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A bit like the previous race in Jeddah, the target is an obvious one for both Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton. Although they each start on a different compound of tyre (Verstappen on the softs and Hamilton on the mediums) they are both aiming to make a one-stop strategy work with a second stint on hard tyres.

For Verstappen, the target is to reach at least Lap 15, and then continue as close to Lap 20 as possible before making his pit stop. If he retains the lead at the start then the timing will be crucial, though, because if he goes too early then Hamilton might have too much pace in hand in clear air and be able to overcut the Red Bull.

But Verstappen also has to guard against an undercut that could come as early as Lap 15, given that’s when the one-stop pit window opens. Hamilton could try and use the advantage of fresh hard tyres against Verstappen’s aging softs to get ahead, but if not then he will look to run longer – up to Lap 27 – and use the tyre offset to attempt to attack later on.

If Hamilton manages to get ahead of Verstappen on the opening lap, however, then the equation becomes a lot harder for the Red Bull driver, because his soft tyres are more susceptible to overheating behind another car on high fuel, and staying close enough to threaten with an undercut of his own could be a challenge.

If Verstappen wants to try a two-stop strategy, he’s going to need clear air and to get a full pit stop clear of the chasing pack before making a switch to hard tyres. From there, a final stint for mediums is possible as the rest of the field falls even further back from the pace being set at the front, but the first pit stop timing comes with a risk of being released into traffic and losing significant time.

The majority of the top 10 went for soft tyres in Q2, partly due to the need to confirm their positions in the top 10 but also because they feel the overall race strategy is not overly hurt by being on that compound.

The soft provides an advantage off the line – with more grip from the softer compound – and can still be part of a one-stopper, but requires a bit more pace management. If an early Safety Car comes into play, a pit stop for hards at that point would then lead to a likely two-stop strategy with a switch to mediums for the final stint.

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Aiming for a straight two-stopper – starting on softs and switching to hards after 12-18 laps before a final stint on mediums – is possible but much more risky given the likelihood of emerging in traffic after the first stop.

Valtteri Bottas and Yuki Tsunoda are the only other two drivers starting on the mediums in the top 10, and they’ll be looking to simply run as long as possible, creating a tyre offset to take advantage of in the latter stages of the race.

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