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.”

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
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LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.