TYRE STRATEGY EVIDENT FROM START OF QUALIFYING AS ALL DRIVERS USE SUPERSOFT IN Q1
HAMILTON ON POLE AFTER CLOSEST QUALIFYING SESSION OF THE YEAR
THREE PIT STOPS EXPECTED TO BE FASTEST RACE STRATEGY, WITH 100% HISTORICAL PROBABILITY OF A SAFETY CAR
Singapore, September 20, 2014 – With first and second on the grid in Singapore thanks to Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, Mercedes has claimed its seventh monopoly of the front-row this season – but tyre strategy will be extremely important for the race tomorrow. It was the closest qualifying session of the year, with Hamilton clinching pole from his team mate by just seven-thousandths of a second, using the P Zero Red supersoft tyre.
During Q1, which got underway in ambient temperatures of 28 degrees and 34 degrees of track temperature, most drivers used both the soft and supersoft tyres. All the drivers ended the session on the supersoft – an unusual situation, as normally the top runners get through Q1 using only the harder of the two available compounds.
But with a considerable time difference between the two compounds of just over two seconds, it was necessary for even the frontrunners to use the supersoft in Q1: affecting the strategy for the rest of qualifying. In an ideal world, drivers in the top 10 would want two new sets of supersofts for Q3, allowing them two runs for a shot at pole. As a result, a number of drivers – including Hamilton, Ricciardo and both Ferrari drivers – decided only to go for one run on new supersofts in Q2, to maximise tyre life for Q3, where under this year’s regulations the top 10 receive an extra set of the softer compound to use in the session. All the drivers went for two runs in Q3, saving one set of new supersofts for the second run.
Totalling 23 corners, Singapore has the most turns of the season. This has the effect of magnifying the time gap between Pirelli’s soft and supersoft compounds that have been nominated for the weekend, because traction out of slow corners – which typify Singapore – is where most performance is gained or lost. As a result, overtaking is quite tricky and gaining a good grid position is vital. But with the time difference between the two compounds, there should still be plenty of action.
Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso was the fastest driver in the final free practice session this morning, as cars concentrated particularly on race pace. Alonso – one of only three drivers ever to have won in Singapore – set a time of 1m47.299s on the supersoft rubber.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery said: “We saw the closest qualifying session of the year, and a lot of that was down to the two-second gap between the compounds, which has actually come down a bit compared to free practice yesterday. Because of that time difference, there was a strategic element right from the start of qualifying, with all the drivers having to use the supersoft even in Q1. The battle for pole was extremely exciting, with a number of drivers in contention for the top spot, which is great for the sport. We’re expecting a three-stopper to be the quickest strategy, but with the time gap between the compounds slightly reduced now, all it takes is the right pace management or a safety car at the right time to make a two-stopper work.”
The Pirelli strategy predictor:
A three-stop strategy looks set to be best for the 61-lap race. Our theoretical simulation, considering the high probability of the safety car especially at the beginning of the race, suggests: start on the supersoft, change to supersoft again on lap 20, supersoft again on lap 36 and then finish the race on the soft from lap 51. On paper, this should result in a cumulative race time that is around 10 seconds quicker than the fastest two-stopper (start on supersoft, change to supersoft again on lap 22 and soft on lap 44). In fact, there is historically 100% probability of a safety car in Singapore, and this will clearly have a significant effect on strategy.
Fastest compounds in FP3:
Alonso 1m47.299s Supersoft new
Ricciardo 1m47.350s Supersoft new
Rosberg 1m47.488s Supersoft new
Top 10 tyre use:
Hamilton 1m45.681s Supersoft new
Rosberg 1m45.688s Supersoft new
Ricciardo 1m45.854s Supersoft new
Vettel 1m45.902s Supersoft new
Alonso 1m45.907s Supersoft new
Massa 1m46.000s Supersoft new
Raikkonen 1m46.170s Supersoft new
Bottas 1m46.187s Supersoft new
Magnussen 1m46.250s Supersoft new
Kvyat 1m47.362s Supersoft new