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Formula Legend Strategy Report – Chinese Grand Prix 2016
Round 3 – 56 Laps – 5.451km per lap – 305.066km race distance – high tyre wear
Chinese GP F1 Strategy Report Podcast – featuring Trent Price

It’s becoming a trend, isn’t it? Being treated to these exciting, action-packed 2016 F1 races. The Chinese Grand Prix was full of drama and talking points, with the new tyre regulations for the season continuing to produce plenty of strategy.

We saw plenty of incidents, a wide range of strategy choices and a mixed up order for the majority of the Chinese GP. It was another great race, won by Nico Rosberg, who joins a rather exclusive club after winning his sixth consecutive race – something only Michael Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel and Alberto Ascari have also done. Here are the main strategy stories from round three of the 2016 season:

Rosberg does something different

The race winner went for a very different strategy, which was all set up during qualifying. Rosberg was third fastest on the soft Pirelli tyre in Q2, easily making it through to the top 10 shoot-out. With drivers in Q3 starting on the tyres they completed their fastest lap on in the second segment, Rosberg lined up on the grid on the yellow-marked soft compound.

The Mercedes had ran well on the soft tyre in practice and high tyre degradation meant the mid-range tyre from the nominations was far stronger than the super-soft, with good speed and durability. That meant Rosberg was able to pit just twice, staying out during the safety car, before taking another set of softs and ending the race on the mediums.

It worked well and his controlled drive meant he was able to finish almost 40 seconds clear of his nearest challenger, which certainly took the pressure off Mercedes and meant Rosberg was able to keep his tyres in good shape.

Medium frequently used

The medium Pirelli tyre was widely used during the Chinese GP, thanks to its durability at the Shanghai International Circuit. Teams suffered high tyre degradation during practice and that meant the super-soft compound was ill-suited to the track and conditions.

The soft and medium tyres were used far more frequently. The former was expected to be the most popular and that proved to be the case, with a lot of shorter stints, but the white-marked medium got a fair amount of use as some drivers went for long final parts of the race on the hardest compound. A few drivers, like Marcus Ericsson and Fernando Alonso, even used it for two stints.

Three-stop the way to go

In total, 15 drivers completed three pit stops during the Chinese GP. It was the most frequently used strategy due to the high tyre degradation at the Shanghai track and this opened up a lot of options for compound use. The most common were starting on the super-softs, then completing two soft-tyre stints and then ending the race on the medium compound.

But there were a lot of different variations. Rosberg was able to go a different route and stop twice due to starting on the softs and staying out during the safety car. Most of the field actually pitted during the brief pause for the first lap incidents, causing a very busy pitlane, but the few that did stay out managed to make it on only two stops.

Early chaos prompts more stops

Several drivers had to stop more times than they anticipated due to early incidents and problems. Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen collided and the Finnish driver spun into Daniil Kvyat’s Red Bull, causing him to lose his nose. The Ferrari pitted at the end of lap one, as did Romain Grosjean and Felipe Nasr, who also picked up damage.

Lewis Hamilton started from the back after an ERS issue in qualifying and he was hit by Nasr at Turn 1, causing him to also follow them in. He also stopped twice under the safety car to get the super-soft compound out of the way. Nico Hulkenberg had to drive through the pits after a penalty which complicated his strategy.

The new Pirelli rules with three tyre compounds nominated has produced some great racing. Drivers battle while out of position and on different Pirelli tyres. Most of them have all three compounds available for the race which sparks plenty of strategy options. It’s great for us, but some teams get things wrong. McLaren tried a two-stop with Jenson Button but he couldn’t make two final stints on the medium compound work and had to pit again for the super-softs.

Recovery drives, how’d they do it?

We saw some amazing recovery performances during the Chinese GP after incidents and problems. Vettel dropped to eighth after the opening lap chaos but the Ferrari’s pace and a strong three-stop strategy with two stints on the super-soft helped him move up to second place.

Daniel Ricciardo picked up a puncture while leading on lap three. His second place in qualifying proved the RB12 had pace and he was able to move rapidly up the field with a three-stop race, with two stints on the soft tyre. It was an aggressive drive but he did well to rise up to fourth by the flag.

Raikkonen stopped on lap one for repairs and went onto the soft compound. A long stint on the hard tyre helped him displace slower cars while still being on the most durable compound and helped him to stop just three times, unlike Hamilton.

The two ran together for a while after their early woes. Hamilton stopped five times in total, twice under the safety car, and completed several short stints on the soft compound. He went onto the medium tyre for the final part of the race but the long stint caused his recovery to lose spark late on. He finished seventh, two spots behind Raikkonen.

Jack Leslie @JackLeslieF1

Longest Stints

Medium: Perez (28 laps)
Soft: Vettel (21 laps)
Supersoft: Vettel (13 laps)

Most Stops

Grojean, Hulkenberg (4 – including drive-throughs)

All the Data

Thanks to Pirelli Motorsport for the detailed infographics


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Stints by Driver

SCSafety Car
-

 

Redbull3. Ricciardo
Start P2
Used Supersoft 3 laps Pit 24.392
Soft 19 laps Pit 22.461
Soft 18 laps Pit 22.426
Medium 37 laps -
Finished P4 (+2)

 

Ferrari5. Vettel
Start P4
Used Supersoft 4 laps Pit 30.115
Supersoft 13 laps Pit 22.276
Soft 18 laps Pit 22.35
Soft 21 laps -
Finished P2

 

Merc6. Rosberg
Start P1
Used Soft 20 laps Pit 22.831
Soft 16 laps Pit 23.559
Medium 20 laps -
Finish P1 (+0)

 

Ferrari7. Raikkonen
Start P3
Used Supersoft 1 laps Pit 31.134
Soft 14 laps Pit 23.296
Medium 23 laps Pit 22.832
Soft 19 laps -
Finished P2 (+2)

 

Redbull8. Grosjean
Start P14
Soft 1 laps Pit 58.563
Soft 19 laps Pit 24.615
Used Soft 13 laps Pit 23.342.063
Supersoft 11 laps Pit 23.284
Used Supersoft 11 laps -
Finished P19 (-5)

 

Sauber9. Ericsson
Start P15
Soft 4 laps Pit 23.955
Medium 24 laps Pit 23.563
Medium 27 laps -
Finished P16 (-1)

 

FI11. Perez
Start P7
Used Supersoft 4 laps Pit 23.215
Soft 14 laps Pit 22.485
Soft 10 laps Pit 22.351
Medium 28 laps -
Finished P11 (-4)

 

Sauber12. Nasr
Start P16
Soft 1 laps Pit 36.852
Medium 19 lap Pit 23.735
Used Medium 20 laps Pit 25.357
Used Soft 15 laps -
Finished P20 (-4)

 

Merc14. Alonso
Start P11
Soft 16 laps Pit 22.874
Medium 16 laps Pit 22.927
Medium 24 laps -
Finished P12 (-1)

 

Williams19. Massa
Start P10
Soft 19 Laps Pit 22.124
Soft 12 laps Pit 23.349
Medium 25 laps -
Finished P6 (+4)

 

Toro20. Magnussen
Start P17
Supersoft 4 laps Pit 23.158
Soft 16 laps Pit 23.257
Soft 15 laps Pit 22.677
Medium 20 laps -
Finished P17 (+0)
Toro21. Guttierrez
Start P18
Soft 19 laps Pit 23.878
Soft 15 laps Pit 22.963
Supersoft 9 laps Pit 23.07
Supersoft 12 laps -
Finished P14 (+4)

 

McLaren22. Button
Start P12
Supersoft 4 laps Pit 24.072
Medium 23 laps Pit 23.029
Medium 17 laps Pit 22.51
Used Supersoft 12 laps -
Finished P13 (-1)

 

Redbull26. Kvyat
Start P6
Used Supersoft 4 laps Pit 24.084
Soft 15 laps Pit 22.607
Soft 16 laps Pit 22.684
Medium 21 laps -
Finished P3 (+3)

 

FI27. Hulkenberg
Start P13
Used Supersoft 4 lap Pit 27.683
Soft 13 laps Pit 23.867
Soft 9 laps Pit 29.57
Medium 20 laps Pit 22.79
Used Supersoft 9 laps -
Finished P15 (-2)

 

Toro30. Palmer
Start P19
Soft 15 laps Pit 22.799
Supersoft 9 laps Pit 23.28
Soft 14 laps Pit 24.099
Medium 17 laps -
Finished P22 (-3)

 

Toro33. Verstappen
Start P9
Used Supersoft 4 laps Pit 30.034
Soft 16 laps Pit 23.744
Medium 19 laps Pit 23.13
Sof 17 laps -
Finished P8 (+1)

 

Merc44. Hamilton
Start P22
Soft 1 laps Pit 29.322
Soft 4 laps Pit 25.179
Supersoft 1 laps Pit 22.301
Soft 15 laps Pit 22.626
Used Soft 9 laps -
Finished P7 (+15)

 

Toro55. Sainz
Start P8
Used Supersoft 4 laps Pit 25.754
Soft 15 laps Pit 22.832
Soft 14 laps Pit 24.269
Medium 23 laps -
Finished P9 (-1)

 

Redbull77. Bottas
Start P5
Used Supersoft 4 lap Pit 22.682
Soft 17 laps Pit 22.63
Soft 9 laps Pit 22.747
Medium 26 laps -
Finished P10 (-5)

 

Toro88. Haryanto
Start P20
Soft 18 laps Pit 23.183
Soft 10 laps Pit 24.635
Used Soft 12 laps Pit 24.369
Medium 15 laps -
Finished P21 (-1)

 

Toro94. Wehrlein
Start P21
Soft 15 laps Pit 26.969
Soft 12 laps Pit 24.104
Soft 16 laps Pit 24.274
Supersoft 12 laps -
Finished P18 (+3)

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