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How the new tire rules will affect the race in Qatar
At the last moment, out of safety concerns, the FIA limited the maximum distance on one set of tires. Jonathan Noble explains where this will lead.
The length of the segment of 18 laps was chosen, of course, not by chance. Thus, the race management obliged the teams to conduct three pit stops for each of their drivers.
It would be extremely naive to think that they would act straightforwardly and choose the 18th, 36th and 54th laps for the mechanics to stop at.
On the contrary, everyone will try to find such a moment so that the pit lane is as free as possible - the story of how Charles Leclair was left without a good result in Singapore precisely because of waiting in front of his garage is still fresh in his memory.
But in reality, it is much more important now to take into account which tires are available to which of the riders. Since the weekend in Qatar is held in a sprint format with two qualifications, they have fewer soft sets left than with the traditional schedule.
However, on Saturday it was very clearly visible that Soft is not able to work for any length of time and will only fit for one as short as possible.
So the teams will first of all have to rely on Medium and Hard – that's just almost no one has enough fresh kits to last them for the entire distance.
Only Kevin Magnussen, Yuki Tsunoda and two Williams drivers have a pair of Medium and a pair of Hard in reserve – and will be able to get them to the finish line.
The rest, and above all the leaders, will have to invent something. Everyone has one Hard and one Medium, but with the rest, as they say, everything is difficult.
The FIA and Pirelli have compiled information about the tires in a table – the number in the box means the number of remaining laps that can be driven on the kit.
It should be noted that on Sunday, among the 18 laps that are allocated to tires, those that the riders overcome on the way to the grid, as well as the warm-up lap, are not taken into account.
The FIA explained: "We also do not count laps after the checkered flag in a sprint race, and for tires already used, the distance covered has been reduced by two laps."
As you can see, Max Verstappen has two sets of Medium, which can be considered practically new, which gives him significant tactical flexibility.
but Lewis Hamilton's total distance margin on Hard/Medium is only 59 laps, which means that his pit stops in the 57-lap race are practically fixed.
Only a little more flexibility for the Ferrari drivers and George Russell. But Saturday's troublemakers from McLaren are relatively safe with 63 laps each.