Abu Dhabi GP: Qualifying notes - Pirelli


Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg has claimed the final pole position of the season (his sixth in a row) at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, following a qualifying session held in the early evening with falling track temperatures.

This has the effect of increasing performance as each session went on, meaning that the quickest times came at the end of every session. The timing of the final qualifying laps was absolutely crucial, at a race where the win has only ever come from outside of the front row once.

Many of the drivers went straight onto the supersoft in Q1, which is around 1.2 seconds faster than the soft tyre, which has also been nominated in Abu Dhabi. As a result, nearly all of the drivers in the final top 10 have no new sets of supersoft left for the race, with the more durable soft compound expected to be the favoured race tyre. Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen, after having been the only driver to use only the soft tyre in Q1, saved a set of new supersofts for the race. He will start from the second row of the grid alongside Force India's Sergio Perez who set a brilliant fourth best time.

From Q2, all of the drivers used the supersoft tyre, with some drivers limiting their runs in order to save as many fresh supersoft tyres for the all-important shoot-out in Q3. Track temperatures continued to fall throughout the final Q3 session, with the Mercedes drivers enjoying a clear advantage at the head of the field as they fought for pole position.

Tyre wear and degradation remained in line with expectations throughout the sessions, with no graining or blistering reported now that the circuit has evolved with more rubber laid on the surface. This makes it likely that most drivers will adopt a two-stop strategy during the race, starting on the supersoft tyre and then completing two stints on the soft.

Track temperatures were in the region of 30 degrees centigrade during qualifying, with similar conditions expected in the race tomorrow evening. This allows a variety of strategies to come into play, especially for the drivers who find themselves out of position on the starting grid.

Paul Hembery: "Once more, Abu Dhabi delivered a spectacular qualifying session under the lights. We saw some different strategies at work during qualifying, with Kimi Raikkonen being the only driver to use just the soft in Q1, before completing just one run on the supersoft in Q2. Wear and degradation levels are exactly where we would expect them to be at this point in time, thanks to the track evolution that we anticipated over the weekend. This means that a wide variety of strategies are possible, but we'd expect most drivers to stop twice. With track temperatures falling throughout the race, the pit wall is going to have to monitor the situation and perhaps adapt the strategy to conditions as they fluctuate."

The strategy predictor

Most drivers are expected to stop twice during the 55 laps of Abu Dhabi. The mostly likely strategy is: start on supersoft, change to soft on laps 10 and 32. A three-stopper is theoretically the quickest option (start on supersoft, then change to soft on laps seven, 23 and 39) but this depends on having a car that is quick enough to overtake and gain track position, in case of traffic.

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Published: 28/11/2015
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