Last weekend was held the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and it was the final race of the 2019 season and the last of the decade. It was a pretty calmed race, but it wasn’t boring at all. There were some good wheel-to-wheel fights and they were not finished until the chequered flag was out. One example of these fights was the Sergio Pérez and Lando Norris one, in which the Mexican driver came ahead of the British. Another fight that finished until the end of the race was the Sainz vs Daniel Ricciardo. The Spaniard fought for P10 during the last couple of laps and he managed to overtake both Renaults and secure one point.
For me, the most interesting battle was the one between Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc. But not on track, but in the Pit Lane. The strategies of these two were absolutely different. But, at the end, Max Verstappen came out on the top and secured P2. But how did he and his team make it? Well, in this piece we’re going to explain you how this happened.
Both drivers started the race on used medium tyres. If we remember, Charles overtook Max on the first DRS zone and the Ferrari driver extended the advantage between him and the Dutchman. The big difference between their strategies was that Charles pitted on the 12th lap and fitted the hard tyres to go to the end. We all supposed that Charles was going to make much more better lap times than Max due to his new tyres but that didn’t happen. The principal goal of Ferrari was to increase the gap between their driver and Max, but the Dutchman was very comfortable with his old tyres and he was doing exactly the same lap times than Charles. This meant that when Max pitted, the gap between them was going to be the same as before. Said and done, this happened. Max pitted on lap 25 and when he came out of the Pit Lane, the difference was about 3.5-4 seconds. Max had 13-laps younger tyres than Charles so he took advantage of it and he was gaining around 0.5 seconds per lap. Suddenly, Max was behind Charles and the Dutchman managed to overtake him very quickly because of his newer tyres. When Ferrari realized that their strategy didn’t work out the way they wanted, the decided to pit Charles once again and tried to do a strategy like the one Hamilton did in Budapest. This consists in pitting to put fresh tyres (and even soft tyres) so the driver is able to gain again the 22 seconds he lost during the pit stop and overtake the driver ahead (in this case Max). And, once again, this didn’t work out and even Bottas almost overtook Charles on the last lap. Ferrari thought it will work out but instead of closing the gap, the Dutchman finished 16 seconds ahead of the Monegasque.
Was Red Bull lucky? Well, of course they took advantage of the bad lap times Charles was making but I don’t think they were lucky. I mean, yes, it was a miracle that the hard tyres didn’t work out on the Ferrari but without Red Bull’s strategists, that would not had been possible.