Adrian Sutil could play a key role in the fight at the front of the field in the Bahrain Grand Prix because of his qualifying tire gamble, reckons Bridgestone.
The Force India driver was the only man in the top 10 to qualify on the medium compound tires, which should give him an advantage in terms of consistency over the first part of the race. Bridgestone's director of motorsport tire development Hirohide Hamashima reckons that if Sutil can keep in touch with the front runners early on, he could play a big factor in the outcome of the race.
Drivers switching from the supersofts will not want to lose time getting stuck in traffic after a pit stop after the best performance from the supersoft has gone - predicted to be after 10 laps, so sutil's performance on the medium tires will provide valuable data for teams to decide when to make the switch.
"Sutil is the key point in this race," said Hamashima. "His lap time is very important for the second stint for the top runners. If he is out, then everybody will just be watching the competitor who is just behind him."
When asked if there was actually a chance of Sutil's strategy grabbing a victory, Hamashima said: "If he makes a good start, from example 10th to fifth, then in that case it might be possible. He needs to keep close to the top runners – and if that is the case then they should be worried. Otherwise it will be very difficult."
Hamashima said it was impossible to predict how the early stages of the race would pan out – after the golden 10 laps for the super-softs.
"I think for about 10 laps the super-soft will work very well; however, after 10 laps nobody knows," he said. "Even in qualifying, Fernando and Nico Rosberg commented about the rear tire degradation in sector three, so if the driver use the supersofts very hard in the beginning with heavy conditions then degradation will be much worse than expected."
Bridgestone believes the supersoft can complete at much as 186 miles, with the medium compound able to complete the whole race.
Hamashima added: "This weekend the Ferrari degradation was a little bit better than others, but Red Bull Racing did not give us enough data because they couldn't run enough laps on Friday."