Pirelli hoping for “no more than three” stops in Spanish GP

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Home hero Fernando Alonso may have won last year’s Spanish Grand Prix on a four-stop strategy, but Pirelli predicts that it won’t come to that when Formula One returns to the Circuit de Catalunya this weekend.

F1’s tire maker has rolled out their medium and hard compounds for teams to tackle the abrasive Barcelona circuit, and its motorsport director, Paul Hembery, has said that they expect to see “no more than three” stops for most drivers in Sunday’s main event (7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra for online/mobile devices).

“In the past, we’ve seen up to four pit stops in Spain,” Hembery said. “With the changes we have made to the tires this year, we would now hope to see no more than three for the majority of drivers.

“We made a solid start to our preparations for next year with the first dedicated in-season tire tests in Bahrain. We’re looking forward to building on that work with four teams in Spain after the Grand Prix.”

That particular test at Barcelona will feature Sauber, Toro Rosso, Force India and McLaren focusing on tire development.

With the left-side tires worked over particularly hard on this circuit, the compounds are subjected to noticeably high energy loads. Additionally, with only one long straightaway, the circuit doesn’t give the tires much of a chance to cool down.

“The surface is quite abrasive but the main thing is all the fast corners that you accelerate through, which take a lot out of the rear tires in particular,” said Pirelli consultant and former F1 driver Jean Alesi. “So this means that having the right set-up is absolutely essential to control degradation.

“If you don’t do that, you end up destroying the rear tires and you lose pace very quickly. The other problem becomes braking and acceleration: with worn tires, it also takes longer to brake and find traction out of the corners.”

Audi bids farewell to Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich upon retirement

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Audi bid farewell to its iconic head of motorsport, Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, at its end-of-season ‘Race Night’ event in Germany on Friday upon his retirement.

Ullrich took over the reins as Audi’s head of motorsport in 1993 and stayed in the role for 23 years, overseeing its arrival in the prototype class of sports car racing and domination of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Ullrich stepped down from the position at the end of 2016, handing the reins over to ex-Audi DTM chief Dieter Gass, and attended his final racing event with the German marque at its first works Formula E outing in Hong Kong earlier this month.

Ullrich was honored at the Race Night event on Friday and thanked for his efforts in developing Audi into a force within global motorsport.

“In 566 factory-backed commitments during this period he celebrated 209 victories, 13 of them in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, eleven in the 12-hour race at Sebring and nine in the ‘Petit Le Mans’ at Road Atlanta,” a piece on Ullrich’s tenure for Audi’s website reads.

“31 driver titles in super touring car racing, in the DTM and in the sports prototype category are credited to him. 57 campaigners were Audi factory drivers during Wolfgang Ullrich’s era and he was responsible for 18 new developments of racing cars – an impressive tally.”