Despite the unexpected longevity of tyre life, the safety car propelled most of the drivers towards a two-stop strategy at last weekend’s Eifel Grand Prix. We look back at the way the tyre tyres performed at the Nürburgring a week ago.
There were question marks regarding the behaviour of the tyres heading into the race at the Nürburgring after the weather prevented teams to conduct any work during Friday’s free practice sessions. The unusually low temperatures presented teams and drivers with a further factor to take into consideration. In fact, the Eifel Grand Prix was only warmer than the 1978 Canadian Grand Prix that has been the sport’s coldest race with air temperatures of just 5 °C.
Formula One’s tyre manufacturer Pirelli have allocated tyres from the middle of the range this weekend with a C2 Hard tyre, C3 Medium tyre and C4 Soft tyre provided. That was a relative risk-free choice with Pirelli adamant to bring tyres to a location where the sport has not raced with the current hybrid cars.
While the Milan-based manufacturer predicted a two-stop strategy for the race, claiming that a one-stop strategy would be a definitely slower approach to the race, the 60-lap Grand Prix in Germany turned out to be a different affair. After drivers seemed to be relatively comfortable with their tyres, even those who started the race on the soft compound, it looked certain that the majority of the field aimed at a one-stop strategy.
However, the safety car changed the plans, urging those who were on a one-stop strategy into the pit for fresh tyres. Of the 15 drivers who finished the Eifel Grand Prix, nine pitted for new boots on lap 44 or 45 during the safety car period with the five others having already completed their second stop. In the end, only Romain Grosjean opted for a one-stop strategy which paid off as the Frenchman scored points for the first time since the 2019 German Grand Prix.
When it came to tyre life, the soft compound presented teams and drivers with the biggest surprise. While the red-walled compound was expected to suffer on heavy fuel load, several drivers could elongate their first stint. McLaren’s Lando Norris and Nico Hülkenberg who was drafted in as a late replacement for Lance Stroll at the Eifel Grand Prix on Saturday after the Canadian felt unwell completed a mammoth stint of 29 laps.
Second-placed Max Verstappen set the fastest race lap with a time 1m28.139, also breaking the previous lap record. Race winner Lewis Hamilton’s fastest race lap was only 6 thousands of a second slower than the Dutchman’s record-breaking lap.
On the medium rubber, Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Räikkönen registered the longest stint after running on the Yellow compound for 34 laps. Lewis Hamilton achieved the fastest race lap with a time of 1m30.109 on the most-preferred compound.
The White hard rubber presented drivers with the biggest unknown factor in the race after only a couple of drivers completed a few laps in the sole free practice session. Four drivers used these white-walled boots during the race including Romain Grosjean, Daniil Kvyat, Sebastian Vettel and Pierre Gasly. It was the French Haas driver to complete the longest stint on the hard compound. The fastest lap on the C2 rubber was achieved by Pierre Gasly who posted a 1m31.178 in his mini 14-lap stint.
With his 91st win at today’s Eifel Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton equalled Michael Schumacher’s record for F1 race wins while Kimi Räikkönen has set a new record for most race starts in his 323rd race at the pinnacle of motorsport. Commenting on the two important milestones, Pirelli’s Head of F1 and car racing, Mario Isola said: “Congratulations to Lewis Hamilton for equalling Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 wins, and also Kimi Raikkonen for racking up a new record of grand prix starts.
Ahead of the race, there were question marks regarding the tyre behaviour as the foggy and soggy weather on Friday prevented teams from completing any meaningful long runs. Ferrari and Mercedes drivers carried out a mini long run on the sole Saturday practice session, but that was completed on a quite dirty track which meant that the data gained through those runs were less relevant for the race.
„This was an extremely unusual race with the cold weather and lack of running on Friday,” added Isola. „All the preparation work was done in one session on Saturday, but although there was no information about tyre wear, it emerged that there was less graining than expected, which prompted some teams to think about stopping only once.
„In the end, we some saw some light graining on the soft compound, but this did not influence the race outcome. The race strategy was largely influenced by the two safety cars – virtual and real – which were perfectly timed for the frontrunners and gave us all an exciting finale,” Isola concluded.