Why a ‘terrible’ soft tire was the better choice for the Brazilian GP F1

Why a ‘terrible’ soft tire was the better choice for the Brazilian GP F1

Eventual race winner Max Verstappen, who once again showed how well his Red Bull RB19 took care of the tyres, admitted he was in management mode once he left momentarily.

“Outside lap,” the Dutchman said when asked when he first started looking after his tires. “There wasn’t a single lap where I pushed too hard. You can’t. It’s impossible.”

After the race, a number of drivers admitted things had been pretty extreme trying to keep the soft tires alive for the 24-lap event.

Williams driver Alex Albon even lamented: “(The degradation) is massive. It feels terrible driving, to be honest.”

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With the soft tire being far from ideal, one logical assumption would have been that the drivers made a mistake in not going for the medium tire – which in theory should have offered better durability for a slight trade-off in final performance.

But this option proved far from ideal for the three drivers who tried it – Nico Hulkenberg, Kevin Magnussen and Logan Sargeant – as they all failed to make an impression in the race and suffered equal decline.

So it seemed that the Brazilian drag race presented a scenario where teams and drivers were stuck between a rock and a hard place: a soft team that needed a lot of management and a middle man who was not performing at his best.

Why soft tires are the preferred route for all front-runners is complex and difficult to understand, but the Formula 1 tire supplier believes a number of circumstances came together.

“We were also surprised by the number of teams that decided to use these soft tyres,” said Pirelli chief engineer Simone Pira.

“We are investigating what caused this, but it appears the softness was really consistent.

“I think the gain from the soft medium is that you have a higher grip level overall. You slide less with the soft and you generate less heat, so you can manage temperatures a little better.”

Berra believes that this tire, although theoretically a more durable tire, performed worse than it should have in terms of tire life because it would have slid more on the track and therefore heated up faster.

This situation was exacerbated by the asphalt turning green – thanks to the storm that washed away all the rubber on Friday nights – as well as rising temperatures.

“We think this affected the slippage of the medium, generating more excess heat and more degradation,” he said.

“But we don’t have a clear picture from the whole grid. We only had Haas and one Williams driver (in the middle), so we don’t have a clear picture of what actually happened.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23 competes with Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL60

Photography: Mark Sutton/Motorsport Images

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23 competes with Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL60

“We don’t know how other mid-level teams would have performed, for example. What has to be said is that with the temperatures that we had, 47/48 degrees Celsius at the start of the session, we were expecting it (tyre selection) to go harder.” .

“But I think it was the track condition that forced the teams to use soft tyres.”

Three stop option

The evidence of drag racing – and why a soft tire can be a better racing tire in Brazil than a medium tire – has opened up the prospect of some aggressive strategies for Grand Prix racing.

Perra believes that those drivers who have additional softs available for the race – including Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc, and the Aston Martin duo of Lando Norris – could have an advantage over those who do not have new softs (both Mercedes drivers, Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz). .

“The facility could be better with the development of the track and all the cars circling the racing line,” he said.

“At the moment, the best strategy is to use the soft tires in the first stage and of course get extra grip at the beginning, before moving to the medium tires,” he explained.

“Then, you can decide to use a second medium to transition to the end or a soft one to transition to the end.”

Berra even believes there is a possibility that some will score with three stops, especially those with extra sets of soft strokes.

Drivers who have these items include Valtteri Bottas, Zhou Guanyu, Daniel Ricciardo and Logan Sargeant.

“It’s only three or four seconds slower,” he said. “It’s mainly for softs, especially for drivers who have two sets of new softs. So let’s see, that could be a possibility if you want to push more, take less care of the tires and try to be more aggressive.

“One stop is much slower, like seven and nine seconds slower and requires using the hard compound, which is not really the ‘ideal race tire.’”

Pirelli has published the tire combinations available to every racing driver.

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