Italian GP: Tyre and Pit Stop Strategy
Lewis Hamilton won the Italian Grand Prix in dominant fashion, although Jenson Button’s retirement denied McLaren an even better day. Still, Red Bull saw both cars fail to finish so there was little room for complaint. The nearly universal strategy was to one-stop, starting out on the softer, medium-compound although Mercedes two-stopped both drivers to combat excessive tyre wear at little cost. However, Sergio Pérez turned the strategy around, one-stopping but starting the race on Pirelli’s hard tyre. The longer first stint, coupled with a lighter fuel load when fitted with the medium compounds allowed him to surge through the field from 12th to a well-earned second place ahead of the two Ferraris.
Click image to enlarge
The chart below shows the lap times for the two Ferrari drivers and Pérez, with Pérez’s track position illustrated by the dashed line (right-hand axis.) The Sauber driver had already gained a few places and moved up to eighth by the time the first of the drivers ahead of him pitted. Eighth was also were he came out when he eventually pitted on lap 29 having taken over the lead from Hamilton for five laps.
However, having been able to post competitive lap times with the harder tyre compound, the Mexican was now armed with the quicker medium tyres. A place was gained as Sebastian Vettel served his drive-through penalty for pushing Fernando Alonso wide, followed by two more as the Mercedes duo made their second stops, however Kimi Raikkonen was a genuine scalp. With the Mexican now lapping more than a second quicker than the Ferraris, he set off in pursuit. Alonso passed Massa while the Brazilian “preserved his tyres” for the duration of lap 40 but in the space of four laps, Pérez overtook both.
Hamilton was out of reach by this point but it underlined what Sauber might have achieved in Belgium if it hadn’t been for their disastrous opening lap. Pérez capped it off by saving his fastest lap of the race for the last lap, illustrating how well the Sauber had preserved its rubber.