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Bahrain GP: Qualifying team notes - Pirelli

NEWS STORY
19/03/2022

Charles Leclerc and Ferrari claimed the first pole of the new 18-inch era. Like all the drivers, Leclerc got through qualifying using the P Zero Red soft tyre only: a total of four sets, one each in Q1 and Q2, then two sets in Q3. The only exception was Williams, which did an in and out run with mediums.

The qualifying hour got away at 6pm local time with track temperatures of 24 degrees centigrade and 20 degrees ambient, similar to yesterday's FP2 session. FP3, which took place three hours earlier, was considerably warmer (similar to FP1), with the fastest time set by Red Bull's Max Verstappen.

The rule that required the top 10 drivers to start the race on the set of tyres with which they set their fastest Q2 times has been dropped this year. As a result, all the drivers will have a free choice of starting tyres tomorrow and qualifying strategy was a bit more straightforward.

The first Pirelli Pole Position Award of 2022 was given to Charles Leclerc by newly-elected FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem: a hugely successful competitor in his own right, with 14 Middle East Rally Championship titles to his name. This was Leclerc's 10th career pole position, with his first one coming in Bahrain three years ago.

With its abrasive asphalt and demanding layout, the 57-lap Bahrain Grand Prix looks likely to be a two-stopper, as has been the case in previous years. A one-stopper isn't completely out of the question, but it will be slower. All three compounds can be used for a two-stopper or alternatively two set of softs and one of medium, which is reckoned to be the fastest option.

The big decision for the teams tomorrow will be which tyre compound to start on, with the whole field now given a free choice of starting tyres - making the strategy even more open than before. As there is a quite a big performance gap in terms of lap time between the compounds, those starting on the soft tyre will have quite a big pace advantage initially compared to those on mediums, while anyone wanting to start on the hard will face a considerable speed deficit.

Mario Isola: "In qualifying we finally saw the true pace of all the teams. With cool temperatures that were similar to FP2 and the hardest tyres in the range selected this weekend, tyre warm up was marginal, especially with track temperatures dropping as the evening went on. Another decisive factor in the qualifying strategy was the removal of the rule this year that obliged drivers to start the race on the tyres with which they set their best Q2 times. As a result, everyone begins the race tomorrow on an entirely level playing field and the focus tonight will shift towards the race strategy, and which tyres to start on. With a big performance gap between the compounds, this adds another level of complexity to what is already a tricky decision, as the new formula makes its race debut on Sunday. We're expecting slightly warmer conditions compared to today and two pit stops; but there may be scope for some drivers to do something different."

Check out our Saturday gallery from Bahrain, here.

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