Despite Pirelli’s special Alternative Tyre Allocation for this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix, things are relatively clear as far as the strategy is concerned with all indications pointing toward a single-stop strategy at today’s Monza F1 race. F1Technical’s senior writer Balázs Szabó analyses the possible race strategies for the Italian Grand Prix.
For the high-speed circuit that is often referred to as the Temple of Speed, Pirelli brought the softest end of its range: the C3 is being used as P Zero White hard, C4 as P Zero Yellow medium and C5 as P Zero Red soft. These are the softest compounds in the Pirelli Formula 1 range, already nominated for five other race weekends so far this season, albeit mainly on street circuits or slow tracks like the Hungaroring.
The minimum starting pressures will be relatively high once again as teams need to adhere to a minimum of 24.5 psi for the front tyre and 22.5 psi for the rear tyres. The camber limits are set at -3.00° at the front and -2.00° at the rear.
The Alternative Tyre Allocation first came into force at the Hungarian Grand Prix where it massively complicated things for teams and drivers. The reduction from 13 to just 11 sets meant that everyone needed to consider carefully how they used the different sets across the weekend.
This weekend saw the special allocation return for the second time this year. Therefore, it was expected that drivers will have another difficult weekend with limited running and some surprises were also expected to happen in qualifying. However, teams appeared to have learned from the Hungarian Grand Prix, and they managed to get used to the new format for the second time it came into effect.
Commenting on the lessons from this weekend, Pirelli's Motorsport Director Mario Isola said: "On the tyre front, these two days have seen us trial the ATA format once again, this time in stable weather. The teams and drivers have shown that they have adapted quickly to the different challenges this has created in terms of tyre usage, without affecting the on track activity"
As for the race strategy, tyre degradation is usually quite low around the 5.8km Autodromo Nazionale Monza.
Last year, there were no fewer than eight different strategies deployed by the top 10 finishers. Max Verstappen and George Russell (first and third respectively) opted for a single stop, while Charles Leclerc – who finished second – had already made two stops before a safety car towards the end of the race allowed all three drivers to stop again.
Pirelli thinks that there will be no surprises today when it comes to strategy. The one-stop strategy is expected to turn out as the preferred one. There are different factors that drive teams towards the least number of stops. The main reason is the aforementioned low degradation that is aided by the lack of high-speed corners. Furthermore, the relatively long pit lane leads to a significant time loss. Moreover, overtaking is very much possible at Monza, but possible DRS trains – a group of drivers get stuck behind another – can occur that can heavily affect the outcome of the race.
Considering all the facts and the tyre analyses gained over the practice sessions, Pirelli thinks that the best approach to the 74th Italian Grand Prix is to start on the medium compound, complete a stint of around 20-26 laps before switching to the C3 Hard compound.
A similar, but more aggressive strategy is to chose the soft compound as the starting tyre for a stint of 14-20 laps before swapping them for the white-walled hards.
A two-stop is also possible for drivers with very good top speed that can help them work their way through the field on fresher tyres. It would prompt drivers to start on the red-walled C5 compound before completing two stints on the yellow-banded medium tyres.
Speaking about the strategies, Isola added: "Looking ahead to tomorrow’s race and possible strategies, we can confirm that a single stop is the quickest option, with the Hard compound being the main protagonist.
"It remains to be seen if some will decide to start on the Medium to have more flexibility, with a good level of grip at the start, or risk starting on the Soft to try and make up places in the early stages. The two-stop strategy is conditioned by the fact the pit lane is very long and therefore time is lost at each pit stop, but it could be a valid choice if the race is neutralised at any point."