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
The forgotten F1 comeback that began Jordan’s odyssey  Prime

The forgotten F1 comeback that began Jordan’s odyssey 

Before Michael Schumacher – or anyone else – had driven the 191 (or 911 as it was initially called), Eddie Jordan turned to a fellow Irishman to test his new Formula 1 car. JOHN WATSON, a grand prix winner for Penske and McLaren, recalls his role in the birth of a legend…

The squandered potential of a 70s F1 underdog Prime

The squandered potential of a 70s F1 underdog

A podium finisher in its first outing but then never again, the BRM P201 was a classic case of an opportunity squandered by disorganisation and complacency, says Stuart Codling.

Formula 1
Sep 18, 2021
The other notable Monza escape that F1 should learn from Prime

The other notable Monza escape that F1 should learn from

OPINION: The headlines were dominated by the Italian Grand Prix clash between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton, who had the halo to thank for avoiding potentially serious injury. But two days earlier, Formula 1 had a lucky escape with a Monza pitlane incident that could also have had grave consequences.

Formula 1
Sep 17, 2021
How Monza only added more questions to F1's sprint race conundrum Prime

How Monza only added more questions to F1's sprint race conundrum

With two sprint races under its belt, Formula 1 must now consider its options for them going forward. While they've helped deliver exciting racing on Sundays, the sprints themselves have been somewhat lacking - creating yet another conundrum for F1 to solve...

Formula 1
Sep 16, 2021
Who should Alfa Romeo sign for 2022's F1 season? Prime

Who should Alfa Romeo sign for 2022's F1 season?

OPINION: With Valtteri Bottas already signed up for 2022, all eyes are on the race for the second seat at Alfa Romeo next year. Antonio Giovinazzi is the current incumbent, but faces a tough competition from appealing short and long-term prospects

Formula 1
Sep 15, 2021
The "forced break" that was key to Ricciardo's Monza excellence Prime

The "forced break" that was key to Ricciardo's Monza excellence

OPINION: Daniel Ricciardo has long been considered one of Formula 1's elite drivers. But his struggles at McLaren since switching from Renault for 2021 have been painful to watch at times. Yet he's recovered to banish those memories with a famous Monza win – built on a critically important foundation

Formula 1
Sep 14, 2021
Italian Grand Prix driver ratings Prime

Italian Grand Prix driver ratings

Two drivers produced faultless performances as, for the second year in a row, Monza threw up an unpredictable result that left many to rue what might have been

Formula 1
Sep 13, 2021
Why Ricciardo would have won without Verstappen/Hamilton crash Prime

Why Ricciardo would have won without Verstappen/Hamilton crash

The clash between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton was the major flashpoint the 2021 Italian Grand Prix will be remembered for. Yet by this point, race leader Daniel Ricciardo had already done the hard work that would put him in position to end his and McLaren's lengthy win droughts, on a memorable afternoon in Monza

Formula 1
Sep 13, 2021