Pirelli's modified, more rigid tyres showed an excellent performance at yesterday's British Grand Prix which saw the majority of the field complete the 52-lap Silverstone race with a single tyre change.
Last weekend's British Grand Prix saw Formula One debut its brand-new weekend format with the Sprint Qualifying bringing a new element to the already exciting 2021 F1 season. The F1 Sprint proved to be a success, mainly thanks to Fernando Alonso and Carlos Sainz, who showed eye-catching first lap performance and brilliant recovery drive respectively.
Another new element being introduced at Silverstone concerned the tyres: sole supplier Pirelli brought a new construction tested in free practice at the last race in Austria. The compounds were the same as before and for this event, the teams used the C1, C2 and C3, but the structure of the carcass of the rears has been made more rigid.
While there was some blistering on the yellow-walled Medium compound during the inaugural F1 Sprint on Saturday, Pirelli's tyres performed on Sunday exactly in the way the Milan-based supplier calculated despite the unusual heat at Silverstone. Temperatures were high throughout the race, with 32 degrees centigrade ambient and 49 degrees on track.
The Hard compound was consistent throughout even the longest runs, making it a crucial element of the strategy for the second stint after the re-start. A number of drivers completed up to 33 laps on this tyre.
As far as the C2 Medium was concerned, all the drivers started on this (apart from Perez). Both Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc used it for more than 25 laps. Even though this is a softer compound, making it more susceptible to blistering, this did not affect the performance in any way.
The C3 soft compound was too aggressive for long runs in yesterday's hot conditions, but used by Perez and Gasly for their final stints. Perez set fastest lap with it, but as he finished outside the top 10, did not score an extra championship point.
The majority of the drivers opted for one-stop strategy which Pirelli estimated ahead of the 52-lap race. The sprint qualifying format for the British Grand Prix meant that drivers had a free choice of tyres for the start. They all chose to start on the medium C2 tyre, with Perez – who started from the pit lane – being the only car to start on the hard C1.
The clash between Verstappen and Hamilton led to an early interruption of the race. Under the red flag rules, teams are allowed to change tyres and repair damage. In total, 13 drivers changed tyres: but they just swapped the mediums they had originally started the race on for a fresh set of the same compound.
Hamilton, who won the race after clipping the rear right corner of Verstappen's RB16B, started on P Zero Yellow medium C2, changed to another set of mediums during the red flag period after lap two, and then finished the race on the P Zero White hard C1. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who finished second, led until the final laps before being overhauled by Hamilton who was fighting back from a 10-second penalty.
The same basic strategy was used by all the drivers apart from AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly (who made an extra stop following a puncture) and Red Bull’s Sergio Perez.
Pirelli's Head of F1 and Car Racing Mario Isola commented: “The race strategy was influenced by the new tyre rules in place for sprint qualifying races, which allow all the drivers a free choice of tyres at the start so that they can follow the theoretically fastest run plans. That’s exactly what they did today, with the vast majority moving from the medium to hard.
"We were then treated to a fantastic duel between two of the top drivers in the sport, who managed their tyres perfectly to deliver a thrilling battle to the end. Now we remain at Silverstone to focus on our next task: continuing the 2022 18-inch test programme, which we will be doing on Tuesday and Wednesday with Aston Martin, Haas and Red Bull," Isola concluded.