The Formula One motorsport tyre performance at the recent British Grand Prix in Silverstone Circuit has been a cause for concern for most teams if not all the participating teams. The expected tyre life as predicted by the Formula One tyre supplier Pirelli did not live up to expectations during the race event. Several drivers experienced sudden tyre degradation that resulted in loss of position and eventual loss of points in the race. Although the race was characterized with accidents and safety car deployments but peculiar incidents on tyre lacerations that happened almost at the same time on the front left tyres of the race cars could not be ignored by the sport’s management and tyre supplier Perelli.
F1 Tyre Compounds – Pirelli
During round three of Formula One race weekend in Silverstone Circuit, Great Britain, from 31st July – 2nd August, Pirelli availed the following tyre compounds based on the track conditions and the weather forecast. It means these tyres were selected for all the practice sessions (P1. P2 & P3), and only two compounds for qualifying sessions (Q1. Q2 & Q3) and all the three tyres were chosen for the main race event on Sunday. The available tyre compounds for the British GP were:
- C2 – HARD COMPOUND TYRE (WHITE) – slowest
- C3 – MEDIUM COMPOUND (YELLOW)
- C4 – SOFT COMPOUND TYRE (RED) – fastest
Most teams used the medium (yellow strapped) tyre during Q2 session in a bid to use the same tyre on the first stint of the race as per the requirement and switching over to the hard tyre on one stopper. But this turned out to be riskier and more dramatic towards the end of the race and proved to be costly to most victims.
Pirelli has ascertained all teams that the Silverstone circuit is a one stopper as per the data gathered during the practice sessions and previous simulations. The DNA of most racing cars proved the opposite as teams suffered sudden degradation and most notably on the hard front left tyre which was unusual. The mercedes powered engines were hard on these tyres and shortened their life span drastically. Teams like Mercedes AMG, Racing Point and McLaren were hit hard by this tragedy and their tyre management strategy was the worst amongst all. Both Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas and Carlos Sainz suffered the same fate in the last laps of the British GP. While other teams enjoyed a relatively low tyre degradation, their one stop strategy worked well and was manageable at least to a certain degree.
Team race strategies
Most teams started the British GP on medium compound tyres used in the Q2 session as stipulated by the regulations. So based on this, the teams resorted to running the medium compound tyre for at least 20 – 25 laps before they could switch on to the hard tyre for the remainder of the race. The Silverstone race circuit constitute 52 laps so it was ideal and possible to run the two option tyres during the race. Looking at the fact that a safety car was deployed two times on Lap 2 following the collision between Albon and Magnussen and again another safety car was deployed on lap 12 after a huge crash by Kvyat.
This been where most teams opted for the pit stop and switched on to the hard tyre which needed to last for the entire race duration. Whatever happened in between before lap 50, it was smooth sailing for both Mercedes and Mclaren. Then disaster struck in lap 50 first with Bottas, his mercedes lost the left front tyre, followed by both Hamilton and Sainz on lap 52. Bottas was relegated from position two to 11th after having to pit again, Sainz dropped from fourth place to 13th, all the two outside the points. Hamilton tip toed on three wheels and powered his mercedes home to see the checkered flag while Verstappen was agonizingly catching on fast behind. The Mercedes drivers were clearly managing their tyres after an early pit stop on lap 13 which was too much to finish the race on one set of tyres.
A combination of facts and strategies could only be applied in preparation for the next race. The FIA 70th Anniversary Grand Prix, billed to take place at the same circuit, Silverstone. Pirelli will surely gather facts and advice the teams accordingly based on their investigations and the conditions of the scrap tyres. Silverstone track is surely hard on the front left tyres especially when the temperatures rise above normal. Heads would be rolling in the different garages as to how this was severely experienced on the two Mercedes and the Racing Point cars. Had it not been the two safety car deployments, would the results be different, maybe for 5th, 6th and so forth?
The most important question to answer is what really caused the tyre bursts and why it was experienced by certain teams and not others? The tyre explosions could have been worse than what we actually saw but this should surely be addressed in the next race weekend with appropriate interventions. For most teams, if not all of them, a two stop strategy at Silverstone Circuit would be the most desired.
The British GP at Silverstone started with accidents, two safety car deployments and late drama regarding tyre failures which wrapped up the race weekend. Pirelli will give an update on tyre failure investigations and we shall see how the teams take this forward in preparation for the back-to-back racing at Silverstone. There are permutations that may come out of the tyre failure investigations including, high track temperatures, debris on the track from the two accidents and prolonged forces on the tyres resulting in failure. Like as it is known, Silverstone track is very hard on the tyres especially on the high speed corners of which the teams are pretty aware and should prepare for any eventuality at this race circuit. It is clear that these moments would resurface again if not properly managed or rather corrected in the next race.
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