Drivers will strive for a two-stop strategy, at least that is the estimation of Formula One's tyre supplier Pirelli. F1Technical’s senior writer Balázs Szabó dwells on potential tyre strategies at today’s Hungarian Grand Prix.
At the twisty Hungaroring, drivers are allocated with the three softest compounds: the C3 serves as P Zero White hard, C4 as P Zero Yellow medium and C5 as P Zero Red soft. This choice is a step softer allocation than last year with Pirelli set to spice things up in today's race.
Hungary often features high ambient and track temperatures which can lead to the overheating of the tyres. Although Friday was interrupted by rain, Saturday took place in stable, much warmer conditions with today's temperatures set to rise above 30 degrees C when the lights switch to green.
The Budapest race hosts the debut of the Alternative Tyre Allocation with the new rule set to be trialled again at the Italian Grand Prix during the first weekend in September.
Under the alternative tyre allocation rules, drivers were forced to complete each qualifying session yesterday with just one mandatory slick compound. It meant that they were enforced into the hard compound in Q1, medium in Q2 and soft in Q3. The new rule also reduced the number of tyre sets available for each car to 11, instead of the 13 available for a normal race weekend.
What does Pirelli expect for today?
With current heat in Budapest, thia aggressive tyre choice means that today's race could turn into a challenge of thermal management of the tyres.
On paper, the two-stop strategy appears to be the fastest approach to today's Hungarian Grand Prix. Pirelli worked out two two-stop strategies to complete today's Hungarian Grand Prix.
The first option would see drivers kick off their race on the medium compound and complete a 20-lap stint before using the hard compounds for the remaining two stints.
Another two-stop strategy also looks to be viable which would mean that drivers commence the Budapest race on the yellow-sided medium before completing a relatively long middle stint on the hards. The second stop would see drivers swap their C3 compound for the mediums again to round out their 70-lap race stint.
However, there are other options on the table as well. The one-stop strategy would see drivers start the race on the Hard compound and try to keep them alive until Lap 40 to 46. With a relatively long stint remaining after that, drivers should then swap to the yellow-banded C4 compound to complete the race.
Interestingly, a three-stop strategy is also viable according the estimation from Pirelli. It would involve an opening stint on the mediums before completing two shorter stints on the hard to then finish the race on the soft rubber. However, given the difficulty of overtaking on the twisty Hungaroring, it looks unlikely that someone commits to a three-stop strategy unless he feels that he has an impressive straight-line speed compared to his rivals.
But wait for a moment! What compounds do drivers still have at their disposal following the debut of the alternative tyre allocation?
Drivers starting from the front of the field have a very similar allocation with a new and two used sets of hards, two used sets of mediums and two used sets of softs. However, thanks to his strong performance at the start of Q2, McLaren driver Lando Norris was able to save a new set of medium compound which could be very much useful for him either at the start of the race or in a later stint.
It will also be exciting to watch how drivers, who have not made it through into the last qualifying segment, approach the race. They have all two new sets of softs with the exception of the Williams duo of Alexander Albon and Logan Sargeant, who have one fresh set of soft compound left for the race.
The C5 compound yielded significantly higher grip around the slow corners of the Hungaroring which could be seen through the lap time improvements between the Q2 and Q3 segments of yesterday's qualifying session. Moreover, the heavy fuel runs did not show such a degradation that would make them unviable. All things considered, it is very much possible that drivers with fresh sets of softs could orient themselves to the use of the C5 compound for at least in one of their stints.