Formula 1 teams face a tyre strategy “headache” heading into qualifying for the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix.
Teams are likely to gravitate away from the soft compound but they are compromised by a lack of hards and mediums to get them through the weekend.
For the 70th Anniversary GP Pirelli has gone one stop softer than last weekend by bringing the C2, C3 and C4 compounds.
During Friday practice, drivers discovered that it was hard to keep the softest C4 tyres alive, and at the same time there was little pace difference between it and the medium C3 compound.
The C4 thus has limited appeal as a qualifying tyre and starting tyre, with the medium looking a much better bet.
However, the standard 2020 allocation means drivers started the weekend with eight sets of the unloved softs, and only three mediums and two hards.
Teams are already employing different strategies to get them through the race weekend and still have the ideal permutation of tyres for qualifying and the race.
McLaren focussed solely on the soft tyre today, and Renault combined softs and hards, while others sampled the mediums.
“I think it’s going to be a bit of a headache for everyone,” said McLaren’s Carlos Sainz.
“Especially come Q2, deciding what you are going to do. It’s not so much whether you can go through to Q2 on the soft or the medium, it’s what you prefer to start the race in, independent of whether you go through or not.
“It’s going to be a bit of a challenge, a lot of thinking tonight and tomorrow. I like it, having a different tyre choice to last week, because it challenges the engineers, the drivers, the set-up, the mechanics, everyone, so let’s embrace it and take the right choices from now on.
“It was a bit of a strange Friday for us, we elected to commit to the whole Friday running the soft tyres, to save the mediums and the hards for later in the weekend, trying to figure out what is best.”
Sainz said it was hard to make the C4 last.
“Very, very tough, there’s a lot of blistering and a lot of graining with all the four tyres, and we’re just out there surviving.
“We know that it’s a weakness of our car to handle these softest ranges, so we want to make sure we had enough track time today, and also because later in the weekend we’re probably going to need the harder compounds.”
Red Bull’s Alex Albon said it was clear that the C4 is not a faster tyre this weekend.
“I think it’s not a great choice by Pirelli,” said the British-Thai driver. “The tyre isn’t quick, it’s too soft for this circuit. I think it was quicker today on the mediums than on the softs.
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