Mario Isola, the Head of F1 and Car Racing at Pirelli Motorsport, says the decision to go a step softer with its compounds for the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix than they did in the British Grand Prix seven days earlier paid off as it made for a more strategic afternoon at Silverstone.
The British race saw the three hardest compounds on Pirelli’s books being used – the C1, C2 and C3 – whilst the 70th Anniversary race saw the C2, C3 and C4, the latter being the softest compound the tyre manufacturer has ever brought to Silverstone.
The soft was used by only one driver on Sunday – Nico Hülkenberg – with the medium and hard compounds being the preferred choices. Only three drivers – Charles Leclerc, Esteban Ocon and Kimi Räikkönen gambled on one-stop strategies, while four drivers – Hülkenberg, Daniel Ricciardo, George Russell and Nicholas Latifi – made three trips to the pit lane.
“Although Silverstone is one of the most demanding tracks on tyres, and the compounds were a step softer than last week, this all provided a challenge that helped to spice up the show,” said Isola. “We saw some blistering as expected, but only on a few cars and nothing that affected the race outcome.
“Tyre management was an integral part of the tactics today, but the drivers certainly rose to the occasion and the viewers enjoyed an exciting and unpredictable race.”
Isola felt Max Verstappen’s decision to run the hard compound during Qualifying on Saturday played a major part in the Dutchman’s run to victory at Silverstone, with the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing driver able to control the race once he was able to jump ahead of the two Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team drivers.
“This weekend’s race was all about pure strategy, judged to perfection by Red Bull and Max Verstappen,” said Isola. “His strategy began on Saturday afternoon, with the brave decision to run the hard tyre in Q2 and so start the race with it, which clearly paid off.
“Once he had gained track position by virtue of his longer first stint, he was able to control both the Mercedes behind him, which had nonetheless shown the pace to qualify first and second.”
“This should be the most demanding race for tyres we’ve seen at the Circuit de Catalunya”
The Formula 1 circus now moves to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya for the Spanish Grand Prix, the final race in the second triple-header of the season.
Pre-season testing took place at the Spanish track in February, but conditions are expected to be much hotter in August, and Isola says this will likely mean for a tough challenge for the drivers, particularly when conserving their tyres. Pirelli are bringing their three hardest tyres to Spain as they did to the first race of the Silverstone double-header.
Isola is expecting the ‘most demanding’ ever Spanish Grand Prix as a result, and he says free practice will be key for the ten teams on the grid to get an idea on how the tyres will work this coming weekend.
“Barcelona concludes the second triple-header of this intense season to date,” said Isola. “Although it will be the third time that the teams drive at the Circuit de Catalunya this year, following the two pre-season tests, the conditions they will encounter this weekend are likely to be very different: both because of the warm weather, and all the improvements made to the cars since winter testing.
“The expected high temperatures in Barcelona in mid-August will increase thermal degradation on a track already well-known for being tough on tyres, so it’s going to be particularly important to manage them and control any overheating that affects traction. Free practice will be crucial to accurately establishing tyre behaviour under these challenging circumstances.
“With the current cars being faster than ever – as Silverstone recently confirmed – and the Spanish Grand Prix never being run in August before, this should be the most demanding race for tyres we’ve seen at the Circuit de Catalunya.”