Strategy played an important role in deciding the outcome of the Bahrain Grand Prix, not as much as it did a week ago in China, but it certainly played an important role. 3 stops were preferred by the most in conditions where thermal tyre degradation was a major problem.
Sebastian Vettel dominated the proceedings on a three stop strategy, however the fight for the next three spots between Raikkonen, Grosjean and Di Resta was quite close. In the end, the Lotus pair denied Di Resta his maiden podium finish. In this article, we analyse how Raikkonen and Grosjean, who started down the field made their way up the grid on different strategies and beat Force India's Paul di Resta for final two spots on the podium.
Image Courtesy: Lotus F1 team
Raikkonen and Di Resta - The two stoppers
Kimi Raikkonen started the race from 8th place after a dismal qualifying session on Saturday. Paul di Resta on the other hand was able to qualify in 5th place in what was the best grid slot of his career. The start of his race was equally good as he overtook Massa on the first lap and was ahead of Alonso(whose DRS struck in open position) and Rosberg(who was struggling with tyres) by end of lap 6. Raikkonen in contrast lost positions and time behind the two McLarens during first few laps of the race.
As Raikkonen and Di Resta were both on a two stop strategy, they waited till lap 16 and 14 respectively to make their first stop and switch for harder tyres. Di Resta and Raikkonen then made their way from traffic and they were up in 2nd and 3rd place by lap 28. In clean air, Raikkonen closed Di Resta by a significant margin and went past the Scott in next 5 laps.
Raikkonen then made his final stop on lap 34 for his final set of medium tyres, something the Finn was not particularly happy about as he thought the team had decided to make the stop a little too early - he was still lapping in 1min40s. Di Resta waited for two more laps to make his pit stop and came out around 7 seconds behind Raikkonen. Did pitting late cost Di Resta a spot on the podium? We'll explain this in the next section after we've explained Grosjean's strategy
Grosjean's three stop strategy and how he beat Di Resta for final spot on the podium
Like his teammate, Romain Grosjean had a poor qualifying and was forced to start from 11th on the grid. He chose hard tyres for his stint, and it was expected that he would do two stops on a reverse strategy. During the race. the Frenchman made one place from his grid position in first few laps but a piece of McLaren frontwing endplate sticked to his car's sidepod and he was forced to pit on lap 8.
When he came out of the pits, he fell to 17th place. Despite that he showed good pace and made his way up the field and into 3rd place before making his second stop on lap 27. He switched to the silver medium compound against the odds. There was just one step between option and prime tyres in this race and on account of Lotus' superior ability to manage tyres, Grosjean was able to complete 15 laps on the same.
Grosjean, who scored his first podium at this race last year, then chased Di Resta by 1 second per lap for final spot on the podium. He finally passed the Scottish driver on lap 52 to occupy the final step on the podium.
How timing of Di Resta's 2nd stop probably costed him his maiden podium
Di Resta lost over 6 seconds to Raikkonen when he pitted two laps later than the Finn. Considering the fact that Di Resta only finished 2.5 seconds behind Grosjean(who finished in 3rd place), was this mistake by Force India's strategy department that costed Di Resta a podium? Well if Force India had decided to cover Raikkonen and pit one lap later(on lap 35) than Raikkonen, Di Resta would have had to do 22 laps on a single set of hard tyres. He did 21 laps instead and his pace was consistent throughout and in fact, hewas faster than Grosjean on last couple of laps. Grosjean did 15 laps on medium tyres in his final stint and on those tyres his pace dropped off in last two laps. So there was a chance that Di Resta could have just held off Grosjean for final spot on the podium like Hamilton did a week ago in Shanghai.