LONDON (Reuters) - Formula One teams might adopt aggressive strategies for Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix because track conditions could lead to heavy wear of the supersoft tire that has not been used in Shanghai before, Mercedes technical head Paddy Lowe said on Monday.
The supersoft tires are the quickest of the three types available for the race but also rapidly lose performance.
The Chinese race is heavier on tires than tracks in Melbourne and Bahrain, where the supersofts have been used previously this season.
Drivers will spend some 80 percent of the Chinese circuit negotiating turns and high-energy corners and the unpredictable weather in Shanghai could also affect tire degradation.
“It’s the first time we’ll see the supersoft compound used at this track ... and that will likely create a more extreme example of what we saw in Bahrain, where the best qualifying tire is unlikely to be a great race tire,” Lowe said.
“Every team is bound to want to qualify on the supersoft, but if it grains (wears) in the race, we could see cars stopping in the first five laps.
“There will be plenty of analysis to do on Friday and we could see some interesting calls on qualifying and race strategy,” he said in a Mercedes team preview.
Mercedes has dominated both Formula One races this season, with triple world champion Lewis Hamilton the fastest qualifier in Australia and Bahrain but losing to team mate Nico Rosberg on race day.
Winners of 34 of the last 40 races, Mercedes have also locked out the front row for eight successive races.
Formula One drivers are allowed 13 sets of dry-weather tires over a race weekend and have supersoft, soft and medium to choose from in China, as selected by supplier Pirelli.
That can lead to variations within a team as well as between teams, mixing up strategies.
Pirelli said Williams, McLaren and the new Haas team had gone for the most extreme selection with their drivers all choosing seven sets of the supersoft compared to Hamilton and Nico Rosberg’s five.
Williams’ Felipe Massa and Haas’s Romain Grosjean, who has scored in both of the team’s first two races, have made the most aggressive choices with just one set each of the medium tires.
Hamilton has opted for four sets of the medium and four of the soft while Rosberg, who leads the championship with a maximum 50 points, went for three medium and five softs.
Hamilton won last year’s race in China from pole position, with Rosberg second.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by Louise Ireland