Track temperature increases significantly in the afternoon but wear and degradation is in line with expectations or less than expected.
Barcelona – The medium tyre, which is now about eight-tenths of a second faster than the hard tyre, held the key to qualifying in Barcelona. Yesterday the gap between the compounds was on average over a second, but this difference has now been reduced.
The drivers faced a tough task during qualifying, with track temperatures increasing considerably during the afternoon compared to the morning, peaking at 44 degrees centigrade.
This is likely to be the case again for the race tomorrow, but despite these demanding conditions and the high-energy load through the tyres, a maximum of three pit stops is expected for the majority of runners. There was no graining, while wear and degradation has also diminished throughout the weekend so far.
With Formula One returning to Europe, this was only the second qualifying session all year (after Bahrain) that was held in entirely dry conditions. For the first time in their history, Mercedes claimed a fifth consecutive pole position, clinching their second one-two on the grid this season.
Mercedes driver Hamilton, who saved a set of medium tyres by getting through Q1 on the hard tyre, took pole position for the 35th time in his career. This puts him just 10 poles behind the 45 pole positions claimed by Red Bull’s Sebastien Vettel: the most successful driver of the Pirelli era.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery: “When the teams analyse the data tonight, they will decide between a two or a three stop race, as in many cases the simulation data suggests almost identical race times between the two approaches. As ever, the first stint on full fuel will be key to this. Qualifying in Barcelona went very much the way that people expected, even though the teams did not test here this year and two red flags interrupted the session, which clearly affected qualifying strategies as well.
Track conditions between free practice this morning and qualifying were very different, which obviously had an effect on the grip levels, but these are the conditions we can expect for the race tomorrow as well. Historically, the driver starting from pole here has the race win very much stacked in his favour.
However, Fernando Alonso’s famous win here last year from fifth on the grid shows just what is possible with a good race strategy. The tyres are the same for everybody and Formula One is a meritocracy: so it will simply be down to which teams and drivers are able to get the most out of them.”
The Pirelli strategy predictor:
According to our calculations, the fastest way to approach the 66-lap race is with three stops. Start on the medium tyre, change to the medium on lap 20, medium again on lap 38, and hard on lap 54.
A two-stop strategy could also be possible. In which case: start on the medium, change to medium on lap 22, then change to hard on lap 45.