By Alex Kapadia
McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton has broken Red Bull’s grip on monopolising pole positions this season, on Pirelli’s P Zero Red supersoft tyres ahead of tomorrows Korean Grand Prix.
At McLaren’s 700th grand prix, Hamilton beat the newly-crowned world champion Sebastian Vettel by two-tenths of a second. This was also the first time that a Red Bull Racing car has missed out on pole since the Brazilian Grand Prix last year.
According to Pirelli tyres: “Conditions were warm and dry for qualifying at the Yeongam circuit this afternoon, with an ambient temperature of 22 degrees and track temperature of 28 degrees, in contrast to the heavy rain of yesterday.
“Unusually, both Red Bull Racing cars elected to use the P Zero Red supersoft tyres during Q1, whereas all the other frontrunners used the P Zero Yellow soft tyres to start the first session. For Q2 and Q3, just the supersoft was used.
“With no dry running during free practice yesterday, the teams had plenty of work during the final free practice session this morning, assessing the performance of both slick compounds with heavy and light fuel loads in preparation for qualifying and the race. The track evolved rapidly as more rubber was laid down, with some damp patches from yesterday’s rain making the surface slippery in the morning.”
It added: “With most teams likely to make three stops tomorrow, some drivers concentrated on preserving their tyre allocation for the race in Q3.
“The wear rate of both the soft and supersoft compounds corresponded with expectations, while the way that different teams used the tyres during qualifying indicated that there are some interesting race strategies in place.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli’s motorsport director, said: “The teams were presented with a very short amount of time to evaluate the soft and supersoft tyres before qualifying, but from what we have seen so far we would expect most of the drivers to make three stops tomorrow.”
“This is in line with the average number of pit stops we anticipate over the year as a whole, but we also wanted to test the boundaries of our compounds in the final part of the season as we make some decisions for 2012.
“The supersoft tyre looks set to work effectively for about 10 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.”