Saudi Arabian Grand Prix: Practice team notes - Pirelli


Fernando Alonso was the fastest driver on track at the first day of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

In the second session, run in the same temperatures the drivers will encounter tomorrow in qualifying and during Saturday's race, the Spaniard took his Aston Martin round in 1'28"827, the only driver to break the 1'29 barrier, with a time that is almost eight tenths faster than the best FP2 lap from last year (1'29"603) set by Max Verstappen. Today, the Dutch Red Bull driver was quickest in FP1 (1'29"659) but in FP2 he was, by his standards "only" third in 1'29"158 behind second placed George Russell in the Mercedes (1'29"057).

As usual, on race weekends when the important track action takes place after sunset, the day's first session is generally less representative, especially when it comes to air and track temperature. Jeddah is no exception, with FP1 starting with a track temperature of 42 degrees C which later dropped to 35 degrees C, while by the start of FP2 it was down to 28 degrees C and stayed stable. Track conditions seemed pretty good right from the start, in terms of grip and cleanliness, especially on the racing line.

All three compounds were used in the first session, with a slight preference for the C4 with 16 sets used and the C2, with a total distance covered of 1154 kilometres. In the second hour, the C2 was only used by four drivers - Norris, Albon, Bottas and Hulkenberg - who did a first run with low fuel at the start of the session and then, towards the end, used the same set for a long run. The rest of the drivers concentrated on evaluating the Medium and Soft, with some of them, for example, Leclerc, Ricciardo, Tsunoda and Magnussen, opting for the C4 for a race simulation.

Simone Berra: "Quite an interesting day as far as use and performance of the tyres is concerned. First and foremost, we noticed that the C2 is working very well so far, proving it is clearly an ideal compound for the race, both in terms of degradation and consistent performance, thanks partly to the condition of the track surface which offered a lot of grip. As for the C3 and C4, both showed signs of graining, as indeed is predictable on a track like this. It's a phenomenon that should improve as the track gradually rubbers in and, in the race, it could therefore be easier to manage for the drivers. The majority of teams concentrated on the C3 for their long runs, but there were some drivers who simulated the first stint of the race on the C4, which shows it cannot be ruled out for the moment. In a race where the most likely strategy is a one-stop, benefiting from the extra grip that the softest compound can deliver in the first few laps or the final ones, could be an important factor. Another element to consider is the wind which not only affects car stability but also can cause the tyres to slide, which in turn can lead to graining."

Check out our Thursday gallery from Jeddah here.

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Published: 07/03/2024
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