Mercedes, Red Bull likely to gamble on softs in Q2

Mercedes and Red Bull are both likely to gamble on getting through Q2 in Austin on the soft Pirelli tyre in order to give themselves an advantage for the United States Grand Prix.

Mercedes, Red Bull likely to gamble on softs in Q2
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W07 Hybrid
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB12
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W07 Hybrid
Nico Rosberg, Mercedes AMG F1 W07 Hybrid
Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing RB12
Nico Rosberg, Mercedes AMG F1 W07 Hybrid

The consensus is that avoiding having to use the supersoft on Sunday would be a huge advantage, and in FP3 today Mercedes in particular focussed on the soft.

Lewis Hamilton was fourth on 1m37.4s and Nico Rosberg fifth on 1m37.7s, both with best times set on the soft after neither man was able to complete a clear flying lap on supersofts at the end of the session.

Tenth place in FP3 was occupied by Fernando Alonso on 1m38.4s, suggesting that Mercedes has plenty in hand and – along with Red Bull – can get through Q2 on the soft without too much risk.

After FP2 yesterday, Pirelli technical boss Mario Isola made it clear that high levels of degradation would make like difficult for those committed to starting on the supersoft.

"We have some degradation on the medium compound, that is very stable and very consistent," he said. "The soft in is in the middle, the supersoft has quite a high degradation.

"Looking at the laptimes today, the delta lap time between the soft and the supersoft seems to be in the range of one second. We were estimating a bit less, our estimation was around 0.8s, but of course we never used the supersoft here before.

"In qualy they probably have one lap and done [on the supersoft]. For the race it will be interesting to see, because the medium and the soft compounds are potentially good race compounds.

"The weather forecast for Sunday is hotter than now, the temperature should increased during the weekend. It means that the medium and soft for sure are going to work better than the supersoft."

Isola expects the quickest teams to use the use the soft: "If somebody will be able to qualify with the soft in Q2 they will probably try a strategy something like soft-soft-medium with two stops.

"If they are obliged to use the supersoft to go through to Q3 in that case I expect that with the full tank the first stint on supersofts will be quite short, not because of the wear, but because of the degradation.

"It makes no sense to keep a tyre that is degrading a lot. Maybe they are able to manage the degradation a little with the pace, but I'm not sure about that. It could be supersoft-medium-medium, or maybe supersoft-soft-medium."

 

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