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Dutch GP: Qualifying team notes - Pirelli

NEWS STORY
04/09/2021

Red Bull's Max Verstappen became the first Dutchman to claim pole for the Dutch Grand Prix, completing his fastest lap on the P Zero Red soft C3 tyres at the very end of the Q3 session. Verstappen was also fastest in free practice this morning, ahead of both Mercedes as he was in qualifying, again on the soft tyres.

All the drivers used the soft from start to finish of the qualifying session, with the exception of both Mercedes drivers, who ran the P Zero Yellow medium C2 tyres to set their best times in Q1 (having one less set of soft tyres after FP3). Consequently all the top 10 on the grid will start on the soft tyre tomorrow.

The Q2 session was interrupted by two red flags, which brought it to a premature end, for two separate incidents involving both Williams drivers, causing a delay of about half an hour.

Conditions were warm and dry throughout qualifying, with 23 degrees ambient and 34 degrees on track halfway through the session. However, there was some wind that affected the aerodynamics and gave the drivers an extra challenge.

Possible Race Strategies

The 72-lap Dutch Grand Prix is quite a step into the unknown for everyone, but on paper a two-stopper and one-stopper seem quite closely matched - although this obviously depends on a number of different variables such as track temperature as well as tyre degradation.

In practice, the teams will always gravitate towards a one-stopper as the default option if they can: especially as the tight and twisty confines of Zandvoort seem to make it quite hard to overtake. The optimal one-stop strategy consists of an opening stint on either the P Zero Yellow medium C2 or the P Zero Red soft C3, followed by a longer final stint on the P Zero White hard C1. Soft to medium seems a bit marginal, considering the expected wear and degradation rates.

However, there are a few question marks that could bring a two-stopper into play as well: especially if it's hot or if degradation is higher than expected on the soft tyre in particular.

The number of stoppages seen so far also suggest that a safety car period or even a red flag could be possible during the race, which would alter the complexion of the planned strategy entirely.

Mario Isola: "It was a bit of a stop-start qualifying session, in keeping with what we have seen during most of the sessions here so far, with two red flags in Q2 and a few surprises throughout. There was plenty of track evolution seen in qualifying, with the fastest times coming right at the end of each session - so this had a clear impact on the qualifying strategy, with teams trying to set their times as late as possible. In terms of race strategy, everything is still somewhat open, with both a two-stopper and one-stopper possible. However, the teams will want to focus on a one-stopper if they can, which is achievable using either the medium or the soft tyre to start, followed by a final stint on the hard. Without a lot of prior information to fall back on, there's also scope for drivers to gamble on doing something different - which might just pay off."

Check out our Saturday gallery from Zandvoort, here.

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