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"Punchy" Pirelli F1 tyre choice could produce two-stop Australian GP

George Russell expects a “punchy” tyre compound choice by Pirelli will turn the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix into a two-stop race.

Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL38, leaves the pit lane

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

Traditionally, the event has been seen as a one-stopper, but this year Pirelli opted to go a step softer than previously and bring its C3, C4 and C5 compounds in an attempt to create more interesting strategy choices.

On Friday, drivers reported graining, with Nico Hulkenberg noting that the C5 was “no race compound”.

Russell therefore believes that a one-stop strategy will no longer be the obvious choice. 

“I think this year, with the softer tyres, it's going to be difficult in the race,” said the Mercedes driver. 

“I think it was an easy one-stop in previous years, seemingly so far that's not going to be the way. 

“It was definitely tricky out there - for all the cars a lot of graining up and down the pits.

“Usually this is a qualifying race here in Melbourne, but now Pirelli have been pretty punchy, I think things are slightly different.

“Last week [in Jeddah] probably too conservative, and needed to go a step softer. That's what we've done this week.”

George Russell, Mercedes-AMG F1 Team

George Russell, Mercedes-AMG F1 Team

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Alpine’s Esteban Ocon agreed that the Melbourne tyre selection will create more strategic variety.

“It was interesting to test these new softer compounds compared to last year,” said the Frenchman. “I think it goes in the right direction.

“It should be a more interesting race with that side of things because it’s a very low-degradation circuit, so it could make some more interesting strategies in general. Last year we could do the whole race with one tyre [set], so that should be a little bit different this year.”

Pirelli’s chief engineer Simone Berra confirmed that the company wanted to spice up strategy choice in Melbourne.

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“Obviously, we knew already from the beginning that graining would have been the main factor here,” he said.

“It has been already a factor in the last years, with the C2 being the most resilient compound compared to the softer ones.

“But we wanted to have different, let's say, results in terms of strategies. It was quite clear in the past that C3, C2 was the best strategy, one-stop, clear for everybody and quite boring in terms of tyre decision.

“This year, it seems that it's a little bit different. Tyre management will obviously make a difference compared to past years. And it's something that we have seen today from free practice.

“So, basically, the teams didn't run the hard compound, they prefer to keep the hard for the race - just because it's the most resilient in terms of graining propagation. And they want to use them for the race.”

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