|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
Medium: Perez (28 laps)
Grojean, Hulkenberg (4 – including drive-throughs)
All the Data
Thanks to Pirelli Motorsport for the detailed infographics