2019 Brazilian GP: Strategy preview

The 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix is just a few days away. Let’s take a look at the available strategies for the teams for this Sunday’s race.

The tires

The selected tire compounds for this year’s race are the C1, C2, and C3. This is a full step harder than the tires selected for last year’s race.

The supersoft tires made an appearance last year, but they won’t be present for this year’s race. This year’s soft compound (C3) is the equivalent of the soft tires from last year, while the medium (C2) tires from this year are equivalent to the 2018 medium tires. The hard tires for this race (C1) were not present at last year’s race.

2018 Brazilian GP

Last year’s softest compound, the super soft, lasted for an average of 30 laps during the first stint. This year, these tires won’t make an appearance at the Interlagos Circuit.

The soft tires from last year were pretty durable. The average tire duration for a first stint was of 27 laps, with Kevin Magnussen and Esteban Ocon making the tires last for over 40 laps.

The medium tires were used at the start of the race by only one driver, Brendon Hartley. The Kiwi was able to make the tires last 49 laps in total, for the longest stint done over the course of the race.

Tire allocation

Once again, most teams went heavy on the soft tire selection. It is interesting to see Mercedes selecting more medium and hard tires than both Ferrari and Red Bull. Lewis Hamilton’s selection is quite interesting, with a selection of 4 sets of medium tires.

The strategy

Important note!

This strategy only applies if we get a dry race. If drivers see some rain during quali or the race, then everything changes. Keep that in while reading the rest of the analysis.

Optimal strategy

The optimal strategy would be to start the medium tires and then switch to the soft compound at laps 35-40. Most teams that do not qualify to Q3, as well as top teams that qualify to Q3 with the medium tires, will be able to deploy this strategy. The medium set of tires should be quite durable, with drivers using this compound for an average of 43 laps during last year’s race.

If the drivers are able to make the tires last until laps 35-40, they should be able to make the fastest soft tires until the end of the race. During the 2018 Brazilian GP, Max Verstappen, Daniel Ricciardo, as well as Sergio Pérez, were able to make this tire last over 30 laps, further supporting this previously mentioned strategy as the optimal one.

Second fastest strategy

Drivers who get into Q3 with the soft tires will most likely favour this strategy. The red-stripped tires should be durable enough to last around 30 laps, but some drivers may favour an early stop in order to undercut their rivals. Last year, drivers with a 1-stop strategy who used the soft tires (this year’s medium tires or C2) during the second stint, did an average of 45 laps with them. This suggests that as long as the drivers are able to conserve the tires until lap 25, they should entirely avoid using the slower hard tires over the course of the race.

For teams going long

Brendon Hartley was the only driver to start with the hardest compound available last year. This year’s C3 compound should be durable enough to last the entire race, making it the ideal tire to wait for a possible safety car. While this won’t be the preferred strategy for most, don’t be surprised if a driver like Daniel Ricciardo tries to make this long 1-stop strategy work.

2-stop strategy

Only five drivers attempted a 2-stop strategy last year, with both Valtteri Bottas and Sebastian Vettel using this strategy during the race. With the durability of this year’s tires, a soft-medium-soft strategy would perhaps be preferable to a medium-hard-soft plan. If a driver is able to gain positions early in the race, and then trigger the undercut, then the 2-stop strategy may yield favourable results. If other teams, however, do not respond to the undercut threat, this strategy may leave the driver vulnerable by the end of the race.

Final remarks

Interlagos is one of the best tracks in the current F1 calendar. While it is true that Interlagos has good opportunities to overtake, strategy should never be dismissed. For this race, we should be seeing most teams trying a 1-stop strategy, with perhaps a 2-stop strategy being in the cards for two or three drivers. 

Even though the WDC and Constructor’s Championship has been decided, I believe that the variety of strategies, combined with the characteristics of the track, should allow us to see an entertaining race on Sunday.

I hope that you have enjoyed this article. If you did, please share it with your friends and let me know what you think in the comments below.


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