How important is Qualifying in Formula 1?

Was Lewis Hamilton’s win in Shanghai down to his Qualifying?

28 April 2011

Red Bull’s Christian Horner has played down reports about the importance of qualifying in Formula 1.

After watching Sebastian Vettel start from pole position and using only two pit-stops he saw Lewis Hamilton eventually take the win with Vettel coming in second. Hamilton’s strategy and team tactics paid off with him securing enough pace to qualify in a decent position but not pushing the car so hard as to wear the tyres out before the race. Each team is given 3 sets of soft tyres and 3 sets of hard tyres; it’s been a general rule of thumb to ensure the soft tyres are used during qualifying to enable the driver to get the best qualifying time possible due to their higher grip. This normally ends up with the teams being on their third set of soft tyres by the last qualifying session and leading into the race. However, it was noticed that McLaren and specifically Lewis Hamilton managed to save a set of soft tyres for the actual race, ensuring that his lap times were faster than his rivals at Red Bull. This strategy payed off well for McLaren but how will it fair on a race by race basis? Will the same tactic be adopted by other teams or will trying to get pole position actual pay off on some tracks?