Bahrain GP: Tyre and Pit Stop Strategy
A fairly straight forward win for Sebastian Vettel saw all the interesting stuff happening behind him – sound familiar? Adopting the favoured strategy of three stops for hard tyres after starting out on the medium compound, it was interesting to note that the next four finishers all deviated from this approach…
Kimi Raikkonen’s run to second was by way of a controlled drive of just two stops as the Lotus driver stayed out on his initial stint on the medium tyres for an impressive 16 laps. Force India’s Paul di Resta followed suit to nearly clinch the final podium spot but was pipped at the end by Romain Grosjean. Raikkonen’s underfire team mate made the most gains of the day, 8 places from his grid position, in a race of two halves – the first two stints on the hard before switching to the pacier mediums for the last two, a decision which allowed him to chase and pass di Resta. Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton went the opposite way around – two stints on the options before finishing with two stops for the prime compound on the way to fifth.
That said, despite the mix of strategic approaches, the finishing order owed plenty to the more routine blend of misfortune, unreliability and careless driving.
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So what to make of Pirelli’s decision to supply their medium compound after originally scheduling the soft tyre as partner to the hard tyre? It was certainly a contentious move, with some thinking it would favour particular teams, but in the end it probably proved justified given the mix of strategies it resulted in. Three-stops as the norm was a sensible target, suggesting that Pirelli may have originally overestimated the suitability of the current soft tyre for Bahrain. Moreover, Lotus and Force India probably gained from the switch by being able to make one less pit stop – an option denied them in Malaysia where the soft tyre suffered so badly.