|Formula Legend Strategy Report – Russian Grand Prix 2016|
|Round 4 – 53 Laps – 5.848km per lap – 309.745km race distance – very low tyre wear|
|Russian GP F1 Strategy Report Podcast – featuring Luke Smith from NBC Sports|
F1 returned to Russia and the Sochi Autodrom for the fourth round of the 2016 season. The unusual track produced an interesting race, one that started off with major drama but fizzled out as the chequered flag closed in. It threw up some interesting strategy calls, here are some of the main headlines from the Russian GP.
Red Bull tries the mediums
The medium Pirelli tyre was used for just four stints in total during the Russian Grand Prix. The compound was the most durable of the three brought to Sochi but the smooth track surface and cooler temperatures meant drivers struggled to get it up to temperature all weekend.
Through practice, it was clear the medium tyre wasn’t going to get much use in the race. But Red Bull tried it out anyway, with Daniel Ricciardo completing his second stint on the white-marked compound and Daniil Kvyat completing a huge 51-lap stint on it to end the race.
The team seemingly made the move in a bid to progress up the order by staying out longer, following the early pit stops for both drivers. But it failed to work out particularly well for both drivers. Ricciardo switched to the softs but Kvyat made it to the end. Esteban Gutierrez completed two stints on used mediums but also struggled to get the lap times from the tyre.
Why no ultra soft?
We’ve seen at the previous two F1 races in Russia that drivers have struggled with tyre temperatures, getting lap times out of the harder compounds and warming them up. We’ve also seen plenty of one stop strategies. But Pirelli still opted for the medium compound alongside the soft and super-soft.
What we witnessed on Sunday in Sochi was the majority of the field completing just one trip to the pits due to the durability of the tyres. Drivers found a lack of grip due to the smooth track surface. Pirelli claimed the new purple-marked ultra soft would be brought to street tracks. Well Sochi falls under that banner, why did we not see the compound debut in Russia? It would have thrown up some more strategy calls and stops, possibly producing more interesting on-track action as a result.
Kimi stays out
Ferrari used its performance edge to leapfrog Valtteri Bottas at the pit stops with Kimi Raikkonen. The Finn was quicker but struggled to match the Williams on the straights. The Ferrari had been able to get plenty of laps out of the super-softs, especially compared to his rivals, and he used this well by “overcutting” Bottas.
He stayed out four laps longer and emerged ahead of his countryman after his one and only stop, despite a slightly sluggish getaway from his box and a brilliantly quick tyre change from Williams. This freed him up to close on Lewis Hamilton late in the race, while Bottas faded in the closing stages.
Force India go long
Sergio Perez is known for keeping his tyres in good shape but even he couldn’t complete a super long stint on the soft compound, like many expected him to do. Some thought Force India was trying to go to the end on the set but they were scrubbed and he had stopped at the end of lap one, following a puncture, so it seems unlikely he could have reached the chequered flag anyway. He stopped for a second time on lap 27.
Sauber mixes things up
The strategy options of the two Sauber drivers was something very interesting. Marcus Ericsson pitted on the opening lap due to damage and, having started on the softs, went onto the super-soft. He managed a surprising 27 laps on the tyre before switching to another set for a similarly long final stint. It was impressive but failed to really put him in contention for points. Nasr stopped on lap 12 and moved from the option to the middle compound, making it to the end with a 40-lap stint.
One stop for most
The durable tyre compounds meant many drivers completed just one stop. Felipe Massa was the highest placed driver on a two-stop, having pitted late on for the super-softs, while the majority of those who did pit again was because they were forced to stop at the end of lap one for repairs after getting caught up in the chaos at the second and third corners.
Race winner Nico Rosberg had a relatively simple strategy. As he was untroubled at the front for most of the race, he was able to eke out his stints, with 21 laps on the super-soft and 32 laps on the soft tyre.
Jack Leslie @JackLeslieF1
Medium: Kvyat (51 laps)
Kvyat, Gutierrez, Perez, Ericsson, Ricciardo, Wehrlein, Massa (2 – including drive-throughs)
All the Data
Thanks to Pirelli Motorsport for the detailed infographics