Formula 1 tyre supplier Pirelli suggests strategy options remain open for the Portuguese Grand Prix but is leaning towards a one-stop run to the chequered flag.
Formula 1 has returned to Portugal after a 24-year absence and is visiting the Algarve Circuit for the first time.
Friday’s action saw teams struggle to adapt to the newly-resurfaced circuit with drivers complaining of a lack of grip.
Running was also restricted thanks to a disrupted FP2 session in which 2021 tyre testing was was followed by two separate red flag periods.
Due to a combination of the new surface and Pirelli bringing the hardest three compounds from its range teams have found varying grip levels amongst the different options available to them.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and the Mercedes pair of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri made it into Q2 on the Mediums while the other seven did so on the softs.
Those who did not make it through to Q3 will have a free choice of starting tyres for the 66-lap Grand Prix.
Pirelli’s data currently suggests the fastest route is a one-stop strategy, starting on the Mediums for 32 laps before swapping to the Hard for the remainder of the race.
For those starting on the Soft tyres, the second quickest strategy is to run until lap 18 and then switch over to the Hard compound.
Pirelli is also suggesting a two-stop strategy should temperatures prove to be lower. This would mean running the red-marked Softs for 14 laps followed by two stints of 26 laps on the Mediums.
Weather for the race remains unpredictable with a 60 per cent chance of rain coupled with temperatures of around 21C (70F)
“There’s an interesting variation in terms of strategy, with both Mercedes in first and second, as well as the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc in fourth, starting the race on the Medium tyre: which also set pole,” said Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing.
“It’s going to be fascinating to see which advantage the medium runners can take from this compound. With the gusting winds and blind crests, Portimao is far from an easy circuit.
“So we could have an unpredictable race, where managing the tyres – the three hardest in our range, which was the right choice as the action showed – and keeping them in the right temperature window will be essential in the relatively cool and low-grip conditions.
“We saw in qualifying that the track became a bit slower in the final part of Q3. In these decreasing track temperatures, along with gusting winds, we saw both Mercedes drivers and the Red Bull of Alex Albon opt for the Medium tyres during the decisive qualifying runs.”