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Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Strategy Report

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Formula Legend Strategy Report – Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2015
Round 19 – 44 Laps – 5.554km per lap – 305.355km race distance – medium tyre wear
Abu Dhabi GP F1 Strategy Report Podcast coming soon – featuring Paul Velasco from Grand Prix 247 live from Dubai.
The F1 2015 season concluded last weekend at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi. The race on Sunday was a mixed bag, with Nico Rosberg taking a clear win from Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton at the front of the field and some entertaining battles further back.

With no championships to be settled, it was a more low-key finale to what has been a strange season. There were plenty of interesting strategy calls during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, here are some of the main stories:

Kvyat stops early

Stuck in the midfield pack, Red Bull opted to stop Daniil Kvyat early on lap five, in order to try and get the undercut on those around him. This was despite the super-softs holding on well for most of the grid, with the majority stopping a few laps later.

He moved onto the option Pirelli compound, which was seen to be the best race tyre following practice and qualifying. The gap between the two tyres was around 1.3 seconds, a big difference compared to previous races, but wear, degradation and graining rates were fairly low.

Kvyat was battling Valtteri Bottas at the time over ninth, but the early stop didn’t give him the advantage Red Bull might have hoped for. He actually lost a position once the first round of trips to pit lane had been completed and the early stop meant two long stints to complete the race.

So, in the end, Red Bull’s risky strategy call to stop earlier than most didn’t pay off. He failed to make much progress after that, struggling to pass on the straights, and finished 10th.

Hamilton tries something different

There has been a lot of discussion surrounding Hamilton’s strategy, which failed to pay off and saw him finish 11 seconds behind his team-mate Rosberg in second place. He pitted for the first time on lap 11, with Mercedes once again going longer than most on the super-soft tyre.

He stopped one lap after Rosberg, causing him to lose slightly more time. He then embarked on a very long middle stint on the soft tyre, which held up well. The British driver managed 30 laps in total, close to the longest time spent on the prime compound, and he stopped 10 laps after Rosberg.

While the race leader went for a more straight-forward strategy, once Hamilton continued for a few laps, I thought he was going for a final stint on the super-soft, to mount a challenge on Rosberg and try to take the lead of the race in the final laps.

He requested over team radio trying to make it to the end on a one-stop, but Mercedes stressed it would be impossible. At the time he was leading but as he edged closer to his eventual pit stop, Rosberg started to rapidly close in on him. He eventually had to stop on lap 41 but instead, strangely, he went onto another set of softs.

This was, in my view, an unusual decision. It was clear the super-softs were working well in the cooler night conditions and would last the distance, as well as giving him more of a pace advantage. It would have meant Hamilton closed in on Rosberg much faster than he did on fresh softs, but that was not the case.

In the end Hamilton closed in but then lost time in traffic and appeared to back off. Mercedes said they gave him all the options to try and fight Rosberg for the win but it proved to backfire. A missed opportunity, perhaps?

On the super-soft

Sebastian Vettel and Romain Grosjean were the only drivers in the top 10 to finish the race on the option Pirelli tyre and it worked well for them both. The Ferrari driver’s first and second stints were long on the softs and his strong pace, which was far from surprising, helped him move up the order after his disastrous qualifying.

The German was running fifth after his final stop but the super-soft tyre helped him quickly catch Sergio Perez. He passed the Force India and pulled out a gap, sometimes being the fastest car on track. It was a good recovery from the four-time world champion.

Grosjean was able to use the super-soft tyre well in the closing stages to make passes and move up to ninth, ending his final race with Lotus in the top 10. His pace throughout was good enough to make progress and his opening stint on the softs was particularly impressive.

Starting on the softs

Vettel, Grosjean, Marcus Ericsson and the two Manor drivers started on the prime tyre. For the first two, it worked well, with good pace and little drop-off in performance meaning it helped their races massively. They were able to make progress and move up the field.

However, for Ericsson, it didn’t work as well. The Sauber used up its tyres quicker than the others and he also struggled with faster cars passing him, which lost him more time. The Manors were on different strategies, impressively Roberto Merhi managed 28 laps on the super-soft to end the race.

Jack Leslie @JackLeslieF1

Longest Stints

Soft: Hulkenberg (31 laps)
Supersoft: Merhi (28 laps)

Most Stops

VERSTAPPEN, NASR (3 – including drive through enalties)

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SCSafety Car
Redbull3. Ricciardo
Start P5
SupersoftQual + 6 lapsPit 21.949
Soft20 lapsPit 22.118
Soft29 laps
Finished P6 (-1)
Ferrari5. Vettel
Start P15
Soft23 lapsPit 21.795
Soft16 lapsPit 21.628
Supersoft16 laps
Finished P4 (+11)
Merc6. Rosberg
Start P1
SupersoftQual + 10 lapsPit 21.637
Soft21 lapsPit 21.580
Soft24 laps
Finish P1 (-)
Ferrari7. Raikkonen
Start P3
SupersoftQual + 10 lapsPit 22.162
Soft22 lapsPit 25.613
Soft23 laps
Finished P3 (-)
Redbull8. Grosjean
Start P18
Soft23 lapsPit 22.203
Soft20 lapsPit 22.234
Supersoft12 laps
Finished P9 (+9)
Sauber9. Ericsson
Start P17
Soft15 lapsPit 22.838
Soft26 lapsPit 22.200
Supersoft13 laps
Finished P14 (+3)
FI11. Perez
Start P4
SupersoftQual + 6 lapsPit 21.922
Soft21 lapsPit 22.116
Soft28 laps
Finished P5 (-1)
Sauber12. Nasr
Start P14
Used Supersoft4 lapsPit 28.407
Soft22 lapPit 22.806
Soft18 lapsPit 22.086
Finished P15 (-1)
Redbull13. Maldonado
Start P13
Soft1 lap
Retired Lap 1 (DNF)
Redbull14. Alonso
Start P16
Supersoft1 lapPit 44.990
Soft16 lapsPit 22.246
Soft30 lapsPit 22.377
Supersoft6 laps
Finished P17 (-1)
Williams19. Massa
Start P8
SupersoftQual + 6 lapsPit 22.851
Soft20 lapsPit 22.710
Soft29 laps
Finished P8 (-)
McLaren22. Button
Start P12
Supersoft8 lapsPit 23.722
Soft19 lapsPit 22.310
Soft27 laps
Finished P12 (-)
Redbull26. Kvyat
Start P9
SupersoftQual + 5 lapsPit 21.868
Soft20 lapsPit 21.634
Soft30 laps
Finished P10 (-1)
FI27. Hulkenberg
Start P7
SupersoftQual + 7 lapsPit 22.045
Soft17 lapsPit 22.174
Soft31 laps
Finished P7 (-)
Redbull28. Stevens
Start P19
Soft23 lapPit 22.913
Supersoft10 lapPit 22.854
Soft20 lap
Finished P18 (+1)
Toro33. Verstappen
Start P11
Supersoft8 lapsPit 22.309
Soft12 lapsPit 22.457
Soft18 lapsPit 22.355
Used Supersoft16 laps
Finished P16 (-5)
Merc44. Hamilton
Start P2
SupersoftQual + 11 lapsPit 21.346
Soft30 lapsPit 21.392
Soft14 laps
Finished P2 (-)
Toro55. Sainz
Start P10
SupersoftQual + 7 lapsPit 25.307
Soft21 lapsPit 22.063
Soft28 laps
Finished P11 (-1)
Redbull77. Bottas
Start P6
SupersoftQual + 8 lapPit 24.485
Soft1 lapsPit 28.622
Soft20 lapsPit 29.592
Used Soft25 laps
Finished P13 (-7)
Redbull98. Merhi
Start Pit Lane (20th)
Soft24 lapsPit 24.314
Supersoft28 laps
Finished P19 (+1)

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