Mario Isola says the durability of the Pirelli tyres was proven during Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, with one-stop strategies only being changed to two by the timing of the virtual safety cars.
An early virtual safety car (VSC) for Carlos Sainz Jr. stopping on track saw some drivers pit on lap nine for a pit stop, while many drivers took the chance to pit a second time when the VSC was called again following Kevin Magnussen’s retirement.
A few drivers gambled on not stopping, including Scuderia AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly and Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant F1 Team’s Sebastian Vettel, with the duo ending up fifth and sixth at the chequered flag.
The two BWT Alpine F1 Team drivers of Fernando Alonso (seventh) and Esteban Ocon (tenth) were also rewarded with top ten finishes by pitting only once, as were the two McLaren F1 Team drivers of Daniel Ricciardo (eighth) and Lando Norris (ninth).
The three podium finishers of Max Verstappen, Sergio Pérez and George Russell all pitted twice, the two Oracle Red Bull Racing drivers and the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team driver both pitting again under Magnussen’s VSC.
Isola, the Motorsport Director at Pirelli, says the way the tyres held up at the Baku City Circuit despite the heat in Azerbaijan proved they were durable, and had the VSC not been needed, it would have likely been a one-stop race for all.
“In all likelihood, this would have been a one-stop race, but the opportunities presented by the virtual safety cars for pit stops with minimal time loss were too good for several of the teams to ignore,” said Isola. “This influenced the timing of the pit stops and therefore the strategy.
“We still saw seven of the 15 finishers stopping only once, which underlines the durability as well as the performance of the tyres here.
“With the conditions as they were, on a hot track featuring high speeds, it was clear that the harder compounds were best suited to today’s race: a fact that many of the teams had anticipated by saving more than one set of hard tyres for the grand prix.”