Tyre War At Silverstone

Tyre War At Silverstone

When grand prix teams are burning through soft-compound Pirelli tyres like a toddler demolishing Smarties then you know something is wrong at Silverstone.

The second race in the British double-header – officially a celebration of the 70th anniversary of the world championship – is shaping as a tyre battle to rival anything seen during the Supercars sprints at Sydney Motorsport Park.

The weather is hotter and the tyres are softer, and that’s causing a lot of head scratching in the F1 garages.

But there is still no serious threat to Mercedes-Benz, as Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas run 2-1 and 1-2 in Friday practice, as Daniel Ricciardo uses a blitzer lap to run third for the day.
“Its nice. Even though it’s only practice,” says Ricciardo.

“It’s better to have a day in P3 than in P16.”

While Ricciardo is smiling, Mercedes-Benz is talking about the difficulty with tyres compounds that are one-step softer than the British Grand Prix, where both Benzes had high-speed blowouts.

The red-striped soft tyres are barely lasting a lap and Benz’s technical chief, Andrew Shovlin, says there is a lot of work to get the right combination for the Sunday race.

“The soft is a tricky tyre, it’s working quite nicely on a single lap but on a long run it’s not lasting long. We expect most teams will try to avoid that tyre in the race,” says Shovlin.

“It looks like everyone ran an unusual program today in terms of tyres but we’re all trying to get enough of the medium and hard into our qualifying and race allocation.

“The medium seems more durable and it’s not much slower compared to the soft on a single lap. We’ve got a fair understanding of the track from last week, so we were able to use some of the running in free practice to sign off a few development parts and do some experiments.

“It’s been pretty hot today but our pace looks reasonable for a Friday on both short and long runs which is useful as the hot weather looks like it will carry into Saturday and Sunday.”

But tyres are not the only problem for Ferrari when Sebastian Vettel’s car detonates an engine after he clocks the seventh-fastest time.

“I can say that it was very sudden. We have to see what it is but it will take some time, because the engine has to be sent to Maranello for analysis,” he says.

But Vettel, like everyone else, is also looking at tyres.

“I’m a little bit happier than last week, but we are not very competitive at the moment and we need to have a look at the data to see what we can work on.

“On the soft tyre the car is good on the first lap, then it becomes a bit more difficult. We are trying to save the harder compounds for the race, so we need to see where we are in quali and then we will decide the strategy for the race.”