Fernando Alonso thinks his Indian GP medium tyre strategy could go either way
Spaniard says it all depends on how long soft tyres hold up
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 27/10/13 9:53am
In a Q3 at the Buddh International characterised by drivers in the top ten opting for divergent tyre strategies amid uncertainty over the soft tyres, Ferrari split their tactics with Massa taking the faster 'option' tyre and qualifying fifth while Alonso opted for the slower 'prime' and took eighth.
For their strategies to work effectively in the race, the drivers who have opted to start on the medium compound - Red Bull's Mark Webber is the best placed in fourth - are relying on the high degradation levels seen on the soft tyres throughout practice being repeated on the cars that start on that compound when their cars are heavy on fuel in the first stint.
Alonso's decision to adopt this tactic was particularly intriguing given in Q2 on the soft tyres he had set the second-fastest time to Sebastian Vettel - a lap which would have been good enough for a season-best third on the grid had he repeated it in Q3.
The Spaniard, however, says Ferrari had decided to tackle the final shootout on the medium tyres prior to the start of the first stage and it worked for them to run split strategies.
"You need to decide and to commit to one strategy from Q1 because you need to use the first set of tyres in Q1, Q2 etc to have the possibility in Q3 to choose the best one," Alonso told reporters.
"Here it's tough to make a decision: it depends on how many laps the soft will last tomorrow. So it's 50/50. The best thing for the team was to put one car in one strategy the other car in the other strategy, to maximise the points for the team and I think Felipe and me to help the maximum this different strategy an tomorrow hopefully score more points than Mercedes."
Asked if the podium was a realistic target for him should his strategy succeed, Alonso agreed that it was - and even mentioned the possible of challenging for the win should it really come off.
However, he stressed that the whole race now depended on how the six cars ahead of him that start on softs fare in the first stint.
"If we have the pace, if the car is responding well like it did in qualifying with a good performance and if the soft have some problems and the people start pitting and going into heavy traffic maybe the race win will be between Webber and me," the Spaniard suggested.
"If the soft tyres are lasting longer than expected and they go much longer in the first stint it will be difficult to recover places. So it's not in our hands, it's not in the strategy's hands, it's in the coin because no one knows how the soft tyres will behave."
Describing the soft compound as a "random" tyre, Alonso said anything could happen in the race.
"On Friday I did 15 or 16 laps with the soft tyres, not in a very good pace, but I did some laps - and this morning I did three!" he said.
"I think set-to-set it depends. It's a random tyre and you need to be lucky with the set tomorrow."
He also pointed to June's German GP as an example of how pre-race expectations over tyre life can suddenly turn on their head.
"Also in Germany I remember the soft tyres were not working very well and we chose to start on the prime tyre," Alonso said of a race in which he started eighth and finished fourth.
"Then on Sunday the soft tyre lasted very long and we didn't take advantage of the prime. So we need to see tomorrow how they perform. If we start with the same strategy as the others sometimes we don't make any places because we are not as quick as the others, but we will see tomorrow. This is only qualifying."