Formula 1: Against The Odds

Race Fuel Strategies

with 2 comments

I am not the first person to notice the difference in BMW’s fuel strategy for their two drivers over a race weekend. Their current tactics seem to involve fuelling one driver lightly and sending him off as a hare in qualifying, whilst the other driver carries a heavier – and presumably more optimum – fuel load for the race on Sunday.

Early indications (and it is early) seem to be that the driver with the ‘optimum’ fuel load is outperforming the hare in the race. This would make sense. I am therefore somewhat surprised at the difference in market price between the two drivers, particularly as it is so heavily steeped towards the driver with grid position.

Current best prices to be on the podium in Bahrain are:

Robert Kubica @ 10/11 (Ladbrokes)
Nick Heidfeld @ 6/1 (General)

In fact the 10/11 about Kubica is a standout price. There is plenty of 8/15 around! In a match bet Heidfeld is again the clear outsider.

I should say at this point that I am making the assumption that Kubica is carrying less fuel than Heidfeld. This would explain the scintillating performance of the Pole in qualifying and also Nick’s apparently genuine pleasure for him and the team.

We saw a similar situation in Melbourne where Kubica qualified with sixteen laps worth of fuel in second place and Heidfeld qualified fifth with twenty-one laps worth on board. However in the race Heidfeld was able to progress through to an eventual second place finish, whilst the Pole slipped to eighth before eventually retiring from seventh position.

Now Melbourne was not a typical race from which to draw conclusions, so let’s look at Malaysia. Here it was Heidfeld’s turn to go light and carry just seventeen laps worth of fuel, whilst Kubica carried twenty-one. Our analysis is muddied slightly by Heidfeld not getting the job done in qualifying; but in the race Kubica picked up two vital positions to claim a second place finish, whilst the German actually lost a place to finish sixth.

I am aware that more factors go into deciding the finishing order of both qualifying and the race than I have detailed, but I am going to stick my neck out and say that there is a trend forming.

We have seen something similar at Ferrari: with Massa out-qualifying Raikkonen, but the Finn picking him off at the first pit stop. Is this a good time to mention that Massa is considerably shorter than Raikkonen to take the race victory tomorrow? This is despite him starting on the dirty side of the track to the light fuelled Kubica and his teammate having this to say after qualifying:

“I think that tomorrow in the race, when points are up for grabs, I will be very strong. I think we might have made different choices in terms of strategy, but let’s wait and see in the race if that’s really the case.”

Clive Allen has explained his thoughts on how the race might pan out and I am inclined to agree with him. Whilst second-guessing fuel strategy will always be that (a guess), I am confident that the bookmaker’s prices are out-of-kilter. I will therefore be backing Kimi Raikkonen to take the race victory and Nick Heidfeld to finish on the podium at what I consider to be generous odds. In addition I will back them both against their respective teammates in a match bet.


Written by f1punter

April 5, 2008 at 9:21 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Good post Punter. All I need is the info about the position of the car and lap when they pit( and reason for doing so, like fuel, damaged wing etc). Is there a place I could get these? I cannot collect them over the race since I am actively involved in some live blogging and other live events.


    April 7, 2008 at 7:46 pm

  2. Hi Arun, thanks.

    For details of the pit stops I use formula1.com’s pit stop summary. Here is the one for Bahrain.

    To understand a driver’s position when stopping, click on the Live Timing Archive link on the right-hand side of that page and then choose ‘Lap Chart’ from the left-hand side of the pop-up.

    The reason for the driver pitting is a bit more complicated. It is usually a mixture of a) my memory, b) whether it is a stop in the usual windows and c) consultation with the FIA’s lap-by-lap report. Here is the lap-by-lap report for Bahrain.


    April 8, 2008 at 6:46 pm

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