Chinese Grand Prix strategy guide

The Chinese Grand Prix has a habit of throwing up exciting races with mixed strategies, but tyre supplier Pirelli has predicted a one-stop on Sunday. Cooler temperatures should make that easier, but it will still require a large degree of tyre management to make it work.

The circuit is unusual in that it is "front limited", which means the front tyres take more of a hit than the rears and are the limiting factor when it comes to performance degradation and wear. That requires a slightly different setup to many of the other circuits on the calendar, as drivers look to protect the front tyres rather than the rears.

However, the soft compound in China has proved pretty fragile around the lap and on that compound it is the rears that are prone to overheating. As a result, the requirements from the car and driver in terms of tyre management can shift depending on whether they are running the soft or the medium/hard. That might help explain why the top five drivers opted to use the medium compound in Q2 in order to start the race on that tyre and then switch to the hard for the second stint.

A number of teams also found that the soft starts losing performance relative to the medium as early as lap two, while the medium also offers a much wider pit stop window and greater strategy flexibility than the soft.

"It's a very high energy track," Valtteri Bottas, who will start the race from pole, explains. "There's long corners which put a lot of load on the tyres and actually the soft degrades more during the lap, even one lap, than the medium so soft might be a lot quicker at the beginning of the lap but by the end of the lap it is slower than the medium tyre.

"So that's why there's no massive time difference [between the two compounds]. I think tomorrow, as normal, medium's going to the better tyre after a few laps as usual, but that's something we will find out tomorrow."

But keep an eye out for a Safety Car. Last year, Red Bull made use of a late Safety Car to take on fresh tyres and, in Daniel Ricciardo's case, overtake his way to victory. A similar scenario is likely to see a number of drivers gamble on a late tyre change, especially if they have a fresh set of softs available. Of the top ten drivers, Hamilton is the only one with a set of softs available after using the mediums in Q2 and only completing one run on the softs.