Strategy guide: What are the possible race strategies for the 2022 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix?
The final race of the season is upon us and despite a two-by-two look at the grid at the front of the field there is plenty of uncertainty in terms of tactics. So here are some of the different options available to parties in Abu Dhabi.
What is the fastest strategy?
At the same circuit that Pirelli tested its final 2022 tires for the first time last year, the Italian supplier expected the one-stop to be the fastest option as last year. But Friday’s practice run (FP2 especially as the session starts at the same time as qualifying and the race) showed a two-stop to be quick.
The unexpected problem was the high level of degradation, coupled with graining – when small bits of tire tear the surface but then immediately stick to it, creating an uneven contact patch that provides less grip – which made it difficult to drive for long periods of time. Enough stints to effectively work a one stop.
There are multiple options available with the majority starting with medium compound tyres, but the fastest straight sees the first stint between laps 16 and 23 before switching to hards for the medium stint, aiming for the second pit window of lap 37 to switch back to mediums on lap 44. The problem with Sergio Perez, Ferrari, Alpine and AlphaTauri is that they all only have one set of mediums available, but it’s a viable option for the rest of the field.
How about a different option for the top 10?
So what’s more likely for Perez, Charles Leclerc, Carlos Sainz, Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso? It’s still a two-stopper, and they still want to favor the medium compound at the start to get good performance off the line, but a short first stint up to 20 laps will then see a medium stop on the hard compound, and then between lap 32 and lap 39. Again make a switch to Hards.
All of the drivers above have two sets of hards available to try this trick and are the only ones able to do it, which can be a big advantage.
However, all of the top ten – whether they have two sets of hards or mediums – can also consider a one-stopper that uses medium and hard compounds.
Starting from the middle, the important thing is first because it needs to be extended to at least lap 22, but realistically as close to lap 30 as possible, then the tighter compound will be able to fit and have a chance to build. End of the race.
What are the options for the bottom half of the field?
Some of the alternative strategies are quite interesting as they open up the possibility of using three tire compounds during the race, just like the week before in Brazil.
In a similar alternative to the fastest overall strategy, a first round on mediums is followed by a switch to hards and similar pit windows, but the intermediate position on hard tires must be extended to at least lap 40 to allow a change to soft tyres. Sprint to the flag.
That same strategy can be carried out but with softs for the start of the race to get the best possible performance off the line and on the opening lap, although with a heavy car a high level of degradation may require a pit stop. Lap 17. It puts a bit more pressure on the middle stint to get within range of lap 34 to switch midway, but it’s an option open to all.
Similarly, the reverse of the one-stop strategy above is also feasible, but less likely to be used by anyone in the top ten. Starting hard will result in a performance deficit of about 0.4 seconds compared to medium, although that gap is regularly shortened by up to 50% in race conditions when drivers manage speed.
A final time of around 25 laps can be aimed at mediums, although softs can also be considered for the latter part of the race if they can get closer to 15 laps.
Starting hard is realistically a strategy for a driver willing to line up at the back of the grid and drive as long as possible before a well-timed safety car allows a pit stop to be seven seconds faster than under green. Flag terms
Wait, but what’s the weather doing?
Well, here we are in Abu Dhabi where race weather was as close to guaranteed as you’ll get in recent years, sunny days and clear evenings with the race taking place at sunset.
The first part of the race will be held in temperatures over 30C and will be a challenge for the tyres, but then as the sun goes down the track temperature starts to drop significantly, even if the air temperature is high.
The lack of sunlight on the track surface has a big impact, and the biggest challenge these conditions provide is the balance changes a car must go through as the track temperature drops. For some, they may be happy with their car early in the race, while others find it difficult to handle in the opening laps but come alive as the Grand Prix unfolds.
Risk of rain? It is 0%.
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