Pirelli Motorsport boss Mario Isola believes that Friday’s running at the French Grand Prix has been inconclusive in terms of indicating tyre performance for this weekend.
Isola said that a mix of ever-changing winds, numerous red flag periods and a new circuit for Formula 1 in the Circuit Paul Ricard means that “a few question marks” still linger going into Saturday. But, as warm weather greeted the return of the French race, Isola’s surprise came from the performance shown by the ultra-soft tyre, the middle compound that Pirelli has brought to the weekend.
“With a brand-new circuit, changing wind directions, cooler conditions expected tomorrow and also some red flag interruptions today, there are still a few question marks tonight,” said Isola.
“We’ve seen very high track temperatures in excess of 50 degrees, which obviously favour the higher working range tyres on the harder end of the selection.
“However, the ultra-soft has shown plenty of performance as well,” he added. “So we have all three different compounds that look viable as part of a potential race strategy.”
He remained cautious on making any firm predictions, instead opting to wait for the results of Saturday’s early afternoon third Free Practice session.
“Exactly what that strategy will be depends on the result of the data analysis, which will continue after FP3 tomorrow,” he said.
“But the situation will as usual become clearer as the weekend goes on.”
Encouragingly, Pirelli have not seen any graining on the front tyres – an area that Isola highlighted. The Italian tyre giants have reintroduced the somewhat controversial modified tyre formula first seen at the Spanish Grand Prix, featuring a reduced tyre tread by o.4mm.
“As this is a new track, which places particular emphasis on the front tyres, it was important to see if there would be any issues with blistering or graining, but nothing of the sort has been observed so far.”