Split strategies to add spice to Indian Grand Prix

2013 Indian Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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The previous two Indian Grands Prix were rather drab and processional affairs.

But the gulf in performance between the soft and medium tyres is likely to create a bit more variety in tomorrow’s race.

Whether that is a sufficient approximation for genuine racing depends on your taste. If nothing else, the Buddh International Circuit stands a decent chance of finally seeing someone other than Sebastian Vettel lead a lap as he’s likely to be in the pits within the first ten laps.

The start

Red Bull’s pace has been extremely strong this weekend – they’re Red Bull “in another world” according to Lewis Hamilton – but there is always the possibility Vettel could have a repeat of the poor start he had in Japan.

“We just got surprised by how low the grip was,” said Vettel about his poor getaway in Japan, which would have cost him two places had Hamilton not damaged his tyre while passing the Red Bull. “I think we’ve been a bit too aggressive, too much wheel-slip and the guys behind us had a better start.”

“For sure, we’ll try to do better tomorrow – but quite confident. I think the starts we had before that were pretty good. Korea, I had a very good start, so I think we know how to do it, we just need to get it all right.”

It may be a short tun to turn one – just 230 metres – but it is wide, so any sluggishness from the pole sitter is likely to be punished. The drivers who have chosen to start on medium tyres may also be vulnerable, including Mark Webber (who is not known for making great starts) and Fernando Alonso (who is).

The first sector is similar to that at Korea, with several long straights leading into slow corners, which invites slipstreaming and position-swapping.


In an effort to liven up the rather stale races seen at this track before, Pirelli have brought substantially softer tyres this year. This led four out of the ten drivers in Q3 to qualify and start the race on the medium compound instead of the soft.

Alonso was one of them: “Using the soft tyres in Q3 we could have aspired to a better starting position, while the mediums would mean running a race with no traffic, because if the softer compound follows the pattern we have seen so far, then those starting with it will have to stop very early, around lap six.”

“This would put them behind a group of cars that will stay out until lap 30. It’s true that at some point, I too will have to fit the Softs, which will signal a more difficult moment and we must be prepared for that. On Friday, I did 15 or 16 laps on them, while today just three and that’s why it’s absolutely impossible to say how it will go tomorrow. Only after the chequered flag will we know which was the right choice.”

The race looks likely to be similar to what we saw in China where the same tyre combination was used, and drivers mostly ran brief stints on the soft tyres.

A significant factor for the front running drivers on soft tyres will be how many of the drivers outside the top ten also start on softs. If several of them do they will also have to pit early, leaving space for the front runners to come out in when they make their pit stops. But if they run for longer on mediums those who start the race on soft tyres could be stuck in traffic early on.

Massa, who lines up fifth, said he preferred to start on the softer tyres “because at the Nurburgring, I had made a choice that didn’t pay off” when he started on the harder tyres and spun out early on. “I will try to pass Webber at the start,” he added, “hoping to profit from the fact he is on medium tyres”.

Those who will start on the medium tyres – Webber, Alonso and the McLarens – will likely face the tricky decision of when to put the softs on at the end of the race. As Vettel discovered in China, this is a tough call to get right. With the benefit of hindsight he probably could have pitted a lap or two earlier, giving him more time to catch and pass Hamilton, who he finished the race two tenths of a second behind.

One of the most interesting storylines in tomorrow’s race will be how Romain Grosjean can recover from his disappointing Q1 exit which has left him 17th on the grid. The Lotus is one of the kindest cars on its tyres which will give them some strategic flexibility as trackside operations director Alam Permane notes:

“He’s starting a long way out of position and will need a strong charge through the field to make it into the top ten, but we’re extremely confident that he’ll be able to do so. How far into the points he can progress will depend on the start and our management of the tyres.”

But Grosjean will also have to display the kind of patience and judgement in traffic that has all too often been conspicuously absent from his racecraft. Particularly as he had the lowest top speed through the speed trap and at two of the three intermediate timing points during qualifying.

What may count in his favour is the extended DRS zone, which is a further 160 metres longer than last year.

The championship situation

As things stand, Vettel looks very likely to win the drivers’ championship in the race and Red Bull will probably sew up the constructors’ title. Here’s what they have to do to clinch the trophies:

Qualifying times in full


Q2 (vs Q1)

Q3 (vs Q2)
1Sebastian VettelRed Bull1’25.9431’24.568 (-1.375)1’24.119 (-0.449)
2Nico RosbergMercedes1’25.8331’25.304 (-0.529)1’24.871 (-0.433)
3Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’25.8021’25.259 (-0.543)1’24.941 (-0.318)
4Mark WebberRed Bull1’25.6651’25.097 (-0.568)1’25.047 (-0.050)
5Felipe MassaFerrari1’25.7931’25.389 (-0.404)1’25.201 (-0.188)
6Kimi RaikkonenLotus1’25.8191’25.191 (-0.628)1’25.248 (+0.057)
7Nico HulkenbergSauber1’25.8831’25.339 (-0.544)1’25.334 (-0.005)
8Fernando AlonsoFerrari1’25.9341’24.885 (-1.049)1’25.826 (+0.941)
9Sergio PerezMcLaren1’26.1071’25.365 (-0.742)1’26.153 (+0.788)
10Jenson ButtonMcLaren1’25.5741’25.458 (-0.116)1’26.487 (+1.029)
11Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso1’25.6731’25.519 (-0.154)
12Paul di RestaForce India1’25.9081’25.711 (-0.197)
13Adrian SutilForce India1’26.1641’25.740 (-0.424)
14Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso1’26.1551’25.798 (-0.357)
15Valtteri BottasWilliams1’26.1781’26.134 (-0.044)
16Esteban GutierrezSauber1’26.0571’26.336 (+0.279)
17Romain GrosjeanLotus1’26.577
18Pastor MaldonadoWilliams1’26.842
19Jules BianchiMarussia1’26.970
20Giedo van der GardeCaterham1’27.105
21Charles PicCaterham1’27.487
22Max ChiltonMarussia1’28.138

Sector times

DriverSector 1Sector 2Sector 3
Sebastian Vettel41.418 (1)21.875 (1)20.826 (1)
Nico Rosberg41.617 (4)22.199 (4)21.055 (4)
Lewis Hamilton41.660 (6)22.198 (3)20.893 (3)
Mark Webber41.637 (5)22.109 (2)21.058 (5)
Felipe Massa41.581 (2)22.370 (7)21.097 (7)
Kimi Raikkonen41.737 (9)22.414 (8)20.858 (2)
Nico Hulkenberg41.734 (8)22.357 (6)21.221 (11)
Fernando Alonso41.604 (3)22.213 (5)21.068 (6)
Sergio Perez41.715 (7)22.451 (10)21.170 (9)
Jenson Button41.757 (10)22.466 (11)21.193 (10)
Daniel Ricciardo41.871 (13)22.432 (9)21.155 (8)
Paul di Resta41.783 (11)22.532 (14)21.265 (12)
Adrian Sutil41.830 (12)22.631 (16)21.279 (14)
Jean-Eric Vergne42.006 (14)22.487 (13)21.267 (13)
Valtteri Bottas42.162 (16)22.468 (12)21.303 (15)
Esteban Gutierrez42.057 (15)22.584 (15)21.319 (16)
Romain Grosjean42.277 (18)22.767 (17)21.341 (17)
Pastor Maldonado42.254 (17)22.822 (18)21.570 (19)
Jules Bianchi42.395 (19)22.960 (19)21.615 (20)
Giedo van der Garde42.551 (20)22.993 (20)21.561 (18)
Charles Pic42.563 (21)23.249 (22)21.640 (21)
Max Chilton42.865 (22)23.103 (21)21.794 (22)

Speed trap

PosDriverCarSpeed (kph/mph)Gap
1Nico HulkenbergSauber321.0 (199.5)
2Esteban GutierrezSauber319.9 (198.8)-1.1
3Paul di RestaForce India319.0 (198.2)-2.0
4Jenson ButtonMcLaren318.9 (198.2)-2.1
5Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso318.9 (198.2)-2.1
6Sergio PerezMcLaren318.6 (198.0)-2.4
7Adrian SutilForce India317.0 (197.0)-4.0
8Mark WebberRed Bull316.1 (196.4)-4.9
9Sebastian VettelRed Bull315.9 (196.3)-5.1
10Felipe MassaFerrari315.6 (196.1)-5.4
11Fernando AlonsoFerrari315.6 (196.1)-5.4
12Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso315.5 (196.0)-5.5
13Kimi RaikkonenLotus314.4 (195.4)-6.6
14Lewis HamiltonMercedes313.7 (194.9)-7.3
15Pastor MaldonadoWilliams313.4 (194.7)-7.6
16Valtteri BottasWilliams313.4 (194.7)-7.6
17Nico RosbergMercedes312.6 (194.2)-8.4
18Max ChiltonMarussia312.2 (194.0)-8.8
19Jules BianchiMarussia312.1 (193.9)-8.9
20Charles PicCaterham311.5 (193.6)-9.5
21Giedo van der GardeCaterham311.4 (193.5)-9.6
22Romain GrosjeanLotus310.8 (193.1)-10.2

Over to you

Will those who start on the soft or medium tyres hold the upper hand? How many places will Grosjean make up from 17th?

And is there any realistic chance Vettel and Red Bull won’t wrap up the titles? Share your views on the Indian Grand Prix in the comments.

2013 Indian Grand Prix

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Images © Red Bull/Getty, Ferrari/Ercole Colombo, Lotus/LAT

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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61 comments on “Split strategies to add spice to Indian Grand Prix”

  1. Vettel will be champion tomorow. Those who will start on soft hold upper hand.
    Grosjean wil make up 13 places.

    Second case: What time will race start tomorow because time on f1.com is diffrent than on autosport.com?

    1. In the UK it starts at 9:30, as is stated on F1.com

      1. Thank you I thought so too. But there was a diffrence and this night time change.

    2. @gzegzolek @vettel1 I don’t know about other sites but the details listed on F1 Fanatic are consistent with the FIA’s information and UK television broadcasters’:

      2013 Indian Grand Prix TV Times

      1. @keithcollantine I cross-checked the times with F1Fanatic :)

      2. OmarR-Pepper (@)
        26th October 2013, 18:49

        @keithcollantine @gzegzolek F1.com also shows a mistake for my time zone. Looks like their software is considering British time -4.5, instead of +4.5

    3. Ok Thank you Keith I know now how to find all this information. It is all here left corner.

    4. @gzegzolek Just out of interest, why are you certain that those on softs will have the upper hand

      1. You will see. I am not 100% sure but it is better to be at front at start. Clean air and tires colud work well.
        It is normal strategy to use faster tires in the beginning of the race. Prime tires is alternative.
        How long do you think medium tires will stay at good shape 3 or 5 laps.
        When drivers on soft tires will change tires on medium. Theirs medium will be much faster and those on old medium will be force to change too. And they could almmost only lost on that strategy.

        1. @gzegzolek You clearly haven’t seen the practice sessions. In race simulations the soft tires were finished after 4 laps. On the other hand drivers did a 15-20 lap stint on mediums with no significant drop in performance. The difference in longevity is huge So unless the track changes drastically for tomorrow I disagree with you. Drivers who start on the mediums will do two huge stints on that tire and will put the softs on for 5-7 laps no more. The drivers who start on the softs will have to do their softs stint on full tank of fuel which will lose them more time, and then they will get out into traffic of drivers who will also be on the mediums which will still be good for at least 15 laps. They will have to pass them on the track, which won’t be easy

          1. As I said I ‘m not sure but practice is practice tomorrow will be race and it is possible that soft tires will last much longer.
            Drivers on medium are mix with those on soft so they will be fighting a lot and this is not good for tires too while Vettel and maybe Merc drivers will make some time.

          2. Though it has to be said that Vettel played through that strategy at China and it did not pay off – more than 4th wouldn’t have been possible for him. The problem is that those starting on mediums are losing time at the start and have to do their part of overtaking and battling too. Only at the end of the race with fresh soft tyres (sprint), they might recover the already lost time.

            It will be hard for those on medium tyres. I would still tip on Vettel.

          3. @montreal95 @gzegzolek

            You guys are worried about something that in the end might turn out to be inconsequential. Even if we assume that Vettel stops within the first 5 laps (say), it won’t stop him from ripping through the field on his mediums. This is not Hungary where Hamilton ran away simply because Vettel couldn’t overtake Button in the middle stint. Unless Vettel flatlines on his mediums (which as you know highly unlikely), it’s his race to lose sadly :( — make no mistake!

          4. @sankalp88 In the past it wasn’t easy to overtake at this track. And Vettel(plus the others on softs) will be fighting cars that are on the same tires as they( 5 laps or even 8 is nothing for the mediums). The last part of the race when there will be a switch is what will be interesting(the decision of the medium-shod cars on the timing of the switch to softs). But, you may be right, we’ll see tomorrow

          5. @montreal95

            You are not taking into account the simple fact that on race pace, RB is the fastest car. Let’s say Vettel pits on lap 6 and he is now P8 or something (assuming he’s the first of the soft tyre runners to pit!). Whoever is in front of him on mediums, remember is already on 6 lap old mediums, do you honestly believe that they’ll be able to keep Vettel behind with the raw pace that he has on his hands. I heavily doubt that hypothesis. Anyway I would love nothing more than someone to really mix it with Vettel for the lead. My one hope – Romain Grojean, sadly is in P17 :(

          6. @sankalp88 Raw pace on qualy laps isn’t the same as race pace. I was watching the FP2 and on race pace, while still the best RBR weren’t on another planet. And the race pace of the RBR is definitely not on another planet in S1 where all the overtaking will take place. Lastly, the best placed car on the mediums is Webber, who has(more or less) the same pace on the mediums as Vettel and the same speedtrap reading. Providing he doesn’t fall back at the start he’s Vettel’s biggest threat

          7. @xenomorph91 The China example of Vettel not making the medium-medium-soft strategy work is not very good. I think he would have been able to be second in the race had Hulkenberg not got past Vettel and held him up for 11 laps (although fair play to Hulkenberg of course): Vettel would have had clean air in those 11 laps; it would have probably not been enough to catch Alonso but Raikkonen and Hamilton for sure.

          8. I agree Vettel has huge race pace advantage. Even he will do 5 or 7 laps on soft he will be maybe more than 15 second ahead.
            Only question is over Merc driver if they could get an advantage.
            And Vettel has nothing to lose he will fight like a bull at the end of the race if he won’t be a leader of the race.

          9. @mike-dee: True, but this exactly what can happen to those on mediums in this race too. That’s why I think it’s a risk to play out this strategy.

    5. @gzegzolek

      Speaking of times, do the clocks not go back for us in the Uk tonight?

      1. I don’t kow that but for me time will change at this night.

      2. I am not from UK.

      3. Think so @philereid – an extra hours sleep!

      4. Clocks go back 1 hour in every country in Europe except Iceland, Russia and Belarus at 01:00 UTC (i.e. at 02:00 Western European Summer Time, 03:00 Central European Summer Time or at 04:00 Eastern European Summer Time) tomorrow morning.


      5. Yes it does. There’s a MotoGP warm-up/practice session in Japan that starts at 1:40 UK time and finishes at 1:30…

        1. Great, the daily Roundup will now appear back at 9am east australian summer time, 10 am is to late to wait for.

  2. Interesting to Vettel and Webber having a bit higher Spots in speed trap chart than they were in FP2. They generally end up with P15 to 22 in Speed trap chart.

    1. @harsha My guess is that they sacrificed a bit of downforce, since they know they have a huge advantage anyway, to be able to both overtake(Vettel) and defend(Webber) which they will have to do given their respective strategies

  3. Webber v Vettel tomorrow due to strategy hopefully! Even if Red Bull are dominant, the different strategies we’re seeing over the last few races will mean that the racing won’t be entirely processional. It’s this kind of divergent strategies between the drivers that Pirelli, for all their criticisms (some valid, some not) should be applauded for providing. Such tyre strategies didn’t exist with Bridgestone.

    1. @colossal-squid, you may be right, or not, I hope the race lives up to the speculation but I fear there is equal chance of a tyre saving procession.

  4. I don’t think drivers, which chose to start on medium tyres, will gain much tomorrow. We saw in China, that Vettel couldn’t win with alternative strategy and I expect something similar here in India. Besides, if team has strongest car, every strategy is good.

    1. In China the problem was traffic and Vettel’s inability to drive through it. After first lap he was only 9th or 10th. So I 100% sure if e.g. Alonso makes another great start he can easily challenge for a podium. And, if Red Bull makes wrong pit-stop call then Fernando could even win.
      But your last sentence is right)

      1. There is enough mixed strategies for the race to make things quite interesting. There may not be one strategy that works best as much as the right strategy at the right time in the right position on track. Any two stoppers will likely have it better than those forced to go to three stops. The cars and drivers kinder to their tires, even on the primes will do better. Stints of 25 laps or more on primes may be a lot to ask. Those who fry their left front (especially) will be sorry sooner. I have a feeling Mercedes will go backward, Kimi, Alonso and Hiulkenberg will move up. Webber needs a good start. We will see.

  5. Mr win or lose
    26th October 2013, 18:09

    True, the different tyre-strategies will add spice to the Grand Prix. But still… One of the (main) advantages of the in-race refueling ban was the return of “real” qualifying: the starting grid would be a true reflection of the potential of every car-driver combination. Sadly, due to the different tyres used in Q3, we still don’t know exactly the real balance of forces. For example, it’s hard to rate Webber’s fastest lap in Q3. Anyway, I hope his race strategy pays off, even if it’s too little to late to save (t)his season.

    1. Even in the refueling era teams and drivers would qualify on different fuel levels, making it as “unreal” as the current one.

      1. Mr win or lose
        26th October 2013, 18:27

        That’s exactly my point. Different fuel-loads or different tyres: that’s no real qualifying. However, maybe the real qualifying is a little overrated, the race is what matters.

      2. What about qualifications tires maybe this could be the best thing?

    2. One of the (main) advantages of the in-race refueling ban was the return of “real” qualifying: the starting grid would be a true reflection of the potential of every car-driver combination. Sadly, due to the different tyres used in Q3, we still don’t know exactly the real balance of forces.

      I agree 100%. I wish they would get rid of this ‘top ten drivers start on the tyres they qualify on’ rule.

      1. me too Keith.

        1. Add me to that list also @hohum.

      2. David not Coulthard (@)
        27th October 2013, 4:52

        You know, I think that should be COTD…….had it not been written by Keith.

  6. Given the fragility of the soft tires so far this weekend, Webber has IMO a very good chance to win this race. But he had a great chance to win in Japan too, and lost it falling behind Grosjean at the start. In India also, this won’t matter if he falls to P7 at the start, so he has to get it right in order to have a chance

  7. 3 Races in a row,Kimi is the only driver not to make on improvement on his Q3 time compared to Q2 in qualifying using the same compound tyres

    1. I have noticed that too. Maybe they do change some setup for the race before Q3?

      1. @caci99 I’m pretty sure it’s Parc Fermé from the beginning of Q1. It may well be the end of Q3 though.

        1. No, as soon as you leave the pitlane in Q1, you cannot make any changes to your car anymore.

          1. should be reply to @caci99 not @vettel1

          2. Thank you both @vettel1 @mike-dee :)

  8. If I were Grosjean I’d run the softs first, pit early, like lap 2 or 3, then exploit my pace to undercut the slower cars in front. They’re probably not going to worry about covering him as they’ll assume he’ll get past anyway, but he could lose a lot of time trying to get past them. That would be assuming he can make the rest of the race on two sets of mediums obviously.

    Once he gets around the top 12 I think he’s going to struggle to make places outside of the pits, his likely targets are at the top of the speed traps and there are few places to pass in the twisties here.

    1. That’s what Webber did in China starting from the pits: Used the soft tyres for one lap only. I think he should have used them for two laps, but it wouldn’t have made much of a difference.

  9. I think Hulkenberg should (again) be one to watch in tomorrow’s race. Highest top speed, the momentum has been with him, and he has yet again qualified in a great spot in that Sauber. He should be in for a good points haul, finishing above his qualifying position.

  10. I really hope this Indian race is exciting, and with Rosberg and Hamilton aside Vettel, we can even see a fight for the lead.

  11. Wonder if Grosjean should start on soft tyres, get them out of the way with an early stop and give himself some clear track. I’d imagine everyone else from 11th back will start on mediums, so there’s less risk, less time lost and by the time he catches them, the midfield may be beginning to make their first stops anyway.

  12. The start will be crucial tomorrow, particularly for Webber. If he allows any two of the 3 drivers immediately behind him – Massa, Raikkonen and the Hulk – past him in the first lap, he could suffer the double whammy of Vettel building-up a good lead up front and at the same time (Webber) falling too close to Alonso. That way, Alonso will quickly close-up behind Webber when the latter inherits the lead as the soft-starters go in for their first pit stops. This would give Vettel a chance to start closing them down when he emerges with his fresh primes. I don’t think the two McLarens will hold Vettel up for long and even if Webber and Alonso are still ahead of Vettel on the track when they go in for their first stops, they could get leapfrogged by Vettel, both Mercs, Massa, Raikkonen and maybe even the Hulk. This could put them in a dilemma for the first change because emerging with another set of primes, even if fresher than those in front, would mean that the gap to Vettel will remain to a large extent. If they opted for options instead, they would wear out quickly while Webber and Alonso battling through that traffic in front and neither would be in a position to challenge Vettel.

    I may proved to be wrong, but IMO I don’t think the medium-start strategy is going to work. Vettel’s main threats will be the Mercs.

    1. I see Massa as the big danger, he usually starts just as well as Alonso (also dangerous) but defends desperately no matter how much time he loses doing so, hopefully new self-help Massa will try to chase the leaders rather than hold-up the train.
      Strange that the RBR that accelerates so strongly out of corners is such a pig at the start.

  13. Now the biggest game changer for the race on Sunday would be a Safety car in the first 5 Laps of the GP. All the Soft Starters will follow the safety car and Jump into the pits and they will get rid of the Softs and move on the mediums and the race will effectively become a one stop race. This might disadvantage the Medium starters because they will have to come in to take in the softs. If they come in with the safety car to take in the softs it will completely mess up their strategy.

    Now Given that the Indian GP never had a safety car in the last 2 outings , it is going to be a remote possibility unless there is a first corner train wreck at the start !!!!

    Either way I am looking forward to the race as the different strategies has spiced up with the things a bit !!!!

  14. Ok, now let us hope that India gives us as good a last race as we got from Valencia, and I might be even sad that we lose this race from the calendar!

  15. Will this mix of grips and variance in pace, I think it’s highly likely that there will be a SC in the first lap. And with that SV will nurture these soft tyres to about lap 12-14. And open up a led to slot back in P5 or so after first pit. And after second pit, he will lead to P1.

  16. Chris (@tophercheese21)
    27th October 2013, 1:12

    Seems like the best strategy is to go:
    Prime – Prime – Option

    Since the option is the worse race tyre, it makes sense to run it at the end when you’ll get the most time and life out of it,p.

  17. I think Vettel’s pace on the softs will be crucial to the outcome of the race. I see some commenters suggesting that he will build up a huge lead in the first stint, but that is not what his long run in FP3 suggested. He did a 10-lap run, but most of his laps were in the 1m34s, probably around two seconds off the pace that mediums runners can manage. Of course, the track has rubbered in significantly since then, so I may be getting excited over nothing.

    Vettel’s two main threats will be Webber and Alonso, in particular, whoever is ahead of the other at the end of lap 1. On the one hand, Alonso’s strategy seems like a mistake. He could have been on the front row if he had qualified on softs, and with better race pace on the softs, he might have led before the end of the first stint. On the other hand, if you expect to gain four places on the first lap, then it doesn’t matter too much if you start a little further back.

    I’m not sure what Mercedes can do today. I haven’t seen their soft tyre long runs, but I fear they might suffer if they cannot go long and fast enough on their soft tyres. Unlike Vettel, they don’t have a massive pace advantage to pick off cars on slightly older mediums, so if they have to pit on lap 5, they might struggle to complete the rest of the Grand prix quickly on two sets of tyres, stuck in traffic (and they put quite a lot of laps on their Q1 mediums, so a three-stop might be unattractive for them).

  18. Didn’t know where else to post this.

    Pirelli have recommended that the teams don’t run the the softer tyres for more than 15 laps and the harder tyre for more than 35 laps. This is on safety grounds. The FIA have refused to enforce Pirelli’s recommendations.


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