Red Bull sprang a surprise in qualifying which indicated they’re considering an alternative strategy for the Korean Grand Prix.
Practice form so far has suggested McLaren can out-gun them on the track regardless of their tactics.
But after little dry running this track could throw up another unpredictable race.
We didn’t see a standing start at Korea last year but we can make some educated guesswork about how it will pan out.
With only one other race taking place this weekend and little other activity at the circuit the rest of the year, the grip level is low all round. But the passage of the F1 cars in dry conditions today will have made the racing line side more favourable.
That’s good news for pole sitter Lewis Hamilton and team mate Jenson Button, and bad news for the two Red Bulls.
However the short distance between the grid and the first corner (at 150m, it’s even shorter than Spa) should limit the pain suffered by those starting on the left-hand side of the grid. From there, two lengthy straights and a pair of hairpins give plenty of opportunities for swapping positions.
Red Bull’s qualifying strategy has provided a fascinating talking point for strategy fans, and one it’s worth exploring the possibilities of.
They began the session on super soft tyres, which is highly unusual. Vettel used two further new sets of super softs in Q3, leaving him with three unused sets of soft tyres for the race.
Vettel said he thinks that will be “crucial” for the race. This could just be the world champion trying to dupe his rivals.
Or perhaps not, for Fernando Alonso admitted Ferrari had also considered starting qualifying on the super soft tyres as well: “When tyre degradation is very high, usually we are in good shape, but here the situation is not very clear, as the behaviour of the super softs over a long run and on full tanks is still an unknown quantity.”
That suggests Ferrari stuck with the usual approach of using the super soft tyre as little as possible in qualifying because they know their car is kid on its tyres and they expect to be able to get decent life out of them in the race.
But Red Bull expect the super soft tyre won’t last long enough on their car – and won’t offer enough of a performance gain over the super-soft – to make up for the time lost in the pits. Adding weight to this theory, note that in final practice neither of the Red Bulls were faster on super softs than the McLarens had been on soft tyres.
We’ll know this is the case if Red Bull switch to soft tyres early in the race.
They had problems with tyre wear in Japan, but in the first press conference of the weekend Vettel was quick to point out that Hamilton had as well.
Hamilton’s problems in Japan were exacerbated after his first stint by set-up changes following a misdiagnosed puncture. After qualifying today the McLaren driver said: “I think we have made a big change to the set-up compared to the last race and that made a big difference.”
Whether they’ve done enough to alleviate his tyre wear problems will be crucial to the outcome of this race.
Other drivers have reported that tyre wear in Korea hasn’t been as bad as they initially feared.”Going into this Grand Prix there was a lot of concern about tyre degradation,” said Felipe Massa. “But, at least from what we have seen today, it seems to be less severe than expected.”
Jaime Alguersuari added: “I was encouraged by the long run I did, as there was not as much tyre degradation as we had expected, so this issue should not trouble us tomorrow.”
Over at Force India Paul di Resta urged his team to make bold calls on the pitwall in order to keep the likes of Michael Schumacher behind: “The important thing is to be aggressive with our strategy because there are some fast cars behind us, including a Mercedes, and we need to work hard to keep them at bay. That won?óÔé¼Ôäót be easy because I expect the DRS zone to be quite effective here.”
Longest stint analysis – Practice three
The graph below shows the lap times for each driver (in seconds) from their longest stints in the third practice session.
The Red Bull drivers did some high-fuel stints in third practice on soft tyres. They had already used the tyres earlier in the session, and comfortably did two further stint which took both drivers up to a total of 15 laps on the tyres without signs of the lap times dropping off.
The McLaren drivers’ stints shown below were from the end of the session on super-softs. On soft tyres early in the session they were in the region of a second fastest than the Red Bull were on the same rubber – but as we saw in Friday practice in Japan that is not necessarily significant because of differences in fuel loads.
Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery assessed the life of the two types of tyre: “The super soft tyre looks set to work effectively for about ten laps tomorrow while the soft tyre is good for up to 20 laps. We’d expect the time difference over a lap between the two compounds here to be in the region of 0.7s to 1.0s, based on what we have seen today.”
|Paul di Resta||105.648||105.497||105.656||105.941||105.771||105.383||104.917|
Who do you think is going to win the Korean Grand Prix? Will Hamilton bounce back from his recent setbacks? Have your say in the comments.
2011 Korean Grand Prix
- Hamilton wins close vote for Korean GP Driver of the Weekend
- Unhappy Hamilton and muted crowd in fans’ Korean GP videos
- 2011 Korean Grand Prix: complete race weekend review
- Vote for the Korean GP driver of the weekend
- Red Bull: Team clinch title despite missed one-two
- McLaren: The old Hamilton reappears
- Ferrari: Alonso “gives up” on pursuit of Button
- Mercedes: Unlucky weekend for Schumacher
- Renault: No points for third time in six races
- Toro Rosso: Alguersuari shines in team’s best result for 50 races
Image ?é?® Red Bull/Getty images