Lewis Hamilton led a Mercedes one-two finish at the Japanese Grand Prix, stopping just once without losing the lead. Both Mercedes drivers adopted the same soft-medium tire strategy; however, there were different one-stop strategies from other drivers who finished in the top five.
The exception was Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, who finished fourth using the same soft-medium tire strategy as the top two, having started 15th due to a problem in qualifying.
Another driver to show plenty of pace was Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who finished sixth with a supersoft-soft tire strategy, after dropping towards the back following a racing incident.
With temperatures and energy loads high at the Suzuka circuit, in contrast to the variable weather seen up to Sunday, there were a number of question marks about tire strategy before the race start. Nonetheless, the majority of drivers were able to stop only once, helped additionally by an early safety car.
Mario Isola, Pirelli's head of car racing:
"With temperatures being so much warmer than they have been up to now, we knew that there would be some additional challenges at this very demanding track. This was indeed the case, especially in the closing stages of the race, but it did not compromise the action at all, as the many impressive fightbacks showed. Thanks also to an early safety car most drivers were able to make just one stop, and we also saw some very long stints on all three tire compounds. Many chose to finish the grand prix on the medium tire -- the equivalent of last year’s soft -- despite the fact that this tire wasn’t used extensively in free practice, and not at all in these warm conditions."
The winning strategy
Lewis Hamilton won the race using one stop on lap 24 as predicted, using the optimal soft-medium tire strategy that we thought would be quickest. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel set the fastest race lap using the soft tire -- beating last year’s benchmark by nearly 0.8 seconds – just before the flag.
Pirelli now remains in Suzuka for a two-day development test with Renault, assessing 2019 prototype tires on Tuesday and Wednesday.