Pirelli praise ‘unpredictability’ of new qualifying format after first trial

Sam Cooper
Pirelli tyres placed together.

Pirelli tyres in a collection together.

Pirelli motorsport director Mario Isola has praised the new ATA format after it was trialled for the first time in Hungary.

One of two tests is taking place this weekend that sees Pirelli deploy an Alternation Tyre Allocation (ATA) in which drivers will see their allocated tyres cut from 13 to 11.

But perhaps more impactful are the changes to qualifying with drivers now required to use the hard in Q1, medium in Q2 and softs in Q3.

After its first test, the format did produce some unexpected results with both Alfa drivers in Q2 while Lewis Hamilton secured pole for the first time in 598 days.

Speaking after the session, Isola suggested the new format produced “even closer times and more unpredictability than at previous events.”

“I think this was a very interesting qualifying, with the new format posing various challenges for the drivers,” the Italian said. “It made for even closer times and more unpredictability than at previous events.

“That can be seen from the fact that seven teams are represented in the top ten and the fastest 10 qualifiers are all within six tenths of each other.”
Isola put that unpredictability down to drivers not having much time to adapt to the new compound between sessions.

“For example, the drivers had to adapt to the switch from one compound to another in the three phases of qualifying, something they are no longer used to, ever since the rule stating they had to start the race on the same set of tyres with which they made the cut out of Q2 was abolished. At the same time, considering that the hard seems like the best choice of race tyre, many drivers opted not to use these sets in free practice and therefore found themselves somewhat in the dark in Q1, so that even the top teams had to do two runs.

“In FP3, the long runs showed that, with a track temperature of around 50 °C, which is what we can also expect for the race, the C5 does not seem to be the ideal choice for the race. At the same time, the higher temperatures compared to yesterday and the normal track evolution, always very significant at the Hungaroring, sees the balance swinging more in favour of the two harder compounds, the C3 and C4.

As for race strategy, Isola thinks a one-stop is possible but “it’s very much on the limit.”

“Therefore, the most likely strategy is for two stops, starting on the C4 and running two further stints on the C3. A single stop (hard-medium) is possible but it’s very much on the limit, both in terms of performance drop-off and tread life. Add these factors to the way the grid order looks and it should be a spectacular race.”

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