British GP strategy: One lap could make the difference in five-way battle

Mercedes locked out the front row of the grid at the 2024 British GP, with George Russell on pole ahead of Lewis Hamilton

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A delightfully unpredictable qualifying for the 2024 British GP delivered a somewhat foreseeable race situation with Mercedes, McLaren and Max Verstappen making up the top five and looking set to battle it out for victory – but will strategy make the difference?

In contrast to the first two legs of this Formula 1 triple-header, Mercedes look capable of matching Verstappen and Lando Norris on pure pace, as opposed to their racing off into the distance as in Austria and Spain.

Similarly predictable was Sergio Perez‘s Q1 exit, leaving Verstappen to fight off both his double-edge foes single-handedly. That was the case in Canada and Verstappen somehow still managed to win the wet-dry race, thanks in part to a strategical error from McLaren as the flying papaya waited too long to pit Norris behind a safety car.

“We review everything, it’s not just every race that’s wet or inters or whatever you review,” Norris told members of the press including Total-Motorsport.com at Silverstone. “But every case is different, you have to be prepared for every eventuality and it’s not like you can plan these things.

“It’s a lot about just decision-making and being prepared at the time to just execute whatever plans you need to have ready and kind of have in front of you. We did a lot of reviewing of Canada, so I’m sure tomorrow will be better.”

What if it rains?

It’s almost certain that Silverstone will see rain on Sunday, even if not a drop falls on the grand prix. There are two rainstorms predicted to hit around midday and 4pm local time but the chance of showers doesn’t dip below 40% between that either so drivers will likely spend some time on a damp track.

Indeed, the most treacherous part of qualifying was the start of Q1, as even though the sun was out the downpour that affected the F2 race forced almost the entire grid to leave the garage on intermediates.

The crossover lap time appears to be around 1:37 from inters to slicks, and given the forecast it would be a surprise to see full wets deployed, but conditions are sure to keep F1 strategy boffins busy throughout the British GP.

“Tomorrow, the great unknown will be the weather,” said Mario Isola, Pirelli‘s director of motorsport. “If, as forecast, it should rain and the track is wet throughout as was the case in FP3, all the teams have sufficient sets of intermediates and wets to run a two-stop race.”

What’s the best dry strategy?

Tyre strategies for the 2024 British GP | Pirelli

Pirelli are putting eggs in the on-stop basket which removes many of the variables at play in Austria – fortunately for Verstappen and much to the chagrin of the McLaren and Mercedes strategists at the British GP.

The only real option is to switch up the starting tyre, a viable gamble for Oscar Piastri but the Silver Arrows would be braver to try that from a front-row lockout.

Mercedes‘ long-run pace wasn’t the best though Lewis Hamilton in particular believes his W15 setup will be strongest on Sunday.

If the teams are as close as predicted then there’s a very real chance that even a lap’s difference in pitstops could leave a driver disappointed and off the British GP podium, so Russell and Norris are in the prime strategical position compared to their teammates.

Equally, the sub-optimal strategy on paper could turn out to be the victorious one with rain in the air and a start on the medium tyres offering more flexibility in the event of a shower or safety car.

“If it’s dry, then a one-stop is quickest on paper, with all three compounds being viable,” Isola added ahead of the British GP, “the C3/C2 strategy is slightly quicker than going from the C3 to the C1, while a strategy without the soft gives greater flexibility.”

Adam Dickinson
An international multi-award-winning journalist, Adam Dickinson has written for Total-Motorsport.com since June 2022 and also contributes to TNT Sports, Eurosport and the Rugby Paper. He's also had articles published in the Daily Telegraph and several local newspapers, previously worked for Last-Lap.co.uk and FeederSeries.net in motorsport, and graduated with a First-Class Journalism Degree from the University of Sheffield having also studied in Oklahoma. Adam started watching F1 by accident in 2007, catching the last race in Indianapolis, and attended his first race as a journalist at the 2023 British Grand Prix.
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