As expected, making one stop to change tyres is likely to be the best strategy for victory in this weekend's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Pirelli's Paul Hembery confirmed as much following a dramatic qualifying session that saw Lewis Hamilton end Red Bull's recent run of three front row lock-outs, while points leader Sebastian Vettel was relegated to the bottom of the timesheets after failing to provide the required litre of fuel for post-session checks.
Hamilton claimed top spot with a lap of 1min 40.630secs on the soft Pirelli option tyre, which is making its final appearance of the year this weekend. The Briton was three-tenths of a second clear of Red Bull's Mark Webber, with Vettel third before he was stripped of his times. Pastor Maldonado now moves onto the inside of row two for Williams, with Kimi Raikkonen's Lotus alongside. Championship contender Fernando Alonso moves up to sixth spot, starting alongside the second McLaren of Jenson Button, following Vettel's exclusion.
Historically, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix has only ever been won from the front row of the grid, putting Hamilton and Webber in prime position, and Hembery believes that, barring mishaps, the choice of a one-stop strategy is likely to enhance that reputation.
“We believe that we're now looking at a one-stop strategy for many competitors," the tyre giant's motorsport director confirmed, "The pace of development in F1 is unrivalled, and we can see this in the way that all the teams have really got on top of our tyres now, which was the same pattern we saw last year.
"Degradation is low with both compounds – and there's also not a lot of thermal degradation – but one cause of this is also the track surface, which is particularly smooth in Abu Dhabi, as was the case as well in India. From what we can see so far, the long run race pace is quite closely matched, which will put the emphasis on strategy to make the difference. We saw a great lap not only from Lewis Hamilton, but also from Pastor Maldonado in the Williams.”
The race gets underway at 5pm local time, with track and air temperatures falling throughout the 55 laps.