Head of Pirelli Motorsport Mario Isola confirmed that Safety Car period just past the halfway stage of the race had the greatest influence on tyre strategy in the Chinese Grand Prix, which took place last weekend at the Shanghai International Circuit. A collision between Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda‘s Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley forced Bernd Mäylander into making an appearance on lap 32, with both Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen profiting from good geography relative to the pit lane upon its deployment and Aston Martin Red Bull Racing’s quick thinking.
On fresh soft compound tyres, Daniel Ricciardo scythed through from fifth to take his sixth Grand Prix victory – his first of 2018. Mario Isola praised the front runners’ “different thinking” and tactical variance: “After Bahrain, we enjoyed another race where some different thinking on tyre strategy among the leading competitors led to a very exciting conclusion, with many different tactics in play” – the Pirelli racing manager explained.
Pirelli opted to bring the ultra-soft, soft and medium compounds to the abrasive Shanghai International Circuit, bypassing the super-soft tyres because of their similarities to the ultra-soft and soft. Sunday brought warmer weather, meaning that the data the teams had accumulated over the three Free Practice sessions was rendered almost useless. Mario Isola admitted that this was another factor in the race’s unpredictability: “Track temperatures [on Sunday] were around 20 degrees higher than they had been over the previous couple of days,” he added. “This meant that the teams were facing a few unknown factors heading into the race, not having run in these temperatures here before.”
However, the Italian concluded that the Safety Car had the biggest say on the race, with both Red Bull cars showing clear superiority in comparison to Valtteri Bottas, Kimi Räikkonen, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel when battling for the win; both Scuderia Ferrari and Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport did not have the ability to bring their drivers in for fresh rubber at the ideal time: “Another factor that influenced tyre strategy and ultimately the race victory was a lengthy safety car period, allowing both Red Bulls to change tyres at an advantageous moment, while reducing wear and degradation for everyone else who stayed out. In total, six drivers, including the race winner, used all three compounds.” – Head of Pirelli Motorsport Mario Isola concluded.