At the circuit where he sealed his first pole and Formula One victory, becoming the youngest man ever to win a grand prix, Red Bull Racing’s Sebastian Vettel claimed his 10th pole position of the year, ahead of McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton. It was the Austrian constructor’s 13th pole of the season, with Vettel using the P Zero Yellow soft tyres to record a pole time of 1m22.275s.
Vettel was nearly four-tenths faster than anybody else during the final free practice session this morning, underlining the potential of his car with the soft tyres, which are expected to last for up to 20 laps in race conditions, even in warm temperatures such as the 29 degrees that characterised qualifying. Similar conditions are expected for the race tomorrow.
All the drivers apart from Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) set their fastest times on the soft tyre, which was just under a second per lap faster than the P Zero White medium as the track rubbered in and temperatures climbed. Most drivers are expected to stop twice in the race tomorrow: although the versatility of the P Zero tyres means that a number of different strategies will be possible. In the closing seconds of Q2, Lotus Renault driver Bruno Senna claimed the final slot for Q3 by just six thousandths of a second – but Force India driver Paul di Resta, who slipped to 11th, will be able to start on whichever tyre compound he likes (the top 10 have to start the race on the tyre they used for qualifying). As Senna did not set a time, he can also choose which tyres to start on.
The final qualifying session was led by the two Ferraris, first out on track at their home circuit for Q3 using the P Zero Yellow tyres. With many drivers trying to use slipstreaming to their advantage, Vettel improved on his own benchmark by three-tenths of a second in the closing seconds of the session. Lewis Hamilton was half a second behind him, having used a set of the soft tyres to get through Q2: although the time he set earlier in the session on the medium tyres would actually have been enough to get him through to the final 10. Senna did not go out at all in the final session, and he will consequently start from 10th.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery commented: “Conditions were hotter than ever today, which obviously makes life tougher for the tyres. However, we’re seeing a very solid and even wear rate, with the soft tyres and medium tyres about eight-tenths of a second apart in terms of performance. This opens up a wide range of possibilities when it comes to strategy, and we’ve already seen Mercedes and Lotus Renault taking quite a different direction with Rosberg and Senna during qualifying. It’s going to be fascinating to see what effect these approaches have on the race tomorrow, which is set to be a very proud moment in our history.”
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