Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg 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 were possible for the race.
Many competitors were expected to stop twice, but a three-stopper was 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 was also predicted for Sunday’s race, with the short lap and heavy traffic around Interlagos making strategy all the more important when it came to gaining track position.
Just a tenth of a second separated the two Mercedes drivers in the 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.
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.”
Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg won the Brazilian Grand Prix with a three-stop strategy, running one stint on the P Zero Yellow soft tyre followed by three remaining stints on the P Zero White medium tyre.
Rosberg was able to hold off his team mate Lewis Hamilton – on a similar strategy – from start to finish, maintaining his advantage from lights to flag without losing the effective lead of the race. Track temperatures remained warm, albeit cooler than the 50 degrees seen during qualifying, while the threatened rain did not occur. The track temperature progressively dropped however throughout the race, ending up at 35 degrees, which reduced wear and degradation in the later stages.
The top three all used a three-stop strategy, but there was a wide variety of tactics at work behind them. The highest-placed two-stopper by the end of the race was Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, who used the strategy to gain fourth by the end of the grand prix, finishing just off the podium behind his Ferrari team mate Sebastian Vettel.
All the drivers started on the soft tyre with the exception of Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz and Lotus driver Pastor Maldonado. The Venezuelan completed a long opening stint on his medium tyres, while Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg completed an even longer closing stint with the same compound – underlining the variety of strategic thinking in the closely fought race. Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo also adopted an alternative strategy to climb seven places from his grid position, switching from soft to medium on lap two.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director: “With weather conditions warm but uncertain, strategy was always going to be a key element of the Brazilian Grand Prix. Rosberg’s considered approach to tyre management over the course of the whole weekend once again proved to be a key element of his victory, which was very well deserved. However, there were a number of drivers operating a two-stop race. We saw some long stints on the medium compound that helped drivers gain track position.”