Mario Isola, the Head of F1 and Car Racing at Pirelli Motorsport, says the safety car period brought on by Antonio Giovinazzi and George Russell’s incident ultimately decided the strategies for the majority of drivers in last week’s Belgian Grand Prix.
The famed motor race, held at the legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit, saw the use of Pirelli’s softest tyre compounds- the C2, C3, and C4 range.
The red-striped C4 was used in a long opening stint from Sergio Pérez, who didn’t pit under the safety car. Although this was a soft compound that wasn’t brought to Spa last year, it demonstrated plenty of consistency throughout it’s running.
The medium C3 proved to be a popular choice to start the race with, selected in particular by the top three on the grid (and final podium) who used these to get through the second part of Qualifying. Alex Albon completed a 33-lap stint on this compound.
The hardest compound- the C2- was used by all the drivers for the final stint apart from Alex Albon, Pierre Gasly, Charles Leclerc, Nicholas Latifi and Kevin Magnussen. It evidently preserved it’s pace throughout the race as it became the tyre that Daniel Ricciardo would set the fastest time on during the final lap.
Isola believes that, on a ‘notoriously challenging track’, tyre management was an integral aspect of the race that contributed to success in the latter phase of the grand prix, and he is happy with the consistency demonstrated by the compounds.
“The safety car dictated the strategy for most drivers, pushing them towards a longer final stint than was expected on the hard tyre. This meant that they had to manage the compound carefully towards the end of the race in particular, on a notoriously demanding track.“
He said that, whilst the majority of drivers scripted their race during the safety car, some chose to break away from the pack and gamble on alternative strategies- paying off for Gasly in particular.
“However, they all accomplished this perfectly and some drivers also chose a different strategic approach. Pierre Gasly showed plenty of pace with his unique hard-medium strategy and we also saw Sergio Perez choose not to stop under the safety car and try something different.“
“All three nominated compounds played an important role, and were well suited to the conditions here at Spa – one of the biggest tests for tyres of the year.”