The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix draws a line under Red Bull and Renault’s 12-year relationship. The French manufacturer’s inability to close the gap to its front-running rivals in the V6 hybrid turbo era has prompted Red Bull to throw its lot in with Honda.
Despite this disadvantage, the strong card they’ve been able to play in recent races has been tyre performance. As Daniel Ricciardo admitted yesterday, it could have won them all of the last three races. But it may not be enough to tip the balance this weekend.
Pirelli has nominated its three softest compounds for the final race of the year. The softest of these – the hyper-soft – is out-performing the next-softest compound much more than Pirelli expected. “We were expecting a time of 0.9 to one seconds,” said motorsport director Mario Isola. “It seems there is a bit more in the range of 1.3, 1.4.”
The upshot of this is that the quickest teams are unlikely to attempt to get through Q2 on the super-soft and start the race on it – they don’t have enough of a performance gap over the midfield for that to be an option.
In Brazil, Red Bull were able to stretch their first stint long enough that they could use the second-softest tyre compound for their second stint, while Mercedes pitted earlier and switched to harder rubber. But in Abu Dhabi the ultra-soft is only around 0.2 seconds per lap quicker than the super-soft, so the benefit from doing that is greatly reduced.
The super-soft is also less susceptible to graining, whereas drivers need to take care of the front-right when running the ultra-soft.
Nonetheless Ricciardo is hopeful that the extent of degradation will play into Red Bull’s hands. “The tyres are certainly degrading,” he said The hyper-soft seemed a bit more the front. The ultra- and super- more in the rears.
“I think we’re normally in as good a shape as anyone else with tyre tyres so we’ll just try and stay on top of that. In quali, I think we still need to be on the first two rows to really be in with a shot. I think we’ll be there.”
Ferrari, as usual, did not show strong pace on Friday. This is usually a precursor to them dialling everything up on Saturday and being much closer to Saturday. Sebastian Vettel is expecting a stronger showing in qualifying.
“We need to find quite a bit of pace for tomorrow. but for one lap we should be able to improve quite a bit. I think the conditions came towards us. The car was definitely better this evening than it was this afternoon.”
After wrapping the constructors’ championship up in Brazil, Mercedes admitted they hadn’t run their controversial rear wheel ‘spacers’ since Austin because they feared a possible protest by Ferrari. With the silverware locked up again, and having promised to “go for broke” this weekend, will they return to the car on Saturday?
The team has played down the benefit they gained from the wheels, but the ever-present Yas Marina problem of controlling rear tyre temperatures looks like the very challenge these were created for. If so, Friday’s pace setter Valtteri Bottas is staring at a good chance of finally winning his first race this year, as long as he can stop his team mate winning his 11th.
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Longest stint comparison – second practice
This chart shows all the drivers’ lap times (in seconds) during their longest unbroken stint. Very slow laps omitted. Scroll to zoom, drag to pan, right-click to reset:
Combined practice times
|2||Max Verstappen||Red Bull-TAG Heuer||1’38.491||1’37.280||59|
|3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull-TAG Heuer||1’38.945||1’37.428||50|
|10||Esteban Ocon||Force India-Mercedes||1’40.102||1’38.402||59|
|11||Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso-Honda||1’40.671||1’38.506||49|
|12||Carlos Sainz Jnr||Renault||1’40.588||1’38.511||58|
|14||Sergio Perez||Force India-Mercedes||1’41.075||1’38.806||54|
|16||Brendon Hartley||Toro Rosso-Honda||1’41.137||1’38.957||61|
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Quotes: Dieter Rencken
2018 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
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4 comments on “Red Bull’s tyre advantage may count for less in Abu Dhabi”
23rd November 2018, 23:36
Hyper? ultra? super? , glad that’s going away next year.
24th November 2018, 7:19
@hohum I’ve never had a problem with this approach, so I’m not too glad, but oh well, at least they’re still going to inform beforehand which specific compounds are going to be available each race weekend.
23rd November 2018, 23:47
Yet with a certain other team their tyre advantage is hardly ever mentioned
24th November 2018, 10:15
hard to read from the graph, but it looks like the ferraris have decent long run pace. still, it seems the pattern will be set by track position after lap 1. if vettel leads from the front (possible) then i think he will be hard to stop. actually, that could apply to hamilton and bottas too.
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