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F1 ANALYSIS: Race pace predictions and strategy for the Spanish Grand Prix

F1 ANALYSIS: Race pace predictions and strategy for the Spanish Grand Prix

F1 News

F1 ANALYSIS: Race pace predictions and strategy for the Spanish Grand Prix

F1 ANALYSIS: Race pace predictions and strategy for the Spanish Grand Prix
Shubham Sangodkar

After a very mixed qualifying performance from all teams up and down the grid , Sunday's Spanish GP promises to be entertaining, filled with overtakes and opportunities. In addition to that, the rain gods might also have their say later in the race, with a 40% chance of rain predicted.

Let us look at the data to derive the race pace of the teams and check what strategy options are available to them depending on their positions.

Potential race pace for the top four teams

1. The RB19 driven by Max Verstappen is the class of the grid, maintaining their 0.5sec advantage over the rest of the grid in race pace.

2. Aston still maintains second place with only a slight advantage over Ferrari and Mercedes. Expect Alonso to climb up the order, especially with Barcelona now being a track on which overtaking is possible thanks to the changes in the last turn.

3. The big aero updates on both the Ferrari and Mercedes don't seem to have shaken up the order as they would have liked. They are still probably understanding their package.

4. Lando Norris looks like the best of the rest, with his realistic fight with Ocon or Hulkenberg. A lot will depend on how much ground Russell and Leclerc make up.

Potential race pace for the midfield

1. The Alfa Romeo looks surprisingly quicker in race pace compared to its competitors.

2. The race pace between Hulkenberg, Tsunoda and Albon is close, and these positions would be decided on strategy/tyre management.

Verstappen's qualifying advantage

Let's take a break for a second and have a look at Verstappen's pole position lap compared to second-placed Carlos Sainz, and see just where the Red Bull's advantage lies.

Looking at the speed and delta traces, we can see that Verstappen gained 0.2secs in T1, 0.1sec in T9 and 0.1sec from T11 until the end of the main straight.

The Red Bull outclassed the Ferrari in all high-speed corners where Sainz had to stamp on the brakes or lift off the throttle for a longer time than the Red Bull driver.

Race Strategies

In the event of a completely dry race, on paper, a two-stop strategy is the fastest.

Strategy 1: Two Stop: Soft/Hard/Hard or Hard/Hard/Soft

The front runners would prefer a Soft / Hard / Hard strategy which would allow them to react to any possible rain later on in the race. The window for the first tyre change is between laps 13 and 18, while for the second one, it is between laps 37 and 43.

If you start from the back end of the grid you could try Hard / Hard / Soft, which also works best for those starting from the back end of the grid. This would allow you to extend your first stint in case there are no traffic issues and then attack with the softs at the end.

Strategy 2: Two Stop: Soft/Hard/Soft

Another two-stop option is Soft / Hard / Soft, with the first stop between laps 15 and 20, and the second between 46 and 51. Teams will have to react to this strategy as the race evolves, this is because if the tyre deg is lower than expected due to cooler temperatures, this strategy might be the faster two-stop strategy.

Strategy 3: Three Stop: Soft/Hard/Soft/Soft

A three-stop strategy, chosen by almost everyone last year, could run as follows: Soft / Hard / Soft / Soft, the first stop coming between laps 10 and 15. Obviously, those who have been able to save a set of new softs might prefer this strategy, which is definitely more aggressive than a two-stop.

Shubham Sangodkar is a former F1 Aerodynamicist with a Master's in Racing Car Design specialising in F1 Aerodynamics and F1 Data Analysis. He also posts aerodynamics content on his YouTube channel, which can be found here.

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