Fluctuating temperatures complicate race strategy decision

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Mexico, Autódromo Hermanos Rodriguezmx

The Mexican Grand Prix is set to be a strategy game, with Pirelli admitting that changing temperatures have made it difficult for teams to reliably judge the behaviour of the different tyre compounds for the race.

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton has claimed pole position for the Mexican Grand Prix with the supersoft tyre. Hamilton’s pole lap in Mexico City was the fastest ever seen on the current circuit.

Pirelli states that it's not set in stone which will be the best race tyre, and it will greatly depend on the track temperature.

"Track temperatures were much warmer than they had been in every session held so far, approaching 37 degrees centigrade at the start of qualifying, with 18 degrees ambient. This helped to swing performance back towards the supersoft tyre, although the correct tyre warm-up still held a key to unlocking optimal performance.

"All the drivers completed Q1 using the supersoft tyre, with three different teams in the top three. Many drivers then went onto the soft for the first run in Q2, with a view to seeing whether or not this was the best option to get through the session and start the race. Both Mercedes and Ferraris will start the grand prix on the soft tyre, whereas Red Bull has committed to starting on the supersoft."

Expected strategy

A two stopper may be the most interesting strategy, but numerous options are on the table. Pirelli estimates the medium could be an interesting option if the temperatures are cool, whereas warmer conditions will favour the super softs, as that causes these tyres to degrade less rapidly.

"Two pit stops look set to be the most likely scenario for most competitors, but with times closely matched there are a number of different strategy permutations on the table: which will depend also on the weather conditions for the race. Some drivers could aim for a single stop strategy. Rapid track evolution continued to be a hallmark of the Mexico City track today, and this will remain a factor for the rest of the weekend, again affecting strategies."

Tyres available for the race

While Mercedes and Ferrari will start both of their cars on soft, Red Bull opted for super softs, hoping a differing strategy can give them an advantage.

Of those starting in the top 10, only Hamilton, Sainz and both Red Bulls have a new set of softs available (with Sainz even 2 sets of softs), while Vettel is the only one with an unused set of super softs. Kimi Raikkonen on the other hand doesn't, but his final set of new super softs was used in Q2 for a number of slower laps.

Also interesting is the fact that only Mercedes and Sainz have two sets of softs available for the race, while all others that made it into the final shootout in qualifying has just a single set remaining.