High soft-tyre wear to create qualifying strategy dilemma at Suzuka

Formula 1 teams are set to face a major tyre strategy dilemma ahead of qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix thanks to the high degradation experienced so far on the softer compound tyres

High soft-tyre wear to create qualifying strategy dilemma at Suzuka

That is the view of Pirelli's motorsport director Paul Hembery, who says the fact that the soft compound's pace appears to be dropping off so dramatically in a stint could push teams to revolve their strategy around the medium tyre.

And that could even manifest itself in some Q3 teams opting to qualify on the medium tyre - because a short early stint on the soft rubber would result in them dropping back into traffic at the first round of pitstops.

"We wanted or need about 20 laps out of the medium tyre, which has resisted well, and the wear rates have been slightly better than our predictions - which for a green track is fine," said Hembery.

"The soft tyre is doing about 10-12 laps, and there was slight blistering, so that is creating an interesting crossover - which is pretty similar to Singapore really.

"You have a soft tyre that had speed but a higher degradation. A lot of races this year have run on the soft tyre, because they haven't had a great deal of degradation, which means the harder tyre is being used at the end of a stint.

"Here, there will be a question for many teams in that they might like the performance of the softer tyre, but it is not going to give them the durability, and there will be higher degradation. So they might have to jump to a strategy based on the medium."

Hembery reckoned that the point where the softer tyre was lapping slower than the medium tyre could come as early as six laps into a stint - but teams would have a clearer idea of the situation during third practice.

"It is quite varied between the teams at the moment. Some of them are actually quite rapid, five or six laps, but you tend to get that on a Friday, particularly at a very aggressive track like Suzuka.

"I think it will be key to see what happens in final practice. If there has been an evolution and if that degradation level changes. There are probably some set-up changes that the teams can look at as well if they would have seen they were blistering a bit early.

"Ferrari had a strange blistering situation with [Fernando] Alonso very early in the stint which wasn't replicated on the other cars, but there is an opportunity for them to make some set-up improvements. You are not going to make it completely different though."

Hembery said the likelihood was for a three-stop race, although some teams could try and eke out just two tyre swaps.

"The race, if you ask me know how to do it, I would say you will be focusing on the medium tyre," he said. "You are on a certain three-stop, potentially two-stop if you want to focus on a medium tyre strategy. Looking at data tonight you would think three-stop strategy for most of the teams."

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