The Bahrain Grand Prix kicks off a new Formula 1 season and the new rules add to the uncertainty as to how the race will play out. Ahead of today’s season opener at the Bahrain International Circuit, we’ll look at the various strategies that teams can choose from.
What is the fastest strategy?
In many ways, it’s a simpler equation for the teams this year, as the tires they qualify on no longer have anything to do with the compound they start the race on. The old rule of starting a race on Q2 tires – if you qualified in the top ten – has been abolished, so it’s a free choice for all racers.
READ MORE: Ferrari looks cheeky and Mercedes falls behind as a new era begins – what to look out for in the Bahrain GP
One thing that is quite obvious is the preferred starting mix since most of the grid is likely to start on a soft tyre. As much as strategists would like to try something different, especially if they are behind in starting order, the early advantage provided by the soft tire over the other two compounds is too great to be overlooked.
Bahrain has regularly been a two-stop race and this year is no different: the two-stop race is once again voted the preferred option, despite new tires and 18-inch wheels. Medium and hard compounds are expected to provide similar results, but the slower warm-up phase of the hard tires means that the expected main option for teams is a two-stop strategy that includes a first stint on soft tyres, a second stint on mediums and a third return on softs. .
This will require the first stretch between laps 14 and 24 before switching to medium until at least lap 35 before returning to the soft compound.
READ MORE: Bottas proud of ‘super-smooth’ Alfa Romeo first qualifying exam sees it start ahead of Mercedes
For four riders – Valtteri Bottas, Alex Albon, Zhou Guangyu and Nicholas Latifi – the tire allocation available to them means they are the only ones with the option to use the soft-medium-medium mode if needed, widening the window for their second stops.
What about the rest of the top 10?
It will be difficult to convince anyone who starts in the podium to do anything other than start on a soft compound because of the performance they will lose in the early laps, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities. try changing your strategy a bit.
The most obvious and likely option, apart from the “soft-medium-soft” mentioned above, is very similar, but with a medium cut on a hard tire rather than a medium one. This approach would allow stopping somewhat earlier than those that switch to medium speeds due to the strength of the hard compound, but its warm-up properties mean it’s unlikely to provide clipping, and if anything make the first couple of laps difficult. pits.
READ MORE: Red Bull’s race pace is ‘very strong’, says Verstappen after missing pole in Bahrain
With this strategy, at any time after lap 35, it will be possible to go all the way to the end on soft tires, although teams can also use all three tire compounds.
Again, starting with soft tyres, the first pit stop could be made as early as lap 11 and then a hard tire would be used as it will likely perform better when the track is warmer and the fuel load is higher for power generation and hence high temperature. But then again, using hard drives comes with risks, especially at the beginning of a section when the riders are trying to heat up the tires.
From there it would be possible to switch to a medium compound tire when there are up to 24 laps left, as the tire will warm up faster despite having less fuel load at this stage and has much less offset compared to a soft tire than a tire. makes it hard.
What are the options for the bottom half of the field?
There may be a few drivers who are willing to risk a one-stop strategy just to try something different from the rest of the field, even if they might need a bit of luck to make it happen.
Pirelli expects no one to start a race on solid compound tires given the warm-up difficulties of these tires, and midsize tires could be potential starting tires to try to open up a one-stop strategy.
READ MORE: Mercedes ‘out of the fight’ with Ferrari as Red Bull says Hamilton after worst Bahrain qualifier since 2009
This will require a long first stint at medium speeds to get the driver within one stop, and switching to hard tires is unlikely until lap 29. From there, the hardest compound should make it to the finish line, but turning on the hard tires will be the defining moment, as that’s when any driver attempting this strategy will be at their most vulnerable.
As far as likely candidates for such a strategy, the most likely teams are those eliminated in Q1 who felt they had the potential to reach at least Q2, if not Q3 – Daniel Ricciardo, Yuki Tsunoda and a pair of Aston Martins in a special one.
Wait, what about the weather?
One of the great things about racing in Bahrain as part of the first race of the season – or for that matter, wherever it appears on the calendar – is the relatively stable conditions.
Of course, a sandstorm can hit the track and steering the rear wheels can be particularly difficult for drivers, but generally high temperatures and strong winds create the biggest problems in Sakhir.
READ MORE: Haas’ first appearance in Q3 since 2019: ‘everything we could hope for’ says Magnussen after returning to F1
We saw the latter more than the former during the race weekend and nothing like the 37C highs seen during testing. In fact, it was about 20°C cooler during the day, with strong winds lowering the temperature and at times disturbing the cars.
But the race looks set to take place in relatively familiar conditions, with temperatures expected to be in the mid-20s and winds to abate compared to the previous few days. This means the rear tires will once again be the limiting factor, but overheating shouldn’t be a concern.
HIGHLIGHTS: Watch the 2022 Bahrain Grand Prix qualifying events.
In fact, if the opposite is true and temperatures are lower than expected, more in line with the remainder of the weekend, then Pirelli’s data suggests it won’t have a significant impact on tire performance. At higher or lower temperatures, the level of decomposition is relatively the same, and the only strategic effect is an even longer warm-up time required for harder compounds if the temperature is not increased.
F1 TV Pro provides fans with front row seats, and information and camera images are usually only found in the pit wall. Sign up today for a free 7-day trial* to experience F1 2022 to the fullest.
*Excludes previous free trial clients. Terms and conditions apply.