By Alex Kapadia
Bridgestone has warned Formula One drivers to nurse the softer of the two slick tyres selected for the second Grand Prix of the season this Sunday.
Tyre wear is predicted to play a major role in the Malaysian Grand Prix after last weekend’s season-opener in Melbourne graphically demonstrated how the car tyres can influence the outcome of the race.
The softer tyres offered more initial grip, but began to fade dramatically after as little as half a dozen laps. The Ferrari drivers, who started the race on the softer compound, were particularly affected, losing five seconds per lap to the leaders and having to bring forward their first pit stops.
Bridgestone has selected slightly harder tyres from its range of four compounds for Malaysia – hard and soft rather than the medium and super-soft that were used in Australia. However, it is the first time they have tried soft tyres at Sepang.
But Bridgestone warns that the soft tyres will need careful management on the Sepang track, because it is more demanding than Australia’s Albert Park, with its long fast corners and direction changes under lateral load.
Hirohide Hamashima, Bridgestone’s director of motorsport tyre development, said: ‘Sepang is quite severe on tyres as it has many different corner types and two heavy braking zones after long straights. This means the energy going through the tyres over a lap is considerable.
‘Drivers will have to be careful not to lock their brakes, especially with the new generation cars which seem less stable due to the lower levels of downforce.’