Heikki Kovalainen expects tyre management to be the deciding factor in this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix based on Friday practice. The Caterham driver was 21st on Friday afternoon after concentrating on long run performance and with the sweltering heat set to continue, the Finn knows the Pirellis will need looking after.
“I think today proved what we suspected, that managing tyre degradation is going to be critical to performance on Sunday. This morning we tried a couple of setup options that didn’t really work too well but we made some changes over lunch and straight away this afternoon the car felt better. I had more grip and was able to manage the tyres well over the second run we did so I think we’ve found some improvements where we wanted to today and have a base to work on tonight.”
Teammate Vitaly Petrov was 19th and felt much happier with the car in the afternoon session. The Russian still sees areas that need improving overnight but thinks the team are in a better position than they were in Melbourne.
“We worked through the normal Friday runplans and for me it was a pretty good day. The grip levels this morning were not good, but I think that was the same for most of the teams, but this afternoon we had found some improvements, even though the track itself had lost some of the grip from this morning. We have a couple of areas to focus on tonight, particularly looking at maximising traction, but I’m reasonably pleased with where we have ended up.”
Technical Director Mark Smith thinks tyre degradation will be higher than it was in Melbourne, with three-stops predicted to be the preferred strategy.
“An interesting day for us and probably every team in the paddock. We knew that tyre management would play a key role over the weekend and it was immediately clear this morning that degradation levels on both tyre compounds are going to be high. The forecasts this morning suggested it might rain this afternoon so we switched the plans and went through some of the afternoon’s workload this morning, looking at how the tyres behaved on different fuel loads on each car. This afternoon we saw improvements on both cars and now have a lot of data to look at to prepare for tomorrow and Sunday.”