All the Formula One news

Posts tagged “Pirelli

Pirelli under fire after 82 pit stops, tyres now rule Formula One

By Berthold Bouman

Pirelli under fire after 82 pit stops, tyres now rule Formula OneFormula 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

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

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

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.”

Spanish GP: Alonso victorious at home GP, Mercedes sitting duck

By Berthold Bouman

Spanish GP: Alonso victorious at home GP, Mercedes sitting duckFernando Alonso took the victory for Ferrari during round five of the FIA Formula One World Championship, the Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya this afternoon, a great day for Ferrari as Felipe Massa took third place. Alonso reduced the gap to rival Sebastian Vettel, who finished fourth and still leads the championship, but Alonso’s win at his home Grand Prix reduced the gap to just four points.

Alonso was of course happy, but also cautious about his championship chances, as he said, “Nothing really changes, we’ve only had five races and we’ve had ups and downs. Some races we have had a good race with no problems, and we more or less finished all of them on the podium. At some races we have had mistakes and mechanical problems that we don’t want to repeat, but we know we have the car to fight with the top and we can fight for the championship.”

Ferrari celebrating Alonso's win - Photo: Ferrari

Ferrari celebrating Alonso’s win – Photo: Ferrari

Second place was for Kimi Raikkonen, who once again showed how fast the Lotus E21 is, as he was actually the only driver who could keep up with the Ferraris. Raikkonen needed one set of tyres less than his rivals, but the Finn was not pleased with the result, “Unfortunately it’s second place again so it’s not time to celebrate too much.”

“The car felt good and we did pretty much all we could today, but we didn’t have the pace to challenge Fernando [Alonso]. I drove to the maximum and it’s good for the championship that Sebastian finished behind us. It’s nice to be on the podium for me and the team; let’s see what we can do in Monaco.” Massa tried to catch Raikkonen during the closing stages of the race, but after concerns about the tyres Ferrari told the Brazilian to take it easy.

Raikkonen not happy with second place ... he wants to win! - Lotus F1

Raikkonen not happy with second place … he wants to win! – Lotus F1

Not a great day for Red Bull, Vettel finished in fourth, and Mark Webber finished in fifth place, but at least they still scored a decent amount of points. Vettel could not get closer to the Ferrari of Alonso, as he was struggling to keep his tyres alive for almost the entire race.

The triple World Champion was nevertheless satisfied with the result. “I think we can be happy with fourth today. The first three cars were a little bit too fast for us and regarding looking after the tyres, they did a better job,” Vettel said. He was certainly not happy with the fast degrading tyres, “We need to catch up; we’re not going the pace of the car, we’re going the pace of the tyres and obviously we do something to make the tyres wear more.”

Mercedes drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton started from first and second place on the grid, but it didn’t take Alonso, who made one of his famous rocket starts, very long before he first passed Hamilton, and after the first round of pit stops also overtook pole sitter Rosberg. The Silver Arrows are fast during qualifying, but are sitting ducks during the race, and the German team still has a lot of work to do.

Rosberg defends, but the Mercedes is a sitting duck – Photo Mercedes-Benz

While Alonso was leading, Rosberg did a great job keeping the Red Bull of Vettel behind him, but it didn’t take long before Vettel got past the Mercedes, and Massa and Raikkonen also didn’t have any problems passing the Silver Arrows, a car that is hard on the tyres and causes massive tyre degradation. At one point Hamilton reported he ‘just had been overtaken by a Williams’, and when his team told him to spare the tyres, the Briton remarked he ‘couldn’t drive any slower’.

Rosberg and Hamilton finished in sixth and 12th place, and both drivers were obviously not happy with the poor result. Rosberg was puzzled by the lack of pace, “I didn’t expect it to be that tough, I thought we’d be in a better position. It was very difficult, it’s so difficult to explain it, you know? Why? Why on one lap so fast and then on a long run it’s so slow? It’s not just rear tyres, it’s front and rear both, both just struggling. No explanation.”

Hamilton, who was even lapped by winner Alonso, was also lost as to why his car was so slow. In an interview after the race he said, “It was an experience I don’t want to go through again. I don’t know why it happened. I did absolutely everything I did in Bahrain but the tyres just didn’t come in and give me any grip. If I pushed, they went off immediately. I’m absolutely lost, I don’t know what went wrong.”

McLaren managed to make some progress during the race, and Jenson Button and Sergio Perez came home in eighth and ninth place respectively. Button said, “We took the same approach as in China, adopting a different strategy from the others. To finish eighth shows what a good job the team did with the strategy. I don’t know whether we’ve improved our package or not, but we certainly beat some cars that we possibly shouldn’t have beaten. There’s still a lot of work to do. It’s tough at the moment, but I’m pleased that we’re making the best of what we have.”

Problems for Sutil during his pit stop - Photo: Sahara Force India

Problems for Sutil during his pit stop – Photo: Sahara Force India

Paul di Resta finished the race for Force India in seventh place, but his team colleague Adrian Sutil wasn’t so lucky, he lost valuable time during a pit stop, and finished in 13th place. Di Resta said, “We said before the race that seventh would be a good result and towards the end I was even fighting for sixth. The result shows the consistency that we have had since the start of the year and that we can perform each weekend.”

Sutil was obviously disappointed and commented, “It’s extremely disappointing to come away empty-handed from this race because we were so quick today. It was all going to plan until the first pit stop when there was an issue and I lost so much time. The team told me to switch the engine off while they sorted the problem, but it cost me the chance of points.”

It was also an eventful race for Toro Rosso, Daniel Ricciardo finished in tenth place, but Jean-Eric Vergne was hit by the Sauber of Nico Hulkenberg during his pit stop, and not much later his rear tyre suddenly delaminated and although the Frenchman made it back to the pits, he had to give up his race.

Vergne commented after the race, “The strategy we adopted was the right one and even with a damaged floor and wing I was able to do good lap times. Yet again I was unlucky and I hope that stops soon, because as I was coming into the pits, Sauber did an unsafe release with Hulkenberg who drove into me and then I had a problem with a tyre, so it was one problem after another today.”

Also massive tyre wear for the Williams team - Photo: Williams F1

Also massive tyre wear for the Williams team – Photo: Williams F1

Williams also had problems with the tyres and Technical Director Mike Coughlan said, “We were suffering with high tyre degradation and so made the decision to switch Pastor [Maldonado] onto a four-stop strategy. We committed to a three-stop with Valtteri, but we then lost a lot of time. We need to check the data as the degradation on his car was unusual compared to the pace we had on Friday.”

For Dutchman Giedo van der Garde, the race was over quickly as his pit crew sent him out while the left rear tyre wasn’t properly secured, “When I came in for my second stop I could feel that there was a problem with the left rear as soon as I rejoined the track. At some point the wheel came off so I tried to make it back to the garage to see if I could continue, but once the team had taken a close look it was clear I had to retire the car.”

The race in Spain was really all about the tyres, Pirelli now rules Formula One, and drivers cannot attack or even defend their position, afraid to damage the tyres. From a ‘green’ point of view, it is also ridiculous one car needs five(!) sets of tyres to finish a race. Pirelli have gone too far by producing tyres that last only ten laps, it is time for Formula One to think about the future, using so many tyres during one race is not acceptable.

Pirelli has responded after the race, and admitted 82 stops in one race is too much. Pirelli Motorsport Director Paul Hembery said on Twitter, “We aim for 2-3 pit stops. Today was too many, we got it wrong, too aggressive. We will make changes, probably from Silverstone. We were asked to replicate Canada 2010, and aim for 2-3 stops.”

Mateschitz: Webber free to race Vettel this season, Pirelli tyres too dominant

By Berthold Bouman

Mateschitz:: Webber free to race Vettel this season, Pirelli tyres too dominantRed Bull team owner and billionaire Dieter Mateschitz has admitted he was enraged about the Multi 21 affair during the Malaysian Grand Prix. Triple World Champion Sebastian Vettel ignored team orders and passed his team mate Mark Webber although he was ordered to stay in second position and let Webber win the race.

The affair re-ignited the feud between the two Red Bull drivers, as Webber still refuses to play second fiddle at the Austrian team. Apparently, Mateschitz has ordered Team Principal Christian Horner not to issue any team orders for the rest of the 2013 season.

“Vettel and Webber can race freely to the end of the season. The motto is ‘Go ahead of me if you can’,” Mateschitz told an Austrian newspaper. Asked whether Webber will stay next year he said, “It all depends on Webber himself, how fast he is and what other offers he has.”

Vettel and Webber on the podium in Malaysia - Photo: Red Bull Racing

Vettel and Webber on the podium in Malaysia – Photo: Red Bull Racing

In the same interview the Austrian entrepreneur also said that he is frustrated by the role the Pirelli tyres play nowadays. “Formula One no longer has anything to do with ‘classic’ racing. Today, it’s not the fastest driver in the fastest car winning, but the one with the optimum tyre management,” Mateschitz said.

“We’ve even had to scale down our car, because the tyres were not lasting. If we really went as fast as we can, we would need 10 to 15 pit stops!” And indeed, even the Multi 21 affair had everything to do with the tyres, both drivers were told to hold the same position as Horner feared the tyres would go off very quickly if they would start a fight for the victory.

Pirelli tyres too dominant - Photo: Red Bull Racing

Pirelli tyres too dominant – Photo: Red Bull Racing

Although many drivers also have questioned the fast degrading Pirelli tyres, the Italian manufacturer has always maintained that the tyre game is the same for all drivers, and is good for ‘the show’, but by now Formula One has become the Pirelli show.

Meanwhile, ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix, Pirelli have revealed they will alter the rubber compound of the hard tyre. “The ‘hard’ will be slightly harder as a result and should perform better in a wider temperature range for the start of the European season,” said Pirelli’s Motorsport director Paul Hembery.

And he added, “This latest version of the hard compound is much closer to the 2012 tyre, with the aim of giving the teams more opportunity to run a wider range of strategies in combination with the other compounds, which remain unchanged.”

Malaysian GP: Vettel ignores team orders and wins at Sepang, Webber livid

By Berthold Bouman

Malaysian GP: Vettel ignores team orders and wins at Sepang, Webber livid - Photo: Red Bull RacingAfter a sensational race at Sepang International Circuit for round two of the FIA Formula One World Championship, Sebastian Vettel is leading the Drivers’ Championship — after he ignored team orders. Mark Webber was livid after Vettel passed him, as the Red Bull team had told both drivers to hold position to save the tyres, Vettel decided to ignore the requests from his team and after a bitter, but sensational battle on track, Vettel emerged as the winner of the Malaysian Grand Prix.

Vettel later apologized, but gave no explanation, and said, “I messed up today. I would love to come up with a nice excuse as to why I did it, but I can’t. I can understand Mark’s frustration and the team not being happy with what I did today; I owe an explanation to him and the whole team.”

And he added, “Mark and I are used to fighting each other when we’re close, but with the tyres how they are now, and not knowing how long they will last, it was an extremely big risk to ignore the call to stay second.”

Webber was livid after Vettel denied him victory - Photo: Red Bull Racing

Webber was livid after Vettel denied him victory – Photo: Red Bull Racing

Webber was very disappointed after Vettel overtook him, but he nevertheless remained calm and said, “I think Sebastian has respect for me and I have respect for him, but the situation today was not handled well. It’s hard to put your finger on it all now after the race; when we’re racing on the limit and pushing as hard as we can, then it’s the worst situation for a team.”

Just seconds after the start a sensational race unfolded, all drivers started on the intermediates as it had rained just ahead of the start of the race. It was a great start for Vettel, he remained in the lead, but Fernando Alonso, who was a bit too eager, hit Vettel’s Red Bull and the Spaniard damaged his front wing and at Turn 1 the wing got wedged under the front wheels of the Ferrari and Alonso ended up in the gravel trap, his race was over.

But the wet track very quickly dried out and Vettel was the first to switch to the slicks, he soon started to make progress and others followed and also pitted for slicks. A number of drivers encountered problems during their first stop, Force India driver Adrian Sutil lost a lot of time when there was a problem changing the left rear wheel and the German lost a lot of time.

More pandemonium in the pit lane as Charles Pic in the Caterham hit the Toro Rosso of Jean-Eric Vergne, who had to be pushed back to his slot for a new front wing. Webber meanwhile, had taken over the lead from Vettel, Hamilton was third, Nico Rosberg fourth and Jenson Button was fifth for McLaren. Hamilton had an embarrassing problem in the pit lane, he stopped at his old McLaren team, his old mechanics waved him off in the right direction.

Button had done the same during the 2011 Chinese Grand Prix, when he stopped at the Red Bull box, and Hamilton said, “I just did a Jenson! He did that a couple of years ago. For so many years I’ve been used to driving in to the McLaren pit stop and I don’t know how I got it wrong but a big apology to my team!”

A race to forget for Force India - Photo: Sahara Force India

A race to forget for Force India – Photo: Sahara Force India

Webber remained in the lead after his second stop, but disaster struck again for Force India when Paul di Resta’s car fell off the jacks and the Scot lost a lot of time before he finally could leave the pit lane. When Sutil pitted, there was again a problem, this time there was a problem changing the left front wheel, poor Sutil lost almost a minute before he left the pit lane and rejoined the race in 20th place.

But the misery wasn’t over for the Indian team, not much later di Resta came in and parked his car in the garage, a few laps later also Sutil returned to the pit lane and his race was also over. It was later established the wheel nuts had caused the problems.

Also Button had a problem in the pit lane, his left front wheel hadn’t been secured properly, he stopped after a few metres and he was pushed back to fix the problem and lost a lot of time as well. It also was a miserable day for McLaren, Button later retired and Sergio Perez finished in ninth place, scoring two points. Strangely enough, Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh later stated his team had made significant progress.

While Vettel chose to ignore his team’s orders, Nico Rosberg decided to stay behind Lewis Hamilton after he had requested to overtake the 2008 World Champion, both drivers were low on fuel and Team Principal Ross Brawn had told them to take it easy to save fuel. Rosberg was obviously disappointed but nevertheless stayed behind Hamilton.

Also team orders for Hamilton and Rosberg - Photo: Mercedes-Benz

Also team orders for Hamilton and Rosberg – Photo: Mercedes-Benz

Meanwhile, Vettel had built up a seven second lead after his fight with Webber, the Australian was perhaps too angry and disappointed and he didn’t even bother to close in on Vettel, and thus he finished in second place, followed by Hamilton and Rosberg.

Felipe Massa had no problems at all and had some fun overtaking both Lotus cars, the Brazilian finished in fifth place, followed by Grosjean and Raikkonen who were sixth and seventh.

During the podium interview Hamilton said his third place, his first podium for Mercedes, actually belonged to Rosberg, he wasn’t happy with the team orders either as he knew Rosberg had been faster.

“If I’m honest I really feel that Nico should be standing here, he generally had better pace than me throughout the race but he’s a great team mate and he did a fantastic job today,” he said, adding, “On our side I was fuel saving for a long, long time so unable to keep the pace of the guys at the front but nonetheless we brought it home, the guys did a great job and I’m proud to be up here for them.”

Massa had problems with his tyres during the early stages of the race and said, “The biggest problem at the beginning of the race was the graining I was having on the tyres. I lost a lot of positions because of that and a lot of time compared to the guys in front, maybe 0.3s per lap. In the dry it was fine and the pace was good so if it was not for this problem at the start of the race maybe I would have had a chance to fight for the podium.”

Raikkonen puzzled by loss of pace - Photo: Lotus F1

Raikkonen puzzled by loss of pace – Photo: Lotus F1

Raikkonen wasn’t really pleased with his seventh place, and he was puzzled by the loss of pace today. He said about the car, “Since Saturday morning it has not been behaving as we expected for some reason, especially in the wet where we really struggled for grip. It was a tough race and I lost part of my front wing at the start which didn’t help, but at least we scored a few points which is better than coming away with nothing.”

And thus it was a race that was won or lost in the pit lane. Today was really the Pirelli show and, as some drivers have already said, the tyres now rule Formula One. Sometimes the show Pirelli puts on is entertaining, sometimes it’s not.

Today spectators saw a great race, but using five sets of tyres during one race is somewhat silly, certainly when the hardest compounds are used like this weekend in Malaysia; it is also a pity two team mates are not allowed to battle for position because they are afraid to ruin the tyres; and on top of that, qualifying also becomes more and more a tyre-saving exercise, which does not contribute to the show.

Next race is the Chinese Grand Prix on April 14 at the Shanghai International Circuit.

Malaysian GP: Pirelli brings two hardest tyre compounds to Sepang

By Berthold Bouman

Malaysian GP: Pirelli brings two hardest tyre compounds to Sepang - Photo: Red Bull RacingPirelli 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 brings the medium and hard tyre compounds to Sepang - Photo: Red Bull Racing

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

Australian GP: Pirelli brings medium and super soft tyre compounds to Melbourne

By Berthold Bouman

Australian GP Pirelli brings medium and super soft tyre compounds to Melbourne - Photo: InfinitiPirelli 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

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

Formula One testing – Australian Grand Prix the real test of the season

By Berthold Bouman

Formula One testing - Australian Grand Prix the real test of the season - Photo: InfinitiAfter 12 pre-season testing days at Jerez and Barcelona, the real test for all teams and drivers will be the first race of the season: the Australian Grand Prix at Melbourne. Only 11 teams on the start grid this season as the Spanish HRT team ceased to exist due to financial problems.

Is it possible to make a prediction about the Australian Grand Prix? It’s difficult to predict anything in Formula One, but a few things are certain. There have been very few regulation changes, but they nevertheless could make the difference.

The sport’s governing body, the FIA, has banned the use of the active Double DRS system, a clever device that stalls the front wing when DRS is operational, as used by Mercedes last year. The use of the normal DRS system has been restricted for safety reasons, and the drag reducing device can this season only be used during the race, and not during practice or qualifying.

To make the sport even safer, tougher tests for the roll structures and the survival cell have been introduced, in addition, all survival cells will be subjected to static load tests. Flexing bodywork has been an area of concern in the past, again the FIA tests will be more stringent to lessen the possibility of using flexing bodywork to enhance the aerodynamic performance.

Melbourne the first real test of the season - Photo: Caterham F1

Melbourne the first real test of the season – Photo: Caterham F1

Almost all teams are still developing the Coanda-style exhaust outlets, exploiting the Coanda effect, the phenomenon that air ‘sticks’ to nearby surfaces, to the fullest. Williams came up with an idea that looked promising, they divided the exhaust outlet with a piece of carbon fibre in two apertures, which is prohibited.

Williams Technical Director Mike Coughlan made a tiny slot in the carbon piece, which according to him made it legal, but after a meeting with FIA’s Technical Delegate Charlie Whiting it was removed again. It is expected more teams will try such designs and other tricks to guide the air around and under the car, as it can deliver more downforce, and downforce is, even after more than 60 years, still the holy grail of Formula One.

The FIA has also extended the personnel curfews, the period team members are not allowed to be present in the paddock. The curfew on Thursdays has been extended from six to eight hours, while the number of occasions teams are allowed to break the curfew has been reduced from four to two.

The minimum weight of car and driver has been increased from 640 kg to 642 kg, to compensate for the increase in weight of the Pirelli tyres. Pirelli has announced they are aiming for more tyre degradation and therefore more pit stops. In general, the rubber compounds will be softer compared to last year, the structure of the tyres will be more flexible, and the tyre ‘shoulders’ have been reinforced. All this will result in more thermal degradation, which is good for the show.

Fernando Alonso testing the F138 - Photo: Ferrari

Fernando Alonso testing the F138 – Photo: Ferrari

Pirelli is now aiming for two to three stops per driver per race, which would make races even more attractive, they 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. For the Australian Grand Prix, Pirelli has allocated the super soft and medium compounds.

During the last four test days in Barcelona, teams have been testing parts for Melbourne, but when one takes a closer look at the lap times, it is impossible to tell who will be the fastest this season. Red Bull Racing, despite their average test results, is still the favourite for this year’s title. Mark Webber has recorded the fastest time only once during a total of 12 days, but Red Bull is renowned for hiding their true pace during testing.

Neither Webber, nor triple World Champion Sebastian Vettel have given any clues or hints about the true speed of the RB9, but the Austrian team occasionally issued statements in which they mentioned ‘Red Bull is not the only fast team in 2013’. Mr. Red Bull, Helmut Marko, the stubborn advisor of the team, has also been very quiet during the first two months of this year, normally he’s the first to make some controversial comments about  Red Bull’s opponents, when he’s silent, that is considered to be suspicious.

Lewis Hamilton moved to Mercedes - Photo: Mercedes-Benz

Lewis Hamilton moved to Mercedes – Photo: Mercedes-Benz

Ferrari were determined not to make the same mistake as last year, when they had to play catch-up for most of the season, and it seems they’ve succeeded. The F138 is fast straight out of the box, and both drivers Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa were quick during testing. If they keep developing the F138, Ferrari will be a fierce contender for the 2013 crown.

McLaren lost their star driver to Mercedes, but the Woking-based team has contracted new race talent Sergio Perez, who was a bit disappointing during testing. Button will be the number one driver, but whether he has the same ‘drive’ as Hamilton remains to be seen, as the 2009 World Champion has a more conservative approach.

For Mercedes 2013 will bring the decision whether the team will stay in Formula One, as more and more Mercedes-Benz CEO’s refuse to back the very expensive Formula One adventure. New managers like Toto Wolff and Niki Lauda should help the Silver Arrows team to find their way to success, which could be profitable as well.

On Saturday and Sunday Grand Prix Journal will discuss all eleven teams more elaborate in the big 2013 preview, and from Monday on we’ll bring you the usual team previews.

Formula One teams ready for second pre-season test at Barcelona

By Berthold Bouman

Formula One teams ready for second pre-season test at Barcelona - Photo: McLarenTomorrow 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

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

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.

Pirelli announces tyre choices for first four races of the season

By Berthold Bouman

Pirelli announces tyre choices for first four races of the season - Photo: Caterham F1Pirelli today announced the tyre choices for the first four races of the FIA Formula One World Championship. For the first race of the season, the Australian Grand Prix at the Albert Park circuit, Pirelli nominated the Supersoft (red marked) and Medium (white marked) rubber compounds.

For the Malaysian Grand Prix the Medium and Hard (orange marked) rubber compounds have been nominated and for the Chinese Grand Prix the Soft (yellow marked) and Medium compounds. For the fourth race of the season, the Bahrain Grand Prix, Pirelli will supply the Soft and Hard rubber compounds.

In a statement the Italian tyre supplier said about their choice of compounds for the Australian Grand Prix, “The first time that Pirelli has nominated the softest compound in the range for Melbourne. The full step in the compound choice should ensure a performance gap between the cars that allows strategy to come into play.”

Pirelli tyre range - Photo: Pirelli

The statement further read, “The choice of the P Zero Orange hard and P Zero White medium for Malaysia — the two hardest tyres in the range — will cater for the high temperatures and abrasive surface that is a well-known characteristic of the Far Eastern track.”

“The P Zero White Medium and P Zero Yellow Soft tyres are nominated for China: the best choice for the comparatively high degradation expected as a result of the demanding track layout, which leads to close racing.”

“Like Australia, Bahrain has a brand new nomination this year compared to last year: P Zero Orange Hard and P Zero Yellow Soft. This is designed to ensure plenty of speed in qualifying coupled with the durability needed for the race, which is again often held in high temperatures.”

More about the 2013 Pirelli tyres:  Pirelli aiming for more tyre degradation and more pit stops in 2013

Pirelli 2013 tyre allocations:

Event          P Zero Red    P Zero Yellow    P Zero White    P Zero Orange
Australia      Supersoft     -                Medium          -
Malaysia       -             -                Medium          Hard
China          -             Soft             Medium          -
Bahrain        -             Soft             -               Hard

Pirelli aiming for more tyre degradation and more pit stops in 2013

By Berthold Bouman

Pirelli aiming for more tyre degradation and more pit stops in 2013Pirelli 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 - Photo Pirelli

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.

Pirelli: The Brazilian Grand Prix from a tyre point of view

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.

Pirelli has new prototype tyres

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

Pirelli: the United States Grand Prix from a tyre point of view

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.

Pirelli tyres

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

Pirelli: The Abu Dhabi 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 tyres

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

Pirelli well-prepared for United States Grand Prix

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 well-prepared for US GP

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

Pirelli: The Korean Grand Prix from a tyre point of view

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.

Pirelli tyres

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

Pirelli: The Japanese Grand Prix from a tyre point of view

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.

Pirelli tyres

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

Kubica could return to Formula One as Pirelli test driver

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.

Robert Kubica, Canada 2010

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.

Pirelli: The Italian Grand Prix from a tyre point of view

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.

Medium and Hard rubber compounds for Monza

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

Pirelli: The Belgian Grand Prix from a tyre point of view

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 tyres

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:

Pirelli announces tyre allocations for Belgian, Italian and Singapore Grands Prix

By Berthold Bouman

Formula One’s Italian tyre supplier Pirelli today announced the tyre allocations for the next three Grands Prix.

Pirelli announced tyre allocations for next three races

For the Belgian Grand Prix at the breathtaking but also very demanding high-speed Spa-Francorchamps circuit, Pirelli has nominated the Medium (white marked) and Hard (silver marked) rubber compounds.

For the Italian Grand Prix, Pirelli’s home race, at the historic and very fast Monza circuit, they have also nominated the Medium (white marked) and Hard (silver marked) rubber compounds, which is the same choice as in Malaysia earlier this season, which is also a very fast track.

For the race in Singapore, a street circuit and one of the slowest tracks on the 2012 calendar, Pirelli nominated the Super Soft (red marked) and the Soft (yellow marked) tyres, the same as in Monaco and Canada.

As usual all drivers get six sets of the Primes, the harder compound, and five sets of the Options, the softer compound, for each race. One set of Primes must be returned before the start of P2, and before the start of P3 one set of Primes and one set of Options must be returned.

When it rains, each driver has three sets of Full Wet tyres (blue marked), and three sets of Intermediate tyres (green marked).

The Hungarian Grand Prix from a tyre point of view

By Berthold Bouman

Pirelli have allocated the Medium (Prime, white marked) and the Soft (Option, yellow marked) tyre compound for round 11 of the FIA Formula One World Championship. According to Pirelli this combination is to provide the best compromise between the grip and durability needed for the tight and twisty Hungaroring.

Pirelli tyres

The challenge for the Pirelli tyres is to get enough traction, and make sure the tyres don’t heat up too quickly under braking, and as the Hungarian circuit has a lot of braking areas, it is certainly is very demanding for the tyres.

Paul Hembery, Pirelli’s Director of Motorsport, explains the challenges of the Hungaroring. “Hungary will provide a very stark contrast to the circuits that we have just come from, being the slowest permanent track on the calendar. This does not make it any less demanding on the tyres though: in fact a twisty and slippery circuit will often put more heat through the tyre than a fast and flowing layout as the tyre is moving around more – particularly when the ambient temperatures are high,” he said.

But the weather also play a role according to Hembery, “Last year we saw some wet weather, so it’s important not to make any assumptions. Consequently, we are still lacking some information about the performance of our slick tyres under race conditions at the Hungaroring.”

Asked about how to keep the tyre degradation under control, he replied, “Balancing the demands of speed and durability will be key to getting the most out of the tyres in Hungary, in order to keep degradation under control.”

Pirelli’s Technical notes:

• The start-finish straight of just over 700 metres is the only real straight on the entire circuit, with the tyres constantly loaded in a sequence of 14 corners for the rest of the 4.381-kilometre lap. The cars are at full throttle for just 10 seconds or so during the lap.

• The cars ride the kerbing in the chicane between turns six and seven as part of the racing line. The resulting impact generates a force on the tyre equivalent to 800 kilogrammes.

• The cars run high downforce in Hungary to maximise grip and a soft suspension set-up to improve traction, just like Monaco. The cars also need accurate turn-in for all the rapid changes of direction, so they tend to run with a stiff front end to guarantee precise roadholding. However it’s important for the car set-up not to accentuate tyre wear, which is a vital factor in Hungary.

Pirelli Videos: F1 Tyre Behaviour, and Budapest 3D Track Experience

Pirelli also to bring experimental hard tyre to Hockenheim

By Berthold Bouman

Pirelli will also bring the experimental hard tyre to Hockenheim, as teams were not able to test them on a soggy Silverstone circuit two weeks ago. Drivers will get two sets of the new tyres on top of the usual 11 sets of tyres they get for each race. Pirelli Motorsport Director Paul Hembery about the new tyres, “The new hard tyre is not a big evolution, but it has a slightly wider working range, which should make it easier for the teams to get the tyres up to temperature and maintain them in the correct operating window.”

Pirelli tyres

Pirelli has allocated the Medium (Prime, white marked) and the Soft (Option, yellow marked) compounds for the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim, a complete new circuit for the Italian tyre supplier.

The circuit is a mix of slow and fast turns, the fifth corner, the Parabolika, is the fastest corner, while the Spitzkehre, turn six, is a tight hairpin and therefore the slowest corner of the circuit, and a perfect spot for outbraking your opponent. The fastest and longest straight is between turns four and six. The most beloved and most famous part of the circuit is the Motodrom, or stadium section, with its massive grandstands usually packed with German race fans.

Pirelli has been doing a lot of simulation work for this circuit, and Hembery is adamant the Medium and Soft tyres are the right choice, “Coming to a circuit that is new to us always holds a different challenge, as we don’t have any of our own previous data to compare it with. But the progress that has been made with simulation is incredible: these days you can learn so much about how a tyre will behave on a circuit without even going there. These advanced modelling techniques illustrate just one example of how our Formula One involvement can help to improve our everyday road car product.”

According to Pirelli, the rear tyres will suffer the most from degradation as the circuit requires a high level of rear downforce. At turn six, the Spitzkehre, cars slow down from 325 kph to 65 kph in just 2.5 seconds, which of course means the weight will be transferred to the front and the back of the car will feel ‘lose’. As usual on these type of circuits, the set-up is a trade-off between generating enough downforce for the slower corners, and minimizing drag on the straights.

Hockenheim 3D Track Experience – Video: Pirelli

Massive understeer — or Jenson Button’s nightmare season

By Berthold Bouman

A very disappointing home Grand Prix at Silverstone for McLaren’s Jenson Button, he qualified in 16th place, but at least scored one point as he finished in tenth place. Initially the season started well for the 2009 World Champion, he won the first race of the season, the Australian Grand Prix, but after that things went downhill fast.

Jenson Button, McLaren

During a very rainy Malaysian Grand Prix, Button crashed into the back of Narain Karthikeyan’s HRT, apparently due to a momentary lapse of concentration. “I hit the brakes in turn nine and locked the rears. I tried to slow the car down going into the corner but I could not stop myself from hitting Karthikeyan,” Button said later.

Next one in China went a lot better, Button was back and finished the race in Shanghai in second position but two weeks later everything went wrong during the Bahrain Grand Prix. “Massive understeer,” is what he frequently reported to his team, during qualifying and the race. Button started from fourth position on the grid but had to retire after an exhaust failure and a puncture just two laps shy of the finish line, and thus finished in 18th position.

“Our race pace is normally very good, but it wasn’t in this one; the pit stops weren’t that special either, and our tyre degradation was higher than most, so all in all a very difficult day. We just didn’t have anything,” Button commented.

Next race, the Spanish Grand Prix, also became a massive disappointment. Button didn’t make it into Q3 but eventually could start from tenth place because his team colleague pole winner Lewis Hamilton was demoted to 24th place after he ran out of fuel after his qualifying lap and couldn’t bring the McLaren back to the pits under its own power. Button finished ninth and again complained about the balance of the car, the understeer and the massive tyre degradation.

The Monaco Grand Prix became even worse, Button qualified in 12th place and finished 16th, again not really something to write home about. He had no idea what was going on, “It’s my leanest period since the old Honda days but sh*t happens,” he said. “Why is everyone a loser and everyone a winner? Hopefully it will get to a point where we all understand what is going on.”

In Canada, he was again mystified by his bad performance, tenth during qualifying and 16th in the race, tyre management was apparently still the problem. “I don’t get it,” he said. “It’s something we need to work out because throughout my whole career of 12 years that’s something I’ve always been reasonably good at.”

Back in Spain again for the European Grand Prix, but the story was the same, tyre problems and massive understeer. “I didn’t think I’d have days like these in my career again, and I don’t understand it. Being lapped by your team-mate — who won the race and did an amazing job — it’s a strange one more than disappointing,” said a by then desperate Button.

The team even copied Hamilton’s set-up to use it on Button’s car, which gave some improvement, but it wasn’t enough. “I won’t be as quick as him on those settings, but then we can work from there and find a set-up that works for me,” Button said, but the trick didn’t work and the problems persisted.

It seems things went from bad to worse for the Briton, but what is going on? That is of course something McLaren also would like to know, at least Hamilton has proved the car is fast enough. McLaren has analysed all the data from Button’s car meticulously, even the chassis of the MP4-27 has been examined from top to bottom by the McLaren boffins, but they found nothing that could explain Button’s slump.

They are different theories about Button’s problems, he is obviously struggling with the tyres, but that is a problem others have as well, it is very difficult to find the right tyre window — the temperature window in which the Pirellis work best. A few degrees too high or too low, and the Pirellis lose their grip, and the temperature also has a huge effect on the tyre degradation.

The exhaust blown diffuser has been banned and that makes the rear of the car more ‘lose’, something some drivers like, while others detest it. Just a few weeks ago, McLaren’s Team Operations Director Simon Roberts reported, “We think we’ve stepped nearer to understanding it all. Whether we’ve cracked it, only time will tell. It’s been a painful but interesting learning exercise for us.”

For Silverstone McLaren had several major car upgrades, but despite the fact both Button and Hamilton reported the car definitely felt better, the result was again disappointing. Next on the calendar is the German Grand Prix, hopefully for Button, McLaren will have found the leak by that time. If not, Button’s hopes to keep fighting for the 2012 title will definitely be over.

Drivers fear British GP will become a lottery if weather doesn’t improve

By Berthold Bouman

After today’s qualifying for the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, drivers fear the race tomorrow will become a lottery if the weather conditions do not improve. Qualifying was halted after several drivers had spun off the track during Q2, and it took almost 90 minutes before qualifying could be resumed.

That’s how wet it was at Silverstone, Romain Grosjean, Lotus

McLaren’s Jenson Button even thinks the race tomorrow should be called off if the weather is as bad as it was today. “You wouldn’t want to be racing in those conditions. There’s a lot of standing water. I can’t see us being allowed to race in those conditions,” said Button, who qualified in 18th place today. “On your own it’s okay, but in a pack it’s very difficult. One of the worst places is Hangar Straight, before Stowe Corner, at 290kmh; suddenly you cross a river which gives you a wheel spin and the car can snap out of control easily.”

Sebastian Vettel, who qualified fourth today, thinks even Button can win the race when it turns into a sodden lottery on Sunday. “If we have the same weather tomorrow it doesn’t matter if you are P2, P4, P6 or P8,” said Vettel. “It becomes important to simply stay on the track, have clean pit stops, to be on the right tyre at the right time.” And the current World Champion added, “But anything is possible. It could be pretty messy tomorrow. Someone starting P18, Jenson, could win tomorrow. We’ll see what happens.”

Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg agreed, “It’s possible to score good points even when you are starting from a long way back.” Romain Grosjean who qualified tenth agreed with his colleagues, “It will be a long race and starting position doesn’t mean as much if there are variable conditions.”

Ferrari Team Principal Stefano Domenicali admitted Fernando Alonso’s pole is no guarantee for a race win, “So many times this year, we have seen that grid positions have not proved decisive when it comes to the final result: let’s hope that, tomorrow at least, it will play an important role.”

However, Michael Schumacher who qualified in third place, would welcome more rain, “We were competitive on both the intermediate and wet tyres, so I would welcome more rain tomorrow. Third position is a good starting point for the race — I’m looking forward to it.”

Kimi Raikkonen will be starting from sixth place on the grid tomorrow, and he also thinks it could become a difficult race. “The weather makes it a bit tricky for everybody. It’s not easy, especially with the spray and this is even more difficult in race conditions when everyone is fighting for the same piece of track,” said the Finn.

For Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi it doesn’t matter whether it is wet or dry, he qualified in 12th place but also has to incur a five-place grid penalty for his collision with Bruno Senna at Valencia. “For tomorrow’s race I don’t really care whether it’s wet or dry. I’ll be starting a long way down the grid and will fight as hard as I can.”

Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo summed it up like this, “The car seems to work well in the wet, but starting in the mid field there will be a lot of spray to contend with, so there are pros and cons to racing in the rain.”

Silverstone today, Lewis Hamilton, McLaren

His team colleague Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne is like Schumacher hoping for more rain, “I hope we have a wet race tomorrow, because although I will be starting from the back, everything is possible in these conditions and I hope I can make the most of the fact our car is working well in the wet, to have a good race.”

Further down the grid we find Caterham driver Heikki Kovalainen, who also thinks anything can happen tomorrow. “With the rain I think tomorrow’s going to be a really exciting race for the fans. For us it’ll be about making sure we don’t make mistakes, using the strategy well and keeping the car on the road. If we can do that anything can happen,” he said after qualifying.

If it rains tomorrow at Silverstone, drivers have three sets of intermediates, and three sets of full-wet tyres. Pirelli’s Motorsport Director Paul Hembery said it was the right decision to stop qualifying in Q2. “Although our full wet tyres disperse 60 litres of water per second, the quantity of standing water as well as the spray coming from the cars, made conditions simply too dangerous to continue in Q2.”

And his prediction for tomorrow? “Mixed conditions throw up so many variables in terms of grip, so tomorrow’s race will come down to which teams and drivers are able to read and forecast the conditions most accurately. Establishing where the crossover point is was key to qualifying, with the intermediates proving to be fastest in the final session, and this is likely to be crucial again tomorrow.”