Pirelli expect two or three-stop strategy in Hungary

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With teams trying to work around the 1.6 performance difference between the soft and medium compounds in Hungary, Pirelli expects little running on the medium and mostly two stops, considering the overtaking difficulty around the Hungaroring.

Conditions were similar to how they were for free practice yesterday, with qualifying and therefore race strategy centring mainly around the performance gap between the P Zero White medium and P Zero Yellow soft compounds, which was around 1.6 seconds. Around half the drivers used the soft tyres to be sure of getting through to Q2 – and sticking to the medium tyres for Q1 carried a risk of early elimination.

The drivers all used the soft tyre in Q2, while Q3 was interrupted during a short rain shower. The red flag came out a couple of minutes into the session following an accident, which meant that none of the drivers were able to set a time before the stoppage. When the action resumed, the top 10 came back out on the soft tyres once more, as with 39 degrees of track temperature the circuit was drying quite quickly.

Many drivers completed three timed laps in Q3, benefitting from this year’s new rule that allows the drivers in Q3 an extra set of the softer compound for qualifying. The drivers outside of the top 10 correspondingly receive an extra set of the compound to be used in the race.

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton was fastest in FP3 this morning on the soft tyre, completing his clean sweep of the free practice sessions in Hungary. A fire in qualifying means that he is expected to start from the back, giving him the opportunity to use tyre strategy to try and make progress on a track where overtaking is notoriously difficult.

"We think most drivers will go for a two-stop strategy, although a three-stop could theoretically be quicker, depending on traffic", said Paul Hembery. "The performance gap between the two compounds means that the soft is going to be the main race tyre, with low degradation, so the strategy is going to centre around making the most of this compound’s performance.”

For the 70-lap Hungarian Grand Prix, a three-stop strategy is theoretically fastest (maximising the time on the faster soft compound), although a two-stop strategy is more likely as overtaking at the Hungaroring is so tricky.

The fastest three-stop strategy is: start on the soft, change to the soft on lap 22, soft again on lap 44 and a final five-lap stint on the medium from lap 65.

The best two-stop strategy is: start on soft, change to soft again on lap 29, then medium from lap 54.