Feature F1 Unlocked
STRATEGY GUIDE: What are the possible race strategies for the 2023 Hungarian Grand Prix?
Two red flags and wet weather meant the drivers didn’t get much running in first practice for the Hungarian Grand Prix, while a trial aimed at reducing tyre usage is another variable the teams have to cope with in Budapest this weekend. So let’s take a look at the strategy options they have on race day at the Hungaroring…
What’s the quickest strategy?
As the chart below shows, the quickest strategy this weekend in Hungary is a two stopper, starting on the medium tyre for between 17 and 24 laps, before switching to the hard tyre for around 20 to 30 laps, then a final stop for another set of hards.
That’s effectively the same strategy Max Verstappen used to win this race last year – although back then it was a soft-medium-medium combination, since the tyre selection from Pirelli is a step softer this time around – and our data shows this is still the fastest way to the flag.
Overtaking is, as usual, likely to be difficult at what is a much tighter track than, for example, Silverstone, but while the teams would therefore like to minimise their pit stops to instead prioritise track position, a one stop will be very difficult to pull off, with our expected tyre life data showing a medium-hard combination falling nine laps short of the 70-lap race distance.
So expect at least a two-stop race for the top runners, even if the order of the tyres used differs slightly to the one above.
For example, some may opt to start on the mediums, run them slightly longer than the optimum strategy, then swap to hards until at least Lap 45, and then return to the mediums for the final run the to flag.
How about a different option for the top 10?
As already mentioned, overtaking on track is likely to be difficult, so strategy will be key for those looking to leapfrog their rivals on race day.
And as we saw last year at this race, the undercut is expected to be a powerful tool for any driver with the tyres and pace to pull it off, but without the outright speed advantage to make an on-track pass stick.
One way of doing this could be a two stopper, again starting on the medium until around Lap 20, and then stopping for another set of mediums, before a final stint back on the hards from between Lap 39 and 47.
With the medium expected to be around 0.5s per lap quicker than the hard, any driver within striking distance of a rival ahead could make up enough time to undercut them by running the medium consecutively on the first two stints.
What are the options for the bottom half of the field?
Keen eyed readers will have noticed that none of the strategies mentioned so far include the use of the soft tyre – which is often the choice for those drivers hoping to maximise their launch off the line on the race start.
But this weekend, no drivers are expected to start on the soft rubber because of the high track temperatures we’re likely to see, which – combined with the heavy fuel loads at the beginning of a race – will see them overheat very quickly.
However, they could be used at the end of the Grand Prix – once most of the fuel has been burned off – in a three-stop strategy that could come into play if degradation proves higher than expected.
That would see an opening stint of between 13 and 19 laps on the medium, two stints on the hard, then a final dash to the line on the softs.
And there’s one final alternative strategy that might be worth gambling on for George Russell starting down in 18th place but with a quick car underneath him.
That would see him start on the hards and then switch to the mediums late in the race – though ideally he would need a Safety Car period to make this work, and that’s less likely here than many other tracks, with just 38% of races here across the past eight years requiring Bernd Maylander’s services.
Wait, but what’s the weather doing?
Despite rain falling on Friday during first practice, the latest weather radar data is forecasting a 0% chance of rain on race day.
Instead, those high temperatures are likely to be the critical weather factor the teams and drivers will have to consider when the lights go out to get the action started on Sunday.