Bahrain has always been a track that has been traditionally tough on tyres, with the 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix being no different – most of the finishers opting to choose the faster two-stop strategies. The Grand Prix itself became a battle between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton with the latter choosing to take his final stop earlier than Verstappen who stayed out for longer meaning he had fresher tyres towards the end of the race.
Valtteri Bottas stopped late on in the race, making good use of the yellow-walled medium tyres and achieving the extra point for achieving the fastest lap of the Grand Prix. The other drivers who chose to do a three-stop strategy were Sergio Pérez and Pierre Gasly, the latter choosing to do so due to contact with Daniel Ricciardo after the safety car restart.
The race was very tough on the tyres, Hamilton struggled managing his tyres in his first two stints, doing the same number of laps on the medium tyre as Ricciardo did with the soft tyre, in his second stint he struggled on the hard tyre, only completing 15 laps – compared to Max Verstappen who did 22 laps on the faster-wearing medium tyres.
In general, many of the drivers managed the medium tyres for longer than the other compounds, with both the Williams cars of Nicholas Latifi, George Russell and debutant Mick Schumacher choosing to do two stints on the medium tyres.
The longest stint on the white-walled C2 Hard tyre was 31 laps, Sebastian Vettel doing this as part of his one-stop strategy and the three fastest laps set by Max Verstappen (1:33.2), Lewis Hamilton (1:34.015) and Pierre Gasly (1:34.090).
On the yellow-walled C3 Medium tyres the longest stint was completed by Kimi Räikkönen, the Finnish driver doing 27 laps on the tyres. The three fastest laps set on the tyre were by : Bottas (1:32.090), Pérez (1:33.9) and Verstappen (1:34.4.)
On the fastest C4 Soft tyre, Carlos Sainz on debut for Ferrari completed the longest stint on the tyre – 15 laps. The three fastest laps on the tyre were set by Lando Norris (1:36.9), Lance Stroll (1:37.046) and Sainz again with a (1:37.112.)
In FIA Formula 2, Guan Yu Zhou won his first feature race, which was dominated by tyre strategy and featured two safety cars. Three drivers – Théo Pourchaire, Guilherme Samaia and Gianluca Petecof started the race on new tyres with track temperatures remaining at a blisteringly hot 41 degrees throughout the race. For the early part of the race it looked like those 8 drivers who had chosen to start on the Soft tyre had made the right choice with Zhou dropping to fifth place with his hard tyres, but after the second safety car a shorter stint on the soft tyres for the Chinese driver allowed him to charge through the top of the field and win the race. All of the top-four used the hard-soft strategy, the highest driver who didn’t use this strategy was Marcus Armstrong who finished in fifth place on the hard tyre.
Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing at Pirelli acknowledges that tyre strategy was the deciding factor in the race, Lewis Hamilton stopping earlier than Max Verstappen, meaning the British driver had to complete a longer final stint – Isola admiring his management of the tyres.
“Tyre strategy was at the forefront of this exciting race, with Hamilton and Mercedes twice stopping earlier than Verstappen and Red Bull – meaning of course that Hamilton had to complete a longer final stint, which he managed brilliantly.”
“All three compounds performed strongly throughout the race, with Verstappen also doing a long middle stint on the medium. We saw a number of different strategies, with five of the finishers using all the compounds during the race, and two three-stoppers in the top five as well.”
Each drivers strategy changed depending on what tyres they had saved for the race and this was a similar story in Formula 2, the brand new race strategy putting more strain on the tyres. This ultimately culminated in a great weekend of racing in both Formula 1 and Formula 2.
“The strategies also reflected the tyre sets that each driver had available for the race. It was a similar story in Formula 2, where the new race format helped to put an accent on tyre strategy, delivering a brilliant weekend of racing in Bahrain throughout every category.”