The top 10 shoot-out began with all the drivers heading out on the supersoft tyre.
Singapore – Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel has clinched his 41st career pole position in Singapore, using the P Zero Red supersoft tyre, nominated along with the P Zero White medium this weekend. A performance gap of approximately two seconds between the two compounds means that strategy is wide open for the rest of the weekend. Vettel’s pole lap (his second in Singapore) was 1m42.821s, less than a tenth of a second ahead of Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg, who qualified second.
Only the Red Bulls and the Lotus of Romain Grosjean completed Q1 on the medium tyre, with Mark Webber fastest of the medium runners in sixth. Fastest overall, on the supersoft, was Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton.
All the drivers started Q2 on the supersoft tyres, generally using the set with which they had finished Q1 for the first run. Vettel was again quickest on his one and only run with a set of supersofts, eight-tenths of a second ahead of his team mate in the runner-up spot who adopted a similar strategy. Both Mercedes also went through to Q3 with just one run, on supersofts.
The top 10 shoot-out began with all the drivers heading out on the supersoft tyre, apart from McLaren’s Jenson Button who went out on the medium tyre but did not set a time. Button then went out for his second run on the supersoft. Vettel clinched pole with his first and only run on the supersoft, while both Ferraris also completed just one run on the supersoft. Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez did not set a time in Q3, but secured his best grid position of the year in 10th.
Vettel went fastest in the final free practice session this morning as well, followed by Lotus’s Romain Grosjean. Vettel set his fastest time on the supersoft tyre, with the two Red Bull cars running first and second for most of the session.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery said: “From the start of the weekend it was clear this race was going to revolve around tyre strategy, but the decisions about that strategy affect qualifying as well. So really it all starts from here, with the race strategy already at work as we saw from Q1. Historically, it’s always been important to qualify well up the grid in Singapore, because it’s not the easiest place to overtake, and with the time gap between the two compounds the supersoft was the way to go during qualifying. However, these tyres need to be considered for the race as well.
The fact that qualifying, like the race, is run at night means that there is a different pattern of track and temperature evolution than we see at other venues. While it’s not a particularly hard track in terms of wear, thermal degradation can be quite high and the fact that there are no long straights and the highest number of corners of any circuit of the year, does challenge the tyres.
The heavy braking that is another characteristic of this track also increases the heat going through the tyres. Tomorrow we would expect between two to three stops, but a lot will depend on outside factors such as temperature and safety cars. Because of all the opportunities for strategy, this race looks to be wide open.”
The Pirelli mystery strategy predictor:
Singapore is one of the hardest races to predict a strategy for, because of the statistically high chance of safety cars. Theoretically, the quickest strategy is a three-stopper but in reality, because of the traffic and likely race conditions, most teams will adopt a two-stopper. So one likely strategy is: start on the supersoft, then change to medium on lap 16 and supersoft again on lap 39. An alternative is exactly the same strategy, but using the medium instead of the supersoft during the final stint.