Pirelli aims to cut number of pit stops by British GP

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In the wake of a Spanish Grand Prix that saw many competitors — including race winner Fernando Alonso — take to a four-stop strategy, Pirelli has indicated that it’s going to make changes to their tires by next month’s British Grand Prix at Silverstone in an attempt to reduce the number of pit stops.

Today’s event at the Circuit de Catalunya featured a whopping 79 stops, with 12 of the drivers doing a four-stop race.

“Our aim is to have [each car make] between two and three stops at every race, so it’s clear that four is too many,” Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery told Formula One’s official website. “In fact, it’s only happened once before, in Turkey during our first year in the sport. We’ll be looking to make some changes, in time for Silverstone, to make sure that we maintain our target and solve any issues rapidly.”

Pirelli made tweaks to its hard compound tire for this weekend’s event, but the Italian manufacturer was once again criticized for their tires’ degradation over the course of the afternoon. Especially vocal about it was former World Champion and eighth-place finisher Jenson Button from McLaren, who called the situation “a right mess” according to Paul Weaver of Britain’s The Guardian.

“When I see a car behind [me], I let it past because I’m doing a different strategy and I don’t want to damage my tires,” Button continued. “If I block, I might destroy my tires. It’s the same thing we had in China — waving each other past so we don’t destroy our rubber while hoping that the guy who’s overtaking will.”

Hembery had hinted at an overhaul earlier in the weekend following a high-speed medium tire failure involving Force India’s Paul di Resta during FP2. Pirelli later said that it believed debris caused a small cut in the tread, which then overheated and caused the failure.

Ferrari teammates Vettel and Raikkonen fastest in rainy final practice at Australian GP

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen went one-two in the final practice session ahead of qualifying at the water-logged Australian Grand Prix on Saturday.

Vettel set a best-lap time of 1 minute, 26.067 seconds, more than 2.4 seconds faster than his teammate in second.

Both Ferrari drivers switched from their intermediate tires to the super-fast, ultra-soft tires for the final few laps of the session, testing conditions on the track after a day-long downpour left it slick and filled with small puddles.

Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton did not opt to try out their soft tires, sticking to the intermediates for the entire session. They had the seventh- and eighth-fastest times, after topping the leaderboard in practice in dry conditions on Friday.

The heavy rains subsided by early afternoon, allowing the track to rapidly dry during the third practice session and making conditions safe for drivers to test their soft tires.

Still, only a few drivers completed a timed lap with the softer compounds, with Mercedes, Red Bull and most of the others staying with their intermediates.

Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson had the third-fastest time of the session on ultrasoft tires, followed by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen on intermediates.

Hamilton remains the favorite to capture his fifth straight pole position at the Australian Grand Prix in qualifying later Saturday. He had the fastest laps on ultrasoft tires in the two practice sessions on Friday, though Verstappen was right behind him.

Verstappen and Vettel both slid on the slick track early in the third practice session, but maintained control and completed their runs without incident.

Verstappen’s teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, had the sixth-fastest time of the session. The Australian’s chances of winning his fifth career Grand Prix on his home track in Melbourne took a hit late Friday when he was assessed a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

The Australian driver was penalized for driving too fast under red-flag conditions during Friday’s second practice session because of debris on the track.