Newly-crowned World Champion Sebastian Vettel has claimed another pole position with the P Zero Yellow soft tyre: his 13th pole position of the year and the ninth that he has taken with Pirelli’s soft compound. Vettel set a time of 1m24.178s – more than three seconds faster than the time he set during the very first free practice session on Friday.
The dusty ‘green’ conditions of the all-new Buddh circuit still made the track slippery despite a full day of running yesterday, and one Formula One practice session this morning. Once again, there proved to be a notable difference of up to two seconds per lap between the P Zero Silver hard tyre and P Zero Yellow soft tyre.
This meant that the soft tyre was used by all the teams from the second qualifying session onwards, with most of the teams already switching to the softer tyres at the end of the first session. Only the Red Bull Racing duo of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber, the Ferraris of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, together with the McLaren of Lewis Hamilton, were able to use only the hard tyre to get through to the second session.
In order to save their allocation of soft tyres for the race, some of the drivers – including both Force India cars, competing at home – completed just one run during the second qualifying session. At the bottom end of the top 10 in qualifying two, the competition was so tight that that the 10th and 11th placed drivers, Alguersuari and Petrov, recorded exactly the same time. As Alguersuari set his time first, he is placed in front of Petrov.
Four cars (Alonso, Hamilton, Massa and Webber) came out of the pits at the beginning of the third and final qualifying session, with Vettel, McLaren’s Jenson Button and Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg emerging later. Force India’s Adrian Sutil left the pits but did not set a lap time, whereas the two Toro Rosso cars of Sebastian Buemi and Alguersuari did not come out at all and will consequently start from ninth and 10th places, just behind Sutil.
The consistency of Vettel’s pace on the P Zero Yellow tyre was also shown during the final free practice session this morning, when he set a time of 1m24.824s on his final lap, which was four-tenths of a second faster than his nearest rival. Between two and three pit stops are expected for most drivers in the race, although a one-stop strategy is not out of the question for any team wanting to try something different.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery commented: “The fact that dominated qualifying was the difference in speed of about two seconds per lap between our hard and our soft compounds, although we saw Vettel going quicker on the hard tyres during the first qualifying session than anyone else on the soft tyre. This performance gap between the compounds meant that the teams concentrated on the soft tyres during final qualifying. We’ve seen very good durability and performance from the soft tyre, which we’re expecting to last between 20 to 25 laps tomorrow, with the hard tyre being able to complete many more. The information that we’ve gathered so far is already going to be very useful when it comes to selecting our compounds for next year – which is one of our priorities as this season draws to a close.”
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