Strategy guide for the Belgian Grand Prix

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Belgium, Circuit de Spa-Francorchampsbe

Due to the tricky weather on Friday, when the two practice sessions took place in damp conditions, teams and Pirelli have been unable to gather as much data as they wanted, leaving both the one-stop and two-stop strategy a viable option for today’s Belgian Grand Prix. F1Technical’s Balázs Szabó analyses the possible race strategies for the Spa race.

For the first of the remaining nine races, the Belgian Grand Prix, Pirelli has chosen the three compounds in the middle of the range: C2 as the P Zero White hard, C3 as the P Zero Yellow medium, C4 as the P Zero Red soft.

The 7.004km Spa-Francorchamps is one of the most demanding circuits for tyres on the calendar, featuring particularly high lateral loads. The famous Eau Rouge-Raidillon complex is just one of the places where tyres are subjected to multiple forces: pushed into the ground by downforce and compression, while cornering at the same time.

The track has gone through few modifications for this year with new asphalt laid between Turns 2 and 4, and Turns 8 and 9, with the bumps removed and increased grip. Furthermore, gravel traps have been added close to the track at Turns 1, 6, 7, and 9. The gravel features sharp stones, and there are also some sharp edges close to the concrete kerbing.

So far weather conditions have been variable, but the race is expected to take place in more stable and warmer conditions. With rain distracting the long run simulations in Free Practice 2, most of the teams carried out heavy fuel race run simulation in yesterday’s final practice, albeit it took place in quite cold conditions, meaning that the data gathered could be misleading when it comes to race strategy.

Based on the simulations and data from previous years, Pirelli thinks that the 44-lap Belgian Grand Prix can be tackled with either a one-stop or a two-stop strategy. It was interesting to see on Friday that there was quite a big performance difference between the hard and the soft compound with the picture reminiscent of what we saw at the Hungaroring with drivers unable to warm the hard compound up sufficiently.

Even if conditions are more stable and warmer today, it could be risky to create a strategy around the hard compound as drivers could face similar problems that prevented Charles Leclerc from securing a comfortable win at the Hungarian Grand Prix.

According to the Milan based tyre supplier, the one-stop strategy is a more conservative option which could be realized in different permutations.

Starting on the P Zero Yellow medium is the most flexible approach, which gives the option to switch to either the P Zero White hard or the P Zero Red soft as part of a one-stopper, while leaving the door open for a two-stopper if needed.

Another permutation for a one-stopper is to start on the soft, but it requires either an early stop for the hard or careful management to then go on the medium.

A different and more aggressive approach could be to use the soft as a part of two-stopper, perhaps with two stints on the medium tyre. This might compromise track position but could be a good option for a fast car if there is a safety car, or degradation on the soft turns out to be quite high.