Creating the perfect pit stop strategy saves you valuable time.
Timing, the right tires, adjusting to weather conditions and outplaying your opponents are key elements to come up with the perfect pit stop strategy. And who could give better advice than an actual sim racing pro?
This is why we asked Red Bull’s pro racer Marcel Kiefer for tips and tricks to create the best pit stop strategy in F1 2019. Marcel has been part of the esports racing scene for several years. During his times at Sport Pesa Racing Point, he managed to win the 2019 Silverstone Grand Prix in the F1 Esports World Championship. In March 2020, the German esports racer got signed by Red Bull.
With his experience, expert Marcel knows how to overtake his opponents with a fitting pit stop strategy. So let’s jump right into the interview.
How do you make your pit stop strategy? Which factors does the strategy depend on?
Marcel Kiefer: The strategy in Formula 1 mainly depends on which tire compounds are available because there are five different ones. There are three options for tires for dry tracks: hard, medium and soft. Then there are also two types of tires for rainy weather, intermediates and wet ones. The harder the tires are, the less they degrade and they are also less sensitive to high temperatures.
Temperatures are another important factor you have to include in your strategy. If your tires overheat, you lose grip. Usually, you go from softest to medium, or the opposite strategy – medium to softest.
If you start outside of the top ten, so from from position 11-20, you always get fresh tires which gives you more room for strategy. Then you can chose your tires instead of having to start with the ones you qualified with.
Can you give general tips on when to choose which kind of tires?
Marcel Kiefer: If you start outside of the top ten, it’s usually good to go for the opposite strategy. However, if you start really far from the back, you can also go for the same strategy as the top guys – from softest to medium. Since most of the drivers will probably choose the opposite strategy and start with medium tires, they are slower at the beginning and when getting off the line. So if you start far behind and choose soft tires, you can already make up a few positions.
How do you reduce tire wear?
Marcel Kiefer: Tire wear comes by heat that is produced by your input. For example, if you oversteer, it causes a lot of wear. This is however also a good way to get temperature. If you are driving behind a safety car and your tires are too cold, you can just steer a lot to heat up your front tires. For your back tires, you can try to wheel spin or lock the brakes.
But to actually reduce tire wear, just be really smooth with your input. Stir as little as possible, be as accurate as you can on the brakes, don’t be too aggressive. No matter what, tire wear is your best friend – or rather your worst enemy.
You can lose around one second if you have the wrong tire temperature as you lose grip, even though you only have one percent of tire degradation.
How do you adjust your strategy for different weather?
Marcel Kiefer: If you start on dry compounds you always have to do one mandatory pit stop. If you start immediately in a wet race, you don’t have to stop. Let’s take Brazil as an example. The softest compound lasts quite long, so if it rains towards the last five laps, drive with the soft ones until it starts to rain and then switch to wet or intermediates. So you don’t have to go from soft-medium-wet, you can stay on the soft ones and save one pit stop.
When you start on wet tires, you technically don’t have to pit, even if it dries up. You could complete the full race on one compound. You always have to adapt. You cannot say “this is the wrong or right way”, you have to make it by instinct.
What are some of the most common mistakes that beginners should avoid?
Marcel Kiefer: It is incredibly difficult to judge if you should go for an under- or overcut.
Overcut: Waiting out the pit stop longer than your opponent to try and make up some time. When your opponent pits, you stay out, establish a lead and benefit from not being stuck behind a car. You should build up a large enough lead to still be in front of them once you come out of your own pit.
Undercut: You come in earlier to pit than your opponent to make up time when their tires are at a worse state. Go for fast tires in the pit stop, then go full speed for the next round. The goal is to be ahead of him once he’s done with his pit stop
It’s not easy to find the right strategy. If you go for an undercut, you might lead for a short time but the opponent could counter you with an overcut. So a common mistake is to either pit too early or too late. You have to find the right window. Don’t always focus on gaining the maximum.
Take my latest Pro Exhibition race in Spain as an example which is a rather short race. I was forced to wait out the pit until lap six, even though I wanted to go earlier. If you stay out longer, you usually leave a lot of time at the table. But this was the only option for me without being held back in the pits. So I lost time because I had worse tires, but I gained time because I wasn’t blocked in the pit.
Don’t go for too risky strategies. They can work out, but you can also ruin your race. It’s similar to dynamic weather changes, you always have to judge. You cannot control certain aspects at an undercut or overcut. The only factors you can control are your inmap, the map you will pit, the speed you would carry unto the pit limiter, and your outer. So it’s often a gamble.
It also depends on the track and the tire compounds. For example, on Silverstone when I won last year, I went for the overcut because I knew the tires would last really long. So when people came in, they wouldn’t have the biggest advantage because the gap between the softs and mediums is not too big. I could push with my engine and made up time just by staying out of the pit longer.
How do you adjust your strategy to different circuits?
Marcel Kiefer: You usually get a feel for this when you practice for the race. On tracks like China, the soft ones already die after a few laps because of tire temps and tire degradation. But on Silverstone, you could drive the entire race on soft ones without a pit stop in theory if it was allowed. Usually, the best indication is what the game tells you.
Let’s say you have minor damage on your car. Would you immediately go for a pit stop?
Marcel Kiefer:If it’s just a minor damage, you would usually stay out as long as you can and stick to your normal strategy. If you go for a wing change, you would lose around five seconds extra. It depends on how much time you lose due to the damage.
My best advice: avoid damage at any cost. Keep your nose clean and don’t crash into the back of any cars. Losing one position is better than losing your wing.
Have fun trying out new pit strategies with these tips! Make sure to follow Marcel on Twitter.
All pictures are from the official F1 2019 game
Header image: F1 2019