The greater the wear on the tires, the more crucial the racing strategy becomes. The asphalt of the Catalunya circuit is one of the most abrasive in the entire world, and the combination with the very high temperatures that have been confirmed throughout the weekend consistently above thirty degrees, have created a scenario much feared by teams and drivers.
It is no coincidence that on the eve of the 66 laps scheduled today all the top teams have kept two new sets of medium tires combined with the traditional hard set. In the top positions, only Leclerc managed to complete the perfect picture, even saving a train of soft in yesterday’s qualifying.
Hard rubber is the unknown factor of the Spanish GP
Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images
However, there are still doubts about what the winning strategy will be and, probably, the answers will come only in the first third of the race. The tendency is to reduce risk margins as much as possible, focusing on hard tires in combination with the medium ones, but in Montmelò the ‘white’ compound (C1 this weekend) proved to be much slower than the ‘yellow’, with a gap on the race pace estimated at eight tenths.
With a stint that theoretically should last more than half the race, it becomes a handicap, since the risk is to lose more time than a possible second stop, calculated in 23 seconds.
For the top-6, however, there is still a chance not to take a step blindly. At the start it is highly probable that in the first three rows everyone will start with medium tires, to face a first waiting stint.
The hope of the strategists of Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes is that someone behind them will decide to start with hard tires, thus offering the possibility to evaluate the performance of the compound.
If the results are positive, then it will be more likely that a set of ‘white’ will be mounted at the first pit stop, vice versa the second set of averages will be used and then the second and last stop will move to the hard or (if the averages allow get 15 laps from the checkered flag) to soft.
The situation of Leclerc is different, the only one of the top riders to have a set of new soft. Ferrari confirmed yesterday in qualifying that it is ready to take some (calculated) risks, and in the race simulation completed yesterday in the FP3 session, the Monegasque (with a high fuel load) completed fourteen laps on a set of soft.
The advantage of shooting with the ‘reds’ would be considerable, both in terms of grip at the start and in the first braking, as well as guaranteeing good performance in the first two laps. This would allow Leclerc to be able to consolidate his leadership in the first laps and not have to use the hard tire, feared both in the first laps (due to the longer time it takes to reach the ideal temperature window) and in the case of the safety car, since it would expose those who use them to be attacked by an opponent who mounts the averages in the restart lap.
Obviously, wear will be the key to the race, a front on which Red Bull received excellent feedback on Friday. However, Ferrari found a way out of the problematic situation that emerged in the FP2 session, and Mercedes also confirmed a good pace, not up to the level of Red Bull (and Ferrari on Saturday morning) but not too far in terms of gap.
The percentage of the safety car entering the track is considered high, even if there are large escape routes outside the roadway, in most of the corners there is sand, so it is unlikely that a driver will be able to reenter in the event of going off the track. on the road independently.