Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg won the first race of the new 2016 tyre regulations, with three compounds available per race and teams allowed a large element of choice in their allocations. Eight drivers used all three compounds available, in a race that was characterised by a red flag stoppage after 18 laps. A variety of strategic choices – which was the intention of the new regulations – were possible at the re-start, with Mercedes and Ferrari notably opting for opposite tactics. Nonetheless, the top three were separated by less than 10 seconds at the finish: underlining the closeness of the competition under the latest tyre rules.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director: “The grand prix started and ended with a tactical tyre battle, but a red flag after 18 laps reset the race, giving it a very different complexion with tyre changes allowed. After starting with the same used supersoft compounds, Ferrari and Mercedes chose opposite strategies in the second part of the race, with Mercedes running two-thirds of the total distance on the medium tyre but closely challenged by Vettel on the soft. This goes to show how the new regulations have helped to open up a number of different approaches to strategy, with nine of the 16 finishers taking advantage of all three compounds on offer and five completely different strategies covering the top six places. As well as the expected battle at the front, Romain Grosjean finished an excellent sixth for the Haas team on its debut by effectively not making a pit stop at all: instead swapping from soft to medium during the restart, which was an inspired decision. The same strategy was used by Valtteri Bottas”.