Pirelli’s plan for Singapore GP

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Pirelli’s P Zero Yellow soft tyres and P Zero Red supersoft will be used for the Marina Bay circuit in Singapore. This produces some unusual variables, with the Formula One paddock living on European time (as every session takes place six hours later than it does usually) and ambient and track temperatures that tend to fall, rather than rise, during the course of the grand prix.

One constant is the humidity, which tends to remain within 75% to 90% throughout the weekend. Marina Bay is a street circuit where traction is critical as it contains the second-highest number of corners (23) seen all year. The asphalt tends to be bumpy and slippery, and grip is further compromised by street furniture such as manhole covers and painted white lines. Nonetheless, the cars manage to generate up to 4.3g under braking despite the lack of adhesion.

With 61 5.073-kilometre laps, which are run anti-clockwise, the race tends to come close to the full two-hour time limit, so coupled with the heat, humidity and constant bumps, this makes it a very physical experience for the drivers as well as tough on the cars and tyres. In the opening sequence of corners from turns one to three for example, there is a double change in direction that places particularly heavy demands on the tyres.

The driver tends to leave the braking as late as possible, turning in and decelerating at the same time. This subjects the tyre to both longitudinal and lateral forces at the same time, working the structure hard. The integrity of the construction though guarantees the driver optimal precision and perfect adhesion to the racing line: vital in the tight confines of Singapore, where mistakes rarely go unpunished.

Pirelli’s motorsport director says:

Paul Hembery: “Personally speaking I love the Singapore Grand Prix: it makes for an amazing spectacle at night with a great atmosphere and a fantastic challenge for our tyres. Due to the unusual circumstances in which the race is run, under more than a thousand spotlights, the teams and drivers have to think very hard about strategy – as track conditions and evolution are somewhat different than you would find in a normal daytime race. One factor that could certainly come into play is safety cars: during every single Singapore Grand Prix that has been held so far since 2008 the safety car has come out at some point. This means that strategies have to be flexible as well as effective in order to quickly take advantage of any potential neutralisation. While the humidity is constantly high, it hasn’t yet rained in any Singapore Grand Prix so this should be the same again this year and we are likely to see the ultimate performance offered by the two softest slick compounds in our Formula One range. Last year’s race was won with a three-stop strategy by Sebastian Vettel, but Lewis Hamilton finished fifth after stopping four times and taking a drive-through penalty as well. As average speeds are not very high, degradation should not be an issue if wheelspin is controlled out of the slower corners, which can lead to overheating.”

The men behind the steering wheel say:

Heikki Kovalainen (Caterham): “Singapore is a very cool race. It’s an amazing place to have a grand prix and it must be incredible for the fans, watching the cars running flat out through the streets at night. In the cockpit it’s really no different to a normal street race: the lights are so good we don’t have any problems with visibility. But I’ve seen the TV images from above the track and the overhead shots from the helicopters with the whole circuit lit up, which are pretty hardcore!

From a technical point of view one of the keys to set-up in Singapore track is finding good braking stability and maximum traction. It’s a high downforce track that is hard on brake temperatures and still pretty bumpy, especially around turns 13 and 14, even after it was resurfaced in 2010. We’ll have the soft and supersoft Pirelli P Zero tyre compounds in Singapore, just like we did in Monaco, and while it will be hotter in Singapore than it was in Monte Carlo it’s likely to be similar in terms of degradation. All year tyre management has been key to performance and I think hotter track temperatures and the nature of the track might suit us. It did in Monaco, so hopefully we can have a similar race in Singapore as we did back in May.”

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