Mark Webber expects several top 10 qualifiers to sit out Q3 in Saturday's Spanish Grand Prix qualifying session amid suggestions that having as many fresh set of tires for the race as possible will again be key to victory.
Webber's teammate Sebastian Vettel won the last grand prix in Bahrain from pole, but was pushed hard by Kimi Raikkonen, as the Lotus driver conserved tires in qualifying then charged up from 11th on the grid to finish a close second. After setting the seventh-fastest time in Friday afternoon practice, Webber reckoned this would be a weekend when many drivers prioritized race pace over qualifying position.
"It is always nice to finish qualifying with a few sets of tires," said the Australian. "You always want to try and get through all three sessions with minimal damage on your tires, and there will be no exception this weekend – we will see.
"We could see people sit out Q3, those that just get into Q3, and they will do that to save tires."
Asked after practice in Spain if he felt qualifying or the race was the more important this weekend, Vettel replied: "Most important is points, and points you get on Sunday.
"I know the reason we go out on Saturday is to qualify as high as we can – ideally to get pole – so nothing has changed but we have seen that during the race there is a lot of things happening with the tires. Where you start on Sunday does not automatically mean that is the position you will finish."
Webber added that it was relatively difficult to get a perfect flying lap together on the softer tires, and felt that was the key to the big gaps between first- and second-placed Jenson Button and Vettel, and their fourth and seventh-placed teammates.
"I still think we saw at the end there that when people put new options on, the lap-time that everyone sees is one timed lap on the options basically, so I think if you get that right you are not looking that bad," said Webber. "To see six/seven tenths between teammates... JB is a big step ahead of Lewis, so if you get everything together then the lap time will come – that is the challenge on the tires."