Monza – Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel has taken his 40th pole position of his career at the famed Monza circuit, after the fastest qualifying session of the year. Vettel’s pole time of 1m23.755s was marginally quicker than Lewis Hamilton’s pole benchmark from last year (1m24.010s).
Conditions remained hot and dry throughout qualifying, which started with ambient temperatures of 30 degrees centigrade and track temperatures of 43 degrees. The majority of the drivers began Q1 on the hard tyres, but most drivers opted for the White medium towards the end. The Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton, the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso and the Red Bull cars remained on the Orange hard throughout Q1.
The drivers who went through to Q2 all started on the medium tyres. Most completed two runs, but as usual strategy was much in evidence throughout the sessions as teams reacted to what their direct rivals were doing.
The final Q3 sessions went down to the closing seconds, with Vettel taking pole on his final flying lap with the medium tyre, ahead of his team-mate Mark Webber and the Sauber of Nico Hulkenberg.
During free practice this morning Vettel was once again fastest, running the P Zero Orange hard tyre, as teams refined their qualifying and race set-ups.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery said: “Monza once more provided a thrilling qualifying session, which showcased the pure speed of the drivers and cars on top of the championship, as well as our tyres. Tomorrow we’re expecting to see most of the teams adopting a one-stop strategy, with the uncertainty being whether they will choose to start on the medium or hard compounds.
Even though we’re expecting slightly cooler weather for the race there will still be huge demands on the tyres, but so far blistering has not been an issue. With a performance gap of around half a second between the two compounds, there is plenty of scope for the teams to adjust their strategy in order to try and gain track position, although Monza also provides plenty of opportunities for on-track overtaking.
In particular, it will be interesting to see which drivers choose to start on the harder compound in order to run a longer first stint. Last year’s race showed just what a difference the right tyre strategy can make, with Sergio Perez in the Sauber finishing second after having started from 13th on the grid.”
The Pirelli mystery strategy predictor:
In theory, a one-stop strategy is the fastest for the 53 laps of Monza, but a fast car could make use of a two-stop sprint strategy – so teams are likely to build in some degree of flexibility to their strategy plans.
The fastest one-stop strategy goes as follows: start on the medium, change to the hard on lap 25 and then run to the end. Equally as fast could be to start on the hard tyre, with a change to the medium on lap 28 and then run to the end.
An alternative two-stop strategy is: start on the medium, change to the medium again on lap 22 and then run a final set of hard tyres from lap 41.