Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo, Monaco, 2023

How the first team to fit intermediate tyres in Monaco got the call right

2023 Monaco Grand Prix

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Alfa Romeo were the first team to react to the rain in the Monaco Grand Prix by switching to intermediate tyres, and the wet weather was in their race strategy all along.

Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu started 15th and 19th respectively, and were running 13th and 17th prior to their pit stops when the rain came. Alfa Romeo’s well-judged strategy moved them up to 12th and 14th, and they each gained another place before the end of the race.

Xevi Pujolar, the team’s head of trackside engineering, explained how Alfa Romeo had formulated their strategy around the expectation of rain. He said they had “different versions” of the weather reports before the race.

“Initially we were prepared like it will rain, maybe even for the start of the race,” he told media including RaceFans. “And then we had our dry configuration for the race.

“When we were on the grid – and now actually we spend quite a lot of time on the grid – we were getting gradual updates. In he 15, 20 minutes before the race start we thought if it rains at all, it will be in the last part of the race. So then we said ‘okay, we stick to our dry plan, and then we’ll see if the rain is coming or not’. So our race tyre choice was based on a dry forecast, and then take it from there, we’ll see if the rain comes.”

Gallery: 2023 Monaco Grand Prix in pictures
As Zhou started on the back row the team decided pit him immediately after the start to complete his mandatory tyre change out of the way at the first opportunity.

“Starting on the soft and pitting on lap one for Zhou, that was already planned for dry. And then we wanted to see if this way we could control some throughout the race, trying to block the AlphaTauris.

“But they had the same plan as well so de Vries managed to block Valtteri. And then during the race we were getting some updates again that on the weather, that probably around lap 60 we could get some rain hitting the track. So we were getting ready for that.”

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Being ready proved crucial as the rain arrived earlier than that, on lap 51 of the 78-lap race, and Bottas was the first to react.

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin, Monaco, 2023
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“We could hear our drivers [and] also some other competitors saying there is some drops at times. So we were ready. It was difficult to know the intensity of the rain, but Valtteri was quite good on that and quite clear on his call.

“It was strange because when he was calling that it was getting very wet in sector two, the pit lane was completely dry. So that’s why probably it made a bit of confusion. Some of the teams were struggling to commit to the rain because the pit lane was completely dry.”

Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso pitted for slick tyres after the Alfa Romeo duo had switched to intermediates. But he only spent a lap on those tyres before following Russell and most of the field in putting on the intermediate tyres.

However while Alonso was fighting for second place when the rain came, Alfa Romeo had much less to lose with their strategy call.

“For us, at that point we lost the possibility to fight with [AlphaTauri’s Yuki] Tsunoda, we were losing any chance to achieve anything on a normal race, even with a Safety Car. There was not much to gain,” Pujolar explained.

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2023 Monaco Grand Prix

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Author information

Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching photography back in the UK. Currently based...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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3 comments on “How the first team to fit intermediate tyres in Monaco got the call right”

  1. Coventry Climax
    31st May 2023, 17:10

    How surprising they went for intermediates, with full wets unlikely to be raced at all – since a decade or so.
    How surprising they checked what the other weather stations had to say about possible rain.

    “So our race tyre choice was based on a dry forecast, and then take it from there, we’ll see if the rain comes.”

    Wow, that’s a pretty spectacular strategic decision!

    1. They used full wets in brazil 2016, and probably other races earlier on, I remember a lot of rain at silverstone that season.

      They also used full wets in some quali sessions since then, even as recently as spa 2021, but your comment specifically refers to the race, so that’s almost 7 years.

      I wasn’t impressed by the new full wet tyres btw, even at the time there was most water on the track they weren’t doing better than intermediates performance wise.

  2. I learned with time that, the more vocal an F1 engineer is, the less I would trust their word and ability.

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