How Hamilton’s tire tactics secured pole position and why a two-stop race is being considered RaceFans


Championship silverware is safely stored for a seventh consecutive season, but Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes were never going to relax.
Sure enough, he led their 11th lockout in first place of 15 races so far. If it hadn’t been for his grid penalty when the season opened, they would have had a dozen. An interesting detail from Hamilton’s final qualifying round was that none of his first five mini times – Sector (out of 27) was a personal best. Did he make a mistake or was it a deliberate tactic to sacrifice some of his pace at the start of the lap to make sure his soft tires didn’t fade before he finished it?

“I can tell you that I made no mistakes,” Hamilton said, although he was anxious not to divulge any of his “trade secrets”.

“Look, we’re doing these really slow laps and every time we try to get the tires in the optimal window for the start. Each time we go out they can vary between one and five degrees, so more often than not the result of this deviation is the temperature of the tires.

“They usually improve to a point in the lap and then they start to go over temperature and then you start to struggle a little bit more with the tire so that’s part of the answer.

Comparing Hamilton’s best (purple), personal best (green) and unimproved (yellow) mini-sector distribution with that of his teammate tends to support the idea that he removed less of his tires at the start of the lap as Valtteri Bottas, which paid dividends in the last corners:

Completing the familiar roster, Max Verstappen is third on the grid, slamming on the heels of black cars. Where we might have noticed once Red Bull tends to be closer to Mercedes cars in race version than in qualifying, this has been less noticeable since the ban on ‘quali modes’ was introduced in mid -season.

Sainz’s brake glitch has consequences for its strategy

However, as he noted after qualifying, he has the advantage of starting on the clean side of the grid, which could give him the opportunity to pass between the two W11s when the red lights go out. He also has his teammate where he should be: like in Istanbul Park, Alexander Albon has done what it takes to justify Red Bull’s continued confidence in him, despite yesterday’s crash.

As Hamilton and Bottas’ lap times demonstrate, the soft tire couldn’t quite hold up a full lap on the best car on the grid. Bahrain’s abrasive track surface inflicts a lot of punishments on the tires which are a notch softer than the ones Pirelli brought to the last F1 race here 18 months ago.

The teams therefore plan their racing strategies exclusively around the compounds of medium and hard tires. The 10 drivers who made it to Q3 chose to start with the average tire (which adds to the vast stack of evidence that the “Q3 tire rule” is a failure). But even on harder rubber, two-stop strategies are expected.

“It’s no secret we’re pretty sure it will be a two-stop race,” Renault sporting director Alan Permane said. “So it’s medium-hard-hard or medium-medium-hard and there’s not much to choose between the two. ”

Teams that can use the hard tire for the intermediate stint will have more options with their strategy, Permane notes. “Having that hard on the second tire just gives you a little bit of flexibility, allows you to potentially stop a little earlier on the first stint.

“But you probably don’t want to do that anyway because you don’t want to get into traffic.” We’re not going to see anybody do 30 laps tomorrow in the first stint and clean the midfield cars. So it’s much more of a sprint type race which is a lot of fun. We are looking forward to it – after having had so many one-stop shops it will be interesting.

Unfortunately for Carlos Sainz Jnr, his spin in Q2, caused by a cable brake malfunction, destroyed one of his medium tire sets. Thus, in addition to placing 15th when the sixth was potentially possible, he will start the race with a set of average tires less than his rivals, because the rules do not allow them to be replaced.

Citations: Dieter Rencken

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Can anyone stop Lewis Hamilton from winning again? What can Sainz save after his unlucky Saturday? And will anyone dare to get rid of their tires for a one-stop-shop strategy?

Share your take on the Bahrain Grand Prix in the comments.

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2020 Bahrain Grand Prix

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