|Formula Legend Strategy Report – Malaysian Grand Prix 2015|
|Round 2 – 56 Laps – 5.543km per lap – 310.408 race distance – High tyre wear|
Seb vs The Mercedes
Strategy played an important role in deciding the winner of last weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix. Eventual victor Sebastian Vettel took the fight to the two Mercedes drivers. He won fair and square, but was helped by completing one less stop and from staying out during the early Safety Car.
With Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg pitting and emerging behind slower cars, Vettel was able to quickly eke out a sizeable advantage. We already knew following Friday’s practice sessions that the SF15-Ts would be closer to Mercedes, but the extremely hot temperatures played to Ferrari’s advantage.
Vettel was able to complete two impressive stints on the medium compound tyre, with both being several laps longer than either of the Mercedes drivers could manage. Because of this, he was able to continue on a two-stop strategy, while Hamilton and Rosberg were both switched to a three due to suffering higher degradation.
It proved to be a relatively easy run to the flag for Vettel, finishing 8.5 seconds clear of Hamilton. Ferrari’s decision to not pit during the Safety Car was undoubtedly the right one and the conditions helped the team gain performance. The four-time world champion was able to push the tyres more without losing much speed, and was able to keep up a good pace even towards the end of stints.
Mercedes acknowledged after the race that the early first stop under the Safety Car cost them time and positions. Both were forced to make their way past slower cars, and Rosberg lost six seconds during the stop thanks to the team double-stacking the two cars. Mercedes thought the prime tyre would be better suited to the race, meaning Hamilton and Rosberg used up an extra set during qualifying and the former was fitted the hard compound for his final stint. It proved to not be the case.
There’s Something About Kimi
Kimi Raikkonen finished a distant fourth, but recovered well following an early puncture. Like Vettel, he showed impressive pace throughout the 56-lap event, but the contact with Felipe Nasr on lap two put pay to his hopes of a podium. He was battling with the Sauber after qualifying only 11th, having failed to set a good banker lap before the rain hit in Q2. The Safety Car really helped Raikkonen, bunching up the field and enabling him to close the gap to the leading three.
However, he wasn’t on the back of the pack when the race resumed, and had to complete plenty of overtakes to make his way up the order. He pitted two further times and, if you ignore his early stop for repairs, mirrored Vettel’s strategy. This enabled him to quickly make progress and he spent most of his second and final stints in fourth, albeit some distance away from the podium finishers. However, it makes you wonder what could have been possible if he hadn’t been hit on the second lap.
It was a case of hero to zero for Nasr, following his spectacular debut in Australia. The Brazilian finished down in 12th place after a dismal Malaysian Grand Prix. Sauber knew ahead of qualifying that it would be a more difficult weekend, and Nasr struggled more than most during practice to find a set-up. This wasn’t helped by missing FP1 in order for the Swiss outfit’s reserve driver Raffaele Marciello to have some track time.
The contact with Raikkonen damaged his front wing, and he was forced to pit at the end of the following tour for repairs. That put him at the back of the field and despite the Safety Car bunching up the field; he didn’t have the speed to make much progress. Two unusually short stints on the hard tyre mid-way through the race meant he stopped four times in total.