Super-soft tyres which ‘last ten laps’ will dictate Monaco strategy

2011 Monaco Grand Prix preview

Start, Monte-Carlo, 2010

Start, Monte-Carlo, 2010

There won’t be many races where tyres aren’t a big factor this year.

But they will be especially crucial in Monaco as Pirelli bring their super soft tyre for the first time. The red-walled tyre will be offered alongside the soft.

Pirelli say the super-soft: “has an anticipated range of fewer than ten laps: even less at the beginning of a race when the cars are full of approximately 200 litres of fuel.” Three ten-lap stints on super-softs would lead drivers needing to complete 48 laps on their remaining soft tyres.

Practice will give an indication to whether this prediction is true, but if so it will present the teams with some tough strategic choices. Could this finally be the race where someone in the lower reaches of Q3 takes a gamble on starting on the harder compound tyre and makes it work?

Front runners

Sebastian Vettel arrives at the Monaco Grand Prix as the reigning world champion, but he’s yet to win F1’s most prestigious race.

He drove a magnificent race on his F1 debut here in 2008, finishing fifth in the rain for Toro Rosso.

But he crashed out in 2009 and was beaten by team mate Mark Webber here last year.

Another win this weekend would be his fifth of the year which, along with his second place in China, would match the best ever start to a season achieved by Nigel Mansell in 1992 and Michael Schumacher in 1994.

It’s hard to see a driver in this kind of form getting beaten, but the unpredictable nature of the track combined with the changes in racing this year brought about by the new Pirelli tyres could present his rivals with an opportunity.

Ferrari anticipate that the switch to softer compound at this race will play into their hands having struggled on the hard tyres in Spain.

Fernando Alonso’s race last year was ruined when he damaged his chassis in a crash in practice. He has a great chance to make amends for that this year – he dragged the maximum out of the Ferrari in Spain and Monaco is a track that rewards a driver who can wring everything out of his car.

Another driver who had a forgettable weekend last year was Jenson Button, who retires early on after a cover had been left on one of his radiators, causing terminal overheating.

McLaren showed strong race pace in Barcelona and Button proved once again that if anyone can nurse an extra few laps out of a set of tyres, it’s him. That could serve him very well this weekend.


The Drag Reduction System is likely to be far less useful for overtaking in Monaco’s narrow confines. It will be used to give drivers a chance of overtaking into the first corner, Sainte Devote.

Following complaints from some drivers, the FIA has taken the unusual step of banning them from using it through the corner in the tunnel on safety grounds. This is the first time they have prevented drivers from using DRS outside of the normal restrictions.

Even in Spain, where DRS proved far less effective, there were several dozen passes. Whether the drivers can complete this many overtakes in Monaco without incident will depend on how co-operative they are with each other.

The safety car was deployed four times in last year’s race and it wouldn’t be a surprise if it made its first appearance of 2011 this weekend.

This doesn’t just go for the race, but qualifying as well. Despite worries from some drivers, Q1 passed without incident last year.

But that was partly because drivers knew that if one lap was spoiled their tyres would be good for another go. That will probably not be the case with Pirelli’s fragile super-softs.

That means striking the balance between qualifying well and preserving tyres will be all the more difficult at Monaco.

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110 comments on Super-soft tyres which ‘last ten laps’ will dictate Monaco strategy

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  1. Manuel said on 25th May 2011, 11:19

    super soft only 10 laps? and the soft 15-17 laps? How many pitstop they will do? 5? 6? :-D

    • GeeMac (@geemac) said on 25th May 2011, 11:34

      The race is 78 laps I think. So the teams have 3 sets of super softs (that will last 30ish laps according to Pirelli), they’d need to cover 48 laps on the softs. Looks like 4 stops to me.

      • GeeMac (@geemac) said on 25th May 2011, 12:21

        I think my own calculation is out! 48 laps on 2 sets of softs, unlikely!

        5 stops it is!

        • Sam said on 25th May 2011, 13:11

          yup, if you get a puncture at some point and lose a set, you wont have enough tyres to finish the race! we could see a retirement due to having no wheels to put on the car !

          • Atticus (@atticus-2) said on 25th May 2011, 14:08

            I’d go for 5 stops too.

            The 3 super-softs for ’30ish’ laps and I think 2 set of softs is going to be needed for ~48 laps. Or even all 3 making it 6 (!) stops.

          • Atticus (@atticus-2) said on 25th May 2011, 14:11

            Another interesting point to make is the performance difference between the softs and super-softs. If it’s not that big (I doubt it is), then some would use mostly softs and one less super-softs. That way you could relatively easily make it with 4 stops. (1 set of super-softs, and 3 set of softs. Or 2-2. With 3 super-softs you should insert a 5th stop.)

          • DVC said on 26th May 2011, 1:29

            They’ll simply put the least used tyres back on the car. The might end up with a soft on the left and a super-soft on the right but there you go.

            The interesting thing with this is that in Monaco no matter how badly the tyres wear, qualifying is crucial. You couldn’t afford not to qualify. If you made Q3 you could consider not qualifying but that’s about it.

            If I was a team manager I would be attempting to use the same set of Super softs for at least 2 runs in Q1/Q2. There is no point putting a set of tyres on your car for only 5 or 6 laps in a race. So you might as well try and use up the entire set. Besides it doesn’t matter if the tyres fall over the cliff on your warm-down lap.

          • Ben Curly said on 26th May 2011, 10:25

            @Atticus You get it wrong. There is one less stop than the number of tyres used. 6 sets of tyres means 5 stops, not 6.

            It’s likely that the drivers will need all of them… and in my opinion that’s just ridiculous.

    • Enigma (@enigma) said on 25th May 2011, 12:23

      2 mistakes Keith – I’m sure you meant Q3 when talking about qualifying on the harder (soft) tyre. And McLaren was fast in Spain, not Turkey.

      • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 25th May 2011, 12:24

        Fixed both, thanks.

        • Rob said on 25th May 2011, 12:43

          Depending on the time difference between the two tyres, teams may use 2 sets of softs and only one set of super softs. The super softs will need to be able to make up the time of the extra stops to make it viable. Less pit stops means less chance to be overtaken in the pits.

          • Enigma (@enigma) said on 26th May 2011, 0:05

            Yep. A 12-lap stint on super softs and two 30-something-lap stints on softs seem possible. That’s also why Pirelli are right in saying supersofts will last 10 laps and we’ll see 2 pit stops.

            Teams should watch out for Kobayashi if he starts on softs! Could be blocking them heavily until his first stop.

      • Will said on 25th May 2011, 14:15

        They weren’t THAT bad in Turkey! :)

    • The Sri Lankan said on 26th May 2011, 3:38

      i think everyones forgetting that the Sauber and the Renault is far easier on the tires than the rest. hope they get to mix it up at the front

    • Formula 1 is no longer about racing, but pitting. A pity – this great sport has degenerated into a maze of tyres wearing out and pit strategies planned by boffins at the pit box.

      F1 – The Ultimate in Racing Technology
      F1 Tyres – The Ultimate in How Not To Make Reliable Tyres
      F1 racing – Learn chess by becoming an F1 driver. Nowhere will you learn strategies better

      This is Formula 1 at its hilarious best!

  2. The wierd thing is that Pirelli say the supersofts will do 10 laps, but in another article (I think it’s on Autosport) they say that they expect 2-stop races at Monaco.

    Somehow I doubt you’ll see Soft tyres do 34 laps.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 25th May 2011, 12:03

      Maybe on the Sauber they will. And Renault think they are good on the tyres as well.

    • Will said on 25th May 2011, 14:17

      Pirelli also said they were unhappy that the number of stops is so high. They apparently stated that 4 stops are too high and they are aiming for three in the average race.

      Then they proudly come along boasting that their new tyre does less than 10 laps.


      • sam3110 (@sam3110) said on 25th May 2011, 16:12

        Well, the Monaco track is very easy on the tyres, look at Alonso last year, so I think 20-25 laps on the soft tyre isn’t as bad as you think, they managed about 16 in Spain

      • DMC said on 25th May 2011, 18:47

        If the time difference between soft and supersoft is significant i think we will all be confused come sunday. Some of the races have been hard to follow this year and monaco with its short lap and traffic problems,people on new tyres trying banzai moves,and possible safety cars etc,this could be the hardest.Also traditionaly monaco rubbers in well and is easier on tyres as the race goes on.

  3. Sav said on 25th May 2011, 11:21

    Less than 10 laps? Will they even have enough sets of tires to finish the race?

    I love the new tires but this could be too far and turn the Monaco GP into a bit of farce.

    • Klaas said on 25th May 2011, 13:59

      Yeah, and they talk about races decided on track not in the pits. No really, tires that last only 10 laps – how stupid and artificial F1 can get?

    • Palle (@palle) said on 25th May 2011, 22:55

      As it was last year – ending in procession drive, albeit signalled on track as if racing was commenced at the start-finish straight on last lap.

  4. smifaye (@smifaye) said on 25th May 2011, 11:23

    Wasn’t Schumachers best start 1994, not 1993?

  5. Ben N said on 25th May 2011, 11:25

    Brilliant – that means high speeds – lots of pitstops and utter confusion! Just what I love (might sound sarcy but trust me it’s not!)!

    I’m really looking forward to Monaco for the first time in ages!

    5 or 6 stops! Amazing!

    • The teams can’t do six stops, Ben – they don’t have that many sets of tyres!

      • OEL said on 25th May 2011, 12:16


        • Sam said on 25th May 2011, 13:13

          lol that would be brilliant, running out of slicks and having to use wet tyres

          • Ral said on 25th May 2011, 13:50

            Ok, I recall my previous comment about the Monaco GP and now am looking forward to seeing teams run on intermediates in the dry :D

          • bosyber (@bosyber) said on 25th May 2011, 23:16

            I suppose they only have to make it to two thirds of the distance on their available tyres and the race could be stopped – would be interesting to see the discussion, those who wrecked their tyres saying it is too dangerous, while the Saubers want to go the distance or something.

        • Icemangrins said on 25th May 2011, 15:37

          Do you remember Kimi’s 2009 Malaysian GP radio “my tires are completely destroyed…. completely destroyed” :0

        • BasCB (@bascb) said on 25th May 2011, 19:46

          Only, those are allowed for running only when the FIA deems the track damp, I think.

          • GB2009 said on 26th May 2011, 4:38

            I believe that when the FIA declares the track wet, you then MUST be on a wet tyre…no such declaration does not preclude you from running them in dry conditions.

            It is a safety thing to stop people taking a risk of being on dry tyres hoping for it to dry out I think.

      • Ben N said on 25th May 2011, 13:13

        Haha – a very good point! I do apologise! I think I got slightly carried away in my excitement!

  6. Magnificent Geoffrey (@magnificent-geoffrey) said on 25th May 2011, 11:27

    This bodes well. I know a lot of people may not agree with me, but I love the Monaco Grand Prix because it is such a challenge for the drivers to even finish the race, let alone finish well. The level of concentration required to drive ‘a motorcycle around your living room’ is nothing sort of immense and while races around Monte Carlo typically do not involve a great amount of overtaking, I honestly think Monaco remains as much of a challenge, if not more of one, to today’s drivers as it did to the Sennas, the Laudas, the Hills and the Fangios of history.

    With the new super-softs, we may see another incredibly chaotic race, something that I wouldn’t mind at all. It’s not that I like watching crash-fests just for the sake of watching crashes, it’s more that having a race with a consistently high rate of attrition means that by the end of 78 laps, you know you’ve got a podium filled up with three truly commendable drives. I hope the tyres provide yet another challenge so that after Sunday I’ll be left in even greater awe of these incredible athletes than I usually am.

    • Yes, “to even finish the race”. So far we haven’t seen the gull-winged SLS, but I fear that Monaco will bring it out (I hope that I’ll be proven wrong).

      Looks like prediction from Pirelli for two pitstops is kinda impossible, with 78 laps to complete and less than 10 laps for super softs.

    • damonsmedley (@damonsmedley) said on 26th May 2011, 5:55

      Very well said. And races of high attrition normally give us a surprise result! :D

  7. Burnout (@burnout) said on 25th May 2011, 11:40

    Have the people from Pirelli said anything about how much faster the super-soft tyres will be over the softs?

  8. BasCB (@bascb) said on 25th May 2011, 12:01

    I am really looking forward to this. Doing 48 monaco laps on only 2 sets of softs (the harder tyre) sounds like a scenario to have some serious slipping around in the last 1/3 of the race.
    I hope we see some amazing car control again.

  9. Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 25th May 2011, 12:06

    Could this finally be the race where someone in the lower reaches of Q1 takes a gamble on starting on the harder compound tyre and makes it work?

    Do you mean Q3? Because I was thinking that before in the bath. Although I guess the only Q1 qualifiers we’ve seen work that strategy have been out of position so that makes sense too.

    Let’s see, 77 laps, 10 laps max on super-softs, we’re probably looking at a maximum of around 27 laps on them, that’s 50 for the softs. I think we might have a 5-stop race on our hands. But this could really be the chance for even a front-runner to qualify and start on softs, because it might actually end up saving you a stop. Or we could see everyone switch to the soft tyres at the first stop and try and save a stop that way.

    Then again, it wouldn’t be the first time Pirelli played down the durability of their tyres.

  10. Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 25th May 2011, 12:15

    Another win this weekend would be his fifth of the year which, along with his second place in China, would match the best ever start to a season achieved by Nigel Mansell in 1992 and Michael Schumacher in 1994.

    It’s hard to see a driver in this kind of form getting beaten

    Of course, but oddly enough Vettel might be shadowing Damon Hill’s 1996 season in another way: Hill won 4 of the first 5 races and only isn’t tied with Mansell and Schumacher because he got a 4th place at the Nurburgring. Then he came to Monaco and had an engine failure. Of course his biggest lead in the championship didn’t come until after the French Grand Prix, but my point is that that year the title went down to the last race. I’m not expecting Vettel to have as many retirements or make as many mistakes as Hill did, but Villeneuve didn’t win all of those races either.

    If McLaren can catch Red Bull (especially with the downfall of hot-blown diffusers), we may just see history repeat itself.

    • Will said on 25th May 2011, 14:33

      1996 was a Williams drivers fight for the title, Hill should have won it in plenty of time but for a few mistakes and an apparent inability to get keep the lead from pole… Its almost like his nerves made life hard for him that year. I don’t think any other team had a sniff at getting near Williams all year, although Schumacher did some great things with his pig-Ferrari.

      Webber does not look like getting near Vettel as that kid seems unflappable out front, so I can’t see this being another 96!

    • Robbie said on 25th May 2011, 14:52

      Thank goodness SV’s season isn’t rife with controversy to the tune of 94’s Benetton issues of illegal refuelers, delays in providing computer access codes to the FIA (read illegal traction control), overly worn skidplates, and then of course the whack on DH for the ‘win’…oh, I know that didn’t all take place in the start of the season, but I’m confident the illegal refuelers and TC were there, so I don’t know how anyone can honour MS’s 94 season for anything. What a dark year that was for F1.

      • sam3110 (@sam3110) said on 25th May 2011, 16:21

        I can honour the 1994 season, because it led to the sport having an undisputed driving god, who has smashed all records and won the WDC 7 times in a row. Love him or hate him, Schumi is the best driver ever to go out there, push himself and his car to, and over, the limit and live to tell the tale……

  11. topdowntoedown (@topdowntoedown) said on 25th May 2011, 12:45

    You know, I can see an enterprising team/driver (say: Kovalainen, or maybe Kobayashi) qualifying on the supersofts and high up the grid, then pitting almost immediately (lap 5-8) and then running the rest of thye race on shiny new soft tyres…

    • Sound_Of_Madness said on 25th May 2011, 16:14

      Besides fun, I believe SS-S-S-S(-SS?) a nice combo for teams/drivers that can handle the soft harder compound. Enter Sauber, Buemi, Button…

  12. verstappen (@verstappen) said on 25th May 2011, 12:48

    I am really curious how it all will play out. Will the combination of the tyres and DRS be enough to see a little more passing?

    I really love this race, and now it might have a little extra in the form of DRS, not as ‘push to pass’ button, but ‘possibility to profit from mistakes’, which is entirely fine with me.

  13. Neil Davies (@neil-davies) said on 25th May 2011, 12:50

    Personally I think 5 stops for a normal dry race anywhere is pretty ludicrous, but at Monaco its even more so. I’d be perfectly happy with a three-stop race with the possibility that someone may risk a two or a four or play the compounds differently. Why the hell would anyone want a grid of 24 cars forced into a completely insane number of stops? It’s idiotic.

  14. Bebilou said on 25th May 2011, 12:50

    Tyres that can hardly last 10 laps ? Come on, Mister Pirelli, this is ridiculous…

    Moreover, 2 pitstops during a race is the maximum acceptable for me: if there is more, the race begins to become difficult to follow. I would like to see action on the track, not in the pits.

    • Bebilou said on 25th May 2011, 12:52

      PS: we were a lot to complain about refuelling, and we were (from my point of view), right.
      Today, even with the refuelling ban, we have more pitstops than ever ! Am I the only one to find it ridiculous ?

      • DVC said on 26th May 2011, 8:20

        yes, you are.

      • BBT (@bbt) said on 26th May 2011, 8:53

        No you are not.
        The original super soft tyre was only lasting 6 laps but they have re-engineered it. Still they do say less than 10 laps, do they mean 7,8,9? I agree with some other comments, in the actual race they have lasted very differently to what Pirelli have stated, normally a bit longer. This could be interesting if teams are out of super softs in 25 – 30 laps, if there is only a second in performance it’ll be best just trying to us the softs except from the mandatory run on super softs. I’m guessing this is why Pirelli are saying two stops. They really should get rid of the mandatory tyre rule.

    • Romesh82 (@romesh82) said on 25th May 2011, 13:50

      think pilrelli were told 2 produce this kind of tyres by FIA.. Too bad we have 2 focus for abt 110 pitstops for all cars…

    • MVEilenstein (@mveilenstein) said on 25th May 2011, 17:49

      Pirelli are bringing exactly the kind of tire they were asked to.

  15. Boomerang said on 25th May 2011, 12:59

    I’ll let Mark make a comment on Pirellis:
    Your China race was a sensation. It seemed that you pulled out all the stops and drove in a make-or-break fashion…
    MW: Yes, that’s what I enjoy at the moment: racing flat-out. Looking at the tyres and all that is part of the game now, but probably not an enjoyable part because we want to drive the car on the limit and push the boundaries – this is what Formula One is all about: pushing the boundaries to a complete limit for the drivers and the engineers and the car design. I hope to do a bit more racing like that in the future.

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