Formula One tyre supplier Pirelli thinks that a one-stop strategy would be marginal on wear at the Spanish Grand Prix, hence it recommends a two-stop strategy solution for today.
Hamilton led another Mercedes one-two with the Anglo-German team enjoying a pace advantage of over seven tenths of a second over its closest rival, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. At last weekend, the Dutchman defeated the Mercedes duo with his fine tyre management and the question will be today whether the 9-time race winner can challenge Hamilton and Bottas despite them having the dominant W11 in their hands.
Pirelli brought the trio of its hardest compounds to Barcelona, a circuit that usually puts huge loads through the tyres in the high-speed corners. Although the teams all tested at Barcelona in February and March, the dramatic temperature increase this weekend in the height of summer brings another factor to consider when it comes to race strategies.
Pirelli thinks that a one-stop race is going to be marginal on wear, whichever combination of tyres is used, so the best way is definitely a two-stopper for the 66-lap grand prix. The fastest way on paper is two 19-lap stints on the soft compound plus a 28-lap run on the mediums, probably using the medium for the second stint (so soft-medium-soft).
The Milan-based tyre supplier considers the three-stopper as a real option should temperature lead to a higher degradation than expected. If someone opts for a three stops, then the best way would be as follows: three stints on soft of 15 laps each plus 21 laps on the medium – again probably running the medium for the second of those stints (soft-medium-soft-soft). There is always a risk in making several pit stops, so some teams may want to avoid this.
Finally, the third-fastest way at the moment is another two-stopper, and this will come into its own if temperatures are higher or degradation on the soft is a bit more than expected. That is starting on the soft for 16 laps and then doing two 25-lap stints on the medium (soft-medium-medium).
Pirelli’s head of F1 and car racing Mario Isola was surprised to see all drivers use the soft C3 compound in the second qualifying session, although a harder compound would have opened up a bigger flexibility in terms of race strategies.
“All the drivers concentrated on the soft in qualifying, which was a slight surprise, perhaps because of the established performance gap to the medium and the pace of the frontrunners.”
Interestingly, Pirelli expects teams to prefer the medium and the soft compound as the hard compound turned out to be a significantly slower option on the high-fuel runs during Friday practices. According to its estimations, the hard compound is a full second slower than the medium compound.
„This means that we can almost certainly expect two stops during the race tomorrow, and we’re unlikely to see much use of the hard, as there’s a big gap to the medium too. Key to tomorrow’s race in these very warm conditions will be managing wear and degradation on the soft. There’s plenty of scope for those starting lower down the grid to try something a bit different, so hopefully we’ll see another interesting race tomorrow with lots of variations in strategy,” Isola added.