Image Courtesy: Getty Images
Coming into Brazil, there was a 40% of rain and several drivers gambled on a wet setup. Though it did rain, but it wasn't completely a wet race. The conditions changed dramatically and it was being on the right tyre at the right time. There were two rain 'stints' during the race, with light rain in the first half and a little heavier in the second. We take a look at the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix from startegy point of view and tell you how Hulkenberg and Button benefited from the right tyre strategy.
The track was dry at the start and everyone started on slick tyres. But it soon started to rain and all drivers but Button and Hulkenberg pitted for intermediates starting lap 10. Several backmarkers continued on slicks but thereof went wide and off the track creating problems for the front runners who came behind them after their pit stops. All of them eventually pitted by lap 15.
The racing line was dry and that allowed Button and Hulkenberg to maintain temperature in their tyres on otherwise a wet and slippery track. Button has always been good on making the right calls and this was another great example of the same. He went on to win the race.
As track wasn't wet enough, many drivers on inters suffered from graining and Hamilton was vocal on team radio saying his tyres were almost gone. Eventually all the drivers who were on intermediate tyres had to pit again for slicks. Thus Hulkenberg and Button on stating with dry tyres had a 40 second lead over the rest of the field. An important thing to note is that the lead of these two drivers would have halved as they would have had to stop for fresh tyres.
But that wasn't the case as Safety Car came out on lap 23 for Nico Rosberg's puncture bringing down the mamonth 40 second gap to zero. Both Hulkenberg and Button pitted for hard tyres under the Safety Car.
After the Safety Car, Hamilton charged down teammate Jenson Button into 2nd place and when Hulkenberg went wide on lap 47, he took the race lead. Backmarkers like in US played its role and Hulkenberg sensed an opportunity to regain the lead when Hamilton was overtaking backmarkers of Charles Pic and Heikki Kovalainen. But instead, he lost his rear on Senna S making contact twice with Hamilton and forcing him into retirement. His car was not damaged but he incurred a drive through penalty which dropped him down in 5th place. Without the accident, he would have either won or at least finished on the podium.
Rain started to fall again and unlike the first stint it was quite heavy and all drivers pitted for intermediates by around lap 55. Heikki Kovalainen and Daniel Ricciardo were the exceptions as they chose full wet tyres over inters. As mentioned earlier, rain was quite heavy causing 'aquaplaning'. And Paul di Resta was a major victim of the same as he spun on the run up to front/back straight, into the walls and retirement with two laps to go.
Thus, Brazil was another great example of how the right strategy can benefit a driver. Though Safety Car did eliminate their massive lead, still one of them went on to win the race. This was somewhat a gamble but both drivers managed their tyres and car well specially through in the final sector.