2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix: Qualifying Tyre Analysis

2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Saturday - Charles Leclerc (image courtesy Pirelli)

Although the compounds coming to Baku this year are a step softer compared to 2019, it’s still likely to be a one-stop race. 

Those obliged to start on the P Zero Red soft tyre – in other words, the top 10 – are likely to use a soft-hard strategy, even though this gives much less flexibility in the pit stop window. 

Another good option – which can be used by those outside the top 10 – is to use the P Zero Yellow medium and P Zero White hard compounds: especially if we experience track temperatures in excess of 50 degrees.

If those are the tyres being used, it makes sense to start on medium and then move to hard: there’s quite a wide pit stop window that leaves plenty of latitude for the timing of the pit stop and the pit lane penalty here isn’t huge either. 

On the other hand, there’s a big probability of the safety car, as all the red flag stoppages in qualifying showed. If there’s a safety car period this gives the opportunity for a ‘free’ pit stop, so starting on the softer and faster tyre could be advantageous. Unlike Monaco though, track position isn’t absolutely everything here: it’s very possible to overtake.

2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix Notes From Qualifying

  • The opening Q1 session was characterised by two red flag periods for separate incidents at the tricky Turn 15. A third red flag brought Q2 to an early close as well, followed by a fourth one in Q3. In total, qualifying took place over nearly an hour and a half.
  • All the drivers used the soft tyre from Q1 to Q3, with the exception of Mercedes, which chose the medium for the first runs in Q1.
  • Having peaked at more than 55 degrees in free practice this morning, track temperatures in the afternoon were slightly cooler – at around 46 degrees halfway through the session, with 29 degrees ambient.

Mario Isola: Pirelli Head of F1 and Motorsport

“This certainly one of the most disrupted and unpredictable qualifying sessions that we can remember! The drivers generally used the soft tyre throughout the session, as with the margins so close on this long lap, it was the safest option to be sure of getting through Q2: especially with the big risk of interruptions. This means that all the top 10 will start on the soft tomorrow, which probably locks them into a soft-hard one-stop strategy: also because we’re expecting high track temperatures again for the grand prix. Those behind the top 10 might see an advantage in starting on a harder compound to run a longer first stint and gain track position or have more pit stop flexibility. As we’ve seen already in a hectic qualifying, this is a track where absolutely anything can happen. Four different teams in the top four on the grid underlines the close competition on this spectacular city circuit: at one point we had cars separated by just thousandths of a second after a six-kilometre lap. Congratulations to Ferrari and Charles Leclerc for a second consecutive pole”.

Best Qualifying Times By Tyre Compound

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BAKU CITY CIRCUIT, AZERBAIJAN – JUNE 05: Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF21, leads Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF21 during the Azerbaijan GP at Baku City Circuit on Saturday June 05, 2021 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Mark Sutton / LAT Images)

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