Pirelli expects a variety of strategies at Imola

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Following the one and only practice session for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, the sport’s sole tyre manufacturer Pirelli is unsure about the best strategy with different tactical approaches thought to be possible for the 63-lap race.

For Imola, Pirelli chose the middle three tyres in its range: C2 as the P Zero White hard, C3 as the P Zero Yellow medium, and C4 as the P Zero Red soft. This trio of compound is a step softer than the one seen at Portimao just a week ago.

The Milan-based tyre supplier explained its choice with the recent work at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari circuit that has been re-asphalted since F1 last race there, meaning that the asphalt is generally quite smooth, and doesn’t put too much stress on the tyres.

However, with Formula One squeezing the usual three practices into a single session, there are still some question marks for both the teams and the tyre engineers despite the 90-minute Saturday morning session. The practice session and the qualifying showed that there’s a gap of around 0.5 seconds between the P Zero White hard and and P Zero Yellow medium, and 0.6 seconds between the medium and P Zero Red soft.

Pirelli’s Head of F1 and Car racing Mario Isola explained that several teams put their focus on gaining as much data as possible even by splitting the tyre analysis between their drivers.

“The teams were able to capture most of the tyre data they needed from the single 90-minute practice session, sometimes by splitting the tyre assessment programmes over their two cars.

„There is still considerably less tyre data than there would be from a ‘conventional’ weekend, which leaves some question marks over strategy heading into the race and opens up some more options tomorrow, especially with the track evolving all the time.”

It is not an easy task for teams and Pirelli’s engineers to calculate the tyre gap and optimal race strategies for the 63-lap Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix. One reason for this is that teams don’t have previous experience of the track and the sole practice session took place between 10:00 and 11:30, which means that the information gained in the session won’t be completely representative.

In terms of strategy, a one-stopper looks set to be fastest. The optimal one-stop strategy uses the medium and soft tyres: soft for 28 to 30 laps and medium for 33 to 35 laps (either way round). Very close to that is a soft to hard strategy: soft for 24 to 27 laps and hard for 36 to 39 laps (or vice versa).

Third-quickest is medium for 26 to 35 laps and hard for 28 to 37 laps. This strategy has the advantage of featuring a wider pit stop window. Pirelli indicated that a two-stop strategy is possible, but it is a slower way to complete the race. The best two-stop strategy is with two stints on soft of 18 laps, plus one stint on medium of 27 laps.

„The teams will have a busier Saturday evening than usual analysing the performance gaps between the tyres, and working out how this can translate into an optimal race strategy.

„As for the tyres, we had a little bit of graining during the early part of the day, but the situation improved as expected with more running. All three compounds look set to play an important role in the race and we are satisfied with their performance,” concluded Isola.