Based on Friday’s long runs, Formula One’s sole tyre manufacturer Pirelli calculated that the one-stop strategy will be the fastest way to complete today’s Belgian Grand Prix.
This weekend has been less straightforward for teams, drivers and Pirelli as the practice sessions were interrupted on multiple occasions, disturbing the work aimed at the tyre analysis. On Friday, a virtual safety car period caused by Daniel Ricciardo’s stricken Renault R.S.20 and a debris-enforced red flag period interrupted the race simulation runs.
During Saturday’s third and final practice, it started to drizzle on several occasions, depriving teams to complete a mini long run at the end of the session. Ferrari often carries out a 4-lap heavy-fuel run in the dying stages of FP3 which was then made impossible by the light rain showers.
The Milan-based tyre manufacturer indicates that the optimal strategy for the 44-lap Belgian Grand Prix is a one-stopper. However, the possibility of rain is estimated at 50 per cent which can heavily influence the race strategies.
Should the rain stay away for the entire race, the fastest theoretical strategy is to start on the soft tyre for 18 laps and then complete the race on the medium. The exact opposite can work too. Second-quickest is another one-stopper, with the soft for 16 laps and the hard for 28 laps.
The interrupted race simulation on Friday showed that the medium and the hard compounds held on well on a longer distance, but circumstances could make it possible for some drivers to complete the race with two stops. If that is the case, the best two-stopper is: start on the soft for 14 laps, then medium for 16 laps, then soft for 14 laps.
Pirelli’s Head of car and F1 racing Mario Isola stressed once again that car performances have improved by a great deal compared to last year. Combined with the one-stop softer tyre compounds compared to 2019, that evolution led to new track records.
“There were only a few drops of rain seen earlier today, and on the P Zero Red soft tyres – one step softer than the softest compound we brought to Spa last year – Lewis Hamilton broke the all-time Spa lap record four times during qualifying, including once on the medium tyre. The fact that the top seven on the grid are all faster than last year’s pole underlines the impressive evolution of the cars since last year.”
Should the rain stay away in the early stages of the race, Isola expects the soft compound to provide significantly higher grip on the opening laps, but the medium tyres could enable Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen to extend their first stint.
„We’ve seen some divergence in strategies already, with the top three cars on the grid starting the race on the medium tyre tomorrow. This will make for a particularly interesting first stint: those on the medium should be able to go longer, but the drivers on soft will have a speed advantage that could be considerable in the early stages. While the teams will always be planning their strategies carefully, Spa is a race where tactics often have to react to changing circumstances, which could well be the case with uncertain weather predicted tomorrow.”