Strategy guide for the Spanish Grand Prix

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Spain, Circuit de Catalunyaes

Based on Friday’s long-run simulation, Formula One’s sole tyre supplier Pirelli expects drivers to opt for a two-stop strategy for today’s Spanish Grand Prix. F1Technical’s Balázs Szabó reports on the possible race strategies from the Barcelona track.

Following the nail-biting qualifying session that saw Max Verstappen clinch his fourth pole position of the season, teams are getting ready for the 53rd Spanish Grand Prix, Round 7 of the 2023 F1 season.

Pirelli brought the C1, C2 and C3 compounds to Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya that usually puts a huge strain on the tyres, hence leading to a chess game between teams' strategists.

The 4.6km track has changed for this year with the sport reverting to the previous layout. This faster track configuration avoids the unfomfortable last chicane and uses the extremely quick second-to-last bend. With the elimination of this slower section, the demands have also slightly shifted with the track putting even more lateral forces than longitudinal forced through the tyres.

The new configuration has slightly modified the length of the track with the total race distance changed to 307.236km. Engineers have to stick to the minimum starting pressures which are 20.psi for the rear tyres and 23.0 psi for the front tyres. The camber limits are -3.25° for the fronts and -1.75° for the rears.

While rain was expected for the start of the race, the forecast has significantly changed. There are no clouds currently at Montmelo where the track is located with sunny and dry weather expected for the remainder of the day.

The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is a track where tyre degradation usually serves as a deciding factor, forcing drivers to look after their tyres to avoid any problems toward the end of their stints.

While Pirelli’s slick compounds have proved extremely durable this year, the Milan-based tyre supplier expects the two-stop strategy to lead to the best overall race time.

The Italian tyre manufacturer estimated that three variations of the two-stop strategy are possible for today’s 53rd Spanish Grand Pirx with the soft-hard-hard combination expected to the fastest.

A more aggressive strategy would see drivers start the race on the soft compound before completing a very long middle stint to then switch back to the red-walled soft tyres.

Using all three compounds as part of a two-stop strategy is also possible. Should someone opt for such a colorful strategy, he should kick off his race on the red-banded C3 before switching to the hards and ending the 66-lap Spanish Grand Prix on the yellow-sided mediums.

A three-stop strategy is not out of the window either should someone get in traffic. With George Russell, Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc all unable to progress into the all-important last qualifying session, it is possible for them to start the race on the C3 softs, completing a short opening stint, switching then to the hards for a relatively short second stint before completing two short stints on the softs.