|© AP Photo/Mark Baker
Championship leader Sebastian Vettel has rolled the dice with an unusual strategy for the Chinese Grand Prix on Sunday, and McLaren driver Jenson Button is taking the same gamble.
Red Bull's Vettel and Button both completed the final part of Saturday's qualifying session on the harder of the two tyre compounds, knowing it would knock them down the grid but counting on it benefiting them in the race.
Button qualified in eighth place, one place ahead of Vettel, who failed to set a time in the third session because of a brake pedal failure. While the pair will start a long way back from pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes, their hard tyres will enable them to do many more laps before needing to pit.
"We saw some people are very fast, especially the Mercedes and Ferrari, so we decided to go in a different direction," said Vettel, the three-time defending champion. "Whether it's smart or not we shall see."
He would have qualified ahead of Button with anything near a competitive time on his final lap but ran wide due to his pedal problem. The Briton capitalised, touring around on his last lap to post a timed lap and thereby start ahead of the German.
"I don't know what happened," Vettel said. "I lost the brake pedal, something broke. I checked the tyre, there was no damage."
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner calculated that the leaders will last as few as four laps and not beyond ten before having to pit for new tyres. Vettel and Button should be able to last about 20 laps before coming in.
"The first ten laps tomorrow are going to be eventful. If I can get a good start, I'll hopefully be able to find some clear air in front of me and then we'll see what happens," Button said. "(Vettel) is starting just behind me, starting on slightly newer tyres. He's going to really challenge for the win. We've just got to hold on and see where we end up."