Hamilton winning with three wheels… but was it necessary

Shake n Bake
4 min readMar 7, 2021

Hi my name is Hugo. I am a third year engineering student with a passion for motorsport. In my blogs I will explore how information systems are utilized in all forms of motorsport and also how sometimes IS are ignored to the detriment of the motorsport team.

No one who is remotely interested in motorsports and Formula One can deny the excitement that a blowout or crash brings to a race especially in the closing stages. This is exactly what F1 fans got at last years Silverstone GP. With Lewis Hamilton and numerous other drivers experiencing tire failures in the closing stages of the race.

In Formula One tire selection and tire management plays a huge role in the pace and handling of a car therefor directly impacting the finishing position of a car. As each of the ten F1 teams are supplied with four identical compounds to choose from for each race day it is up to the teams to build a IS that they can use in order to optimize their cars performance for that particular track on that particular day.

Tire grip for each compound

From a combination of sensors and previously acquired data from practice laps of the track leading up to the race and previous races on the same track the team is able to create a very accurate IS with which they can create a race strategy that will optimize their cars performance allowing the best possible result in the race.

The sensors monitor tire wear, compound degradation, grip levels and tire heat. Tire wear is the rate at which the slick thread of the tire is worn away throughout the race as the thread wears away the strength of the tire reduces. Compound degradation is the manner in which compound of the the tire loses its grip properties. The degradation of the tire will lead to slower lap times and possible lockups or crashes. As the grip level of the tire decline the power the car can put to use without the tires spinning reduces leading to slower laptimes. Tire heat is important as if the tire is to cold it cannot conform to the road and grip levels will be low and if tire temperatures are too high the degradation rates of the tires will increase. All of these sensors data will be used constantly to allow the IS to adapt to the track and driving style it is currently experiencing.

Wear rates of tires with respect to laptimes

This data base of information doesn’t account for changes that may happen to the track between each grand prix. This was exactly what happened in Silverstone last year. The combination of a resurfaced track and soaring temperature rendered previously gathered data useless. This reduced the effectiveness of the IS the teams had at their disposals as they would have to base all their decisions off the data coming back to the pit wall off the cars sensors and the visual condition of the tires.

From the IS that the teams had employed for the race it was clear that tire wear was higher that expected turning what is traditionally a one pitstop track into a two pitstop track. This would add an extra 30 seconds to the cars race time which in F1 will put you completely out of the race. Mercedes with their superior car and IS had decided to stick with the traditional one stop strategy.

F1 pit-stop

With only ten laps to go Hamilton was a minute and a half faster than the next car…. however all was not what it seemed. Hamilton’s tire was starting to show signs of extreme wear and Verstappen had just stopped for new tires and was closing the gap. In the last lap with Verstappen only four corners behind Hamilton’s tire deflated. Lewis limped the car home to take first place by five seconds. This proved to a nail biting finish for all F1 fans

Some critics say that Mercedes pulled off a master piece in race strategy and won the race with one less pitstop than every other team. Which would have been an incredible feat if the blowout had not occurred. However in my opinion Mercedes showed a lack of ability to adapt as they would have won by a larger margin if they had used a two stop strategy. As this strategy caused untold damage to the mechanical components of the car.

In motorsport I feel that it is important to be able to optimize the IS that you have to suit the situation you are in as it seems that it was purely luck and driver talent that won Mercedes this race while Red Bull put on an exemplary show adapting to the IS they could use on the day due to the previous data being redundant.

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