According to the sport’s sole tyre supplier Pirelli, today’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix could see drivers striving for a one-stop strategy given the layout of the track and the expected tyre degradation.
Traffic, layout, tyre behaviour and starting positions – only several key factors which could define the strategy for today’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The soft tyres have shown a relatively high degradation during Friday’s long run simulation while the hard compound has proved extremely durable.
Overtaking is usually at a premium around this racing course, making track position vital as drivers are often unable to convert the advantages of their fresh tyres into position gains. Another challenge is presented by the fact that the sun will begin to set at the start of the grand prix, leading to significant changes of conditions. Track temperatures will fall dramatically during the race which usually means that tyres last much longer in the second part of the race.
Taking all these historical facts and observation from this weekend into consideration, Pirelli expects that the one-stop strategy could be the optimal way to cover the race distance of 305.355km today. However, a prefect timing will be essential and luck might also play a part in choosing the critical lap for the solo tyre change. As there are many options when it comes to the timing of the stop, Pirelli expects the stops to be quite spread out today.
The optimal strategy for the 55-lap Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is a one-stopper, but there are several interesting variations on this theme as the pit stop window is quite wide. There are two one-stop strategies that work almost equally well: soft for seven to 14 laps, combined with hard for 41 to 48 laps. Alternatively, medium for 10 to 18 laps, combined with hard for 37 to 45 laps.
A two-stopper is about as fast on paper, but it’s not going to be a favoured tactic due to the problem of getting through traffic on a track where it’s not particularly easy to overtake.
Pirelli’s head of car and F1 racing Mario Isola thinks that today’s grand prix should transform itself into a tactical battle due to the key factors regarding the traffic and the tyre behaviour.
“With a wide pit stop window, tomorrow is set to be a tactical race and the strategy has already begun with the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel taking a different approach to the other frontrunners by opting for the soft tyre in Q2. The medium runners should be able to go for a longer first stint, but the soft runners – making up the majority of the top 10 on the grid – should be quicker at the start," Isola said.