Jenson Button, McLaren, Sepang, 2012

2012 Malaysian Grand Prix tyre strategies and pit stops

2012 Malaysian Grand Prix

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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.

DriverTeamPit stop timeGapOn lap
1Michael SchumacherMercedes22.16339
2Paul di RestaForce India22.1750.01239
3Fernando AlonsoFerrari22.5340.37140
4Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso22.6100.44725
5Paul di RestaForce India22.8560.69314
6Fernando AlonsoFerrari22.8640.70114
7Sebastian VettelRed Bull22.9980.83540
8Nico RosbergMercedes23.0500.88726
9Felipe MassaFerrari23.1300.96727
10Mark WebberRed Bull23.1951.03239
11Nico RosbergMercedes23.2311.06839
12Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso23.3431.18040
13Nico HulkenbergForce India23.3581.19540
14Pastor MaldonadoWilliams23.4091.24639
15Jenson ButtonMcLaren23.4771.31439
16Jenson ButtonMcLaren23.5091.34624
17Nico HulkenbergForce India23.5491.38615
18Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso23.6481.48537
19Kamui KobayashiSauber23.6621.49940
20Heikki KovalainenCaterham23.7821.61938
21Bruno SennaWilliams23.8241.66139
22Nico HulkenbergForce India23.8561.6934
23Pastor MaldonadoWilliams23.9741.81115
24Paul di RestaForce India23.9881.8252
25Felipe MassaFerrari24.0341.8713
26Sebastian VettelRed Bull24.0571.89415
27Michael SchumacherMercedes24.0941.93114
28Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso24.2162.05310
29Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso24.2162.05315
30Lewis HamiltonMcLaren24.2712.1085
31Jenson ButtonMcLaren24.3052.1424
32Felipe MassaFerrari24.4202.25714
33Sergio PerezSauber24.5202.35715
34Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso24.5392.37614
35Sergio PerezSauber24.5432.38041
36Mark WebberRed Bull24.5692.4065
37Fernando AlonsoFerrari24.6532.4904
38Vitaly PetrovCaterham24.7182.5554
39Michael SchumacherMercedes24.8312.6685
40Kimi RaikkonenLotus24.9272.76413
41Bruno SennaWilliams24.9802.81713
42Kimi RaikkonenLotus25.0412.87840
43Timo GlockMarussia25.0962.9333
44Heikki KovalainenCaterham25.1302.96714
45Nico RosbergMercedes25.1993.03613
46Timo GlockMarussia25.3903.22739
47Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso25.4703.3074
48Pastor MaldonadoWilliams25.5353.3725
49Nico RosbergMercedes25.6003.4375
50Sebastian VettelRed Bull25.6583.4955
51Timo GlockMarussia25.6603.49713
52Sergio PerezSauber25.6713.5081
53Sebastian VettelRed Bull25.8843.72147
54Jenson ButtonMcLaren25.9223.75913
55Kamui KobayashiSauber26.2554.09213
56Bruno SennaWilliams26.2694.1067
57Mark WebberRed Bull26.3374.17414
58Lewis HamiltonMcLaren26.3384.17541
59Felipe MassaFerrari26.9344.77138
60Kimi RaikkonenLotus27.6025.4395
61Narain KarthikeyanHRT27.7005.53737
62Lewis HamiltonMcLaren27.9615.79814
63Kamui KobayashiSauber28.1225.9595
64Pedro de la RosaHRT28.4836.32039
65Charles PicMarussia29.3177.1543
66Vitaly PetrovCaterham29.3597.19613
67Vitaly PetrovCaterham30.3358.17239
68Bruno SennaWilliams31.0068.8431
69Charles PicMarussia32.22410.06139
70Heikki KovalainenCaterham32.67010.5074
71Heikki KovalainenCaterham34.10911.94623
72Jenson ButtonMcLaren36.51714.35415
73Charles PicMarussia36.54214.37915
74Narain KarthikeyanHRT36.87614.71315
75Pedro de la RosaHRT38.88716.72416

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

Tyre strategies

Stint 1Stint 2Stint 3Stint 4Stint 5Stint 6
Lewis HamiltonIntermediate (5)Wet (9)Intermediate (27)Medium (15)
Jenson ButtonIntermediate (4)Wet (9)Intermediate (2)Intermediate (9)Intermediate (15)Medium (17)
Michael SchumacherIntermediate (5)Wet (9)Intermediate (25)Hard (17)
Mark WebberIntermediate (5)Wet (9)Intermediate (25)Medium (17)
Sebastian VettelIntermediate (5)Wet (10)Intermediate (25)Hard (7)Medium (9)
Romain GrosjeanIntermediate (3)
Nico RosbergIntermediate (5)Wet (8)Intermediate (13)Intermediate (13)Hard (17)
Fernando AlonsoIntermediate (4)Wet (10)Intermediate (26)Medium (16)
Sergio PerezIntermediate (1)Wet (14)Intermediate (26)Hard (15)
Kimi RaikkonenIntermediate (5)Wet (8)Intermediate (27)Hard (16)
Pastor MaldonadoIntermediate (5)Wet (9)Wet (1)Intermediate (24)Medium (15)
Felipe MassaIntermediate (3)Wet (11)Intermediate (13)Intermediate (11)Medium (18)
Bruno SennaIntermediate (1)Wet (6)Wet (6)Intermediate (26)Medium (17)
Paul di RestaIntermediate (2)Wet (12)Intermediate (25)Hard (17)
Daniel RicciardoIntermediate (4)Wet (10)Intermediate (11)Intermediate (12)Medium (19)
Nico HulkenbergIntermediate (4)Wet (11)Intermediate (25)Hard (16)
Kamui KobayashiIntermediate (5)Wet (8)Intermediate (27)Medium (6)
Jean-Eric VergneIntermediate (10)Wet (5)Intermediate (25)Medium (16)
Vitaly PetrovIntermediate (4)Wet (9)Intermediate (26)Medium (16)
Timo GlockIntermediate (3)Wet (10)Intermediate (26)Medium (16)
Charles PicIntermediate (3)Wet (12)Intermediate (24)Medium (15)
Pedro de la RosaWet (16)Intermediate (23)Hard (15)
Narain KarthikeyanWet (15)Intermediate (22)Hard (17)
Heikki KovalainenIntermediate (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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Image ?? McLaren/Hoch Zwei

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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

  1. Wow… Button nearly does a Prost.

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

  2. Jeanie Johnston
    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. 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.

    1. 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. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. 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. 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. 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.

    1. Yep, that’s what Maldonado said:

      I had poor visibility in the pitlane so missed the pit box entry after the restart which dropped me down the order.

      I reckon he might’ve finished ahead of Senna without that error and the blown engine.

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

  8. 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. 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!

    1. Glad you like it. Might have to come up with a more compact version of the pit stops table for the next time we have 70-odd stops!

  10. 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.

    1. 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.

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

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

  13. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

        1. 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.

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

  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. 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.

  16. Don’t forget they left Lewis out for 1 lap extra when everybody else was coming in for slicks. Very poor from Mclaren , something we have seen before from them .

  17. Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso) pitted only twice in the race. Lap 15 and lap 40. His tyres may have been changed on the grid during the red flag period. According to the live timing and commentary he did 15 laps on intermediate before pitting.

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