Given the high temperatures and abrasive tarmac of the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, expect most teams and drivers to opt for a two-stop strategy in Sunday’s 2021 United States Grand Prix.
Temperatures seen in qualifying are expected once again on Sunday. Saturday’s session began at 16:00 local time, two hours later than Sunday’s race, with track temperatures hitting 36 Degrees Celsius.
Although gusts of wind affected the aerodynamic balance of the cars, the hot conditions will have more of an impact on what strategy each team and driver opts for. While drivers will also be impacted by the tyres left in their allocation, expect the two-stop strategy to be used by most.
Whether drivers begin on the soft or medium compound, they will then switch to either the soft or medium for one of their stints, and the hard for the other. Pirelli predict that the two options will yield similar results.
Tyre management is key
Given that managing tyre wear and degradation will be crucial to success in the race, any drivers opting for a one-stop strategy will have to do so using the medium and hard tyre. However, getting the tyres through to the end of the race will prove tricky according to Pirelli Head of F1 and Car Racing Mario Isola.
“The medium tyre was favoured by the majority of the top 10 on the grid, as starting on this compound allows more flexibility in terms of strategy,” said Isola.
“Managing the softs to avoid overheating – especially at the rear – is crucial in these warm conditions, and this makes the medium and the hard the key choices for the race.
“A two-stop strategy is the more likely, with the high speeds and abrasive surfaces here taking a lot out of the tyres. At the same time the relatively low pit stop time loss and number of overtaking opportunities mitigate the advantages of a one-stopper.
“There are a number of different two-stoppers that are quite closely matched, depending on the race circumstances, so this looks set to be an intense strategic battle.”