Vettel controls Spa on Pirelli’s hardest compounds
Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel seems to be moving inexorably towards the 2013 Formula One Drivers’ Championship, taking his 31st career victory at the Belgian Grand Prix using a two-stop strategy. Vettel’s Red Bull set the fastest lap of the race on the hard tyre, claiming the lead from second on the grid and extending his championship advantage to 46 points over Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso. His win means that he draws level with Nigel Mansell in terms of overall victories.
Alonso also used strategy to boost his position from ninth on the grid to second on the podium. Stopping twice, he used the medium tyre for two stints before switching to the hard tyres on lap 28, with a pit stop that took just 2.6 seconds.
The race started in 19 degrees of ambient temperature with 25 degrees of track temperature. Despite the 60 per cent chance of rain predicted, conditions stayed dry, allowing all but the two Marussias of Max Chilton and Jules Bianchi, the Toro Rosso of Daniel Ricciardo and the Sauber of Esteban Gutierrez to start on the medium tyre.
The first driver to make a scheduled stop was Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg on lap nine, swapping to his first set of hards. Vettel pitted from the lead five laps later, fitting mediums, before re-joining in second place. The German was back in the lead before his final stop for a set of hard tyres on lap 30, coming out in front once more. His strategy ensured that he led every lap.
Vettel’s team mate Mark Webber adopted a different two-stop strategy, switching to the hard compound tyre at his first stop and then doing a final stint on the medium tyre to finish fifth.
The only driver to stop just once was Lotus’s Romain Grosjean, who finished in eighth. The highest-placed driver to start on the hard tyre was Ricciardo, who ended up 10th from 19th on the grid. He also finished the race on the medium tyre.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery said: “With qualifying yesterday finishing in wet conditions, the drivers were allowed to start the race on whichever compound they preferred, opening up the possibilities for different strategies still further. A number of drivers and teams maximised these opportunities to the utmost today, especially Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull, who controlled the race.
“But we also saw some very good strategy calls all the way down the grid, which enabled many drivers to improve on their start positions. Following the uncertain weather earlier in the weekend, this was actually quite a straightforward Belgian Grand Prix, with dry conditions from start to finish and no safety car periods. But Spa remains probably the ultimate test of a Formula One tyre, with its long lap and high energy loadings, so the performance and durability of our tyres after a hard-fought race on one of the most epic tracks in the world were very much in line with our expectations.”
Pirelli had predicted that the two-stop strategy would be quickest, suggesting a start on the medium tyre, switching to medium again on lap 13 and finally to the hard on lap 25. Sebastian Vettel followed this overall idea, but his first stop was on lap 14 and the second one was on lap 30.