Pirelli are taking the soft and super soft tyres to this race weekend. However, there should not be the same tyre wear problems that were seen in Barcelona because there are no high speed corners to load the tyres and the surface itself is less abrasive.
The assumption made by many is that Mercedes will win this race. They have claimed 3 pole positions from 5 races and it could have easily been four had we not had damp qualifying in Sepang. The argument is that pole is everything and therefore pole position will give a Mercedes driver the race.
I’m not so sure. Yes the race has been won 10 of the last 12 times from the front row and last time out pole sitter Webber won from 2nd on the grid Rosberg, Yet the difference this year is that the delta times between the worn Pirelli and the new rubber is up to 4seconds a lap.
This reminds me of 2011 when Pirelli entered the sport. We had 4 stops in Barcelona and a pretty exciting race in Monaco. Vettel qualified on pole and Button was second. Alonso only managed 4th.
At the start Alonso jumped – surprise, surprise – a slow starting Webber, and through the first exchange of stops he managed to get ahead of Button too.
Vettel was on a 1 stop strategy, and changed from the super soft to the soft tyre on lap 17. Alonso was 2 stopping and Button 3.
Button and Alonso were hunting down Vettel whose tyres had given up the ghost, when there was an accident involving Hamilton, Sutil, Alguersuari and Petrov. Sutil had hit the barrier on the previous corner, causing a right-rear puncture. Hamilton braked as Sutil lost control, and Alguersuari then ran into the back of Hamilton, damaging Hamilton’s rear wing.
Alguersuari hit the barrier, causing Petrov to do the sameand both cars were out of the race, with Petrov being briefly trapped in his car. This brought out the safety car for the second time and on lap 72 the race was red flagged, with the cars stopping on the grid at lap 72.
During the red flag period, teams were allowed to change tyres and work on cars. This worked to the advantage of Vettel and Alonso who tyres were heavily worn.
It’s a shame we weren’t running ‘Victims of Circumstance because my bet would have been on Button getting past both Alonso and Vettel. I remember thinking excitedly – this is what racing should be like in Monaco.
The 2011 Pirelli tyres were in fact fairly similar to the class of 2013 and Pirelli did actually modifying them as a consequence of a 4 stop Barcelona race – then with the agreement of the teams.
So, assuming Mercedes have made no leaps forward in tyre wear during the race but have retained their 1 lap speed we could see a great race where the conclusion may not be so obvious early on.
Mercedes in Barcelona tried to do one stop less than the winning strategy which was a huge mistake. They probably need to be doing 1 stop more than their closest rival which may force them to 3 stop in Monaco.
This will take balls because it probably means they have to run to a strategy that has them leading the race but stopping first. However, Mercedes have tried to stop fewer times than is optimum too often this year and you fear they’ll lose the plot and hang on to the head of the snake as long as possible on fading rubber.
Sunday may turn out a good vintage – like 2011