For strategic purposes, the race that took place yesterday in Portimão may have seemed a bit boring. With a prevalence of tactical choices to a one-stop, the GP of Portugal did not give many chances for the team mechanics to put on a show. Despite this, however, we have witnessed some interesting strategies and approaches: some proved to be correct, others less so, but none was absolutely right. In the sense that certain strategies have had acertainly positive impact on the performance of some teams, while completely opposite effects on others. Before going into the merits, let’s take a look at what was the examination of the tire manufacturer at the end of the third round of the season.
On Sunday there was a rise in temperatures compared to the previous days, with a peak of 22 ° C ambient and 40 ° C asphalt . Weather conditions, which according to Mario Isola, Pirelli F1 and car racing manager, could have played a decisive role in tire management: “The warmer temperatures have led to an increase in wear of the softer compounds compared to the previous days . Which means that the drivers had to pay more attention to tire management. This, combined with the evolution of the track that offered a little more grip, has increased the role of the hard compound.”
Nonetheless, Isola continues and concludes: “All three compounds have proved to be important for strategic purposes and have distinguished themselves for different reasons. The Hard turned out to be a very consistent compound in these conditions, which is why it was used by most of the drivers for the final stint, including Lewis Hamilton, who also had a flawless race. The Soft, although it was the least used in the race and, as expected, mainly in the short initial stints, was chosen by Stroll to perform a first run of 40 laps and by Perez to complete the race after avery long stint on a Medium compound. Strategy, the latter, rather unusual, but effective.”
For drivers which used the softest combination, the strategy Soft-Medium proved to be the solution by far the most used. However, the only benefit was for Lando Norris (McLaren): he finished fifth (first of the others) after starting from 7th on the grid. In addition to the young Brit, Stroll was the only one to improve his starting position, going from 17th to 14th. The race was mostly in defense for all other users, as was the case for Carlos Sainz Jr (Ferrari), Vettel (Aston Martin) and Gasly (AlphaTauri). The latter, at least managed to limit the damage by obtaining the last place in the top ten against the Spaniard from Ferrari.
In the case of the Prancing Horse , the ‘ fault ‘ lies in not being able to properly exploit the Medium tire, suffering from the recovery of those who used the Hard compound at that stage. Unfortunately Carlos Sainz also encountered many difficulties on this compound and unlike Charles, who used in in the first stint, he was now forced to use it, the situation was different for Carlos as the decision to use this compound arrived for the second stint.
The team explained that Carlos’ pace could have been influenced by the too aggressive attack on Norris immediately attempted at the pit exit. This will certainly have had an impact on the lack of performance by the compound, but which does not, on the other hand, explain the same problems of graining suffered by Charles Leclerc at the start of the race, when he could have also been helped with the tyre management by the entry of the only Safety Car ( Raikkonen – Giovinazzi contact ) during the second lap.