Lewis Hamilton won the Chinese Grand Prix and claimed his second win of the 2015 campaign, after completing only two-stops in what we believed would be a three-stop race. In fact the top four managed to finish using the identical strategy; starting on the Soft, pitting for another set of Softs, then switching to the Medium. This has largely been attributed to the track temperatures, which gradually fell over the course of the afternoon.
Whilst Ferrari were able to keep Mercedes honest on the Soft tyre in the opening two stints, it seems the Silver Arrows favoured the Medium tyre in the final stint, after leader Hamilton stretched the gap out to 11 seconds to Sebastien Vettel before the Safety Car came out with three laps to go. Despite the slow pace in the middle stint – something his teammate wasn’t too keen on – Hamilton did show that he still had enough pace in his Soft tyres at the end to set the fastest lap of the race by a second at the end of the middle stint.
Its worth noting however that Vettel described his pace as “on the limit” during the closing phases of the second stint, suggesting that Mercedes’ is still quite a margin ahead despite the Ferrari’s win in Malaysia two weeks ago.
Elsewhere we saw a different take on the two-stop from McLaren’s Fernando Alonso who finished the race in 12th today. He started on the Soft, before switching to the Medium in the second stint, then back to the Soft for the final coupe of laps. This strategy allowed him to get close to Button, who was battling with Maldonado after he lost time due to his antics entering the pits and spin at turn 6. Needless to say Alonso didn’t have to do too much work, after the contact between the McLaren and Lotus driver handed the position to him on a plate.
Max Vestappen meanwhile put together a good strategy to nearly finish in 8th place before his Power Unit failure. The Toro Rosso driver started on the Soft, and switched to the Medium in his second stint, and ran it again in his final stint. Despite it being 1.7 seconds slower than the Soft, he managed to consistently put in lap times that were mid 1:44’s and 1:45’s, which coupled with the extended life allowed him to progress up the field and pull off some spectacular overtaking manoeuvres in the process. Just a shame it came to an end with two laps to go.
The longest stint we saw today on the Soft was done by Daniel Riccardo, completing 22 laps on one set during his second stint before switching to the Medium tyre. The longest stint on the Medium was done by Vettel, who did 26 laps in the end in his final stint. Only Sergio Perez ended up three-stopping, running on the Soft tyre for the first three stints before making his mandatory switch to the Medium in the final stint, which allowed him to finish 11th at the chequered flag.