Strategy debrief: 77 laps on the same set of tyres

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Monaco, Monte Carlo Circuitmc

Unless it rains, the Monaco Grand Prix is usually a linear race as far as the strategy is concerned. It was even more so on Sunday after the red flag forced drivers into a tyre-preserving approach.

It’s been a perfect weekend for Charles Leclerc who has finally shaken off his Monaco jinx. He had been quickest in Friday free practice and in qualifying on Saturday and Sunday's 70th Monaco Grand Prix saw the Monegasque record his first victory on home soil for the first time, to secure his sixth Formula 1 victory, his previous win dating back to the 2022 Austrian Grand Prix. This was the Maranello team’s 245th win, the tenth in this race.

Alongside the Ferrari man on the podium were Oscar Piastri, second for McLaren, thus equalling his previous best result at last year’s Qatar GP and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, who had already finished twice on the podium in Monaco, with two second places in 2021 and 2022.

Starting his race debrief, Pirelli's Motorsport Director Mario Isola praised Charles Leclerc for taking his first win of the season: "First and foremost, congratulations to Charles Leclerc and to Scuderia Ferrari on their win.

"We can only begin to imagine what it means to Charles to have triumphed on the streets of the city where he grew up!"

Linear strategy

As far as the strategy is concerned, there is usually not a big variation in Monaco unless it rains. As track position is usually a king around the narrow layout of the Monte Carlo track and tyre degradation is fairly low due to the low-energy corners, drivers in the top ten usually try to cling on to their positions.

For the start of the 70th Monaco Grand Prix, the drivers were split almost equally between the nine who had opted to run the first stint on the Medium, namely Carlos Leclerc, Charles Sainz, Lando Norris, Oscar Piastri, Alexander Albon, Daniel Ricciardo, Yuki Tsunoda, Zhou Guanyu and Nico Hulkenberg and the remaining eleven who went with the Hard, those being Sergio Perez, Max Verstappen, George Russell, Lewis Hamilton, Lance Stroll, Fernando Alonso, Esteban Ocon, Pierre Gasly, Logan Sargeant, Valtteri Bottas and Kevin Magnussen.

“On the tyre front, the Monaco race doesn’t usually present many options and today, even those few possibilities were practically wiped out by the red flag on the opening lap. In fact, the race being stopped meant that a pit stop was no longer required, as explained previously," added Isola.

Those who opted for the hard compound clearly had an extremely long first stint in their minds and hoped for a possible safety car intervention during the second half of the 78-lap race.

However, the red flag on the opening lap following a collision between Perez and both Haas drivers, meant that all remaining drivers were therefore absolved of the need to make a pit stop to use two different compounds.

It was rather unfortunate for the drivers who started the race on the white-walled tyres, as even if degradation is low, completing the remaining 77 laps was a big ask from the medium tyres.

All in all, the stoppage meant that those who had started on the C3 switched to the C4 and vice versa, all of them capable of getting to the chequered flag without stopping. The only exception was Sargeant who kept the same set of Hards that he had used for the first start.

It was not surprising to see the top ten drivers drive desperately slowly in certain stages of the race as they wanted to keep their tyres in good shape for the remainder of the race distance.

There were some pit stops, but these only occurred when windows opened in the traffic, so that they could be completed without losing track position.

Those who took advantage of this scenario were, in order, Bottas, Stroll, Hamilton, Verstappen and Sargeant, who went from Medium to Hard and Zhou, who switched from Hard to Soft. The only driver to make two stops was Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll, but only because he sustained a puncture after hitting the barrier.
"We knew that both the Hard and the Medium could go the full distance if managed properly and that’s what almost all the drivers did.

"Groups were formed according to what compound they were running and within these groups there were some games of cat and mouse, aimed at getting other drivers to make mistakes, but this never really created any overtaking opportunities, or chances to change strategy to mix things up.

"Those who did pit, did so “for free,” in other words without losing track position. They were then able to push with a clear track ahead for a little while, lapping as much as whole seconds quicker than those who were managing their tyres.

"But then, once back in traffic, they had to settle for having a close view of the car in front. This explains why the top ten places never changed from the first to the last lap," added Isola.