What are the likely strategies for the favorites?
A different set of tire compounds for this weekend led to a different approach to qualifying, with the majority of teams being particularly keen to avoid softer compounds. This is because we are using gums which are a bit softer than a week ago, and therefore the softs have an even shorter reach during the first part of the race.
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All the top five – it’s the Red Bull and Mercedes pair as well as Lando Norris in second – managed to reach Q3 with medium tires in order to start on this compound, giving them the best chance of making a single stop. strategy work.
Like last week, it’s all about stepping up a gear for the second stint, with a pitstop window of 25-30 laps, giving them a reasonable chance of making just one stop. But if the weather remains warm, the two-stop strategy is actually deemed faster by Pirelli, with a first stint of 20 laps before switching to hard compound for the intermediate stint, and depending on temperatures then staying on the hard ones. for a last stint or switch to mediums.
To do the latter it depends on the tire compounds available to the teams, and while Mercedes and Max Verstappen have two sets of hard drives as well as an extra set of midrange alongside their starting tires, Sergio Perez and Lando Norris both have only one hard set available and are therefore only able to do a final stint on the midrange if they stop twice.
What about the rest of the top 10?
Another driver in the top ten still managed to progress on medium tires, and it was quite surprising George Russell. He secured his first appearance in Q3 as a Williams driver using midrange, and will line up in eighth place following a grid penalty for Sebastian Vettel.
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While Russell is in a much stronger strategic position (if he makes two saves it will be with two stints on hard as he only has his starting medium set available), the two AlphaTauris in front and Lance Stroll behind – as well as Vettel in 11th now – are more limited starting with the softwares.
These should only handle 10 to 12 laps in the first stint with high fuel levels, so a double stop is a certainty, and they’ll do at least one stint on the hardships as both teams only have one. only used midrange set available. for them.
What are the options for the bottom half of the field?
Starting on the support opens up the potential for both the one-stop and two-stop strategy as noted above, but in all of the strategies offered hard is required. So for that reason we might just see a few teams choosing to start with the hard one and leave their options open beyond that point.
A first stint of 35-40 laps – closer to the 40 laps mark ideally – will open up the possibility of a single stop, with the fuel burning and a lighter car allowing a chance to arrive at the end on mediums. That’s a realistic target based on data teams have from a week ago, when this week’s hard tire was actually the middle compound (Pirelli’s C3 in both cases), and some riders have completed more than 40 laps. in the first stint.
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For teams that do not have two sets of hard rubber available – like Alpine and Ferrari – it is possible to execute a strategy using all three of the Pirelli range, but avoiding the soft at the start to ensure used when the car is the heaviest.
Wait, but what’s the weather like?
Tease us, really. We’ve had a threat of rain for each of the last two races and in either case it never really hits the mark, last weekend being particularly frustrating for those hoping for a rainy Sunday. There had been heavy rain on Friday night and Saturday morning, but despite a number of showers on the circuit during the race, the only rain to fall started just past the checkered flag.
It’s a similar forecast today, where there is a chance of showers, but that chance wears off as the weekend gets longer.
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The FIA predicts a 40% chance of rain in the two-hour race window, and the interesting aspect will be how much – if any – falls, as the track has managed to handle quite a bit of drizzle during practice on the road. Friday without the need for an intermediary. tires. On this occasion several teams stayed on the slicks and the temperatures should be a bit warmer during the race, so we may well see riders trying to avoid a pass to intermediates for a number of laps.
If the inters or full wet tires are required at any stage of the race, this would negate the need to use two different dry tire compounds and could open up several different strategies.