F1 tyre supplier Pirelli expect a two-stop strategy to be the most popular option during the United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas.
With track temperatures set to reach over 40 degrees Celsius, the high-speed esses of the COTA circuit mean the demands on the tyres are going to be very high. As a result of the high abrasion, Pirelli are predicting every driver to make at least two pit-stops.
Eight of the top 10 drivers will start on the Medium compound after making it through Q2 on the yellow-marked Pirellis, including the two lead teams Red Bull and Mercedes. Just Ferrari's Carlos Sainz and AlphaTauri's Yuki Tsunoda are confirmed as starting on the Soft compound, while those outside the top 10 will have free choice of compound to start the race.
Pirelli believe the fastest way to approach the race is to run the first stint on the Soft or Medium, before running the Hard compound for the second and third stint. On paper, there's very little difference time-wise between these choices, although the Hards would need a little more management for those who start the race on the Softs, assuming an earlier first stop.
Pirelli also reckon a one-stop strategy is, in theory, possible, but would require quite a lot of wear and degradation management from the drivers. This would be a Medium-Hard or Hard-Medium strategy, with those starting out of position towards the back of the field possibly tempted to try such a route and hope for a Safety Car intervention. Due to a shorter than average pit lane time loss, however, a one-stop isn't particularly advantageous.
"The Medium tyre was favoured by the majority of the top 10 on the grid, as starting on this compound allows more flexibility in terms of strategy," explained Pirelli's Mario Isola.
"Managing the Softs to avoid overheating – especially at the rear – is crucial in these warm conditions, and this makes the Medium and the Hard the key choices for the race.
"A two-stop strategy is the more likely, with the high speeds and abrasive surfaces here taking a lot out of the tyres. At the same time the relatively low pit-stop time loss and number of overtaking opportunities mitigate the advantages of a one-stopper.
"There are a number of different two-stoppers that are quite closely matched, depending on the race circumstances, so this looks set to be an intense strategic battle."