Post by a425couple
3 way tie for 7th in the WDC.
Perhaps John is correct, in that it is only for a very
distant 7th, and it's not exciting.
Still, I think the competition for the best of the rest,
for the drivers is interesting. And it certainly feels
important to them.
After the big 3 teams and their top 6 drivers,
the points race is very close.
7th - Sergio Pérez 53 points
8th - Kevin Magnussen 53 points
9th - Nico Hulkenberg 53 points
10th - Fernando Alonso 50 points
11th - Esteban Ocon 49 points
12th - Carlos Sainz 39 points
4 races to go.
Strategy Report: Ferrari gifts Mercedes win, as midfield epic unfolds
But the real action was in the midfield…
The midfield battle has been very entertaining this season with intense
battles often decided by strategy calls.
In Suzuka the grid had a nicely mixed-up look, with Romain Grosjean
fifth for Haas, Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly sixth and seventh for
Toro Rosso, Force India's Sergio Perez ninth (after Esteban Ocon was
dropped to 11th for a penalty) and Charles Leclerc 10th for Sauber with
a free choice of starting tyres. Carlos Sainz was 13th for Renault.
And yet they finished in the order: Perez, Grosjean, Ocon, Sainz, with
Gasly narrowly missing out on a point in 11th. So how did that come about?
Grosjean held his position over Perez at the start, with Gasly between
them, while Ocon slipped ahead of Hartley, who had a poor start and
dropped to 10th. Leclerc slipped to 13th, as Sainz moved up to 12th.
Grosjean, like the Mercedes drivers, had started the race on the soft
tyres he had used in Q2, quite an unusual move for a midfield team and
one that clearly showed the confidence Haas has at the moment in the
pace of its car. Normally trying to get through Q2 on the second fastest
tyre is the preserve of the top teams only.
Perez was right with Gasly and 3.5 seconds behind Grosjean when he
pitted on Lap 24 and switched to the soft tyres for the second stint.
Grosjean and Gasly continued on until Lap 29. Ocon pitted on Lap 26 as
Force India split the strategies, putting the Frenchman onto mediums.
The temperatures on race day were significantly hotter than the rest of
the weekend and there were therefore some question marks about which
would be the better tyre. Sainz had started on new softs and went to Lap
32 before switching to mediums.
Perez came out behind Sergey Sirotkin in the Williams and lost time,
which meant that when Grosjean stopped he was able to get back out ahead
of the Mexican. Ocon then suffered the same fate two laps later, but was
able to pass the Russian after a lap, which was important as he was
attempting to jump Gasly.
A slow stop for the Toro Rosso driver on Lap 29 didn’t help and Gasly
dropped behind both Force Indias.
Gasly was not helped by the two Sauber drivers on a covert ‘spoiler’
strategy, holding him up after his stop, to make life difficult for him
as the two teams are locked in a close Constructors’ championship battle.
Sainz and Renault saw the opportunity to take advantage; Sainz offset
himself to Gasly, stayed out until Lap 32 and dropped five seconds to
Gasly in the process. But in the final few laps his pace on mediums was
stronger than Gasly’s on fading soft tyres, and he was able to pass him.
So Toro Rosso had the double whammy of being undercut by the Force
Indias and yet running out of tyre performance before the end of the
race, an unusual and very unfortunate combination.
Grosjean meanwhile had some issues with telemetry, but maintained his
lead over Perez until the Virtual Safety Car was deployed for Leclerc’s
As the race restarted, Perez was sharper and forced his way through,
thereby winning the midfield battle.
As is so often the case, had the midfield competition been for the
overall race win, this would have been a thoroughly entertaining Grand Prix!
(Go to the citation, to view the very informative "Race History time
chart" & tire usage chart.)