MARINA BAY, Singapore -- This year's Singapore Grand Prix looks set to be a fine balance between a one-stop and a two-stop strategy. If rear tyre degradation can be controlled, a one-stop will be the obvious strategy in order to protect track position, but those looking to attack may opt for a second stop in order to be on fresh tyres late in the race.
A similar strategy worked for Lewis Hamilton last year in order to get ahead of Kimi Raikkonen for third, but it inadvertently triggered a chain reaction of extra pit stops that turned a processional two-stop race into a nail-biting split-strategy battle for the lead. Daniel Ricciardo, in second place, took advantage of the clear air behind him to take on a set of fresh tyres and was then able to attack Nico Rosberg for the lead in the closing stages. Rosberg stuck to a two-stop race, meaning he was on much older tyres, but just managed to hold on to victory by less than 0.5s at the flag.
The heavy braking into -- and hard acceleration out of -- Singapore's many low-speed corners puts severe longitudinal forces through the tyres and tends to result in overheating of the rears. If that leads to degradation of more than 0.15s per lap on Sunday night, a two-stop strategy will come into play but if it is less than 0.15s a one-stop will remain the sensible option. New tyre for new tyre, the ultra-soft has a 1.1s per lap advantage over the super-soft, whereas the soft was somewhere in the region of 1.5s slower than the super-soft for most teams.
Only Mercedes looked truly comfortable on the softs on Friday, so may try to make a one-stop work if Ferrari and Red Bull get drawn into a battle of trying to undercut each other on two-stop strategies.
"I think we are in a position we don't like to be in P5 and P6 but this provides strategic opportunities, and our car was very good on the softs," Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said on Saturday evening. "We've had a brief discussion before and it's quite interesting."
Look out for pit stops around lap 13 to get an indication of who is going to attempt a two-stop.