The boss of Pirelli Motorsport, Mario Isola, believes that last year’s Belgian Grand Prix proved that Pirelli were right to opt for an “aggressive” tyre nomination for this year’s event.
Last year’s race, won by Lewis Hamilton, saw two stops as the optimum strategy. However, this was influenced by a late Safety Car that saw a late scrap develop between Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel; the Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport driver managing to fend off the ultra-soft shod German on super-softs.
Pirelli have chosen to bring the super-soft, soft and medium compounds to the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, a step harder than their choices last year on first glance, Isola explaining that due to the softer characteristics of the 2018 P-Zero tyres, the performance and durability will be roughly the same as 2017.
“Tyre-wise, this really isn’t an easy race,” Isola said.
“Nonetheless, last year we made quite an aggressive tyre nomination, and the race underlined the validity of this choice, so we’ve gone for the same nomination again: albeit with different names for the compounds.”
Isola revealed that there are notable differences up and down the field in terms of tyre allocations for the weekend. Pirelli data shows that numerous drivers, including Kimi Räikkönen, Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, have gone for just one set of the medium tyres for the whole weekend.
Scuderia Ferrari have brought two sets of the white-walled tyres for Vettel, whilst both Hamilton and Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas have chosen to be more conservative and bring three sets. Consequently, both Mercedes cars have one less set of super-softs in comparison to their Ferrari counterparts.
The Italian predicts that this will lead to a “wide variety” of strategies at a track where the tyres are subjected to loads from all angles, including vertical stress through the high-speed Eau Rouge/Raidillon complex.
“There’s been an interesting range of tyre selections for Spa, which are all different among the top teams,” Isola continued.
“In fact, most of the teams all the way down the grid have gone for some quite diverse choices. This could lead to a wide variety of different strategies, especially as Spa is a track where it’s very possible to overtake.”
Spa is notorious for its changeable weather conditions, with Isola warning that the teams must think on their feet to adapt to any situations.
It is also very hard to predict, especially when it comes to the weather, so teams will have to react to circumstances as they arise as well.”
The current forecast suggests that rain may be present on both Friday and Saturday, with temperatures hovering around the 18-19C mark throughout the weekend.