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Teams expecting step into the unknown on tyres in Korean Grand Prix

Pirelli slicks Korean grand prix 2011

Formula 1 teams and drivers are bracing themselves for a step into the unknown on tyre wear for Sunday afternoon's Korean Grand Prix, thanks to the limited dry running experienced so far this weekend.

With Friday's practice sessions having been a wash out, teams and drivers only had one hour on Saturday morning to do all their race and qualifying work. That means teams are not as well prepared as they normally are at this stage of the grand prix - with many of the front runners unsure as to whether the best tyre in the race will be the supersoft or the soft Pirelli.

That uncertainty appears to be especially crucial on Sunday afternoon because of the different strategies adopted by teams - as Red Bull elected to save soft tyres for the race, while McLaren and Ferrari conserved supersofts.

Jenson Button, whose tyre conservation in Japan proved critical to his victory, thinks that a fascinating strategy situation will unfold in the opening stint of the race.

"Whether they [Red Bull] have done the right thing with the tyres, we won't know until the race, and they won't know either," he said. "They have taken the opinion that it was the right thing to do and we didn't. We will see how it goes.

"It is a strange one because they only did one long run on the prime [soft] tyre, so they don't know what the option [supersoft] tyre is like on high fuel. Maybe the degradation is the same as the prime but with a quicker laptime. We have to wait and see.

"It is not a decision you can take before the race starts because we really don't know which direction it is going to go through the race. You will have to think on your toes throughout the race, so it is going to be a busy, busy day."

Mark Webber said that Red Bull's decision to save a set of softs - by running supersofts in Q1 - may not necessarily have been the best route.

"The supersoft could be quite a good race tyre, so then the strategy is not looking so good," he explained. "But it is not as if Sebastian [Vettel] and I have qualified on the third or fourth row. We have still qualified quite competitive, and we have some new tyres - the same as everyone but they are just different compounds. Let's see how it goes in the race."

Webber thinks the key to victory in the race will be in managing the first stint of the grand prix.

"The [first] stop lap is pretty important," he said. "Predictions are that it could be anywhere between laps five and 12. If it is five then you are back out in Force India territory, so you've got to try and avoid that."

Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn says that it is such a tight call between the soft and the supersoft tyres over a stint that it is too early to say for definite which is the way to go.

"We've got two primes and two options with Michael [Schumacher]; two primes and one option with Nico [Rosberg]," he said. "There wasn't a huge amount of time on the long run between the option and the prime. The option was quicker on one lap, between 0.75s and a second, but over a 5-10 lap period the prime looked very good.

"It looks like Red Bull are selecting prime as their principal tyre and obviously multi pitstops if you are trying to keep three sets.

"The tyres are actually much more consistent than we expected, and I don't think we will see the four or five pitstops that people were predicting before we got here. The tyres have proven to be much more consistent so, in that respect, Pirelli has made a very good judgement call."

Pole position man Lewis Hamilton also reckons that the set-up he has used in Korea should be better at looking after his tyres than the aggressive one had had in Japan last weekend.

"The set-up I have will definitely be easier on the tyres," he explained. "The set-up I went to in Japan was probably good for one lap but not good for consecutive laps. So I have come in a different direction, which will hopefully be more beneficial in the race."

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