Pirelli‘s Head of Car Racing, Mario Isola, said that teams had to “think on their feet” to work out the best strategy for the on-off rain during the German Grand Prix – a race where “six different strategies [were] seen in the top ten“.
Pirelli brought the Ultrasoft, Soft and Medium tyres to the Hockenheimring but it was rain defined the German Grand Prix, arriving just over half-way into the race and causing no end of drama. Thanks to the direction the rain came in from only the second sector of the track was wet, which gave drivers two options; they could power through the dry sections and tip-toe through the wet sector, or pit for intermediate tyres to make up time through the wet part of the track and lose grip on the dry.
Pierre Gasly went one further and pitted for full wet tyres, though ditched this strategy after three laps.
These mixed conditions led to many mistakes from drivers up and down the grid – we saw Charles Leclerc do a full spin at turn one, Sergio Perez end up backwards on the grass and, most dramatically, Sebastian Vettel lose control and end up in the barriers on the outside of the Sachs curve, crashing out of the lead of his home grand prix.
Meanwhile Lewis Hamilton, having pitted for new Ultrasoft tyres just before the rain hit, found himself on the best strategy – using his fresh tyres to find more grip than anyone else on both the wet and dry parts of the track, eventually going on to take the win.
Isola, speaking after the race, commented on the number of different strategies we saw teams use, adding that the top ten was a mix of people who had and hadn’t opted for the intermediate option.
“The weather conditions provided an extremely dramatic and unpredictable race,” said Isola.
“Teams had to think on their feet to counteract the constantly-changing circumstances, with only one sector of the track affected by rain while the other two remained dry. This obviously provided a very big challenge, with the ultrasoft chosen for the final stint, as this compound worked well in the mixed conditions.
“The six different strategies seen in the top 10 underline the difficulty of identifying the right tactics under the demanding conditions, but it’s notable that despite the rain only four of the top 10 finishers used the intermediate tyres.”