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Unusual tyre gap opens way for unpredictable Spanish GP

A highly-unusual two-second per lap difference between the soft and medium tyres, coupled with 2017 downforce levels changing the nature of the final corner, has lifted hopes for an exciting Spanish Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-Benz F1 W08
Haas VF-17 Pirelli tyres and wheel
Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari SF70H
Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari SF70H
Fernando Alonso, McLaren, inspects his tyres in Parc Ferme
Lance Stroll, Williams FW40
Jolyon Palmer, Renault Sport F1 Team RS17
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-Benz F1 W08
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-Benz F1 W08

Pirelli’s selection of tyres for this weekend has proved to be a step too hard for what would have been ideal – with the hard of no use, and the medium markedly slower than the soft.

With the rules requiring drivers to run two different compounds in the race, F1 teams will have to work out ways to use the medium tyres for the shortest time possible.

Adding further complication is the fact that, on paper at least, a three-stop – with two stops for soft tyres and a short stint on medium – is actually slightly faster.

Pirelli’s F1 racing manager Mario Isola told Motorsport.com: “The soft is performing very well, and medium is sliding a bit.

“The quicker strategy is on three stops, with three sets of softs and the medium used for very few laps.

"The two-stop strategy with soft/soft/medium is possible. It is a few seconds slower but you are not in traffic.

“Considering this is a circuit where overtaking is not the easiest thing to do, probably a lot of teams in this case will have to run 25 laps on the soft, that means 50 laps total, or as long as possible on the soft, to have a last stint on the medium tyre.”

When teams choose to run this short medium stint could vary, and Williams technical chief Paddy Lowe reckoned that, with such a big difference between tyres, there could be enough of a laptime delta to help overtaking.

“It [the time difference] is an unusually big gap, so it has already affected how we analyse what to do,” he explained.

“It will create interest in the race, and it is the differentials that give overtaking ability, the possibility of different strategies and unexpected outcomes. So it is probably good for the spectacle.”

DRS impact

One other potential area of interest is the way that the new 2017 cars have changed the nature of the final corner – which could also help overtaking.

In the past, passing at the Circuit de Catalunya was very difficult because it was too hard to follow another car closely through the fast final corner.

But with cars now having more downforce, and the last turn being easily flat, it should be easier for cars to stay close to each other – and then take the benefit of the extended DRS zone, which has been increased by 100 metres.

Lowe added: “It is a notoriously difficult track here to overtake, as we have seen here in the past, so it will at least give ourselves the best chance.”

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