British GP: Tyre and Pit Stop Strategy
After all the rain for the first two days, Silverstone produced a dry race against most expectations. It probably meant a few too many wet set-ups but it did throw up one novelty – the ten Q3 runners having a free choice of starting tyre. It’s a situation that some believe should always happen, so it’ll be interesting to hear your thoughts on how it worked out. As it was, with all twenty-four drivers armed with a plenty of unused slick tyres it meant a bit more variety in tyre strategy than may have otherwise occurred, although two-stopping was pretty much standard practice – Pedro de la Rosa the only driver to buck that trend by stopping just once. However, it was Fernando Alonso’s decision to start from pole on the hard tyre while the next six drivers went for the soft compound that was to produce the most interesting strategy battle…
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The most intriguing strategic battle was the fight for victory between Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber. The Ferrari driver started on the hard compound, taking the soft tyre for his final stint. Also starting from the front row, Webber played his cards the opposite way around, a move replicated by most of the front runners. With a lack of dry running this weekend, the teams went into the race with limited knowledge of how the tyres would last so how would the race unfold? The lap times for the duelling pair are shown below:
With an off-the-pace Michael Schumacher helpfully providing protection in third place, the front row pair pulled away from the pack but after five laps, Alonso also started putting some daylight between himself and the Australian as the soft compounds started to lose some pace. By the time they stopped on successive laps, Webber’s gap to Alonso was up to around five seconds, as shown below. That gap remained fairly constant during the middle stint with both drivers now on the prime tyre. However, in the final stint the roles of the first stint were reversed as Alonso, now having to use the soft tyre, saw his lead eaten away until the Red Bull driver, using a set of scrubbed hard tyres, passed him on lap 47. It was the reverse of the situation that had allowed Alonso to open the early gap and while Ferrari may have hoped the now lighter car would have coped with the soft tyres better it wasn’t to be. The positive for Ferrari was that the Spaniard held on to second – and they probably had to thank ex-Ferrari driver, Michael Schumacher for that.
The other main twists in strategy belonged to Lewis Hamilton and Romain Grosjean. The McLaren driver followed Alonso’s lead in starting on the hard compound but got the soft tyres out of the way in a very short stint in the middle of the race before seemingly trying to cover Grosjean. However, the Lotus driver had also gone a different direction, although in the Frenchman’s case it was forced upon him by a damaged front wing picked up at the start. As it happens, it wouldn’t prove particularly costly as, with the soft compound proving to be a bit of a hindrance, getting the option tyre out of the way after just two laps was a bit of a bonus. Completing the rest of the race on the hard tyres, he was to finish sixth, an improvement of three places from where he started and a lot better than the 22nd place he found himself after his early, unscheduled stop.