Pirelli report from the Japanese Grand Prix

Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas won the Japanese Grand Prix with a two-stop soft-medium-soft strategy, on a track that was made quite unpredictable due to an enforced day off yesterday following Typhoon Hagibis.

Not only did Saturday’s heavy rain wash away the rubber laid on Friday, but teams also lost a lot of running, with FP3 cancelled and qualifying taking place on Sunday morning.

Nonetheless, the fastest race lap set by the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton broke the lap record established by Kimi Raikkonen that had stood since 2005.

Key Moments

  • The fastest predicted strategy for the 53-lap race was a one-stopper: starting on soft for 24 to 27 laps, then medium to the end. Second-fastest, theoretically, was a two-stopper: two stints on soft of 20 laps each followed by one on medium. The slowest theoretical strategy was again a one-stopper but a different one: starting on soft for 20 to 23 laps, then hard to the end.
  • In practice, degradation proved to be higher than expected, probably due to warmer conditions. This led most drivers to adopt a two-stopper and run an extremely fast race.
  • Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel broke the all-time track record in qualifying today, while Lewis Hamilton broke the 14-year-old race lap record in the race.
  • There was a tense tactical battle from start to finish, with both Ferrari and Mercedes drivers using different tyre strategies.
  • Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc was the only driver to use a three-stop strategy to fight his way back to sixth, after dropping to last following an early nose change.
  • Red Bull’s Alex Albon took his career-best result with fourth, while Mercedes won the 2019 constructors’ championship – for the sixth time in a row.
  • McLaren’s Carlos Sainz was the highest-placed soft-medium one-stopper, finishing fifth at the end: a strategy adopted by a number of other drivers.
  • Weather remained dry, with track temperatures in the region of 39 degrees towards the end of the race, and 26 degrees centigrade ambient.

How Each Tyre Performed

  • HARD C1: Used by seven drivers throughout the race, two of them doing a one-stopper. Although it was not tested extensively on Friday, it was used also for long race stints.
  • MEDIUM C2: Only Haas’s Romain Grosjean didn’t use the medium. This compound was equally useful for both a one-stopper and a two-stopper.
  • SOFT C3: Three of the top four drivers used a soft-medium-soft strategy: the exception being Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who was the only person to go soft-soft-medium. Due to warmer conditions, it showed higher degradation than was expected before the race.

Mario Isola: “On top of all the rearrangements to the schedule following yesterday’s typhoon, which washed the track clean of rubber, the warmer conditions also meant that the teams were dealing with a number of unknown quantities heading into qualifying and the race – both held within a short space of time today.

“It was mainly a question of developing the strategy during the grand prix, with a number of different tactics seen from one to three stops, as competitors reacted to their rivals’ strategies. All three compounds were used during the race, with four different strategies in the top six, a thrilling tactical battle for the runner-up spot, and lap records broken in qualifying and the race.

Congratulations to Mercedes for another well-deserved constructors’ championship victory.”

QUALIFYING TOP 10

DRIVER TIME COMPOUND
Vettel 1m27.064s SOFT C3 NEW
Leclerc 1m27.253s SOFT C3 NEW
Bottas 1m27.293s SOFT C3 NEW
Hamilton 1m27.302s SOFT C3 NEW
Verstappen 1m27.851s SOFT C3 NEW
Albon 1m27.851s SOFT C3 NEW
Sainz 1m28.304s SOFT C3 NEW
Norris 1m28.464s SOFT C3 NEW
Gasly 1m28.836s SOFT C3 NEW
Grosjean 1m29.341s SOFT C3 NEW

BEST TIME BY COMPOUND

HARD MEDIUM SOFT
Norris
1m34.116s
Vettel
1m32.122s
Hamilton
1m30.983s
Grosjean
1m34.988s
Bottas
1m32.137s
Leclerc
1m31.611s
Russell
1m35.458s
Hamilton
1m32.513s
Magnussen
1m31.732s

LONGEST STINT OF THE RACE

COMPOUND DRIVER LAPS
HARD C1 Grosjean 36
MEDIUM C2 Gasly, Stroll 34
SOFT C3 Kvyat 27

PIT STOP SUMMARY

CAR DRIVER START PIT 1 PIT 2 PIT 3
77 BOT C3u C2n (17) C3u (36)
5 VET C3u C3n (16) C2n (31)
44 HAM C3u C2n (21) C3u (42)
23 ALB C3u C2n (15) C3u (34)
55 SAI C3u C2n (26)
16 LEC C3u C2n (3) C3n (25) C3u (46)
3 RIC C2n C3n (29)
10 GAS C3u C2n (18)
11 PER C3n C2n (19) C3n (41)
27 HUL C3n C2n (19)
18 STR C3n C2n (18)
26 KVY C3n C2n (27)
4 NOR C3u C2n (4) C1u (25)
7 RAI C2n C1n (15) C3n (36)
8 GRO C3u C1n (16)
99 GIO C2n C1n (18) C3n (49)
20 MAG C2n C1n (17) C3n (47)
63 RUS C2n C1n (25)
88 KUB C2n C1n (22) C2n (33)
33 VER C3u

C1 = Hard C1 | C2 = Medium C2 | C3 = Soft C3
n = new | u = used