Pirelli Motorsport‘s Mario Isola says that a high chance of a Safety Car appearance means that the Azerbaijan Grand Prix can cause a “headache” for Formula 1 teams.
The Safety Car has made frequent appearances in two of the three grands prix at the Baku City Circuit, with its close walls and tight corners a real challenge to drivers and attractive to incidents.
Isola explained that the circuit’s unique layout, with a 2km-long straight and a mix of 90° and flowing corners, makes tyre temperature management difficult – added to by the risk of a prolonged Safety Car period.
“The main challenge in Baku lies in balancing the front and rear axles, keeping both the front and rear tyres in the right operating window,” said Isola.
“It is quite a varied track, with a very long 2km straight and also some more technical corners.
“The frequency of the safety car also often causes a headache – or maybe an opportunity – for the strategists.”
Pirelli has chosen to bring the C2, C3 and C4 tyres to the Azeri capital, the same selection as the Chinese Grand Prix two weeks’ ago, with Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport, Scuderia Ferrari and Red Bull Racing all choosing varying volumes of compounds.
The allocation shows that Ferrari has taken one more set of the middle-range C3 tyres compared to Mercedes, while Red Bull will take nine sets of C4 tyres per driver; one more than Mercedes and two more than Ferrari.
Last year’s winner Lewis Hamilton used a two-stop strategy that was influenced by two Safety Car periods, with the average race in 2018 being a one-stop affair.
“The tyres that we have nominated from the middle of our range should be well-suited to the mixed demands of Baku,” Isola added. “But it’s always one of the most difficult races of the year to predict.
“This is often the case for a street circuit, but Baku is the most unconventional street circuit on the calendar, with the high speeds of a conventional track as well as a very long lap.”