- Ferrari execute the DHL Fastest Pit Stop in Mexico for sixth time this season
- Sebastian Vettel is equipped with new tires in 2.15 seconds
- Red Bull Racing lead DHL Fastest Pit Stop Award
Ferrari complete the DHL Fastest Pit Stop in Mexico
British driver Lewis Hamilton crowned himself Formula 1 World Champion in Mexico for the fifth time in what was Mercedes’ weakest race of the season. He finished fourth but was able to claim the title with races to spare thanks to his big lead on Sebastian Vettel. Tire management was at the root of the weak performance by Mercedes – Red Bull and Ferrari managed them much better.
Hamilton’s race began really well. The Mercedes driver overtook pole-sitter Daniel Ricciardo, moving into second place behind Max Verstappen. But his ultrasofts soon fell off a cliff, so he had to pit early on Lap 11 and switch to fresh supersofts.
This move by Mercedes put the competition under strategic pressure. While Red Bull had no serious tire problems, the undercut could have proved dangerous. Ricciardo came in for his pit stop one lap after Hamilton, quickly followed by Verstappen on the next lap.
Ferrari sat back more or less as spectators to all that was happening around them, because Vettel was in fourth place behind Verstappen, Hamilton and Ricciardo at this point, and so, would not lose position due to the others pitting early. Instead, Ferrari focused on their race and let Vettel stay out on ultrasofts until he really began to struggle.
“The initial laps on the first stint were very difficult, so I eased off a bit,” said Vettel. “I wanted to stay out for a long time and benefit as a result in the second stint. I was surprised to see the others stop so soon, as they were suffering massively from tire degradation. My pace was excellent at the end of the first stint. I was even a bit faster than Max.”
The plan worked. Vettel came in to change tires on Lap 17 and opted for supersofts like all the other top drivers. His late stop meant that he lost time on the three leading drivers, but he was now on fresher tires and had no traffic. He soon closed the gap on Ricciardo. A VSC period delayed the overtaking process a little, but on Lap 34, Ricciardo was no longer able to defend any more, and Vettel took third place.
Hamilton was still in second place at this juncture, just twelve seconds down on Verstappen. Vettel was able to quickly reel in Hamilton as well and finally overtook the four-time, now five-time, world champion on Lap 38. Vettel suddenly found himself in second place on fresher tires than his rivals and with a clear track ahead while Hamilton was having serious problems with his supersofts.
Vettel narrowed the gap on Verstappen from 15 to 11 seconds over the next nine laps, but Hamilton lost ten seconds to the Red Bull driver. The gap between Vettel and Hamilton was 14 seconds just nine laps after the overtaking maneuver.
Red Bull too were wary of Vettel by now. Vettel came in on Lap 47 for his second tire change and Ferrari completed the DHL Fastest pit stop in 2.15 seconds, Verstappen followed suit one lap later to cover the German’s move. What made the difference was that Verstappen was the only top driver to still have a set of fresh supersofts left. All the other top drivers had had just one set of supersofts left for the race, which were bolted on for the second stint.
Verstappen was able to drive his last stint on supersofts, but Vettel had to switch to ultrasofts which had proven to be only marginally better than the hypersofts in the race. In the first stint, Renault and Sauber, who had started on hypersofts, pitted even later than the drivers on ultrasofts. Only the supersofts proved to be any good in the race.
Vettel could possibly even have gone to the end on the supersofts and might then even have been able to take advantage of his position, as his tires were at least four laps fresher, but Ferrari decided to bring him in for a second stop. “We had to take a bit of a risk, because the gap on Verstappen was quite large,” said Vettel.
But as a result, Vettel was forced to fight a losing battle in the last stint, partly because Verstappen had the better tire, and partly because after his stop, he had emerged back on track behind Ricciardo who was still on supersofts. Vettel found Ricciardo a tough nut to crack for quite a time until the Australian eventually retired with hydraulic failure.
Vettel’s deficit had been eight seconds at the beginning of the final stint, but the gap gradually increased, since he was stuck behind Ricciardo and running aging ultrasofts. “It was not possible to achieve more than second place,” said Vettel.
Hamilton fared even worse. Like Vettel, he switched to ultrasofts on Lap 47 but only had a part-worn set left. His lap times fell off a cliff again after five hot laps even though the car was getting lighter. While Vettel was able to maintain some life in his new ultrasofts, Hamilton’s tires were not working properly. His deficit grew with every lap. He was almost lapped by Verstappen towards the end and was more than 60 seconds down on Vettel.
“The race was pretty bad,” said Hamilton. “I got a great start and worked my way forwards, but then, both myself and Valtteri had to struggle with tires. I just tried not to lose the connection and get the car across the line.” Teammate Bottas even had to make a third stop.
Top-ten pit stops in the FORMULA 1 GRAN PREMIO DE MÉXICO 2018
- Sebastian Vettel (FerrarI) - 2.15secs
- Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) - 2.20secs
- Stoffel Vandoorne (McLaren) - 2.29secs
- Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) - 2.45secs
- Kevin Magnussen (Haas) - 2.45secs
- Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) - 2.46secs
- Max Verstappen (Red Bull) - 2.46secs
- Brendon Hartley (Toro Rosso) - 2.54secs
- Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) - 2.62secs
- Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) - 2.67secs
DHL Fastest Pit Stop Award: Red Bull still lead
Red Bull Racing on 423 points still lead the overall standings of the DHL Fastest Pit Stop Award but Ferrari now have a deficit of only 63 points after their strong performance in Mexico. Mercedes are in third place with 311 points, followed by Williams (247) and Sauber (207).