Tire strategy was central to one of the most closely fought grands prix in recent history, with a thrilling finale set up by a safety car when there were just 10 laps left to go.
After the restart, Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton led on the medium tire from his team mate Nico Rosberg, who used a different two-stop strategy to finish the race on the faster soft tire. Despite having a tire that was theoretically slower, Hamilton was able to hold off Rosberg – who set the fastest lap – to take back-to-back victories.
Similar battles took place throughout the top 10, with drivers on faster compounds battling against those in front on slower tires, depending on the strategy they had selected.
However, a gap of more than a second between the P Zero White medium and P Zero Yellow soft tire in the heat of the day was reduced considerably in the cooler conditions of the evening, as track temperatures dropped by three degrees during the 57-lap race. The top six all adopted a two-stop strategy (some helped by the safety car) with the Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel using different tactics to finish fourth and sixth from 13th and 10th on the grid respectively. Vettel was one of just two drivers to start the race on the medium tire.
From Tuesday, the teams will embark on the first in-season test of the year. Under the 2014 regulations, each team must dedicate one of their in-season test days to tire testing for Pirelli. On Tuesday, Caterham will test for Pirelli, followed by Mercedes and Williams on Wednesday.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery said: “We’ve seen some fantastic wheel-to-wheel racing in Bahrain, in which tire strategy and pace management played a definite part. With track temperatures falling, some teams altered their strategy from three to two stops. When you have a safety car close to the end and drivers on a wide variety of different tires, it always guarantees an exciting finish. Now we start preparing for the first in-season test of the year. Having the opportunity to test for the future with the current generation of cars is something we certainly welcome, so we look forward to seeing what we can get out of it.”
Pit stop strategy for top eight:
Hamilton: start on soft, change to soft on lap 19, change to medium on lap 41
Rosberg: start on soft, change to medium on lap 21, change to soft on lap 41
Perez: start on soft, change to soft on lap 16, change to medium on lap 34
Ricciardo: start on soft, change to medium on lap 18, change to soft on lap 35
Hulkenberg: start on soft, change to soft on lap 15, change to medium on lap 35
Vettel: start on medium, change to soft on lap 16, change to soft on lap 34
Massa: start on soft, change to soft on lap13, change to soft on lap 28, change to medium on lap 38
Bottas: start on soft, change to soft on lap 10, change to soft on lap 25, change to medium on lap 40