Mario Isola was pleased to see some drivers gamble on running the soft tyre during Saturday’s first-ever Sprint Qualifying race at Silverstone, although the majority of the field went for the expected medium compound.
Valtteri Bottas was the leading driver to gamble on the soft from third on the grid, although the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team driver was unable to make any progress from his grid slot before dropping away from the leading duo of Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton in the closing laps.
Fernando Alonso was one to make early progress on the soft tyre, moving up from eleventh on the grid to run fifth. However, like Bottas, he struggled to keep life in the tyre and fell behind the two McLaren F1 Team drivers to finish seventh. His Alpine F1 Team team-mate Esteban Ocon and Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN’s Kimi Räikkönen also opted for the softs and made gains from their starting slots.
Isola, the Head of F1 and Car Racing at Pirelli Motorsport, expects the medium and hard compounds to be the favoured options during Sunday’s full-length British Grand Prix, but he was delighted to see strategy play a part in the seventeen-lap sprint to the chequered flag on Saturday.
“Today was a chance to try something different with the first sprint qualifying, and although it was a short race, we already saw some different tactics on the grid with four drivers going against the trend and selecting the soft tyre – including Bottas who started and finished third,” said Isola.
“Keeping the soft tyre alive in a race where the drivers pushed at maximum from start to finish in warm conditions was clearly a challenge, but Fernando Alonso made up six places from his start position initially on the softs, before eventually finishing with a four-place gain.
“The medium C2 coped well with the rapid corners and heavy loads of Silverstone, which is why we expect it to be the most popular choice to start the race tomorrow.
“Temperatures are forecasted to be even higher for the grand prix, so tyre management will be a factor, as we also saw today during sprint qualifying where there was some blistering as the teams pushed to the limit.”