Qualifying - Chinese GP report: Pirelli
For the third time in four races, qualifying was held in rainy conditions – making this one of the wettest starts to a season in recent memory. The top 10 drivers all used Pirelli’s Cinturato intermediate tyre to set their fastest times for the pole position shoot-out: the only tyre in the range that has not changed compared to last year.
With rain persisting throughout the day, the drivers used the final free practice session in the morning to assess the wet conditions. However, with no set-up changes allowed after qualifying, most drivers were using a compromise setting today – in order to be ready for a dry race tomorrow, which is as equally likely as more rain.
Most drivers used both the full wet and intermediate tyre during the day, with low levels of wear in ambient temperatures that did not exceed 16 degrees centigrade all day.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery said: “The performance of our intermediate tyre, which clears around 25 litres of water per second at top speed, was clearly shown by Williams driver Valtteri Bottas, who reached 316kph – that’s 196mph – on the straight in conditions that were very wet indeed. We saw a crossover time of around 1m56s between the full wet and the intermediate, which underlines the work we have done on the wet tyre over the winter to bring it closer to the intermediate. These haven’t been easy conditions and the circuit is always very demanding on tyres but wear levels have been low: practically non-existent on the rears and just some light abrasion on the front, depending on the team.”
The Pirelli strategy predictor:
With wet conditions today, but only a 50% chance of rain tomorrow, strategy is going to have to be reactive. However, if conditions stay dry, theoretically the fastest way of tackling the 56-lap race (with the best compromise between performance and track position) is as follows: start on soft, change to soft again on lap 14 and then to medium on lap 28.
An alternative two-stop strategy is: start on soft, change to medium on lap 12, then medium again on lap 34.