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STRATEGY GUIDE: What are the possible race strategies for the 2023 British Grand Prix?
A familiar name on pole position but a different team leading the charge after a damp and slippery qualifying session leaves some teams and drivers looking to make progress through the field. So here are a few of the tyre strategy options that are likely to be available to them on race day at Silverstone…
What’s the quickest strategy?
Remember that this is technically the ‘quickest strategy’ but not necessarily the strategy most teams will choose, because based on total race time the quickest route to the end is a two-stopper. The soft compound wasn’t looking too promising for a race stint during Friday’s practice sessions but that was when track temperatures were high and grip levels lower at the start of the weekend.
So the soft is expected to be able to be used for the start of the Grand Prix, allowing a race that focuses solely on the softest compounds.
A first stint of 11 to 17 laps would require tyre management to some degree, but then a switch to mediums could be a little more aggressive with a stint length of around 20 laps for the middle part of the race.
Getting to Lap 33 as a minimum would mean a near 20-lap final run to the flag but with lower fuel in the cars and increased grip levels the soft tyre should be able to hold up for a longer stint.
But unless every team picked the same strategy then anyone two-stopping would need to gain back some positions on track to those opting for the below option.
How about a different option for the top 10?
Perhaps the more likely strategy that will be targeted is a one-stop, because the expected difference in terms of race time is only a few seconds in total, so teams tend to lean towards fewer stops and prioritising track position. That’s because being the lead car will give them a chance to influence those coming through on a two-stopper by holding them up.
The soft is unlikely to be able to last long enough in the first stint to open up such a strategy, so drivers keen on one stopping would need to start on the medium compound and run to at least Lap 21 – with a pit window extending until around Lap 27 – before fitting the hard tyre to run to the end of the race.
What’s attractive about this strategy is that it opens up the potential to switch to a two-stopper if degradation levels are higher than expected. Should a driver starting on the medium need to make their first stop before Lap 20, then they would still switch to the hard and try to run as long as possible, but with a potential second stop in mind.
That’s because even if the hard is expected to be good for up to 40 laps, it is up to a second per lap slower than the soft compound, so a second stop for softs for a short run to the flag would be an option to attack cars ahead on older tyres.
What are the options for the bottom half of the field?
As is quite often the case for out of position cars, running an opposing strategy to the cars ahead is a potential option to make up further ground without having to make all of the overtakes on track.
Starting on the hard compound tyre to run to at least Lap 33 would then open up the possibility to switch to the softs for the final stint of the race, while an earlier pit stop could be made to fit mediums if there was a Safety Car or Virtual Safety Car interruption that would reduce the time lost in the pits by some 11 seconds.
However, this strategy is less likely because of the lack of performance on the opening lap, especially off the line if track temperatures are low and heat will be even more difficult to generate in the hardest compound.
Starting on the medium tyre and trying to one-stop using the softs is not completely out of the question but expected to require too much management to be a quick enough option against the above strategies.
Wait, but what’s the weather doing?
It’s the British Grand Prix, and it wouldn’t be a race at Silverstone without at least some uncertainty about the weather.
Saturday’s FP3 and qualifying sessions were hit by rain, with light showers falling during Q1 and parts of Q2 but not enough to cause drivers to switch from slick tyres to intermediates. Similar weather is forecast for the race, with a 40% chance of rain at some stage and cloudy conditions set to keep track temperatures lower than seen on Friday.
Should there be a point when track conditions change from slick to wet (or in the other direction) then the crossover point will be critical, with Pirelli estimating it to be around 112% of a dry lap time.
The exact lap time will be dependent on fuel loads but if intermediates are used and lap times are dropping below the 1m40s mark we will be close to seeing drivers gambling on a switch to slicks.