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Russian GP: Qualifying notes - Pirelli

NEWS STORY
10/10/2015

Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg has set pole for the Russian Grand Prix using the Pirelli P Zero Red supersoft, which helped to eclipse last year's pole (achieved on soft tyres) already during the opening runs of Q2.

This was despite the fact that there was very little running during all three free practice sessions. As a result, the teams had minimal information about tyre wear and degradation heading into qualifying, leading to several question marks about race strategy. The Sochi track is smooth and offers low grip, with any rubber that had been previously laid down on the track washed away by rain yesterday afternoon. Vettel and Nasr had not even run on the supersoft before Q1.

Ambient and track conditions remained cool all day, meaning that one of the biggest challenges was to get enough heat into the tyres on the slippery surface. As the lap times showed, most drivers managed to do this successfully.

Only the two Mercedes drivers managed to get through Q1 using the soft compound only, setting first and third fastest times thanks to Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton respectively.

From Q2 onwards, all the drivers used the supersoft tyres only, which are currently around 1.1 seconds per lap faster than the soft compound. Mercedes were again the fastest team on the red compound, maximising warm-up and performance.

Rosberg set his pole time on his final run in Q3 as the track got faster, beating Hamilton - who will line up second on the grid ahead of Williams driver Valtteri Bottas.

The final free practice session this morning was interrupted with 20 minutes to go following an accident to Toro Rosso driver Carlos Sainz. Rosberg had been fastest on the supersoft tyres at the time the session was stopped. The resulting barrier repairs forced the cancellation of the GP3 race - which again limited the amount of rubber that was on track prior to F1 qualifying.

Paul Hembery: "The most important thing about today was the fact that Carlos Sainz is OK after his incident this morning. Everything else is of secondary importance. Clearly all the teams were on the back foot heading into qualifying, as there was very little clean practice time yesterday and today. As a result, there are big question marks about the optimal race strategy - especially as we have never raced here with the supersoft compound before."

The strategy predictor

Because the teams did not complete many laps of dry running in free practice, it is hard to have a precise indication of strategy for the 53-lap race. However, many teams may choose a one-stop strategy owing to the low wear and degradation levels at Sochi. In which case, the fastest strategy would be to start on the supersoft and then switch to the soft between laps 18 and 22. However some teams wouldn't discount a two stop strategy, especially if race conditions turn out to be warmer".

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