Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg has clinched his sixth career pole position - one more than his famous father Keke - but the first pole of the year on Pirelli's 2014-specification P Zero Red supersoft tyres, which are being used for the first time.
The German, on pole in Monaco last year as well, used the P Zero Yellow soft tyre to get through Q1 followed by two sets of supersoft in both Q2 and Q3. However, with both wear and degradation minimal, and just one stop expected for many drivers during the race, saving tyres was not a priority.
Tyre is set to influence a closely poised race very strongly, but historically Monaco has an 80% chance of a safety car, or even a race stoppage (as happened in the GP2 feature race yesterday). Consequently, a flexible strategy is needed in order to be able to instantly react to any opportunities that present themselves. With these potentially race-winning decisions based on tyre data collected during free practice, this morning's FP3 session was also particularly important.
The second free practice session on Thursday was affected by damp conditions, so the drivers used FP3 this morning to determine dry race pace on different tyres and fuel loads, with Hamilton again going quickest.
Paul Hembery: "We're seeing a difference of about a second between the supersoft and soft compounds here, both of which are slightly harder than the equivalent tyres last year: even on the supersoft, the best times tended to come on the second flying lap. It's clear that the drivers at the front are very closely matched on the supersoft in particular, so race strategy, and especially the timing of the pit stops, could make an important difference to the outcome of the grand prix. As expected we saw a high degree of track evolution, with the fastest times coming right at the end of each session. We'd expect that pattern to continue for the rest of the weekend, with good weather forecast for tomorrow."
The strategy predictor:
The Monaco Grand Prix is 78 laps long, with either a one or a two stop strategy being possible, according to the speed of the car and circumstances of the race. One stop is possible, but a two-stop sprint strategy could work if the car is fast enough and has enough opportunity to overtake. With Monaco being a notoriously difficult track to overtake on, plus a high chance of safety cars, this is hard to predict - so a flexible strategy will always pay dividends.
Our computer predicts a one stop to be clearly the quickest way, although with limited running on the supersoft it is hard to be completely sure about the strategy. Prediction: start on supersoft, change to soft on lap 30.
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