F1 Strategy Report Italian Grand Prix 2016
Race 14 – 53 Laps – 5.793km per lap – 306.720km race distance – low tyre wear
Nico Rosberg claimed his first win at the historic Monza circuit in dominant style, with his Italian Grand Prix success cutting the gap to his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton in the drivers’ championship to just two points.
He benefitted from Hamilton’s poor start and was unchallenged, scoring his seventh victory of the year. Hamilton bounced back to finish second, with Sebastian Vettel pleasing the Tifosi by crossing the line third for Ferrari.
It was a pretty straight-forward race at Monza, but there were still some fascinating strategy stories to emerge from the weekend.
One stop for Mercedes
The track was always going to suit Mercedes. But I don’t think many of us were expecting the gap to the chasing pack to be quite so big. It looked to be around eight tenths in qualifying, up to one second in the race – well, from practice pace anyway.
In reality, that proved to be the case too. Mercedes had such an advantage and the W07 was kind on its tyres, meaning both Rosberg and Hamilton could make a one-stop strategy work and still finish clear of the Ferraris on softer and fresher tyres.
There were few drivers who completed a one-stop race. Despite the heavy braking zones and several quick corners, Monza typically produces fairly minimal tyre wear and degradation. It was higher in 2016, but Mercedes had such a pace advantage that they were able to make a one-stop work perfectly.
Two trips to the pits
Most of the field pitted twice, owing to the warmer temperatures in Italy for the race – conditions were slightly cooler than on Saturday, but still quite hot – and softer compounds compared to previous races at the track.
A few more drivers may have attempted a one-stop race but with such close racing, many had to react to those around them and that committed them to two-stops. In terms of complete race strategy, there were some unusual options, including Esteban Ocon starting on the mediums for a very long first stint.
Williams too conservative?
Valtteri Bottas enjoyed a pretty lively race, all things considered. He was up to fourth on lap one and ended up spending most of the Italian GP defending from Daniel Ricciardo. But Williams lost its edge with a conservative strategy call, which enabled Red Bull to overcut and give Ricciardo the advantage.
The Australian ended up making a great move on Bottas into Turn 1 to snatch fifth, helped by the fact he was on the super-softs for the final stint, whereas the Williams was on the softs.
Bottas was one of the early pitters but two final stints on the middle tyre of the three selected meant he couldn’t hold off Ricciardo and the earlier second stop was perhaps too soon, with a later trip to the pits and move to the super-soft being better to fend off the advanced of the Red Bull.
Ferrari went for a more aggressive strategy on a two-stop race by putting both Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen onto a second super-soft stint after their first round of pitstops. The team was the only one to choose this option and it enabled them to run with a quicker pace in the first half of the race.
However, with the pace of Mercedes, Ferrari was always going to have both cars behind the Silver Arrows duo in Italy. Hamilton was certain to bounce back and the team experienced higher wear than Mercedes in practice, which was a slight indication of what was to come in the race.
It was a braver move, to have two super-soft stints, but in the end it didn’t count for much as the Mercedes car was just so dominant. Third and fourth was clearly the maximum.
Grosjean ekes out the tyres
Romain Grosjean did something different for Haas and it brought him into the mix for a point, but he ended up just missing out. He started on the soft tyre, like a few others, but stayed out far longer than his rivals.
He didn’t pit for the first time until lap 28 and then tried to get to the end on a set of super-softs. It worked out but his tyres lost their flair and edge in the final laps, which prevented his charge and meant he just missed out on a point.
Force India struggles slightly
The two Force India drivers are typically light on their tyres and can find more life than others, but we didn’t quite see that this weekend. If there was any team trying a one-stop, it would’ve been them.
But they struggled more than other races with tyre wear and this meant they had to settle for two stops for Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg. The car’s pace was good enough to complement the strategy and they finished eighth and 10th, but it would’ve been interesting to see what they could’ve done with a one-stop.
Jack Leslie @JackLeslieF1
Medium: Ocon (32 laps)
Soft: Grojean (28 laps)
Supersoft: Grojean (24 laps)
Nasr, Alonso (3)
All the Data
Thanks to Pirelli Motorsport for the detailed infographics
Stints by Driver