|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.
Welcome to the 2015 Caterham Cup
|Formula Legend Strategy Report – Australian Grand Prix 2015|
|Round 1 – 58 Laps – 5.303km per lap – 307.574 race distance – High fuel consumption|
Seb vs Felipe
One of the biggest strategy stories from the F1 2015 season opener in Australia was Sebastian Vettel and Felipe Massa’s battle for the final podium position. It was the Brazilian who started the race best of the rest behind the two Mercedes drivers, holding onto third place in the opening stint.With reliability proving to be strong for both Williams and Ferrari and pace looking to be close, it was always going to come down to strategy. Fearing an undercut, Massa was brought in on lap 21, switching from the soft to the medium tyre compound. Despite having fresher rubber, Massa found himself stuck behind Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull RB11.
The Australian took to the pit lane one lap later, but it still cost Massa crucial time. Having kept his tyres in good condition throughout the opening stint, Vettel was able to push hard – at times matching the pace of the leading duo – and emerged ahead after his pit stop on lap 24. He remained unchallenged to the chequered flag, finishing 3.6 seconds ahead of Massa by the flag.
The new Pirelli soft and medium tyres proved to be incredibly durable in Melbourne, meaning most of the field pitted just once. The early Safety Car also helped stretch out the opening stint.
Dan vs Felipe
Another battle worth looking at was Felipe Nasr and Daniel Ricciardo’s duel over fifth place, which the Sauber driver eventually won. A storming start saw the Brazilian rise from 10th to fifth into Turn 1, with Ricciardo slotting into sixth.
The RB11 looked to be faster in the first stint, but the Renault power unit’s lack of straight-line speed compared to the Sauber C34’s Ferrari engine meant that, even with DRS, Ricciardo couldn’t find a way through. Because of this, Red Bull opted for the undercut, with Ricciardo pitting to switch to the medium Pirelli compound on lap 23.
Nasr remained out for a little while longer, putting in some quick times and returning from his pit stop on lap 25 still ahead of Ricciardo, although both were behind Kimi Raikkonen, who later retired. Ricciardo entered DRS range several times during the final stint but couldn’t overtake, eventually falling over 10 seconds down on Nasr.
Kimi vs Felipe
With Vettel on a one-stop strategy, Ferrari opted to pit Raikkonen twice, to try and attack the Williams of Massa from different angles. He slipped to eighth on the opening lap after some light contact at Turn 1, before passing Carlos Sainz Jr and closing in on the fighting Nasr and Ricciardo. He couldn’t pass either and pitted on lap 16 for another set of soft tyres.
Despite losing several seconds in his pit box, strong pace on the option compound meant Nasr and Ricciardo both emerged from their stops behind the Finn. It was looking good, until he pitted on lap 40 to make the mandatory switch to the medium Pirelli compound.
The stop looked clean, but it soon became clear that the rear-left had not been properly secured. He pulled off track at Turn 4 and retired from the race, losing out on a top five finish. That left Nico Hulkenberg as the lead runner on the two-stop strategy, finishing seventh. Marcus Ericsson was the only driver to stop three times, with an unscheduled trip to the pits on lap one due to a problem at the start.
The undercut seemingly failed to work at the Albert Park Circuit, and the tyres proved to be extremely durable, with little wear or degradation. Max Verstappen started on the mediums and completed a long first stint, but we failed to see just how successful his strategy could have been, as he retired shortly after his stop.
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