Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel has taken his sixth pole position of the season: making him the driver who has now sealed pole position more often than anyone else this year. Vettel, who claims his second pole position in Korea, did a 1m37.202s lap on the P Zero Red supersoft tyres, which are nominated with the P Zero White medium tyres for the weekend. Interestingly, for the three years that the Korean Grand Prix has been run, the polesitter has never won. Vettel and Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton share the front row for the fifth time this season.
Conditions were warm and dry for qualifying, in ambient temperatures of 25 degrees centigrade, with most of the drivers starting on the medium tyre. The Marussias and Caterhams, as well as the Sauber of Esteban Gutierrez, were first to use the supersoft tyres, while the supersoft-equipped Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen was quickest of all at the end of the session.
All the drivers started Q2 on the supersoft tyre, with Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton setting the initial benchmark. He was topped by Vettel, who went quickest with three minutes to go after a single run on the supersoft. That time was good enough for the Red Bull driver to maintain the fastest time to the end.
With the track constantly evolving, timing was important during Q3, which was run exclusively on the P Zero Red supersoft tyres. The Red Bull drivers went out early for the first of two runs, followed closely by both Mercedes, with Vettel going quickest. The Ferraris and the Saubers tried a different tactic by opting for just one run at the end, while Lotus split their strategies, with Romain Grosjean completing two runs and Kimi Raikkonen doing just one.
Vettel went fastest in the final free practice session this morning as well, followed by his team mate Mark Webber. Vettel set his fastest time on the supersoft tyre, with Webber going quickest at first.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery said: “We’re now seeing an average of about 0.8 seconds per lap difference in terms of lap time between the two compounds, which is considerably less than Singapore. This is set to form the platform for some interesting strategies during the race, but it also means that more of the frontrunners were able to get through Q1 without having to put on the supersoft compound. Grip levels improved as each session went on, so most drivers tried to set their best times in the closing seconds. We saw different strategies at work throughout qualifying, with a variety of approaches being taken in Q3 as well, although we would expect most drivers to stop twice under normal race circumstances. The big question mark is the weather: rain showers have been predicted for tonight and tomorrow morning. While the race itself should remain dry, temperatures during the afternoon are expected to be cooler than what we have seen so far, although at least it looks like we’ve avoided the typhoon!”
The Pirelli mystery strategy predictor:
Two stops are theoretically the quickest way to complete the 55-lap Korean Grand Prix. The fastest strategy on paper is start on supersoft, change to supersoft again on lap 20 and then change to the medium on lap 40.
Realistically though, most cars are likely to adopt the following strategy: start on the supersoft, change to the medium on lap 20, then change to the medium again on lap 38.
The best three-stop strategy – for those wanting to try something different – is to start on the supersoft, change for supersoft again on lap 19, supersoft once more on lap 34, and finally medium on lap 47.
Fastest compounds in FP3:
1. Vettel 1m37.881s Supersoft New2. Webber 1m38.018s Supersoft New3. Rosberg 1m38.318s Supersoft NewTop 10 tyre use:
Vettel Supersoft 1m37.202s Hamilton Supersoft 1m37.420s Webber Supersoft 1m37.464s Grosjean Supersoft 1m37.531s Rosberg Supersoft 1m37.679s Alonso Supersoft 1m38.038s Massa Supersoft 1m38.223s Hulkenberg Supersoft 1m38.237s Gutierrez Supersoft 1m38.405s Raikkonen Supersoft 1m38.822s