Tire riddle continues at Watkins Glen

Firestone’s red-walled alternate tires have created a puzzling situation regarding strategy for tomorrow’s race, as the fastest drivers in qualifying proved harder primaries were more compatible with the Watkins Glen track.

Tire riddle continues at Watkins Glen
Sébastien Bourdais, KV Racing Technology Chevrolet
Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Polesitter Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Max Chilton, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Max Chilton, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Max Chilton, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Sébastien Bourdais, KV Racing Technology Chevrolet
Max Chilton, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Max Chilton, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, Arie Luyendyk
Sébastien Bourdais, KV Racing Technology Chevrolet
Max Chilton, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Sébastien Bourdais, KV Racing Technology Chevrolet
Sébastien Bourdais, KV Racing Technology Chevrolet

Firestone officials admitted to Motorsport.com yesterday that the soft tire’s characteristics would remain a mystery until today’s qualifying session. But the drivers themselves suggest they were still debating the relative efficiency of each compound throughout the session.

KVSH Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais, who was the first to switch to black tires through the session – and who Will Power credited with pointing the #12 Penske team in the right direction – commented: “The problem is, we set our cars up on black. That's all we can use all weekend [until qualifying], and it's like that every weekend.

“We went out on reds in Q1, and the car was a disaster, and we just reverted [to blacks] because clearly we were not going to fix it in qualifying. Given enough time, it's a softer tire, it's probably a quicker tire, but with the black setup on, you don't have much time to figure it out.

“When you're in qualifying, you basically do a hot stop, two, three laps, then pit stop, change tires, go again. So you can't make adjustments to the car. You need to take a bit of time, look at data, see what's really happening, and that's just not the way it works.

He added: “Usually it's not that clear-cut. Here it seems like if the top three is on blacks in the Fast Six, there's probably a good reason for it.”



Max Chilton, however, who broke into the Firestone Fast Six for the first time this season, said that Ganassi’s strong basic setup meant the differences between the tire compounds was less clear-cut, although he too set his fastest lap on the harder compound.

He commented: “We didn't really know whether the red or the black was going to be quicker, and actually there wasn't much in it anyway.

“History tells you red is going to be the better tire to race on, so you didn't want to do too many laps on the reds, but you didn't want to take the gamble of using blacks in Q1 and getting knocked out.

“So we went reds like most people did in Q1 to see what the tire did. And then we thought, ‘Do we be clever and go black now and then do fewer laps on our reds so it doesn't hurt our reds as much in Q3?’ But Chip Ganassi, he's got so much experience, he always says to us, ‘Do the simple things right,’ and the simple thing was try and qualify as far up the grid as you can.


“I think we made the right call. I think the reds just had a slight edge which got us into the Fast Six… [but] actually the blacks you could argue were the better tires.”

Ganassi and Penske split their strategies in the Fast Six. At Penske, Power went on blacks, fourth-placed qualifier Helio Castroneves on reds, while at Ganassi, polesitter Scott Dixon and Chilton took blacks, while fifth-place man Tony Kanaan used reds. But reigning champion Dixon says it hasn’t made the decision over strategy easier for tomorrow’s race. He even suggested that teams may follow the policy they use in Detroit.

He commented: “Typically we try to save the reds as much as possible, so nobody runs them in the warmup. But [at] Detroit… generally everybody starts on reds and tries to get rid of them as soon as possible. That may be what happens tomorrow, as well.



“The longevity, as we all know, is typical in that the reds don't last as long as the blacks. That's one solid thing we can take from today, but we'll just have to try and figure out how we can maybe make them live a little bit longer.

“So I think tomorrow morning you'll see quite a few people running on at least one set of reds [in the warm-up].”

 

 

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