Pirelli nominates an aggressive tyre selection for Imola

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Formula One’s sole tyre supplier Pirelli has elected to spice things up in the Imola F1 round by bringing its three softest compounds to the Autodromo di Enzo e Dino Ferrari.

Following six races in the opening part of the season, the F1 field now returns to Europe for the first race to be held on the Old Continent. It will be one of two races to be staged in Italy this year with the other one set to take place in Monza at the start of September.

Italy has hosted a total of 105 world championship Grands Prix, the most of any country, 30 of them at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Imola. It first appeared on the calendar in 1980, the one and only time the Italian Grand Prix was held anywhere other than Monza. Then, from 1981 to 2006, Formula 1 raced in Emilia under the flag of the nearby Republic of San Marino

However, there has been a change to the name of the race recently as the Imola F1 round has been referred to as the Gran Premio dell’Emilia-Romagna e del Made in Italy. The race returned in 2020 as part of the coronavirus-induced calendar reshuffle, and has been held since except last year's event which had to be cancelled because of floods that hit large parts of the region, causing some fatalities and devastation.

The challenging Imola circuit is one of the oldest fixtures on the championship calendar, known for being very technical and therefore highlighting the skills of the drivers. The 19-turn circuit features quite complex combinations of corners and braking zones, and the relatively narrow layout incorporates a significant 30-metre elevation change from the highest point to the lowest.

Enzo Ferrari was one of the promoters of the project to build a circuit on the hills around Imola and he described it as a sort of “little Nurburgring.” Orginally, in 1957, the venue was named in memory of his son Dino, his own name being added after his death in 1988.

Pirelli's bold tyre selection

For the seventh round of the season, Pirelli has gone with the softest trio of dry tyre compounds: C3 as Hard, C4 as Medium and C5 as Soft. It will be the first time this trio will be put to the test at the Emilian track, although it was to have been the choice for last year’s cancelled event. In 2022, the selected compounds were C2, C3 and C4.

The Milan-based tyre manufacturer has mandated very high minimum starting pressure for this weekend: 25.5 psi for the front tyres and 22.0 psi for the rears. The camber limits will be -3.00° for the fronts and -1.75° for the rears.

The track is not particularly hard in terms of the forces exerted on the tyres, even if the asphalt is still relatively abrasive, despite the fact that the last time resurfacing work was carried out on 70% of its almost five kilometre length dates back to 2011. With a busy programme of track action over the Grand Prix weekend, the road surface offers a good level of grip that increases the more the cars run.

Possible strategies

On paper, having the three softest compounds could produce more options in terms of pit stop strategy in a race that usually would require just one tyre change, especially as time lost in the pit lane here is one of the highest of the year.

The majority of the field completed the 2022 Imola round with a two-stop strategy, but that race started on a damp surface, prompting driver to start on Pirelli’s intermediate tyres.

There is also the strong possibility of the race being neutralised at some point, something that has happened in over 70% of races run at Imola to date. Recently, a few minor modifications have been made to the track, including the reintroduction of gravel on the outside of the Acque Minerali corners, leading to a much greater penalty for anyone going off at that point.