Spanish GP: Preview - Pirelli


Of all the Formula 1 circuits, Barcelona is probably the best known to all the teams as it is a familiar testing venue - including for eight days at the start of this year. But that doesn't make it any less challenging.

Pirelli is bringing the three hardest tyres in the range for the second time this year after Bahrain - C1 as the White hard compound, C2 as the Yellow medium compound, and C3 as the Red soft compound. These should be well-suited to the high-energy demands and warm weather of the Barcelona circuit, as the European season gets underway.

The track was resurfaced last year, which changed its previously bumpy and abrasive nature. However, the surface has since matured, making it more similar to how it was previously.

Although the teams had a free choice of all the P Zero Formula 1 tyre range for pre-season testing, they tended to concentrate on the softer compounds (more commonly used during the year). So they may be missing a bit of data on the hard and the medium.

Barcelona is a good all-round test for a car and tyres, which is why it is so often used for testing: the famous Turn 3 takes the most energy out of the tyres, while the front-left is the most stressed.

Last year, the race was won with a one-stopper: the same strategy being used by all the top three. Lewis Hamilton claimed victory for Mercedes after starting on the soft tyre and moving onto the medium. There were also some two-stoppers and three-stoppers.

This year's C1 compound is slightly softer than the 2018 hard, with the C2 being roughly equivalent to the 2018 medium and C3 to the 2018 soft. The selection for this year's Spanish Grand Prix has been made to enable drivers to push hard from the start to the finish of each stint in what are likely to be warm conditions, without resorting to pace management.

The top three teams have all made different tyre nominations, suggesting a varied tactical approach. Ferrari has made the most aggressive selection, choosing more soft tyres, but both their drivers and those of Mercedes have made slightly different selections to their team mates.

On the Tuesday and Wednesday after the Spanish Grand Prix, the second in-season test of the year will take place. Ferrari and Racing Point will each run a second car for Pirelli to assess 2020 prototype tyres. This will be a ‘blind' test, so the drivers (yet to be announced) will not know exactly what they are testing.

Mario Isola: "There are very few mysteries about Barcelona for the teams, especially this year as the pre-season tests were held in quite good weather conditions that should be more representative of the season. However, a number of teams are planning on bringing some car upgrades, so it will be interesting to see the effect of those on tyre behaviour, together with the continued evolution of the new track surface, which we already noted earlier this year.

"Even in pre-season testing, the cars were incredibly quick out of the box here, so this could be yet another race like last year in Spain where more lap records fall."

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Published: 06/05/2019
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