F1 Strategy Report USA Grand Prix 2016

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Race 18 – 56 Laps – 5.513km per lap – 308.405km race distance – medium tyre wear

USA GP F1 Strategy Report Podcast – our host Michael Lamonato is joined by Trent Price – F1 journalist.

The Circuit of the Americas once again hosted a fun-filled United States Grand Prix, with Lewis Hamilton going on to claim his fourth victory at the track and fifth in the country.

The British driver has now cut his team-mate Nico Rosberg’s lead in the championship down to 26 points with three rounds remaining. Rosberg finished in second place, with Daniel Ricciardo third for Red Bull.

In a stark contrast to last year, conditions remained dry throughout the weekend. Strategy proved to be crucial in deciding the race result, so let’s take a look at the main headlines from the US GP:

Ferrari takes a different route

We’ve seen it many times before during the 2016 season, but Ferrari seems to like making strange and unusual strategy decisions during races. The team’s drivers looked to be on alternative strategies, but only one car made it to the chequered flag.

Kimi Raikkonen started the race strongly on the super-soft tyre, getting the jump on Max Verstappen and running up in fourth place. He pitted on lap eight to ditch the softest tyre compound, opting for the yellow-marked softs for his second stint.

He fell behind Verstappen and then gradually started to drop off the back of the Red Bulls, into the clutches of his team-mate Sebastian Vettel. Unusually on lap 24 Ferrari pitted him for another set of super-softs, which released Vettel. Were they trying to get Raikkonen out of the way?

After a decent 14-lap stint they pitted him again but there were concerns a wheel nut wasn’t on properly and he stopped just after the pit exit, before bizarrely rolling down the hill, into the pitlane and retiring.

Meanwhile Vettel did a super-soft stint to begin with, before a soft-tyre stint and a fairly short (in comparison to other drivers) section of the race on the mediums. Weirdly, Ferrari pitted him for super-softs with three laps to go.

Maybe it was a precaution or he was really struggling with tyres but he didn’t have anyone around him to challenge his fourth place, with Raikkonen and Verstappen failing to finish. So he ended up a distant fourth.

Ricciardo loses time

Red Bull looked like a decent match for Mercedes, or at least Rosberg. Ricciardo held onto second place early on before his stop to go from super-softs to softs on lap eight, quite early and an aggressive move. He pitted for a second time on lap 25.

But the Virtual Safety Car emerged a few laps later, ironically to clear his team-mate’s stranded car. Mercedes pitted both drivers to go to the end but as Red Bull had just stopped Ricciardo, they decided not to. It proved costly, as Mercedes basically got two free pitstops – one for each driver.

That cemented Rosberg in second place and Hamilton in the lead. It’s possible Ricciardo could’ve challenged if Red Bull had pitted him under VSC as no time would’ve been lost and he would’ve been on equal tyres with the same amount of laps on them.

As it is, he went all the way to the end on the mediums he changed to on lap 25 – an impressive stint, but one that saw him lose some ground late on to finish a slightly lonely third.

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Mix of stops

The VSC and various other reasons, including the first lap contact and a few incidents and punctures, meant we saw a range of two and three-stop strategies during the race. The three compounds (super-soft, soft and mediums) worked well and proved to open up just the right amount of strategy, without making it chaotic.

The top three all pitted just twice, with Red Bull going on a long final stint with Ricciardo and the two Mercedes drivers starting on the softs and going to laps 10 and 11 respectively for Rosberg and Hamilton.

The team put Rosberg on the medium and Hamilton on the soft tyre, but the VSC opened up a chance to stop both and neutralise any shot of seeing how the two different strategies would’ve played out.

All three compounds got a heavy amount of use, the super-soft was probably the most unpopular tyre because the soft and mediums worked so well in the relatively warm conditions – they were able to hold up for a long period of time, while generating good performance.

A few drivers did go for a one-stop though, with Daniil Kvyat, Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr all doing so. It didn’t quite pay off but it was worth the risk, especially for the so far point-less Sauber.

Qualifying plays its part

The rule of the drivers starting on the tyre they set their fastest time on in Q2 shook up the grid once again, with a few drivers at the front of the field (Hamilton, Rosberg and Verstappen) making it through to Q3 on the softs.

The rest started on the super-softs, which gave them a small performance advantage at the start, while a range of other strategies were used – some lower down the field chose the softs to start and a few even went for mediums.

Tyre performance gaps seemed fairly small in Austin though and that meant going for a different compound at the start didn’t cost drivers a huge amount of time, although those on the mediums did struggle initially. Super-softs helped Ricciardo and Raikkonen make up a place each but the early stops cost them a little time.

Jack Leslie @JackLeslieF1

Longest Stints

Medium: Ericsson (38 laps)
Soft: Nasr, Sainz (26 laps)
Supersoft: Vettel, Raikkonen (14 laps)

All the Data

Thanks to Pirelli Motorsport for the detailed infographics
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Stints by Driver

SCSafety Car
Lap 31 (virtual)

 

RedAss-Black-top3. Ricciardo
Start P3
Used Supersoft 8 laps Pit 23.956
Soft 17 laps Pit 23.534
Medium 31 laps
Finished P3 (+0)

 

Stallion-Black-top5. Vettel
Start P6
Used Supersoft 14 laps Pit 24.433
Soft 15 laps Pit 23.812
Medium 24 laps Pit 24.156
Used Supersoft 3 laps
Finished P4 (+2)

 

Mercury-Black-top6. Rosberg
Start P2
Used Soft 10 laps Pit 23.526
Medium 21 laps Pit 24.149
Medium 25 laps
Finished P2 (+0)

 

Stallion-Black-top7. Raikkonen
Start P5
Used Supersoft 8 laps Pit 23.989
Soft 16 laps Pit 23.845
Used Supersoft 14 laps Pit 25.384
Soft 0 laps
Retired L38 (DNF)

 

Hars-Black-top8. Grosjean
Start P17
Supersoft 10 laps Pit 24.523
Soft 17 laps Pit 26.056
Medium 28 laps
Finished P10 (+7)

 

Saucer-Black-top9. Ericsson
Start P16
Soft 17 laps Pit 25.229
Medium 38 laps
Finished P14 (+2)

 

RageR-Black-top11. Perez
Start P11
Supersoft 10 laps Pit 23.35
Medium 17 laps Pit 24.467
Medium 28 laps
Finished P8 (+3)

 

Saucer-Black-top12. Nasr
Start P21
Medium 29 laps Pit 24.244
Soft 26 laps
Finished P15 (+6)

 

McLaren-Black-top14. Alonso
Start P12
Soft 11 laps Pit 23.683
Medium 19 laps Pit 25.3
Medium 26 laps
Finished P5 (+7)

 

Franks-Black-top19. Massa
Start P9
Used Supersoft 11 laps Pit 24.093
Soft 18 laps Pit 23.903
Medium 25 laps Pit 23.464
Used Supersoft 1 laps
Finished P7 (+2)

 

Renboat-Black-top20. Magnussen
Start P18
Soft 13 laps Pit 24.31
Soft 14 laps Pit 24.103
Medium 16 laps Pit 23.898
Supersoft 12 laps
Finished P12 (+6)
Hars-Black-top21. Guttierrez
Start P14
Soft 13 laps Pit 24.47
Soft 3 laps
Retired L16 (DNF)

 

McLaren-Black-top22. Button
Start P19
Supersoft 10 laps Pit 23.613
Medium 18 laps Pit 25.635
Medium 27 laps
Finished P9 (+10)

 

Burro-Black-top26. Kvyat
Start P13
Soft 21 laps Pit 37.837
Medium 34 laps
Finished P11 (+2)

 

RageR-Black-top27. Hulkenberg
Start P7
Used Supersoft 1 laps
Retired L1 (DNF)

 

Renboat-Black-top30. Palmer
Start P15
Soft 15 laps Pit 24.071
Soft 11 laps Pit 24.766
Medium 29 laps
Finished P13 (+2)

 

RedAss-Black-top33. Verstappen
Start P4
9 laps Pit 23.489
17 laps Pit 36.112
2 laps
Retired L28 (DNF)

 

Mercury-Black-top44. Hamilton
Start P1
Used Soft 11 laps Pit 23.601
Soft 20 laps Pit 23.575
Medium 25 laps
Finished P1 (+0)

 

Burro-Black-top55. Sainz
Start P10
Used Supersoft 11 laps Pit 24.778
Soft 19 laps Pit 24.281
Soft 26 laps
Finished P6 (+4)

 

Franks-Black-top77. Bottas
Start P8
User Supersoft 1 laps Pit 27.098
Soft 19 laps Pit 25.222
Medium 35 laps
Finished P16 (-8)

 

Manner-Black-top31. Ocon
Start P22
Medium 17 laps Pit 25.216
Soft 9 laps Pit 27.532
Used Soft 18 laps Pit 24.665
Supersoft 10 laps
Finished P18 (+4)

 

Manner-Black-top94. Wehrlein
Start P20
Soft 13 laps Pit 26.059
Medium 17 laps Pit 25.182
Medium 25 laps
Finished P17 (+3)

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One Comment on “F1 Strategy Report USA Grand Prix 2016

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