By Alex Kapadia
Tyres strategy could play a key role in deciding the outcome of the 2012 Formula One championship at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix this weekend.
With the title race so close, the way the drivers and teams manage their tyres could make all the difference, according to Paul Hembery, Pirelli’s motorsport director.
The P Zero White medium tyre and the P Zero Yellow soft tyres have been nominated for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix this weekend, which will marks the final time that the soft tyre will be seen in competition this year.
The soft compound has proved to be Pirelli’s most versatile tyre, appearing in 15 of the 20 grands prix on the calendar.
Abu Dhabi marks a perfect send off that plays to its attributes: the Yas Marina circuit surface is fast and smooth and there is a wide variety of speeds and corners, in keeping with the design philosophy of the circuit, which was to incorporate many of the best features and layouts of other existing tracks.
Hembery said: “We will always have very fond memories of the Abu Dhabi circuit because it is where our adventure in Formula One really started: back in 2010, the teams sampled our tyres there for the very first time at the official end of season test following the grand prix.
“That was a very special test, as we were brand new and the teams needed to understand our tyres. We’ve returned to test in Abu Dhabi a few times since, and we actually launched our 2012 programme to the international media there as well at the beginning of this year.
“The reason why we’ve often chosen Abu Dhabi for our testing and for other functions is because it has a bit of everything, which enables each aspect of a tyre’s performance to be thoroughly assessed, and because the track itself features some very modern, state-of-the-art facilities.
“We know that the combination of the medium and the soft tyre works extremely well here, and with the teams also having plenty of data about the circuit characteristics, they should be in a strong position to construct some race strategies that will make a real difference to the outcome of the weekend.
“With the championship so closely balanced now, having the right strategy could quite literally decide the title. Qualifying is also really important in Abu Dhabi, so we are expecting to see some strong efforts throughout the three qualifying sessions on Saturday.”