Speed and tyre strategy the key to Indian Grand Prix
"We’ve already seen an indication of the strategy"
Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel has continued his perfect weekend by claiming a 35th career pole position (his fifth of the season) with a time of 1m25.283s on the P Zero Yellow soft tyre, which has been nominated together with the P Zero Silver hard for the Indian Grand Prix. Vettel has been fastest in every session held at the Buddh circuit so far this weekend.
The Buddh track, which is not used extensively during the year, features a high degree of track evolution: Vettel’s pole lap was more than two seconds faster than the benchmark he set in FP1 on Friday. Because of that, many drivers tried to set their best times in the very closing stages of each session and that had a profound effect on the tyre strategy during qualifying. In Q1 and Q2, no driver could guarantee getting through safely until the chequered flag had fallen, as the times could suddenly get much quicker with little warning.
As always, the teams started Q1 on the hard tyres, with only the HRT team choosing to begin with the soft compound. The frontrunners aimed to use just one set of hard tyres to get through Q1, in order to maximise the number of tyres available to them for the remainder of qualifying and the race. Many drivers then moved onto the soft tyre at the end of Q1. Only Ferrari, Red Bull, McLaren and the Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen went through to Q2 using the hard tyre only.
All the remaining 17 drivers started Q2 on the soft tyres, with the quickest times again coming at the end of the session, held in temperatures of about 30 degrees centigrade ambient. Some drivers tried slipstreaming: gaining an aerodynamic tow by following another car closely in order to increase top speed on the straight.
The final 10-minute session was again run exclusively on the P Zero Yellow soft tyre, with the exception of an installation lap on the hard tyre for Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg. Vettel made a small mistake on his first run but set pole position – as he did last year in India – on his second run, ahead of his team mate Mark Webber. It was the third consecutive Red Bull one-two in qualifying. Rosberg was the only competitor not to set a time in Q3 and can start on whatever compound he chooses tomorrow. The Indian Grand Prix was also only the third race this year where no grid penalties are set to be applied.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery commented: “We’ve already seen an indication of the strategy after a very intriguing qualifying session, where track evolution played a significant part. The tyre wear is looking good on both compounds, with plenty of consistency from both the hard and the soft rubber. So from what we can see so far, we think most of the teams will go for a one-stop strategy. Depending on the car, the soft tyre could be up to a second a lap quicker than the hard tyre: balancing that equation will be the art to the tyre strategy in India. Speed is obviously important here, but so is strategy – and that has been a recurring theme of the whole season.”