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Fuoco explains tyre preparation behind "special" WEC Imola pole lap

Ferrari driver Antonio Fuoco has revealed how his tyre preparation strategy helped to produce "a special lap" that secured him pole for Sunday's World Endurance Championship race at Imola.

Pole sitter #50 Ferrari AF Corse Ferrari 499P: Antonio Fuoco

Photo by: Paul Foster

The Italian explained how completing two warmup laps in the decisive Hyperpole session in his factory #50 Ferrari 499P Le Mans Hypercar allowed him to set two laps good enough to earn his first pole position since last year's Le Mans 24 Hours. 
He improved on his 1m29.735s lap time with a 1m29.466s that put him 0.419s clear of the field and 0.635s faster than the best non-Ferrari, the factory Penske Porsche Motorsport-run Porsche 963 LMDh that Kevin Estre qualified fourth.
"I think today this made a bit of a difference compared to the other competitors because we saw that the Porsche was pushing earlier than us and maybe stressed a bit more tyres," said Fuoco. 
"This was our strategy from FP3 that we tried earlier. It was working quite well and we did it again in the quali, and it was okay. So I think today we understand a bit more than the others on how to manage the tyres."
Fuoco explained that Ferrari had "already planned this morning" that it would do two warmup laps "to bring the tyres into the temperature quite easily" and avoid overstressing the tyres.
WEC rookie Robert Shwartzman in the customer AF Corse-run 499P adopted an identical approach to secure second, while Alessandro Pier Guidi completed a Ferrari lockout of the top three in the second factory machine.
Explaining his lap, which followed setting the fastest time in final practice on Saturday morning, Fuoco said: "The feeling was already good from this morning in FP3, so I just tried to keep the concentration high, tried to put everything together. 
#50 Ferrari AF Corse Ferrari 499P: Antonio Fuoco, Miguel Molina, Nicklas Nielsen

#50 Ferrari AF Corse Ferrari 499P: Antonio Fuoco, Miguel Molina, Nicklas Nielsen

Photo by: Emanuele Clivati | AG Photo

"It’s always tricky when you go on qualifying with the traffic and everything, but I think the gap was really good and I just put a really good lap together. 
"It was quite a special lap as always, but I think today in front of our Tifosi, our home race, I have an extra boost and I just push 100% from the beginning until the end of the quali."
He added: "The feeling was good already from inside the car, it was a good lap already the first one, but then I found some small details on the second push and I gained another two-tenths." 
Shwartzman was competing in Hyperpole for the first time after fellow Ferrari factory driver Yifei Ye took on qualifying duties in the WEC's Qatar season-opener.
He told Autosport that he was pleased to make the front row given his inexperience.
"Really only the last lap was a decent one, but it was not good enough for pole," said Shwartzman. "For my first quali, I think the front row is quite good. 
"Antonio did a really good clean lap, but i didn’t manage to do that. That is the difference between P1 and P2. 
#50 Ferrari AF Corse Ferrari 499P: Antonio Fuoco, Miguel Molina, Nicklas Nielsen

#50 Ferrari AF Corse Ferrari 499P: Antonio Fuoco, Miguel Molina, Nicklas Nielsen

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

"He has the experience of how this car behaves on new tyres after doing all the qualifying last year, so he has quite a big advantage in that sense. 
"So for him, it was much easier, but I believe I can improve that."
Pier Guidi said he had "struggled a bit" on the push lap but reckons "in race pace, we are still strong, we are stronger I think". 
"I am confident for tomorrow, P3 is a good starting place," he added.

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