Alexander Albon, Red Bull, Silverstone, 2020

Pirelli say softer tyres weren’t their choice after driver complaints

2020 70th Anniversary Grand Prix Friday practice analysis

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“I think it’s not a great choice by Pirelli,” remarked Alexander Albon after sampling the softer range of tyres which have been brought for this weekend’s second consecutive race at Silverstone.

“The tyre isn’t quick,” he said. “It’s too soft for this circuit. We’ll see what everyone else says, but I think it was quicker today on the mediums than on the softs.”

Last week Pirelli brought the hardest tyres in its range – the C1, C2 and C3. This week it’s gone one step softer across the board.

But with each driver receiving the same fixed tyre allocation under 2020’s modified rules – eight soft, three medium and two hard – Albon is concerned the more durable rubber may be in short supply come Sunday. If nothing else, that may prevent the variation in strategy this weekend’s softer tyre mix was supposed to generate.

“The thing is, we don’t have enough mediums and hards for the for the weekend,” said Albon. “So you’re a little bit stuck with strategy.”

Albon wasn’t the only driver to raise concerns about the durability of this weekend’s tyres. But whose plan was it to bring the softer rubber? The sport’s official tyre supplier pointed out the call was made by not by them but the championship’s organisers.

Tyres will be a “headache” this weekend, Sainz says
“I understand the comment from the drivers,” said Pirelli’s head of motorsport Mario Isola. “They want to push on the tyres. They don’t want to manage the tyres.

“The decision was not a Pirelli decision, it was a request that was coming from FIA and FOM in order to spice up the show and to make something different from the first race to the second place.”

Isola revealed they were also asked to bring their softest range of tyres for the the second race in the Red Bull Ring double-header earlier this year. “For Austria, the request was for us to supply C3, C4 and C5,” he said, but “we weren’t able to supply different tyres just because the request came very late”.

This weekend’s selection of the C2, C3 and C4 presents a serious tyre conservation challenge for the teams. “I believe the C4 [soft] is not a race tyre,” said Isola. The anticipated short life of all the tyres should make a one-stop strategy “almost impossible”, he believes.

Anticipating this, teams predominantly ran the soft tyres today. McLaren, uniquely, didn’t run any other tyre compound.

“We elected to commit to the whole Friday running the soft tyres, trying to save the mediums and the hards for later in the weekend and trying to figure out really what is best,” said Carlos Sainz Jnr. “We have a car that at the moment is struggling a bit more on the softest range of tyres so we wanted to see what we could do, what we could learn and from there onwards make sure that we take the right decisions going into the weekend.”

Sainz suggested midfield teams may be willing to risk going out in Q2 by only running the medium tyre, just to ensure they don’t have to start the race on a set of softs.

“I think it’s going to be definitely a bit of a headache for everyone, especially come to Q2 to decide what you’re going to do,” he said. “It’s not so much if you can go through to Q3 in the soft or the medium, it’s what do you prefer to start the race on, independent of if you go through or not. So it’s going to be a bit of a challenge.”

As always, teams will want to ensure not only that they have enough fresh tyres to run an ideal strategy, but also have some fresh, durable rubber in reserve in case the Safety Car is deployed, as happened twice last weekend.

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Combined practice times

PosDriverCarFP1FP2Total laps
1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’26.3041’25.60644
2Valtteri BottasMercedes1’26.1661’25.78242
3Daniel RicciardoRenault1’28.5111’26.42151
4Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda1’26.8931’26.43738
5Lance StrollRacing Point-Mercedes1’27.5391’26.50149
6Nico HulkenbergRacing Point-Mercedes1’26.9421’26.74650
7Charles LeclercFerrari1’27.0621’26.81251
8Lando NorrisMcLaren-Renault1’27.8461’26.86751
9Carlos Sainz JnrMcLaren-Renault1’28.1381’26.91851
10Esteban OconRenault1’27.7011’26.92847
11Alexander AlbonRed Bull-Honda1’27.2801’26.96046
12Daniil KvyatAlphaTauri-Honda1’27.6531’27.00259
13Pierre GaslyAlphaTauri-Honda1’27.7071’27.12854
14Sebastian VettelFerrari1’27.4981’27.19850
15Romain GrosjeanHaas-Ferrari1’27.9081’27.29453
16George RussellWilliams-Mercedes1’28.1701’27.32054
17Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’28.6551’27.53553
18Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari1’29.3191’27.58245
19Nicholas LatifiWilliams-Mercedes1’28.2261’27.68355
20Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’27.95526
21Robert KubicaAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’28.96022

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Quotes: Dieter Rencken

2020 70th Anniversary Grand Prix

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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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22 comments on “Pirelli say softer tyres weren’t their choice after driver complaints”

  1. “I believe the C4 [soft] is not a race tyre,”

    It’s ridiculous IMO that the C4 has been brought, considering the current Q2 tyre rule.

    How can you expect teams to start the race on “not a race tyre”?!

    1. @jb784 Indeed. The Q2 tyre rule is something that shouldn’t be in place anymore. At the beginning of the era post-refuelling, there might’ve been a reason to have a rule of this type, but this hasn’t been the case for a few years anymore. Everyone should be allowed to start the races on the compound they desire, not just those who didn’t reach Q3. Without this rule, there wouldn’t be any tactics with tyre choices for the middle segment of QLF, only the softest compound available for a given event would be in use throughout QLF as no one would have to worry about having to start with a less desirable compound option, especially from P7-P10 on the grid.

  2. So McLaren are saving tyres for Saturday and aren’t planning on using the softs in any meaningful way. Whats’ the point in this Friday practice then?

  3. Whenever the term “spice up the show” is invoked by the FIA or FOM, the show is left with a bad after taste.

    Perhaps those racing gourmets at Liberty/FIA could take a short course in how the “Best Ingredients Make The Best Product”. It’s obvious they’re not interested in chasing Michelin stars. ;-)

    1. Michelin stars… tee hee!

      Of course, earlier in the week, lots of folks were talking positively about the different tyre selection, me included. Wups.

    2. Agreed. Ever since F1 became a “show” its credibility as a “sport” has declined.

      I love motorsport. I want to see a competition. If I want a show, I will go and WWF.

      1. If you want to see a sport and a healthy competition, you’d best be looking elsewhere, ’cause F1 ain’t it.
        Try Formula 2 or GT3.

  4. Given the hard is last week’s medium, and a number of drivers used the medium for Q2, I don’t think it would be too surprising to see Mercedes try to use this week’s hard tyre in Q2.

    1. Absolutely right.

    2. Except that they have to use the medium once anyway, so why risk it?

      1. OK, after qualifying we now know at least someone risked it. Let’s just hope there isn’t a safety car until past the first round of pit stops.

  5. Folly by the unnamed donkeys again. Interference has basically thrown the soft tires in the bin and made every session apart from the race a nonsense. Watching Stroll attempt a flying lap today on the soft; it was purple for the first two sectors, the third was a traction-less yellow. Bubble gum.

    Albon nailed it with his comment, the soft compound is not suitable for this track.

  6. Yeah, if they said medium is faster why the fuss, just use the medium. Last week Q2, Merc break track record on this week hard.

    1. They have three sets of them for the entire weekend. Even if they only use one set for qualifying and one for the race that only leaves them one set for three practice sessions

  7. They’re fussing because they’ll need at least two sets of the medium for qualifying and the race (one for Q2 fastest lap, and one for the second or third stint given it’ll be a two stopper), and they’ve only got three for the entire weekend.

    That means running a slower tyre (soft) for most of qualifying and/or not doing any practice on the medium.

    Pretty farcical situation but not a surprise given the request came from FIA and FOM.

  8. If the tyre is too soft just pit two or three times. Teams apparently decided that they should put only once in every situation even if it makes them go 6 seconds per lap slower.

    The aversion to risk and this need to make everything easy to control is something that is killing F1

    1. The problem for the soft is that it doesn’t even really last a whole lap under pressure without overheating.

  9. It wouldn’t be good if it was a regular weekend but these P sessions are fairly moot anyway – they’ll all have to analyse any changes they’ve made to the cars on part laps, perhaps over different runs.
    Qually will be a little tricky, but it was last week anyway, hopefully we’ll see a little order shuffling of teams/drivers who don’t get it right and have an entertaining race.

  10. I don’t get what people are complaining about.
    The tyres are the same for everyone, they all have the same challenge to overcome and will need to make the best of it.
    F1 isn’t and shouldn’t be all about satisfying the teams. Set them a challenge and let them get to the end the best way they can.

    I’m convinced that certain F1 fans really just don’t want to be entertained, either. Do you really want a boring procession with no unexpected or unpredictable occurrences at all? If the cars need to pit 3 or 4 times, that’s absolutely fine by me. I can’t think of a single race in the last 35 years when a race with 3 or more pit stops wasn’t interesting.

    I also notice that there’s nobody here complaining about how it’s all Pirelli’s fault again…

    1. Were complaining because of the sorry state F1 is in now with all these silly artificial gimmicks all forced into a once great sport in the name of creating a fake & artificially spiced up show.

      F1 used to be the pinnacle of the sport where competition, development & technical excellence created the excitement.

      Creating tyres that are artificially designed to fall to bits in a few laps, That constantly need to be babied & managed to degrees that were never seen, That overheat before even doing a lap… That simply isn’t F1. It may be the same for everyone but it still shouldn’t be accepted because it’s the total opposite of what F1 is supposed to be about.

      We want to see racing on track rather than in the pits. We want to see wheel to wheel competition & real overtaking rather than highway passes created by fake DRS or extreme tyre wear that leaves drivers unable to defend/fight. Passing in the pits is boring & doesn’t add to the excitement of a race, Didn’t when we had bore-fueling & doesn’t with the tyres.
      It creates stats that make some people feel better about one race having more position changes than another but it has never & will never lead to actually good racing or proper exciting, hard fought for meaningful overtaking.

      Ever since the DRS & PIrelli era was introduced F1’s popularity has declined. That should tell everyone something about what fans really think of the artificial gimmick era.

      .
      If You went back 20+ years & showed those in F1 & F1 fans what F1 would become with DRS & artificial gimmick high degredation tyres they would have laughed at you thinking you were joking. It wouldn’t have been accepted then because F1 was still a proper sport & it shouldn’t be accepted now!

      1. Well, you aren’t going to get any argument from me that F1 is somewhat beige compared to how it was decades ago.
        However, we can hardly blame Pirelli for it.

        The biggest single factor working against F1 is (broadly) the technical regulations – and more specifically, the aerodynamic regulations.
        Having track position simply should be so powerful as to make pitstops to be something to avoid at all costs. DRS tries to offset this, but fails simply because it doesn’t address the actual problem.
        The tires don’t work because it’s so difficult to design a tyre that works on a F1 car and degrades but doesn’t degrade too quickly, and can be used in battle without overheating but without lasting forever, and also provides sufficient traction to allow the cars to be fast and spectacular…. The all-encompassing demands placed on Pirelli by F1 and the teams are impossible to meet.

        AS for the decline in popularity – sure you could equate it to the introduction of DRS and Pirelli tyres, but you could also consider all the other factors, including the move to Pay TV, the difficulty and lack of close racing produced by the aero, F1’s move to ‘clean’ and quiet engine tech, and of course, the domination of one team for 7 years, and another team for 4 years prior to that.

        F1 is indeed in a sorry state, but the political and financial power behind it now prevents it from ever being what it was – or what it perhaps should have become instead.

        1. Track position shouldn’t be so powerful…
          If teams weren’t so afraid to pit (and had less advantage in staying out) we’d see more variety in pit strategies, and therefore, more action on the circuit.

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