F1 Strategy Report Monaco Grand Prix 2016
Race 6 – 78 Laps – 3.337km per lap – 260.286km race distance – very low tyre wear
Monaco is the most prestigious, glamorous and unique event on the Formula 1 calendar and the challenging street track produced another thrilling grand prix on Sunday. The race featured so many different elements and incidents, but Lewis Hamilton emerged from it all to claim his first win of 2016.
Strategy once again played a crucial part in the race. Conditions were ideal for producing a stunning spectacle, starting in very wet conditions but gradually drying out as things progressed. Here are all of the main strategy stories from the 2016 Monaco Grand Prix:
Red Bull takes a risk
Many were expecting rain at some point on Sunday but Red Bull Racing still opted to take a risk in qualifying and attempt to get Daniel Ricciardo through to Q3 on the super-soft tyre, meaning he would start on that compound if things remained dry.
Red Bull left it late fitting the red-marked tyre to his car in Q2, meaning no one was able to copy that strategy, but it proved to work and Ricciardo easily progressed through to the top 10 shoot-out. Obviously the rain arrived in time for the race start, making the decision redundant, but what could have happened if things were dry?
It is hard to really predict how the race could have panned out. A two-stop race was theoretically fastest but traffic problems would have cost drivers time, so a one-stop was always going to be the preferred option.
The super-soft tyre showed good performance and durability during practice, as the middle compound of the three taken to Monaco by Pirelli. Running a longer first stint if things had remained dry, having started from pole position, would have helped Ricciardo stay out of traffic and given him an advantage when the ultra-softs started to go off.
With Monaco being so difficult to overtake on as well, it could have helped him stay out front for longer. But then, if he had lost a few positions early on while others were on ultra-softs and then gone to the new purple-marked compound for his final stint, he could have struggled to get past the cars on the slower tyres.
Vettel makes an early move
Kevin Magnussen was the first to move onto the intermediate tyres early on in the race, just as his team-mate crashed. Sebastian Vettel was the first front-runner to make the switch and initially times were quite comparable, but the inters soon found more grip and speed.
The problem was, the early stoppers found themselves in slower traffic and that severely impacted their races – Vettel got stuck behind Felipe Massa, Jenson Button struggled to get past Pascal Werhlein. So Rosberg and leader Ricciardo actually benefitted in that respect, with their late stops, saving them from losing ground.
Mercedes keep Hamilton out
This was quite a brave decision. The move over from intermediates to dry tyres is a very tricky one to get right and going too early, especially in Monaco, can prove costly. But when Marcus Ericsson and a few other drivers dived into the pits and moved onto slicks, their times soon proved it was the right moment.
Mercedes took a risk keeping Hamilton out for so long on the full wets but the degradation of the tyres and wear of the grooves meant he was able to keep up a decent pace. Ricciardo soon caught up to the W07 but of course, then Mercedes rolled the dice and pitted him for dry tyres. Hamilton undercut Riccardo slightly but he went off on his out-lap, which cost him time.
Fortunately for Hamilton, Red Bull were not ready with Ricciardo’s super-soft tyres and so he ended up emerging behind the Mercedes. Had that not been the case, the small off would have been a big help to Ricciardo snatching the lead back. It was interesting to see so many drivers going for different compounds and that was also the case at the front.
Hamilton went for the ultra-softs, which had more performance but were not as durable and he struggled initially in the cooler conditions. Ricciardo was on the super-softs and they were less of a risk for getting to the end, but he was stuck behind Hamilton and took a lot out of them before the Silver Arrows’ tyres found the sweet spot late on.
Low tyre wear all round
As always in Monaco, tyre wear was very low and this would have likely saw a one-stop race had things remained dry. Hamilton still went for that strategy due to Mercedes’ risk keeping him out but wear on the full wets and the ultra-softs was impressive, with 31 and 37 laps respectively on each.
Across the board, most of the drivers were able to get long stints out of their wet, inter and slick tyres. The soft compound proved to be strong initially for those who switched to it from inters and it held up well, but the ultra-soft and super-soft-shod cars had the advantage once the temperatures rose and the tyres rubbered in.
Hamilton soldiered on with his tyres in the final laps but Ricciardo struggled even more, probably from his early attacking laps in the stints and being stuck behind the Mercedes for so long. The slow pitstop cost him dearly and had it not happened, he would have likely gone on to take victory, especially as he looked to have far superior pace early on in the dry part of the race.
Hardest tyre gets some use
Unlike previous rounds, the hardest tyre in the range – the soft – got some use during the race and held up well pace-wise against the ultra-soft and super-soft, helped by the conditions, temperatures and the track evolution. Sergio Perez went for the alternative strategy and did a great job to finish third, with Vettel and Nico Hulkenberg also doing the same and performing well in the final laps. The latter was even able to nab sixth from Rosberg on the line.
Jack Leslie @JackLeslieF1
Soft: Perez (48 laps)
Supersoft: Button (47 laps)
Ultrasoft: Rosberg, Hamilton (47 laps)
Intermediate: Nasr (24 laps)
Wet: Wehrlein, Hamilton (31 laps)
Magnussen, Haryanto, Nasr, Bottas, Ericsson (3 – including drive-throughs)
All the Data
Thanks to Pirelli Motorsport for the detailed infographics
Stints by Driver