An unpredictable 2023 Belgian Grand Prix is in store, with rain expected to fall on the races but only in showers with plenty of room for drivers to make hay on a drying Spa track in between.
Forecasts predict between a 50 and 90% chance of rain – of the intensity seen on sprint Saturday – so drivers and strategists will focus on how best to manage the wet conditions.
The rain isn’t expected to go beyond intermediate tyre range and the track could dry out enough for slicks, but there’s also the possibility of a late shower throwing one final spanner in the works.
Crossover points key for teams
The running order of the sprint race pretty much echoed who pitted on the first or second lap of racing, reflecting the importance of picking the right crossover point on a drying track.
Of course, the same applies the other way, but showers are expected to get lighter as the race goes on so if drivers can tiptoe round on slicks once they’ve made the switch then they will.
If the race does go intermediate-dry then look out for someone like Alex Albon, Nico Hulkenberg or Esteban Ocon to make the switch early from the back of the grid.
“The crossover time from dry tyres to intermediates is estimated to be between 1.54/1.55.00, while from the intermediates to the extreme wets is between 2.04/2.05.00, based on a low fuel load,” Pirelli‘s motorsport director Mario Isola said.
“The teams will go into the race with plenty of information about the rain tyres, but they will be pretty much in the dark when it comes to the dry weather ones.”
What’s the best strategy if it’s dry?
It’s quite a big if admittedly, but in theory we could have a completely dry Belgian GP – and that could be even more problematic for strategists.
The soaking conditions in FP1 meant no one put in a lap on dry tyres, the only slick running has been in qualifying so teams will be basing their strategy on previous races at Spa instead.
Every driver that completed the 2022 Belgian GP did so on a two-stop strategy, with most doing two medium stints and one on the hards either in the middle or at the end.
Verstappen and the Ferraris went on the softs early and it worked for the Dutchman who scythed through the field from 14th and had taken the lead by lap 12 – could he do something similar one year on?
“There’s not much difference between a one-stop or a two-stop,” Isola added. “And, without much information, this becomes an even finer line, so there is a bigger chance of some surprises tomorrow.”