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Could F1's new tyre rules spark a titanic Bahrain strategy battle?

The removal of the Q2 tyre rule for 2022 means there's a huge variety of strategic options open to the drivers for the first stint of the Bahrain Grand Prix.

A key consideration to be taken into this year's season opener in Bahrain is the removal of the Q2 tyre rule. In previous years, drivers who qualified in the top 10 were required to start the race on the same tyres they used to set their best time in the Q2 part of qualifying. This had obvious, huge strategic ramifications for the first stint of the Grand Prix. But, for the 2022 campaign, that rule has been removed. Drivers and teams are now free to start the race on whatever compound they like. The rule for running two different compounds during the race remains in place. The Sakhir circuit is well known for being a tyre-killer, due to its abrasive tarmac and reasonably twisty layout. As a result, Pirelli are predicting that a two-stop strategy will be the most common tactic chosen by the teams heading into the race.

What is the outright fastest strategy for the Bahrain GP?

The fastest strategy on Sunday, in an uninterrupted race, is a two-stop approach running Soft-Medium-Soft. A strategy of Soft-Hard-Soft, with a slightly earlier first stop, is also expected to yield a similar race time. Of the front-runners, Red Bull's Sergio Perez and the two Mercedes drivers do not have any fresh set of Soft tyres remaining. The ability to start on different compounds means that a fascinating strategy battle could unfold between the front-runners. As there's quite a big performance delta between the compounds, a driver starting on the Softs will have much stronger initial pace, but one starting on Mediums can go much further into the race. Could pole-sitter Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen, starting alongside, opt for some unusual tactics?

Pirelli boss sees "an entirely level playing field" for F1 opener

Pirelli boss Mario Isola explained that the removal of the Q2 tyre rule has made a huge difference to how the teams will approach the Grand Prix. "In qualifying, we finally saw the true pace of all the teams," he said after Saturday evening's session. "With cool temperatures that were similar to FP2, and the hardest tyres in the range selected this weekend, tyre warm up was marginal, especially with track temperatures dropping as the evening went on. "Another decisive factor in the qualifying strategy was the removal of the rule this year that obliged drivers to start the race on the tyres with which they set their best Q2 times. "As a result, everyone begins the race on an entirely level playing field and the focus will shift towards the race strategy, and which tyres to start on. "With a big performance gap between the compounds, this adds another level of complexity to what is already a tricky decision, as the new formula makes its race debut on Sunday. "We're expecting slightly warmer conditions compared to [Saturday] and two pit-stops – but there may be scope for some drivers to do something different."

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