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Otmar Szafnauer (USA) Sahara Force India F1 Chief Operating Officer. Malaysian Grand Prix, Friday 22nd March 2013. Sepang, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Hindsight is often times 20/20 and it seems after contemplating the Canadian Grand Prix strategy call for a week has given Force India time to second guess their tactics. At the time of the closing ceremonies of the race, the team were adamant that they did the right thing. Fair enough.

After thinking about it a day or so, they (Bob Fernley) admitted that they may have to re-think the way they make team strategy int eh future. Fair enough.

After a week of consideration and editorials in the press about sating sponsorship investment and always going for the podium when the opportunity presents itself, team COO Otmar Szafnauer says that in hindsight, they should have swapped the cars and much earlier than they even started discussing it in the race.

“Hindsight is a wonderful thing because you have more information,” he said.

“What I would have done is perhaps swap them earlier – just after the Ferraris pitted. Do it then and it is easy.

“You can get your tyres back up to temperature and there is no risk from behind.

“Then, if it doesn’t happen, you still have time to swap back.

“We didn’t do that, we started discussing it a bit late and then after it was too late.”

To be fair, it’s not the first time Force India has seen a potential podium so I don’t want to beat them up for the call. If you listened to our podcasts from a couple of years ago, you’ll recall that we suggested that Williams needs to start making strategy calls that actually represent their performance and very likelihood of a potential podium, not as a team running mid-field. 

Like Williams back then, I think Force India are a little pleased, if not surprised, to find themselves in that enviable position and perhaps their race strategy hasn’t been including podium scenarios but it should…just like Williams back then. 

It took Williams a few races to say, wait a tick, we’re real contenders and we have hte pace to possible podium in races so we need to re-think our strategy and really try to make the steps of a podium. The good news is, they did make the right adjustment and were rewarded for doing so. I think Force India will as well. 

Let’s be fair to the team, this is a group of folks that are punching above their weight and doing so with an chaotic owner situation with Vijay Mallya. The pressure they’ve endured since 2008 has been immense and I can’t credit Bob Fernley and Ottmar enough for holding this team together and finding the resources and pace to be as competitive as they have been. This team is a real success story in F1 despite the controversy and shenanigans that Mallya has offered with his debt issues in India. 

Autosport has an interesting quote from Mercedes about what they feel Force India should have done and its an interesting read so be sure to check it out. They were tracking the strategy of Force India as well and have some interesting insight too. 

Hat Tip: Autosport

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An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry and as a CTO, he focuses on technology integration in commercial workspace design, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.
  • jakobusvdl

    Interesting to hear a different view out of F.I, also that the strategic discussion was around tyre temperature not around driver sponsor budget. Surprising that Szafnaur concludes he doesn’t think Ocon would have passed Ricciardo, is that F.I still trying to avoid controversy? While saying “Ocon would definitely have passed Ricciardo” would be more supportive of Ocon and F.I’s capabilities, it would reinforce the view that Perez cost F.I a podium.
    The Mercedes strategist alternative is an interesting one, it sounds more like a strategy that would have beneficial to Mercedes than something that would have clearly be the best move for F.I to maximise its opportunities.
    Still I’m happy to see that in all the discussion around F.I situation in Montreal, there have been many more comments supporting the viewpoint that the team should be making the strategic calls to their benefit, not the drivers benefit.
    Yes to team orders, No to diva drivers :-)

    • Formerly Known As

      Vowles says that with Perez as buffer, “It leaves Esteban trying to attack Ricciardo for that P3”. Is an Ocon podium really more beneficial to Mercedes than to Force India? Doubtful.

      I think Vettel would still have finished 4th with his pace anyway. He drove an incredible race. It was the squabbling and the dithering that did the two FI drivers in. I’m sure they now wished they had Vowles in their garage. They could have gotten a podium. It looks like Otmar agrees, as well.

      • jakobusvdl

        The Vowles strategy would have let Ocon have a go at Ricciardo, on fresher tyres,which we would all like to have seen. And would have put Perez on fresher tyres to defend against Raikonnen and Vettel, and possibly have got back in a position to attack Ocon/Ricciardo. Those would have made Vettel’s charge harder.
        You may be right, and Vettel may still have made it through to fourth, but it would have been a different and, I think, more difficult.

        • Formerly Known As

          And as Vowles stated,

          “That would have generated a good opportunity for Force India.”

          I think that it is really absurd to think that Vowles, a top level strategist from one of the most successful F1 teams today, is sitting at his comfy office chair, seething at the fact that Vettel got 4th because it hurt Hamilton’s title bid, as some Hamilton obsessed fan around here, (and I don’t mean you), would like us to believe.

          I’m pretty sure Vowles’ concern in Montreal was the best possible result for his team and that is exactly what he got, a 1 – 2. If he was really worried about Vettel and wanted to stop him from taking 4th, he could have pitted Bottas and have him come out in front of Vettel and let him stop the German from advancing any further. Vowles didn’t because the 1 – 2 means that they maximized their race opportunities. Exactly what a top level strategist would do.

          Vowles is a strategist who was asked a question about strategy. Of course, he would think of the best strategy for whoever team he was asked to devise one for. That is what he does for a living.

          The real question is, did the Ferrari strategist screw up Vettel’s chances of ending up in the podium? I’m sure Mercedes was elated (as opposed to being upset) that the best Ferrari could do was 4th because even some bookies had Seb winning the race. Ferrari really underperformed in Canada by coming in 4th and 7th and consequently losing the championship lead. And some comedian here thinks that Mercedes is still upset that Vettel came 4th. Absurd.

          Although the Hamilton obsessed fan has been trying in a couple of articles to bait you to agree with him about this “push out” as he calls it, I’m glad that you have not taken a bite. You seem like a sensible guy. We all have our favourites and our biases in this sport, but some just take it to extreme levels of fanaticism.

          • Salvu Borg

            A loaded dog, best described as being a scratched record.

          • Formerly Known As

            When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser.

          • Salvu Borg

            repeating the same things, AD NAUSIUM, introvert, chatty kathy or chatterbox, a rambler.

          • Formerly Known As

            Pot. Kettle. Black.

          • Salvu Borg

            I am not black, are you the pot or the kettle?, and “formerly known as” what?.

          • Formerly Known As

            “Mark is too slow! Get him out of the way!’

            “I cannot and will never stomach a driver asking for such things regarding his team mate. ”

            How about them principles? Have you found them yet? Maybe it’s in the sweater that Sebastian knitted for you.

            Comedy gold. 10 years running.

          • Salvu Borg

            Now now what are you blabbering about chatty kathy? I asked two questions!

          • Formerly Known As

            …said the man without principles.

            Gold, I tell you! Gold!

        • Salvu Borg

          The difference would have been an advantage of between 2 and 4 points for number 44. these people can consider themselves very lucky number 5 just missed-out on a podium after their main competition was eliminated at start of race.

          • Formerly Known As

            I sense the disappointment, hence your projection.

            I know you’re still upset that Ferrari, AGAIN, screwed up Vettel’s podium and you must have been doubly disappointed that Vettel didn’t come first or second, as was predicted. You can consider yourself very lucky though that Vettel came 4th. At least, you can keep pretending to celebrate the great result of a just-missed-out-on-a-podium drive.

            And yes, Mercedes was so disappointed that they came home 1st and 2nd and all they could think of was Vettel missing the podium.

            Painful, I know. It’s so funny, it hurts.

          • Salvu Borg

            just a chatterbox repeating the same lines Ad Nausium.

          • Formerly Known As

            Since I have reduced you to a name-calling, insult-hurling, fact and principle free individual, as a courtesy to the owner of this blog, NC, I will stop responding to you in this article because you are just clogging it with nonsensical blabbing as a means to deflect.

            Besides, there’s only room for one buffoon in this article and you are doing such an amazing job at it.

            Catch you in another thread.

  • Salvu Borg

    Yes always interesting to hear different view ‘He doesn’t think Ocon would have passed Ricciardo”, and that was exactly what I told myself during the race when Ocon was “ASKING” his pit wall to tell his team mate to let him through, my first reaction was, what sort of driver will ask his pit wall to tell his team mate to let him through?.
    Who doubts Mercedes intentions re what Force India should have done?. James Vowels would have liked the more experienced of the two Force India drivers to have acted as a “BUFFER” FOR THE FERRARI. (ONLY THAT STAND-UP COMEDIAN THAT COMES PRACTICING ON HERE couldn’t see that most of the dust having been kicked-up was all to do with number five finishing position, a position attained by number five on a do or die mission with a damaged car running on 60 laps old tyres.
    Another view this morning, this one from the editor of a front line formula 1 website “imagine Senna or even Mercedes number 5 being told to move over for their team mate/s?”. “but I watch F1 with my heart switched-on and brain in neutral, thus while things unfolded in Montreal I was flabbergasted by Perez’s obstinacy, the squabble between the pink cars slowed them enough for Vettel to real them in and pass them comfortably to CLAIM FOUTH PLACE”. that is another proof of the real problem in some minds.

    • jakobusvdl

      I can think of a few drivers who have asked to be let past their ‘slower’ team mate, Bottas vs Massa, Verstappen vs Kyvat, Hamilton vs Rosberg, Alonso vs Massa, Alonso vs Raikonnen, and probably a fair few more if we put our minds to it.
      To me that makes sense, in a team environment, why would the ‘quicker’ car degrade their tyres, brakes, overheat the car, and take risks to pass a team mate, when a call to the team should let them through and on their way to start attacking the real opponents.

      • Salvu Borg

        Yes, I certainly haven’t missed them, not a single one, forget some could be, and also yes, there will be more, no doubt.
        Every time that happened/happens my stomach starts churning-up and I shout to myself, “How the f*** DOES A DRIVER (a man) GETS HIMSELF TO ASK SUCH THINGS openly on the radio when racing his team mate?. every driver knows that his pit wall knows exactly, most probably more then he himself what is going on, so unless they decide on that line of action, which is a right of theirs, I cannot and will never stomach a driver asking for such things regarding his team mate.
        Very recently we have seen a driver having to pass his team mate without asking his pit wall, or being instructed too, yes there was risk, plenty of it, if a driver doesn’t want to take risk, he should start knitting on a rocking chair.

        • jakobusvdl

          It sounds like Malta must have a very macho culture.
          I don’t feel that it harms my respect for a driver if he tries to pressure his team into making a decision that might favor him. Most F1 drivers are very confident and assertive, but, they are also very very opportunistic. Thats probably a reason teams need rules of engagement and team orders.

          • Salvu Borg

            A confident and assertive and also opportunistic driver will make a pass, make it stick and not beg his team to order his team mate to let him pass. we have very recently seen such examples both against team mate and others.

          • jakobusvdl

            True, but you’re missing the bit about that meaning the team is using up the capabilities of the car fighting the team mate, not the other teams. Also we’ve seen several incidents where team mates have taken each other out trying assertive but risky moves.
            I feel a monty python quote coming on, are you a devotee of the mighty python?

          • Formerly Known As

            I see the longest running comedy show starring Salvu Borg is still going strong. You even work weekends and holidays.

            I hope you don’t mean Sebastian “Mark is too slow! Get him out of the way!” Vettel.

            Keep the jokes coming.

    • Formerly Known As

      Comedy gold from Salvu Borg. Open weekends and holidays. The longest comedy show on the internet. 10 years running.

      A F1 writer stating a fact that the squabbling pink cars allowed Vettel to reel them in and pass them to claim 4th place just means that the writer actually understood that had they not been bickering, Vettel would only have passed one Force India instead of two because one would probably have passed a Redbull on his way to a podium. And common sense should then tell you that had Ocon passed Ricciardo, Vettel surely had the pace to take the but Redbull for fourth. Vettel still finishes 4th but at least one Force India would have been on the rostrum while the other finishes behind Vettel. But you wouldn’t understand this because your obsession with Hamilton does not allow you to see clearly.

      Once again, with Otto’s statement you twist his words to satisfy your obsession with Hamilton. Clearly when Otto says he doesn’t think Ocon could have passed Ricciardo had they swapped, he is referring to a swap being made after they wasted time discussing a swap. He specifically says “by that time, it’s too late”, and addedd, “I don’t think Ocon would have passed Ricciardo.” However, just to prove your lot wrong, he was very clear in saying that in hindsight they should have swapped their drivers, albeit earlier. This just means one thing, that they now recognize that swapping their drivers was the right thing to do because it would have given them a chance for a podium. Not because it would have helped Lewis’ title chances that only your delusions propagate but because it would have been a great result for the team.

      As per James Vowles comments, he was also clear that Perez should have served as BUFFER, not for Hamilton’s sake, but for his Force India teammate, Ocon. He even says, “It leaves Esteban trying to attack Ricciardo for that P3”. Not “so that Vettel could not claim 4th so that our beloved Hamilton decreases his points disadvantage”. Only a delusional comedian would come to that conclusion.

      So in summary, not once did Otto, Vowles or the writer you cited, mentioned the name Hamilton. Not once.

      Meanwhile in Malta, they pushed out an article about Perez’ refusal to obey team orders. As we all know, Malta is also known as Hamiltontown. Not!!! I guess Malta is kicking up dust because they were upset that Vettel got 4th and held his lead over Hamilton in the championship. Delusional.

      Keep the comedy going. It was quite entertaining especially on Father’s Day!

  • Salvu Borg

    So after all or most of the dust that had been kicked-up started to settle down it turns-up that both Perez and Fernley were correct in stating that no direct team orders were issued regardless of the interpretations of the pit-to-car/car-to-pit radio transcripts. they at Force India left their top driver call the shots as they always did. it now seems that Perez had convinced his pit-wall otherwise to their line of thinking. it was just another day for them.
    When FERRARI pitted Kimi (something which I still cannot fully understand why) they started a chain reaction which both Force India and RBR fell into.