Qualifying tyres take on new importance with one-off qualifying session
With this season seeing the introduction of a single qualifying session instead of the two sessions previously, the final ten minutes of this session is more crucial than ever as riders jockey for grid position before the race.
Michelin's tyre chief Nicolas Goubert explains the differences between the sticky qualifier the riders use to set a fast lap, and a normal race tyre.
"We have what we call a race tyre, something that can be used for 20-25 laps, basically for race distance. And there is also a qualifier, which is made to last only one lap, but a very fast lap. You can expect one second difference between the two."
"They look the same, they've got the same size, the same profile, the same weight and the same colour, but the compounds are completely different. This one is made with a very soft compound and basically the grip comes very quickly from the first corner out of pit lane, the grip is there and the level of grip is a lot higher. Basically the compound makes the biggest difference. We don't use front qualifiers, the riders keep the same fronts, but they only fit that rear, that soft rear at the back of the bike and then they go a lot faster."
Movistar Honda's Sete Gibernau, who took tow pole positions and only missed the front row two twice since the start of the season, discusses the virtues of the fast rubbers and how they affects his riding style, especially with only one lap of life in them.
"I think with the qualifier tyre the thing is that it is so good and has so much grip that it can cover up many of the problems with the bike. So you know that always with a qualifying tyre that you're going to be fast. To change the line is a mistake with a qualifier. You can only change the speed that you get into the corner because the exit of the corner before has been faster and sometimes you even put another gear where you never did because the amount of traction that you get from the qualifier from the rear, gives you the chance to accelerate faster and sooner. You always finish a qualifying lap and you always think you could have done better."