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Tactical check Abu Dhabi: VSC stop gives Hamilton 6 seconds.

Tactical check GP Abu Dhabi 2018
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M sometimes a look at helps the past. Do you remember the second Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi in 2010, when Sebastian Vettel became world champion for the first time? An accident between Michael Schumacher and Vitantonio Liuzzi triggered a safety car phase on the starting lap. Six drivers stopped immediately and then easily reeled off the rest of the race on the hard tires. The coup paid off for Nico Rosberg, Vitaly Petrov and Jaime Alguersuari. They finished fourth, sixth and ninth.

Experience also taught later generations that in Abu Dhabi you can cover a whole race distance with the harder compounds. This was already indicated by the long runs on Friday. The supersoft tire was a long-runner. He easily managed 55 laps. It had the more favorable working area for asphalt temperatures between 32 and 35 degrees, and it felt more stable for the driver in the corners from the side hold. That's why no one switched to Ultrasoft in the second stint.

There were two chances for an early pit stop at the tenth edition of the Abu Dhabi GP. The safety car on the first lap after the collision between Nico Hülkenberg and Romain Grosjean. And the virtual safety car when Kimi Räikkönen rolled out onto the home straight on lap 7.

Only three drivers accepted VSC gifts

No one accepted the first present. The Mercedes strategists were amazed. “It would have been worth it for the drivers at the end of the field. Not yet for us. We needed a field for the pit stop that was already a bit torn apart. ”Otherwise the drivers from Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull would have fallen too deep into the field. Sauber team manager Beat Zehnder doubts: 'Driving through the whole race with the supersoft tires would have been at the limit for us.'

But then there was this second chance. The VSC phase gave those who stopped in the 7th lap between six and eleven seconds of racing time. The expert opinions differ greatly. But only three drivers came to the pits. Lewis Hamilton, Charles Leclerc and Romain Grosjean. Hamilton fell to 5th, Leclerc to 14th and Grosjean to 18th.

It underlines once again the indictment of Formula 1 that three fast laps after the safety car were enough that Hamilton only dropped to 5th place. The early stop should be worthwhile for Hamilton. Hecelebrated his 11th win of the season. The world champion would probably have won with the housewife tactic. His Mercedes had the speed. 'Lewis has controlled his pace,' said Vettel.

But the Mercedes strategists limited: 'If we hadn't stopped and one of our direct competitors did, we could have lost.' Not bad at the Mercedes command post that none of the top teams followed suit. With only two imitators, doubts arose. 'Those are the moments when you ask yourself whether you might be wrong after all.'

Vettel loses 1.2 seconds during the pit stop

If the tire change had been under the VSC Is the phase worth it for Sebastian Vettel, Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo? It would certainly not have harmed Vettel. But Ferrari didn't trust itself or the tires after problems with the racing simulation on Friday. That's why they wanted to get to at least round 15.

Before Hamilton's pit stop, Vettel was 4.1 seconds behind the Mercedes driver, after which he was 7.1 seconds ahead. When the vice-world champion pitted on lap 15, his advantage over his opponent was still 6.6 seconds. Hamilton could hardly make up ground during that time because he was stuck behind Verstappen.

Ferrari had little confidence in the tires after problems on Friday training.

Now the VSC advantage comes into play. After changing tires, Vettel was suddenly 15.4 seconds short of Hamilton. So he gave away over 11 seconds compared to the early pit stop under VSC, which he could have used later in the race. Maybe everything would have turned out differently if Vettel hadn't left the pit stop for 3.7 seconds. Mercedes followed suit with Valtteri Bottas one lap later and finished the Finn in 2.5 seconds. So Ferrari's planned undercut could not work and Vettel got stuck behind Bottas.

Bottas is another man hit for Hamilton

The 18 laps behind the second Mercedes cost Vettel a lot of time. As soon as it was over, it drove almost a second faster per lap. Mercedes made no secret of the fact that oneBottas has used again as a man hit for Hamilton.

With three seconds difference between the two Mercedes drivers, you could have risked a double stop under VSC. “From our point of view, that would have made little sense. He would have fallen further into the field than Lewis and we couldn't have played a second card. So we were able to control the race and get Valtteri into the pits whenever it was good for us. ”

Red Bull started the race from positions 5 and 6 with the Brazil tactic. Drive long, then take advantage of fresher tires. They didn't deviate from that when the VSC signal invited them to make a pit stop. At the time, Ricciardo and Verstappen were still behind Leclerc. So after the pit stop you would have lined up behind the Sauber in the field again. Ricciardo in 15th place, Verstappen in last place behind Romain Grosjean. That didn't sound very tempting.

Max Verstappen defended himself against the world champion after Hamilton's stop.

Red Bull hoped that the slow opening phase might play a joker in Verstappen's hand after all. The Dutchman could not play the Hypersoft advantage in the first lap because the engine's power was reduced due to excessive water pressure.

But from the 9th lap with a healthy engine, the soft Verstappen rubber gave the hand more grip. But that only lasted until lap 13. Then Ricciardo was faster again on his ultra-soft tires, and because the Australian would never have made room for his team-mate in his last race for Red Bull, Verstappen pitted on lap 17.

Ricciardo was washed step by step to the top. He was allowed to stay there for 17 laps. The long wait made sense for two reasons. The gap to Carlos Sainz in 7th place was big enough. Red Bull was speculating on a safety car or even better on the impending rain. Ricciardo would have given him a pit stop. If all drivers had to switch to intermediates, Ricciardo would have stayed in the lead. In fact, it only drizzled for a few laps in isolated places on the track.

Sainz made places with a late stopgood

The light rain was more of a problem for Ricciardo. After he even drove away on a dry track with his worn-out Ultrasoft Hamilton soles, the lead in the rainy phase shrank from 6.9 to 2.8 seconds.

Red Bull let it be known that Ricciardo might not be the best wet driver, but that is doing the Australian injustice. In damp conditions, nothing more than a thin rubber pad brakes the driver. This means that the tire cools down faster in the damp areas. The same phenomenon has been seen comparing Charles Leclerc against Fernando Alonso. Leclerc couldn't get past Alonso for 19 laps. As soon as the rain set in, the time had come. Alonso slipped more than Leclerc on his wacky ultrasoft tires.

Keyword clean: At the end of the race, the Swiss were still puzzling whether the experiment of the early pit stop under VSC was worth it for them. “We'd have to stop late in the race to see the difference,” said team manager Zehnder. Leclerc was initially stuck in 14th place behind Alonso for a long time. The Monegasse ruined the front tires in two overtaking maneuvers right after the pit stop. It took forever until the temperatures were back in the window.

Exactly at that time, Carlos Sainz made up the decisive time. The Renault driver always had free travel. When the Spaniard turned for the pit stop on lap 37, he had a cushion of 23.5 seconds on Leclerc. Enough to stay ahead. The bottom line was that the Renault was probably the faster car on this route.

With Romain Grosjean, the VSC stop was already borderline. The Frenchman got stuck in traffic until the 32nd lap. That cost the crucial time on the two Force India. Ocon was behind Grosjean at the time of the VSC phase. Therefore, the Force India command post decided to leave the French behind. That saved Ocon eleven laps of driving in traffic.

An early move was out of the question for Sergio Perez anyway. The Mexican started out on ultrasoft tires with the aim of staying longer on the track than the hypersoft competition. 'We would have given up on our plan if we had let Sergio stop early,' said operations manager Tom McCullough.


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