Tyre preview for the Australian Grand Prix

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Formula One's tyre manufacturer Pirelli have brought the three softest compounds of its 2024 tyre range to Melbourne with the C5 compound making its debut at the Australian Grand Prix.

The opening two rounds of the 2024 F1 season, the Bahrain and the Saudi Arabian Grands Prix saw Pirelli bring four compounds from the harder end of its tyre range. By contrast, Round 3 of the season sees the softest compound make its debut in 2024. It means that drivers have the C5 compound at their disposal alongside the C4 and C3 compounds that will be used at almost every round this season.

This weekend's tyre choice is a softer selection compared to last year, when the C2, C3, and C4 were chosen, but it’s not the first time that the softest compound has been seen in Melbourne. Back in 2022, Pirelli brought the C5 to Albert Park as the soft nomination (when it was paired with C3 as medium and C2 as hard, leaving out the C4).

Pirelli indicated that "the decision to go with a softer selection was taken after analysing last year’s race, which centred around the C2 with 10 drivers using it for 47 of the 58 laps, and three drivers running it for more than 50 laps."

The C5 remains unaltered from 2023, but it's the compound that has up to now been used least on the current generation of cars. It wasn’t nominated for either of the two opening races this year, and just 140 kilometres were covered on the softest compound in the 2024 range during the single pre-season test in Bahrain from 21-23 February.

Lewis Hamilton was the only driver to complete a true long run with it, while the Williams drivers mainly used it for a series of in and out laps. Only two other teams, Ferrari and Stake F1, selected the C5 for the Bahrain test: an abrasive track that is not particularly suited to the softest compound. So it remains something of an unknown heading into this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix.

As for the strategy, it is pretty difficult to predict what is the best approach to follow. Historically, a one-stop strategy has been the favoured option, but incidents can massively influence the way teams approach the Australian Grand Prix. The 2023 Australian Grand Prix was characterised by numerous stoppages, including three safety cars and three red flags, with two restarts from the grid and one rolling restart.

Although overtaking used to be at a premium around the Albert Park track, it has been recently redesigned to make it more flowing. It’s still tricky to overtake on, although not as hard as it was in the past. Alongside the tweaks to the track, the move to a softer tyre nomination might change the quickest strategy and could create situations where the pace difference between the cars as a result of varying levels of tyre performance helps overtaking.