Just as a week ago, Formula One’s sole tyre manufacturer advises teams to commit themselves to a two-stop strategy at today’s Formula One Sakhir Grand Prix.
The International Bahrain Circuit is known as a track that is very harsh on tyres, putting high vertical and longitudinal loads through the tyres. The surface of Sakhir cirucit is a high-grip, highly abrasive asphalt, on which traction out of slow corners and protecting the rear tyres are usually the key considerations
While most of the Bahrain Grands Prix were staged on the Grand Prix circuit with the exception of the 2010 race when driver races on the Endurance layout. The sport has decided to use a third layout, the Outer Loop Circuit for this weekend in order to spice things up for this weekend following last weekend’s race at the same venue.
The abrasive surface and the high temperatures were expected to turn out to be the decisive factor when it comes to tyre management, but the shorter layout which effectively features only slow corners puts less stress on the tyres. Moreover, the straights also mean that tyres can cool down a bit. The combination of these features of the Outer Circuit means that tyres have to deal with 20 to 30% lower energy levels, particularly at the rear.
Pirelli predicts that a two-stop will be the fastest approach to the 87-lap Sakhir Grand Prix, which is the highest lap count of the year. The fastest two-stopper should be two stints on the P Zero Yellow medium tyre of 26 laps each, plus one 35-lap stint on the P Zero White hard tyre (which could be the middle stint).
Alternatively, another good two-stopper would be one 21-lap stint on the P Zero Red soft plus two stints on the hard tyre of 33 laps each. Very close to that is a strategy with 25 laps on the medium and two stints of 31 laps each on the hard.
The Milan-based tyre supplier estimates that using all three tyres would be the slowest strategy: 23 laps on the soft, 27 laps on the medium, and 37 laps on the hard. Interestingly, each driver has only Hard compound left, meaning that most drivers are expected to use a soft-medium-medium or a medium-medium-hard strategy depending on which tyre they start the race.
Pirelli’s Head of F1 and Car racing Mario Isola said he is unsure whether Mercedes’ decision to start the race on the medium compound will turn out to be a strategic advantage in today’s 87-lap race.
“It was a very open qualifying session because of the very short lap, which meant that traffic was an issue and any mistakes were magnified, with the cars being so close together. Finding a gap was crucial, and all three sessions were extremely closely-fought, which should make for an exciting race tomorrow.
„The two Mercedes in first and second will be the only ones in the top 10 starting on the Yellow medium tyre, so it will be fascinating to see if they can turn that into an advantage for the Sakhir Grand Prix; especially at the start, with so many cars on the faster soft tyre immediately around them. All three compounds performed well, with a two-stopper set to be the quickest choice for tomorrow.