Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel claimed his first win of the season after a thrilling battle with his team mate Mark Webber, during which both drivers used three of Pirelli’s compounds – Cinturato Green intermediate, P Zero Orange hard and P Zero White medium – but in a different order.
All the drivers started the race on the Cinturato Green intermediate tyres in light rain. As all the drivers used the intermediate tyre for their first stint, this meant that they were no longer obliged to use both the slick compounds nominated for Malaysia.
The top five drivers all stopped four times, following the wet start, with Lotus driver Romain Grosjean the highestplaced three-stopper in sixth ahead of his team mate Kimi Raikkonen.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery said: “The rain that fell immediately before the start of the race put a new complexion on the strategies, with the teams forced to react to the changing conditions by anticipating the varying levels of grip during the first stint. Once the track had dried, we saw different approaches with the teams using the hard and the medium tyre in different ways. Nonetheless, the leaders ran in extremely close formation, despite adopting diverse tactics, with Mercedes using strategy to initially split the Red Bulls. We experienced high degradation here, but we knew this would be the case due to the extreme nature of this circuit, and the extra performance offered by our softer tyres this year. But we’re only at the second grand prix of the year, and past experience has shown that the teams quickly get on top of the tyres as the season goes on and the cars are developed further. We’ve no doubt that this will be case again this year.”
Fastest times of the day by compound:
Hard Medium Intermediate
First PER 1:39.199 MAS - 1:39.805 WEB - 1:55.795
Second BUT - 1:40.556 VET - 1:40.446 ROS - 1:55.841
Third WEB - 1:40.685 VER - 1:40.492 HAM - 1:56.590
Longest stint of the race:
Hard 22 Raikkonen
Medium 19 Maldonado
Intermediate 8 Rosberg
The winning four-stop strategy proved to be different to the three-stopper that we had predicted. But the rain that fell at the start of the race altered all the strategy predictions, obliging the teams to do an initial stint on wet weather tyres. Having completed his intermediate stint, Vettel moved onto a new set of medium tyres on lap five, followed by a new set of hard tyres on lap 22, another new set of hards on lap 32 and a final set of medium tyres on lap 42.
This was a variation on what we had predicted to be the fastest strategy yesterday: starting on the medium tyre, changing to the hard tyre on lap nine, changing to the hard tyre again on lap 25, with a final stop for the hard tyre on lap 40. Vettel, however, opted for the faster medium for his final stint.