One pit stop expected in a sprint race tomorrow with low wear and degradation.
Monza, September 6, 2014 – Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton has claimed pole position at Monza with a time of 1m24.109s, set on the medium tyre, which is nominated together with the hard tyre this weekend. Hamilton’s time was less than half a second off last year’s pole time of 1m23.755s, underlining the pace of development this season.
His team mate Nico Rosberg will line up second on the grid, marking the sixth one-two in qualifying for Mercedes this season, and the fifth pole for Hamilton in 2014.
With low wear and degradation, and the medium tyre offering more than half a second of speed advantage per lap over the hard, tyre tactics were in evidence from the start of the session, with the drivers in Q1 trying to keep as many new sets of the faster medium tyres for the race as possible.
As a result, the frontrunners tried to get through Q1 using the hard tyres only. The Toro Rosso, Force India and Sauber teams used the medium tyres to go through to Q2, whereas the others ran only the hard compound.
From that point, all the drivers used the medium tyre from Q2 onwards – with the regulations stating that the tyre set used by the top 10 on the grid to set their fastest times in Q2 is the one that they will start the race on. Consequently, drivers had to take particular care of the second set used in Q2, while trying to set the best time possible to get through to the final top 10.
As usual, the drivers tried to leave it as late as possible to set their fastest times in Q3, to take advantage of optimal track temperatures and the most rubber possible laid down on the track. The low degradation of the medium tyre also meant that more than one flying lap was possible. However, Hamilton – the winner of the Italian Grand Prix from pole position in 2012 – set his best time during his first run.
During the final free practice session this morning, Hamilton was again fastest ahead of Fernando Alonso for Ferrari. Both were using the P Zero White medium compound.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery said: “We’re looking forward to an exciting sprint race on our home territory tomorrow – the grand prix should theoretically last less than an hour and twenty minutes – with Monza living up to its reputation as the ‘temple of speed’.
We’ve seen top speeds in excess of 350kph during qualifying, which means that the structure of the tyre is the aspect that is most challenged here: wear and degradation is going to be very low on both compounds while the surface is not at all abrasive, which means that we’re looking at a one stop race tomorrow. From a tyre point of view, it should be a reasonably straightforward race.
The timing of that pit stop is going to be a key factor in the race strategy: we expect the drivers to go as long as possible on the medium tyre, but the stint length will be affected in inverse proportion to track temperature.”
The Pirelli strategy predictor:
The 53-lap race is going to be an easy one-stopper, with conditions expected to remain dry. The most likely winning strategy will be to start on the medium tyre and then switch to the hard on lap 23. Starting on the hard tyre and then switching to medium on lap 30 gives the same theoretical race time, but there is a bigger risk of traffic. If track temperatures turn out to be slightly higher than expected, those starting on the medium tyre may pit a little sooner: at around the lap 18-20 mark.