Big three go conservative for season finale

Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull are taking a similar conservative approach to the season finale in Abu Dhabi, almost mirroring one another’s tyre choice.

All three teams take 8 sets of the softest compound available, the pink-banded hypersoft – as do Haas and Sauber, whilst only differing on their choice of ultra and supersofts, Mercedes and Red Bull both taking three sets of the purple-banded and red-banded rubber, while Ferrari opts for two (ultra) and three (super).

Williams and Toro Rosso take the full complement of ten sets of the hypersofts, While Force India take nine and Renault just seven.

The French team leads the way in terms of ultrasofts, with Nico Hulkenberg taking 5 sets and Carlos Sainz 4, while Brendon Hartley and Sergey Sirotkin take just one set.

With all the 2018 compounds a step softer than their 2017 counterparts, the introduction of the hypersofts this season therefore means that the softest compound available is essentially two steps softer than last year.

Last year’s race saw a Mercedes 1-2, with Valtteri Bottas leading home teammate Lewis Hamilton, who had secured the title in Mexico.

Like the first seventeen finishers they were on a one-stop strategy, and like all of the first ten finishers they started the race on ultras before switching to supers, the first eight in fact all starting on used ultras and then switching to new supers.

The Yas Marina circuit is characterised by its smooth asphalt, warm weather and wide mix of corners, which means a varied track in terms of speeds so teams tend to run a compromise set-up with medium downforce.

As the race starts in the late afternoon and ends in the evening, track temperatures fall quite notably during the race.

Like Brazil, the track runs anti-clockwise and though wear and degradation is reasonably contained on the smooth surface, with plenty of acceleration and braking over the lap, traction is the main consideration.

Overtaking tends to be difficult, so strategy and qualifying are key.