Pirelli: The F1 qualifying fight has rarely been closer

Albert Park pole winner Lewis Hamilton with former F1 World Champion Alan Jones. Photo: Pirelli

In theory, the quickest strategy for the 58-lap Australian Grand Prix is actually a two-stopper: two stints on the soft tyre of 21 laps each, followed by a shorter 16-lap final stint on the medium.

In practice, the teams are more likely to adopt a one-stopper, which is extremely close in terms of overall time anyway and carries less risk, especially as Albert Park is not so easy to overtake on. The optimal one-stop strategy (from the information we have so far) is to start on the soft tyre for 27 laps, then run 31 laps on the medium tyre to the end.

Very close to that is an alternative one stopper: start on the soft tyre for 24 laps, then go for 34 laps on the hard to the flag.

Albert Park pole winner Lewis Hamilton received the Pirelli Pole position award from former F1 World Champion Alan Jones.

Keep an eye on:

  • In Q1, exactly one second separated P1 and elimination – the qualifying fight has rarely been closer.
  • This year’s incredible speeds: the lap record was already broken in Q2 and then lowered again in Q3, despite the cars being heavier.
  • Ferrari: the only team to run the medium at the beginning of qualifying.
  • Pierre Gasly: the Red Bull driver will start 17th after being eliminated in Q1 and could be able to use strategy to make his way up the field tomorrow.
  • The new rule that awards a point for fastest lap (for those finishing in the top 10) might push some drivers towards a two-stopper, under the right circumstances.

Mario Isola, Head of F1 & Car Racing: “As usual, the quickest times came at the end of each session, with track temperatures dropping all the time and plenty of action; underlining just how close the margins are at this first race of the season.”

“The tyre performance was strong on each compound, with Ferrari showing plenty of speed on the medium in Q1 as well. With all three potential race strategies very close on paper, as usual it will come down to track temperature and degradation of the soft tyre in particular on race day.”

“With higher temperatures, the degradation of the soft tyre also tends to be higher – pushing teams towards an earlier switch to a harder compound, or more than one stop.”

FREE PRACTICE 3 – TOP 3 TIMES

DRIVER TIME COMPOUND
Hamilton 1m22.292s SOFT C4 NEW
Vettel 1m22.556s SOFT C4 NEW
Leclerc 1m22.749s SOFT C4 NEW

QUALIFYING TOP 10

DRIVER TIME COMPOUND
Hamilton 1m20.486s SOFT C4 NEW
Bottas 1m20.598s SOFT C4 NEW
Vettel 1m21.190s SOFT C4 NEW
Verstappen 1m21.320s SOFT C4 NEW
Leclerc 1m21.442s SOFT C4 NEW
Grosjean 1m21.826s SOFT C4 NEW
Magnussen 1m22.099s SOFT C4 NEW
Norris 1m22.304s SOFT C4 NEW
Raikkonen 1m22.314s SOFT C4 NEW
Perez 1m22.781s SOFT C4 NEW

MOST LAPS BY COMPOUND SO FAR

COMPOUND DRIVER LAPS
HARD C2 Leclerc 23
MEDIUM C3 Albon 31
SOFT C4 Hulkenberg 25

BEST TIME BY COMPOUND SO FAR

COMPOUND DRIVER TIME
HARD C2 Hulkenberg 1m25.071s
MEDIUM C3 Vettel 1m22.885s
SOFT C4 Hamilton 1m20.486s