Formula One‘s new tyres face their toughest task yet as the circus rolls in to Malaysia.
The Sepang International Circuit is known for its abrasive tarmac and extreme weather conditions, which can range from extreme heat to a tropical monsoon in a matter of minutes. In order to cope with the demands of the track, Pirelli have opted for the two hardest tyre compounds in the range, the P Zero Orange hard and the P Zero White medium.
The new evolution of the P Zero brings extra strength and reduced degradation, but will maintain the same performance and sporting characteristics to keep the spectacle in place.
“Malaysia will obviously be only the second race that this completely new range of tyres, designed for the latest-generation Formula One cars, have ever competed in, and it also marks the debut of our 2014 hard tyre,” said Pirelli motorsport director, Paul Hembery. “The medium performed well in Melbourne, but Malaysia obviously presents a big contrast to Australia. We go from the smooth asphalt in Melbourne to a highly abrasive surface, and from the relatively cool conditions of Albert Park to much higher ambient and track temperatures. This of course will be as much of a challenge for the new cars as it is for the drivers, and we mustn’t forget that we are still at a very early point in the overall learning curve. Wet conditions in qualifying in Australia allowed the teams to sample the 2014 intermediate and full wet tyres, and this knowledge could become very useful in Sepang.”
“Malaysia is one of the toughest races of the year, both for the driver and the tyres,” added Pirelli’s consultant driver, Jean Alesi. “But many of the corners flow quite well, so if you keep a good rhythm you can limit the stress on them. The biggest enemy of tyres in Malaysia is thermal degradation. It’s going to take a few races yet before we see every team’s full potential, which is an interesting situation. The other thing I always associate with Malaysia is heavy rain. The way that rain tyres have evolved since I was driving is incredible: I don’t think anyone would have foreseen the rate of water dispersal that we can achieve now. The real problem in Sepang can be standing water: it’s not tyres that are the limiting factor, but the fact that when you have huge quantities of water, the car ‘surfs’ along its flat bottom, which means you have no control at all. Visibility is also very difficult for the drivers following behind.”