While the hardest selection was chosen for the demanding Barcelona F1 circuit, Pirelli will be returning to a softer selection for this weekend in Belgium: the C2 (hard), C3 (medium) and C4 (soft) have been nominated for the Formula 1 race at Spa.
It’s also a softer selection than last year’s… will that pose problems for Mercedes, given that the second Grand Prix at Silverstone (with a softer selection) favoured Max Verstappen’s Red Bull?
The Red Bull eased to victory at Silverstone, exploiting the chassis kinder nature toward the Pirelli over the seemingly dominant Mercedes. And who can forget the other race at the UK circuit whereby Verstappen might have won had the team not pulled him in for a last-minute and perhaps unnecessary pit stop just before the Mercedes cars blew their rubber.
In any case, Pirelli justified his decision by the 2019 Grand Prix: the teams had largely ignored the hard C1s at that time, opting for the medium and soft tyres available at the time. Most of the teams had only chosen one set of hard cars…
And even with these choices, most of them had only made one stop. Three drivers in the top ten still stopped twice.
This year, however, let’s remember that the allocations are imposed: two hard, three medium and eight soft sets.
Good news for the Mercedes: it should be much cooler in Spa than in previous Grand Prix. Last year, track temperatures never even exceeded 30 degrees. But rain, which is always possible, could disrupt the debates… knowing that on such a long track (7 kilometres, the longest on the calendar), it can rain in the first sector but not in the others!
Tyres that are a bit softer will have to withstand some remarkable G-forces, especially on the Raidillon.
“Spa is one of the most difficult tracks for tyres this year, and the asphalt is also aggressive by nature,” notes Pirelli.
The long straights, such as the 800 metre Kemmel straight, pose another challenge for Pirelli, who are in danger of cooling down.
“Spa’s reputation speaks for itself,” notes Mario Isola. “It’s an old-school circuit, with a lot of elevation gain and variables, which the drivers love because of the many challenges and sensations it provides.
“This year’s tyre choice is a little softer than last year’s, although we expect the cars to be considerably faster, as has been the case for most of the season so far.
“Spa is one of the few tracks this year that has not changed its usual date, so the teams should have a lot of relevant data, even though it is probably the track where it is the most difficult to predict conditions.
“This means that teams and drivers who are best able to adapt quickly to changing circumstances are usually the most rewarded.
“One difference this year is that the 24 Hours of Spa didn’t take place as usual a few weeks ago: it will be interesting to see if that has an effect – although any gum that was deposited beforehand is quite erased by the rain in normal circumstances.
“Last but not least, I am sure that Anthoine Hubert will be at the heart of everyone’s thoughts this weekend and we would all like to pay tribute to him, one year after his death. ”