The 2012-specification of the P Zero Silver, the hardest and most durable tyre of Pirelli’s Formula One range, will make its debut at the Malaysian Grand Prix: a race that pushes tyres to the limits due to extremes of weather that frequently take in soaring temperatures as well as torrential rain.
The Sepang circuit is characterised by an abrasive surface that adds to the demands placed on the tyres, which have to cope with two long straights as well as several hairpins that test traction.
These extreme requirements make Sepang the ideal territory for the P Zero Silver, whose resilient qualities have inspired the recently-launched P Zero Silver road car tyre, which prioritises endurance as well as performance.
Alongside the P Zero Silver hard, the P Zero White medium tyre has been nominated for Malaysia, which was also seen in Australia. This combination best covers the wide-ranging conditions seen in Malaysia, with the Cinturato Green intermediate and Cinturato Blue full wet also ready to deal with the torrential downpours that are a common feature of the track, located just north of the equator. Even when it is not raining, humidity remains at about 80%, increasing the physical challenge for the drivers.
The increased tyre wear caused by the unique nature of Malaysia could lead to an increased number of pit stops, with three stops proving to be the winning strategy last year. However, the compounds used by Pirelli this year are generally softer and faster. The hard compound that will be seen in Malaysia this weekend is much closer in character to the 2011 medium compound, underlining the constantly-evolving performance of the P Zero covers.
Pirelli’s motorsport director says:
Paul Hembery: “Malaysia is one of the biggest challenges that we will face all year, and that is simply down to the nature of the track and the weather. We can expect track temperatures of up to around 50 degrees centigrade and a similar performance gapbetween the two nominated compounds as we saw in Australia. Our target is still for that gap to be less than one second – even though there is a whole step missing between the soft and the hard compounds that we have chosen for the race. Malaysia is good for overtaking, and that should fit in well with the characteristics of our P Zero tyres, which have been specifically designed to promote overtaking through a certain degree of deliberate degradation. Tyre strategy is going to be very important, particularly when it comes to looking after tyres at the beginning of a stint. Last year the battle for the podium places went down to the very last lap, and our objective for this year’s tyres is to encourage even closer racing, following the thrilling start we saw in Australia last weekend.”
The men behind the steering wheel say:
Romain Grosjean, Lotus F1 Team: “Sepang is a big challenge and it is also probably my favourite track of them all. I raced there in 2008 as part of the GP2 Asia Series and I really loved the circuit. It’s nice and wide, with fast flowing corners and a lot of undulation which makes it great fun to drive. The last corner is a tricky one, but I enjoy everything about racing here. Maybe not the heat and humidity, but that’s just another challenge. I’m really looking forward to it so that we can capitalise on the potential we showed in Australia. I have some good memories of working with Pirelli in the past, when I was a test driver in 2010 at the time when they were coming back to Formula One. For me, back then, this was a fantastic opportunity to drive a Formula One car again and get to know the tyres, which were certainly very different to anything I had experienced before. My goal was firmly to get back to racing, which I was able to achieve, and I am sure that this experience with Pirelli helped. Since then a lot has happened: the moral for me is that you should never give up on your dream.”
Technical tyre notes:
Although the surface in Malaysia offers plenty of grip, any rubber laid down on the track is frequently washed away by the heavy rain that falls most days, making the track ‘green’ at the start of each session.
The tyres on the left side of the car do the most work in Malaysia. The rear-left tyre is particularly stressed as it ensures traction, with its temperature rising to a peak of 130 degrees centigrade on the inner edge due to a lateral force of 3G.
The Sepang circuit is 5.543 kilometres long, with 56 laps that total 310.408 kilometres. The circuit was inaugurated in 1999 on land that was formerly jungle.
The track does not have many bumps, having been resurfaced in 2007, with a wide variety of corners that require a medium-downforce compromise set-up. The track layout is not dissimilar to Barcelona: one of the circuits where Pirelli has tested the most.
Last year, Pirelli nominated the 2011 hard compound together with the soft compound, resulting in a difference of around 1.2 seconds between the two tyres. This year, the difference should be much less.