It’s All About the Tires

It is All About the Tires

Once again rain played a major factor in this week’s race. While slicks were used on qualification Saturday, only intermediate tires could be used on Sunday due to the consistent rain on the track. It only drizzled on the track, but it was an enough to keep the intermediate tires on all the cars. Sebastian Vettel experimented around lap 38 with mediums and that quickly turned into a F1 slip and slide.

The starting grid was unique in that 5 different teams were represented: Mercedes, Red Bull, Ferrari, Alpha Tauri and Alpine. This was due in part because, while Lewis Hamilton won pole position, Hamilton had to take a 10-place penalty on the grid due to an engine change. Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton don’t agree on much; however, they agree that if you win pole position, you should start at the pole position regardless of engine changes.

Drama around tire strategy set the stage for the end of the race. Hamilton was asked to change his tires late in the race when he was running in P3. He declined to come in thinking that the down force on his car would keep the car on the track well enough to finish out the race. Finally, his team convinced him around lap 48 to come in and switch out his tires. At first, he seemed fine with it but when he realized he dropped to fifth place, he was very upset. Once again there seems to be some friction between Hamilton and the team. It is difficult to strike a balance between trust in what the driver is feeling on the track and trust in what your team engineers are telling you to do. It is unclear if the balance was right or not. Hamilton finished fifth.

Charles Leclerc was sitting in first place hoping he could finish the race without a stop. Unfortunately, the tread on his intermediate tires wore down too much and Valtteri Bottas passed him up forcing Ferrari’s hand. While Leclerc came out of the pits running in third, Sergio Perez was able to pass him with a few laps to spare in the race. This was due in large part because of the intermediate tires. Unfortunately, intermediate tires heat up quite a bit after a few laps and so the driver must slow the car to cool them down. Ferrari had strong, fast cars today. However, a fast car isn’t worth anything if the tires burn up after a few laps. Leclerc was forced to slow and Perez as able to pass enabling a second and third place finish for Red Bull.

The driver of the day was Carlos Sainz in the Ferrari. Sainz was forced to start 19th due to an engine change. By lap 14 he had worked his way up to tenth place. He finished the race in eighth. Ferrari has been steadily getting stronger throughout the season, while McLaren continues to be inconsistent on the track. McLaren sits in third with a 12-point lead on Ferrari in the constructers championship. As the season begins to wind down, expect significant battles to occur between these two teams.

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