Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery has said that the Japanese Grand Prix was always going to be close, largely due to the small difference between the two and three-stop strategies.
It would have arguably been much closer had Mark Webber managed to pass Romain Grosjean earlier than lap 51. Because of this, Vettel was handed a clear victory.
As they predicted, the majority of drivers completed a two-stop race but degradation did prove to be an issue for some. Suzuka is light on tyre wear due to the low traction demands but degradation was the limiting factor during the race.
Explaining the two strategies available to the teams he said: “This was always going to be a very close race, with little difference in lap times between the two nominated compounds. As a result we saw varied approaches to strategy, with both the medium and the hard tyre being used at different points for the second and third stints. The majority of drivers stopped twice as we expected: wear is quite low at Suzuka due to the flowing nature of the circuit – which means that traction demands are low – but the high lateral energy loads mean that the limiting factor is degradation. ”
He added: “Vettel was able to use a two-stop strategy to make the difference here, but it was extremely close with Webber and Grosjean.”
Mark Webber set the fastest lap of the race which was completed on the medium compound tyre, a 1m34.587. Rosberg set the fastest hard compound lap time and Paul di Resta completed the most laps on a set of the prime tyres: 27 laps.
Charles Pic completed 18 laps on the option tyre, the most of anyone during the race. The close formation that we witnessed during the race caused drivers to pit earlier than predicted by Pirelli with Vettel’s first stop coming six laps earlier than they expected.
Image courtesy of Pirelli Media