The extreme weather that led to the cancellation of FP2 yesterday continued as expected overnight, resulting in qualifying being entirely moved to Sunday for the first time since the 2010 Japanese Grand Prix. Since then, in Australia 2013, Q2 and Q3 were moved to Sunday morning after Q1 took place on Saturday – again as a result of heavy rain. The qualifying session in Austin was scheduled to take place at 1300 local time, but was then subjected to a series of half-hour delays before being abandoned entirely just before 1600, with no let-up in the weather. Qualifying has now been rescheduled for 0900 tomorrow at Austin, when conditions are expected to improve considerably: possibly allowing the use of the P Zero White Medium and P Zero Yellow soft tyres that have been nominated for the United States Grand Prix. The only running to take place today was the hour-long free practice session this morning, during which just the Cinturato Blue tyres were used. Rain fell throughout the session but most drivers still took the opportunity to complete plenty of laps, just in case the order for FP3 was used to form the grid tomorrow. Hamilton was fastest in the session by eight-tenths of a second over Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, with the Force India of Nico Hulkenberg third.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director: “As an Englishman, I’m something of an expert on rain, so today we saw good weather for ducks – as we say in England – and not such good weather for Formula One cars. But it’s actually not the first time we’ve been in this situation: we successfully ran part of qualifying on Sunday morning in Australia two years ago. Looking on the positive side, the teams managed to run a number of laps on the full wet tyre during free practice this morning – which could yet be useful experience – and the weather is expected to be better tomorrow. Nobody has had much preparation time, but it’s the same for everyone and all the drivers have got a full allocation of new slick tyres for use during the race tomorrow, if conditions allow it. This potentially opens up a few different opportunities for strategy.”
The Pirelli strategy predictor:
With very little running up to now (just FP1 and FP3, held exclusively in wet conditions) the teams have not had any chance to formulate the ideal slick tyre strategy for the 56-lap race. However, theoretical calculations would indicate that a two-stop strategy is best, as was also the case last year. At the moment, it’s hard to predict the timing of the pit stops as wear and degradation rates are unclear.