Formula One’s sole tyre supplier Pirelli expects drivers to execute a two-stop strategy at today’s Spanish Grand Prix given the high wear and degradation experienced this weekend.
At the end of a close, thrilling qualifying session for today’s Spanish Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton claimed the 100th pole position of his career, using the P Zero Red soft C3 compound to set the fastest time of the weekend during his first Q3 run. He qualified ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and his Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas.
Mercedes was the only team to run the P Zero Yellow medium in Q1. All the drivers used the soft tyre in Q2, with the exception of Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi, who began the session on the medium. This means that all the top 10 on the grid tomorrow will start on the soft, with those from P11 downwards having a free choice of tyres as usual.
Track temperatures peaked at 42 degrees on Saturday: the hottest they have been all weekend. Ambient temperatures were also warm at 28 degrees centigrade when the session started.
For today’s 66-lap Barcelona round, Pirelli expects a two-stopper, especially if it’s warm as was the case in qualifying yesterday. This is down to the relatively high levels of tyre wear and degradation seen at the Barcelona circuit, with its abrasive asphalt and high-energy corners. Another reason is the fact that not so much time is lost in the pits, which makes a two-stopper much more viable, as well as the fact that the hard tyre is slower here.
Overtaking can be tricky at Barcelona – one of the reasons why qualifying is so important – so race strategy has to prioritise track position above all. As usual, the exact strategy will also be influenced by track temperatures on race day, which are likely to be similar to those seen today.
Pirelli’s Head of F1 and Car Racing Mario Isola commented: “Congratulations to Lewis Hamilton for his 100th pole position: a landmark achievement. Unlike Portugal, we didn’t see widespread use of the medium tyre in Q2, which means that the top 10 will all start on the soft tyre tomorrow.
“This indicates that the soft will form a key part of the race plan, with many drivers set to run a ‘sprint’ strategy that could take in two stints on the soft compound. That’s not to say that a one-stopper is impossible here with the right tyre management.
“Only some drivers have two sets of mediums available: either new or used. If the other drivers, without two sets of mediums, want to focus on a two-stop strategy, they have to use one set of medium and two sets of soft. Alternatively they can target a one-stopper, using the hard," he concluded.