By Berthold Bouman
Formula One’s tyre supplier Pirelli is under heavy fire after the Spanish Grand Prix last weekend, during the race most drivers needed to pit four times for new tyres, and thus needed five sets of tyres to cover the 300 km Grand Prix distance. Which means on average one set of tyres lasted only 60 km or 13 laps.
Formula One is certainly not an environmentally friendly sport when each of the 22 drivers need five sets of tyres to finish a race, and thus 440 tyres in total were wasted during the Spanish Grand Prix. There are not only concerns about the green image of the sport, as fans and drivers feel Formula One is now ruled by the Pirelli tyres, some even spoke of the ‘tyranny of tyres’.
Drivers cannot really race, afraid to damage their tyres, qualifying is a farce as teams want to save tyres for the race, and following a race is, even for the drivers, confusing to say the least. Drivers are instructed to let their rival pass them, as they are on a different strategy, which must be hugely frustrating.
There are also safety concerns, tyres explode or delaminate unexpectedly, large pieces of rubber fly through the air, and the last thing Formula One needs is a seriously injured driver. If a tyre explodes at 300 km/h, a driver can only hope for the best, and with Formula One now heading to Monaco, a circuit without run-off areas, this doom scenario could become reality.
The start of the Spanish GP – Photo: Mercedes-Benz
Although Pirelli’s job was to make the sport more exciting by increasing the number of pit stops, many feel the Italian tyre manufacturer has gone too far, one of them is Red Bull and Toro Rosso owner Dietrich Mateschitz, who said Formula One is not racing anymore.
In an interview with Autosport, Mateschitz vented his frustrations and said, “This has nothing to do with racing anymore. This is a competition in tyre management. Real car racing looks different. Under the given circumstances, we can neither get the best out of our car nor our drivers.”
“There is no more real qualifying and fighting for the pole, as everyone is just saving tyres for the race,” the Austrian complained. “If we would make the best of our car we would have to stop eight or ten times during a race, depending on the track.”
Red Bull’s Team Principal Christian Horner agreed and said, “When you are telling drivers not to push because we are saving tyres, it isn’t great for the sport or for the fans. We need to push the drivers harder and allow them to drive properly!”
Too many pit stops in Spain – Photo: McLaren
During the race at the Circuit de Catalunya, Lewis Hamilton complained that he had just been overtaken by a Williams, the 2008 World Champion, who had qualified in second place, was a sitting duck for the Williams of Pastor Maldonado, who had qualified in 17th place. At one point when his team asked him to spare the tyres, he said, “I can’t drive any slower!”
Hamilton later commented about the lack of pace, “I really don’t know what the problem is. I’m lost. We were slow and I had no grip for some reason. It was really tough, way too tough. I felt like I was going backwards, which I obviously did.”
About his race pace he commented, “The team were asking me to slow down in certain areas but I couldn’t go any slower otherwise I’m going at walking pace. I was already going so slowly to the point that people were just passing me. That is the way the sport has gone to improve overtaking. It is for the public to judge.”
Also Niki Lauda was critical after the race, “The car is quick, there’s no question about it. But the tyre consumption … look at Vettel, the same problem. He couldn’t get anywhere near the Ferraris and Raikkonen. And he added, “So, this is a problem which we need to fix but I don’t know how. They have to fix it. No question [about it].”
Even the race winner, Fernando Alonso, questioned the policy of heavy tyre degradation to ‘improve the show’. “With this year’s degradation and this year’s tyres we see races keep changing all the time. Whatever car keeps the tyres alive normally finishes on the podium or wins the race. Is it too much confusion for the spectators? There is no doubt,” Alonso said.
Jenson Button was also critical, “When we’re going round doing laps three seconds slower than a GP2 car did in qualifying, and only six seconds quicker than a GP3 car did in the race, there’s something wrong. This is the pinnacle of motorsport. We shouldn’t be driving round as slow as we have to look after the tyres. We go 12 seconds slower in a race than we do in qualifying.”
Winner Alonso with Raikkonen and Massa – Photo: Pirelli
Red Bull’s Mark Webber wasn’t happy either and said, “Neither Seb [Sebastian Vettel] nor I had the performance of the cars in front, and without that you can’t nail the magic strategy. With the tyres performing as they do, the races can be a bit frustrating, but that’s the way it is at the moment.”
Sky Sports commentator and ex-Formula One driver Martin Brundle wrote in his column, “Enough is enough. Pirelli have to change their tyres after a race bordering on a farce. I’ve tried my best to be supportive of more interesting — albeit to an extent fabricated — motor racing, but it’s just gone too far. Qualifying clearly means nothing these days, just ask the front row Mercedes boys.”
Pirelli’s Motorsport Director Paul Hembery angrily defended the policy of producing rapidly degrading tyres and said, “What do you want? We are only doing what we are asked to do, which is provide two or three stops. I know some people would like us to do one stop where the tyres aren’t a factor.”
“You can go back to processional racing where the qualifying position is the end position. Is that what you want? Unless you want us to give Red Bull the tyres to win the championship, I think it is pretty clear. If we did that there is one team that would benefit.”
Later, in an official press statement, Hembery said, “Our aim is to have between two and three stops at every race, so it’s clear that four is too many: in fact, it’s only happened once before, in Turkey during our first year in the sport. We’ll be looking to make some changes, in time for Silverstone, to make sure that we maintain our target and solve any issues rapidly.”
By Berthold Bouman
Pirelli will bring the medium (prime, white marked) and hard (option, orange marked) tyre compounds to Sepang for the 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix. According to the Italian tyre manufacturer, the hardest compounds are especially suited for the extreme temperatures and the abrasive surface of the Sepang International Circuit.
Paul Hembery: We would describe Sepang as genuinely ‘extreme’
Pirelli’s Motorsport Director Paul Hembery is an expert on race tyres and he said about the Malaysian circuit, “We would describe Sepang as genuinely ‘extreme’: both in terms of weather and track surface. This means that it is one of the most demanding weekends for our tyres that we experience all year.”
About the tyre choice Hembery said, “The nomination we have for Malaysia is the same as last year, but the compounds themselves offer more performance and deliberately increased degradation this season.
Asked about the tyre strategies he commented, “Last year three stops proved to be the winning strategy in a mixed wet and dry race, with a thrilling finish between Fernando Alonso and Sergio Perez that was all about tyres. We’d expect three stops again but once more it’s likely to be weather that dominates the action.”
Pirelli nominated the medium and hard tyre compounds for Sepang – Photo: Red Bull Racing
Sepang from a tyre point of view:
• Malaysia is one of the more abrasive surfaces that the cars compete on all year, which is part of the reason why the two hardest compounds from the range have been nominated.
• The P Zero Orange hard tyre has a high working range, whereas the P Zero White medium has a low working range. This makes it an ideal combination that can deal well with any eventuality. The durability characteristics of the new hard tyre are close to those of last year’s medium tyre, resulting in lap times that are around 0.4s-0.5s quicker than the 2012-specification hard.
• The Sepang track is built on what was formerly a swamp, with a fundamentally uneven surface. However, the asphalt was resurfaced in 2007, which smoothed out most of the bumps – although some remain.
• Last year, the hard and medium compounds were also chosen for the Malaysian Grand Prix. The top five drivers adopted a three-stop strategy: intermediate-wet-intermediate-slick. Bruno Senna meanwhile, in fifth place, stopped four times.
Pirelli’s technical tyre notes:
• Malaysia places heavy lateral demands on the tyres; it’s the second-highest lateral load of the year after Barcelona. This can lead to heat build-up within the tyre, which can reach a maximum of 130 degrees centigrade.
• Sessions at the Malaysian Grand Prix in the past have been frequently interrupted by heavy rain, and the race was even halted early in 2009, with half-points being awarded. Pirelli has a new specification of Cinturato Green intermediate and Cinturato Blue full wet tyre this year; with a redesigned construction to help improve traction and prevent snap oversteer.
• Although grip levels are high in Malaysia, the frequent rain has the effect of washing any rubber that has been laid down off the track overnight, meaning that there is often a ‘green’ surface at the start of each session. While a dry line can emerge quickly because of the high ambient temperatures, drainage at Sepang is not particularly good, which can lead to pools of standing water.
Malaysia 3D Track Experience – Video by Pirelli
By Berthold Bouman
Pirelli will bring the medium (white marked) and super soft (red marked) rubber compounds to Australia this weekend, the 2013 tyres are generally softer and faster than the 2012 compounds, and the Italian tyre manufacturer expects two to three pits stops per driver this season.
Paul Hembery: Performance gaps between compounds larger
Pirelli’s Motorsport Director Paul Hembery reckons teams haven’t seen the best of the new tyres yet due to the low temperatures during testing, “Cold weather conditions during pre-season testing meant that we weren’t able to showcase them to the best of their abilities, but we are expecting a different story in Albert Park, with two to three pit stops per car.”
About the new rubber compounds he remarked, “All the compounds and constructions have changed for 2013, and the drivers should notice a wider working range and a bigger window of peak performance. The performance gaps between the compounds are also larger, which means that teams have a greater opportunity to use strategy to their advantage by exploiting the consequent speed differentials.”
Pirelli ready for 2013 season – Photo: Infiniti
The Pirelli tyre from a circuit point of view:
• With all the compounds having become softer this year, the medium and the supersoft were chosen in Australia to give the teams a challenge in terms of tyre management and strategy, in accordance with Pirelli’s brief from the teams themselves and Formula One’s promoters.
• The P Zero White medium tyre is ideal for circuits with lower ambient temperatures and not particularly aggressive asphalt, such as Melbourne. Its durability characteristics are very similar to those of last year’s soft tyre, resulting in lap times that are around 0.8s quicker than the 2012-specification medium.
• The P Zero Red supersoft has been designed to come up to temperature quickly and it is ideal when it comes to delivering maximum performance instantly on a twisty and slow-speed circuit.
• Last year, the medium and soft compounds were chosen for the Australian Grand Prix, with the top seven drivers adopting a two-stop strategy.
Pirelli’s Technical tyre notes:
• Acceleration and braking are the keys to a good performance in Melbourne, with the longitudinal forces at work on the tyres being greater than the lateral forces. The improved combined traction of the P Zero tyres this year marks a significant step forward in this area.
• Melbourne has hosted a number of wet races in the past: last year’s Friday’s free practice sessions were held in wet weather. Pirelli is bringing a new-specification of Cinturato Green intermediate and Cinturato Blue full wet tyre to Australia, which has a redesigned construction to help improve traction and prevent snap oversteer.
• The left-rear tyre works hardest in Melbourne, with 10 right-hand corners and six left-hand corners.
• The 5.303-kilometre Albert Park circuit is not used outside of the Australian Grand Prix, which means that it is extremely ‘green’ and slippery on Friday in particular. But the faster warm-up time of Pirelli’s 2013 tyres should help drivers find grip more quickly.
Australia 3D Track Experience – Video: Pirelli
By Berthold Bouman
Tomorrow pre-season testing will resume at the Circuit de Catalunya in Spain, it’s the second pre-season test and teams will test their cars, drivers, and even more important, the new 2013-spec Pirelli tyres for four days. An important test, as there is only one month left before the 2013 season kicks off in Melbourne, Australia, on March 17.
Adrian Sutil to return to Force India?
Force India is the only team who still have to announce their second driver, there are plenty of drivers in the race for the last available Formula One race seat. One candidate is Adrian Sutil who was ousted by the Indian team after he had assaulted Lotus CEO Eric Lux in 2011. It might be the last chance for Sutil to return to Formula One.
There have been reports the German had a seat fitting last week, and rumours say he will be testing the VJM06 in Barcelona. A spokesman said about the seat fitting, “At this stage, the test driving schedule for the Barcelona test is not finalized but there is a possibility Adrian could be involved. The driving schedule will be communicated on Monday next week.”
Sutil’s manager, Manfred Zimmermann, is adamant Sutil still has a chance, “We’re convinced it will work out. But unfortunately we have to be patient and keep our fingers crossed.”
Adrian Sutil to return to Force India? – Photo: Force India
Alonso ready to test Ferrari F138
Tomorrow will be the first time Fernando Alonso will drive the Ferrari F138, as he chose to work to improve his physical condition with gym sessions, running and biking. So far, Felipe Massa and Pedro de la Rosa have done the development work on the F138, both were positive and claim the car is a lot faster than the 2012 car was during testing.
In Barcelona Ferrari hopes to get a better idea about how the car performs at a Grand Prix circuit, and the Maranello-based team is looking forward to test the Pirellis on a track surface that is more ‘representative of what lies ahead in terms of degradation and pace’.
Fernando Alonso ready for his first taste of the F138 – Photo: Ferrari
Williams to launch 2013 contender at Barcelona
Williams is the only team who still have to reveal their new car, they will present the Williams FW35 tomorrow in the pit lane of the Circuit de Catalunya. So far, Williams have used the 2012 car to test the components for the FW35, it is unknown why they postponed the launch of their new car, perhaps it wasn’t finished yet, or maybe Technical Director Mike Coughlan first wanted to snoop around the Jerez pit lane to see what the competition has come up with.
Pirelli in the spotlight
Most teams are eager to test the new Pirelli tyres, according to the Italian tyre manufacturer, 35 sets of all four rubber compounds are available for each car. Each team is allowed to use a maximum of 100 sets of tyres per car during the testing season, for Barcelona Pirelli will pick 20 sets, while teams are free to pick another 15 sets of the compounds they would like to test extra.
Pirelli Motorsport Director Paul Hembery commented about the test venue, “Barcelona is a circuit that the teams have plenty of data on already, which is useful for comparison purposes. So it should be possible for them to carry out plenty of productive work to help understand how their new cars interact with our latest generation of tyres, which are generally softer and faster than last year with deliberately increased degradation.”
And he added, “The limiting factor at the opening test in Jerez earlier this month was the abrasiveness of the track, so hopefully conditions will be more representative this time. There is always the potential for low ambient temperatures though: last year, we actually saw some ice on the track in the morning.”
Barcelona is an extremely demanding circuit for the tyres, in particular the left-front tyre is subjected to extreme forces, as the 4.655 km long circuit has mostly right-hand corners. Last year the fastest time (1m22.312) was set on the fourth day on the soft tyres, but whether the record can be broken of course depends on the weather conditions and ambient temperatures.
By Berthold Bouman
Pirelli is aiming for more tyre degradation and thus more pit stops in 2013, the Italian company announced today during the presentation of the Formula One 2013-spec tyres. The Italian tyre supplier completely revolutionised the P Zero dry weather tyres, but also the Cinturato wet weather tyres.
The tyre compounds will in general be softer, the structure of the tyres will be more flexible, and the shoulders of the tyres have been reinforced. Pirelli aims to improve the performance and to increase the thermal degradation to ‘open up more strategic options’ for all teams.
“The 2013 season continues the philosophy adopted by Pirelli last year in evolving the original 2011 range of Formula One tyres,” Pirelli’s Motorsport Director Paul Hembery said.
At the start of the 2012 season teams had difficulties understanding the tyres, but as the season progressed teams could use their experiences to make the tyres last longer, which resulted in less competition.
Pirelli’s Motorsport Director Paul Hembery
“The goal is to continuously set new challenges for the drivers and to ensure that all the teams start the new season on a level playing field when it comes to the tyres. Through accumulating more information with each Grand Prix last year, the teams eventually fully understood the tyres, after a spectacular start with seven winners from the first seven races,” Hembery explained.
“The result at the end of the year was races with less competition and sometimes only one pit stop. This phenomenon was also observed in 2011, disappointing many fans and prompting some of the teams to ask us to continue developing our tyres further this year, in order to provide a fresh challenge with something different,” Hembery added.
Pirelli is now aiming for two to three stops per driver per race, which would make races even more attractive according to a statement issued today. Pirelli also promised to be more aggressive with the tyre allocations towards the end of the season.
Also new is that the sidewall of the hardest tyre will be orange marked, instead of silver, which will make it easier for the fans to spot the difference with the medium compound, white marked tyres.
Hembery doesn’t think teams will encounter problems getting the tyres at the correct working temperature like at the start of the 2012 season, “We don’t envisage that happening because the cars are so much more closely related to the previous year’s cars. Taking that out of the equation will certainly assist the teams, but they will have to get used to a little bit more degradation than they were at the end of last year.”
Just as last year, each car will have 11 sets of tyres available for the weekend, made up of six sets of the harder and five sets of the softer compound. The performance gap between each rubber compound will be more than half-a-second per lap, which, according to Pirelli, will ’encourage overtaking throughout the race’. Teams will get their first taste of the new tyres during pre-season testing, which starts on February 5 in Jerez, Spain.
By Berthold Bouman
Pirelli will bring the Hard (Prime, silver marked) and Medium (Option, white marked) tyre compounds to the final race of the season, the Brazilian Grand Prix at the very fast Interlagos circuit. The 4.309km circuit is a mix of fast sweeping corners, long straights, hairpin bends and elevation changes, and the Brazilian Grand Prix is an excellent venue for the 2012 title showdown.
According to the Italian tyre supplier, Turn 14 — the slowest corner of the track — is a good example of some of the technical challenges that Interlagos poses for the tyres: the drivers brake hard while heading uphill and then turning into the corner, before managing wheel spin carefully as they exit the turn.
Teams will also have two extra sets of Pirelli’s 2013 prototype tyres at their disposal for Friday’s free practice sessions. It is the only chance teams will have to try out the new generation of tyres, the next opportunity will be at the end of February next year during the pre-season testing days. The compound and construction of the 2013 slick tyres will be different compared to this year’s slick tyres.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli’s Head of Motorsport explained, “Both the compounds and construction will be different, which means that the characteristics of the new tyres will be altered, with a wider working range and some compounds that are slightly more aggressive. We’ve yet to finalise where exactly all the compounds will sit in relation to each other, which is why we are calling the tyre to be used in Brazil a ‘prototype’ rather than giving it a specific nomination, but it will be very representative of our general design philosophy next year.”
Pirelli technical tyre notes:
• The track surface in Brazil is notably bumpy, which makes it hard for the tyres to find traction and increases the physical demands on the drivers. The race lasts for 71 laps and last year’s winner, Mark Webber (Red Bull), adopted a three-stop strategy to win by 17 seconds.
• There is a big emphasis on combined traction: the transition when drivers go from braking to putting the power down. Interlagos tends to be light on brakes, so conserving momentum is important.
• The wide variety of high and low-speed corners, along with the big elevation changes and high altitude above sea level, mean that it is quite difficult to find the correct aerodynamic set-up and, once more, a good medium-low downforce compromise is needed. The last sector of the lap is one of the most important when it comes to the eventual lap time, so this tends to get prioritised in terms of set-up.
Brazil 3D Track Experience
Interlagos from a tyre point of view – Video by Pirelli
By Berthold Bouman
Pirelli has allocated the medium (Prime, silver marked) and hard (Option, white marked) rubber compounds for this weekend’s United States Grand Prix, at the brand-new purpose-built facility the Circuit of the Americas, according to Pirelli a conservative tyre choice for a circuit with many unknown factors. All teams will get an extra set of the hard tyres on Friday during free practice in order to help them to understand the new track.
A leap into the unknown, also for Pirelli, but Motorsport Director Paul Hembery said, “In many ways America will be the biggest challenge for us of the year, but stepping into the unknown is a situation that we are used to: last season the majority of tracks were completely new to us.”
About the choice of tyres he commented, “We’ve chosen the hard and the medium compounds as we think it will be quite a demanding track, based on the asphalt samples and simulation data we have gathered. Naturally we’ve leaned towards a slightly more conservative choice in order to cover every possibility at a brand new circuit, but the tyre choice in Abu Dhabi was also conservative and yet we saw one of the most exciting races of the year.”
Commercially the United States Grand Prix is also important for Pirelli, and Hembery explained, “We’re all absolutely delighted to be returning to America with Formula One: it’s a crucial market for us as well as being the home of many of the most enthusiastic fans out there. We’ve felt a huge buzz about this race, and with the championship so finely poised it couldn’t come at a better time.”
Technical tyre notes (by Pirelli):
• As Austin is a brand new circuit, the surface is likely to be ‘green’ and slippery, with a high degree of track evolution over the weekend. A totally new track often has a thin film of greasy oil on the surface, which is released by the asphalt as it settles into place. The race length will be 56 laps.
• Turn 11 is also particularly demanding in Texas as the driver starts braking heavily with the car already turning, creating an uneven distribution of forces across the tyres. Good grip from the compound is essential for an effective turn-in.
• The cars are likely to run with low gearing and medium downforce, with the set-up not expected to be dissimilar to that of Istanbul Park in Turkey.
• The weather can be uncertain in Texas at this time of year, with a 31% chance of rain on any given day on average. The month of November is characterised by rapidly falling daily high temperatures, with daily highs decreasing from 25°C to 19°C over the course of the month, exceeding 29°C or dropping below 13°C only one day in 10.
Video: The United States Grand Prix from a tyre point of view
By Berthold Bouman
Pirelli has nominated the Medium (Prime, white marked) and Soft (Option, yellow marked) rubber compounds for round 18 of the FIA Formula One World Championship, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The Yas Marina circuit has a smooth and fast surface, and has a wide variety of corners, taken at different speeds.
Pirelli expects the tyre wear to be low, and therefore drivers can push harder without damaging their tyres. One of the main peculiarities of the track is that the race starts when it is still light, and finishes in the dark, which means track temperatures will fall instead of rise.
Pirelli’s Motorsport Director Paul Hembery has fond memories of the track, as it was the track where Pirelli tested their Formula One tyres for the first time back in 2010. “In 2010, the teams sampled our tyres there for the very first time at the official end of season test following the Grand Prix. That was a very special test, as we were brand new and the teams needed to understand our tyres. We’ve returned to test in Abu Dhabi a few times since, and we actually launched our 2012 programme to the international media there as well at the beginning of this year,” explained Hembery.
About the race strategies this weekend he said, “We know that the combination of the medium and the soft tyre works extremely well here, and with the teams also having plenty of data about the circuit characteristics, they should be in a strong position to construct some race strategies that will make a real difference to the outcome of the weekend. With the championship so closely balanced now, having the right strategy could quite literally decide the title.”
Pirelli technical tyre notes:
Abu Dhabi, like many circuits, requires a medium-downforce set-up to guarantee good straight-line speed down the long main straight, which is more than one kilometre, but also enough downforce to provide enough braking stability and aerodynamic grip through the corners.
There are comparatively few high-speed changes of direction, so in order to help traction, one of the key demands that the tyres face on the Yas Marina circuit, the engineers tend to set up their cars with a comparatively soft rear end. At the start of the weekend the dust on the track surface can cause graining, and there is quite a high degree of track evolution.
Abu Dhabi is located at sea level, ensuring a high ambient air pressure. This benefits engine power, which increases further as temperatures fall towards the end of the race. This too has a significant effect on tyre wear and strategy.
Abu Dhabi 3D Track Experience – Video by Pirelli
By Berthold Bouman
The United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) is not only a leap into the unknown for Formula One drivers and teams, but also for Formula One’s sole tyre supplier Pirelli. The Italian company has allocated the Medium and Hard tyre compounds for the inaugural US Grand Prix, the hardest tyres in their range, and a ‘relatively conservative choice’ Pirelli admitted.
Pirelli has recently done a lot of simulation work to determine which tyre compounds would suit the brand-new track best. Pirelli sent two of their tyre engineers to Austin to inspect the track in detail, sophisticated laser equipment was used to determine the abrasiveness of the track’s new asphalt layer, the data was used to create a virtual representation on computer from a tyre point of view.
The engineers also took samples of the asphalt and used them to calculate the likely tyre wear, and also used them to see what the effect of the ambient temperatures at different points around the circuit will have on the tyres.
Pirelli Motorsport Director Paul Hembery said, “There’s no doubt that preparing for a circuit that is completely new is more difficult than going to one of the established venues.” And he added, “The technology and know-how that we have at our disposal means that we can forecast some very accurate predictions without actually having raced at a circuit these days, thanks to the preparation work from our engineers.”
COTA President Steve Sexton was pleased with Pirelli’s preparations, “The sophisticated technology that Pirelli is known for has allowed them to be a market leader. Their analysis of our brand new track can help provide race strategy predictions that should assist drivers and teams toward achieving success at our circuit. We look forward to their continued work at Circuit of the Americas.”
Circuit of The Americas: Pirelli Virtual 3D Track Lap
By Berthold Bouman
Pirelli will bring the Soft (prime, yellow marked) and Super Soft (option, red marked) tyre compounds to the Korean Yeongam circuit for round 16 of the FIA Formula One World Championship this weekend. According to Pirelli, the circuit will be a test for the soft tyres, as it has long sweeping fast corners like in Japan, but also slow corners like in Monaco or Valencia.
The circuit also has varying levels of grip, as the part of the circuit that runs along the harbour uses normal roads. As seen in the past, the weather is very unreliable and therefore drivers could use the green marked intermediate tyres, or the blue marked full wet weather tyres. Yeongam is one of the few anti-clockwise circuits on the calendar, and therefore the front-right tyre is the most stressed, and the circuit also has heavy braking areas, which is also demanding from a tyre point of view.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli’s Head of Motorsports commented ahead of the race, “We’re bringing the same tyre nominations to Korea as we did last year, which at the time was seen as quite a bold choice because Korea has the highest lateral energy loadings of all the circuits where we use the supersoft tyre. This year, however, all our Formula One tyres are softer apart from the supersoft, which has remained the same.”
Asked about the tyre strategy Hembery said, “We should see another two-stop race this year, which in theory should be even faster. Strategy played a key role in last year’s race but there was also a safety car and some rain at the start of the weekend. So Korea is the sort of circuit where anything can happen, and as always the teams with the most data and the ability to adapt that information to rapidly changing circumstances will be the most successful.”
Technical tyre notes – by Pirelli:
• The aerodynamic set-up adopted for Korea by the teams is quite similar to Japan, with medium to high levels of downforce. However, the traction demands are much higher than in Japan, so the teams use different engine maps to help put the power down out of the slow corners.
• Graining can be a risk in Korea, particularly in the low-grip conditions at the start of the weekend. Graining is caused when the cars slide sideways too much, creating an uneven wave-like pattern of wear on the surface of the tread that affects performance.
• There is a long straight right at the beginning of the lap, which means that it can be hard to warm up the tyres effectively at the beginning of the lap. Subjecting the tyres to too much stress when cold is another main reason for graining and cold tearing.
Korea 3D Track Experience – Video by Pirelli
By Berthold Bouman
This time Pirelli will bring the Hard (silver marked) and the Soft (yellow marked) tyre compounds to round 15 of the FIA Formula One World Championship: the Japanese Grand Prix at the classic Suzuka circuit. Pirelli, however, noted that both compounds are in general a bit softer compared to the ones used last year.
The Suzuka circuit is fast and challenging, and together with Barcelona a circuit that is very demanding for the tyres, mainly due to the very fast 130R and Spoon curves. The 130R corner is the fastest of the year, cars reach speeds of 310km/h which is extremely demanding for the tyres.
Pirelli Motorsport Director Paul Hembery, “It is the layout of the track that delivers the technical challenge: Suzuka is a classic drivers’ circuit, a bit like Spa or Monza, with some of the most awesome corners that we see all year and very little margin for error.”
But the Pirelli tyres are ready for the challenge he said, “Despite the increased demands that this places on the compound and structure, they are still more than capable of withstanding the immense forces to which they are subjected lap after lap.”
There is again one step between compounds, Pirelli hopes to bring some extra excitement to the Japanese Grand Prix, and Hembery reckons the tyre choice provides plenty of room for different tyre strategies, “This should also open up the opportunity for lots of different strategies, which as we have seen already this year can form the foundation of a memorable victory, or boost drivers to a top result even if they have started from lower down on the grid.
“Last year the drivers’ championship was actually decided in Japan, but this year has been so competitive that we are still a long way from seeing the titles settled — and that is great news for all the fans!”
Pirelli’s Technical notes:
• While the non-stop series of corners puts plenty of energy through the tyres, the flowing nature of the track means that it has the lowest traction demand of the year. The only place where the tyres have to provide full traction is coming out of the hairpin (Turn 11) and the downhill final chicane. Braking effort is also comparatively low.
• The front-right tyre has a particularly tough task in Japan: through 130R, for example, it has the equivalent of 800 kilogrammes of downforce going through it — while cornering at maximum speed.
• High levels of stress on tyres can cause blistering if the car is not set up properly. This phenomenon is the result of localised heat build-up, particularly in the shoulder of the tyre, as it flexes. If not dealt with by reducing the demands on the tyre, this can cause parts of the tread pattern to break away and affect performance.
Suzuka 3D Track Experience – Video by Pirelli
By Berthold Bouman
Extraordinary rumours are circulating on the internet and social media: Robert Kubica could make a return to Formula One as Pirelli test driver. The rumours started after a remark of Pirelli test driver Jaime Alguersuari, who said he is very close to returning to Formula One after being ditched by his previous employer Toro Rosso.
This could open the door for Kubica who recently made his racing return by participating in the Ronde Gomitolo di Lana and the Rally San Martino di Castrozza, he won the first event after winning all four stages, but during the second event the Pole crashed two times and had to retire.
The 27-year old ex-BMW Sauber and Renault driver spent the major part of the 2011 recovering from his horrific accident in February 2011 during the Ronde di Andora in Italy, he sustained serious arm and hand injuries and still hasn’t regained all of his hand and arm functions.
Despite his limited mobility, Pirelli would offer him a test role, Pirelli Motorsport Director Paul Hembery disclosed. “We are more likely to work with Robert in rallying I guess, rather than F1, but we will see,’ said Hembery.
And he added, “I haven’t spoken to Robert for some time, but we are working on a few projects that might involve him, so it might be a possibility. I don’t know if he is able to do it at the moment.”
Hembery is confident Kubica can make a Formula One return, and is willing to help him, “He is that type of person if, physically, he could get back in, maybe doing a year with us would put him in a good situation to come back in 2014.
“It would be wonderful if we could do that. We want to continue our success level of helping drivers into F1, and after an F1 drive the Pirelli test deal has to be the best drive in the world.”
Pirelli is currently using a Renault Formula One car to test there tyres, the same car Kubica drove in 2010, so he is very familiar with the car and knows it inside-out. Kubica has not yet reacted on Hembery’s proposal to return as a test driver.
By Berthold Bouman
Pirelli has allocated the Soft (yellow marked) and Super Soft (red marked) tyre compounds for the only night race on the 2012 Formula One calendar, the Singapore Grand Prix. The 5.073 km long Marina Bay street circuit has 23 turns, it has a bumpy and slippery surface, and together with the humidity, the heat and the constant changes of direction, this track is hard on drivers, cars and tyres.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery commented about the track, “Personally speaking I love the Singapore Grand Prix: it makes for an amazing spectacle at night with a great atmosphere and a fantastic challenge for our tyres. Due to the unusual circumstances in which the race is run, under more than a thousand spotlights, the teams and drivers have to think very hard about strategy — as track conditions and evolution are somewhat different than you would find in a normal daytime race.”
About a possible pit stop strategy he said, “One factor that could certainly come into play is safety cars: during every single Singapore Grand Prix that has been held so far since 2008 the safety car has come out at some point. This means that strategies have to be flexible as well as effective in order to quickly take advantage of any potential neutralisation.”
About the possibility of rain Hembery said, “While the humidity is constantly high, it hasn’t yet rained in any Singapore Grand Prix so this should be the same again this year and we are likely to see the ultimate performance offered by the two softest slick compounds in our Formula One range.”
It is difficult to predict which pit stop strategy would be best according to Hembery, “Last year’s race was won with a three-stop strategy by Sebastian Vettel, but Lewis Hamilton finished fifth after stopping four times and taking a drive-through penalty as well. As average speeds are not very high, degradation should not be an issue if wheelspin is controlled out of the slower corners, which can lead to overheating.”
Fernando Alonso is the only driver who won the event twice, in 2008 and 2010, while Hamilton won in 2009 and current World Champion Vettel won the race last year.
Singapore 3D Track Experience – Video by Pirelli
By Berthold Bouman
Pirelli has allocated the Medium (white marked) and Hard (silver marked) rubber compounds for round 12 of the FIA Formula One World Championship, the Italian Grand Prix at the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, one of the oldest European Grand Prix circuits.
Monza is a high-speed circuit with long straights and the famous Curva Grande and the Curva Parabolica, the latter is the seemingly never ending turn ahead of the start-finish straight. According to Pirelli, there are three sections that are very demanding for the tyres, the first chicane (Variante Rettifilo), the last chicane (Variante Ascari), and the mighty Curva Parabolica.
Cars can reach top speeds of 340kph, on the 5.793 metres long circuit, which means tyre temperatures can go up to 130 degrees Celsius, in other words: Monza is very hard on the tyres and drivers have to be careful not to overheat the Pirellis. But Monza is also hard on the brakes, at the Variante Rettifilo cars decelerate from 340kph to 80kph in just 150 metres.
The Italian Grand Prix is of course Pirelli’s home race, and Pirelli’s Motorsport Director Paul Hembery commented, “Monza is probably the most important race of the year for us, as it is our chance to come home and showcase our tyres and specialised technology in front of so many of our people and the passionate Italian fans. There is a really special atmosphere to this race that is unique to Italy.”
And he added, “Monza is one of the most demanding circuits that we visit all year due to the high speed and significant lateral loads on the tyres. After Spa, it is the second-highest set of forces that our tyres will experience all year.”
Pirelli test driver Brazilian Lucas di Grassi explains the challenges of Monza, “It’s quite difficult to drive as the cars run with such low downforce that they are not always easy to control. So it’s all about the right compromise between downforce and handling. You have to be assertive under braking but all the straights and corners also mean that there are lots of good opportunities to overtake.”
According to di Grassi, taking care of the tyres is very important at Monza, “It’s important to look after the tyres in terms of traction, as the traction areas put a lot of stress on them and if you don’t get a good drive out of the corners onto the straights then it really affects your lap time.”
Monza 3D Track Experience – Video by Pirelli
By Berthold Bouman
Pirelli has allocated the medium (Prime, white marked) and the Hard (Option, silver marked) tyre compounds for one of the most demanding circuits on the 2012 calendar: Spa-Francorchamps. Also a lap of 7.004km is the longest lap on any circuit, while the quickly changing weather conditions in the Ardennes can also play a role during this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix.
Pirelli opted for the two hardest compounds, as Spa with its high speeds, fast long and sweeping corners is very demanding for the tyres, and the most fearsome corner of all: Eau Rouge, a corner that according to Pirelli, gives drivers the ‘ultimate roller coaster ride’.
He is not a driver, but Pirelli’s Motorsport Director Paul Hembery is nevertheless a fan of the Belgian circuit, and he remarked, “I recently visited the 24-hour race there: the configuration of the track and the variety of the weather always seems to produce some great racing.”
About Pirelli’s tyre choice he said, “From a tyre perspective, it’s certainly one of the most demanding circuits that we face all year, because of the high speeds and extreme forces involved, which are often acting on the tyres in more than one dimension. The nomination of the hard and the medium tyres will allow drivers to push hard from start to finish, which is what Spa was designed for!”
Hembery also enjoyed a well-deserved vacation, but he is also looking forward to the second half of the season. “The first half of the season began with the most close and competitive start to a year ever seen in Formula One’s history, so I am looking forward to seeing how the rest of 2012 pans out, and which teams have made which steps forward over the summer break.”
He didn’t want to make any prediction about the battle for the 2012 championship, “Currently the grid is so closely matched — particularly in the midfield — that it’s impossible to predict.”
Spa 3D Track Experience:
Technical parameters that influence tyres’ behaviour: