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Qatar GP: Qualifying team notes - Pirelli

NEWS STORY
20/11/2021

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton claimed a spectacular pole on the P Zero Red soft C3: the only driver to get into the 1m20s bracket, with a time that was a full two seconds quicker than the simulated pole position benchmark.

All the drivers used only the soft tyre in Q1, with the exception of AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly, who used just the P Zero Yellow medium. In Q2 - which determines the starting tyres for the grand prix - both Mercedes drivers, the Red Bull of Verstappen, and Ferrari's Carlos Sainz set their best times on the medium (although a total of eight drivers attempted to do so). This means that of the top 10 qualifiers, six will be starting on the soft - all outside the front row.

The circuit is smoother than expected but still with a good level of grip, featuring a massive track evolution during each session. That's also why Hamilton was faster in Q2 with the medium tyre than he was in Q1 with the soft, before improving again with the soft in Q3.

Temperatures stayed consistent at around 26 degrees centigrade ambient and 28 degrees on track throughout qualifying, with similar conditions expected for tomorrow's race.

The optimal strategy for the 57-lap Qatar Grand Prix should be a two-stopper. The best tactic on paper would involve one stint on the P Zero Yellow medium C2 tyre followed by a stint on the P Zero White hard C1 and a final stint on the medium again.

Close to that is another two-stopper, but this time with one stint on P Zero Red soft C3 followed by two stints on the mediums.

All three compounds could also be used in alternative two-stopper (maybe starting on the medium and running the hard in the middle before moving to the soft for the final part of the race) but this is likely to be slower. As always, all these stints could be run in any order.

With Losail being a brand new venue, there hasn't been an ample bank of data gained in free practice - with two of the sessions not held in representative conditions anyway.

As a result, the teams certainly haven't yet seen the full picture, and there could still be some surprises, particularly if track temperatures are lower. A one-stopper is still not advised though, just because tyre wear appears to be quite high.

Mario Isola: "Track evolution remained high today, also with no support races on the schedule, which meant that we saw the fastest times right at the end of qualifying, and some medium tyre times in Q2 that were faster than the soft tyre times in Q1. With just short stints in qualifying, and FP3 this morning taking place in the heat of the day (with a focus on qualifying) the teams can only rely on FP2 for relevant long-run information, which is crucial when it comes to formulating the strategy. Under these challenging circumstances they will want to keep their options as open as possible, which is why the championship contenders chose to start on the medium tyre. However, as Q2 showed, it wasn't easy to get through the session on the medium, so we're set for an interesting mix of strategies tomorrow with many factors still relatively unknown."

Check out our Saturday gallery from Qatar, here.

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