The exhortations from his engineer were clear to understand and, while Sebastian Vettel did not appear to heed them precisely, the calls to look after his tyres played a significant part in the German notching up a hat-trick of wins and returning to the head of the F1 world championship.

Despite suggestions that one stop for fresh rubber, while aggressive, may have been possible in the Korean Grand Prix, most teams opted for the safer strategy of two stops, but that did not stop Red Bull Racing from giving both Vettel and team-mate Mark Webber repeated calls to look after their tyres in the closing stages of the 55-lap race.

Both drivers started from the front row using Pirelli's supersoft tyres, and then carried out two stints on the soft compound. Webber tried to use tyre strategy to his advantage by pitting earlier than his team mate on both occasions, looking to 'undercut' him, but Vettel was still able to stop for the second time on lap 35 and re-emerge in the lead. His final set of soft tyres lasted for the remaining 20 laps - while Webber made his final set last for 23 laps and set the fastest tour of the race with one lap to go.

The top ten all started on the supersoft, which proved to be between 0.2-0.6secs quicker than the soft - but any chance to compare strategies among the leading drivers was scuppered when Jenson Button, who started on the soft compound from eleventh place, was taken out at turn three by Kamui Kobayashi. That left Perez as the top runner starting on the soft tyre, but the Mexican could only manage eleventh place after his own first-lap incident and a faulty pit-stop on route to a two-stop strategy. Williams' Pastor Maldonado was the only driver who went for a one-stop strategy, changing from the supersoft to the soft on lap 21 and making his final set of tyres last for 34 laps, but he finished in 14th place.

"Obviously, you start your stint in the beginning with a little bit more than 20 laps to go after the last stop," Vettel reasoned, when asked how he managed to set his fastest lap on the penultimate tour, despite the warnings, "I think you can work out yourself that you have a lot of kilos in the car. Towards the end, it's nearly empty, so you go quicker without even trying harder.

"I think it's the same for everyone, given that you still have the tyres. Obviously, we try to look after them during the whole of the last stint, because we've seen in the stint before how sudden the front tyre can lock up and you can lose control of the front tyres, so obviously we didn't want to run into that sort of problem again, especially with pressure from behind. So, even if you have quite a big gap, when you start to struggle a lot with these tyres, then there is a lot of time lost within a couple of laps - I'm speaking of a couple of seconds per lap.

"As I said, we controlled that very well, so we still had some shoes left. The tyres were not new, but they were not completely worn until the end, so I was going a little bit quicker in the last sector. That's why the lap time was pretty similar to what I started with in the beginning of the stint, but calculate the difference of fuel and it's a big difference.

"Only at the end of the second stint did I make a mistake, braking for [turn] three, locking up the right front. I think a lot of people suffered issues with the front today so, on the last stint, I tried to control things a little bit more and I had more juice in the tyre until the end. Obviously, we had the gap and were controlling that towards the end, but I think, once you reach the point where the front tyres are gone, it's sudden death, so there's no point of return.

"We were talking a lot over the radio, trying to stay on top of the problem and manage the front tyres quite well, which I think we did until the end. I'm very happy with the result and have to say thanks again to the mechanics, the team, who have been working more than what we should ask them for. Every night, flat out, the whole team, so I hope now they get a bit of a break, some sleep finally."

Comments

Join the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register to add your comment