The Renault F1 team opted for the most aggressive tyre choice for the United States Grand Prix at a weekend when Pirelli provides teams with the first versions of the 2020 tyres.
Pirelli bring the C2, C3 and C4 compounds to the Circuit of the Americas, the very same tyre selection as featured last week in Mexico, albeit tyres are expected to show a different behaviour on the 5.513 km track. Although COTA usually doesn’t place immense stresses on the tyres, high temperatures and the fast-bends usually means that drivers have to take care of the tyres at the beginning of their stints.
The layout and the fact that Pirelli brings three different compounds to the race tracks has opened up various strategic options in the last editions of the United States Grand Prix. Last year saw Kimi Räikkönen take his last F1 victory to date in front of Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton with all three drivers opting for a different strategy. An ultrasoft-soft one-stopper was the winning strategy last year, courtesy of Kimi Raikkonen for Ferrari. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was second (from 18th on the grid) with a soft-supersoft strategy, while Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton was third with a two-stopper.
The Friday free practice sessions will be particularly important this weekend. Drivers will not only be keen on dialling their qualifying and race setup, but they will also get a taste of the 2020 P Zero tyres. Each driver will get two sets of the 2020 soft compound tyres, for use during FP1 and FP2 only. Next year’s specification was defined following a number of dedicated tests, with the final one held in Barcelona earlier this month involving the top three teams.
Pirelli’s head of F1 and car racing Mario Isola explained that the characteristics of the Circuit of the Americas prompted the Milan-based manufacturer to pick out this track for a collective 2020 tyre evaluation.
“This year, it is particularly significant, as it is where the teams will get to sample next year’s tyres for the first time, during free practice on Friday. This of course is just an initial taste of the 2020 C4 soft compound, before teams get to test the full homologated range of next year’s tyres at the two-day test in December following the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, as usual. Austin contains a bit of everything in terms of different types of corner, with quite representative asphalt as well, so it should be a good place to try out these new tyres for the first time,” he said.
Ferrari drivers with different approach
Renault drivers stand out with their tyre choice for this weekend’s United Grand Prix. Both Nico Hülkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo selected a total of ten soft compounds, leaving them with little opportunity to try out Pirelli’s medium and hard compound at the 5.513km demanding circuit. While Ricciardo has two sets of softs, Hülkenberg will have two sets of hards at his disposal which suggests that the two drivers will complete the first and third practice exclusively with the red-banded compounds and will conduct their race-simulation in FP2 on different compounds.
All other drivers opted for either nine or eights sets of softs on a circuit that usually doesn’t place extreme stresses on the tyres. While every team has identical tyre selection for their drivers regarding the amount of soft compound, Ferrari is the only team going for a differing tyre choice for Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel. The Monegasque will have nine sets of C4 compound while his German teammate went for a more conservative tyre selection.