How Strategy Decided Australian GP

By Stephen Williams @SWilliams1702

Written in association with Missed Apex Podcast. Listen in the player below the article.

Vettel wins Australian GP

Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel shared the front row of the grid for the first time since 2015.  When the chequered flag fell, it was Sebastian Vettel who took the first win of the season and an early championship lead.  Ferrari's strong race pace on the ultra soft tyres forced Mercedes into an early stop which proved to be the defining moment of the race.  

Lights out down under 

Hamilton lead away from the start but was hounded by Vettel who appeared comfortable in the dirty air of the Mercedes, at times reducing the gap to under a second.  In order to prevent an undercut, Mercedes opted to stop Hamilton early after complaints about a lack of grip during the first stint.  This early stop on lap 17 meant he rejoined behind the two Ferraris, his teammate and Max Verstappen.  Although Hamilton used his fresh soft tyres to close in on the Red Bull immediately, he was unable to find a way through and ultimately began losing time to the leader Vettel.  This allowed the Ferrari to rejoin in the net lead once he made his pit stop.  Vettel pulled away on his newer tyres while Hamilton struggled for pace as the time spent stuck behind Verstappen had caused his tyres to degrade.  Such was Hamilton's performance loss from his time behind the Red Bull, Valtteri Bottas managed to close in to just a couple of seconds by the end of the race.  

Ferrari stay out

After the race Jock Clear admitted that Ferrari were attempting to undercut Hamilton, but like most teams, was surprised by how early Hamilton had pitted.  Because of this, Ferrari intended to keep Vettel out for as long as possible, and then attack Hamilton in the final stint on fresher tyres. However, as the race played out with Hamilton stuck behind Verstappen, Vettel was in a great position to pull away on fresh tyres.  

Should Mercedes have stayed out?

Lewis Hamilton revealed after the race that it was his decision to come in early, although, this was only one lap earlier than Mercedes had planned.  With the lack of overtaking opportunities in the Australian Grand Prix, surely Mercedes would have realised he was going to come out in traffic and find it difficult to make the necessary progress.  So despite a lack of grip, would staying out and attempting to keep track position been a better move?


Ferrari are quick

Perhaps no matter what strategy the team chose, the outcome would have still been the same such was Ferrari's pace this weekend.  It will be interesting to see how the strategies and performances of both teams will change in the next couple of races and throughout the season.  With overtaking looking challenging, it may be that most of the races are decided on the strategies the teams make.  

Let's see what happens in two week's time at the Chinese Grand Prix.