The stage is set for a thrilling Ferrari vs Red Bull battle on the streets of Baku on Sunday, with Ferrari's Charles Leclerc starting from pole position ahead of Red Bull's Sergio Perez on the front row.
Max Verstappen lines up in third in the second Red Bull, with Carlos Sainz fourth for Ferrari.
Red Bull thus have the opportunity to attack Leclerc on two different fronts, although it appears likely that this will come down to tyre choice rather than the amount of stops.
Pirelli say that the race, provided normality, is a clear one-stopper. With the rules regarding starting tyres removed for 2022, it's possible that Red Bull and Ferrari could choose to split their strategies – starting one driver on Mediums and the other on Softs.
The Medium is the more optimal choice, as it allows for greater flexibility regarding timing of a stop before swapping to a set of Hards.
Given the likelihood of a Safety Car intervention, this would be a safer option than starting on the Softs, although a driver starting on the Soft could reap the benefits of the extra grip early on. However, this would also result in a longer run on the Hards requiring more tyre management.
Interestingly, Red Bull have held on to an extra set of Hard tyres compared to Ferrari – allowing them to potentially cover off any Safety Car interventions without any concerns about making the chequered flag.
According to Pirelli, in the event of a clean race, a two-stop strategy is distinctly slower.
Isola: One-stop is the option that makes sense
Pirelli boss Mario Isola said that the Soft tyre could play a role in Sunday's race, despite the high track temperatures expected through the afternoon in Baku.
"We saw the Soft tyre used from start to finish of qualifying, with many drivers choosing to alternate push laps with cool-down laps on the same set of tyres, while the track continued to evolve," he explained.
"The Soft tyre was also the focus of FP3, which took place at the same time of day as tomorrow's race, so we can expect it to play a prominent role.
"There are a few different options for strategy, but a one-stopper seems to be the clear way forwards on paper. Interestingly, many teams have kept back two sets of Hard tyres for the race, perhaps thinking of the possibility of red flags or other disruptions."
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