How to open the “headache” of the interesting Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix strategy

All too often, teams rule out a choice – either because soft is too aggressive, medium is in a restricted area, or hard is too conservative – but this weekend's race in Japan left out what Pirelli motorsport chief Mario Isola left out. A real “headache” for strategists.

With Suzuka's extreme deterioration making one stop pretty much a no-go (unless we end up with a long safety car period at the sweet spot), Formula 1 teams will be burning the midnight oil tonight trying to figure out how best to chart their way through the soft groups The different /medium/difficult levels available in the game.

Cooler than normal temperatures at the Suzuka race in April mean that the soft tire – which is comfortably faster than the medium – has enough life to become an option for racing – while the rougher track surface keeps the degradation rate high for racing. Other vehicles.

With medium and hard modes not far apart in terms of performance, things feel a lot more open than they usually are.

The most logical and safe route is to run a medium/hard/hard combo, as these two compounds have provided the best consistency so far during my limited training.

But, as Isola explains, the soft material has thrown a spanner in the works because it could provide a very big advantage if used up front.

“Smooth is 1-1.2 seconds per second faster than average,” he said. “This means that if you want to have an advantage at the start of the race with a compound that gives you more control, you have to take it.

“Sure you have a shorter first stint, around 10 laps, but after that you can plan a strategy with soft/hard/hard roads – especially with hard understeer.”

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Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20

Photography: Mark Sutton / Motorsport pictures

But this combination is not an option that all teams can turn to, as customization options have already left Red Bull, Ferrari and Aston Martin with only one option available for the race.

This means the method will have to come into play for them, and further degradation management may be needed, especially if the track is made greener on Sunday morning with light rain expected across Suzuka.

Options are wide open

Max Verstappen won last year on a medium/medium/hard strategy, but soft being a decent option could mean things are different this time.

Planning the best way to use tires if teams don't have two hard tires is not at all straightforward – soft/hard/medium could be one way to do this, or even swapping them and switching to medium/hard/soft – to unleash the soft tires when the car is at a lighter pace. Her cases.

It's also not impossible for teams to choose to forego difficult altogether – especially if track conditions are different when the race starts.

“It could be soft/medium/moderate. We will see the characteristics of the circuit tomorrow because there is still a possibility of light rain in the morning, and if we have light showers, we know the circuit will change,” Isola added.

“I think almost everyone has two sets of media, so the strategy is doable. But the fact that we have 13 cars with two sets of solids in their allocation, I think that's a clear indication that solid is the compound they'll be using in racing. Otherwise they would have gotten rid of the solids as quickly as possible.”

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This situation has made Isola feel that no one path stands out as the best, which could make for a great encounter.

“It's hard to give you one quickest strategy because it will depend a lot on where you are on the track and the situation after the start,” he said.

“This to me is more interesting because at least we see the teams and their strategy architects having some headaches tomorrow.”

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20, vs. Lance Stroll, Aston Martin AMR24

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20, vs. Lance Stroll, Aston Martin AMR24

Photography: Simon Galloway / Motorsport pictures

George Russell was one of the drivers who believed that it was difficult to predict which route everyone would choose.

“It's going to be interesting tomorrow,” he said. “I think when you look at the remaining tyres, we have two hards and a medium. I think Ferrari and Red Bull only have one hard. Fernando has one hard and one medium, so he has to do one job on the hard.” “Soft. So there will be a lot of variety among the top ten cars.”

While almost no one expects Red Bull to not be in a class of its own at the front, it is the struggle at the back that could lead to some surprises.

Good news for McLaren?

Based on Pirelli's view that two rigid materials could be the way forward to reduce the risk of high understeer, it could be particularly good news for McLaren – whose Lando Norris is third on the grid.

In fact, McLaren team principal Andrea Stella feels Ferrari's long-term promise from testing is nothing to worry about – suggesting his team has its sights set on that top spot among the rest.

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“I doubt they are [Ferrari] “It probably had a little less fuel than the Red Bull,” he said. “Red Bull, they look strong here, so I would be surprised to have a clearly faster car in the long run.

“If Ferrari was clearly faster [on the long run], it may be a difference in fuel. This is one of the highest fuel impacts of the season because if you have 10kg less, that's three to four tenths. “So, if it weighs 20 kilograms, it's already a completely different category.”

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL38

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL38

Photography: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport pictures

Stella believes the intermediate has shown some worrying levels of degradation, which is why his team has chosen to join Mercedes in maintaining two sets of hard tyres.

“We tried some long rides in P1 on the medium tire, and we saw what we expected: degradation is high,” he said.

“We think that specifying the tires with two solid tires is appropriate and we will see tomorrow whether this is a good idea or not.

“There are some cars that have two mid-range cars instead: like Ferrari, Red Bull and Aston, and I think they've even gone 5/1/1 [S/M/H] So they will probably start weak, so we will see different scenarios tomorrow. Tires may be a factor.

“But we think that given what we've seen with the high-fuel rides, we should be in the mix. And I think thinking about a podium is not very brave.”

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