2016 Grand Prix of Monaco: Tire Strategy Pays Off for Lewis Hamilton
The story of the the 2016 Grand Prix of Monaco wasn’t Nico Rosberg chasing his 5th P1 in his hometown, Monte Carlo. It wasn’t RedBull’s Max Verstappen and his teen spirit. Nor was it Ferarri’s Prancing Ponies, lurking for their chance at victory.
The story was the rain. Lots of it. In fact, so much that for the first time the race started behind a safety car. Needless to say, everyone started on wets, tires that can sweep 70 gallons of rain aside, ensuring good control. But, as they say, the race began when the rain went away.
Lewis Hamilton, who was quite frankly screwed by his race managers last year, ran a brilliant race on a combination of wets and then ultrasoft tires. Oh, and he showed off some brilliant racing moves as well.
Wet tires are good for grip in the rain. Duh. But they weren’t necessarily supposed to be used in dry conditions.
Unless you are Lewis Hamilton, or someone else on some kind of mission. After there was a definite dry trail across the entire track, he switched to supersofts. These tires are great at grip and acceleration, but aren’t meant to be used for a long time. They weren’t made to last.
Again, unless you are Lewis Hamilton, chasing your first victory in 7 races. He pitted once and drove a set of ultrasofts for 47 laps, well past where even the commentators worried when the slicks would simply give.
Where Hamilton was stunning, teammate Nico Rosberg was jinxed. Earlier that weekend, in an interview, he acknowledged the fact that he had avoided Hamilton’s technical problems. He also admitted that he knew Lewis was coming, and it was a matter of “when”, not “if”.
Well…Lewis delivered on that in spades. Rosberg had brake problems that allowed him to stay in the race, but he was never in contention. The fact he is such a good driver kept him in the top 5, until Nico Huldenberg passed him at the very last second of the last lap.
The unfortunate loser of the race was RedBull and their smiling Aussie, Daniel Ricciardo. On an average day, he stands with Vettel, Hamilton, Rosberg, and Raikkonen as one of F1s best.
Last Saturday was no average day. Riccardo spend the race right on Hamilton’s tail, but couldn’t get by. He overcame a 13.6 second pit stop to get within a second behind Lewis. Hamilton wasn’t giving.
In Haas F1 Racing news, Roman Grosjean finished P6. But his teammate Esteban Gutierrez couldn’t finish again, leaving Haas in 8th place for the Constructor’s Cup. Haas is still the most successful rookie F1 team in recent history. If they could consistently get both cars to finish, their accomplishment would be even bigger.
Here’s more on the race, from the teams:
This might be the best place ever to have win number 44 – it’s been eight years since I won here! What a special day… truly one of the hardest races I can ever remember having. To stay in the zone, not make any mistakes and come out on top is just unbelievable. I walk along here every day and think about the greats who have won this race – the likes of Fangio, Moss, Hill and Senna – and it’s a truly amazing feeling to have my name added to that list again. It’s very unusual that I’m able to take any credit for a strategy decision – but when the team first asked me to box, I could see the track drying and my tyres still felt pretty good. So I told them all that and they said to stay out, which worked out great. I just carried on looking after the tyres – picking up the pace a bit when I saw what times people were starting to do on the intermediates as it dried out. I was matching their times at that stage so I thought “I could actually hold onto this until it’s dry”. Staying in that window was really tricky, though, as the first two sectors were almost dry. When I came out on the slicks it was like driving on ice. It was tough knowing how hard to push and we came out very close together. If he hadn’t had a bad stop I wouldn’t have been ahead. But these things happen for a reason – and today the reason was that 44th win.
In racing you have good days and bad days. Today was a bad day for me. I didn’t have the pace to fight for the win and we need to understand why. It was possibly a brake issue – but I don’t know for sure yet. I didn’t feel like I could push to the limit at the beginning of the race on the wet tyres. It was a simple decision to accept the request from the team to let Lewis past – even if it hurt very much in that moment. I was very far off the pace and Lewis quite clearly had the speed to win for the team. We’ve always had that rule – if you’re ahead and the other guy has a chance to win, you give him that chance. From there it just didn’t go my way. I had a tricky pit stop and was held in the box because there was traffic in pit lane. So the cars were just streaming by and suddenly I was down to sixth. Once you’re behind in Monaco that’s it – you’re stuck. At the end, Nico [Hülkenberg] had a lot more rubber left on his Soft tyres and my UltraSofts were finished, so I lost temperature in the drizzle and lost grip, which let him past too. That kind of summed it up, really. I’m massively disappointed with today – I really wanted to win my home race again but it didn’t work out. It’s been tough and I’ll probably need a day to take it all in – but then I’ll shift my focus to Canada and a chance to come back stronger.
Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical)
We woke up this morning to rain, as predicted. Not having pole position, this was a welcome opportunity to find a way to win the race. As it panned out, we started under the safety car which lost us one opportunity. And then, once the race did get underway, it soon became clear from Nico’s pace that he had a problem. We’re still trying to analyse what that was – but the initial signs are that it was related to brake temperatures. It came to the point where we told Nico he would either need to pick up the pace or let Lewis past. One lap later, he hadn’t managed to find that extra pace, so we asked him to move aside – which he did immediately. Great credit to Nico for his team ethic and playing for the overall team result. Unfortunately, his pace didn’t recover all afternoon – to the point where he even lost sixth place at the final corner as light rain began to fall once more. We need to look into why that was. Once Lewis was past, he instantly began to stretch away from Nico with pace that was on a par with the leader. Once Daniel pitted for Intermediates, we had a very interesting situation where Lewis was in the lead and we had nothing to lose strategically – thanks to the buffer he had built over Nico in third. We gambled on stringing out the stint until the track was sufficiently dry to change to slicks. Fortunately, the wet tyre clung on at a reasonable pace until we made the switch to the UltraSoft and the rest is history! A fantastic job from Lewis to maintain the lead in difficult circumstances with changing conditions, traffic, VSC incidents and all sorts – and credit again to Nico for the way he handled a tough situation. A word finally to the strategy team – who did a fantastic job today with a bold but brilliant call for Lewis which played a huge role in the win.
“On the extremes in the beginning we were quick and I did everything I had to. I asked a couple of times how the people on inters were doing but they said that my pace was really good on the extremes so we stayed out and that was no problem. And then they said “box this lap”. We put the inters on and then we came out behind Lewis. Then when Lewis pitted we tried to pit the lap later to overcut him. It was all prepared and then I came into the pits and there were no tyres.
I actually hate being like this. I hate being miserable. I got a podium in Monaco. I should be extremely happy, grateful and thankful. I’ve been fast now for two races and that’s the positive, but again no win so I’m a little bit sick of being fast and not getting any real rewards. I don’t like being the sad story. To end it on a positive note, we are fast in all conditions, which is good.”
“Disappointed in myself and disappointed for the team, because they worked very hard to get the car ready and I didn’t give them the result they deserved today. We were in a good way, we were in the points and to start from the pit lane and end in the points would have been very good, but I learned from this and hopefully we can come back stronger in Canada.
It was pretty tricky especially in the beginning of the race it was a very slippery track. It got better and better, the track was drying, and I think from then on we had great pace and I was overtaking cars, charging through the field and everything felt well. Then we put the softs on and I locked up. Unfortunately I went a bit off-line and of course then you arrive in the wet area and I was a passenger from there on. That’s racing in the end, it can go up and down very quickly but you shouldn’t back off because of this you should keep positive, keep pushing. I learn a lot from those moments as well and I’m already focusing on Canada now and leaving Monaco behind.”
Sahara Force India
“A podium in Monaco is a very special moment. It’s one of my best ever races, especially when you see how difficult the conditions were today: you had to concentrate so hard and it was easy to make a mistake. The key to my race was the strategy and we got things just about perfect today. The first difficult decision was when to fit the intermediate tyre and we delayed this as long as possible. The team said it was my call when to come in and it paid off because we managed to jump a couple of cars, including my teammate. The switch to dry tyres was another key moment because I pitted early, a lap before Rosberg and Vettel, and managed to jump ahead of them. The soft tyres worked really well, but I knew I needed to look after them and it wasn’t easy because there was pressure behind from Vettel for most of the race. Everybody in the team deserves this result and I want to dedicate this podium to Vijay Mallya in particular.”
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