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Will they be super on the soft option?



31 MAR - 03 APR 2016

The good thing about history is that it teaches us what to expect.

Looking at it another way, the great Murray Walker used to say that he never made mistakes, only predictions that didn’t always come true.

So what should we expect and/or predict when it comes to qualifying for the 2013 Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix?

History first: the men who have been on pole here for the last seven years are all back again. That’s Jenson Button (2006, 2009), Kimi Raikkonen (2007), Lewis Hamilton (2008, 2012) and Sebastian Vettel (2010, 2011).

For only two of those years have Pirelli been the tyre suppliers. In 2011 they brought their Soft and Hard choices; in 2012 it was Soft/Medium; in 2013 we see the Supersoft/Medium tyres from the P Zero range.

Friday practice yielded a fastest lap of 1:25.908 from Vettel with his Red Bull Renault on the red-marked Supersofts.

That compares with Seb’s 2011 pole-winning time of 1:23.529 (228.552 km/h) and his 2012 mark of 1:24.922 (224.803). Will the new Supersoft option see a dramatic improvement on those times?

Predictions second – and Pirelli’s Paul Hembery wasn’t being drawn on that possibility after Friday’s practice. “The medium tyre showed plenty of consistency, just as we expected, while the drivers also benefited from the rapid warm-up of the supersoft,” he said – and that’s the key.

Getting the tyres up to operating speed quickly was one of the guiding principles behind Pirelli’s 2013 development program, and of course that’s crucial when it comes to the short, sharp bursts needed for Q3-Q2-Q1 in today’s qualifying format.

Pirelli say their softer compounds for 2013 should mean a lap-time improvement of half a second or so, with men like pole-sitting phenomenon Vettel poised to pounce on any performance gain.

Vettel, with 36, has been on pole more often than any of his 2013 rivals. Hamilton has 26 but it’s a big ask to make it 27 first time out in his new Mercedes; Fernando Alonso has been on pole 22 times but never in Australia; Jenson Button’s McLaren Mercedes looked anything but a contender in Friday’s first outings.

That leaves Kimi from the previous Albert Park pole-sitters: could he add to his career tally of 16 with his first pole since returning to F1 last year? Or could Mark Webber get his season off to a flying start with his first pole on home soil, which would the 12th of his career?

Only time – and the times – will tell. But it is important: eight times in the previous 17 races here the pole-sitter has gone on to win the race…

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