Formula One’s sole tyre supplier Pirelli expects most of the drivers to cover the race distance of today’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix with a single stop.
After the Friday practice sessions, drivers indicated that this year’s Pirelli tyres have an improved longevity around the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari compared to what they experienced when the sport last raced here last year. The red-walled C4 compound showed some blistering during Friday, but the Milan-based tyre manufacturer thinks that all three compounds could be a good race tyre today should conditions remain dry throughout the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
Based on Friday’s long run analysis, the 63-lap race is almost certain to be a one-stopper for most drivers, for three main reasons. Firstly, it’s hard to overtake around the narrow confines of Imola; secondly, the pit lane time loss is high at nearly half a minute; thirdly, the wear and degradation on the tyres is reasonably low.
A two-stopper will definitely be slower, so the teams will look to avoid that if possible. Track position is key and steering clear of traffic is important, so the timing of the stop will be critical. An advantage can often be gained by ‘undercutting’ direct rivals, so the selected strategy has to consider this as well.
The quickest strategy might be to start the race on the soft compound and change to the medium rubber on Lap 17-21. The second fastest strategy is another one-stopper with the medium rubber being the starting compound and the hard rubber the compound for the second stint. Pirelli thinks that the one-stop strategy of soft-medium compound allocation is the slowest variation.
Of the top three drivers, Hamilton and Verstappen, who are starting first and third respectively, will start using the medium tyre on the rubbered-in ‘clean’ side of the track. The other Red Bull of Sergio Perez in between them on soft rubber but starting on the ‘dirty’ side.
Ahead of today's Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, Pirelli's Head of F1 and Car Racing Mario Isola indicates that starting on the soft tyres is not a major disadvantage given the relatively low tyre degradation at Imola.
“All the tyres selected for qualifying performed well today. As expected, we saw some of the frontrunners choose to get through Q2 and therefore start the race on the medium tyre. This should allow them to have a longer opening stint and a more flexible strategy. There are a number of question marks tomorrow, including the weather, with the possibility of rain that could entirely subvert the predicted strategies.
"If it stays dry, we’ve seen so far that all three compounds should have an important role to play in the race. Those starting on the soft tyre don’t face a particular disadvantage however, as Imola is a low-severity circuit for tyres and weather conditions are expected to be cool.”