After a Q1 session run exclusively on the P Zero Red soft tyres, four teams – Mercedes, Red Bull, McLaren and AlphaTauri – elected to start Q2 on the P Zero Yellow medium C3 tyre. Both Mercedes drivers as well as Red Bull‘s Max Verstappen and AlphaTauri‘s Pierre Gasly will start on this tyre tomorrow from the top 10 on the grid. Sergio Perez in the other Red Bull set his best Q2 time on the medium but qualified in P11, making him the first of the runners with a free tyre choice tomorrow.
All the drivers used the soft tyre for Q3 as expected, with Verstappen going fastest after the first run. He maintained his advantage during the final decisive run, putting together three fastest sectors to claim his fourth career pole. Verstappen was also fastest in every free practice session held so far.
Track conditions remained warm and dry for qualifying, with ambient temperatures of 30 degrees and track temperatures that were slightly warmer, in the region of 33 degrees.
In the past, the 57-lap Bahrain Grand Prix has proved to be one of the most strategically interesting races of the year, and this is likely to be the case again tomorrow. An incident-packed grand prix last year, with safety cars and red flags, means that there’s little meaningful strategy data from last time and the teams are effectively starting from scratch. The abrasive track surface with high degradation makes a two-stopper the most likely scenario – but the exact two-stopper selected will depend on each driver’s tyre availability for tomorrow.
There are many two-stop strategies that are similar in terms of overall time, but the quickest one in theory goes as follows: two stints on the P Zero Yellow medium tyre of 18 laps each, plus one central stint on the P Zero White hard of 21 laps: set to be the strategy for all those who set their best Q2 times on this tyre.
The second-quickest two-stopper instead uses all three compounds: the soft for 14 laps, the hard for 24 laps. and the medium for the final 19-lap stint.
A soft-medium-medium strategy is slightly slower: this would use the soft for 15 laps and then two sets of mediums for 21 laps each.
Another two-stopper uses two 16-lap soft tyre stints and one 25-lap hard stint (probably as the middle stint). This last strategy can be a favourable one with cooler conditions. In terms of overall time, that’s similar to the above – and, as always, all permutations are possible.
Mario Isola: “Once more there was a big difference between the day and night sessions, which made the strategy and set-up calculations more complicated. There are a number of possible race strategies, depending also on the tyres each driver has available. Nonetheless, there were several teams that felt the medium tyre was the best option to start the race on tomorrow: four of the top 10 will start the race on the yellow medium C3 compound, including the top three, and this will give them more strategic options. However, there are a number of options and the cooler temperatures expected tomorrow might mix up the strategies even more. The new Formula 2 format, with two races today, were also interesting. There were some impressive runs on the soft tyre in the second race especially, as part of an alternative strategy that helped some drivers make big gains from the back of the field – influenced also by the safety car.”