HAMILTON ON POLE WITH SOFT TYRE FOR INAUGURAL RUSSIAN GRAND PRIX
LAP TIME DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MEDIUM AND SOFT DOWN TO 1.2 SECONDS
ONE STOP STRATEGY POSSIBLE: WEAR AND DEGRADATION VERY LOW
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton has claimed pole position for the first Russian Grand Prix using the P Zero Yellow soft tyre, nominated along with the P Zero White medium tyre at Sochi. The Englishman set a time of 1m38.513s using the soft tyre in Q3, ahead of his team mate Nico Rosberg. This was the ninth Mercedes one-two in qualifying this season.
The performance gap between the two P Zero compounds has come down compared to yesterday, from 1.5 seconds to 1.2 seconds. This difference still leaves plenty of strategy options open, with the possibility that some teams might try stopping only once on account of the low wear and degradation.
A one-stop strategy has become even more likely with the news that the pit lane speed limit has been reduced to 60kph for safety reasons. This will increase the total pit stop time to approximately 24 seconds, meaning that teams will aim to reduce the amount of time spent in the pits during the race.
No team felt confident enough to attempt to get through Q1 using the medium tyres only, with the soft tyre dominating qualifying, held in warm and dry conditions with ambient temperatures of 25 degrees centigrade.
Hamilton completed just one run in the final Q3 session, setting a fastest time that was actually not as quick as the time he set in Q2. Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat put in his best-ever qualifying performance to line up fifth on the grid for his home grand prix.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery said: “As expected, the performance gap between the two compounds has come down a bit compared to yesterday while degradation is minimal. We will probably see the drivers keeping their tyres for as long as possible, with a one-stop strategy now looking a distinct possibility, also because of the fact that the pit lane speed limit has been reduced. The faster cars may allow themselves the luxury of a two-stopper, following more of a sprint strategy. Either way, it’s going to be an interesting race at a significant new venue, where tyre tactics are set to play a central role.”
The Pirelli strategy predictor:
A one-stop strategy is theoretically fastest for the 53-lap Russian Grand Prix, now that the pit lane speed limit has been reduced to 60kph. However, this will depend also on the inherent speed in each car, as well as track position. The ideal one-stop strategy goes as follows: start on the soft tyre, change to the medium on lap 34 and then run to the end. The opposite strategy is just as quick: start on the medium and then change to the soft on lap 18, although this will not be used by the top 10 on the grid. The fastest two-stop strategy is: start on the soft, change to the soft again on lap 20, then to the medium on lap 50.
Fastest compounds in FP3:
Top 10 tyre use: