High degradation at Austin – Strategy guide for today’s United States Grand Prix

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F1 Grand Prix, GP USA, Circuit of The Americasus

With high tyre wear due to the warm conditions and flowing corners, today’s United States Grand Prix is widely expected to drive drivers towards a two-stop strategy. F1Technical’s Balázs Szabó analyses the key factors that could influence today’s strategy at Autin.

The middle three compounds have been nominated for Austin: C2 as the P Zero White hard, C3 as the P Zero Yellow medium, and C4 as the P Zero Red soft

The uneven track surface could make it necessary to run a higher ride height, influencing aerodynamic performance. The teams will need to study the data carefully to find the best set up.

The preparation for the weekend has been different at Austin as the entire FP2 session was devoted to the tyre test. Pirelli obliged teams to conduct a specific run plan, but drivers, who missed the opening session due to the young driver test, were allowed to run their own programme for some of FP2 before concentrating on the tyre test for the remainder of the session.

However, with the final practice having taken place in good weather conditions, teams and drivers have been able to gather enough data to prepare their cars for yesterday’s qualifying session and today’s 56-lap race.

Qualifying took place in warm and dry weather conditions, with ambient temperatures of 32 degrees and track temperatures of 39 degrees at the start of the session. There were very strong gusting winds all day, which affected the aerodynamic balance and caused some big slides. Similar conditions are expected for today’s race which teams need to take into consideration when figuring out the best strategy for the 56-lap race.

When it comes to last year’s United States Grand Prix, it was a two-stopper due to relatively high tyre wear. The new technical regulations and the completely new range of tyres might slightly alter today’s tyre performance, but the practic sessions indicated that rear tyres will still be the limiting factor today.

As a result of the high temperatures and high wear on the rears, Pirelli expects that the best strategy for today’s 56-lap United States Grand Prix is likely to be a two-stopper, using the P Zero Yellow medium tyres and the P Zero White hard tyres.

The Milan-based tyre supplier calculates that there are two variations of the two-stop strategy. While the fastest way seems to be one medium stint followed by two stints on the hard, the strategy that involves the permutations of medium-hard-medium could also be a good way forward.

Although the safety car has made only a few appearances in the 10-year history of the United States Grand Prix at Austin, the virtual safety car has been deployed multiple times. A VSC period could shorten a stop by up to six seconds which could also influence the strategy.

Should the VSC be deployed or should a driver endure excessive tyre wear, a three-stopper could not be excluded either which could also be helped by the short pit lane time loss in Austin and plenty of possibilities to overtake.