Pirelli has set the fastest ever lap in qualifying for the Turkish Grand Prix at Istanbul Park, thanks to a time of 1m25.049s for Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel. The German driver set his fifth consecutive pole position today and the 19th of his career.
Before the session got underway, Pirelli President Marco Tronchetti Provera met all the drivers outside the Pirelli motorhome in the paddock this morning, followed by Formula One’s promoter Bernie Ecclestone.
At the conclusion of qualifying in the afternoon, the time that Vettel set on Pirelli’s soft PZero tyres was more than a second faster than the pole position last year, 1m26.295s.
This remarkable achievement was despite Vettel missing the entirety of the second free practice session yesterday afternoon, after he went off in wet conditions in the morning.
Qualifying, by contrast, was held in dry and bright conditions with 18 degrees ambient temperature and 35 degrees of track temperature. All the top 10 used the soft tyre to set their times, with Vettel qualifying 0.4s ahead of his team mate Mark Webber in second. Nico Rosberg put in his best qualifying performance since the 2010 Malaysian Grand Prix to claim third on the grid for Mercedes, saving an extra set of soft tyres in Q3 that he will be able to use in the race tomorrow. Both Red Bulls also chose to make only one early run in Q3, sitting out the rest of the final session to maximise their opportunities for tyre strategy.
The challenge of the Istanbul Park circuit is typified by the well-known multi-apex Turn Eight, which puts particular stress on the front-right tyre. Despite this massive loading, during which the tyres experience 4.5G of lateral acceleration and approximately 950 kilograms of vertical force, the Pirelli covers have stood up well to the demands of the weekend so far.
Pirelli’s Motorsport Director Paul Hembery said: “It’s been a great qualifying session, and I’d like to congratulate not only Sebastian Vettel but also Mercedes for a fantastic performance. All the ingredients are there for an exciting race tomorrow, and the teams are already thinking about their tyre strategy. In terms of tyre wear here, the front-right tyre is the limiting factor, but we’ve already seen teams completing up to 20 laps here with this tyre, so we’re confident that this shouldn’t be an issue. We’re expecting dry weather, which means that we should see about three pit stops, but different teams are likely to try different things: just one of the elements that has made Formula One so interesting this year.”