A strategic qualifying for Ferrari in German GP

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The rules state that drivers who take part in the final top-ten shoot-out part of qualifying, must start the race on the tyres with which they finished the Saturday afternoon session.

Felipe Massa will start tomorrow’s German Grand Prix from the inside of the fourth row of the grid, not exactly a fantastic starting position, so how come the Brazilian reckons he could have a “fantastic result” tomorrow? It’s all down to the way this afternoon’s qualifying was run, proving yet again that Formula 1 can at times have more in common with a cerebral game of chess than an out and out sporting contest.

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari F138
Fernando Alonso, Ferrari F138

Photo by: XPB Images

In the case of Scuderia Ferrari, the board-game began on Friday, as soon it was clear that tyre degradation on the softer Option tyre was high. Combined with the honest assessment that the F138 is currently not a contender for the top slots on the grid, the Prancing Horse engineers began to feed a few unusual “what ifs” into the equation.

The answer that came out was that starting the race on the harder Prime tyre might see our two drivers running at a very fast pace with clear air ahead of them, as those who had started on the Soft tyre would have to pit as early as lap 8 and therefore run into traffic as they emerged from pit lane on their new Mediums.

Just to make it clear, the rules state that drivers who take part in the final top-ten shoot-out part of qualifying, must start the race on the tyres with which they finished the Saturday afternoon session.

Therefore even though Felipe and team-mate Fernando Alonso, who qualified one place behind the Brazilian in eighth, were very competitive in the first two parts of the session, the Scuderia strategists stuck to their guns and sent the drivers out on the Medium and therefore slightly slower tyres, for their final attempt in Q3. However, as Fernando said, we won’t know if this unusual strategy will work until it happens.

Of those going for what we will call a “conventional” qualifying, Lewis Hamilton steered his Mercedes around the Nurburgring to record his second consecutive pole position after Silverstone. Alongside him tomorrow will be the Red Bull of series leader Sebastian Vettel, while the second row sees the German’s team-mate Mark Webber in third spot, flanked by Kimi Raikkonen in the Lotus. On the inside of Row 3, is the Finn’s team-mate Romain Grosjean, with Daniel Ricciardo sixth for Toro Rosso. And then we have our own all-red Row 4…

Fernando Alonso: “The strategy we used today was dictated by looking at our average qualifying performance, given that pole is not yet within our grasp and the two scenarios were either starting fifth or sixth on the Soft tyres or start sixth or seventh on the Mediums. We won’t know the true worth of our choice until tomorrow.

Maybe here it’s not too important to start from the front because the Soft tyre shows very high degradation and so, from lap 8 onwards the run of pit stops will begin and traffic will build up. At that point we will have to push like if they were all qualifying laps.

All weekend we have been off the pace by an average of six tenths, but compared to Silverstone we can say we are back to normal, capable of fighting in the lead group. Of course, we still need to improve a lot, but in the race we think we can be in the hunt, without forgetting that, regardless of the tyres and the starting positions, it’s the fastest who wins”.

Felipe Massa: "In terms of performance, it was a good qualifying, even if we opted for a completely different strategy to the teams who are ahead of us on the grid. The car worked very well and with the Soft tyres, we were very competitive, more so than at Silverstone, where we suffered on both compounds, but even so, we could not have ended up any higher than fourth or fifth.

When I saw I was first at the end of Q1 and Q2, I felt like I wanted to fight all the way to the finish, but based on the simulation we carried out during free practice, we felt our choice was the right direction to go in. It’s hard to think we will be able to make up places immediately starting on the Medium tyres, but yesterday we saw that the Softs degrade after just a few laps and this could work out to our advantage. If the car handles well and we manage to have a good race, we could get a really fantastic result”.

Pat Fry: “The comparison carried out yesterday between the Soft and Medium compounds opened the door to various possibilities, both for qualifying and the race and today’s result is fully in line with what we had expected. The decision to tackle qualifying thinking only about our race strategy was actually dictated by the difference we saw in terms of degradation for the two types of tyre.

Overall, our car performance was good, even if it was affected by many factors, including the higher temperatures we saw today. Even though Felipe and Fernando were front runners in Q1 and Q2, we stuck to the choice we made at the start. We didn’t feel it was a realistic target to fight for the front rows and we preferred to stick with our pace, trying a different strategy.

Clearly, as always, tomorrow everything will depend on how competitive are the two F138s and how good is their pace. From one point of view, we feel that the high degradation of the Soft compound will force our rivals who are ahead of us, to make an early first stop and that traffic might then limit their pace, while we will be going for a longer first stint which should allow us to make up ground”.

Scuderia Ferrari

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Series F1
Article type Qualifying report
Tags alonso, f1, ferrari, german gp, massa, nurburgring

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