Martin Brundle believes that tyre management will be a critical factor in determining the winner of Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix.
With Pirelli having produced even softer tyres for the 2013 season – along with bringing the Super Soft compound to the Australian Grand Prix for the first time – there were fears that this weekend’s race could turn into a lottery.
Speaking with us on the red carpet at the inaugural Australian Grand Prix Breakfast at the Crown Palladium this morning, the SKY F1 commentator predicted a race full of pit stops.
“I think we are going to see plenty of pit stops in Melbourne,” he said.
“Towards the end of last season, we were starting to see one-stop races, and the Grand Prix at Austin could have been run non-stop if the regulations allowed for it.
“It’s good that we have some degradation back in and that we will see the drivers really hanging onto their cars towards the end of each stint of those tyres,” he added.
“It seems ridiculous that you may only be able to do thirty kilometres on a set of Super Soft tyres, such is the energy going through them. They’re intentionally very soft, and to have them at Melbourne for the first time is going to spice things up. It’s a long pit lane in Melbourne to trundle down there at sixty kilometres per hour, so you don’t want to be stopping too many times.”
The limited availability of dry-weather tyres could mean drivers and teams opt not to run too much in qualifying, particularly if the weather is dry. There is a real risk, Brundle believes, that teams could opt to give Q3 a miss if they make the final ten.
“You need to be up at the front of the grid to stay out of trouble and avoid the inevitable carnage that happens at Turn 1 and 3 on the first lap here,” he continued.
“I will be shouting as loud as the fans when I’m in the commentary box if we don’t see cars going out in Q3. It is a fear that saving tyres is more important than starting from a midfield grid position.”
When asked who has impressed him so far at Albert Park, the race veteran was quick to nominate – as have many others – the Red Bull Racing team, Ferrari and Lotus.
“I was out beside the track yesterday and the Red Bulls were really going for it. You saw it at pre-season testing at Barcelona, and the car was really quick through certain sections. I thought they were sandbagging then, and that’s proven to be the case,” he answered.
“Every time the Ferrari came into view, they were also very quick and carrying some tremendous speed into the corners. Lotus was strong too. The Mercedes were quick but looked very twitchy.”
And who is struggling? He was equally quick to respond.
“The McLarens. The Toro Rosso looked good, but the lap times weren’t backing that up.
“I think we’re going to see two races,” he continued. “The midfield battle between the usual contenders – Williams, Sauber, Force India, Toro Rosso – and the usual suspects are roughly where you’d expect them to be at the front.”