Pirelli “deliberately conservative” in F1’s first visit to India
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery says the newly-introduced Indian Grand Prix, taking place at the recently-constructed Buddh International Circuit near the manufacturer’s Indian HQ in New Delhi, has led to Formula One’s tyre supplier taking a “deliberately conservative” compound line-up “simply because on a brand new circuit you are never quite sure of the exact race conditions you will encounter.” With the track never having been used before, Pirelli has opted for a tyre nomination that should cover every eventuality, with the P Zero Silver hard tyre – making its final appearance of the season – alongside the P Zero Yellow soft tyre.
Hembery counters suggestions of over-cautiousness by making the softer tyre the prime choice, allowing Pirelli to supply more sets of its Yellow tyre to teams: “[W]e’ve structured the allocation in such a way that we think the teams will run more on the softer tyres, particularly because we are bringing an extra set of soft compound tyres for Friday. This will help us to make some decisions about our strategy for next year, particularly after we saw the excellent durability of the softer compounds. It’s too early to talk about the number of pit stops we expect this weekend, but we anticipate a reasonably significant lap time difference between the two compounds. ”
Collecting as much data as possible prior to qualifying and the race will be a priority for everybody, but the track is likely to be “green” and slippery, as it has never been used before. Just as was the case at the last race in Korea, there is likely to be considerable circuit evolution over the course of the weekend as more rubber gets laid down and the amount of grip changes. This effect is also caused by the new track surface cleaning, before the oils in the bitumen dissipate and the asphalt begins to age.
Pirelli identifies turns 10 and 11 as potential highlights of the venue; similar in its characteristics to the famous Turn 8 in Turkey. It is fast and long, putting a lot of lateral energy through the tyres, but unlike Turkey’s turn 8 it tightens rather than opens.
Narain Karthekiyan of the Hispania Racing Team says the event is likely to be one of the calendar’s “most challenging”. “The texture of the tarmac is exceptionally smooth compared to most circuits on the calendar, so I think that’s a plus. The lap time difference between the hard and soft tyres is going to be huge, maybe in excess of two seconds a lap. I’d expect the teams to use the hard as less as possible; maybe just a short final stint in the race as the benefits in lap time produced by the soft tyre should outweigh its shorter life as the track surface isn’t abrasive at all and track temperatures, I think, should be under 40 degrees during the weekend.
“The long pit lane will play a part in strategy as well with teams trying to get through the race with as few stops as possible. The layout itself is going to put tremendous energy through the tyres – especially the banked Turn 10, which is a long, multiple-apex right-hander, somewhat similar to Turn 8 in Turkey. The front-left will definitely experience a lot of load through there – and there are a couple of slow speed corners that will challenge the rears on exit. So overall it will be a great challenge for the tyres and it’ll be interesting to see how it pans out. I am so looking forward to it.”
The Indian market could be one for the future in terms of Pirelli’s ultra high performance tyre offering; sales are increasing as the country’s economy develops. According to the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers, annual car sales are forecast to increase to five million vehicles by 2015 and more than nine million by 2020.