Having impressively climbed from a sixth-place grid start to the front of the pack, world champion Verstappen managed to overcome a five-place penalty imposed following a post-practice gearbox modification that occurred after Friday’s qualifying round.
By the 17th lap of the 44-lap Spa Grand Prix that took place last Sunday, Verstappen managed to overtake the lead from his fellow Red Bull teammate, Sergio Perez, subsequently establishing an 8.9-second advantage by the time both Red Bull drivers completed their final pit stops.
VERDICT: Verstappen shines in unexpected Spa spectacle
Following the pit stop, Verstappen executed an outlap one second faster than Perez, before setting his fastest lap of the main Spa race – a 1m48.922s lap time that was only bested by a last-minute effort from Lewis Hamilton, clocking in at 1m47.305s.
Despite his driver’s request for the quickest time, Lambiase, Red Bull’s pit wall, had cautioned Verstappen to focus on conserving the soft tyre during a reasonably lengthy stint of 14 laps, reminding him to take an “easy outlap”.
As Verstappen began his fastest lap, Lambiase criticized his pace, commenting that the Dutchman had used a significant portion of the tyre’s life during the outlap, a move that was possibly unwise.
Once Verstappen had completed his record lap, Lambiase advised him that the tyre had experienced significant wear during the first stint, requesting him to apply more strategic thinking, similar to an earlier instance in the race where Verstappen was advised to maintain a steady pace ahead of the first pit stops.
After being informed that his pace had moderated to a level more compatible with Red Bull’s race strategy, despite still being faster than Perez’s initial final stint, Verstappen playfully suggested an additional pit stop for the sake of providing his mechanics with “pitstop practice”, a suggestion that Lambiase quickly dismissed.
Careful management of F1’s Pirelli tyres is essential, particularly during the initial laps on new softs, as Verstappen was heading into the final stretch of the Belgian Grand Prix.
In response to a query from F1 Flow.com about the risks Verstappen was taking that had Red Bull concerned, Pirelli’s motorsport boss Mario Isola listed two potential risks associated with pushing new tyres at the start of a stint.
The first risk involves graining when the tyre is not fully warmed up, despite pre-race heating. The cold conditions at Spa, combined with strategic tyre management and intermittent rain showers, made the red-walled rubber compound a preferred choice for the main event. However, graining could still occur if the front-left tyre surfaces were overly stressed, especially during the early laps. This could have made Verstappen’s final 14-lap, 60-mile run more difficult than what Red Bull would have desired.
The second risk pertains to the degradation of the tyre due to its mechanical resistance at lower temperatures, which can lead to graining that then requires cleaning to regain performance. Overheating and subsequent thermal degradation can also occur due to the increased compound thickness in new tyres.
Isola also noted that Red Bull currently enjoys a good advantage in 2023’s in-race tyre management, adding that Verstappen is able to manage his pace and, when required, significantly outperform his competitors.
Reflecting on his tyre management during the race, Verstappen confessed to straining his tyres too much when tailing Hamilton and Leclerc in the early part of the race, led by Perez. However, after his tyre change to the medium compound, he felt the performance significantly improve, providing him with much-needed speed. Verstappen found the experience enjoyable, especially once he took the lead.
Although a sudden rainfall required him to slow down considerably, he was able to maintain tyre health and performance once the weather cleared, even with a switch to a fresh set of soft tyres. Verstappen ended by noting the advantage of not being in traffic, which allowed for better tyre management, contributing to a successful race.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Verstappen’s soft tyre tactics
What event is this text describing?
This text is describing the Spa Grand Prix where Max Verstappen, a Red Bull Racing driver, employed aggressive soft tyre tactics.
What were the risks of Verstappen’s tyre tactics at the Spa Grand Prix?
The main risks associated with Verstappen’s aggressive tyre tactics were graining and thermal degradation. These risks were exacerbated by pushing hard on new tyres at the start of a stint, particularly in the cold conditions of the Spa race.
What was Red Bull’s concern with Verstappen’s tactics?
Red Bull was concerned about Verstappen’s aggressive soft tyre tactics potentially causing rapid tyre degradation, which could have affected his performance in the race, particularly during the final laps.
How did Verstappen perform in the race?
Despite the potential risks, Verstappen performed impressively in the race. He managed to climb from a sixth-place grid start to the front of the pack and executed an outlap one second faster than his teammate, Sergio Perez. He also set his fastest lap of the main Spa race, only bested by a last-minute effort from Lewis Hamilton.
What did Pirelli’s motorsport boss say about Verstappen’s tyre management?
Pirelli’s motorsport boss, Mario Isola, noted that despite the risks involved in Verstappen’s tyre tactics, Red Bull currently enjoys a good advantage in 2023’s in-race tyre management. He added that Verstappen is able to manage his pace well and, when required, can significantly outperform his competitors.