Pirelli shows durability at Valencia
World Championship leader Sebastian Vettel claimed his sixth win of the year in eight races, having started from pole position at the Valencia street circuit. He was followed home by Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso, who claimed his second podium of the year, following the Monaco Grand Prix. It was a perfect weekend for Vettel who claimed the win, pole and fastest lap to extend his championship advantage.
The top three were separated by just three seconds heading into the last 20 laps of the race, using pit stop strategy to make the difference. After Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso passed Mark Webber for second place on lap 22, the Red Bull Racing driver stopped earlier than his rival for his penultimate set of tires to regain the runner-up spot in the pits: an exercise that has come to be known as the ‘undercut’ this year.
But then Alonso was able to leapfrog Webber in the pits with just 10 laps to go as he went onto the P Zero White tire for the final stint. The top seven all made use of the same three-stop strategy, with just one stint on the P Zero White tires at the end of the race.
Toro Rosso’s Jaime Alguersuari was the top runner to use two stops, running a 23-lap middle stint on his second set of P Zero Yellow tires, before switching to the P Zero White on lap 42.
Sauber driver Sergio Perez by contrast went for a one-stop strategy, moving from the P Zero White medium tire to the P Zero Yellow soft tire on lap 25, which he then used for 32 laps until the finish on lap 57. The Mexican, returning to the cockpit after a two-race absence following his qualifying crash in Monaco, just missed out on a championship point by six seconds.
Despite extremely challenging conditions with ambient temperatures of 28 degrees and a track temperature of 47 degrees, there were no retirements and both P Zero tire compounds experienced a relatively limited degree of degradation.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery commented, “This certainly wasn’t a vintage race of the sort that we saw in Canada, Monaco and China this year for example. Again we saw an interesting mix of strategies although it was clear that a three-stopper was the way to go, with the faster cars able to exploit the performance advantage of the P Zero Yellow tires to the maximum in these conditions. Next up is Silverstone, when we get back to a permanent high-speed circuit, which should provide us with plenty of action once more at the front of the field.”