Pit stop strategy proved to be one of the major factors for the outcome of the Australian Grand Prix, the first race of the 2018 Formula One season. Scuderia Ferrari German driver Sebastian Vettel took advantage of a longer first stint to then make a pit stop under virtual safety car conditions, which put him in first place, in front of Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, who had led from pole and made his own stop in green flag conditions earlier in the race in response to an initial stop from Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen. The 30-year-old spent the first phase of the Grand Prix behind both Lewis Hamilton and his Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, but remarkably leaves Melbourne with his second win here in as many years, after managing to control the final part of the race in front of his main title rival.
The vast majority of drivers stopped just once, going from ultrasoft to soft, but a different strategy was used by Red Bull, with both drivers starting on supersoft before moving onto soft. Daniel Ricciardo ended up just off the podium in a close finish, despite a grid penalty. Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas and McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne also used a different strategy, starting on the ultrasoft and finishing in the points on the supersoft.
Pirelli racing manager Mario Isola he analyzes the data from the tyre management point of view, confirming that the official Formula 1 tyre supplier is happy with how the race in Melbourne unfolded: “There were effectively two halves to this grand prix, before and after the safety car, which helped to decide the outcome thanks to a clever pit strategy from Ferrari. In the end, we saw a very close race to the finish, with the top five places fiercely contested all the way to the final lap. Most drivers opted for a one-stop strategy, with the quite long safety car period mid-race also helping these tactics by minimising wear and degradation. The behaviour of all three compounds – each used as race tyres – was definitely positive. Two cars even finished the race on a one-stop strategy without using the hardest compound available.” – Pirelli Racing Director Mario Isola concluded, as reported by the British media at the end of the race.