The 2022 United States Grand Prix qualifying session saw Ferrari lock out the front row after Carlos Sainz claimed the third pole position of his career.
However, Sainz’s teammate Charles Leclerc received a 10-place grid penalty for exceeding his quota of power unit elements meaning Red Bull’s Max Verstappen will start from second on the grid.
Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and George Russell will start third and fourth respectively, with Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez also receiving a five-place place penalty for exceeding his quota of power unit elements.
With the drivers set to face a hot and humid day, tyre wear could be a significant theme of the 2022 United States Grand Prix, meaning the pit stop strategy could take on added importance.
What are Pirelli saying?
Pirelli has opted to bring its C2, C3, and C4 tyres to the Circuit of The Americas (COTA). The C2 will serve as the hard compounds, the C3 the mediums, and the C4s the softest of the set.
Given the nature of the COTA circuit, the Italian company expects a high level of tyre degradation. Pirelli predicts a two-stop strategy as the fastest way to complete the US Grand Prix, with one stint on the mediums followed by two stints on the hard.
An alternate strategy could also see the drivers use the mediums for their opening stint, followed by a long middle stint, before charging to the end on a fresh set of mediums.
A three-stop strategy could also be on the cards, given the relatively low amount of time lost in the COTA pit lane.
“The Circuit of The Americas is a balanced layout when it comes to the demands placed on cars and tyres in terms of traction, braking and lateral loads, but it’s mainly a flowing track that the drivers love, which nonetheless presents some challenging sections that shouldn’t be underestimated,” Pirelli’s Motorsport Director Mario Isola said.
“The track was partially re-asphalted in 2020, with a ‘milling’ process also taking place last year to shave off the worst of the bumps that oblige teams to raise the ride height, which affects aerodynamics.
“In the first free practice session, there could be a high degree of track evolution so it’s going to be vital for the teams to maximise the data collected during FP3 to define the best strategy.
“The second free practice session will be dedicated to slick tyre testing for 2023, weather permitting. Weather conditions in Austin have been extremely variable in the past, so it’s a circuit where you have to be ready for anything!”
Can Red Bull seal the Constructors’ Championship?
While they missed out on pole position, Red Bull heads into the race in Austin as the clear favorite.
The Milton Keynes-based outfit has won the last seven races in a row and is expected to be the better race trim package, despite Ferrari’s superiority over one lap.
While outscoring Ferrari by a margin of 19 points might seem a tall order for this particular weekend, the Austrian team will most likely throw caution to the wind and go for the win, especially following the death of Red Bull founder Dieter Mateschitz.