Despite the softer compounds compared to 2019, last weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix saw drivers prefer the one-stop strategy to cover the 44-lap race distance.
Formula One’s tyre manufacturer Pirelli allocated teams with the C2, C3 and C4 compounds for this year’s Belgian Grand Prix. The bold selection of compounds was expected to spice race strategies up after the 2019 event at Spa was mainly restricted to one-stoppers with drivers totally neglecting the hardest compound.
However, tyres showed a very good durability yesterday, prompting teams and drivers to commit themselves to a one-stop strategy. That was not even affected by the early appearance of the safety car that was deployed following a huge crash involving Alfa Romeo driver Antonio Giovinazzi and Williams racer George Russell.
During the safety car period, all the drivers apart from two stopped to change tyres. Of the drivers who stopped, only Red Bull’s Alex Albon didn’t switch to hard for the second stint with the London-born Thai driver opting for the Yellow medium compound.
The drivers who didn’t stop were AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly and Racing Point’s Sergio Perez. Gasly was the only driver to start the race on the hard tyre, and he swapped to the medium on lap 26, eventually finishing eighth from 12th on the grid. Perez switched from Red soft to hard after 18 laps, also finishing in the points.
Of the 17 drivers who saw the chequered flag, 14 drivers completed the race with a one-stopper. Only Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, Williams’ Nicholas Latifi and Haas driver Kevin Magnussen decided to stop for a second time in the second half of the race, but they all visited the pits for boosting their chances with fresh tyres.
Pirelli’s Head of F1 and car racing Mario Isola highlighted the impact of the appearance of the safety car which influenced the strategies in the 44-lap race.
“The safety car dictated the strategy for most drivers today, pushing them towards a longer final stint than was expected on the hard tyre. This meant that they had to manage the compound carefully towards the end of the race in particular, on a notoriously demanding track."
The Italian was delighted with the performance of Pirelli’s tyres at Spa that poses one of the biggest test to tyres.
„However, they all accomplished this perfectly and some drivers also chose a different strategic approach. Pierre Gasly showed plenty of pace with his unique hard-medium strategy and we also saw Sergio Perez choose not to stop under the safety car and try something different. All three nominated compounds played an important role today, and were well suited to the conditions here at Spa – one of the biggest tests for tyres of the year,” he said.