Pirelli: Effective tire choices pace route to Vettel’s win in Bahrain

Jan. 1, 2020
Sebastian Vettel has netted his first victory of the year on the Pirelli-supplied international circuit.

With the prospect of serious civil disturbances hovering over the event because of ongoing political turmoil within the country, this past weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix was run without incident as Sebastian Vettel netted his first victory of the year on the Pirelli-supplied international circuit.

Tire management proved to be crucial as Vettel selected a three-stop strategy to seal his 22nd career win after claiming pole position in qualifying. At the end of four races, four different teams have claimed a race win, and Vettel has become the fourth different points-leader in the season’s overall drivers’ championship competition.

Vettel started off using the P Zero Yellow soft tire. He then moved onto the P Zero White medium after 11 laps before completing his final stints on the P Zero Yellow soft, followed by the P Zero White medium.

Bahrain is one of the most demanding circuits of the year in terms of tire degradation because of a “frequently dirty track” and several low- to medium-speed corners “that ask a lot from the rear tires in terms of traction,” according to motorsports director Paul Hembery.

As a result, knowing how to manage the tires and contain thermal degradation was a vital skill throughout the 57-lap race, although the grand prix started under comparatively cool conditions amid gusting winds, he recounts.

Most drivers selected a three-stop strategy, but Paul di Resta opted for a two-stop plan, making his final set of medium tires last for 24 laps before ending up in sixth place; he started from 10th on the grid after not completing a qualifying run in order to save tires.

Di Resta finished just behind Nico Rosberg, who chose to do just one run in qualifying to conserve an extra set of soft tires.

Former World Champion Kimi Raikkonen started 11th on the grid after missing out on a qualifying run, but this also meant that he saved several fresh sets of tires for the race.

He challenged Vettel for the lead from the halfway point on the race, when Raikkonen was on the medium tire and Vettel on the soft. During their final stints, after they both stopped on the same lap, both drivers used the medium compound.

Having brought the tires up to temperature, Vettel was able to pull away from Raikkonen. However, Raikkonen did come close to Vettel in the closing stages after conserving his tires at the beginning of the final stint.

Michael Schumacher also used a three-stop strategy to climb back up the field, “finishing in the points” after having to start 22nd on the grid following a gearbox change penalty.

“This was certainly a very technically challenging race, on a circuit that we had never experienced in racing conditions before,” Hembery reports. “Nonetheless, we chose to bring our soft compound together with the medium in order to provide plenty of opportunities for strategy,” he adds.

“Although degradation was a factor in this race, which was already evident from the tactics adopted in qualifying, the tires stood up extremely well to the demands that were placed on them,” Hembery explains.

“During the closing stages of the race, the priority for the drivers was to ensure that the tires didn’t fall off ‘the cliff’ of performance – a task that they all managed very well,” he notes.

“The closeness of the racing this year, during which we have narrowed the performance gap between our compounds, is reflected in the fact that we’ve seen four different winners in four races,” Hembery points out.

For more information, visit www.pirelli.com.

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