The week went by quickly and the 2019 Russian GP is here. Let’s take a look at what can we expect, strategy-wise, from the teams during this weekend.
The selected tire compounds for this year’s race are the C2, C3, and C4. This is a full step harder than the tires selected for last year’s race.
The hypersoft tires made an appearance last year, but they won’t be present for this year’s race. The soft compound (C4) is the equivalent of the ultrasoft tires from last year, while the medium (C3) tires from this year are equivalent to the 2018 soft tires. The hard tires for this race (C2), are making a surprise appearance during the weekend, but don’t expect to see them very often.
2018 Russian GP
The qualifying hypersoft tires were the go-to compound for midfield teams fighting for starting position. They were fast, but the degradation was high, even in a smooth surface such as the one seen in Sochi. There is no need to talk much about them this time, since they won’t play a role in Sunday’s race.
The ultrasoft tires, this weekend just called soft tires, were favoured by top teams to start the race. Both Ferrari and Mercedes got into Q3 with this compound. While the tires were theoretically more durable than the hypersoft, most teams stopped early for new tires, around laps 10 to 15.
The soft compound was extremely durable last year. Daniel Ricciardo did 39 laps with them, while Max Verstappen managed to get an incredible 43 laps out of them.
As usual, most teams went for a heavy sleection of soft tire sets. Top teams looking to qualify to Q3 with mediums allocated an extra set compared to the rest of the teams. Lewis Hamilton is the driver with the most sets of mediums, with four of them for the weekend.
Do not expect much from the hard tires this weekend. These tires seem to be rock solid, and most likely have enough in the tank to last for a full race.
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.
Starting with new tires
Teams who do not qualify to Q3 get a free tire selection. Expect most teams to start the race with the medium compound if they still have enough available sets. These tires should last for a long time, at least 30 to 35 laps. Teams with low tire degradation may be able to make these last until the late race if necessary.
Fast midfield teams, such as McLaren or Renault, may try to start with the soft compound and try to overtake, but this is a risky decision. The Sochi Autodrom is a hard place to overtake, with the best opportunities coming during the first couple of corners of the circuit.
Starting with used tires
Midfield teams that qualify to Q3 will start the race with the soft compound. Based on last year’s performance of the ultrasofts, the drivers should be able to make them last around 10-15 laps. An early pit stop by any driver may trigger a cascade of pit stops for the rest of the teams.
Expect the top 6 cars to try to qualify to Q3 with the medium tires. If they manage to get into Q3 without getting much life out of the quali set, they should be able to take this tires into the mid-late race.
Sochi is a track with few overtaking opportunities and low degradation. If we see a race weekend, expect to see long stints with the medium compound.
If we see a rainy quali or race, then expect the unexpected. A bit of water would mean more aggressive strategies with the soft tires, but let’s wait and see how the forecast evolves during the next 24 hours.
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