With a change of layout for the Spanish Grand Prix, managing tyre degradation will be critical to success. What are the expected strategies?
The Spanish Grand Prix is a venue where Pirelli bring along harder compound tyres, with the C1 being used as the hard compound this year – the C2 being the medium and the C3 as the soft.
Tyre degradation has always been a key factor at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, a situation that will be exacerbated this year after reverting to the layout last used in 2006. The considerably faster final sector will make keeping the tyres alive much more difficult, meaning a one-stop strategy will be all but impossible to pull off.
A two-stop strategy is the fastest option open to the drivers, in the event of a completely dry race. In an uninterrupted race, running Soft-Hard-Hard will be the quickest. Timing the first stop between Laps 13 and 18, with the second stop between Laps 37 and 43, is the theoretical fastest strategy.
Soft-Hard-Soft is also a valid strategy, but would require pushing out the first stop to between Laps 15 and 20, with the second stop between Laps 46 and 51 – Pirelli believe this strategy would only be marginally slower than the optimal.
A three-stop strategy, the more aggressive option, could be a likely Soft-Hard-Soft-Soft, with those saving a set of new softs more likely to choose this option.
Of the usual frontrunners, of whom several are starting out of expected positions, Sergio Perez has a set of new softs available – as has Charles Leclerc and George Russell.
However, the strategy playbooks can be torn up entirely should rain hit the circuit during the Grand Prix, particularly as fitting an intermediate or wet tyre negates the rule forcing drivers to run at least two different dry tyre compounds during the Grand Prix.
“From what we have seen so far, race strategy would seem to match our predictions, with a two-stop race being a better bet than a three-stop,” said Pirelli motorsport director Mario Isola.
“The best tyre to race on is the Hard, the new C1 introduced at the start of this year.
“A further consideration is the long run down to the first corner, so choosing the softs for the start could be the way to go, because it offers extra grip off the line. Having said that, these options could be academic as Meteo France is predicting a 60% chance of rain from 3pm…”