Why Alonso's tyre gamble could inspire others in F1's Monza sprint

Fernando Alonso starred in Formula 1's first sprint at the British GP with a bold soft tyre gamble. At F1's second sprint event at Monza, the Alpine driver's example might well inspire others to go for broke.

At Silverstone the consensus was that everyone would take the safe option and start on the medium tyre. Alonso opted to go with the soft instead, taking advantage of the extra grip on the first lap to jump up from 11th fifth, before falling back to seventh as quicker cars got past him.

The strategy caught the attention of rivals, and there’s no doubt that some will give it serious consideration at Monza. Saturday’s FP2 session provides a chance to further analyse the soft and get more information before making the final call.

Overtaking is expected to be as difficult as usual at Monza, and soft tyres would give a driver a better launch off the line compared to rivals, and superior traction out of the chicanes on the first lap.

Pirelli F1 boss Mario Isola therefore believes that the soft will be a valid, albeit still left-field choice.

“I'm expecting that the majority of the teams will start with the medium compound or maybe somebody from the back could try to use the soft,” he said after qualifying on Friday.

“The weather conditions are good, it's quite warm, the track conditions are okay. We know from the past that the soft compound, that is the C4 like last year, is a compound where you need to manage the traction, you need to manage the rear tyres, because here it's important for the performance.

“You have heavy traction events in Monza, while laterally it is not so important. So maybe tomorrow we have a mix of medium and softs for the sprint qualifying.”

Eighteen laps is potentially a stretch for the soft, but Isola says it’s possible.

“The sprint qualifying is 18 laps here, 18 laps are less than half an hour. So it's really a fast race where they have to push.

“And that is why I think that somebody can try the soft to get an advantage at the beginning and then defend the position for the last few laps.

“The advantage on the soft is attraction is mainly the traction out of the slow chicanes. Maybe a little bit in braking, because in any case the front grip is better.”

Qualifying 13th for F1's Saturday sprint, Fernando Alonso is a prime candidate to repeat his Silverstone soft tyre gamble in Monza.

Qualifying 13th for F1's Saturday sprint, Fernando Alonso is a prime candidate to repeat his Silverstone soft tyre gamble in Monza.

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

A safety car or VSC would reduce the number of racing laps and help anyone who starts on the soft. However Isola believes that there are other reasons why keeping them alive might not be as hard as you might think.

“I believe that there is a certain degree of management in general during the race," he says. "But not just for the tyre, because you have to manage the power unit. With the hybrid part of the power unit, it's not like in qualifying that you can use all the power that is available.

“That's why during the race, there is a certain degree of management, brakes, power unit, whatever.

"If you manage the rear tyres in traction, you are a bit less aggressive outside the chicane, for sure you can manage to keep the rear tyre alive and finish the 18-lap race with still a good performance also for the soft.

“You get an advantage at the beginning, and then you have to protect a little bit the position in the last laps. Then for the other cars that instead are starting on the medium, the last part of the race that can be a lot more aggressive.

“The other point is that they don't start with a full tank in the qualifying race. They have a car that is much lighter compared to the Sunday Grand Prix. That is another important element that that is giving you the opportunity to save or to protect the rear tyre.”

So who might go for the soft? Isola suggested it might be those “at the back”, but there’s no reason why those further up won’t have a go.

Having thoroughly enjoyed being the joker in the pack at Silverstone Alonso, who starts 13th, is one obvious candidate.

Another is Sergio Perez, out of position in ninth after helping Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen with a tow in qualifying. He’s also a driver well known for being able to keep his tyres alive.

If the Mexican can get ahead of the Ferraris, for example, he’ll have a much better starting position for the Grand Prix. The closer he is to the front on Sunday, the more likely he’ll be able to play a strategic role helping Verstappen.

Pierre Gasly, who starts the sprint from sixth, hints that the need to make a good start could tip drivers towards the soft.

“One thing we learned in Silverstone was we had three starts before the actual first lap of the race,” he told Motorsport.com. “So we had one start with our sprint race, a first lap. We had another start on Sunday, first lap, then there was a red flag. Then a third start, and then a first lap.

“And actually after that first lap, this is the position you are in, and by that time I think we had lost four positions compared to our starting position in qualifying. And that's something we clearly understood we need to work on, and especially with this sort of format.

“Teams which are really good at starts gets like two occasions to make up positions, so that's one thing you need to focus on more than usual. I think Fernando surprised a couple of guys starting with a soft tyre, and [he] made up a lot of ground in Silverstone.

“I think there were a couple of lessons there clearly that were made after the weekend.”

Read Also:

shares
comments
Italian GP: Key F1 tech updates, direct from the garages
Previous article

Italian GP: Key F1 tech updates, direct from the garages

Next article

F1 needs safer solution for Monza qualifying, say team bosses

F1 needs safer solution for Monza qualifying, say team bosses
Load comments
How getting sacked from Benetton made Mercedes' Allison Prime

How getting sacked from Benetton made Mercedes' Allison

He’s had a hand in world championship-winning Formula 1 cars for Benetton, Renault and Mercedes, and was also a cog in the Schumacher-Ferrari axis. Having recently ‘moved upstairs’ as Mercedes chief technical officer, James Allison tells Stuart Codling about his career path and why being axed by Benetton was one of the best things that ever happened to him.

The remarkable qualities that propelled Kubica’s F1 comeback Prime

The remarkable qualities that propelled Kubica’s F1 comeback

It’s easy to look at Robert Kubica’s second Formula 1 career and feel a sense of sadness that he didn’t reach the heights for which he seemed destined. But as Ben Anderson discovered, performance and results are almost meaningless in this context – something more fundamental and incredible happened…

Formula 1
Nov 27, 2021
The humbling changes Ricciardo made to deliver for McLaren Prime

The humbling changes Ricciardo made to deliver for McLaren

From being lapped by his own teammate in Monaco to winning at Monza, it’s been a tumultuous first season at McLaren for Daniel Ricciardo. But, as he tells STUART CODLING, there’s more to the story of his turnaround than having a lovely summer holiday during Formula 1's summer break...

Formula 1
Nov 26, 2021
The potential benefits of losing the F1 constructors' title Prime

The potential benefits of losing the F1 constructors' title

As the battle continues to rage over the F1 2021 drivers' championship, teams up and down the grid are turning their attentions to the prize money attributed to each position in the constructors' standings. But F1's sliding scale rules governing wind tunnel and CFD use will soften the blow for those who miss out on the top places

Formula 1
Nov 25, 2021
The invisible enemy that's made Hamilton's title charge tougher Prime

The invisible enemy that's made Hamilton's title charge tougher

After winning his past few Formula 1 titles as a canter, Lewis Hamilton currently trails Max Verstappen by eight points heading into the final double-header of 2021. Although Red Bull has been his biggest on-track challenge, Hamilton feels that he has just as much to grapple with away from the circuit

Formula 1
Nov 24, 2021
Why F1's inconvenient penalties have to stay Prime

Why F1's inconvenient penalties have to stay

OPINION: Quibbles over the length of time taken by Formula 1's stewards over decisions are entirely valid. But however inconvenient it is, there can be no questioning the importance of having clearly defined rules that everyone understands and can stick to. Recent events have shown that ambiguity could have big consequences

Formula 1
Nov 23, 2021
The mistakes Red Bull cannot afford to repeat in F1 2021's title fight climax Prime

The mistakes Red Bull cannot afford to repeat in F1 2021's title fight climax

OPINION: Red Bull has had Formula 1’s fastest package for most of 2021, but in several of the title run-in events it has wasted the RB16B’s potential. It cannot afford to do so again with Lewis Hamilton motoring back towards Max Verstappen in the drivers’ standings with two rounds remaining

Formula 1
Nov 23, 2021
Qatar Grand Prix driver ratings Prime

Qatar Grand Prix driver ratings

Qatar was a virtual unknown for most as Formula 1 made its inaugural visit to the Gulf state, and tyre management quickly emerged as an even more critical factor than normal. Perhaps then it should come as no surprise that two of the championship's elder statesmen produced standout drives

Formula 1
Nov 22, 2021