By Alex Kapadia
Tyres management will play a vital role in deciding the outcome of the Japanese Grand Prix on the most demanding track of the year this weekend.
Race strategies will also be key during the race, according to Paul Hembery, Pirelli’s motorsport director.
Following the days practice sessions, Hembery explained: “The teams had a lot of information to assimilate during the opening two free practice sessions, with the soft compound likely to be the tyre that most frontrunners choose to qualify on.
“Today as always was about fully understanding the tyre behaviour, establishing crossover points, and also collecting data about the relative speed of the tyre when used for more than one run, which is why we saw so many different programmes and cycles.
“The teams also assessed tyre degradation with different fuel loads, which is vital information for race day. Last year, tyre strategy was crucial, with Jenson Button winning for McLaren from second on the grid, after managing to pit one lap later for his first stop than Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel, who was on pole.
“The top three all did three stops in 2011, with three stints on the softer compound and a final stint on the harder compound. This year we’re more likely to see two stops, depending also on outside factors such as safety cars and weather conditions.
“We’ve got a lot of data to look at now, but we would expect the performance gap between the two compounds to be in the region of 1.0-1.2 seconds.
“There is no doubt that Suzuka will be extremely demanding for the tyres, but with the right tyre management skills and race strategies, there will be plenty of opportunity for some outstanding performances.
“This is no less than the fantastically enthusiastic fans here deserve, who once more have made us all extremely welcome.”