Pirelli's choice to bring softer tyres to India has brought its desired effect, as it seems very unlikely that any will will be able to repeat last year's single stop race strategy.
Tyre wear levels noticed today have indicated that a single stop strategy is very unlikely for the Indian Grand Prix, contrary to last year's event. The soft and medium Pirelli tyres are a step softer than those nominated for India last year, when most drivers completed the race with just one pit stop. During the afternoon session, Vettel set a benchmark time of 1m25.722s: nearly a second faster than the time he had set in the morning. In both sessions today, his team mate Mark Webber was second-fastest.
There was a considerable degree of track evolution over the course of the day, with Vettel comfortably eclipsing his FP2 time from last year of 1m26.221s, also set on the soft tyre.
As soon as drivers started running the softer compounds half an hour into second practice, it became evident that the option tyre was not going to last very long. In fact, several drivers attempted longer stints to evaluate the tyre, but the sequence of medium speed corners, along with the lengthy right hand turn 10 and 11 make it very difficult to not wear out the soft tyre too quickly.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery commented: “Essentially we went for softer compounds this time as in 2012 the Indian Grand Prix was just a one-stop race, and the combination we brought this year allows for a two to three stop strategy. After what we have seen today, wear and degradation is generally in line with our expectations but there have been some issues with blistering on the soft compound while some drivers ran up to 24 laps on the medium tyre."
Towards the end of FP2, Raikkonen performed a run on the options and found that by lap 8 they were done. Even though the Finn was pushing fairly hard in the Lotus that is notably one of the best cars to manage its tyres, tyre wear was quite severe and makes a soft-medium-medium strategy the most likely choice for those who can qualify at the front on Saturday.
"The medium seems set to be the optimal race tyre, while the soft tyre should be the one to qualify on, as it has been about 0.8s to a second per lap faster up to now," Hembery continues. "Assessing the drop-off in performance will be the key to formulating the strategy and the timing of the first pit stop. Consequently, some teams will also be evaluating the potential benefits of starting on the medium. However, the track hasn’t finished evolving yet, so the final decisions won’t be taken until after free practice tomorrow.”
The difference between the two compounds is among the region of 8 tenths, at least in the beginning of the stint. Vettel for instance completed a lap around Buddh International Circuit in 1m26.871s on the medium and 1m25.722s. Mark Webber was slightly slower but record a difference of 0.861s between his best lap on mediums and softs.