Strategy guide for the Japanese Grand Prix

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Formula One's sole tyre supplier Pirelli forecasts a two-stop strategy for tomorrow's Japanese Grand Prix given the high-speed, ultra-fast nature of the Suzuka track that heavily punishes tyres.

Suzuka is a true classic: the 5.807-kilometre Honda-owned track tests every driver’s talents with a demanding layout characterized by a figure-eight layout, unique in Formula 1.

In addition to representing an extraordinary challenge for cars and drivers, the track also tests the tyres: both in terms of wear – due to high levels of asphalt roughness and abrasiveness – as well as through the forces and loads to which they are subjected throughout the variety of corners that make up the lap. As usual, Pirelli has selected the hardest trio of compounds: C1 as hard, C2 as medium and C3 as soft. This is the same selection as was used in Bahrain for the first race of the season.

The huge number of high-speed corners of the Suzuka circuit has prompted Pirelli to nominate relatively high minimum starting pressures: 25.0 psi for the front and 23.0 psi for the rears. The camber limits are as follows: -2.75 for the front and -1.50 for the rear tyres.

While the brief rain shower very much limited any meaningful running in the second practice session on Friday, several drivers were eager to gain some knowledge on tyre degradation in Free Practice 3.

With the chance of rain having significantly dropped for the time the race takes place at, the wet and intermediate tyres might not make an appearance, leaving drivers to complete the 53-lap race distance with Pirelli's slick tyres.

The most obvious strategy would be a two-stop strategy given the tyre wear and degradation around the high-energy, ultra-fast Suzuka track. Interestingly, all compounds might play a pivotal role tomorrow as each of them have displayed encouraging performance so far this weekend. While the soft compound loses its peak grip after a single hot lap, it is very much a viable race tyre for a short stint.

Pirelli thinks that the quickest strategy would be to start on the red-walled softs, and pit for hards between Laps 9 and 14. The second stop would then come around Lap 35 with this stop involving a tyre service for another set of hards.

Drivers, who have felt comfortable on the yellow-walled medium in practice, could base their strategy on the C2 compound. It would see drivers start on the mediums before changing to hards between Laps 13 and 18. A final shorter stint would be another run on the yellow-walled mediums.

Considering the sets left after free practices and qualifying, Red Bull and Ferrari drivers might base their strategy around two stints on the mediums as Verstappen, Perez, Leclerc and Sainz have all kept two sets of fresh mediums for the race.

There is also a possilibity of a one-stop strategy for the 53-lap race in Suzuka. However, it would require drivers to perform excessive tyre management in the early phases of the race to extend their first run. Should someone elect to stop only once, they should start on the yellow-banded mediums and pit for fresh hards between Laps 20 and 25.

While past races did not see many safety car interruptions given the nature of the track, a SC or VSC period might be a perfect opportunity to take a cheaps pit stop. Pitting under green flag conditions takes around 22s, while a tyre service under SC or VSC might only require 11 seconds.