Tyre strategy key to Monaco qualifying - Bridgestone explain 22 May 2009
Qualifying well is vital at any race, but at a circuit with limited overtaking opportunities such as Monaco, it becomes all the more important. No surprise then that how best to use Bridgestones tyres over the course of the three knock-out qualifying sessions will be a question right at the front of team strategists minds on Saturday afternoon.
Where you start the race is an important factor determining your race strategy at every track, but qualifying well in Monaco is critical, says Hirohide Hamashima, director of Bridgestone Motorsport tyre development. Making the best tyre use on Saturday afternoon is very important indeed, and the close nature of competition this season means that the slightest wrong decision can mean the difference between fighting for a race win and being out of the points on Sunday.
As only short runs are completed in the qualifying sessions, teams work to optimise the car set-up accordingly.
In terms of set-up differences, teams can use a more aggressive set-up than for the race stint. Of particular importance for qualifying runs, a higher inner tyre pressure is generally used as the focus is usually the second flying lap, explains Hamashima. A higher pressure means a good ride height is retained and also the pressure increase from tyre temperature change over two laps is not as great as can be seen when more laps are run.
For Q1 the trick is not being one of the slowest five cars at the end of the session - and accomplishing this using the least amount of tyres.
The first qualifying session is interesting because its the first time that cars go out on track on Saturday afternoon and no-one knows exactly what to expect from the track surface, explains Hamashima. A very confident driver with a good car could try to do runs in this session on the harder tyre to keep sets of the softer tyres for the later qualifying sessions, however most competitors this season are having to use the softer tyres to progress through Q1, even if they have a fast car.
This need to use the softer tyres to get through Q1 has come to the fore in 2009 due to Bridgestones changed tyre allocation philosophy of having a bigger difference between the two tyre compounds brought to each race, Monaco - where teams are running soft and super soft - being the sole exception.
Previously, there was not as big a difference between the two tyres and this meant that the quicker teams could often use the slower, harder tyre to get through Q1, but this has not been the case so far in 2009, confirms Hamashima.
Once through to Q2 the target is to be as fast as possible to ensure a place in the top ten and to progress into Q3.
Q2 is where we usually see the fastest lap times of the weekend, says Hamashima. Teams run with very low fuel loads in this session and it is highly unlikely that even the most confident competitors would run with the harder tyre.
A team who is confident will try to get through to Q1 with only one run on the softer tyres, or perhaps one run on a used set of softer tyres, followed by one run on a new set.
A new set of soft tyres will give an advantage over a used set so teams will use new tyres for their fastest laps, says Hamashima. However, some teams may only use one new set of tyres as they are trying to save new tyres for the final qualifying session.
The final session determines the top-ten grid places, and crucially the teams participating in Q3 do not get to refuel after qualifying, so they have to have sufficient fuel in their cars to start the race.
Q3 is interesting as teams are now also thinking about their race strategy, explains Hamashima. A team who does not predict fighting for pole might decide to run quite heavy with fuel in this session, so they can make a late first pit stop in the race. However, a team who expects to be fighting for pole will run lighter, but the car still needs sufficient fuel to complete its first race stint. Exactly how much fuel to use is a very difficult decision to make.
In terms of tyre usage the softer, faster tyre will be used once more, with new tyres favoured too. If pole can be achieved by using only one set of new soft tyres or even a set of used soft tyres then a team has done very well indeed.