Given the sporting rules during an event featuring the sprint qualifying format, yesterday’s qualifying session was a simple, straightforward action for Formula One’s sole tyre manufacturer Pirelli.
For its home race, the three compounds in the middle of the range have been chosen: the most popular selection of the season. The P Zero White hard is the C2, P Zero Yellow medium is C3, and P Zero Red is the C4.
Despite the high longitudinal loads, the Autodromo Nationale Monza is not among the circuits that put extreme loads through the tyres. The Temple of Speed is best-known for its flat-out straights preceded by heavy braking areas, but with some slower and more technical sections as well. The long straights also have the effect of cooling down the tyres, which can affect the precision of the turn-in during the following corners.
After the only practice session ahead of Friday afternoon’s qualifying, Pirelli indicated that the performance gap between the three compounds is as follows: around 0.4 seconds between medium C3 and soft C4, and 0.3 seconds between medium C3 and P Zero White hard C2.
Just one hour of free practice on Friday afternoon preceded qualifying, with the teams condensing their usual data collection programmes into just one hour and running all three nominated compounds. Lewis Hamilton was fastest in free practice, using the P Zero Yellow medium C3 tyre. The seven-time world champion then qualified second on the grid, just behind his team mate Valtteri Bottas, but ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
Bottas, who has just announced his departure from Mercedes, will line up on the first starting position in tomorrow’s sprint qualifying race that determines the grid for Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix. All the drivers had to use the P Zero Red soft C4 tyre for qualifying today, as per the regulations.
Pirelli’s Head of F1 and Car Racing Mario Isola commented: “As we’ve seen before at Monza, qualifying was a very strategic session, with cars trying to benefit from a valuable tow on the long straights in order to improve their overall lap times. The overall strategy was made more complex by the fact that the teams also had to consider sprint qualifying for the first time at Monza, as they are free to run whichever tyre they like tomorrow – as well as start the grand prix on whichever compound they like.
“We saw different strategic approaches in FP1, with the majority of teams using three sets of tyres and all the compounds in just one hour to maximise data collection, while Mercedes, for example, focused only on the medium tyre: which might be a good option for tomorrow’s sprint qualifying.
"Today’s qualifying was instead more straightforward than usual as the teams could only run the soft tyre. This coped well with the heavy traction and braking demands of Monza, also providing the mechanical grip needed in the absence of high levels of downforce," Isola concluded.