At first glance, it would appear that the tire compounds selected for this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix -- medium, soft and supersoft -- are a step harder than the choices made for the same race last year (soft, supersoft, ultrasoft). But in reality, that isn’t the case, because all of the 2018 tire compounds are a step softer than their 2017 equivalents. So, in actual fact, the choice is exactly the same.
The reason for maintaining the same choice, despite the increased performance from the cars this year, is down to the unique characteristics of the Spa-Francorchamps circuit. Although it’s the longest track of the year, with some big corners and compressions that put plenty of energy through the tires, the tire compounds selected last year proved to be the right choice for this epic circuit.
The Circuit from a tire point of view
* Spa is well-known for its variable weather, and the 7.004-kilometer length of the lap means that it can be raining in one part of the circuit and completely dry in another. Equally, it can also be very sunny at this time of year.
* The stresses on the tires come from all directions in Spa: lateral, longitudinal and also vertical, as the drivers tackle the famous downhill then uphill compression at Eau Rouge, with high speeds and extreme vertical loads.
* The drivers have made full use of all three nominated tire compounds, with some choosing the same quantity of the hardest tire compound (the medium tire) as the softest compound (the supersoft tire).
* Last year, a two-stopper proved to be the winning strategy, but this was influenced by a late safety car (not uncommon at Spa) that effectively allowed a "free" pit stop.
Mario Isola, Pirelli's head of car racing
"There’s been an interesting range of tire selections for Spa, which are all different among the top teams. In fact, most of the teams all the way down the grid have gone for some quite diverse choices. This could lead to a wide variety of different strategies, especially as Spa is a track where it’s very possible to overtake. But Spa is also very hard to predict, especially when it comes to the weather, so teams will have to react to circumstances as they arise as well. Tire-wise, this really isn’t an easy race. Nonetheless, last year we made quite an aggressive tire nomination, and the race underlined the validity of this choice, so we’ve gone for the same nomination again: albeit with different names for the tire compounds."
* Earlier this year, Spa renewed its existing deal and is set to remain on the Formula 1 calendar until at least 2021.
* Formula 2 and GP3 (also supplied by Pirelli) returns after the summer break.
* During the same weekend as Spa, Pirelli will be competing in GT racing at another epic track: the Suzuka 10 Hours, supplied exclusively for the first time by Pirelli this year.