Pirelli predicts a two-stop race

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Japan, Circuit Suzukajp

Formula One’s sole tyre supplier Pirelli thinks that the two-stop strategy is the fastest approach to cover the 60-lap distance at today’s Eifel Grand Prix at the Nürburgring.

Formula One has returned to the legendary Nürburgring this weekend after a seven-year hiatus, meaning that teams, drivers and the tyre supplier needed to approach the weekend as an event on a new location. Although the layout is not unknown as most of the drivers raced here in some category – seven of the current drivers took part in the last F1 race at Nürburgring in 2013 – the sport has not visited the venue in the hybrid era.

That was the reason why everyone was keen to get into the rhythm with the current cars on Friday, but the soggy and foggy weather meant that no one could collect on-track experiences on the day that is usually dedicated to practice and gain valuable information for the rest of the weekend. It meant that everyone started the qualifying session with the knowledge that they acquired in the sole Saturday practice session. That has left the teams with some question marks for the race.

During the qualifying session, track temperatures were the coldest seen all year during a race weekend, with 10 degrees ambient and 17 degrees of track temperature at the end of qualifying. For today’s race, even cooler conditions are foreseen, so getting the tyres up to temperature (particularly the fronts) and keeping them there will be crucial.

The lack of information will have a big impact on strategy. The race strategies are much less clear cut than usual, as it’s really not clear which strategy is most advantageous in real world conditions.

The most likely strategy for the 60-lap Eifel Grand Prix is a two-stopper with the theoretically quickest way being to start on the P Zero Red soft, then on lap 19 switch to the P Zero Yellow medium for 22 laps, and finally do a 19-lap stint on the soft again. As usual, this combination of compounds can be used in any order.

Second-fastest is another two-stopper: one 18-lap stint on the soft plus two 21-lap stints on the medium. Slower is a one-stopper, going from medium to P Zero White hard after 29 laps. According to Pirelli’s data a one-stop strategy using medium and soft is not possible.

Pirelli’s Head of F1 and Car racing Mario Isola stressed that the weather and the lack of data have presented teams and the Italian tyre manufacturer with some headaches over the weekend.

“Finally we saw some action at the Nürburgring, with the drivers heading into qualifying with just one hour of preparation. As a result, there are a number of question marks heading into tomorrow’s grand prix, as Formula 1 hasn't raced here since 2013 and the teams have very little data to go on. As well as strategy, one of those question marks surrounds the weather, which is set to be even colder and possibly wet tomorrow. If it stays dry all the top 10 on the grid will start on the soft tyre, which removes one variable, but what happens after that very much remains to be seen.”

Despite showing great pace right from the first laps in FP3, Max Verstappen complained about graining on the front tyres. Isola thinks that this issue will diminish in the race as the track provides more grip, but tyre management will still be vital.

"In these extremely cold temperatures, we saw some light graining in the morning as expected but as more rubber was laid down on the track and the cars adapted their set-up, the situation improved. Looking after the tyres tomorrow will still be crucial, in what should be quite an unpredictable grand prix with uncertain weather.”