy depends on how long the car runs before pitting, as the lighter it is, the less fuel it carries. Back then tires were stiffer and much more durable and not such a big factor.

Right now, pit stops are much faster because only the tires are changed. Although there is one less variable in the equation, Buscombe says this makes the strategy more interesting; Different tire combinations with higher degradation than before make for an eclectic mix of strategies.

Proving their worth

While the impact of strategy calls on a typical dry weekend may be marginal, affecting only a few positions, a strategist can make a huge difference when another variable, such as rain, enters the picture.

“When you’re making a strategic decision, you’re usually gambling on one or two positions at most,” Buscombe explains. “Now in the rain, if you get it wrong, you lose a million minutes. We’re talking a decline of one-hundredth of a second per lap on a medium compound [in dry weather]. So after one lap, I was going five hundredths slower than the previous lap. While [when it rains], you can go six seconds faster if you’re the first chop on the intermediate tires. It is a thousand times more. This is where you can make more of a difference as a team on the operational side.

Even in the dynamic setting of rain, preparation plays a vital role in executing a flawless strategy.

“It’s like NASA or the Air Force, where you have procedures and you know how to deal with a crisis,” Buscombe said. “So you go through a process and a lot of teams are like, ‘What happens if it starts raining, who do we talk to?’ We get feedback from the driver and we do it. We follow these routines, so even if we’re not in these exact situations, we’re prepared.

A modern F1 team uses many software tools, some built in-house, some purchased, to model conditions and run simulations. Furthermore, teams are fallible, especially when they have to make some decisions on the fly.

When asked why this happens, McCullough said, “Well, all these tools are only as good as the information you feed them. So you still rely heavily on people with good situational awareness to look at the tools, step back and see what’s going on, and listen to your drivers. The key is to have a dialogue between key stakeholders who understand the tyres, strategy, setup and drivers. You have to be able to react… because if you stick to a plan, it will invariably go wrong. “

A factor that plays an important role is feedback from the driver and trust that flows both ways. “Safety comes first. So in wet conditions, the driver will tell the slicks whether it is too wet or not. It doesn’t matter if I say it’s faster,” says Buscombe.

“During the set-up briefing, we said on Sunday this is our baseline strategy for the weekend, but it’s how the tires work and the most important thing to do in practice is to evaluate the tyres,” explained McCullough. “After qualifying, after we look at the data, we will sit down again and see if things need to be changed from what was discussed on Thursday. If you engage the driver in understanding what the plan is, he will be able to help you more. So the film is being made very early.

“We rely on feedback from the driver and they are useful tools to see if we are on plan for this. The driver can’t see the pitstop windows if he wants to stop and we need to give feedback on that.

Red Bull and Verstappen have a lot of this right, Ferrari and Leclerc don’t. Some strategic decisions require them to repair lost trust, which leaves the driver confused and the team reactive and nervous. While there’s no doubt that Verstappen was exceptional on track, the title race was made up of what happened from it, illustrating just how important race strategy is in F1.

Source link

What do you think?

Written by filmysector

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

GIPHY App Key not set. Please check settings

Celebrating Jhulan Goswami — Gentle Giant, Fierce Warrior, World-Conquering Athlete

Inflation will crimp many Americans’ holiday travel plans