Formula One’s sole tyre manufacturer Pirelli turns up with an exciting tyre allocation for the old-school track of Spa-Francorchamps by bringing a trio of compounds that is a step softer compared to last year.
The 2020 F1 season has turned into a snore-fest so far with Mercedes enjoying an unsurmountable competitive advantage. The only exciting grand prix was the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix where Pirelli brought a tyre combination that finally propelled the majority of the field away from the one-stop strategy.
For this weekend, the Milan-based company will supply teams with a thrilling tyre combination again. For the Belgian Grand Prix, Pirelli’s C2 compound has been selected as the P Zero White hard, C3 as the P Zero Yellow medium, and C4 as the P Zero Red soft. This is a step softer than the nomination at Spa last year.
This choice was made ahead of the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix and has been defined because most drivers chose the medium and soft tyres last year. As per the modified sporting regulation, each driver will have two sets of hard, three sets of medium, and eight sets of soft for the entire weekend.
The 7.004-kilometre lap – the longest in Formula 1 – is extensive and mixed, with epic corners such as Eau Rouge imposing heavy combined forces on the tyres: both vertical and lateral. As a result, Spa is one of the most challenging circuits for tyres seen all year. The asphalt is also quite aggressive in nature.
However, there is another challenge for the drivers to consider: at nearly 800 metres long, the Kemmel Straight cools the tyres down, affecting grip throughout the following corners.
Despite all the efforts of teams and drivers, the entire preparation and pre-weekend analysis could be useless given the uncertainty provided by the weather that is extremely variable at Spa at this time of the year. The current forecast predicts rain showers on Saturday and on Sunday which could add a further element to the excitement.
Pirelli’s Head of car and F1 racing, Mario Isola expects another weekend when lap times tumble given the improvements made to the cars compared to the previous season.
“The reputation of Spa speaks for itself: it’s an old-school track with plenty of elevation and other variables, which the drivers love because of the many challenges and sensations that it delivers. This year’s tyre selection is a step softer than last year’s, even though we expect the cars to be considerably faster, as has been the case for most of the season so far.
The Italian is sure that teams will be able to set up their cars given the wealth of previous data that they have gathered over the past years. However, he thinks that the unpredictable weather can make it tricky for teams and drivers to adapt to the changing conditions.
„Spa is one of the few rounds this year that has not had a date change compared to its traditional slot, so the teams should have plenty of relevant data, even though this is probably the circuit where it’s hardest to predict the conditions. So the teams and drivers who are best able to rapidly adapt to changing circumstances tend to be those most rewarded.
„One difference this year is that the Spa 24 Hours hasn’t taken place as usual a couple of weeks ago: it will be interesting to see if that has any effect – although any rubber that is previously laid down is often washed away by rain in any case,” Isola concluded.