How Ferrari handed easy Monaco victory to Red Bull – data analysis

F1

Charles Leclerc's Ferrari had a clear speed advantage over Red Bull – however, as the data shows, strategy fumbles from the Scuderia threw the win away

11 PEREZ Sergio (mex), Red Bull Racing RB18, action during the Formula 1 Grand Prix de Monaco 2022, 7th round of the 2022 FIA Formula One World Championship, on the Circuit de Monaco, from May 27 to 29, 2022 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco - Photo Antonin Vincent / DPPI

Red Bull and Perez played strategy to perfection in Monaco

Antonin Vincent / DPPI

Sergio Perez’s fine 2022 Monaco GP win was yet another a reminder for Ferrari that, with strategy so integral, raw speed simply isn’t enough to win in Formula 1.

Whilst Red Bull had the benefit of calling strategy from behind, Ferrari did have options at its disposal. Ultimately, the Scuderia was too safe and too tentative with its decision-making.

The Milton Keynes squad has so far shown itself as the more switched-on team, winning races it should realistically have no business winning.

As the data below indicates, Monaco was the perfect example of a bold strategy paying off, with Perez’s ability to look after tyres towards the end of the race also central to this.

 

Chart 1: Race Story, cumulative delta plot

Charles Leclerc’s Monaco curse struck again, but this time it was Ferrari’s friendly fire that caught him out. Having claimed pole position and kept his car out of the walls on Saturday, the Monegasque had provided his team with the best possible chance at victory around the Principality.

Whilst the heavens had opened and introduced another perilous factor to the already difficult circuit, Leclerc was keeping the competition at bay.

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As the graph above shows, after a tentative start but Leclerc soon began to assert himself. Lap after lap, the local was getting more and more into a rhythm, starting to pull a gap on his teammate.

Carlos Sainz wasn’t as fast as Leclerc but was doing enough to keep both Red Bulls at bay. So far, so good for Ferrari.

That is, until Red Bull made an aggressive strategy call that caught the Italian team unaware. The Scuderia’s reaction can only be described as sheer panic – pitting the race leader to cover off the rival threat as opposed to its second driver. This, alongside an accidental and failed double stack pitstop all but took the Monegasque out of contention.

With the mandatory stop out of the way and no further calamities on the horizon, Leclerc’s fate of P4 was a done deal.

 

Chart 2: Tyre crossover and development

The above graph shows the best lap time per lap, grouped by tyre compound.

Pierre Gasly and Sebastien Vettel were among the first to try the intermediate tyre, and it wasn’t long before the two were lapping at the same pace as the race leader. While this helped them recover the pitstop deficit, it only went so far in helping them mount efficient overtakes, such is the difficulty of pitting into traffic at a circuit like Monaco.

This was a troubling sign for those out front, as pitting for the faster tyre was not worth getting stuck in traffic, especially risking two stops.

What this meant was that the most desirable outcome would be yielded by a straight transition from extreme wets to slick tyres, skipping the intermediate phase.

Both Ferrari and Red Bull would have been aware of this. However as the hunters Red Bull had the choice of two options:

  • Committing to the transition to dry tyres. While this avoids becoming stuck in traffic, it risks being too conservative in challenging for the win.
  • Pitting for intermediates to put pressure on Ferrari to risk a strategic error or a split strategy. This runs this risk of running into traffic, but introduces variance that could play out in Red Bull’s favour.

 

Red Bull plumped for option 2.

 

Chart 3: Strategy summary

This chart shows the differing tyre strategies of each competitor.

Perez was the first of the frontrunners to blink on lap 16, followed by Verstappen two laps later.

Curiously, Ferrari responded to the threat from Red Bull by pitting not Sainz, but the race leader Leclerc instead. This was its first error.

Referring back to chart 1, and it is clear that Leclerc had a clear pace advantage over Perez on lap 17. If Ferrari wanted to cover its rival’s strategy, it could have done so with Sainz, allowing Leclerc more time to assess his options and gather more information regarding the effectiveness of the tyre warm-up phase.

However, Sainz was pushing for the straight to slicks strategy. Even in this situation, it could have pitted both drivers for the slick tyre, or pitted Leclerc for the hard tyre and then Sainz later on.

Keeping Sainz out for longer at a track like Monaco could have kept both Red Bull drivers behind while Leclerc caught back up on the superior tyre.

Whilst this would have cost Sainz in the short-term, he would have benefitted in the medium term as it would have forced the Red Bull drivers to take a second stop to switch from the intermediates to the hard tyre.

But none of these options were considered. Instead, Ferrari pitted Leclerc on lap 18 to cover Perez, only to bring him back into the pits three laps later in a double stack with Sainz as shown in Chart 3.

 

Chart 4 – Pit stop gain and loss

While Chart 1 shows how Leclerc went from leading the Monaco GP to trailing in P4, Chart 4 breaks down how the gap was closed between lap time gained on track and lap time gained in the pits. Leclerc’s slow double stop cost him another 1sec to Verstappen. Given the gap at the end of lap 23, this would have been enough to give Ferrari a chance of holding onto P3 at the very least.

However, it was too little too late and through various blunders, Ferrari managed to jeapordise what should have been an easy one-two finish.

 

Chart 5 & 6: Race pace by tyre compound

Despite both Leclerc and Verstappen having marginally best pace in their respective teams, both drivers finished behind their team-mates.

This was less consequential for Verstappen given Perez was the better qualifier, and that the Dutchman still finished with more points than his championship rival.

Leclerc on the other hand would find it a hard pill to swallow losing the lead of the race and not being able to do anything with the pace in hand.


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