As it did in 2016, Pirelli is bringing the Soft, SuperSoft and UltraSoft tyre compounds to Marina Bay.
Last year we saw a variety of tyre strategies. Nico Rosberg won with a two-stopper, but he was almost chased down by Ricciardo, who was running a three-stopper. Rosberg was on his tyres’ last bit of rubber as he completed a 28th lap on the Softs. Ricciardo used the SuperSofts liberally, putting only about 15 laps on each of the three sets (and 15 laps on one set of Softs too).
While the UltraSofts were the fastest and used for qualifying, they were not used heavily in the race. Track position is so important in Singapore because overtaking is difficult on this street circuit. Therefore, maintaining position, as opposed to outright speed, takes on increased importance. So, as we always see at Monaco, teams will tilt towards the longer-lasting tyre that allows them to maintain track position and only pit when they have a clear window.
During the practice runs on Friday and Saturday morning we should get some insight into how the 2017 tyre compounds perform. But don’t be surprised to see another race with two or three stops, especially as there will likely be a Safety Car that encourages pits.
Although the expected number of stops will be similar, drivers will probably get to that number using different tyre compounds than they did in 2016. Because the 2017 compounds are harder (i.e., the 2017 UltraSoft is harder and long-lasting than the 2016 UltraSoft), teams have absolutely loaded up on the UltraSoft and taken the minimum one set of Softs. The shift in compound choices for this race between 2016 and 2017, which you can see in the two graphics below, nicely illustrates how the tyres have changed.
Interestingly, the two front-runners in the Drivers’ Championship, Hamilton and Vettel, are the only two to bring 2 sets of Softs (sorry Wehrlein, you don’t count). Do they have something up their sleeve with a long run in mind? We’ll see when the lights go out.