Today was the first qualifying session for Pirelli’s new P Zero Yellow soft compound tire as it made its competition debut in Brazil (the new compound which will form the basis of the medium tire in 2012). As well as the soft compound, the other nominated tire for the Brazilian Grand Prix is the current P Zero White medium.
Two-time world champion Sebastian Vettel used the Pirelli tires to become the driver who has scored the most pole positions in one season. By claiming his 15th pole position at the 19th and last grand prix of the year, the Red Bull Racing driver beats the record established by Nigel Mansell that has stood since 1992.
Qualifying got underway in ambient temperatures of 81° Fahrenheit with cloudy conditions, underlining the risk of rain that is frequently a feature of the Brazilian Grand Prix. In order to get in a lap as quickly as possible, most drivers headed straight out at the beginning of qualifying one, with both Red Bulls, both McLarens, Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso and Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg using the P Zero White mediums to get through to qualifying two. The sudden rush caused plenty of traffic on one of the shortest circuits of the year, adding to the challenge for the drivers.
It was a similar story during qualifying two, but this time all the drivers went straight onto the P Zero Yellow soft tires in order to maximize dry running, with rain clouds just two kilometers away. The top drivers completed just one run during qualifying two, in order to maintain as many fresh soft tires as possible for the final session.
Conditions remained dry for qualifying three, with different approaches from the top runners on the P Zero Yellow tires. McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton and Rosberg both completed a slower lap to warm up the tires followed by a fast lap, while the Red Bull Racing cars and McLaren’s Jenson Button were straight onto a quick lap.
Vettel set a time of 1m12.268s on his first run and then beat his own benchmark during the second run with a time of 1m11.918s on the soft tires. His team mate Mark Webber qualified second ahead of the two McLarens. Mercedes driver Michael Schumacher went out on the medium tire but did not set a time.
Vettel also went quickest during the final free practice session this morning, held in dry and warm conditions, with a time of 1m12.460s on the P Zero Yellow: fractionally ahead of McLaren driver Jenson Button.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery commented: “It was interesting for us to see the performance of our new compound in qualifying conditions, and I’d like to congratulate Sebastian Vettel for breaking the record of the most number of poles in one season with a spectacular lap: I actually had a bet with one of my colleagues that somebody would get under the 1m12s mark today. After the threat of rain didn’t materialize, it turned out to be a reasonably straightforward qualifying, but most people are expecting a much more mixed up race tomorrow. That’s obviously going to have a huge impact on the strategy, so we may well see our P Zero Orange wet tires and P Zero Blue intermediates making their final appearance of the year.”
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