Alfa Romeo Chief Racing Engineer Heavy Pujolar on strategy and impressions of the two-day weekend …
Question The team has achieved an excellent result. Did he surprise you?
Heavy Puholar: Partly yes, we didn’t expect to score points in a race like this on an unfamiliar track. It is difficult to overtake in Imola, so the rivals drove long stretches and loaded tires, and in such a situation there is always a chance. We tried to keep up – and everything worked out.
Q: Was it difficult for Kimi to complete 48 laps on Medium?
Heavy PuholarA: In my opinion, Medium and Hard tires can be ridden indefinitely. True, we did not know how to keep the rubber in the working range if it cooled down. Hard was the most questionable, so we tried to avoid it. The toughest train is more temperature sensitive than the Medium, on which we covered a long distance.
The team decided that Antonio would start at Soft. We knew that this rubber would withstand a short distance. We reasoned like this: “Okay, Antonio starts far behind. Perhaps, the opponents will be afraid to pass the first segment on Soft, so we will give Antonio a chance to win back several positions ”. In the case of Kimi, we were just waiting for what happens at the end of the race, if there is a safety car. It turned out that we did not wait for him a little. That happens.
Q: Why did you plan Kimi’s pit stop on the 49th lap, and not on the 52nd or 46th, for example?
Heavy Puholar: By that time, Russell had picked up the pace and Antonio couldn’t attack him. Our only chance is to get ahead of George with strategy. At some point, we asked Kimi to add, so that after the pit stop he would stay ahead of Williams. But on Hard tires, George rode at a faster pace than we did. In addition, we had to keep an eye on Vettel, who, after switching to Hard, drove behind Kimi at an excellent pace.
We wanted to get ahead of Russell. The only way to do this is to make a pit stop and put on the Soft tires, taking advantage of the fact that George’s tires will cool down while he will let Hamilton go around.
We reasoned like this: now George will be shown blue flags, his tires will cool down – it makes sense to attack him. And we decided to hold a pit stop for Kimi. Unfortunately, at that time we could not get ahead of him. But then Russell’s tires cooled down from the safety car and he crashed the car. This is bad for him, but it played into our hands.
Question: What do you think about the efficiency of the machine? What have you added the most?
Heavy Puholar: At the beginning of the season we had problems in qualifications, then we made progress. In this regard, the weekend of Imole is not the best example, because we expected to get to the second part of qualification, but this did not happen.
Thanks to the work with the car and with the rubber, we found a compromise between the speed on one lap and the racing pace – in this regard, we are progressing. But in the middle of the peloton – at least our immediate rivals – very tight results. And everyone is trying to play every fraction of a second, so it’s not easy for us.
Question In Imola, the teams had only one training session – this is not enough to prepare for the race. What surprised you during the race?
Heavy Puholar: We missed Friday training – there are many questions left. Some teams worked conservatively with tires. Conditions have changed slightly. But as a result, the race turned out to be more interesting.
Perhaps this time we acted more aggressively – not so much with Kimi as with Antonio. We tried not to miss anything: in the case of Antonio, we wanted to react to early pit stops, and with Kimi – to late ones, depending on different scenarios with a safety car. Giovinazzi made a pit stop quite early, and we were surprised that even those riders who started on Medium reacted to this – they switched to Hard. But the fight in the middle of the peloton became even more interesting.
Q: Every time we come to a new track, we get a great race!
Heavy Puholar: Yes. And I think a two-day weekend format is good for the show.