‘Horrific, garbage’ hard tyres may force drivers onto two-stop strategies

2020 Spanish Grand Prix Friday practice analysis

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There was a consistent theme among the drivers following two hot practice sessions at the Circuit de Catalunya: Pirelli’s hardest tyre compound is suffering most from the heat.

Lando Norris described them as “garbage”, adding “I feel like I would have more grip on the wets right now.”

“I think it’s similar for everyone,” he continued, “any time anyone was on the hard tyre they looked awful, and they went on the medium or the soft and improved massively. So I don’t think it’s just us.”

The Spanish Grand Prix is being held three months later than usual. In the summer heat, track temperatures nudged 50C on Friday and similar conditions are expected over the coming days.

George Russell concurred with Norris’s assessment of how the hard compound was performing in the heat and, if anything, went even further than his rival. “It’s absolutely garbage,” said the Williams driver. “It was horrific.”

Daniel Ricciardo, Renault, Circuit de Catalunya, 2020
“Gooey”: Ricciardo’s verdict on Pirelli’s hard tyres
He believes the hard tyre compound is so poor drivers may have to avoid the typical strategy of starting on the medium compound and making a single pit stop for hard tyres.

“It’s going to be weird because ordinarily, if you want to make a one-stop work you’d say, medium-hard. But the hard was so rubbish I think it’s a better tyre to go onto the soft tyre. So probably a two-stop: soft-medium-medium, or soft-medium-soft is going to be better than putting that hard on because it deserves no place on a Formula 1 car.”

Pirelli’s numbers back up Russell’s reasoning. According to the sport’s official tyre supplier, the hard tyre is over a second per lap slower than the medium, while the soft offers a 0.7 second lap time gain over the middle compound.

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If those figures are seen on Sunday – and they may change as more rubber is laid on the track – it could encourage teams to opt for two-stop strategies.

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Circuit de Catalunya, 2020
Mercedes ran well in the cooler morning temperatures…
“One second in Barcelona, considering that there is 66 laps, is quite a big delta,” said Pirelli’s head of motorsport and F1 Mario Isola. “I cannot exclude that somebody will try to qualify with a medium, it makes sense that when the car is heavy to have a consistent tyre and today the medium was, I would say the best one as a compromise between grip and consistency.

“But then somebody could try to use the soft for one stint of the race. The one-stop strategy is marginal, it’s at the limit. We saw that also last year but we can confirm that this year. So if teams are targeting a two-stop strategy, it can be also using the soft and the medium: Two soft and one medium or two medium and one soft.”

Other drivers were less trenchant in their criticism of the rubber but seemingly little happier with the hard tyres. Daniel Ricciardo, fourth-quickest for Renault after what he called a “delicious” second practice session, said the tyres were “behaving completely differently” in the hotter temperatures.

“Everything feels like – I’m going to make another headline here – gooey. It’s just like all very gooey and wobbly. The grip, the feeling is really different to what we’re used to here.”

The possibility remains that the tyre could turn out to be better than expected on race day. This has happened before: Someone near the back with nothing to lose takes a chance on an unfancied tyre, finds unexpected pace from it and the leaders follow suit.

Regardless, another Mercedes front-row lock-out tomorrow looks like a nailed-on certainty. Whether that will remain the case from the next race, once ‘quali modes’ are banned, remains to be seen.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Circuit de Catalunya, 2020
…but Verstappen looked good on a hotter track
Behind them the contest should be close. Though he’s very pleased to be back, Sergio Perez downplayed his chances of repeating Nico Hulkenberg’s third place on the grid last week.

That will hand some encouragement to Red Bull that Max Verstappen, ever the thorn in Merccedes’ side, might be able to take the fight to them once again. He would be helped in that if Alexander Albon can get closer to his team mate’s Saturday pace.

Another positive sign for Red Bull came in the afternoon session. Mercedes haven’t looked as strong in hotter conditions this year, and as the temperatures rose to the high levels which are expected on Sunday, the W11s lapped slower than they had earlier in the day. Saturday may well be another Mercedes benefit, but race day could be a different story again.

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Combined practice times

PosDriverCarFP1FP2Total laps
1Valtteri BottasMercedes1’16.7851’17.17071
2Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’16.8241’16.88366
3Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda1’17.7241’17.70459
4Daniel RicciardoRenault1’19.2301’17.86865
5Charles LeclercFerrari1’17.9701’18.14762
6Sebastian VettelFerrari1’17.9811’18.40463
7Romain GrosjeanHaas-Ferrari1’18.2911’18.13358
8Carlos Sainz JnrMcLaren-Renault1’18.7331’18.21466
9Sergio PerezRacing Point-Mercedes1’18.4711’18.29370
10Esteban OconRenault1’18.7361’18.30371
11Pierre GaslyAlphaTauri-Honda1’18.8881’18.31266
12Lance StrollRacing Point-Mercedes1’18.6431’18.35770
13Alexander AlbonRed Bull-Honda1’18.6061’18.49162
14Lando NorrisMcLaren-Renault1’18.7441’18.50670
15Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari1’18.6201’18.76164
16Daniil KvyatAlphaTauri-Honda1’19.1451’18.64260
17Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’18.9811’18.90066
18Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’18.9171’18.96464
19Nicholas LatifiWilliams-Mercedes1’20.3341’19.15562
20George RussellWilliams-Mercedes1’19.39138
21Roy NissanyWilliams-Mercedes1’20.66425

Teams’ progress vs 2019

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2020 Spanish Grand Prix

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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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21 comments on “‘Horrific, garbage’ hard tyres may force drivers onto two-stop strategies”

  1. Garbage?
    All tyres in the existing F1 range are garbage… thanks Pirelli.

    I am glad everyone complains, just shows that all the hysteria about tyres and Mercedes was blown out of proportion by media, and in reality everyone suffers, and some just can cope a bit better.
    It was obvious in the last race, but media decided to push for “Mercedes is doomed agenda” instead.


  2. Its actually gone full circle now and become entertaining to hear the complaints about tyres.
    This is the same hard tyre that ran for 40+ laps at the first silverstone race and not the softer tyres that were slated in the 2nd race!
    I get that the air and track temperatures are higher in Spain than Silverstone, but it can’t really be that horrendous.
    Maybe going forwards, teams should be allowed to select their quantity of tyres from all 5 compounds, then if they get the choices wrong, its their own fault and not Pirelli.

    Quite frankly I’m glad that it looks like 2 stops may be the way to go. More chance of differing strategies and more chances for overcut / undercut and hopefully being able to push more than when attempting a one stop.

  3. Come back Michellin!!

    1. Bring back testing.
      Stop demanding thermal degradation.
      Pirelli ain’t the problem, FIA is the problem.
      Michelin will never enter as long as the FIA demands crap and denies testing.

      1. 100% Correct.
        FIA’s constant tinkering & meddling
        with rules will kill F1 stone dead.

    2. Hard tyre guaranteed to be the best race tyre on Sunday then as the rubber is laid down and temps are high. One back of the grid person will take a chance on them at some point causing everyone to see they work as a race tyre, probably Albon if he doesn’t sort his qualifying again.

    3. USA GP.

  4. To be honest I would be happy to see 2 stop strategies becoming the standard with 1 and 3 stops as realistic alternatives. It would also be interesting to see the same tyres at every track to show the variety of wear.

    1. C3 tyres are available every weekend.

  5. Were they not asked to make tires for 2 stop races? Pirelli does that and they complain. If tires were even a fraction more durable they would be 1 stoping.

    So sounds about right.

  6. I concur with other commenters…

    “It’s going to be weird because ordinarily, if you want to make a one-stop work you’d say, medium-hard. But the hard was so rubbish I think it’s a better tyre to go onto the soft tyre. So probably a two-stop: soft-medium-medium, or soft-medium-soft”

    What’s the problem exactly? What do these drivers want? No variation is strategy at all and to do the “ordinary” thing each race?

    1. Best thing that could happen is hard remaining “rubbish” and drivers forced to 2-stop. But we hear that way too often. And at the end they one-stop easily. It’s similar to rain.

  7. ‘Horrific, garbage’ tyres are the best thing could happen to F1 this year.

  8. Mercedes have a free stop in hand at every race due to their pace advantage of 0.5-1 sec per lap. They should go aggressive with their tyre strategies.

    1. Yes. With their pace, its possible to go aggresive on the tire strategy.

      1. Depends on how much they have to manage fuel consumption and cooling.

  9. Hopefully, the softest compound combination would be used for at least a single event if not more. I’m referring to the C3-C4-C5 combination, which hasn’t been used yet this season.

  10. Seeing as 2 or more stop races are always more fun than 1 stop processions I hope Pirelli ignore the complaints and keep the tyres the same, or make the Hard Tyre even worse if possible

  11. The pinnacle of the sport continues to have the worst tires in the sport.

    If Pirelli can’t make decent tires then let somebody else have a go. And if it’s because of some FIA mandate then that needs to end to give Pirelli a chance to show they can actually make decent tires. Ideally however just allow for tire competition again, Should never have been stopped to begin with.

    I cannot wait for the day when F1 finally returns to having proper racing tires again!
    I am getting really sick of this Formula Tire!

  12. Regarding the teams’ progress vs 2019 graph: a higher number means slower compared to last year I guess?

  13. Silverstone 1 all over again. teams will try to emulate silverstone 2 strategy, with a silv1 tyre allocation, it can get varied.

    the hards are too “hard” for catalunya, they didn’t fair all that better at silverstone 1, no durability no performance. The c3 looks to be good for 10 laps a bit better than silverstone1, the medium c4 seems to be the right tyre again. Some managed to 1 stop the c4 in Silverstone 2(hard).

    I reckon the right strategy for the top 10 is starting on the c3, and 1 stop to c4 medium. I think outside the top 10, right strategy is c5, 1 stop c4. All things considered this time around we’ll see a lot of stratagies. 1 stop is the goal, in the end many will 2 stop.

Comments are closed.