Mixed strategies for the Chinese Grand Prix
Lewis Hamilton has taken his first pole for Mercedes, setting a time of 1m34.484s on the Pirelli P Zero Yellow soft tyre: more than half a second faster than last year’s pole. The Pirelli P Zero White medium has also been nominated for
the Chinese Grand Prix.
Most of the drivers, with the exception of the Toro Rosso duo (who started on the medium tyre) used the Pirelli 235 55 r17
P Zero Yellow soft tyre over just one run for Q1, which got underway in ambient temperatures of 27 degrees centigrade and track temperatures of 41 degrees centigrade.
The final Q3 session gave an important indication of tomorrow’s race strategies, which look set to be very varied. Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel and McLaren’s Jenson Button
chose to go out on the medium 235 55 r17 tyre but only Button set a time on the medium. Consequently, Vettel – as well as Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg, who also did not set a time – will be able to choose which compound they start the race on tomorrow.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery said: “It’s clear that tyre strategy is going to play a key role tomorrow and we saw that in qualifying today. With a difference of around 1.5 seconds between the 235 55 r17 medium and the soft tyre, qualifying on the softer compound was the natural choice in terms of outright time. However, the soft tyre delivers its best in qualifying over just one lap – a little bit like a qualifying tyre – which is why the drivers left it until late in many of the sessions to go out and set a time. Although tyre degradation will improve when fuel loads go down and more rubber is laid down on the track tomorrow, the medium tyre seems to be the tyre to race on, so this really opens up a number of different possibilities in terms of strategy. We think that most drivers will go for three stops although two is possible, especially for those starting on the medium tyre. If we’d brought the hard tyre, we would probably be looking at one stop, so although degradation of the soft tyre here has been on the high side so far, we’re confident that we’re in for another action-packed race tomorrow – as has so often been the case in China.”
Pirelli mystery strategy predictor:
Three stops looks to be the fastest strategy for the 56-lap race tomorrow: start on the soft, change to medium between laps six to nine, medium again from lap 22-26, medium again from lap 39-43.
An alternative strategy would be to start on the medium, change for another set of mediums between lap 15-18, one more set of mediums between lap 33-35 and go for a set of softs around lap 46.
A two-stop strategy is possible for teams that keep the degradation of the soft tyre under control. However, this may leave a two-stopper vulnerable to the three-stoppers behind, unless the difference in lap times between the two compounds reduces.