The times may have been quicker during qualifying ahead of tomorrow’s Italian Grand Prix, as Sebastian Vettel’s 40th career pole position was over 2 tenths quicker that 2012’s pole sitter Lewis Hamilton this time last year, but the focus for all, including Pirelli, turns to the 53-lap race tomorrow afternoon. The cathedral of speed was echoing the sound of normally-aspirated V8 engines for the very last time in a European qualifying session this season, as it is a sacred moment to never forget for many, as another era makes its entry in the Formula 1 history books.
Track temperatures have been getting hotter as the weekend has carried on, with dry and hot conditions bringing the tyres into a good working temperature range over the duration of the three sessions, with Monza reaching a track temperature high of 43 degrees.
As it has been ‘de rigeur’ this season, the orange-marked Pirelli P-Zero tyre was used from the onset, with the white marked medium tyres coming into play a lot more when Q2 began. But the times are just for show when it comes to qualifying, as it is all to play for in the Italian forest track when racing gets underway tomorrow afternoon.
But the points for all and sundry will be important for the drivers in the title fight, as Pirelli Motorsport’s Paul Hembery said that it was a true showcase of how speed is truly defined today on terms on true one-lap pace, but says that the cooler conditions that may be around for race day may not be that much of a factor.
“Tomorrow we’re expecting to see most of the teams adopting a one-stop strategy, with the uncertainty being whether they will choose to start on the medium or hard compounds. Even though we’re expecting slightly cooler weather for the race there will still be huge demands on the tyres, but so far blistering has not been an issue.”
He also mentioned that the teams will be looking at how to adopt the best strategy, as teams may find it to their benefit to potentially switch to a two-stop race plan, but with a clear half-a-second between both tyre compounds, it is all to play for around the likes of Parabolica, Curve Grande and the Ascari chicane, as Sergio Perez showed last year, when he made his way into 2nd place after starting 13th.
Tyre management and degradation are a clear factor that the teams will have to always keep their eyes on, as a faster car for one team could break into a two-stop routine to maximize their chances, but the extreme forces on parts of the tyres when cornering and extreme forces on high-speed braking will take their toll on the tyres around a track where a car will have to brake to 50mph from 210mph in just 150 metres on the main straight.
Braking at the precise point is crucial to entry and exit speeds from the chicanes and corners for any driver to make their way up the field, so as the Autodromo Nazionale Monza says it farewell to engines of the naturally aspirated kind after 53 laps, it’s just a case of seeing just who has the complete measure of car, track and rubber tomorrow, when the five lights go out just outside the fashion capital of the world…
The Pirelli mystery strategy predictor’s opinion on tomorrow’s race:
In theory, a one-stop strategy is the fastest for the 53 laps of Monza, but a fast car could make use of a two-stop sprint strategy – so teams are likely to build in some degree of flexibility to their strategy plans.
The fastest one-stop strategy goes as follows: start on the medium, change to the hard on lap 25 and then run to the end. Equally as fast could be to start on the hard tyre, with a change to the medium on lap 28 and then run to the end.
An alternative two-stop strategy is: start on the medium, change to the medium again on lap 22 and then run a final set of hard tyres from lap 41.
Images courtesy Octane Photographic (c)