As expected, the appearance of the safety car had a decisive impact on the outcome of the 2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix. This prompted all the frontrunners to switch to the ultrasoft for the final few laps and fell conveniently within the pit-stop window for Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas, who had been leading the race at the time – on his original set of supersoft starting tyres. After the re-start, Vatteri Bottas punctured due to on-track debris, with his team mate Lewis Hamilton going on to win: having changed tyres twice.
Most drivers chose the supersoft to begin the race, but all three compounds were seen at the start, with many drivers also using all three during the race. In total, there were six different combinations of tyre strategy seen in the top 10 at the finish, with two safety car periods affecting the race. These had the effect of limiting tyre wear and degradation on the second-longest track of the year.
Mario Isola, Pirelli Sporting Director, comments on the race in Baku from the tyre management point of view: “There were a number of different strategy combinations at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix and it was interesting to see all three compounds used extensively during the race, with varying strategies for each driver. The safety car’s intervention had a strong influence on the race outcome, but Bottas also managed an extremely long stint on the supersoft tyres before the win went to his team mate Hamilton, who capitalised on every opportunity and again used all three compounds. With the cool conditions, long straight, and yellow flag plus safety car interruptions, maintaining tyre temperature was a challenge, particularly at the re-starts. Congratulations also to Formula 2 champion Charles Leclerc, who took his best result by finishing sixth.”
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton won the race using two pit stops, going from supersoft to soft on lap 22 and then to ultrasoft under the safety car on lap 40. The top three all used completely different strategies.