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Mercedes expect “interesting” opening stint in Brazil

The Silver Arrows will start on Supersofts. Ferrari have Softs. So who will get the advantage?

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Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton (center) will line up first for Sunday's Brazilian Grand Prix, followed by Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel (left) and the other Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas (Image courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari).

Mercedes-AMG will start from the front in Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix, but the team say they’re expecting an interesting and unpredictable opening stint as Ferrari start with a harder and more durable tyre compound.

Lewis Hamilton drove to pole position on Saturday in São Paulo, finishing little-less than a tenth ahead of Sebastian Vettel’s second-placed Ferrari.

However, as the changeable conditions came to peak at the end of Q2, Ferrari gambled by placing their drivers on the Soft tyres whilst Mercedes opted for the SuperSofts. These laps became the fastest of the session, leaving the two teams starting Sunday’s race on different Pirelli compounds.

Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff (right) is expecting an “interesting” first stint in Brazil. Here, he shakes hands with Former Formula 1 World Champion and Brazilian hero, Emerson Fittipaldi (Image courtesy of Daimler AG). 

Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff said the difference in tyres would produce an “interesting” opening stint, as Ferrari should be able to drive further into the race before making a pit stop. Valtteri Bottas thought the “interesting” part of the race would be the start, as softer and grippier rubber will give Mercedes an advantage on the initial getaway.

But, for Ferrari, the more durable Pirelli rubber will lessen the effect of blistering or graining as they go further into the race.

“If we want to win tomorrow, we will have to fight for it every step of the way,” Wolff said after qualifying.

Mercedes Technical Director James Allison felt having softer tyres at the start could be an advantage for the Silver Arrows. He said softer, and thus quicker, tyres can be useful initially because this circuit “offers opportunities” to make early passes.

Lewis Hamilton took pole position on Sunday with a stunning lap. Here’s how he did it, courtesy of Formula1.com

As it stands, Mercedes will start Sunday’s race from first and third, and Allison seemed confident the SuperSoft tyres would help Bottas overcome Sebastian Vettel, who starts P2. “We will hope to make strong starts with both cars and then to look after the tyres in order to try and convert our strong qualifying result into victory,” Allison commented.

Ferrari were optimistic the qualifying gamble would pay off in Sunday’s race, if the weather stays dry. Sebastian Vettel, who lines up on the front row, felt the tyres would be “useful” in the first stint. He was unconcerned about the initial getaway due to the relatively short run toward Brazil’s first corner chicane.

“I think a lot will depend on the job we do at the start to get everything right,” Vettel said after Saturday’s qualifying

Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel cannot win the 2018 Formula 1 World Championship, despite leading a charge earlier in the season (Image courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari). 

The German Ferrari driver has not won a race since the Belgian Grand Prix in late August. In last fortnight’s Mexican Grand Prix, he officially lost the 2018 Drivers title to Lewis Hamilton, but the Constructors Championship remains up for grabs.

[Read how Ferrari are still confident they can take the fight to Mercedes in the final two races of 2018]

Vettel’s team-mate Kimi Raikkonen was optimistic of the potential with Soft tyres, telling media they were the “best option” for Ferrari. And, using the same old word preached by Wolff and Bottas, Kimi Raikkonen said tomorrow’s race would be very “interesting.”

Steven Walton is an 18-year-old Journalism Student at the Ara Institute of Canterbury. He previously attended St Andrew's College in Christchurch, where he excelled at History and Classical Studies. Steven is the Editor-in-Chief at Green Flag F1 and spends most of his days living, breathing, and immersing in the Formula 1 world.

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