Softer Pirelli P Zero F1 tyre line-up for the Japanese grand prix at Suzuka

Pirelli has continued its late-season trend of introducing softer Formula One compounds than in 2016 with its selection for the Japanese grand prix at Suzuka. Mario Isola, head of car racing, says that “this is particularly pertinent” at Suzuka, “as it’s one of the most challenging tracks for tyres of the entire year, with a very big emphasis on lateral loads that can cause thermal degradation if the tyres are not properly managed.

The epic, old-school Suzuka circuit is well-known for being one of the biggest challenges for tyres on the calendar. Pirelli has nominated the P Zero White medium, P Zero Yellow soft, and P Zero Red supersoft compounds in spite of this – it is the first time that hard tyres will not be used at Suzuka. Isola adds that the pace of the circuit “is also one of the reasons why the drivers enjoy Suzuka so much; with the cars travelling a lot faster through the corners this year under the new regulations with wider tyres, it’s very possible that we will see another lap record fall and some truly impressive maximum g-force loadings.”

Pirelli’s tyres will have to cope with long and fast corners such as 130R – providing the longest continuous g-force loading of the year –and Spoon, which put the tyres under constant stress throughout the lap.

With fastest race laps that have been up to five seconds faster than 2016 so far, another significant improvement is expected in Suzuka. A wide range of strategy options are available to find the best compromise between performance and durability. Generally, there are high levels of wear and degradation: two stops was the winning strategy last year, Pirelli points out. Teams normally run high downforce: pushing down on the tyres to help cornering. The track is quite narrow, making overtaking tricky, so strategy can make the difference.

McLaren has made the most aggressive tyre selection at Honda’s home race, choosing more supersoft tyres than any other team.

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