After the first day of running at an unusually hot Silverstone the expectation is we are in for another one-stop strategy race, but one slightly different to those we have seen recently.
Pirelli has allocated the hard tyre for the first and so far only time this year. Teams haven’t brought many examples of it and may be unwilling to use it in the race.
That will push them towards using the soft and medium tyre. In recent races some of the quicker teams have avoided using the softest available tyre in Q2, to allow them to start the race on a more strategically advantageous tyre. But as the medium is around a second slower than the soft – higher than Pirelli expected – they may not be able to get away with doing that here.
There is a caveat, however. The new DRS zone added between Club and Village, which runs through Abbey and Farm, is exaggerating the performance difference between the ‘big three’ teams and the rest. While the likes of Mercedes and Red Bull have taken it flat-out, midfield leaders Haas and Renault cannot.
As a result the quickest midfielder – which today was Fernando Alonso’s McLaren – is almost two seconds off the quickest time of the day. That opens up the possibility for the leaders to consider using the medium in qualifying.
However that is unlikely to make the difference between a one- and two-stop race: Pirelli expect most drivers to favour a single stop.
[There’s] a bit of degradation, especially on the soft,” Pirelli sporting director Mario Isola told media including RaceFans after practice. “But we know that during the race they manage the pace so I’m expecting the level of degradation will decrease during the race.”
“If they manage the degradation it should be a one-stop race,” he added. “The one-stop strategy is the quickest with soft and medium.”
However a question mark remains over exactly how the hard tyre will perform in the race. “The high temperature is something that’s in favour of the hard compound. It is slower by roughly one second compared to the data but we don’t have a lot of comparison.”
Keep an eye out for anyone who gets involved in a first-lap incident, opts to pit, and puts on the hards. If their lap times turn out to be good one of the front-runners may take note, and opt to gamble on an aggressively early pit stop. The surprisingly high track temperatures at Silverstone – over 50C today – might just make it possible.
The heat will also play a big role in shaping the competitive order. We saw this in Austria, when surprisingly high race-day temperatures brought Red Bull into contention, and we saw it again in practice today. The track was 20C hotted in the afternoon and suddenly Ferrari eclipsed Mercedes, who couldn’t replicate their morning lap times.
Despite their awesome performance through Abbey, where they were flat-out with RS open from the word go, Red Bull look to be out of the fight at least as far as qualifying goes. Part of their problem is rising downforce levels have made several corners flat-out, which effectively extends the straights, amplifying their top speed disadvantage.
Although the McLaren is unchanged from the configurant it ran in France and Austria, the car was surprisingly quick on Friday, seeming to thrive on Silverstone’s high-speed corners. A strong home showing appears to be on the cards after another difficult week off-track for the team.
Longest stint comparison – second practice
This chart shows all the drivers’ lap times (in seconds) during their longest unbroken stint. Very slow laps omitted. Scroll to zoom, drag to pan, right-click to reset:
Complete practice times
|5||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull-TAG Heuer||1’28.144||1’28.408||61|
|6||Max Verstappen||Red Bull-TAG Heuer||1’28.325||26|
|10||Esteban Ocon||Force India-Mercedes||1’29.815||1’29.467||57|
|11||Sergio Perez||Force India-Mercedes||1’29.812||1’29.522||55|
|13||Carlos Sainz Jnr||Renault||1’30.358||1’29.563||58|
|15||Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso-Honda||1’30.004||1’29.831||47|
|20||Brendon Hartley||Toro Rosso-Honda||1’30.749||1’30.404||66|
Quotes: Dieter Rencken