Brought to you by technical analyst Tourdog
It has been a long season, but we have finally arrived near the end. I say near, because the FIA has announced that they still need to break the seals on Hamilton and Vettels old Power Units to make sure there was no funny business, but seriously – will there be any issues?
I will be writing up a series of article in the coming weeks summarising much of what we have learned from the data this year, but for now we’ll stick with Abu Dhabi. This week I have included both Mercedes, both Ferrari’s, Perez, and Alonso.
Not unexpectedly, the Mercedes walked away with the win and another 1-2 in Abu Dhabi but with all the talk of possible split strategies after the Brazilian GP, we were all hoping for a battle between the Merc’s. But as usual, it was not to be. Nico pulled away from Hamilton at the start with little effort. They both ran the Super Soft’s for as few laps as possible – Nico 10 laps, and Hamilton 11. After the first pit stop however, things took an unusual turn. Nico ran the Soft tyres for stint 2, up through lap 31. Lewis however kept his Soft tyres well beyond that until lap 41. Both drivers again changed to the Soft for their final stint.
Lewis had been offered a longer second stint as an option in Mexico, though in the end he and the team decided against this strategy.
Again, Lewis again made waves over the radio, openly questioning the strategy the team were offering to him. It appears that Lewis was attempting to get his 2nd stint Softs to go far enough that he could change to the SuperSoft, and then launch an attack on Nico. This never happened, as Mercedes made it clear to Hamilton, that the soft tyre was the right call for stint 3.
The question is, could Hamilton have made it through a final 14 laps on the super soft tyre?
Over the first stint on the Super soft tyre, Nico was 0.5 sec a lap faster than Lewis and for the first part of the second stint on the harder soft compound Nico was 0.278 sec a lap slower than Lewis.
Rosberg then pitted on lap 31, but Lewis stayed out for another 9 laps before pitting for the same tyre as Rosberg was running. During that segment of the race, Nico on his brand new soft’s was 1.2 seconds faster than Lewis on his ageing prime tyre. Check out the chart and its clear that Lewis’s lap times start to fall off the pace around lap 35.
Hamilton eventually pitted for a change of tyres, but not before questioning whether he could run to the end of the race with a stop less than his team mate. In the Final stint, Lewis was 0.33 sec a lap faster than Nico on identical rubber but 9 laps fresher than Rosberg’s.
But by the time Lewis came out of the pits on lap 42, he was about 13 seconds behind Nico and on the same harder tyre compound as his team mate. The question is, had Hamilton been given the super soft compound which had a quicker lap time delta of around 1.5 seconds over the compound Rosberg was running – with the lighter fuel load would Lewis have caught and passed Rosberg?
Nico’s tyres were already 10 laps older than Hamilton’s so with 13 laps to go had Mercedes given Lewis the faster supersoft tyre, Hamilton would surely have caught Rosberg. Add to this that Rosberg was running an ageing #2 ICE, which already had over 3600 Km on it, so the high speed engine modes available to Nico would have been limited.
So could it be that because Mercedes reliability issues in 2015 cost Rosberg a net 38 points to Hamilton, so the team decided it was payback time for Nico?
More interesting than the Lewis-Nico battle however, was Kimi Raikkonen’s pace. It has generally been assumed by most, that the Ferrari has been better than the Merc on the super soft tyre, with Sebastian’s 3 wins presented as evidence of this. Kimi demonstrated in Abu Dhabi that this theory does not hold water. Much like everyone else, Kimi got rid of the super soft tyre as soon as possible, and ran the Soft for most of the race. His pitstops almost perfectly mirrored Rosberg, which gives us a very clear comparison of the two cars.
In the first stint on the super soft tyres, Nico was 1.0 sec a lap faster than Kimi, but once both changed to the Soft, that gap was nearly erased. In the second stint, Kimi was only 0.072 sec a lap slower than Rosberg.
In the third stint, Kimi was only 0.029 sec a lap slower.
This is as close as Ferrari has come all year to matching the pace of the Mercedes when both are were running without issue. Add in the fact that Vettel blew through the pack, passing 11 cars to finish in 4th place finish, should give Mercedes some pause over the Winter break.
For the sake of comparisons, the table includes Fernando Alonso. He was begging to retire about mid way through the race because he felt there was no point in continuing. The team disagreed so Alonso soldiered on and this gives us a great data point.
On lap 47 Fernando pit for super soft rubber, no doubt in an effort to steal the fastest lap of the race. Unfortunately he was unable to accomplish this. The first full lap after his pit, he laid down a 1:44.954. He then took 2 laps to recharge his batteries, and made another attempt on lap 52 (lap 54 for the leaders). He got closer this time, with a 1:44.796, but it still fell short of the mark. If we assume Fernando was giving it his all, then McLaren are still very much short of the mark.
Sebastian Vettel on older harder compounds put in no less than 3 laps that were faster, on laps 46, 48 and 49, though Fernando can say he was fastest over a single lap once in the race.
Enjoy the graphs, more fun numbers to come.
A teaser: Can you guess who used the most gearboxes this year without looking at the table?
Hint, It’s not Pastor.
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