Performance gap of approximately 0.8 seconds between Hard and Medium.
Suzuka – Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg has taken pole position from his team mate Lewis Hamilton by 0.076s, with both using the Pirelli P Zero White medium to set their fastest times. Rosberg secured pole after the red flag came out with just 36 seconds of Q3 to go, meaning that neither driver could complete their second run.
Mercedes set the pace throughout qualifying, being the only team to get straight into the 1m33s window in Q1, and then straight into the 1m32s window in Q2. Hamilton was fastest in Q1 with Rosberg going quickest in Q2. The German was fastest on the first run, which turned out to be also the final one after the session was stopped.
Suzuka always provides several opportunities for strategy
The top four in Q1 all used the hard tyre to get through the session, with Mercedes, Ferrari, Williams and the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo not needing to use a set of mediums. All the drivers used mediums from Q2 onwards, which are approximately 0.8s per lap faster than the hard tyres around the 18 challenging corners that make up Suzuka.
Most cars are expected to make two pit stops tomorrow if it stays dry. However, there is still a possibility of rain during the race, which starts at 2pm local time: an hour before today’s qualifying.
Rosberg was also fastest from his team mate in the hectic final free practice session this morning, using the medium tyre. With no dry running on Friday, many teams were straight onto long runs with heavy fuel.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director
“The drivers were able to get the maximum performance out of both compounds at Suzuka, exploiting the performance advantage of the medium tyre around this fantastic circuit. Tomorrow we’re expecting a two-stop strategy from most competitors provided it stays dry – which is a long way from absolutely guaranteed. With the rain that fell yesterday, the drivers had a lot of work to do during the final free practice session this morning. Suzuka always provides several opportunities for strategy, so the teams will be carefully analysing their data this evening to see how they can use their tyres and pit stops to gain a competitive advantage.”
The Pirelli strategy predictor
With the only dry running prior to qualifying being FP3, the teams are lacking in data for their strategy calculations compared to a totally dry weekend: this may affect each team’s full understanding of the complete picture. Two stops are expected for the 53-lap Japanese Grand Prix. We predict the fastest strategy to be: start on the medium, change to the medium from laps 16-18, hard from laps 33-35. A three-stop strategy is also possible, but this isn’t as quick. There is still a risk of rain, in which case the strategy will have to be very reactive.