Pirelli Motorsport boss Mario Isola has ruminated that a two-stop strategy could be more effective in this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix, but believes that most teams will try for a more conservative approach. The 2017 edition saw Lewis Hamilton take victory with a one-stop strategy, starting on the super-softs before switching to the softs for a 31-lap stint. This countered expectations of a two-stop race on a track that reached temperatures in excess of 40C.
There is a half-chance of rain falling on Friday for Free Practice, with clear conditions greeting Saturday – increasing the probability of the ultimate lap-record at the Suzuka International Racing Course being lowered from last year’s benchmark. Cloud coverage is looking likely for the race.
Mario Isola also highlighted the potential for increased tyre degradation due to the softer structure of the 2018 compounds, the extreme forces generated by the newer cars and the numerous high-speed, high-lateral load corners on the Suzuka circuit: “Suzuka features some of the highest energy loadings of the season and this can lead to greater levels of wear and degradation than we normally see,” said Isola – “It’s also the only circuit in a figure of eight on the calendar, which means that the tyre wear between the left and the right side is about even.”
Pirelli have brought the super-soft, soft and medium compounds to the meeting, mirroring their selection last year. However, the Italian tyre giants softened each compound by one step in order to combat the issues that arose in 2017 regarding a lack of wear. Mario Isola pondered the idea of a two-stop strategy, reverting back to the more typical Suzuka strategy pattern that was broken last year: “A one-stop strategy triumphed at Suzuka in 2017, but prior to that the trend was mainly towards a two-stopper. It’s going to be interesting to see if this year’s softer tyres – and even faster cars – produces a different set of tactics.”
However, the Italian recognises that teams and drivers will be as cautious as possible in order to make a one-stop work: “The teams will always look to do a one-stopper if possible, but this of course has to be balanced against how much tyre management is needed to achieve this. Depending also on the time lost for a pit stop, it could be that a two-stopper is quicker.”
It has been confirmed that the Renault Sport Formula 1 Team will partake in a two-day tyre test with Pirelli at Suzuka after the race weekend in order to experiment with 2019 compounds.