Strategy almost unpredictable for the Belgian Grand Prix

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Strategy is usually difficult to predict at the Belgian Grand Prix given the complex nature of the track and that might be the case tomorrow as well as the continuous rain showers expected for Sunday might force teams to react on the unpredictable conditions rather than sticking to their calculations.

The weather forecast predicted changeable weather for the weekend. While drivers were able to enjoy the Spa-Franchorchamps track in dry conditions on Friday, the circuit presented itself in a very different form on Satudary. Conditions were treacherous throughout the three segments of qualifying, as rain of varying intensity fell across the 7.004km circuit.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen claimed pole after a disrupted Q3 session, with a delay of more than half an hour after McLaren’s Lando Norris hit the wall. When the session resumed with nine minutes to go, all the drivers used a single set of intermediates, with Verstappen beating Williams driver George Russell to pole.

As for the tyres, the intermediate tyres were most commonly used today, with Williams being the only team to use them from the very start of Q1. After they went fastest, all the other drivers eventually switched to the Cinturato Green, which they used in Q2 as well, before switching to the Cinturato Blue full wet for Q3 ahead of the lengthy interruption to the session.

With the best times in Q2 set on the intermediate, this means that all the drivers will have a free choice of starting tyres tomorrow if it’s a dry race.

The strategy at the Belgian Grand Prix is usually very difficult to predict given the changeable weather and the high probability of safety car periods. Given the forecast for tomorrow which predicts 80 per cent chance of rain at Spa, it will be once again very difficult for the teams to come up with plans for the 44-lap race.

Last year’s race was a relatively easy affair to plan in terms of strategy. With the early safety car period, most of the drivers changed tyres on lap 11 which then turned out to be their only pit stop in the race. This year looks very different.

As teams usually like to limit the number of pit stops, the one-stopper should be relatively easy to achieve if it is dry. Pirelli reckons that starting on the medium tyre offers the maximum flexibility, but the cooler weather might also push more drivers towards the P Zero Red soft.

However, there is a strong chance of rain for tomorrow with similar conditions expected as today. Should that be the case, he Cinturato Green intermediate tyres could dominate the day’s action at Round 12 of the 2021 F1 season.

Pirelli’s Head of F1 and Car Racing Mario Isola commented: “First and foremost, we’re all relieved that Lando Norris is OK after a very big accident at one of the quickest points on the circuit. This was an extremely tricky qualifying where it was very hard to predict the weather from one minute to the next, forcing the teams to think on their feet.

“Similar conditions are expected for tomorrow, so that particular challenge is set to continue. The intermediate tyre, which was used for the bulk of today’s running, showed itself to be capable of handling a wide variety of wet and drying conditions.

“Tomorrow’s strategy – where we don’t even know yet which type of tyres the drivers will be starting the race on – is going to be mainly about adapting to changing circumstances, as we saw throughout today,” Isola concluded.