Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg will start from pole position today, having used the P Zero Red supersoft tyre from the start to finish of qualifying. All competitors used the softest tyre available here for the entirety of qualifying, with the soft and medium compounds also nominated for the inaugural grand prix in Azerbaijan.
With track evolution levels being quite high, the circuit got faster and faster as each session went on. The final Q3 shoot-out was interrupted by a red flag just two minutes from the end, which gave drivers the opportunity to head out for a final run if they wished.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director: “We saw an action-packed qualifying session, where the lack of experience and lack of grip on this new circuit was a key factor, causing a few surprises.
The supersoft was used from start to finish, but the fresh asphalt meant that there was little grip on offer, and the track was evolving all the time. As a result it was an exciting session, which suggests also that there could be a high probability of a safety car in race, as we saw in the GP2 race earlier.
While a one-stop strategy is clearly the way forward, there are some good opportunities to have on this rapid circuit, which combines the unpredictability of a street circuit with the possibility to overtake and move up the field.”
How the tyres behaved in Saturday:
Medium: used only in FP3 and unlikely to play a major part in the Sunday race.
Soft: seen in FP3; will be used in the latter part of the race, or by those on an alternative strategy at the start.
Supersoft: the fastest tyre by about a second, which was the default qualifying choice.
Race strategy: The teams obviously have limited data regarding Baku, so there is less information than usual on which to base strategy calculations. However, a one-stop seems to be clearly the best option. The top 10 will all start on used supersoft, and we would expect them to move onto the soft on lap 22 (of 51). If starting on the soft, the time to switch to supersoft is lap 29. However, strategies will have to be flexible, as there appears to be a high likelihood of a safety car.