Split strategies after confused Spanish GP qualifying?

Rain and a surprising qualifying mean there could be differing strategies at the 2023 Spanish Grand Prix

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The chaotic qualifying for the 2023 Spanish Grand Prix could open up several strategy battles in the race, with a slew of drivers starting out of position and rain also possible.

The 2022 Barcelona polesitter Charles Leclerc was the shock elimination in Q1 and will start 19th, while George Russell and Sergio Perez where surprise casualties in Q2.

Meanwhile Lando Norris starts in third behind pacesetter Max Verstappen, he’ll be looking to defend that heady position, as will Esteban Ocon and Nico Hulkenberg who start in the top seven.

Fastest race strategy

Pirelli think the fastest strategy is a soft-hard-hard two-stop. Max Verstappen will likely follow that, the Dutchman looks the man to beat and as long he leads from the start, it’s hard to see what can stand in his way.

The pit window after a soft first stint is predicted to be between lap 13 and 18, with the second stop coming around lap 40.

That should be the strategy for the rest of the top seven too, though Lewis Hamilton in third may opt to start on hards instead with the Mercedes looking better in race trim. Alonso could look to follow suit in that regard, and go long in the first stint attempting to make time up on the top five.

Pirelli think those at the back of the grid may look to start on the hards too, though Leclerc could be the exception as he needs to make up ground, and make it up sharpish.

A three-stop strategy is on the table, using up three sets of soft tyres if anyone’s in the mood for an uber-aggressive afternoon.

“From what we have seen so far, race strategy would seem to match our predictions, with a two-stop race being a better bet than a three-stop,” Pirelli’s Motorsport Director Mario Isola said.

“The best tyre to race on is the hard, but a further consideration is the long run down to the first corner. Choosing the softs for the start could be the way to go, because it offers extra grip off the line.

“Having said that, these options could be academic as Meteo France is predicting a 60% chance of rain from 15:00 tomorrow.”

Weather watch

Max Verstappen on track during a wet 2023 Monaco GP
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen carves through the rain on intermediate tyres at the 2023 Monaco GP | Peter Fox/Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

As Isola says, it could be another rain-affected race after the wet weather last time out in Monaco.

There’s varying forecasts out there, with some rating the chance of rain as low as 10%, but Monaco showed the perils of making the wrong call on tyres with heavy weather in the air.

If rain does arrive it’ll likely mirror the Monaco GP, coming late on with drivers taking their second or third pitstops onto the wet weather tyres.

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