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Strategies used at the 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix

The start of the Bahrain Grand Prix

The opening of the 2024 Formula 1 season was dominated by Max Verstappen, but as always the strategies played a key role in the race. A decision made during qualifying proved very valuable.

The 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix, held at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir poses a unique problem to the teams. Positioned in the desert, the 5.4km (3.3 miles) track’s biggest threats are the wind, sand and the wide temperature fluctuations between sessions.

Strategy: What Pirelli said

For the Bahrain Grand Prix Pirelli brought the C1 (hard tyre), C2 (medium tyre), and C3 (soft tyre). These are the hardest compounds in their range, given the track temperatures and the track characteristics demands. For the opening round in Sakhir, each driver had two sets of hard tyres, three sets of medium tyres, and eight sets of soft tyres. In addition, they had the green intermediate tyres and the blue full wets, if required.

Wind speed tends to be the dominant meteorological factor in Bahrain. Strong gusting can cause a lot of rear-end snaps and spiking tyre temperatures. However, despite the wind being problematic during the tests it calmed down for the race removing it from the list of problems. This doesn’t stop the Bahrain International Circuit from being a high-degradation track, but it makes it more manageable.

Strategy options

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After Thursday’s practice sessions, it was easy to identify what the teams planned for their strategies. Everyone burned through two sets of mediums, which left the teams with the mandatory single set for the race. Some teams elected to use that remaining set at the start of qualifying. This indicated that the medium compound would likely be left in the rack during the race. The main problem with the medium tyre is that despite being very close to the hard in terms of performance it has higher degradation.

With this in mind, the quickest strategy for the Bahrain Grand Prix seemed to be a soft-hard-soft approach. Starting with the soft compound could have given the team a good getaway until the 13-19 Lap window. From there the safest and faster option would have been using the hard rubber for its longevity and then returning to the soft for the last stint. After a long middle stint, the second and last pitstop should have happened between Lap 37-43.

However, a soft-hard-hard approach could have shortened the first stint, with the first pitstop coming between Laps 11-16. This followed by two stints of equal length would have opened a lap window between Laps 33-39. Teams with long thermal degradation could have proceeded with the first strategy. Those who struggle could have chosen the second approach for a more aggressive strategy.

The race

For the 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix, apart from Red Bull, every other team saved two sets of hard tyres for the race. This suggested that the team from Brackley planned on using a soft-hard-soft approach. Most of the other teams went for a soft-hard-hard strategy like the previous year. Everyone started on soft tyres, half of the grid started on fresh rubber, and half started on a used one. The only driver from the top half of the field who used a fresh set was Nico Hulkenberg, starting in tenth place.

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The first to pit was Logan Sargeant on Lap 12, followed by Leclerc and Russell who both put on hard compound tyres. They both returned respectively in sixth and seventh place. In the meantime, Verstappen led the race ahead of Perez and Sainz. On the following lap, in came Hamilton, Perez, and Piastri leaving Verstappen ahead of Sainz, Norris, and Alonso. Sainz, despite trying an overcut type of strategy, came out after Perez, Leclerc, and Russell. Soon after it was clear to everyone that tyre life was longer than expected.

The second round of pit stops came around Lap 30 with Zhou and Stroll being the first to make the second stop. However, there was still a long way to go, and making a pitstop this early could have cost them the race. Next came Norris and the Mercedes duo to put on hard tyres. Next time around, Leclerc and Piastri pitted. Hamilton’s undercut strategy worked and Piastri came out of the pits behind him. Later Sainz came out back in third place after his pitstop with fresh hard tyres on. Red Bull decided to put soft tyres on both of their drivers. This soon proved to be the right strategy, as Sainz’s hard tyres were no match for Perez’s softs.

Red Bull took home the maximum amount of points from Bahrain, and it appears there is no match. However, in the world of F1 anything is possible and time will tell if the other teams are able to get close.


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