Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg has set pole for the Brazilian Grand Prix using the Pirelli P Zero Yellow soft tyre, nominated together with the P Zero White medium this weekend. With just over a second separating the two compounds, a number of different strategies are possible for the race tomorrow.
Many competitors are expected to stop twice, but a three-stopper is also very possible. With only a small percentage probability of rain at the start of qualifying, the track remained dry throughout all three sessions. Dry weather should be the case for tomorrow’s race as well, with the short lap and heavy traffic around Interlagos making strategy all the more important when it comes to gaining track position.
Just a tenth of a second separated the two Mercedes drivers in this morning’s final free practice session and their battle continued throughout qualifying. All the drivers completed Q1 on the soft tyre (with all but two of them having run a set of mediums at the start of the session). Qualifying then continued using only the soft compound, as the drivers prioritised saving the more durable medium for the race. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) and Romain Grosjean (Lotus) did not use any medium tyres during the qualifying session at all.
Lap times were generally slower than they had been in the equivalent sessions last year, mostly due to the new kerbs at Interlagos, which are much higher than they used to be and do not allow the drivers to go over them.
Track temperatures peaked at 50 degrees centigrade for the all-important top 10 shoot out: the hottest seen all weekend. Most drivers completed two runs in Q3, using a set of fresh soft tyres for the final run that decided pole – which went to Rosberg for the fifth consecutive time.
“I didn’t have a good start in to Qualifying. Q1 and Q2 didn’t go to plan. But then I found a better rhythm in the final session, so I was happy to bring it all together in Q3. It feels great to be on pole again here. It’s the best possible position to start the race, I have the quickest car and on Friday we were able to practise a lot for the race, so I’m quite confident for tomorrow. It will be a good battle with Lewis and also the Ferraris, so I can’t wait for that. But what happened yesterday in Paris makes everything else relative. What we do here is really not important compared to that and I’m thinking of them today.”
Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director:
“Although Interlagos takes a lot out of the tyres, which is why we’re expecting two or three stops tomorrow, the wear and degradation levels are where we would expect them to be at during this stage of the weekend. The biggest factor in the lap time has appeared to be the new layout with the kerbs, which the drivers have had to get used to since they experienced them for the first time yesterday. Track temperatures have been warm, but still nothing like the very hot conditions we found last year in qualifying. With quite a clear performance gap between the two compounds and dry weather, we’re set for a few different strategy options tomorrow, which the teams will be calculating carefully tonight.”
The Pirelli strategy predictor:
With wear and degradation levels lower than one year ago on this circuit, two different two-stop strategies are theoretically the quickest options for the 71-lap race tomorrow, although a three-stop is possible as well, depending on factors such as traffic and track position. A three-stopper would be: start on the soft tyre and then change to soft again on laps 15 and 30, before moving to mediums on lap 46 to the end. The two quickest two-stoppers are: start on soft, change to medium on lap 17, medium again on lap 44. Alternatively: start on medium, change to soft on lap 27 and then medium on lap 44. The time difference between these three strategies is minimal