The final race before the mid-season break is just around the corner and it’s beautifully set up with a new pole-sitter and mixed grid, so let’s take a look at the different strategic options available to the teams on race day in Hungary. ..
What is the fastest strategy?
The teams got a bit caught up this weekend after struggling with the hard compound as it slipped and wears out in warm conditions on Friday, leaving it comfortably slower than the medium and soft. As a result, a one-stop strategy is suddenly much more difficult to execute without the hard one, turning the theoretically fastest strategy into a two-stop strategy.
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But remember that Pirelli’s calculations are done without a number of variables that vary from team to team, as each constructor’s strategists have to consider things like their specific tire usage and traffic.
So when it comes to the fastest way to the end of a race, starting on the soft compound is considered best as it allows for the best launch off the line for one of the longer runs to Turn 1 this season. The opportunity to make up for positions would then be followed by an initial stint of 16-21 laps before switching to the medium compound tyre.
The middle stint could last up to 32 laps depending on how early the first stop is made, with a second pit window between laps 42 and 48 for another set of mediums.
Depending on possible Safety Car interruptions and with a decreasing fuel load, there is also the option of switching to soft tires for the final stint instead, although that is more likely in response to the race situation and comes around lap 50.
How about another option for the top 10?
The problem with the two-stop strategy above is the fact that it will give up track position on a track that is notoriously difficult to overtake, and there’s a little unknown about how hard it will be to get on the track this year. pass.
The new regulations have resulted in much closer racing this season so far, and drivers can push behind another car. But that doesn’t mean overtaking is easy, so it’s likely teams still prefer to make fewer stops so they don’t risk getting stuck behind a slower car and ruining their strategy.
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The fastest one-stop option uses the hard compound but starts on the medium and runs to a pit window between lap 26 and lap 34, before switching to the hard and running to the end. It’s still a long stint for hard-surface drivers to sustain and tire wear could become a limiting factor if they slip even more than they did on Friday, but despite the slower pace they will likely be able to defend their position.
This one-stop is expected to be just three to four seconds slower than the fastest two-stop strategy, showing how tempting it will be for teams to prioritize the lower number of pit stops. However, the risk is that if it is easier to overtake, the drivers could be vulnerable on the hard compound in the second half of the race.
What are the options for the bottom half of the field?
There is another one-stop option that requires even more tire management as it uses the soft compound for the first stint of the race.
The attraction here is to start on the faster compound that will provide the best launch off the line, with a nearly half kilometer run from pole position to the first braking zone to make use of that extra grip.
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The challenge will be to extend that first stint long enough with plenty of fuel, getting as close to lap 25 as possible before switching to the hard compound to get to the end. With a 70-lap race, that would make for a final 45-lap stint.
For another two-stop option, there is the option to use all three connections throughout the race. Starting on the medium tyre, a more aggressive first stint would be possible before pitting between lap 20 and lap 25 for hard tires.
From there, the hard work shouldn’t have to be managed as much, with drivers pushing harder to try and maintain the temperature – which is crucial to getting the hard work done – before moving on to a set anytime after lap 48. go soft tires.
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Following a two-stop strategy using two sets of soft tires – with a middle stint on mediums – will also likely only be seriously considered by those outside of the top ten who have an extra set of soft tires available for the race they are running. have done’t use it in qualifying.
Wait, but what’s the weather doing?
The fact that there are so many possible permutations shows that even the teams are probably not clear about their ideal plan, and that’s because the weather has changed significantly since Friday. Real-world temperatures were well into the 1930s and track temperatures were higher in the 1950s, but despite that, the hard tire didn’t perform particularly well.
The race will take place in temperatures around 10C lower, and on a track that has had quite a bit of rain in the last 24 hours, so the grip level is also not as high as it would normally be. All that makes it more difficult to understand how the tires will react and choose a strategy.
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After some heavy rain and thunderstorms on Saturday, there is also a chance of rain before the race, although the forecast suggests that the chance is greatest in a four-hour period before the lights go out.
Even if it doesn’t continue to rain until the start of the race, if there is enough before the start there is a chance of a damp track due to the lower ambient temperatures compared to previous days.