Pirelli has detailed the expected pit-stop strategies for the Spanish GP, following two days of very high tyre wear at the Catalunya circuit.
A variety of different strategies are available to the teams on Sunday, especially considering the Q2 tyre rule is no longer in place. However, Pirelli's estimations suggest the two-stop and three-stop will be the optimal strategies.
Pirelli's Strategy Notebook:
"The fastest way to approach the 66-lap Spanish Grand Prix is a two-stopper, and even a three-stopper isn't out of the question...
Theoretically, the fastest way to approach the race is medium-medium-soft. The second-fastest way is medium-soft-soft, and then there are some three-stop strategies that could work out well too. Medium-hard-soft, using all three compounds, is an interesting option, but it’s faster on paper to avoid the hard."
Teams will have the opportunity to opt for a wide range of strategies, which could become further complicated by unexpected safety cars of virtual safety cars during the 66 laps of the race.
Free Practice demonstrated the relatively short lifespan of the soft tyre, but its notable pace advantage over the mediums and the hards makes it a viable option for the Grand Prix.
The teams whose tyre management is strongest will have a decisive advantage at a track where increased track temperatures could make tyre degradation even more prevalent on Sunday.
The midfield battle will inevitably be close, and the freedom to choose different tyre compounds will make the Spanish GP an especially intense one for strategists. Safety cars are uncommon in Barcelona, but given every race this season has experienced at least one safety car, it would be unwise for teams to discount the permutations of a full caution during the race.