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.