Greater Noida, 26 October – When qualifying involved setting your fastest lap with whatever load of fuel you wanted to use at the start of the race, the Saturday afternoon session didn’t actually tell you which cars were quickest. The amount of fuel and therefore weight carried was related to strategy in terms of when you planned to take on more of it and change tyres. However, since refuelling was banned, barring the odd unusual circumstance, the Q3 times were an accurate reflection of who had the fastest Formula 1 car on the planet as they run with minimum fuel.
Today, that was not the case, due to the fact that the Soft Pirelli, the Option tyre, has been having a difficult time here in India, blistering and graining and generally proving tricky to manage. Therefore, running Q3 on the softer compound was not the default setting this afternoon. In fact, four of the top ten chose to finish Q3 on the harder Medium tyre, so as to use it for the start of tomorrow’s 60 lap Indian Grand Prix. The qualifying “podium” trio took the conventional Soft tyre route, with Sebastian Vettel on pole position for Red Bull, followed by the Mercedes duo of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton. Then we come to fourth placed Mark Webber, running the Mediums. Then came Felipe Massa, fifth in his F138 on the Softs, as did Kimi Raikkonen who was sixth for Lotus and Nico Hulkenberg seventh in the Sauber. In the other Ferrari and eighth, Fernando Alonso was also a Medium runner, as were the two McLarens of Sergio Perez and Jenson Button, who completed the top ten.
So, if the Soft tyre is a liability, why did the team opt to put Felipe on it? Firstly, as the track gets more and more rubber on it and provides more grip, usually problems like graining and blistering can reduce by Sunday and the life of the tyre could be better tomorrow than we have seen so far. However, where this theory falls down is if you have already blistered a tyre in qualifying. Then, you are not looking so clever! However, the Soft should be a bit quicker and therefore Felipe has a chance of picking up some places after the start. It also means that, once the Brazilian has pitted for the Mediums, he can expect a stable race from then on. It’s a case of six of one or half a dozen of the other. We will see who was right after 60 laps of the Buddh International Circuit.