Tough call to make – Strategy guide for the inaugural Miami Grand Prix

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Race engineers and strategists are expected to endure an exhausting afternoon at today’s inaugural Miami Grand Prix not just due to the sweltering heat in Florida, but also for the complexity of the possible race strategies. F1Technical’s Balázs Szabó assesses the possible scenarios that today’s race in Miami might present.

For the very first visit to the eagerly-anticipated Miami street circuit, Pirelli has chosen the three tyres in the middle of the range: P Zero White hard is the C2, P Zero Yellow medium is the C3, and P Zero Red soft is the C4. This combination is the most commonly-used one all year, and also the most versatile.

The 5.41-kilometre Miami International Autodrome incorporates 19 corners, three straights, elevation changes and a tricky chicane. The track that has been built around the Hard Rock Stadium Complex in Miami Gardens is a challenging circuit due to its tight confines and high-speed sections. Top speeds are expected to be in the region of 320kph with an average of around 223kph and drivers on full throttle for approximately 58% of the lap. Turns 11 and 17 are the two main overtaking opportunities, with three DRS zones.

Yesterday’s qualifying session for the inaugural Miami Grand Prix saw Charles Leclerc lead a Ferrari one-two with all the cars using the P Zero Red soft tyre from start to finish of the session. The championship leader set the inaugural fastest lap record for the new Miami circuit in Q3 with a time of 1m28.796s.

As for the best race strategy, it will be a tough call to make for a number of reasons. The weather should be a bit cooler than on Saturday, but still over 30 Celsius degrees. However, there is some chance of rain which could hit the track exactly during the race. Furthermore, engineers can not rely on previous race data and the second practice session that usually sees drivers conduct race run simulations was interrupted by red flags.

Pirelli estimates that it will be very difficult to choose between the one- and two-stopper with the latest appearing to be the slightly faster strategy. However, given the high possibility of safety car interruptions, the Milan-based manufacturer thinks that the most flexible option will be to begin on the medium and then go onto the hard, which leaves the possibility open for a final stint on the medium again, or even the soft tyre if the last stop is close enough to the end of the race.

Pirelli’s Motorsport Director Mario Isola commented: “It was a tightly-fought qualifying session where we saw the grip recovery concept that we have built into the tyres come to the fore: namely, the ability of the tyres to complete a number of push laps before a cool-down period, and then be able to push again with all the grip recovered and no loss of performance.

„This was particularly evident in Ferrari’s qualifying strategy, where Leclerc completed three runs in Q1 on the same set of tyres while Sainz completed four. They then did three runs each in Q2 and two runs in Q3: in some of the hottest track temperatures that we have seen all year.

„Strategy tomorrow is not straightforward, but it looks as though a two-stopper will be the quickest way to go, with all three compounds potentially playing an important role,” the Italian concluded.