Recharging of new power units means tyres have to deliver over just one flying lap.
Sakhir – Held for the first time in the evening, the Bahrain Grand Prix also hosted the first completely dry qualifying session of 2014 from start to finish, allowing the teams to make full use of their allocation of P Zero White medium and P Zero Yellow soft tyres.
With free practice revealing a gap of more than a second between the medium and soft compounds, the priority for the frontrunners was to get to Q3 while keeping as many sets of the softer compound fresh for the race as possible. In the past, this would have led to teams limiting their running in Q3.
The challenge of qualifying, particularly in the dry when full power can be used, has been increased this year due to the new power units. It is no longer possible to drive two consecutive flying laps at full power, due to the energy recovery units needing to replenish themselves. This has an effect on the tyre, which needs to deliver its ultimate performance over just one flying lap this year.
Despite the radical new 2014 cars, Nico Rosberg’s pole position of 1m33.185s was within just one second of last year’s pole time – which was also set by the German Mercedes driver.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery said: “Track temperature dropped steadily throughout the session, which is what we would expect for the race tomorrow, meaning that the quickest times were set right at the end. However, we were able to see all 10 cars out on track throughout Q3, which shows that the new tyre rules are working and fans are getting to see action from start to finish.
We’ve also seen plenty of track evolution over the last couple of days, which has increased grip levels. We’d expect the soft to be the main race tyre, with between two to three pit stops, but the teams will need to adapt the order in which they use the tyres to the characteristics of their cars and the prevailing conditions. ”
The Pirelli strategy predictor:
Three stops is theoretically the quickest strategy, but teams with lower levels of degradation may try two stops. The ideal three-stop strategy for the 57-lap race is: start on soft, change to soft again on lap 17, medium on lap 33, and a final stint on soft from lap 41.
A two-stop strategy could be: start on soft, change to soft again on lap 22, then to hard on lap 44.