Although the soft compound held on surprisingly well in yesterday’s 24-lap F1 Sprint, Formula One’s tyre manufacturer Pirelli claims that the two-stop strategy is the fastest was to approach today’s Interlagos race.
For the inaugural Sao Paulo Grand Prix, Pirelli brought the middle of its range, meaning that the C2 compound serves as the P Zero White hard, C3 as the P Zero Yellow medium, and C4 as the P Zero Red soft: the same tyre choice as has been made for all the races on the American continent this year. This is a step softer than the tyre choice nominated for the Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos when it was last run in 2019.
The third Sprint Qualifying of the 2021 F1 season took place yesterday which not only offered some exciting battles for fans, but it also provided teams with a wealth of data on what to expect from the tyres in the grand prix itself. The weather conditions were similar to Friday’s FP1 and 20 degrees lower than FP2, getting underway in 18 degrees centigrade ambient and 30 degrees of track temperature.
What the tyre startegies are concerned, there was a wide split of starting tyres for the 24-lap Sprint Qualifying, with 11 of the drivers on the medium C3 and the other nine on the soft C4.
Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas won the third and final Sprint Qualifying this year, having started from second on the grid with three-lap old P Zero Red soft tyres. By contrast, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen started from the pole position with a new set of P Zero Yellow mediums. Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz finished third, using the soft tyre, making it two soft tyre runners on the Sprint Qualifying podium.
As for the strategy in the inaugural Sao Paulo Grand Prix, the weather can play a key role as it should be a little warmer than on the previous days.
The Milan-based tyre supplier thinks that the fastest strategy for the 71-lap Brazilian Grand Prix should be a two-stopper, using the medium followed by two sets of P Zero White hard. Another possibility (really close in terms of overall race time) is to use all three compounds: starting on the medium and then using the hard for the central stint, before finishing on the soft.
But a one-stop is another possibility. This could be medium to hard, to benefit from a long opening stint and gain track position, or alternatively soft to hard (although this would require more management, with the cars full of fuel at the start of the race). Under Sprint Qualifying regulations, the drivers are allowed to start the grand prix on whichever compound they choose, irrespective of the tyres used in Sprint Qualifying today.
Pirelli’s Head of F1 and Car Racing Mario Isola said: “The high level of track evolution together with the average track temperatures brought back the soft as an option for Sprint Qualifying. The extra speed of the soft tyre might have helped at the beginning, with the Mercedes of Bottas as well as the Ferrari of Sainz making excellent starts to move into the top two positions.
„It then became a question of managing the soft tyre in the later stages of the race, which Bottas achieved brilliantly to win Sprint Qualifying and start tomorrow’s grand prix from pole. For tomorrow, due to forecasted warmer track temperatures, we’re expecting what should in theory be a two-stop race with all compounds able to play a role. With both soft and medium compounds used extensively during Sprint Qualifying and many teams splitting their strategies, there will be plenty of data to analyse tonight,” Isola concluded.