Mark Webber has called the decision to qualify on the prime tire “something a little bit different” as he bids for his first win of the season in what will be his final visit to India as an F1 driver ahead of his retirement next month.
The tire allocation brought to India by Pirelli created the possibility to qualify on the medium compound tire in Q3 in order to go further into the race before stopping without finishing too far down the grid, and Webber utilized this perfectly to finish fourth on Saturday. As a result, he appears to be the best-placed driver to challenge teammate Sebastian Vettel for victory on Sunday.
“We thought it was worth trying something a little bit different with the strategy today, so that’s why we ran the primes in Q3,” Webber explained. “We thought we would probably be a bit further back than the second row to be honest, so it turned out to be a good session for us. It’s not easy to manage the primes when you just get a look at them in Q3, but I think we did a good job and we didn’t leave too much out there.”
The Australian driver feels that he could challenge Vettel for the win thanks to this strategy, with the German driver’s relentless pace making him look unbeatable barring an alternative strategy, such as the one Webber and Fernando Alonso have opted for.
“We’re in a good position to capitalise on a different approach tomorrow,” Webber added. “The option tire shouldn’t last too long and we’ll be on a different strategy. That said, I’ll still have to use the softer tire in the race at some point, so let’s see.”
Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.
Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.