By Alex Kapadia
Pirelli tyres is gearing up for its second outing of the Formula One season at the Malaysian Grand Prix this weekend.
After a successful debut in Australia, the Italian tyres manufacturer anticipates a completely different type of challenge on the Sepang circuit with three or four pitstops.
It is one of the hottest and certainly the most humid venue of the year, with temperatures in the region of 35 degrees centigrade and 80% humidity.
The track is demanding on the tyres due to its aggressive surface, heavy braking areas, long straights and wide variety of speeds and corners.
Pirelli is repeating the Australian scenario, nominating the hard and soft compound PZero tyres as the prime and option rubber respectively for Malaysia.
But the ever-present humidity in Malaysia makes rain almost inevitable at some point over the weekend.
In 2009, the race had to be red-flagged after 31 laps due to torrential rain, while last year a number of drivers were caught out by a downpour during qualifying. This means that Pirelli’s intermediate and wet tyres stand a strong chance of making their competitive debut at Sepang.
During the two free practice sessions on Friday, Pirelli will be providing an extra two sets of dry-weather tyres for the teams to assess.
The new tyre is an experimental hard compound that could be used in the future, in keeping with Pirelli’s philosophy of combining entertainment with cutting-edge technology. The tyre allocation for the rest of the weekend, from Saturday onwards, is not affected.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli’s Motorsport Director, said: “We were absolutely thrilled by our grand prix debut in Australia, but we’re aware that Malaysia should be a very different proposition, with higher temperatures and increased degradation.
“We said all along that we would be seeing two to three pit stops in Australia, but in Malaysia I think that figure is likely to increase to three to four.
“They say that it’s never a question of if it rains at Sepang but when, so the performance of our wet tyres could be crucial this weekend and we’re certainly looking forward to seeing them out on track.
“We never believe in standing still at Pirelli, which is why the teams will have two extra sets of slick tyres available to them during Friday’s free practice sessions for evaluation purposes.
“With testing not allowed during the season, this gives us a valuable opportunity to gather more data and feedback, while it also gives the teams an interesting taste of what could be coming in the future.”