Tire strategy shines through in a rain-hit Malaysian Grand Prix
Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso used three of Pirelli’s four tire compounds – the Cinturato Blue wet, Cinturato Green intermediate and P Zero White medium – to win a rain-affected Malaysian Grand Prix and lead the drivers’ championship. Tire strategy was also key to enduring a career-best second place for Sauber driver Sergio Perez.
A rain shower before the start of the race meant that all the drivers apart from the two HRTs started on Cinturato Green intermediates. After just one lap, Perez came into the pits to change to full wets as the rain fell harder – and this call turned out to be the foundation of his result.
His early stop meant that Perez was up to third when the race was suspended on lap eight because of torrential rain. The re-start took place behind the safety car, which obliged all the drivers to start on the full wet tires, according to the rules. As the track dried, the leaders moved onto intermediates and Perez led a race for the first time, before being passed by Alonso.
Even before the red flag came out, there was already variety of tire strategies in play. HRTs decision to start on the full wet tire boosted Narain Karthikeyan to 10th overall when the race was suspended: the first time that the young Spanish team has finished a lap in the points. By contrast, Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne remained on the intermediate tire until the red flag, proving the adaptability of Pirelli’s Cinturato Green by hanging onto seventh place despite huge quantities of spray and standing water. Marussia also found itself running in the points, thanks to eighth place for rookie Charles Pic shortly after the re-start.
On lap 37 Toro Rosso driver Daniel Ricciardo was the first driver to move onto slicks, using the P Zero White medium, while Alonso’s switch to the medium slick three laps later was instrumental in ensuring his 28th career victory.
The fastest lap of the race was set on the P Zero Silver hard tire by Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen with three laps to go. The longest stints of the race were all 27 laps on the Cinturato Green intermediate tire, run by Lewis Hamilton (McLaren), Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus) and Kamui Kobayashi(Sauber).
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery commented: “This race had echoes of Canada last year, which was also suspended due to rain. Once more, that created an intriguing set of circumstances and some stand-out performances, such as Alonso and Perez at the front, who were the class of the field. After the re-start, it was important for the drivers to look after the intermediates – which showed great versatility in very mixed conditions – in order to keep them within their operating temperature range. The top two finishers adopted a completely different tire strategy, with Alonso on the medium tire and Perez on the hard tire in the final stint, which shows how our decision to close up the performance gaps between the compounds has led to even closer racing. We’d also like to congratulate Bruno Senna, who scores his best-ever grand prix result in sixth.”