Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Interlagos, 2018

Can Red Bull or Ferrari stop a final Mercedes rout?

2018 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix pre-race analysis

Posted on

| Written by

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix could be another race of extreme tyre-management for the drivers who start on the hyper-soft tyre.

Pirelli suggests those drivers could have to pit as early as lap eight before switching to a set of super-softs and running to the end of the race. But will any of them be tempted to run a hyper-soft/ultra-soft strategy?

Nico Hulkenberg and Charles Leclerc used this strategy to good effect in Mexico, and have qualified inside the top 10 again. But this would require the kind of extreme tyre saving which drivers complained about to Pirelli at the last race.

The hyper-soft tyres require very careful treatment to get them in the correct temperature window. This was why Max Verstappen was deeply frustrated in Q3, and also why a slow-moving Romain Grosjean was nearly hit by Pierre Gasly in final practice.

Gasly’s team mate Brendon Hartley shed light on the lengths drivers must go to protect the hyper-softs. “We’re literally crawling on the out-lap to get the tyres in the right working window for the first time,” he said.

“If you exit the pit lane with the rears a little bit too high, that’s it. We’re going so slow on this out-lap to try and get these hypers in a window where they work that it’s very complicated to get everything to come together.”

Verstappen – the first driver on the grid on hyper-softs – and the four drivers behind him (Grosjean, Leclerc, Esteban Ocon and Hulkenberg) will therefore have to treat their rubber carefully on the formation lap. Get it right and they will potentially have a significant lap time advantage at the start.

But those starting immediately behind them with a free choice of new tyres will have an advantage, Hartley believes. “We jokingly said before qualifying that P11 is probably the best place to be, potentially avoid the hyper,” he said.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

“The guys starting on hyper-soft will have some issues tomorrow. Ultra-soft potentially as well, but it will come much later. The super-soft seems pretty robust.

“It will be an interesting race strategy-wise especially for the guys starting on the hyper in the top 10. There’s a very big gap of performance from hyper to ultra on one lap. But after five or six laps the hyper’s already slower than the ultra. It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out.”

Barring technical problems, Mercedes appear to have the threat from their main rivals well covered. The biggest threat from Ferrari was that they might out-qualify them, and that hasn’t happened.

Red Bull’s recent strong form has rested on their ability to make their tyres last. Pole sitter Lewis Hamilton is wary of the threat they may pose.

“They’ll be strong tomorrow,” said the Mercedes driver. “They always are in the race. We’ve seen a pattern show over the year where they’re quick in early practice, when we get to qualifying they can’t keep up and then in the race, they come back

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Interlagos, 2018
It’s Bottas’s last chance to win a race this year
“It’s evident that they’re probably better than all of us at looking after their tyres and operating where they don’t have to manage the same as everyone else, whatever that’s down to, downforce, whatever it may be. So I’m sure they’ll be strong tomorrow.”

However Hamilton admitted the RB14s will find it difficult to get out from behind the Ferraris. “It’s not that easy a circuit to overtake,” he said, echoing Verstappen’s words after qualifying.

“And you know the Ferraris are very strong on the straight, so for them to propel past a Ferrari, I’m sure will not be easy.”

What’s more Red Bull’s tyre advantage is likely to be neutralised by the likelihood the front runners will be able to avoid the hyper-softs completely. Daniel Ricciardo believes that weakens their race prospects further.

“I’m happy I was able to get through Q2 on the ultras, that was our target,” he said. “But if I could have a wish, I wish we all were forced to do the hyper-soft because I think the others struggle more on that tyre than we do so I think that would have given us more of an advantage.

“The ultra is a bit more consistent and unless we see deg from that tyres tomorrow it going to be a bit more of a – I don’t want to say ‘predictable’ race, but maybe less [for us] to do.”

Sunday’s race will be the 10th race at Yas Marina, a circuit which has never produced a memorable race when there wasn’t a championship still on the line. Barring a surprise, this looks set to be something of a procession.

But perhaps a surprise is what we’re going to get. Some weather forecasts are now indicating that the thunderstorms which were forecast for Monday are now going to arrive a day early

Go ad-free for just £1 per month

>> Find out more and sign up

Qualifying times in full


Q2 (vs Q1)

Q3 (vs Q2)
1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’36.8281’35.693 (-1.135)1’34.794 (-0.899)
2Valtteri BottasMercedes1’36.7891’36.392 (-0.397)1’34.956 (-1.436)
3Sebastian VettelFerrari1’36.7751’36.345 (-0.430)1’35.125 (-1.220)
4Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1’37.0101’36.735 (-0.275)1’35.365 (-1.370)
5Daniel RicciardoRed Bull1’37.1171’36.964 (-0.153)1’35.401 (-1.563)
6Max VerstappenRed Bull1’37.1951’36.144 (-1.051)1’35.589 (-0.555)
7Romain GrosjeanHaas1’37.5751’36.732 (-0.843)1’36.192 (-0.540)
8Charles LeclercSauber1’37.1241’36.580 (-0.544)1’36.237 (-0.343)
9Esteban OconForce India1’36.9361’36.814 (-0.122)1’36.540 (-0.274)
10Nico HulkenbergRenault1’37.5691’36.630 (-0.939)1’36.542 (-0.088)
11Carlos Sainz JnrRenault1’37.7571’36.982 (-0.775)
12Marcus EricssonSauber1’37.6191’37.132 (-0.487)
13Kevin MagnussenHaas1’37.9341’37.309 (-0.625)
14Sergio PerezForce India1’37.2551’37.541 (+0.286)
15Fernando AlonsoMcLaren1’37.8901’37.743 (-0.147)
16Brendon HartleyToro Rosso1’37.994
17Pierre GaslyToro Rosso1’38.166
18Stoffel VandoorneMcLaren1’38.577
19Sergey SirotkinWilliams1’38.635
20Lance StrollWilliams1’38.682

Sector times

DriverSector 1Sector 2Sector 3
Lewis Hamilton16.893 (4)40.545 (2)37.356 (2)
Valtteri Bottas16.995 (6)40.521 (1)37.440 (3)
Sebastian Vettel16.681 (1)40.581 (3)37.858 (5)
Kimi Raikkonen16.819 (2)40.672 (4)37.862 (6)
Daniel Ricciardo17.127 (11)40.853 (7)37.263 (1)
Max Verstappen17.094 (10)40.839 (6)37.634 (4)
Romain Grosjean16.929 (5)40.917 (9)38.174 (8)
Charles Leclerc16.891 (3)40.755 (5)38.536 (10)
Esteban Ocon17.067 (8)40.879 (8)38.594 (11)
Nico Hulkenberg17.179 (12)41.091 (10)38.142 (7)
Carlos Sainz Jnr17.213 (15)41.303 (14)38.389 (9)
Marcus Ericsson17.052 (7)41.208 (12)38.869 (12)
Kevin Magnussen17.087 (9)41.298 (13)38.924 (15)
Sergio Perez17.182 (13)41.180 (11)38.880 (13)
Fernando Alonso17.191 (14)41.538 (16)38.973 (16)
Brendon Hartley17.450 (19)41.589 (17)38.905 (14)
Pierre Gasly17.459 (20)41.419 (15)39.010 (17)
Stoffel Vandoorne17.438 (18)41.761 (19)39.378 (18)
Sergey Sirotkin17.423 (17)41.626 (18)39.586 (20)
Lance Stroll17.385 (16)41.865 (20)39.432 (19)

Speed trap

PosDriverCarEngineSpeed (kph/mph)Gap
1Charles LeclercSauberFerrari335.9 (208.7)
2Kimi RaikkonenFerrariFerrari334.9 (208.1)-1.0
3Esteban OconForce IndiaMercedes333.8 (207.4)-2.1
4Marcus EricssonSauberFerrari333.3 (207.1)-2.6
5Sebastian VettelFerrariFerrari333.2 (207.0)-2.7
6Sergio PerezForce IndiaMercedes331.2 (205.8)-4.7
7Kevin MagnussenHaasFerrari329.9 (205.0)-6.0
8Carlos Sainz JnrRenaultRenault329.5 (204.7)-6.4
9Sergey SirotkinWilliamsMercedes328.7 (204.2)-7.2
10Brendon HartleyToro RossoHonda328.7 (204.2)-7.2
11Lance StrollWilliamsMercedes328.0 (203.8)-7.9
12Romain GrosjeanHaasFerrari327.8 (203.7)-8.1
13Pierre GaslyToro RossoHonda327.4 (203.4)-8.5
14Nico HulkenbergRenaultRenault327.3 (203.4)-8.6
15Valtteri BottasMercedesMercedes327.0 (203.2)-8.9
16Fernando AlonsoMcLarenRenault325.7 (202.4)-10.2
17Lewis HamiltonMercedesMercedes323.9 (201.3)-12.0
18Stoffel VandoorneMcLarenRenault323.5 (201.0)-12.4
19Daniel RicciardoRed BullTAG Heuer323.1 (200.8)-12.8
20Max VerstappenRed BullTAG Heuer322.4 (200.3)-13.5

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Drivers’ remaining tyres

Lewis HamiltonMercedes101103
Valtteri BottasMercedes101103
Sebastian VettelFerrari101103
Kimi RaikkonenFerrari100212
Daniel RicciardoRed Bull200103
Max VerstappenRed Bull200103
Sergio PerezForce India101113
Esteban OconForce India101103
Lance StrollWilliams101023
Sergey SirotkinWilliams101023
Carlos Sainz JnrRenault101023
Nico HulkenbergRenault101004
Pierre GaslyToro Rosso101032
Brendon HartleyToro Rosso101023
Romain GrosjeanHaas101004
Kevin MagnussenHaas101014
Fernando AlonsoMcLaren101014
Stoffel VandoorneMcLaren201013
Marcus EricssonSauber101014
Charles LeclercSauber101004

Over to you

Will Valtteri Bottas finally take his first win of the year in the last race of the season? Do Ferrari or Red Bull ave anything for Mercedes?

Share your views on the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in the comments.

Quotes: Dieter Rencken

2018 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Browse all 2018 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix articles

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...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

6 comments on “Can Red Bull or Ferrari stop a final Mercedes rout?”

  1. Thunderstorms? That would spice things up a bit!

  2. The Bulls have 2 new sets of supersofts so can afford to go very aggressive on pace and strategy. Hoping Max finds a good gap early to pit into and forces the other teams to cover leaving Danny Ric to go long. With the Mercs being substantially slower than the other top 2 teams on Friday’s long run pace, a split strategy by the Bulls might make things interesting, although Bottas running as blocker might be enough to let Lewis build up a big enough buffer. Will depend a lot on whether the Mercs get moving like in Brazil or Ferrari does like in Mexico.

  3. I think the start will be telling especially for Verstappen. If he can jump the Ferrari’s he may be in with a shot. We’ll have to waite and see how Riccardios strategy works out.

  4. I’d like to think Dan has a good chance to bag a good result here in his last race for RB. If the car goes the distance and RB don’t mess up, a podium is very possible.

    I hope Dan gets a good clean run, it seems like ages since he had a good clean weekend. It would be fitting for him sign off with a shoey!

  5. No problem, The Bulls’ hypersoft could lasted minimum 15 laps with good pace. That give them privilege to run Ultrasoft later.

  6. Will Valtteri Bottas finally take his first win of the year in the last race of the season? – Hopefully, yes.
    Do Ferrari or Red Bull have anything for Mercedes? – Not really unless they get ahead of them on the opening lap or during the pit stop phase.

    The potential rare thunderstorm is still unlikely to hit today nor even tomorrow now. Source:

Comments are closed.