Strategy guide for the Bahrain Grand Prix

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The season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix should not bring any big surprises as far as the race strategies are concerned. F1Technical's senior writer Balázs Szabó delivers his strategy guide for today's 57-lap Manama race.

Pirelli has brought three compounds of the harder end of its five-compound range to Bahrain: the C1 will serve as the Hard, the C2 as the Medium and the C3 as the Soft compound. With teams having ordered a huge amount of C3 compounds for the pre-season testing that took place in Bahrain, they should have gained enough information of the behaviour of that compound that will be the tyre to use for a low-fuel qualifying lap. This compound provided a gain of around six tenths of a second compared to the C4 compound due to the higher grip level.

With the Bahrain International track dominated by low- and medium-speed corners, Pirelli has enforced relatively low minimum starting pressures. The limit for the front tyres is 22.0 psi while it is 19.0 psi for the rears. As far as the camber limits are concerned, the limit is -3.50° for the front and -2.00° for the rear tyres.

Based on last year’s experience and the data from this this weekend, Pirelli thinks that drivers will approach today’s race with a two-stop strategy. The best way to do so is to start the 57-lap Bahrain Grand Prix on a set of red-walled soft compound before jumping on to the hard rubber between Lap 13 and 19. Following a long stint on the white-walled compound, drivers could switch back to the softs for a final shorter stint.

Another option is to start the grand prix on the softs and then perform two stints of similar length on the hards. While the Milan-based company believes that the hard and the soft tyres could emerge as the preferred race tyres today, a two-stop strategy with a selection of soft-soft-medium tyres could also be on the cards.

While the Bahrain International Circuit is an abrasive, high-degradation track that demands a lot from the rear tyres, a two-stop strategy should emerge definitely quicker than a three-stop approach. However, the latter could also play a role if the race was neutralised in its final stages. It could mean that drivers use another set of soft tyres to make the most of the potential of the red-walled tyres.

As far as the race sets are concerned, Red Bull have managed to carry over a new set of soft tyres for the race which means that Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez might enjoy a significant advantage at the start of the race if they opt for that compound for the opening phase of the grand prix.

The only other driver to have a new set of C3 tyre is Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg who did not run any new softs in the last qualifying segment. The German might have thought that he would not have any chance against his rivals in Q3 which prompted him to save a fresh set of the red-walled tyres for the race. The Bahrain Grand Prix will serve as an ultimate test for Haas after the American team has been desperately searching for solutions for their tyre issues from 2023 with the team even going as far as completing only heavy-fuel runs in Free Practice 1 on Thursday.

Interestingly, Red Bull have only carried over a single set of hard compound for the race while every other driver has two sets of the white-walled rubber. It is also worth noting that both Ferrari drivers completed a single hot lap on their only C2 medium compound at the start of qualifying, meaning that neither Carlos Sainz nor Charles Leclerc will have a new set of medium for the race.