Pirelli: F1 lap records could be broken in 2015

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Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery believes that the new construction of tires being used in Formula 1 this year could aid teams in breaking some of the existing lap records.

The Italian manufacturer embarks its fifth season supplying all ten F1 teams with their tires, and has refined its compounds for 2015 in a bid to help the cars go faster and produce better racing.

The majority of existing lap records set in F1 came during the 2004 season when the regulations favored all-out speed using V10 engines.

Since then, a gradual increase in lap times has occurred, leading many to question the direction that the sport has been taking. The V6 turbo engines in 2014 faced a backlash from much of the sport’s establishment, but it now appears that a reversal of fortunes is taking place.

In data published by Pirelli today, cars in this year’s Australian Grand Prix were an average of two seconds per lap quicker than they were in 2014, with part of the pace improvement being thanks to Pirelli’s change in rear tire construction.

“These figures underline what we expected to see following pre-season testing: a significant reduction in lap times, with cars that will only get faster as the year goes on,” Hembery said.

“We could even see some new lap records on certain circuits. With this in mind, we have introduced evolutions to the rear structure of all our 2015 tires this year, in order to give them greater capability in handling the extreme demands placed on them.”

One criticism that does remain concerns the conservative nature of Pirelli’s tires. The season-opening Australian Grand Prix was far from being the most exhilarating race in recent years as a one-stop strategy was utilized by much of the field, given that the compounds were long-lasting at the Albert Park circuit.

In spite of the improvement in lap times, Lewis Hamilton’s fastest from the race on Sunday in Australia (1:29.557) was still a full 5.4 seconds down on Michael Schumacher’s lap record at the circuit, which was set in the 2004 race.

Lewis Hamilton takes F1 pole in dramatic Russian GP qualifying

Russian pole Lewis Hamilton
Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images
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SOCHI, Russia — Lewis Hamilton took a step closer to equaling the Formula One win record Saturday by clinching pole position at the Russian Grand Prix, after narrowly avoiding early elimination when Sebastian Vettel crashed.

Hamilton charged to a track-record time of 1 minute, 31.304 seconds, beating the Red Bull of Max Verstappen by 0.563 for his fifth straight pole position. Hamilton can achieve his 91st career win in the race on Sunday, matching the record held by Michael Schumacher.

Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate, Valtteri Bottas, was beaten into third by Verstappen’s fast run at the end of the session and was .652 off Hamilton’s time.

The long run from the grid to the first significant turn means Bottas could yet threaten to overtake Hamilton at the start Sunday using the slipstream from his teammate’s car.

“It’s nice being on pole but here is probably the worst place to be on pole,” Hamilton said.

“This year you’re seeing that our cars are more draggy and there’s more tow this year than we’ve seen in other years. So I generally expect one of (Verstappen and Bottas) to come flying by at some point. I think I’m just going to focus on my race and run the fastest race I can.”

Bottas earned his first win at the 2017 race in Russia after starting third and overtaking the two Ferraris ahead of him at the start.

Verstappen and Bottas both start the race on medium tires, which could give them an edge in terms of pit strategy over Hamilton, who is on soft tires, which wear much faster.

“I’m just going to have to nurse those tires for as far as I can. These guys, if they get by, they’re going to be pulling away,” Hamilton said.

Verstappen said he was delighted to start second.

“I wasn’t expecting that and of course it’s great for us. If we can get a good start tomorrow you never know what can happen,” he said.

Vettel lost control of his car over the kerb on the inside of the 90-degree, right-hand turn four and spun into the wall, before the Ferrari bounced back onto the track. Teammate Charles Leclerc was following closely behind and narrowly missed the wrecked car, driving over its discarded front wing.

“Oh my God, that was very, very close,” Leclerc told his team over the radio. Leclerc qualified 11th and Vettel 15th as Ferrari failed to reach the top-10 shootout with either car for the third time in four races.

Vettel’s crash meant the red flag was waved while Hamilton was trying to set his first valid lap time to make the third session – after his first attempt was earlier ruled out for going off the track.

After the track was cleared and the session restarted, Hamilton had to rush his out-lap to make it over the line in time for another flying lap with just a second to spare.

“It was horrible,” Hamilton said. “Heart in the mouth.”

Hamilton was also asked to report to race stewards over another incident in which he went off the track in the first part of qualifying. No further action was taken. It was found Hamilton didn’t gain an advantage because the lap time wasn’t counted.

Hamilton is the runaway championship leader with a 55-point advantage over second-place Bottas and 80 over Verstappen. If he can earn four more pole positions in the last seven races, he would be the first driver to 100 in F1 history.

Earlier in the third and final practice Saturday morning, Hamilton set the pace with a time of 1 minute, 33.279 seconds that was 0.776 better than his Mercedes teammate Bottas, who had been quickest in the first two sessions.