Pirelli has revealed the tyre compound choices for the next three grands prix of the 2011 F1 season, with only the specialist demands of Monaco provoking any change from what has been seen so far.
In Turkey and Spain, Pirelli has nominated the same hard and soft tyres - as prime and option respectively - that it provided for the opening three rounds in Australia, Malaysia and Bahrain. In Monaco, however, the soft tyre will be the prime and the supersoft tyre, denoted by red markings, will make its debut as the option tyre.
The Turkish Grand Prix, at Istanbul Park, features high temperatures and an abrasive surface, which favours the hard tyre for endurance and the soft tyre for faster laps, while Barcelona, a favoured venue for Pirelli throughout its test campaign, has broadly similar characteristics that make the hard and the soft tyre the best combination.
The Monaco Grand Prix, however, has very different characteristics, with the slowest average speed of the year. The tight and twisty confines of the famous street circuit means that the supersoft tyre will provide the fastest lap times, while the soft tyre provides enough durability to last for longer stints during the race.
"We've considered carefully all the circuit characteristics in order to help provide races as exciting as all the grands prix we have seen so far this year, and we're very much looking forward to Monaco in particular, where we will see the supersoft tyre in action for the first time," motorsport director Paul Hembery commented, "It's quite a
different tyre to the rest of the range and should be very effective around the streets of Monte Carlo."
The entire range will benefit from new markings from the Turkish Grand Prix onwards, designed to increase visibility of the six colours that distinguish each of the PZero tyres.
The hard and soft tyres were again pressed into action by Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel as he claimed his third pole position in a row. Top spot in qualifying was also the German's fourth consecutive pole stretching back to last season and his third pole position in China.
The German used the hard compound tyres to get into Q2, before switching to the soft compound to set a fastest time of 1min 33.706secs in the final session, eclipsing his own pole position time last year of 1min 34.558secs by eight-tenths of a second and establishing a new lap record for the Shanghai International Circuit. The top three, completed by the McLarens of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton, were all faster than last year's pole.
The vast majority of the drivers remaining after Q1 used the soft compound tyres in the second and third sessions, which proved to be extremely effective in the relatively cool conditions of Shanghai. Ambient temperatures were 17 degrees centigrade with a track temperature of 22 degrees centigrade. There were also gusting winds in the region of five metres per second. Vettel timed his tactics perfectly, as tyre management is now an essential part of qualifying to ensure that the desired quantities of hard and soft tyres are available to support the planned race strategy.