Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel has claimed his third pole position in a row with Pirelli, his fourth consecutive pole in Formula One and his third pole position in China.
The German used Pirelli’s hard compound tyres to get into Q2, before switching to the soft compound to set a fastest time of 1m33.706s in the final session, eclipsing his own pole position time last year of 1m34.558s by eight-tenths of a second.
The top three, completed by the McLarens of Jenson Button (1m34.421s) and Lewis Hamilton (1m34.463s) were all faster than last year’s pole.
The vast majority of the drivers remaining after Q1 used the soft compound tyres in the second and third sessions, which proved to be extremely effective in the relatively cool conditions of Shanghai. Ambient temperatures were 17 degrees centigrade with a track temperature of 22 degrees centigrade. There were also gusting winds in the region of five metres per second.
Vettel timed his tactics perfectly, as tyre management is now an essential part of qualifying to ensure that the desired quantities of hard and soft tyres are available to support the planned race strategy. “The main thing is that your tyres are in good shape and I think we did a good job,” concluded Vettel, who had also topped the times in the final free practice session this morning.
There was little tyre degradation and a lap time difference of around a second and a half between the hard and the soft tyres, as predicted. This means that the soft tyres should last around 13-14 laps, while the hard tyres should be good for 19-20 laps. The leading runners are likely to opt for a two-stop strategy, but there is a possibility of some teams trying for one or three stops.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery commented: “It’s been another very exciting and eventful session, which has underlined not only the performance but also the consistency of our tyres. A number of drivers were able to set their fastest times on used soft tyres, proving that the drop-off is manageable enough to provide a good spread of performance over a stint. All the leading teams have shown themselves to be very competitive, so the indications are that we’re going to have a very closely-fought race tomorrow.”
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