Tyre rules aid Rosberg as Hamilton prepares to attack

2016 Chinese Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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Nico Rosberg starts the Chinese Grand Prix 17 points and 21 places ahead of Lewis Hamilton. How will those gaps look at the end of the race?

It hasn’t been Hamilton’s weekend: a gearbox penalty had already scuppered his chances of starting from pole position, then a power unit failure during qualifying ensured he will start from the back.

Meanwhile the rules have contrived to boost Mercedes’ performance advantage. The Mercedes is so quick he was able to get through Q2 using the soft tyres, meaning he won’t have to start the race on the super-softs, which may only be good for half-a-dozen laps before they need to be replaced.

The only problem for Rosberg is he will be at a grip disadvantage at the start compared to his closest rivals,. The first of those, thanks to an inspired qualifying performance, is Daniel Ricciardo.

“The positive is that Nico’s on the soft and we’re obviously starting on the super soft, so the start should be interesting,” said Ricciardo. The Ferraris on row two will also fancy their chances of putting Rosberg under immediate pressure.

But however aggressive those rivals are Rosberg can afford to play the long game. He knows he will be able to delay his first pit stop which opens up the possibility of making fewer stops over the whole race. And he knows that while he’s doing that Hamilton will be straining every sinew to make gains from last place.

“I’ve been in this position before,” said Hamilton. “I came from the back of the grid to the podium in Hungary two years ago, so anything is possible.”

Ferrari’s failure to capitalise on their potential in qualifying means that instead of taking the fight to Mercedes they face potentially being caught out by Red Bull, who go into the race with a valuable track position advantage.

“Hopefully we’ll battle the Ferraris for the podium,” said Daniel Ricciardo.

“Compared to last year we’ve certainly got a bit more from the power unit. We’ve seen the trend in the first couple of races and the deficit hasn’t been as big as last year on the straights but I didn’t expect to be standing here unless it was a wet qualifying.”

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Qualifying times in full


Q2 (vs Q1)

Q3 (vs Q2)
1Nico RosbergMercedes1’37.6691’36.240 (-1.429)1’35.402 (-0.838)
2Daniel RicciardoRed Bull1’37.6721’36.815 (-0.857)1’35.917 (-0.898)
3Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1’37.3471’36.118 (-1.229)1’35.972 (-0.146)
4Sebastian VettelFerrari1’37.0011’36.183 (-0.818)1’36.246 (+0.063)
5Valtteri BottasWilliams1’37.5371’36.831 (-0.706)1’36.296 (-0.535)
6Daniil KvyatRed Bull1’37.7191’36.948 (-0.771)1’36.399 (-0.549)
7Sergio PerezForce India1’38.0961’37.149 (-0.947)1’36.865 (-0.284)
8Carlos Sainz JnrToro Rosso1’37.6561’37.204 (-0.452)1’36.881 (-0.323)
9Max VerstappenToro Rosso1’38.1811’37.265 (-0.916)1’37.194 (-0.071)
10Nico HulkenbergForce India1’38.1651’37.333 (-0.832)
11Felipe MassaWilliams1’38.0161’37.347 (-0.669)
12Fernando AlonsoMcLaren1’38.4511’38.826 (+0.375)
13Jenson ButtonMcLaren1’37.5931’39.093 (+1.500)
14Romain GrosjeanHaas1’38.4251’39.830 (+1.405)
15Marcus EricssonSauber1’38.3211’40.742 (+2.421)
16Felipe NasrSauber1’38.6541’42.430 (+3.776)
17Kevin MagnussenRenault1’38.673
18Esteban GutierrezHaas1’38.770
19Jolyon PalmerRenault1’39.528
20Rio HaryantoManor1’40.264

Sector times

DriverSector 1Sector 2Sector 3
Nico Rosberg25.094 (1)29.004 (1)41.217 (1)
Daniel Ricciardo25.228 (4)29.095 (4)41.594 (2)
Kimi Raikkonen25.117 (2)29.031 (2)41.617 (3)
Sebastian Vettel25.190 (3)29.225 (6)41.644 (4)
Valtteri Bottas25.365 (9)29.192 (5)41.739 (5)
Daniil Kvyat25.322 (7)29.058 (3)41.980 (8)
Sergio Perez25.261 (5)29.578 (10)41.962 (7)
Carlos Sainz Jnr25.289 (6)29.368 (7)41.877 (6)
Max Verstappen25.345 (8)29.518 (9)42.102 (9)
Nico Hulkenberg25.398 (10)29.792 (14)42.143 (10)
Felipe Massa25.463 (11)29.439 (8)42.445 (12)
Fernando Alonso25.483 (12)29.627 (11)42.678 (15)
Jenson Button25.704 (13)29.689 (12)42.200 (11)
Romain Grosjean25.735 (14)30.081 (16)42.609 (13)
Marcus Ericsson25.745 (15)29.765 (13)42.811 (18)
Felipe Nasr25.883 (17)30.133 (17)42.638 (14)
Kevin Magnussen25.937 (19)30.029 (15)42.707 (16)
Esteban Gutierrez25.889 (18)30.160 (18)42.721 (17)
Jolyon Palmer25.780 (16)30.251 (19)43.232 (20)
Rio Haryanto26.092 (20)30.989 (20)43.183 (19)

Speed trap

PosDriverCarEngineSpeed (kph/mph)Gap
1Sergio PerezForce IndiaMercedes334.5 (207.8)
2Valtteri BottasWilliamsMercedes334.1 (207.6)-0.4
3Rio HaryantoManorMercedes333.9 (207.5)-0.6
4Nico HulkenbergForce IndiaMercedes333.9 (207.5)-0.6
5Nico RosbergMercedesMercedes333.6 (207.3)-0.9
6Sebastian VettelFerrariFerrari332.7 (206.7)-1.8
7Kimi RaikkonenFerrariFerrari332.5 (206.6)-2.0
8Romain GrosjeanHaasFerrari332.3 (206.5)-2.2
9Esteban GutierrezHaasFerrari332.3 (206.5)-2.2
10Felipe MassaWilliamsMercedes331.7 (206.1)-2.8
11Carlos Sainz JnrToro RossoFerrari331.7 (206.1)-2.8
12Max VerstappenToro RossoFerrari331.4 (205.9)-3.1
13Marcus EricssonSauberFerrari331.1 (205.7)-3.4
14Felipe NasrSauberFerrari330.9 (205.6)-3.6
15Fernando AlonsoMcLarenHonda329.5 (204.7)-5.0
16Daniel RicciardoRed BullTAG Heuer329.5 (204.7)-5.0
17Kevin MagnussenRenaultRenault328.3 (204.0)-6.2
18Jolyon PalmerRenaultRenault328.0 (203.8)-6.5
19Daniil KvyatRed BullTAG Heuer327.3 (203.4)-7.2
20Jenson ButtonMcLarenHonda325.2 (202.1)-9.3
21Lewis HamiltonMercedesMercedes295.1 (183.4)-39.4
22Pascal WehrleinManorMercedes262.0 (162.8)-72.5

Over to you

Share your views on the Chinese Grand Prix in the comments.

2016 Chinese Grand Prix

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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33 comments on “Tyre rules aid Rosberg as Hamilton prepares to attack”

  1. Rosberg was as fast on softs as Vettel and Räikkönen on supersofts, so I don’t think he will be any slower at the beginning of the race. If Ricciardo and the Ferraris have a grip advantage, it should be extremely short-lived. Everyone outside the top 10 has a huge advantage in the race it seems.

    1. No Kimi and Sebastian was faster on ss than Nico on soft and they clearly didnt push 100% in the interest of saving the tyres for the race.

      1. But what’s the point on having ss and not pushing 100%? Why not using soft then, and push them 100%?

        1. None of the top teams go 100% in Q2 to save tyres and engines thats just the way it is. The more ahead you are the more you can save for Q3 and the race.

    2. Let me remind you that.. Merc still have their qualifying engine mode.. On race pace both team are pretty close…so don’t get any conclusions yet

  2. – Meanwhile the rules have contrived to boost Mercedes’ performance advantage.

    This is exactly what I have alluded to severally. The desire to curb Mercedes’ success has led to such disastrous rules and decisions as the now botched “elimination” quali. If indeed what this article suggests happens tomorrow, those who keep calling for unnecessary changes will watch how their impatience further denies them the very thing they desire, the defeat of Mercedes.
    The wise and justified action definitely should be to wait until a reasonable set of regulations are introduced which might lead to the dethronement of Mercedes since we have seen that the more they try to slow Mercedes down, the more they slip away.

    1. To be fair, Mercedes was gonna win anyway, no matter how the tyre rules are.

    2. Ferrari could easily have done the same, pace-wise, but chose not to. The tyre rules have literally nothing to do with that.

      1. Yes. Ferrari right now has the pace to get into Q3 on soft tyres.

        But qualifying strategy doesn’t seem to be their thing. At all.

        1. Or any strategy for that matter really. Just look at Australia.

    3. I was gonna write exactlly that..

      Gimmicky rules tend to favour the dominant team…

      This Q2 quali tire rule… Boom now hurts our race fight for the win. Pathetic.

      Teams should just pick sexy new fresh tires for the race. If Riciardo wants to do a Medium Soft Soft tommorow, let him.

      Even worse, Mercedes will now try to do this almost every race.

      1. Yes, that “drivers have to start on the Q2 tire” rule really has to go. It’s maybe a bit better than the Q3 tires, but I still don’t see why it was implemented. It kills strategic variation and it may lead to some weird qualifying sessions in the future, when the drivers who expect to be in Q3 use the harder tires, while the drivers who don’t expect to be in Q3 use the softest tire compound and may therefore reach Q3 instead… That chaos may be fun, but of course it has little to do with racing.

        1. “It kills strategic variation”? How does this rule do that?

          What we saw in the qualifying session exactly was strategic variation…

          1. It kills strategic variation of the frontrunners in the race because they are very much encouraged to start the race on the softest tires. Luckily with the extra tire compound there are many more strategy options, as last year most races were fairly boring 1- or 2-stop races.

        2. The start on the Q2 tire is a great rule! Remember how in 2013 we had drivers sit out of Q3 all the time so they could start on a fresh set of tires that they didn’t run in quali? This rule, along with giving an extra set of tires for Q3 killed that, and now everybody goes out in each session. It’s one of F1’s only notable recent rules successes, along with the V6 engines, banning refueling, and the current quali format.

  3. If Mercedes van get the medium tyre working well we could see both Mercedes only making 2stops. Remember they did most of their preseason running on the medium so they know exactly what it is capable of doing and the weather forecast is for much cooler temps on race day, with a predicted track temp of as low as 20℃ which could play well into Mercedes hands. The Ferrari is only kinder to its tyres in higher ambient temperatures where others over-heat theirs, but when the conditions are cooler they have trouble keeping the tyres in their working range, which leads to graining, which slows them down more, leading to worse graining and slower still.

    I think Danny Ric is the wild-card as he has little to lose and everything to gain and can go and have a bit of fun, putting the cat amongst the pigeons.

  4. If the Alonso and Button have a relatively good pace with some smart strategy Grosjean-like, I can see them going for 5th-7th place…. I think they’re making huge steps forward thinking that China was thought to be a circuit that was going to expose all their weaknesses. Tomorrow’s race has the potential to be amazing let’s see what happens!

    1. If Alonso and Button* My bad

      1. I’m going on record with this also. McLaren Honda is close to breaking through to consistent Q3 results and more points scoring.

        Not at you Sotiris but I meant to type this yesterday.

        Nico can be WDC. I would never have said this last year. I believe he’s different and has realised, performing to the best of his abilities can win him the WDC. He feels it and knows it. The head games last year got to him a couple of times. The Lewis affecting my race incident comes to mind. In Australia, his patience was quick and he capitalised on two mistakes converted to wins. People said, myself included, he needs to win at the beginning of the championship!
        Nico delivered. Yesterday, even with Hamiltons engine failure, was under pressure pressure to deliver pole. Not only did Nico deliver, he may have help his tire strategy in one stroke. Last year, mentally, at least in the first half of the season, he would have delivered but not the extra set of tires.

        Lewis definitely has a contender/rival and if Ferrari are actually more competitive but Merc still can beat them, Lewis really can’t afford to fall too far behind.

  5. I think proceedings are far from settled. What’s happened to the 44 car over the past 48 hours proves that Mercedes still have niggling reliability issues to cope with, and Nico could easily fall victim of such issues tomorrow. However, I must commend him for the Qualy lap. It was absolutely stellar. I think sometimes it’s easy to not give credit to the Merc drivers, due the strength of the car but at the end of the day, they still have to pull something special out of the bag when it counts, and they’re delivering it every race weekend.

    1. True that. While I do hope, as do the drivers, that the cars will eventually get harder to drive next year, I have always believed that since it virtually always takes the best car to win the WDC with, the trick as drivers is to not squander that when they have it. Nico still had to hold it together mentally today. It’s like many pro sports right? They know how to do their craft very well. It is about having the mental strength to keep it together when the pressure is at it’s greatest.

      1. This. Nico has so far shown this in 2016. He lackes this part in 2015, and lost it at end of 2014…

        Now Lewis needs to show some gritt.

  6. I don’t think I have ever seen comments quite so dominated by tyre talk as over the last day or two. I am not blaming anyone here, but it is so dull!

    No wonder F1 is struggling to attract new viewers, if newbies were reading these comments over the last day or so they just seem to be’ soft, super soft, second stint, soft, super soft, option, prime’……………………

    It is not very inspiring, is it? And, we have a situation where Lewis Hamilton, a driver who most rate as one of the very fastest, will probably be hugely compromised racing through the pack since to effectively ‘go too fast’ will wreck his clown tyres.

    How, oh how did it get to this, F1?

    1. I think it is inspiring actually, talking about tyre choices, talking about some strategic depth that will influence the race.

      How boring would it be if the discussion was just “Wow, he went so fast and won!” Actually that’s pretty much what we’ve had for the last two years with Hamilton in races and the complaints were definitely there because of that too…

      I just see a whole lot of complaining here about nothing really. It’s the problem when an authority gives in to demands, the demands get louder and louder and more frequent.

      1. Tristan

        I envy you, sincerely. To me I just want to see as level a playing field as possible.

  7. Rosberg can be happy that Ricciardo is next behind him and not a Ferrari.

    1. @banana88x Yeah, Raikkonen had the pace for 2nd, and it’s more likely he would have led into T1 than Ricciardo.

      1. And now Vettel (when challenged by Kvyat) screwed it for the two Ferraris to get the lead at the start, and Rosberg can cruise home to victory. That botched start clearly cost Ferrari a lot of points and potentially 2 places on the podium. Hamilton has a great chance now to navigate through the field to get into the top-points and first safety car period is just the first help and step to achieve that.

  8. I care less about championship today but, If there is live Pay per View for Hamilton onboard video from start to finish I would pay today :D… fastest car on last place, this show like best racing video game fantasy where usually player start from last place..

  9. i think nico rosberg will probably run away with the win.
    ricciardo might beat atleast 1 of the ferrari’s


  10. I dunno, I guess I’m probably in the minority here, but I don’t see how the tyre rules are unfair or handed Mercedes an advantage. The advantage is theirs regardless of the rules.

    It was just good strategy, doing something different, taking a risk that paid off. I mean why is that a bad thing? I know the die-hard F1 fans want to see something more “pure” but as far as rules contriving different situations, I like the ones that promote risk and strategy differences between the teams.

  11. I don’t know why Mercedes had to go with the soft strategy. Gloating?! Honestly unless the mediums are the tyres to run and thus Rosberg is able to pit one time less, he should get undercut at his 1st pitstop which makes not that much sense. Anyway at least he’ll overtake for the lead.

    1. That IS exactly the gameplan for Rosberg/Mercedes!
      On softs from the beginning and when being at the front, Rosberg can change to mediums and do one less stop than all the others. That is of course gambling on that he is still in the lead, so he can nurture his soft tyres and does not need to race too hard to e.g. catch up with any Ferraris that could have passed him at the race start. For a conservative, prudent and solid race leader this is the dream scenario to cruise the win home from the front !

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