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One-stop strategies predicted but could a Safety Car cause chaos?

Pirelli are predicting that the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix will be a one-stop race, but the high likelihood of a Safety Car could open up different strategic options.

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To news overview © FIA

The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix looks set to be a standard one-stop race, with Pirelli predicting that those starting on the Medium tyre compound will swap to the Hard compound midway through the race.

Nine of the top 10 drivers on the grid, including both Mercedes and Red Bull pairings, will start the race on the Medium compound after running it to set their best times in Q2.

Starting on the Medium will allow more options to run a one or two-stop strategy, and give the drivers the chance of a longer pit-stop window. This could prove crucial, as the likelihood of a Safety Car is quite high at the enclosed Jeddah Corniche Circuit.

In the Formula 2 races so far this weekend, both have been interrupted by several Safety Car appearances as a result of incidents on track, due to the proximity of the barriers and difficulty of removing cars quickly from the racing line.

This means that the F1 teams may be tempted to run as long as possible in order to try reaching a Safety Car period and negate the time lost in the pit lane.

For those not running the Medium-Hard strategy, the next fastest alternative is to run the Soft-Hard one-stopper. McLaren's Lando Norris is the only driver guaranteed to be starting on the Soft, having used it for his quickest time in Q2.

As ever, drivers outside the top 10 have the choice of tyre compound to start.

For those drivers who wish to pursue a two-stop strategy in the event of the race being interrupted, Pirelli believe the quickest way to approach this is to start on the Medium, followed by the Hard, with a short stint on Softs towards the end.

"We expect a one-stopper"

Pirelli's Mario Isola explained the thinking behind the strategy options ahead of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

"With this being the second-longest lap of the season, the teams and drivers had a relatively limited window of opportunity to get it right, in terms of preparing for a flying lap," he told media after qualifying.

"The Medium tyre was favoured by nearly everyone in Q2, with Lando Norris being the only driver to start on the Soft in the top 10. It's going to be fascinating to see what he can do, surrounded by so many cars starting on Mediums.

"The two fastest strategies on paper are Medium to Hard or Soft to Hard, but the latter needs a bit more careful management. So we expect the majority of drivers to target a one-stopper, but there are many unknown elements that could influence the strategy.

"Despite the length of the lap, the margins were incredibly close, with 10 drivers covered by just a few tenths of a second on this brand new circuit."

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